Tongues #3 is Coming, and Thoughts on Panelling

People frequently ask when the next issue of Tongues is coming out, so I'm writing with a little update on where things are at and a rumination on the process of putting the book together.


Tongues 3 is basically written and I've drawn about 35 pages of what looks like it's going to be 44 total. As always during the process, I like to leave room for characters and the story to evolve and reveal themselves and I adapt the script as I go accordingly.

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Issue #3 will reveal more about the Swan King as well as some details about the Eagle we didn't know before, and it will complete Astrid's backstory in Africa before bringing us back to her in the present, where her journey gets suddenly more complicated. Also Teddy Roosevelt finds out what that thing in the suitcase is (sort of) and we meet a couple more new characters who will be important later on.


As for panelling, my methods out the pages is changing a little with chapter three, too. I started drawing the first scene of the book way back in 2013, and my ideas about how I would handle the panels went through several changes. The first thing I drew and colored was the scene from issue #1 showing 'Teddy Roosevelt' lost in the open plains. I did all the panels like this, below, with stippled edges sort of feathering off into the whiteness of the page

The idea was to mimic the borderless panels I'd used in Dogs and Water (back in 2005) and did in gouache for my story The Game in Kramer's 7.

But as it turned out that was a huge pain in the ass to actually do digitally (keeping in mind that Tongues is going to be three or four hundred pages), and besides that... it just didn't feel that special, maybe partly because I'd already done it before. So, what I ended up doing for the first two issues was drawing the pages in ink without any panel borders, then adding them digitally after the fact as white lines and adjusting the imagery to fit. That worked okay, but felt, again, like more work than it should be (did I mention this thing is going to be 300-400 pages?) and meant the originals felt weirdly unfinished. I studied drawing and painting as an undergrad and I want my pages to feel like finished drawings, at least ideally.

So beginning with issue three, I'm going back to the way comics normally work: after planning out the basic action and dialogue I'm drawing the panels first, then filling them in with the images. But since I am really not interested in measuring out rectangles, I'm doing other kinds of shapes: angular, crystalline-like forms for scenes in the present, and rounded ones (in some cases echoing the plant forms in the book) for the distant past (see issue one for panelling for dreams). Here's a recent spread, where the bulbous forms will be panels depicting a conversation between Prometheus and the Swan King from fifteen hundred years ago or so.


I wish I'd have figured this out earlier, because I'm finding it very enjoyable, and I think the results are worth the trouble. It's actually making the book more fun to draw... which is, like, half the point. Panels are one of the things that are unique to this medium, and to me they are (or should be) a huge part of how comics read and feel. It's an under-utilized aspect of the medium in my experience. When I was teaching a few years back I used to do a slide presentation on panelling, which was one of my favorite things to talk about. I’m planning to recreate that talk here on the blog sometime soon to continue the rumination.

A couple of things upcoming: I’m heading to France on Monday to be a part of the sixth edition of the experimental collaborative comics residency Pierre Feuille Ciseaux, leading up to Angoulême later in the month. If you’re in the area come say hello. I’m hoping to have a few copies of a new limited edition accordion book I’ve been trying to get together for several years, now. I’m very excited about it. I’ll also have copies of Tongues #s 1 and 2 to sell, and I’m doing a reading (subtitled in French) from the new French language edition of Rage of Poseidon, recently out from Atrabile. Excited to revisit that book, too, especially since it had so much to do with laying the mental ground for Tongues.

Anders Nilsen