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Original Essays

Closing the Invisible Distance

by Dan Goldman
  1. Shooting War
    $4.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    Shooting War

    Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman
    "Goldman's art, a cinematic blend of photography and digital painting, is framed in widescreen panels that lend an air of video documentary to a grim graphic novel that manages to make media — and the truth — seem more fluid than ever." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[Editor's note: Read an original essay from Anthony Lappe, co-author of Shooting War.]

There was a constant thread of responsibility running through my creation of the visuals for Shooting War, a nagging need to do enough homework to make the war-torn streets of Baghdad in 2011 ring as true as possible. While it was always my desire to combine collage, vector art, digital paint and photography to create a hyperreal setting, the actual design and development period of the book was extremely short, forcing me to create our day-after-tomorrow nearly-live, on the fly and at a full sprint. The webcomic was announced and teased online with the project's online debut quickly approaching and I was under the gun to innovate... fast. What began as a series of style experiments quickly became a clean break with traditional ink-and-paper comics illustration, creating something new in the process. Created entirely digitally, drawn paperless on a Wacom Cintiq in a combination of digital painting, vector illustration, photography, graphic design and collage, the most common response from people both familiar and new to comics is that Shooting War keeps pace with contemporary media: HDTV, magazines, websites and the like.

At the very outset, I could see in my mind what I wanted but was constantly struggling with "nice" artwork that still felt very layered, like color transparencies laid over each other... an artifice, not a reality unto itself. Meanwhile, the buzz for the project just kept building and pages needed to be drawn day in/out with neither pause nor quarter... that is, until I found myself waiting on the script for the final installment of the webcomic's run on SMITH. Anthony's first child was born and he took an obvious pause in scripting for a few weeks and so did I; looking over the webcomic for the first time with fresh eyes, something subconsciously just clicked into place. When the script finally arrived and I began adapting it into pages, I could feel the invisible distance between foreground and background closing, each panel a tiny reality contained by its borders and realized the connective tissue I was missing was lighting.

I'm a self-taught artist with no formal training, having instead studied film and literature at university, both disciplines bonding perfectly on a molecular level with my deeply-ingrained love of the comics medium. The very simple reapplication of cinematic lighting-think into my digital process unlocked 30-odd years of film-going/loving/theory stored in my brain and dumped it into my storytelling crock pot, giving me an additional level of visual language with which to squeeze every last drop of drama in and around what existed in the script. The results were instant and obvious, and when the final web chapter was posted, I felt like I'd finally achieved for myself what I'd wanted from the beginning.

And with that, the webcomic wrapped and the heavy lifting began on creating the 110 exclusive pages of the graphic novel. Taking what I'd learned along the way, I finished the remaining pages in the span of 6 months... but suddenly the creative distance I'd traveled from start to finish became glaringly clear, with the original webcomic pages looking homely and half-done. After delivering the complete novel to our editor, I carved out another hunk of time and reworked every single panel from our run on SMITH, recoloring, reshading, remastering and in some cases completely redrawing to make the final book a seamless reading experience before delivering it again, a tighter and sleeker machine.

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Dan Goldman is a writer, artist, and designer. He is the co-author of the political graphic novel Everyman: Be the People, and a founding member of the daily on-line comics anthology ACT-I-VATE, where he serializes his psychedelic romance-thriller "Kelly." spacer

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