Tuesday, 29 November 2011

FP Backstage: Scene Progression

Fort Paradox Backstage: The Progressive Development of the Cafe Scene

Well, we got through the first 8 episodes, fleshing out the notes from the page I showed you last week, and then we needed to work out what the next step would be.

Our second batch of plot notes took shape on a bit of ruled paper taken from a complementary notepad my Dad brought back from one of his overseas meetings (hence the odd, definitely non-FP-related caption in the top left and picture in the bottom right).  I like looking back over paper-based scripting sheets, as they give a better impression (compared to word-processed stuff) of how the ideas developed over time.

Fort Paradox: the Second Scripts

As you can see from the layout of this sheet, the conversation with The Bookworm was originally shorter and missing a couple of key points, and it was only intended to fill one or two episodes, instead of the three it eventually expanded to; Edwin's introduction was going to be crammed into less episodes as well.  This sort of thing happens a lot.  I like to take it as a positive sign - if a scene keeps growing and sprouting more asides, then it's probably doing something right.  It's when a scene stagnates and stops suggesting other things that you've probably got a problem.

I'm not 100% sure what we'll be dredging up from the archive next week.  Stay tuned!

- The Colclough (on behalf of itself & TMJ & SRJ)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

FP Backstage: The Fateful 22nd

After three Tuesdays' worth of prevarication and history lessons, we finally reach the point in the story where Fort Paradox as we know it began to exist - Fort Paradox Backstage: The Fateful 22nd of July 2010.

I'd had Tim and Sarah staying at my place for about a week, and we'd had one or two too many late, sugar-fuelled nights full of Lego, fictional planets and stuff, and sometime during the evening of the 22nd of July, we decided it was time to do something about the long-gestating notion of a cross-continuity webcomic.  Having listed which characters we wanted to use (see last week's bit of paper), we pulled out an A3 sheet and started jotting down script ideas for the first few episodes.

The resulting document more or less covers Episodes 1 to 7, along with quick notes which got fleshed out to form Episodes 8, 11, 15 and 17.  As you can see, Episodes 2 and 3 were originally going to be one long wordy strip, and Episodes 5 and 6 were originally planned in reverse order.  Other points of interest include a slightly more complex version of the FP logo, a subplot with the snails being antagonistic to Cylinder (which got cut) in Episode 2, another out-of-character moment for Forkley in the draft of Episode 6, a stylistic variation on the snails which never ended up getting used in the finished strips, and a random bit of corridor.

The lower-right corner has been blurred out because it contains a preliminary sketch for an episode which we still haven't used after 16 months and 100 finished strips, but we still think it could come into the plot sometime, so we didn't want to spoil the surprise.

Fort Paradox: the First Scripts

Then we started drawing - I got all digital and made Episode 1, while Tim and Sarah took a pencil each and drew Episodes 2 and 8 respectively - although we didn't finish the first strips until the small hours of the next morning, hence FP's official birthday being on the 23rd of July instead of the 22nd.  And it's gone from there...

- The Colclough (on behalf of itself & TMJ & SRJ)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

FP Backstage: The Namanc Begin

We're still in the murky depths of the pre-Fort Paradox universe here, but we're getting closer to the actual start point.  Here goes Fort Paradox Backstage: The Bit Where We Start Infringing Each Other's Copyrights (With Each Other's Permission), and Some Alien-Species Concept Art Sees the Light of Day.

Sorry about the long-winded title there. Sort of doing two smaller items in one post here.

I think the first time one of us borrowed a character off another was sometime in 2008, when Tim made a couple of cardboard statuettes of the eponymous protagonists of Cylinder and Miserable.  Then he asked me if I'd mind if he wrote a short spin-off, which of course I didn't, and the result was the aptly-titled C&M: The Fan Strip.

Sometime in early-mid 2010, things went the other way around: after I'd seen the first few dozen episodes of Brothers in Shells, I picked up a pencil and started doing the odd sketch of George Darlan.  When I showed my first drawing of him to Tim in July, he ended up using a spare bit of the page to show me approximately what the Namanc had looked like in his earliest concept art - which was quite different to the finished article.

And then, along with Sarah, we finally decided that a cross-continuity webcomic was a good idea, so we started making a list of which characters should be in it first - on the same bit of paper again.  So I thought I'd show you that bit of paper:

This was the first-ever bit of paper with Fort Paradox-related stuff on it.  Srsly.

Darlan's apparent moment of megalomania in this drawing is a bit out of character, really (or is he just quoting Jeremy Clarkson?), but the dubiousness of his gadget and the horror it seems to have inspired in Harry Forsen are much more typical.

And as an addendum to the history lesson: Tim rediscovered that very first Namanc concept drawing while clearing out his desk a couple of weeks back, and sent me a scan of it.  Which I shall now reproduce for you:

Apparently this was Darlan's conceptual grandfather.

I must admit I'm very glad that the plan got revised, as the Darlan we all know and... love? dread?... looks much better.  You know, without the eyestalks, one-claw 'hands' and multiple navels.  But then again, I can't talk, as I've done some  really bad first-draft concept art in my time... e.g. when I tried designing some species for Universe XGT this last Sunday afternoon, and at least one of them was a complete disaster...

So, anyway, that's where Darlan came from.  Next week, if you're lucky, you might get to see the beginnings of Paradox proper.

