Night at the Western: March 2010 Winner at Zuda Comics!

Welcome from the NIGHT AT THE WESTERN team. We are honored to be the winners of the March 2010 competition at Zuda Comics, and look forward to bringing you a year of comic noir at Zuda. On this page you'll find lots of extras and behind-the-scenes looks at Night at the Western. Enjoy, and check back often for updates!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Screen 7: From Story to Script to Screen.

From the Zuda message boards, it looks like Screen 7 is a bit of a favorite. It's one of my favorite screens as well, using a comics technique called a polyptych, where moving characters are repeated across a single background -- in this case, the three dancers moving left to right across the background of booths.

Here's the rather largish chunk of text I was working from:

He tossed me my keys and walked with a slow swagger back to the office. I gave him enough money for my whole room, since he was short. I knew I'd never see the half he owed me. But I'd won anyway. It was the principal of the thing that mattered. Not that he wouldn't have enough after L.A.; he'd have plenty. Plenty for the rest of his life.
I went over and took a look into the coffee-shop through the smudged plate glass. They didn't look like they expected much business. There was a man in a chef's hat dancing with a heavy woman. The man looked twenty or so. His black hair came out in greasy curls from under the short order cook hat, and his eyes didn't line up right on anything, like he was looking at two things at once. He had a big white grin on his face, and he could move. He had his greasy hands on the woman's hips and they were dancing something between a twist and a lambada--and he almost made it work. But the woman . . . she just stood there while he moved all over and laughed with her small lipless mouth hanging open. She had a very large pink uniform on, and I could see that her collar was sweat-yellowed even from through the window. She looked like a luckless forty or so, and her knees were being pulled down toward her calves by gravity. But maybe she'd been pretty once--when she was the man's age.
A kid sat in one of the booths, watching them. He was seventeenish, and his head was much too big for his body, so that it lolled always from one side to the other. His eyes were occluded behind glasses that told me he was near blind, but he watched them anyway, with his head lolling back and forth, and a thin line of drool hanging pendulously from his lower lip.
The man growled something at the woman, and sank his fingers into her expansive buttocks, which made her stop laughing long enough to slap at him playfully and say "Oh, sto-op!" This got the kid's attention and he started laughing too, real deep and slow like a steam train chugging up a hill. It was the laugh of a lobotomy case, and as he laughed he nodded his head up and down in time, and his mouth broke into an open-mouthed grin like a jack-o-lantern.

Which I stripped down to this page of script:

Screen 7: Two panels.
Panel 1:  the hotel at night, with long quadrangles of light from the café window and the office, Nick walking away, a dismissive hand over his shoulder, who also has his back to Nick, and is faced toward the window of the café. The characters cast long, scattered shadows.
    Nick: Fine. I’ll have plenty of money once we get to LA, anyhow.
Panel 2: The café, viewed through the window, with the narrator’s head and left shoulder in the foreground (outside of and slightly obscuring 3, below). The panel is divided into three parts, with the action displayed as a polyptych across the three panels.
1: Near the jukebox, a man in a paper chef’s cap is dancing with a fat, doughy woman in a waitress uniform. He is wearing a grease-stained apron.
    SFX: Huh huh huh. Huh huh.
    Caption: They didn’t seem to be expecting much business.
2: They move across the floor past a table (in the foreground) with a couple of dirty plates and an empty coffee cup on it. The man has his hands on her fat buttocks. In the background is a kid, about seventeen, sitting in a booth and watching them, an empty milkshake pushed off to one side.  His head is much too large for his body, and his eyes are invisible behind a pair of thick glasses. He is drooling. Now we see that it is him who is making the noise from 1:
    Emma: Oh, stooo—oop!
    Frankie: Huh huh huh HAH.
    Caption: This really got the kid going and his laugh started getting louder . . . like a steam-train going up a hill.
3: With a turn they are now in front of the lunch counter, and the man is holding the woman out at arm’s length. She is still smiling, but the expression on his face is one of anger.
    Frankie (off panel): HUH HA HA HA!!!
    Caption: It was the laugh of a lobotomy case, meaningless and loud, and as he laughed his head nodded up and down like a Jack o-lantern on a stick.

Cesar thumbnailed it out this way:


But then decided to change it.

And here are his excellent pencils:

Followed, as usual, by bold inks.

And of course, the full color, finished panel can be seen at Zuda Comics. Vote for us so we can continue to tell this story!

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