[PROCESS] HAVO’S WAGER - Part 1
This is a special one.
After the incredible response to this week’s release of HAVO’S WAGER by Al Ewing and Nimit Malavia, we reached out to Nimit to share some of his process on the story. And, boy, did he deliver.
Nimit came through with a backstage peek so substantial and thorough that we are splitting it up into two sections (Look for part 2 next week).
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Before I go:
We’ve received many requests in the past couple days to team these two up again for another story, so stay tuned on that front.
In the meantime, here’s Nimit…
*Keep in mind Nimit is Canadian when you see all those extra ‘U’s
Hey all, it’s Nimit Malavia. Here with a process post for HAVO’S WAGER. Really excited to give you all a breakdown of the journey from script to page, and some of my thinking and choices along the way.
Let’s get into it!
After we wrapped GODS, the team very generously asked if I’d be up for another story. To which I said, “yes! 100%!absolutely!!!” (thank you all for the fantastic response, btw. It was such an unbelievably fun time getting to work with Al’s words and interpret all those amazing characters)
A side benefit, I’m going to use this post as a way to shower an uncomfortable amount of praise on the team. Between the impossibly imaginative world(s) that are being woven together by the letters and words, to the unbelievably tasteful designs from the Mikes, and Steve’s gentle guiding hand– I can attest that it’s as much fun being on the contributors’ side of the process as it is seeing everything come together as a reader.
For the here and now, though, the smashing atoms that start us off: Al Ewing’s fantastic story.
It goes without saying, so probably best to say it loudly and often, Al’s scripts are among my favourites. The scale is mythic, but he moves you through it with such a graceful pace you’re able to comfortably take in a tense neon-lit back alley scene, just as well as you are a wandering cosmic dream full of gods and princes.
After reading it through a few times and making notes of the grander themes and stand-out images, I start thinking of ways to organize the script. It was a little daunting to start – this pure script-to-page format was new for me. I was a little unsure where to draw the boundaries.
I had questions of ‘how long should this be?’ ‘Last time was 8 pages. Could we/ should we do that again? Does that give enough room for the story and images to breathe? Do we show Monno and Dmitrik? Or is it all about the Princeling and the fable? Panels work here but seem like the wrong choice for here…’
Along with that, you also have the hope and worry that the moments you find interesting as the artist are in sync with the writer as well…
When I get too analytical, it starts to feel like ‘solving for a problem’ rather than an ‘artful solution.’ So, I put a pin in those thoughts and, to borrow from a friend, try to ‘Decisively leave all options open.’
I start by just going through the script and sorting it out into sections of time and story that feel like the right amount.
(You can see by the colour shifts – in some parts we’re able to condense time significantly, and in others where we really expand out).
Once I went through that process, I realized that the pacing and dialogue were sorted quite neatly into two sections:
The conversation between Monno and Dmitrik in the Alley and…
The telling of the Fable with Havo and the Princeling.
Seemed like a nice instinct to follow into the layouts. It felt tidy and also appropriately meta to use two styles of visual storytelling… in a story about storytelling.
The two approaches needed their own considerations – my thinking with the Princeling’s tale was to let the more illustrative storybook approach emphasize the key themes and relationship dynamics of the page. Then with Dmitrik and Monno, we would use conventional panels, giving us a more grounded experience of time so that we could focus on the moment-to-moment tension, feeling the emotion between these two, and the quiet dread of what’s to come.
It also gave us nice opportunities like the 3rd page where we blend the two styles, with the smoke and Dmitrik taking on a fantastic quality, gently preparing us for the transition in style.
I kept the drawings very loose here; at this point, we only had designs for HAVO and ARDAR ready, so I made archetypal guesses using hints from the script, “The King and his two sons toil for Cruel Vatra?” Let’s have him emulate the posture and form of our beloved shiny Owl god! “The Princeling worships Corrupt Vadis?” Long! With web motifs around!
(You can see some of the barebone communication notes in the layout pages – these were as much for clarity with communication as they are for organizing.)
I was a little nervous sending out the layouts without knowing 100% what the characters will look like. But when you trust the process, it all comes together…especially when that process involves character designs by Del Mundo and Huddleston.
Absolutely spoiled by these incredible designs from the Mikes. These two are unmatched in terms of taste. What I loved about this process was how much dimension the new designs added to the world – it went from holding Vatra and Havo in my mind to suddenly being blasted with a complete vision of this King and his realm.
Even the interplay of the Princeling’s juvenile cape stars in contrast to his father’s perfect nebula tells a whole story. And kind of a nice reminder that sometimes the most inventive things come from the space in-between. A real master class in world-building.
Plugging in the new designs, all the layouts still worked, so now we were off to pencils!