Location, Location, Location…

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I always have several personal projects that I am working on at any given moment. Right now one of them is Henchmen, comic book mini-series planned for ten issues. The original intention for this project was to make it a series of short films that would be available over the Internet. I abandoned this approach for a variety of reasons, largest of which was budget. I wrote the story to work with an intended budget of about $5,000 per episode. Even that amount, which is essentially nothing in the scheme of film budgets, was beyond me. Ultimately it was probably for the best. Even writing with that budget in mind I was having to compromise a lot of my original vision. There would be no way I could ever have included anything resembling a car chase. This was supposed to be an action/adventure series! I wanted a car chase, damnit!
Another thing I would have to cut corners on was the setting. The fictional city the story takes place in is very much a character in it’s own right. It is a dry, dirty place in the middle of the desert that in no way resembles the lush Northwest United States where the series would need to be shot. Now that I am telling the story in comic form I don’t need to worry about budget at all. Whatever I want to show I simply need to draw.
Here is my first attempt at drawing the city. This panel appears at the beginning Henchmen #1 and is our first look at where the next ten issues will take place.
City pencils
Pencils of the city. My first attempt.

It is a small city nestled at the bottom of some hills in some unnamed desert State in the USA. This will be clearer once I ink it, but I wanted you to be able to see story of the city’s development just by looking at it. It probably came about as a way point along the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1800’s. Eventually it grew into a small town with no more than a few hundred residents at most. The era of the city, when it was a town, is evident in the mid ground of this shot. A variety of building types that were constructed over the decades that don’t really match each other. None of them are more than a couple stories high. This, combined with the roads intersecting at a variety of angles, should give the impression that there was little to no planning when the town was created. You can see some of that sticking out from the bottom of the hill that our character is looking down.

In the early to mid 1970’s some big business came in and decided that the town would be a great location for their Corporate Headquarters. Soon the town developed into a city of about a quarter million. Dozens of uninspired, blocky office buildings shot up on a predictable grid pattern. The employees who work in these buildings needed a place to live, so some equally uninspired suburbs were built on the hills nearby. These elements can be seen in the far background of this shot.

And then, shooting out of the middle of the city, is the tower. It stands more than double the height of any of the other buildings and has an unusually inspired architecture. When the art is finished you will see that it has dark and reflective quality to it. I wanted it to look like a giant shard of Obsidian, both inside and out. It is home to the man who brought all the business to the town and changed everything. Over the past few years he has chosen to seclude himself in his penthouse. My first stab at what that penthouse will look like is below.

Top of the tower
The lonely man at the top of the tower.

This is extremely rough. I don’t think I spent more then fifteen minutes on it the other day. I was intentionally fast because I just wanted to see the broad strokes, so to speak. If I closed my eyes and tried to visualize the penthouse, what did I see? In the end it will probably look completely different. The final script for the scenes that take place here have not been written. The design will need to conform to the needs of those scenes. Regardless I want the penthouse to to feel uninviting. It shouldn’t seem like someone would live here, yet he does. What does that say about the man? I’m not going to answer that here. You’ll have to read the book, whenever it is done.

Check back next time when I share some character designs.