Tellos #1 Page 4 detail of Jarek and Koj on the run

HyperAnalysis: Tellos #1, Page 4

We turn now to the original “Tellos” #1 issue, released through Image Comics back in the spring of 1999.  Created by Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo, it included Paul Mounts on colors and Comicraft on letters.

“HyperAnalysis” is an occasional series in which I look at a comic book page by page to see what we can learn about its storytelling style and structure.  Search through the archives and you can see a couple of pages I did from Mike Wieringo’s first issue of “Fantastic Four” with Mark Waid. (Page 3Page 5)


Page 4: Overhead Perspective

Tellos #1 page 4 by Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo

This page has only two panels, but there’s a lot going on in them.

The ‘Hidden’ Dolly Shot

On the macro side of things, this is Wieringo grabbing the reader and taking them for a ride into the city.  Between the last page, this page, and the first panel of the next page, we have one long dolly shot, with the camera dropping out of the sky all the way to the ground to show you the action. 

The previous image we saw was a double page spread from (literally) a blimp’s perspective of the whole city of Jeffsport.  

In the first panel on this page, we’re still at that elevated position, but we’re closer to 50 feet high, not 500.  It’s a good chance to get a layout of the environment where the action is happening.  The reader can get situated. It’s clear that the action is the two characters in the middle of the panel, running left to right, top to bottom of the panel.

There’s room in front of them to keep moving, too, so you don’t picture them suddenly stopping anytime soon.  Generally speaking, don’t draw a character up against the edge of the panel in the direction they’re moving if you want to communicate that there’s lots of movement yet to happen in that direction.  The reader’s mind will interpret that lack of leading space as a dead end, a stopping point.  If the focus of the panel is on the people left behind in the dust of your lead runner, then you can probably get away with it. But it’s better to give the item in motion some room to continue with that motion.

In the second panel, Wieringo goes low to what is basically a worm’s eye view of the action coming right at the reader.  It feels natural, just in the way that the difference between the blimp and the bird between the last two panels feels about as far as the bird to the worm here. There’s a continuity of movement here.  As a storyboard artist, Wieringo has created an opening where the camera dollies down from way up high all the way to the ground, with a small twist at the end to get in front of the action.

 And it all makes sense.

Since he established the action in the first panel with that nice overhead shot, Wieringo can go a little tighter in the second panel’s view to show us in greater detail who these characters are. It’s a talking lion and a boy racing away from jumping shadowy frog creatures.  It’s a great introduction to the two protagonists of this series, as well as their adversaries.

By the way, this opening dolly shot finishes on the next page.

Tellos #1 page 3 panel 1 with lots of frogs

Wieringo holds the camera in place as Koj and Jarek run over the reader and we get a better view of the frogs chasing after them. It feels as if the camera stays steady, but zooms in just a bit to focus on the frogs.  There’s not as much foreground at the bottom of this panel.  This is all to properly introduce the frogs. You can see one or two in the previous panel, but this is their real debut.

I also love Comicraft’s lettering here.  It has an energy and a bounce to it that mirrors Wieringo’s art in this scene.

Aside: Panning Shot versus Dolly Shot

I had to look this one up to make sure I got it right.

  • In a panning shot, the camera stays planted at one spot and turns in a direction.
  • In a dolly shot, the whole camera moves in a direction.

You know how you usually stand still when taking a panorama shot on your phone’s camera, and then twist your body 180s degrees to capture the scene? That’s a panning shot.

A dolly shot would be if you held the camera out and walked across a scene with the camera held in the same position the whole time.

Here’s a super-short video to illustrated it:


OK, back to the comics:

The Surrounding Details and the Color

If you want to take the whole thing in, you can look at the villagers of all stripes, the fairies in the air, the flying dragons in the background sky, the fruit stand owner who’s a surly looking bird man, etc.  Wieringo packed this page with details, including the cobblestone roads and Tudor style buildings.  No inch of space went to waste here.

Paul Mounts adds some nice subtle textures on the page, too, notably on the ground and in the stone of marble work along the walls. His overall color scheme is fairly simple, as far as Photoshop coloring goes.  He adds a degree or two of shadows or highlights to each area, and that’s it. There’s not crazy airbrushing or modeling or rendering or sculpting.  It’s more along the lines of Liquid!’s style of coloring from the 90s, or more anime-influenced.

