Page 71 of my graphic novel. The script is right at 100 pages at this point, so I have 28 left to draw.
The book was originally 106 pages. Two of the ones I eliminated were a long, text heavy exposition right in the middle that I replaced with a shorter graphic one on pages 37 and 38. The other four are cases where I originally had a conversation spread across more pages than it actually took. Drawing in half-sheet panels gives me a lot more room for dialogue than I had in drawing The Iliad, and it reads better if the two people talking to each other are on the same page. If you split it into two panels, the way I had it originally, in the reader’s mind it sounds like they’re having a long-distance phone conversation. This is one such example.
Above, page 70 of my graphic novel. Below, my foot in May, 2009 — neither the first nor the last time I accidentally stepped in a pond of raw sewage in Iraq.
Page 69. I had thought about putting a “GLOOP” sound effect word or something in there, but there really isn’t room the way I composed it, and hopefully it’s clear enough that he just stepped in a hole that was much deeper than expected.
Page 68 of my graphic novel — the 69th page including the later one that I drew at the beginning, which makes the whole thing 2/3 complete.
For those who would like some idea of what’s going on here, they’re putting 1″-minus graded crushed aggregate into the areas where the road has washed out, at which point they’ll grade it off and compact it. Civil Engineers will realize that this isn’t a very complete solution, though it’s not too different from the “shovel-full of cold-patch asphalt stamped in with a boot” approach used by most small town road crews in the United States. The next step would be rebar and concrete*, but in a country like Iraq the need for concrete dramatically exceeds the availability, and on a low-priority, short notice project like this one it wouldn’t be (and wasn’t) available. We did place concrete on some road repair projects in higher traffic areas.
Later on in this scene, these two characters complain to no one in particular about the fact that they were sent out on short notice with the full expectation that they would only be able to do a half-assed job. The reader should know what they don’t: that the point of the mission wasn’t so much to fix the road as to enable someone who would never see it to plausibly tell the General (from pages 2-5) that the road had been fixed. That’s sort of the larger point here, and why I wrote it into the story.
I’m only somewhat satisfied with my ability to convey the dust level here, which would in reality be extreme. The photo below is from the mission that partially inspired this story, so you can hopefully get some sense of what this feels like on the ground.
*ACTUALLY, the next step would be de-watering the whole site, diverting and then digging up the blown-up combined sewer that flooded out the road in the first place, replacing it, then re-covering it and rebuilding the whole road from the subgrade on up with new gutters and drains. Out of sheer nerdiness I once tried to do a real estimate for this one and it came to upwards of a million dollars.
Page 67 of my graphic novel. Hopefully this gesture is fairly clear. On the one hand I didn’t want to make it too dramatic, but not dramatic enough means that it doesn’t look like anything at all. The Iraqi guy is just supposed to be nervously scampering away, which is in fact what happened, so obviously the message got through.
This is one of those cases where if he’s got a gun or a vest he’s already got you, so it costs nothing to be polite. You also can’t treat everyone like a potential suicide bomber, because there are two million people in the city and you’re right in among them all of the time, so they’re going to get pretty close no matter what (see the traffic jam on page six) and it’s best to be on good terms if possible — which we shall see in the next couple scenes when these guys deal with the Iraqis who live in the neighborhood while they try to fix the road. Pothole repairs are popular everywhere, it turns out.