GUIDEBOOK: HIGH CRIMES #2
Still playing catch-up with the recaps, and I’m trying to keep High Crimes on the brain while I’m working on the last few pages of 5 in the other window. So here’s the rundown of Chapter 2, written forever and a day ago, back when my thinking was all sort of different about all sorts of things. We were working on 2 before 1 came out, wrapping it up the day 1 came out, so a lot of this stuff is all jumbled up in my head.
Covers usually come last, and this one was no exception, but Ibrahim’s rough draft wasn’t too far from the final version. I love everything about this cover, the minimal look to it, but it says so very much. I think we were still figuring out our way on Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is where Ibrahim found his groove.
So when I wrote 1 and 2, I wrote them as two parts of one issue, because that’s originally how I saw the structure breaking down, 6 26-page issues to tell the whole story. The major problem with that came when I realized that things just sort of start on page 1, no real lead-in, no easing the reader in, just, bam, here we go. But there’s a lot to get to in this issue, so there wasn’t a lot of room for hand-holding. That’s how I justify it.
The safe and the stacks of money were sort of a late change. Originally I’d pictured all that stuff in the office, but I wanted to see Haskell’s house, to sort of give the flipside to how Zan lives, and this was the most elegant way to do it.
That yawn. Man, that yawn makes me want to yawn. I just yawned writing this. That’s how good that yawn is. Lotta movement on this page. I think this is where Ibrahim told me that he actually likes working with a lot of panels, so I started going nuts. Things get dense, but there’s never any confusion about what’s going on, I don’t think.
Finally we see Mars in the journal flesh. I knew from the get-go that Mars would be a big character, not just as the Maltese Falcon, but as a living breathing person (who happens to be dead). Only problem was I hadn’t finalized his story as deeply as I did the main story, so a lot of the work in 2 was mapping that out to the end. The hard part here is giving Mars enough life to make Zan (and the readers) care about him in such a short little glimpse.
I just noticed, I meant to letter the label for the pill bottle, which would’ve been Sophie’s prescription. I’ll have to fix that for the trade.
Lots of research was figuring out where Zan would go to actually read microfilm, an institution that’s pretty much disappeared in America. But count on a university library to keep their clunky machinery around until someone pries it from their dead hands. Also, I’m clearly in love with the answering machine/voicemail form of storytelling in these first two issues.
I’d like to go ahead and take a little credit for this one, since I sent Ibrahim a sketch of how I saw this big reveal scene laid out and he actually thought it was good enough to make for a jumping off point. My vision was not nearly as pretty as this. Also, I did a lot of work getting some of these documents into storyline shape, retyping and laying out a couple of them. They’re worth a closer look, if only to not notice the hour or two’s worth of work I put into them.
Things start to go apeshit. I wanted the Strange Agents’ first movements to be fast and brutal, mostly to lead into the severe bad news of the next page. I just noticed Ibrahim’s little trick of matching shot the body map in panel 1 and Tenzing and his soon to be deceased drinking buddy walking out of the bar.
Hammers are great. They’re everywhere, no one really questions you needing one and they do a lot of horrible things to the human form. Ibrahim’s on fire on this page, from the bowed hallway shot on panel 1 to the universal look of a hotel room, even one that’s occupied by 5 dudes. This Agent’s name in the script? INTERROGAGENT.
More Mars. I just wanted to give enough to sell his story down the line. I love the time jump panels, especially that last one, with the shot below the table all on its own. This might be my favorite bit of the whole issue.
Ibrahim added a few panels here to make things more clear, which is yet another reason Ibrahim is an amazing collaborator. The crazy amount of detail in this issue is all over this page. Lot of dialogue changed in the lettering stage, from a sort of drunky, rambling monologue out loud to the wheels turning inside. Again, a lot of stuff to get to.
Zan’s knife? I basically carry the same thing around with me all the time. Not that Ibrahim knew that, but it seems like the kind of kismet you point out. The panel of the Agent squatting before his makeshift torture set-up is so great. It’s casual but full of dread. It wasn’t until this re-read that I noticed Ibrahim drew this page so you never see the Agents’ faces. It’s a small detail, but it really pushes the creep level up a few.
This first panel. I’ve been wanting to do a rat torture scene since I was in grade school. These are the things I’ve been thinking about way too long. Luckily Ibrahim was totally into it (especially because this is low-key compare to what’s coming up) and he kills it on this page. We wanted to be brutal but not graphic.
Three panels. Look at all this ROOM. High Crimes is a really dense book, so we like to give it some air now and then, like this page. A couple frantic beats before next issue, leave ‘em wanting more, etc. Getting the last panel as a sweet back tattoo next week.
IMAGES: Notebook outline of issue 2 (bleedover from issue 1), Ibrahim’s initial cover rough, early draft promotional image deemed too obscure and reused for issue 1 promotion, Page 3 pencils, final cover image.
If you’re into this kinda thing, then here’s this kinda thing.