- The Colclough (on behalf of itself & TMJ & SRJ)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

FP Backstage: D'Antarran

As a sequel of sorts to last week's post, I present Fort Paradox Backstage: D'Antarran As it Wasn't.

When I wrote those three preliminary script drafts, I had a rather ambitious idea in my head about what the setting would look like.  The notion was of a planet, once home to an advanced sentient-machine civilisation but now abandoned and fallen into decay, with the comic taking place (or at least starting off) inside a vast building in the middle of a city.

I initially intended the architectural design to be a fusion between the grand canyon and all those mediaeval buildings where each storey leans further out over the street than the one below, all executed in glass and metal, and I saw the thing in a colour palette not too far removed from the scene in Blade Runner where you can see the sunset from inside the Tyrell pyramid.

I never drew it.

Never, that is, until now.  Having shown you the scripts last week, I decided it was finally time to exorcise that old image of the ruins of D'Antarran from inside my head and get it down on paper.  And then once I'd got it on paper (more or less - it doesn't quite get the valley effect I was after, but it's not too far removed otherwise) and I'd scanned it into the computer, I decided I could probably make it a lot better with a bit of digital manipulation - so I set about manipulating, and after a couple of hours' work, here's the finished article:

The D'Antarran Warp Episode 1: Cylinder and Miserable immediately after arriving in the ruins of Forkley's ancestral homeworld

(Thanks to www.cgtextures.com for the concrete, sky and broken-glass layers.)

I deliberately drew this to reflect my original vision of D'Antarran, despite the fact that Tim and I have now extensively revised our ideas about the history of the planet, including the addition of a molluscoid race who would have been responsible for building most of the infrastructure and creating the machine species of which Forkley is a member.  The S'Anonh, as we called them, would have favoured an architectural style where most large buildings had a central atrium with a spiral ramp giving access to all of the floors, instead of stairs - gastropods don't like stairs.  So if I drew you a picture of D'Antarran as we envision it now, then the overall tone would likely be similar, but the horizon would be filled with spiralling structures reminiscent of upended snail shells of assorted species.  The Japanese Wonder Shell probably gives the best approximation of the shapes I'm on about - picture a load of those, of various sizes, planted in the ground with the spiral ends pointing up, and you won't be too far off what's currently in my head.

I'm glad I've got that off my chest at last.

- The Colclough (on behalf of itself & TMJ & SRJ)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

FP Backstage: The First Drafts

It's a Tuesday, and we're only posting on Fridays at the moment.  This morning, Tim completed the one-hundredth episode of Fort Paradox (the 101st in narrative order, but the 100th to have its illustrations completed).  We recently finished posting a chapter set in the Ship's Archives.  So it seems like a good day to open the actual Archives, and start showing you some of the preliminary material that's helped to shape those 100 strips.  Welcome to Fort Paradox Backstage: The First Drafts.

Me being the stickler for logic that I am, I think it'd make sense to begin at the beginning, so for today's nostalgia trip I thought I'd show you my very first script notes for what was then called "The D'Antarran Warp" and set on the ruined planet D'Antarran in Universe XGT.  This lot dates from circa 2009, when Brothers in Shells was in its infancy, and before I'd even mooted the cross-continuity idea to Tim and Sarah.  You might spot some suspicious similarities to the first few episodes of the comic as it was actually produced, but there are some pretty major differences too.

Happy reading...

Script by MGHC

Cylinder and Miserable arrive on D’Antarran.

Whoa!  That was a wild trip.

You just spoke in Calibri instead of Abadi Condensed... oh crud, so did I.  Please, please, please don’t tell me we’ve ended up outside of our normal continuity again...

Looks like we have.


Hey, on the bright side, you’ve still got your favourite catchphrase.

Yeah, I have.  Whoopee-doo.

Script by MGHC

So, now that we know where we aren’t, how about we try and work out where we...

FORKLEY makes an unceremonious entrance.

OI!  What are you two doing in D’Antarran?

I dunno.  We just sort of… turned up here unexpectedly.

Look, this is a restricted area.  If you can’t explain better than that, then I’m afraid I’ll have to send you to the Tharryk Cluster for detention.

JEFF THE NINJA SNAIL also turns up.

Excuse me, sunglasses?

Name’s Cylinder.  Cylinder the Cylinder.

Cylinder, Cylinder the Cylinder, is this forklift giving you trouble?

A bit.

Then stand aside, and I shall sort him out with my lightning ninja moves!

Can I be pragmatic and point out that you’re a snail?

Script by MGHC

Indeed, I am a snail.  But I am no ordinary mollusc.

Do continue?

I... am a Shadow Ninja Snail.

A what? Are they meant to be even scarier than regular ninja snails?

'Episode 1' and 'Episode 2' bear relatively little resemblance to any scenes in the finished comic, especially with Miserable not arriving until Episode 55, and Forkley becoming less antagonistic (the butlerish way he comes across in 'Episode 2' is out of character, and although Episode 6 still has him a bit on the grumpy side, his portrayal in the other finished episodes of Fort Paradox is generally closer to how he is in UXGT).

However, you might like to compare 'Episode 3' against the actual Episode 4...

Personally, I think the actual episodes were a lot better.  Anyone disagree?

Episode 85 comes out this Friday, and in next Tuesday's instalment of FP Backstage you might even get to see some concept art!  Stay tuned...

- The Colclough (on behalf of itself & TMJ & SRJ)