Inside the Creator’s Mind: Douglas Hahner

Before I get into my process I would like to publicly thank Donal DeLay for the tremendous work that he did. The story looks so much better than I ever could have imagined.

This is a very personal story for me because it is true. The only difference between the story and real life is that I was with my Mom in the final panel not my wife, but I chose to use my creative license and keep the characters to a minimum.

This was a hard story for me to write, not because the memory is painful (the story is about HOPE after all), but because there is a highly repetitive nature to what I was going through. Go to the doctor’s office, wait for the results, go get more tests done, wait for the results, ect. ect. I also had to condense a six month ordeal into two story pages. And I wanted to pick and choose the events so the images would vary and not be the same thing over and over again (except for the recovery period, because that was pretty damn boring).

I thought a lot about how I wanted to use the pages to tell the story. Should I do two splash pages and have them laid out like the game Operation with captions describing the story? Could the Operation splash page work as only the second page of the story? While those ideas are pretty cool I didn’t think I would be able to tell the complete story using a splash page (let alone two).

So thinking about the comic books that I love, and loved growing up, I started to look at how creators I admire lay out their pages. Two creators heavily influenced my thinking, Keith Giffen and Warren Ellis. I’m a collector of original comic book art pages, and in my collection are two pages from Giffen’s The Heckler and one page from Ellis’ Fell. Both those books use a nine panel grid on every page.

The first time I remember seeing the nine panel grid was in The Heckler. Giffen used the grid on every page of every issue of The Heckler. That simple grid and the fact that it was used on every page of every issue really stuck with me. I was used to seeing big dynamic panels of superhero slugfests. Giffen still had big fight scenes, but it was broken down into nine panels per page.

Warren Ellis along with artist Ben Templesmith also use the nine panel grid on their book Fell. However they use it a little differently. Their pages are broken down into a top third, a middle third, and a bottom third. Most of the time there are three even panels per third (making up the nine panel grid), but there are times when the entire top third is a single panel, or the bottom third is two panels. The height of the panels are always the same, but the width can vary. When I saw the nine panel grid used in this fashion I thought it was a great way to pace the story out. So I decided to use that format in the story I wrote.

My thinking was I would like to divide the page into thirds (top, middle, and bottom). On page one use one panel on the top, two panels in the middle, and three on the bottom. It would symbolize the dread creeping in. On page two I wanted the opposite, three panels on top, two in the middle, and one on the bottom. That would symbolize the growing hope.

I was fortunate enough to have an artist who could take my ideas and turn them into a professional looking story. I could not have asked for a better collaborator. To all the editors out there take note of Donal. He would be a very big asset to you.

Before signing off I would like to thank a few people. First my wife, Tina, for her support and encouragement in following through with the actual writing of the script. I know it is not enough to just think about it, but I actually have to get off my ass (or sit on it as the case may be) and write the damn thing. Second to my son Owen who has inherited my love of comics. He is a million times the artist I am, and I look forward to collaborating with him on a project somewhere in the future. To my parents for whom this will be the first comic book they have read since their childhoods. And to Andrew who has made this geek’s dream come true. I will have something published to show to editors at the conventions I attend, hopefully leading to bigger (but not better) things.

Thank you all, and I hope (there’s that word again) you enjoy it.

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