Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Last Strip in Hyperspeed

This is a video of Lynn Johnston drawing her final comic strip, supposedly edited by her son Aaron, and the clearest indication that Lynn and her son Aaron have finally patched things up, since Aaron has not been mentioned in years. Aaron's editing seems to have been to speed everything up, eliminate Lynn's dialogue, and then do moving versions of the final product. For those of us wanting to observe the art process, it was a little difficult. I can understand why someone might want to eliminate Lynn's conversation, but that was the part of the video I had been looking forward to. So Aaron, thumbs down on this editing job from me.

The video of the art confirms what I have often suspected:

a. We see Lynn Johnston pulling out an old collection for reference, lending credence to the idea that she borrows jokes from her old material. The case in point for the final strip was the number of squeaking / creeking bones jokes she has done in strips before.

b. We do not see Lynn Johnston doing any kind of layouts. She draws straight from the first panel to the last panel in order and doesn't go back. This explains all those strips where something would be introduced in a later panel that did not appear in an earlier panel where it should have appeared. Unlike the old days when Lynn was shown writing her strip ideas up in a notebook before she drew them, we don't see a single reference to that notebook. It gives me the impression she is making it up as she goes along, lifting ideas from her old strips, which is certainly the way most of her last strips in 2010 came across.

c. Sometimes she draws the dialogue first and sometimes she draws the head first. So many of her artistic issues have to do with drawing a head without sketching out the body. I have seen several of her strips where the head size did not match the body size, and this confirmed it for me. As for the dialogue, it’s not a surprise either. Many times I have guessed that Lynn drew her characters to fit around her dialogue and not by what made sense, and this confirmed that too.

d. She doesn’t erase and fix anything. I didn’t see that eraser pop out even once.

e. Back when Laura Piché was inking the strip, the website made a big deal about how Laura had to put on gloves to avoid smearing the ink. Not a single glove on Lynn. I have a feeling she required Laura to do something she would never do herself.

f. What I did not know was that Lynn had pre-marked panel templates to choose from when making her strips. This certainly explains why so many of the Sunday strips in particular had panels which I described as a repetition of the previous panel. If she only has 4-5 panels worth of material, she is obliged by her template to draw in 10 panels of material, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to expand the size of her drawing. While this may have been a time-savings for Lynn, it certainly cost her in terms of artistic creativity.

This video confirmed everything I have suspected about Lynn’s art after looking at it carefully over the last few years. And of course, the big insult is that someone coloured the final strip, but do we get to see a video of the colourist? No. The strip magically appears in colour, as if from nowhere.

The colourist is Kevin Strang. Great job, Kevin.