Last week I posted an early review for TERM LIFE by A.J. Lieberman and Nick Thornborrow. The book is schedule to be released in January 2011 and the Lieberman and Thornborrow have shared a behind the scenes look at some of the pages in the book. Check out this commentary style look at their thoughts for the different pages.
If Nick Barrow can stay alive for 21 days, he’ll die happy.
AJ Lieberman: That pretty much sums up what TERM LIFE. Though “happy” is debatable.
I knew two things before I started writing TERM LIFE: 1) I wanted to write an OGN and 2) I knew I wanted it to be a crime story. And, if I could, have it be story that keeps the reader in the dark until the very last page. Okay, so, that’s three things. I just really wanted to write something that compelled the reader to find out what happened next. And to do that you need exactly two things: great characters and fantastic art. And although I’m partial, I think we nailed both.
Page 2 (opening sequence)
AJ: In any book, but especially a self contained OGN, the opening sequence is critical. I wanted the reader to be put in the middle of the action right away, but have it be disorienting, in that they would have absolutely no idea of what was going on, because it would help establish the fact the story was told out of chronological order.
We had to do a few things right away, the most important being to raise enough questions that the reader wanted to flip the page to find out the answers.
Who are these guys? Are they the good guys? Are they the bad guys? Is one of them our hero? And why the hell are they burning all that cash?
I happen to be a compulsive re-writer. Looking back over the 7 drafts of Chapter 1, this opening scene stayed remarkably in tact, with the biggest changes being Nick’s voice over captions.
NICK : This page became the visual target for the rest of the book. Very early on in the project, we had the first five pages completed. After they were done, we spent months roughing (thumb nailing) everything from start to finish. I like to work this way because it keeps things malleable until the very end. On a book like this where the chronology of events jumps around, this is the only way to do it without losing your hair with revisions. But from the get go, this page locked down what we were aiming for. == TEASER ==
AJ: With a flip of the page we go from Nick selling “the trick” to Nick having been beaten to shit. This is the first time that a jump in chronological order happens, which, by the way, is why the scene title panels are there.
Nick: We've just been introduced to Nick in the previous few pages, but here we see Nick as he will be for pretty much the remainder of the book: battered and bruised. This isn't a guy who will have an easy time achieving his goals. He's not the most physically imposing guy, so he's going to have to use his wits to scrape by. But right away we know he's not going to get through this story unscathed.
AJ: Ahh, Cate. This is the first time we meet Cate. The success of TERM LIFE was going to rise or fall on who Cate was and how she and Nick “played” off each other. All of which made her entrance extremely important. She’s a cool girl from Brooklyn. Self confident. You need to like her right away. There’s cool role refusal here as Cate, 13, is giving advice to the bartender, 29, about the bartender’s crappy love life.
Nick: Cate was a tough one to draw. More than any other character, she had the most diverse range of poses. In this scene she presents herself as world wise and at ease in this bar environment. A lot weighs on this character's mind, so I didn't want to present her as aloof or petulant. So she shares similar features to Nick with those dark brooding eyes.
Nick: Victor. In a sense this guy is a lot like Nick. Both men have similar motivations. Nick is out to protect his daughter Cate, and Victor is out to avenge his son Yuri. The difference between them is that Victor seems to be backed by limitless resources and an unquenchable rage. I always tried to stay conscious of this character's apparent omnipotence while drawing him. This character doesn't show a glimmer of vulnerability and I don't think that can be said of any other character in the story.
AJ: I love panel 3. But I’m sucker for silhouettes. This is the moment when Nick learns that not all went well with the heist he planned. For Nick, it’s pretty much a down hill race from here.
AJ: The last page of the Chapter 1. By now we know who Nick is, why everyone wants him dead, and we think we know he has things under control… since we have 90+ pages to go that’s not the case. It’s all going to go to hell. You just don’t know how it’s gonna go to hell. And that’s the fun part.
For me Panel 4 is the stand out panel - it’s cinematic.
Nick: I love how the colors turned out in this page, with the interiors completely illuminated in yellow light, and the exterior shrouded in blue. It's like Nick is looking at Cate through an aquarium glass. This is how he's always interacted with his daughter: Occupying two separate worlds, and Cate is utterly unconscious of his existence. The next time we see Nick and Cate together, there won't be that insulating piece of glass.
AJ: We don’t have a lot of splash pages. That’s my fault. I write a lot of dialogue and need every page / panel I can get. If all the pages I wanted to make splash pages were splash pages the book would be over 250 pages long. But this one was too good to pass up. Nick (the artist) killed it. Nick (our hero) comes face-to-face with the guy who’s turned his life into a living hell.
Brandon (Letterer): The lettering ultimately needed to reflect the overall tone of the story as well as complement the art. The choice of font for the title cards and the use of all lower case was a very deliberate contrast to the traditional dialog font that was used throughout. In addition, AJ wanted the word balloons to break the panel borders (at least where I could). This really helped integrate the lettering into Nick's artwork and utilize the white space formed by the gutters.
OGN’s are different than an going series in that you have to get it all out and answered in one story. There’s no, “We can explain “it” in the next issue.” In the end, TERM LIFE is about relationships. Nick and Cate. Viktor and Misha. Keenan and Matty Miller. And it’s about how those relationships can change a whole hell of a lot even in just 21 days…
TERM LIFE OGN
Pre-Order in Previews Now!
Story A.J. LIEBERMAN
Art & cover by NICK THORNBORROW
144 PAGES / FC
RETAILER WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES