There’s a scene in The Last Viking Returns called ‘Big Trouble’ where Fafnir the dragon is finally revealed in all his terrible glory. The scene went through a lot of changes during development, so I thought I’d share them here.
It’s a lot of pics though so I’ll share them in two parts. This post will show you the roughs, and next week’s post will show how the final illustration was put together.
(And if you haven’t read the book yet, there’s a few SPOILERS below.)
You can see a tiny sample of the final illustration above on the right. The earliest sketch is very scrappy in comparison 🙂 It’s from the first dummy book, which was an opportunity for me to map out the basic beats of the story.
Once Norm and I started developing the story a bit more and figuring out the pagination, we realised we needed to condense Fafnir’s reveal onto one page so that we could show the twins on the boat on the left page.
(In the final book, these two moments ended up getting their own double-page spreads).
Here’s basically the same page but with Norm’s most recent version of the text pasted in. I rejigged the order of the panels on the left.
After meeting with our awesome editor Cate, she suggested I simplify the page on the left and only use one panel. I shrunk it to about a quarter of the spread, allowing me to spread out with the dragon. I was really happy with this version of the scene; Freya and Sigurd got their epic hero pose moment, and Fafnir’s slithering body did a great job of leading your eye through the image.
After a later meeting with Cate, we realised we needed to shuffle a few pages around. The small illustration on the left with the twins ended up getting its own double-page spread, which meant that the illustration with the dragon now needed to take up a full two pages as well.
First I tried going back to my original idea from the very first dummy book – put Odin in his own panel on the left, then have the dragon contained in 3/4s of the spread. But because Odin took the first paragraph of text with him, it meant that Freya’s text on the next panel looked really lonely. Fafnir needed to take up more of the space.
I tried making it all one illustration and making Fafnir longer, but he lost that wonderful slinkiness that he previously had.
It wasn’t working. I went back to the drawing board and tried some alternate angles. Here’s some of those rough sketches.
It started to take shape; Odin got his own panel on the left with a shadow of Fafnir appearing in clouds behind him, and Fafnir dominated the right hand panel. Putting him in the foreground made him much bigger on the page compared to the Norse gods, emphasising the threat.
His wings were a little hard to read when folded up, so I tried a second version with at least one wing open and visible.
So, this is how the rough developed. Next week I’ll show you how I did the linework and colours on the final version.