This is Page 49. This is one of those sections of the book that seems interminably long during the several months that it takes me to draw it, but ties in with the rest of the plot in such a way that I don’t want to shorten it. When you’re reading it over 30 seconds it seems suspenseful, even if when you’re reading it over three months it seems like Joel Hodgson and friends should be sitting in front of it cracking wise during the dead air.
Basically what is about to happen in this story is that they spend a frustrating few panels picking their way through the back alleys of this city with tractor trailers and 30-ton MRAPs, and then there’s an Escalation of Force (EOF) incident in which they almost, but ultimately don’t, shoot an Iraqi civilian. That is, of course, the last of several sections that I won’t be publishing until the DoD finally clears the book for release, but hopefully knowing that will help to put this section in context.
As much as I like how the city scenes are coming out in this book, there is a little bit of artistic license in how I’m depicting the buildings, in that the alleyways are wider, there are fewer wires, streetlights and garbage than would really be the case, and generally the whole image is less chaotic and packed together than a photograph of the same thing would be.
U-turn straight over the median. So satisfying.
This is the actual page 47, according to my revised script. Not much is happening here story-wise; they get lost (or . . . repeatedly miss a turn) and have to turn the whole thing around a couple of times, which sounds boring but will be all too familiar to some, and does help to set up the scene after that. I thought about cutting the sequence, but in the context of what comes next it’s too important to leave out.
There is a lot to talk about art-wise here. I’m still trying to get the “day for night” effect right. The temptation is to do a black wash over EVERYTHING, and so make every color darker, but that would get to be utterly unreadable. I do like how using the eraser with 1% transparency is working for drawing “beams of light,” whether from spotlights or from the computer screen. The last thing that I’m trying to convey artistically here is movement against the background (they are in a moving vehicle). Corel Painter XI has a movement blur tool that I used for the inked lines in the background, but they tend to be too small to really convey motion. I tried to expand the overall effect by painting in the colors in the background very loosely and using black ink around the lines, all to accentuate the feeling that the background is moving and therefore can’t be seen very distinctly. Drawing in motion lines — the classic “ball throwing” kind — seems as though it would get distracting when the whole background is subject to them. Plus, it would look as if the vehicle was going 600 miles an hour.
These are pages 45 and 46 of my ongoing graphic novel project. Careful readers will note that Page 46 was previously published on this site as Page 47, which I drew out of order because those big cityscapes are a pain in the ass and I wanted to get them out of the way, and also because I wanted the all three of them (Pages 1, 46 and 96 at this point) to look similar. In the intervening year or so, I made slight changes to the script as I went along, which means that the book is currently running one page shorter than originally scripted (104 pages, for those of you who are keeping track at home).
Writing the text for Page 45 was a slight challenge. Normally, when leaving on a mission, you have a brief conversation with the RTO on duty about what is happening in the area and so forth. I didn’t want to write that into the script, though, because OPSEC and also because it’s pretty boring and doesn’t advance the plot. On the other hand, I want to maximize realism here, so I’m always hesitant to change stuff without any explanation. Hopefully this is the right balance.
In the same way, all of the call signs in this are the generic sample ones out of FM 71-3, which was always unclassified. I think anyone familiar enough with this to notice the discrepancy would also have recognized the source.
Lastly, to whoever it was out there that stumbled onto my website while searching for, and I quote, “pasties and thongs at spring break,” I hope that somewhere on the internet, you find what you’re looking for.
On July 18th 1917, near Soissons, France, U.S. Army PFC William Z. Abbott broke his hand when a round cooked off while he was trying to clear a machine gun. Ever since then, “palm up thumb out” has been the rule, and PFC Abbott remains the only human being ever to have been hurt in this way*. “Palm up, thumb out” — Part of Our Military Heritage.
On a slightly more serious note, composing this page proved to be a challenge. When this conversation actually took place, the gunner said his punchline, charged the gun with it pointed at the test fire pit, and jerked the turret about five degrees over to rub it in without actually flagging the whole FOB, as the test fire pit probably took up 30 degrees of arc from where the vehicle was stopped. Drawing this proved to be more of a challenge, because the whole point is that he did carry on with his joke all the way up to firing and that’s hard to show in a static shot. So, for the record, this is artistic license. You’ll note that I did draw his thumb under the trigger, blocking it.
Lastly, bonus points to whoever can tell me the LIN on the ammunition based on the paint on the tips of the rounds.
*The remainder of his brigade was killed in a mustard gas attack shortly after he was evacuated.