My good friend and best selling author Wayne Arthurson (check out "Fall From Grace" and "A Killing Winter") and I are working on a few graphic novels together and we hope to keep updating the process here. Our first graphic novel takes place back in the 70s and with that information comes a lot of research. As the writer all Wayne has to do is tell a brilliant and captivating story full of well rounded characters and great plots, but that's easy . . . especially for a best selling author like Wayne.
Pity the poor art guy who has to make all the visual decisions to give the story life. Wayne writes down that the main character "pulls his gun from his holster" but he fails to mention what kind of gun this is, or where the holster is located. Being a story that takes place 40 years in the past I need to make a decision as to what kind of gun was available to our main character at that time. He can't pull out a handgun that wasn't created until the 90s as every reader who sees that will call me on it and say "what a hack". Obviously I can't draw the main character racing through town in his Hummer, nor calling anyone on his cellphone. All of these minor decisions need to be fully researched in order to add authenticity to the story.
Our intention, moving forward as a writing/drawing creative team is to get together on a regular basis so that we are both making these decisions and that we both know where the story is going. Anything I draw into the story needs to be supported by whatever he writes into the story and vice versa. I can't have a pile of ladies clothing in the main characters house if he isn't in a relationship with someone unless our main character enjoys wearing women's clothing. I'm pretty sure he doesn't. Little details, especially visual details, lead the viewer/reader to certain conclusions . . . they can also mislead them and that's the whole point of making that decision.
Sometimes, even when I've drawn out the entire page panel by panel, there are decisions I make as the artist that can change the feel of the entire scene. These are things that you don't fully realize when you begin reading a graphic novel but if the artist decides a close-up will work better than a distant shot this sets the scene in your mind and that's what you remember. You don't try to imagine it as a long shot because that's not what you were given. The artist becomes the art director and the graphic novel is like the storyboards for a movie. Every detail, every scene, every item within the frame creates another moment of making another decision. Right or wrong this is the nature of the beast . . . and I don't think I'd have it any other way.
The image below is the updated and cleaned first page. I've completely changed the entire first panel to open the story with a BANG rather than a whimper. The second panel is almost exactly as roughed out and the third panel changes the angle and distance of the scene.