Roughly, how to make a comic.
Prophet, no. 28
By Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
With: Joseph Bergin III, Ed Brisson
AND: Fil Barlow
Prophet (c) Rob Liefeld
Fotocomix (c) Fil Barkow
In the broadest terms, Brandon Graham is a writer of small moments. He concerns himself with the trees before the forest, the details before the big picture. This isn’t to disregard the complex architecture of the Prophet series, but to draw attention to the writer’s preoccupation.
Prophet is about a clone who wakes up in the future and unfreezes an army of clones to help re-start humanity as we know it. More directly, Prophet is about eating weird things, hunting and being hunted by gross animals, bodily transformation, sex with strange creatures and knowing which tools to pack with you for your adventures.
Unless I miss my guess, Graham began using the “this character is carrying this on his person” expository technique in his personal comic King City, number 8. It’s a clever method of revealing what a character feels is relevant in his world and also preparing the reader for the implementation of these tools. It also gives the reader something concrete to grasp in a story that is largely driven by taciturn characters who are too assured in their own motives to relay such information by narration.
One of my favorite recurring visual elements of the Prophet series from artist to artist (today it is Giannis Milonogiannis) is the scale of everything. Rather than the close view of outsized human figures that most superhero comics take, Prophet hangs back and takes in the scenery. We spend a lot of time as readers following one of the John Prophets walking through the caverns of some organic spaceship or weaving through the tunnels beneath the surface of some alien planet. We are invited to soak in the textures of the walls, to feel how dangerously isolated Prophet is and how hostile his surroundings are. When things turn violent, our protagonist has ample room to maneuver or seek cover. The stages upon which these stories take place are suitably large enough for an enormous monster to rest comfortably within the scenes as well. Basically, everything is drawn in such a way that nothing feels too large. Everything is dwarfed by the setting itself.
Prophet is nominally about a man, but it is more certainly about a world.
Brandon Graham, writer of Prophet is a lifelong fan of the cartoonist and animator Fil Barlow. As a bonus feature, Graham interviews Barlow, or perhaps more appropriately, Barlow walks us through his drawing process using photographs.
Always a sucker for process articles, I read this feature even more intently than the primary story in Prophet 28. It’s a five page feature that should provide any aspiring cartoonist some insight to how the process of writing visually and thinking visually can be.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Barlow’s process is that he may do three passes of rough drawings per page before moving to the final art. He likens this repetition to the rehearsal process that performing artists take part in, calling the final art the performance. I wonder how many rough drafts other cartoonists need to make before they complete their books.