Landry Q. Walker's has a Writer's Commentary for A Clash of Kings Vol 2 #1, on sale from Dynamite.
Hey… we're back, and with a new issue number one! Don't worry, this isn't a reboot. We just took our halfway point in the series and sequestered it into its own sub-group. So… it's really issue #17. Anyway…
PAGE 1: As mentioned in all the other times I wrote one of these "how I wrote this" bits, we open with the bold text of a character's name. I would prefer it was across the top, right in the center, and in black. We want it to create a clear pause in the readers mind when they flip to this page. I know you might be thinking "but this is the first page!". And yes… yes it is. But will it always be the first page? This is page one of issue 17. It's a new chapter. We always want to start with a bold break between each chapter.
This isn't true of every comic. When I worked on the comics adaptation of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, I looked at elements that could be woven into the structure, resulting in a book that felt more like the narrative it was emulating. Each project is different. And GRRM's world is broken into distinctive POV chapters. We want that to be front and center. Giving up a little real estate on the page is always worth it – IF – it creates the right tone.
Now to the meat of this chapter. Joffrey torturing Sansa. A lot of elements are in play – both literally and figuratively. Tons of characters need to be present. Their permissiveness (or lack thereof) of Joffrey's behavior really gives us a glance at the bubble of Joffrey's world. The Hound needs to be present, but we need to see a glimpse of his sympathy. Dontos makes an effort to distract as a jester, but it's not enough.
PAGE 2: There's this moment I just love, where Joffrey is just caught off guard by Sansa. He shot a guy in the throat, and Sansa asks if he died. Of course he died! Usually, Joffrey is the least relatable character. But that moment humanizes him so much.
PAGE 3: Then… violence happens. This is a hard bit to plan. One, we had to really push to make sure that we had a sense of the violent impact of the sword blows. The repetitive imagery is well used by our art team. We also have a thing to consider – and this comes up a lot – Joffrey's torture of Sansa contains a sexual element. Because he's a monster. Now, when this is in cold text in a novel, there is a larger barrier between the reader and the reality of the violence. But when we craft it unto an image… We're not making a kid's book. But no one on the team feels a need to glorify this behavior either. We know what Joffrey is. That's enough. Which brings us to page 4…
PAGE 4: Joffrey's smirk. Look at that repulsive expression. You know everything you need to know about Joffrey with that smirk. Then we get strategic. This is not to be titillating. This is violence. We need to understand what Joffrey is. But… we don't need it to be pretty. It is an ugly act, and everything we can do to highlight the ugliness is not just ideal, but necessary.
PAGE 6: Again, I mention this bit a lot. But the passage of time happens fast in these chapters, and we have very little space to explore it. Hence the three panels here. This is really just one shot of the castle., divided into panels. The panel breaks give us an internal pause as readers. We know that this means motion or time. The change in the time of day, enhanced by the colors. A day passes in three panels while narrative text tells you of some of the events occurring.
PAGE 7: Watch Tyrion's panels. He's ALWAYS with the wine! A lot of the scenes in the book don't take the luxury of explaining each little detail of what a character might be doing. But rarely when we have a conversation do we sit still, arms at sides, unmoving. We fidget. We shift. We talk with our hands and our bodies and our eyes as much as we do with our words. So while the novel might say "Tyrion was tired." Okay… so what does that look like? Is he running his hand through his hair in one panel? Does he take a moment and yawn in the next? Does he get up and place some wood in the fire, all while slumping against the hearth? How many panels does that even take?
Every panel is part of a performance. Some bits the original text gives us our clues. But not all. Some I need to extrapolate through the characters' basic nature. Note that every script is written out in what we call "full script" I might write half a page of text to describe the actions and camera angles of one panel. And in fairness, Mel Rubi (our wonderful artist) might dismiss this and shift in another direction. A better one, often, as he is in the front lines of the battle to draw this book.
That said, I need to tell him what the characters are doing. Not just what they are saying. Is Sansa uncomfortable? Does she get a hopeful glimmer? How does this affect her body language? This isn't just important to ask yourself when staging a scene for a visual depiction – it's imperative!
PAGE 8: Bran! See that big bold name on top? See how it takes you out of the story a moment? That's what we want, each and every time we start a chapter. Allows your brain to reboot and orient itself.
And the two Frey cousins from the twins. Creepy kids. Just little monsters.
PAGE 12: I write full scripts, as mentioned above. But once every issue or so I do actual layouts. Rare for me, but this is a complex book and we need to exploit some unusual storytelling methods to advance things. This page – page 12 – it's one of my layouts. Gotta love a montage. Hard to do on a static page of static images. This is one solution. Let me know if it works or not.
PAGE 15 – JON! There's that name break for the chapter again!
I love the colors on this page. Soft and light. Every panel is like a painting. Someone should start a petition to get the original pages released without lettering so the public can have these beautifully painted shots of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.
PAGE 16: The layout of this page is one that many industry people debate. Because it requires you to read down visually in the first panel before your eyes climb back to the top for the next tier. I think it works – at least when it's done right. Our letterer really served wonderfully here by not placing the captions anywhere else in that first panel. It's just there to give a feeling of the openness and expansiveness of the world. It's not a panel you need to really read – you just are meant to FEEL it.
PAGE 17: Speaking of lettering… someone nominate our letterer for an award already? Tom Napolitano is really carving into this like a surgeon. Just think about how much work he put into this page. It's amazing.
Anyway, it's really great to have this book rolling again. Working on the world crafted by George R. R. Martin is an absolute privilege. Our editorial team is super involved and incredibly patient, and even though there has been a publishing gap, we have been working constantly on this book. I'm writing issues 11 – 13 of Vol 2 as I write this. So please, check out the series.
And hey… follow me on Twitter (firstname.lastname@example.org). I love the social connection that we can all make over comics these days. And just in general, let us know what you're thinking. Ask us questions and give us feedback!