At the same time, these pages were colored in 1999.  We had Photoshop by then, but colorists hadn’t grown to use it in some of the crazier ways they do today to make everything look photorealistic, or to airbrush everything to give it a more “expensive” look.


Page 4: Composition and Layout

Tellos #1 Page 4, first panel

Panel 1: Who Goes Where

How do we know who we’re supposed to be looking at in the first panel?  It’s a bit of a crowd scene. There are no less than 18 characters in this panel.  But the script calls for the reader to follow only two of them.

Wieringo works this into the panel in a few ways:

  • First, the two we’re supposed to be looking at get a little bit of elbow room.  This is natural.  As the characters are running down the street, people will jump out of the way.
  • Second, most of the characters in the panel are looking right at our running pair.
  • Third, speedlines!  Look at those lines jutting back from Koj (“King of the Jungle”, you know) and Jarek (the human boy).  They’re the only ones moving in the panel, really, and Wieringo makes sure to point to it with those lines.

Wieringo adds dimensions to the panel, too.  Check out the hanging ropes — one on the far left, and one just off to the right of center. See the wooden piece sticking out in the middle of the panel, just in front of the runners.  (Kudos to Comicraft for putting the tail of that word balloon behind the wooden post.  That helps lift it off the ground, as well.)

Composition is as much about adding layers as it is in placing elements, which I think is something many artist forget about.  Wieringo never did.

The bottom left corner is blocked in by a roof, which is mostly shaded in.  The upper right corner is an alley in shadows.  It has the same effect as a vignette, forcing the eye towards the center of the panel.

Panel 2: Running Together, From the Center

Tellos #1 Page 4: Jarek and Koj on the run

The second panel is pretty easy to explain. It’s a classic piece of one point perspective. All the exciting stuff is bursting forth from that single point that’s probably at about the lower one third line on the rule of thirds scale.  (You can extend the speedlines at the top of the panel to see where they meet.)

The energy of the panel pours out from that single point. Everything on the page bursts out of it.

The most interesting part of the composition in this panel, to me, is the way Koj and Jarek are facing each other as they run away.  The typical layout for something like this would be emphasize the action bursting out of that one point, and have everyone effectively running away from each other.

Koj and Jarek are very close, so they’re plotting their escape together as they run. For that reason, it makes sense that they’re facing each other along the way.

Wieringo could have chosen to have them running in opposite directions with their opposite legs reaching out to the ground.  That would clear up a spot directly on top of the vanishing point for the jumping frog in the background to be more prominent.


Speed, Color, and Position

Look at how fast they’re running. Wieringo captured the moment in their run cycles where neither foot is touching the ground for either of them.  A little inked-in shadow shows up under their feet in the middle of the panel to help set that off.  Also, The way the panel is laid out, there’s no confusion or tangents with their feet that would lead you to think that maybe they are on the ground.  They’re perfectly above the top of the hump of the road.

Paul Mounts gets some credit on his coloring here too in helping to add to the dimensionality of the page.  Check out how he subtly pushed the buildings in the background further out by muting their colors and filling in their blacks.  This is a good example of where a color hold can work.  The characters in the foreground maintain all of their inky black lines, but the far background buildings almost feel hazy by comparison.  It’s a nifty trick.

The other trick Wieringo uses to sell the action of this scene is the body language of both Koj and Jarek.  They’re leaning pretty far forward.  Their back legs are pointed all the way back, and their front feet are reaching out for the ground ahead.  There’s a lot of motion there, and no stiff characters to distract.


Tellos at 18, and New Again

Unbelievably, the original “Tellos” series is 18 years old now.  Eighteen years.  That’s crazy.

The first of two hardcover books in the “The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute” series has shipped to buyers already, with the second book scheduled to finish things up in September.

I haven’t read the whole first volume yet, but I can say it does have an impressive list of creators attached to it and smells great.  Seriously, you know when you get a quality book and you open it up and the spine still has that stiffness to it and the pages have that “book smell”?  Yeah, I love that.

I have a few minutes left in today, June 24th, which would have been Wieringo’s 54th birthday.  I think I’ll go read a few more pages of that book.  Can’t wait to get back to that world…

If you’d like to see more HyperAnalysis of “Tellos,” leave a comment below.  There’s plenty more to analyze in that first issue, let alone the rest of the original series.


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