Monday, April 15, 2013

Last year, cartoonist and teacher Jason Lutes approached a few of his former students with a project he had been mulling over. Lutes, a big fan of tabletop games, wanted to play a game of FIASCO, record the session, and then turn it into a comic. The result, BINGO BABY is currently being funded through Kickstarter and, with just a week and a half to go, needs a little bit of a push to get published. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been trading emails with Lutes and collaborator Donna Almendrala. Here’s Lutes on why he turned to FIASCO for inspiration: 

I host a weekly boardgame night at the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is a great opportunity for me to socialize and introduce a younger generation to the sorts of games I love. At one of these game nights, soon after returning to Vermont from North Carolina, I pulled out Fiasco and gave it a spin. CCS students are cartoonists, and cartoonists are storytellers, so they took quickly to the way Fiasco creates a compelling, structured, yet improvisational narrative. The game was a huge success, and we played it a number of times over the following weeks.

I had been looking for some kind of hook for a project I had been mulling over, and Fiasco provided that hook. It’s fun, fast, spontaneous, and structured so that it allows a group of players to contribute equally to the central narrative. By its nature, the game is also a set of constraints, and constraints give you clear boundaries and focus, reducing the scope of creative decision-making so that you can concentrate on whatever aspects you decide are essential. In the case of this project, I wanted spontaneity, interaction, and a story with multiple voices, so Fiasco was perfect.

And this is Almendrala, explaining the book’s collaborative process: 

Penciling was a tricky process because we tried to save time by having Amelia [Onorato] pencil the characters on every page separately from whoever did the backgrounds (not sure if this really saved time in retrospect). Sometimes the background penciler would have to draw the backgrounds before the characters were filled in. When I got to ink, I would composite the characters over the background, using Photoshop to transform the objects to make the perspective look right. Jason is king when it comes to drawing backgrounds, and he taught us one of his learned techniques called freehand perspective (this is just one of the secrets he shares with us in his classes at school) which really speeds up the process and gives you key things to look for when making things look correct. I think we wanted to have one main inker to smooth out the overall art style and have some kind of consistency at the inked level. I think it was also mostly out of necessity since everyone already had packed schedules and we barely were able to squeeze this thing out in time. It was really tough learning to ink someone else’s pencil lines, but about 20 pages in, I got the hang of it and now the book is done I feel like I got a lot better for it.

If you’re interested in comics, tabletop games, or both, go read the rest of my conversation with Lutes and Almendrala, and, if you can, go help them get their project funded


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