The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #5
"Stand By For Mars!"
May 2006

Fiction Book Reviews
by Ryan Brennan

The Making of a Graphic Novel
by Prentis Rollins
Watson-Gupthill Publications

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The Making of a Graphic Novel, written and illustrated by Prentis Rollins, is a unique flip book. Turned one way, this 8?" x 11" book is the black and white graphic novel The Resonator. Flipped over, it becomes a stage-by-stage study of how Rollins created his science fiction story from inception to final lettering.

The Resonator is the tale of a future in which humankind has evolved to a state of sleeplessness. Productivity is greatly increased as workers are free to perform tasks around the clock for the monolithic Probe Corporation, an all-encompassing business that now controls the direction of human endeavor. Sleep becomes an abnormality, a condition that inspires the rise of sleep merchants who specialize in providing the experience through drugs and, maybe, with the forbidden Resonator.

Bronsen is a miner who becomes interested in utilizing a Resonator on the world of his miner friend Huggert. What Bronsen discovers is a world of dreams and deceptions and, ultimately, a transformation that will forever change his life.

Rollins' story is interesting enough and well drawn. It does not have the fecundity of imagination, profundity or depth of characterization on exhibit in the works of Frank Miller or Alan Moore and doesn't fully examine the effects of the basic premise.

All studies of sleep and dreaming by the health community indicate that sleep is a basic necessity for human beings. At the very least, a lack of sleep can lead to mood changes and poor health. In extreme cases of sleep deprivation hallucinations and even a kind of madness are possible. Unlike breathing, eating, and certain other biological functions necessary to human life, sleep and dreaming seem to serve some other purpose that strikes at the core of what it means to be human. Sleep provides rest and relaxation for the physical body and all its parts, but dreaming speaks to our mental and emotional condition, often letting us work out solutions to complex questions that arise during waking life. Unfortunately, what humankind forfeits by the loss of sleep and dreaming is not studied.

And, there are no satisfactory answers for other questions, like why exactly the Probe Corporation has outlawed the Resonators, the use of which is punishable by death. The ending, too, which plays out clearly on one level, leaves many implications that some may find mentally stimulating while others will be frustrated by a lack of more concrete conclusions.

Visually, the reader will find much that is familiar. Rollins cites the "Walled City" of Kowloon as the basis for the organic look of his city in space. The movies Bladerunner or The Fifth Element could just as easily have provided that inspiration so similar is the look and feel of Sleep Station's vast, multi-layered interior "city." As one might suspect, the city and technology have that crowded, "used" look and a mix of nationalities. Even the concept of organic spaceships hearkens back to the films and the designs of Giger. A major exception to this is the design of the Polarprobe, a ship that resembles a stalk with struts supporting a series of rings.

The Making of portion of the book is much more successful in execution. Rollins details every nuance of his story and its development. It's not that the story merits this type of scrutiny but it does demonstrate for the future graphic novelist the thought and attention that must be applied at the narrative level.

Rollins emphasizes the need to plan ahead. Panels of comic art do not just spring to life in one fell swoop. Rollins lets us share his process for creating from pre-production sketches through thumbnail sketches to finished panels. Rollins often mentions the "camera angle" and makes comparisons between this art form and motion pictures. It is an apt parallel given that graphic novels resemble nothing so much as they do the storyboards that have allowed filmmakers to visualize a movie long before a single frame is committed to film. One need only see Robert Rodriguez' film of Frank Miller's Sin City to see the concept carried to its ultimate conclusion.

Not to be mean or nit-picky, but Rollins could have mentioned how useful it might be to employ a proof reader. Doing so might avoid the misspelling that occurs in one panel when he uses the word "shuttered" when he must have meant "shuddered."

The Making of The Resonator is a quick read and will no doubt find its greatest acceptance among the aficionados of comic book stores.

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