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Inside Look: Old City Blues - Part 4

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Inside Look is Broken Frontier's director’s commentary-like feature in which creators take you behind the scenes of one of their latest comics to hit the stands. In this edition: Giannis Milonogiannis on Old City Blues.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Here we are, finally at the climax of OCB. This last issue kind of reads like issue #2 -- in how they are both extended action scenes and don’t jump around in time as much as the other two issues did. However, in issue #4, we follow two parallel sequences -- read on to find out what they are!

Page 7

Towards the beginning of the issue, Solano and the rest of the team split up, with the Mobile Guns going after a couple of giant space mechs and Solano going after Hayashi himself.

We follow along as the Mobile Guns try to create a distraction long enough for Solano to deal with the book’s antagonist, which brought me to think about scene “editing” in a deeper way, as I had to try and go back and forth between the two while still hopefully keeping everything clear and understandable in the process.

Issue 4 marked the beginning of the darker styling in the fashion and the technology in OCB which I talked about in an earlier installment of this feature. Augmented reality visors have since become a staple of the visual aspect of the series, along with chunkier armor and shiny black tight outfits and the like.

Page 9

I don’t do splash pages nearly enough in OCB, for whatever reason. Probably because I’m in such a hurry to cram as much as possible in every page all the time. I think splash pages and double page spreads and all those things should be used carefully and sparingly. If every other page in your comic is a huge, attention-grabbing panel, it only makes sense that sooner of later this storytelling tool is going to degenerate into a cheap gimmick that only tricks readers into thinking they’re being shown something important.

But there are a few splash pages in issue 4, which I thought were needed in order to give the issue an air of grandeur and a bigger-than-life feeling.

Here we finally get a clear look at the giant mechs we only caught a glimpse of earlier in issue 3. I think this is actually one of my least favorite pages -- the absence of any sort of SFX or dialogue really kills it for me -- but lot’s of people seem to dig it nonetheless.

Page 16

And we finally get to the most fun to draw sequences in the first OCB book -- the all-out mecha battle in the Old City. It’s a ridiculous mess of dilapidated buildings, people floating around and action lines going in every direction, but I still think it worked out okay, and is the only thing that comes close to being a climax for the book.

As with the infiltration scene in issue 3, this issue grew out of the concept of the Mobile Guns going up against a much larger and more powerful enemy. I wanted to focus on teamwork again and show the MG’s using their brains a bit, instead of just blowing things up.

Page 19

Eventually, Solano and Hayashi face each other, but in an entirely anticlimactic way, which understandably turns lots of people off. What we get is a few pages of back and forth between the two, before Solano has to run to save his life.

It seemed really easy and obvious to give Hayashi some sort of superpower and have him fight Solano for pages upon pages. Hayashi could’ve turned into some sort of multi-tentacled atrocity and turned against all humanity in a quest for vengeance, or something.

As you’ve probably tired of reading already, avoiding this was a conscious choice at the time that admittedly makes the book fizz out at the end instead of going out with a bang. I still would’ve done it all exactly the same, though. It’s still the only outcome I can think of that feels right to me.

This page really stands out to me from the entire book. It’s one of the most stripped-down pages in the entire series, and I generally dislike doing stuff like this, but for this sequence, I think it worked out pretty well.

Page 18

In this scene towards the end of the book, Solano’s cruising off into the sunset while listening to the news in his car. What this page is meant to do is to very obviously hint at things to come in future OCB stories and hopefully drive the point home that this isn’t quite the end for the series -- quite the opposite, in fact.

One of my concerns regarding future OCB stories is how people seems to expect Hayashi Corporation to be the bad guys in every one of them -- kind of like how Genom were the recurring baddies in Bubblegum Crisis. But this really isn’t something I’m interested in doing at all. Hayashi will definitely still have a presence in New Athens, but I’d find it pretty boring to keep coming back to the same antagonist over and over.

Readers will obviously judge the book on what they see in this single volume, and as such, it makes sense that it might feel like the story is anticlimactic, even unfinished and unresolved. But I dig messing with the preconceived notions of how a mainstream action story is supposed to work.

Forcing all the loose ends to come together seems unnatural and almost like a bit of a cop-out. Real life doesn’t work that way, and I liked the idea of making an action comic that feels like it fades out, the characters blending back into their lives in New Athens as they were before we got to meet them.

It’s understandably frustrating, and the need for closure is what I’m counting on bringing you all back to Old City Blues in the future.

Hopefully these articles were interesting enough and provided some insight into what goes into making a comic book. For the people who’ve already read OCB, I’d be happy if these made you revisit the book and look at it in a different way. For those who haven’t, please feel free to check the comic out either online or as the handsomely yellow OCB hardcover put out by the great people at Archaia.

Lots of thanks to Broken Frontier for giving me the chance to go over these pages again after so long. It’s always interesting and educating to see how your own work changes over time.

Keep an eye open for new OCB material and thanks for reading!

OLD CITY BLUES, written and illustrated by Giannis Milonogiannis, Archaia, 128 Pages, $14.95. Out now.

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