Graphic Novel News
& Views

Off Road Page 23POWELL — So on the first page here, page 23, we have the jeep heading into a tunnel, which is basically a segue into a flashback. How did you develop the idea of having the tunnel being the transition into and out of the flashback? Was that part of your script, or did you get the idea as you were drawing the pages?

MURPHY — That came about when I was drawing. I was doing the layout and I thought about having black gutters to break it apart and make it look darker. And I thought about needing an interesting transition because I had to cut away from them into this flashback. And I didn’t want it to switch with a panel. I was also thinking about “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the old one where everything gets dark and it just has this whole different atmosphere while they’re in this tunnel, and it all just kind of came from that.

POWELL — It’s a very visual, unique way to make that transition, and I think it works very well.

MURPHY — Thanks a lot. That’s why I chose these panels for our discussion because I knew there were a lot of storytelling decisions like that. I had something very specific for what I had in mind for this whole scene.

POWELL — In this first scene, Trent is sending this girl he has a crush on the “Yes/No” note that we’re all familiar with. Was there any struggle balancing this scene between being too cute and almost too sad or too emotional?

MURPHY — I try to not get to cute or too sappy. I don’t want to tell people to feel sorry for characters. As a reader, I start to lose it if something gets too sappy or too emotional, so I wanted this to be pretty direct.

I threw the notepad in there because it just shows the age that they’re at, and to quickly show the pain. On the next page we have this whole montage where you see the pain and that’s the emotional page and it’s as far as it goes in the story. And I don’t think I could push that any further without wincing.

POWELL — It comes across as a nice balance. It’s kind of cute, kind of sad, but it totally reminds me of what it was like at that age. Now, the panel in the middle in which Trent is actually interacting with the word “NO”…how did that idea develop?

MURPHY — With these kinds of flashbacks, it’s not like moment to moment storytelling so much. And I pictured…[pauses]…you know, at this point I probably just didn’t want to draw a background. [laughs]

That’s probably how it started, and I just thought I could do a big “no” with him standing in front of it. I thought that would make a good visual with the big “x” kind of visually showing “you’re not worth it.” And I thought I’d loop it around his head to make it more interesting. It’s just one of those quick decisions; you end up making dozens of them on a page without thinking about it. But this one ended up working pretty well actually.

POWELL — That one little panel has all the emotion you need and it pushes the story forward too. In this last panel, we see Trent drawing. I read your interview with CBR and remember that Trent is at least loosely based on you. I’m curious, how much of Trent’s working area is based on reality? Is it anything like your work area, or is it completely created from scratch?

MURPHY — That’s it, exactly. I have a corkboard right where I work with thumbtacks to put up photos or whatever I want to look at that day. And I have a crappy light that hangs down and two big pieces of cardboard so it won’t tip over so easily. I don’t have a phone that close to my workspace, but obviously for the storytelling I had to put it there in the foreground.

On the very first page, actually, that’s exactly my dorm room from college when I was at school. Almost exactly. Even those posters that are in that room are posters I’m looking at right now. It’s one of things that no one will notice but me.

POWELL — On a side note, as far as the character Trent goes, I noticed he still has that note in which Leona said no to him. Isn’t that a little, I don’t know, pathetic? Isn’t he asking for a lot of misery on his part. I’m just trying to get into his head and I’m thinking, that’s a little messed up to be keeping that.

MURPHY — I appreciate you reading into it and seeing that. A lot of people don’t do that. But I thought it would be this reminder weighing over him, forcing him to draw to prove himself. And it was just something negative he would stick there to be a reminder for him to keep working, and that he’s not good enough and he has to improve if he’s going to impress this girl.

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