27. “Poyekhali – let’s go”

I spent a lot of time wondering, as this spread got closer and closer, how I was going to present the launch. Yuri’s famous ‘Let’s go!’ marks the beginning of manned spaceflight just as surely as Buzz Aldrin’s ‘One small step’ phrase announced the start of mans exploration of the moon.

But how to convey the drama of a rocket launch? It is at times like this that the graphic storyteller really feels the lack of a soundtrack. Splattering the page with words like ‘Boom!’, Rumble! and Roar! didn’t really seem to cut it. "poyekhali lets go"

Having kept it hidden until now, I also really wanted to show the rocket in all its glory. In the end I decided to switch the usual viewpoint of a towering rocket seen from below, to a view from the air. I was inspired by the official film of the launch which made use of a camera on a high tower a few hundred yards from the launch gantry itself. In the film, this is too close (and there is too much smoke) to give a clear image of the rocket as a whole, but it conveys a terrific impression of the power surging upwards. When the tower camera is enveloped in smoke, the film cuts to an upward view. There is a fantastic moment as the rocket passes through the cloud base, making the sheet of thin cloud flash with transmitted light from the exhaust flame. After that the rocket is just a dwindling point of light. It is at this moment that the film editor pulls off what I thought was a stroke of genius. We cut back to a downward looking camera that caught an extraordinary image of the shadow of the rocket and its exhaust plume rushing across the desert surface.

I looked at some more images of TMA 2s on their transport cradles to get an idea of how the rocket would look in a sharply foreshortened ‘telephoto lens’ view looking down from above.

So, I had Yuri’s excited shout, an image of the power of the slowly ascending rocket, and the streaking shadow to give a feeling of gathering speed. I felt it still lacked a sense of the full movement into space. At this point my love of sequential diagrams came to the rescue, and I decided to run the series of small images across the main one, like stills from an imaginary film, that explain how the Vostok gradually sheds its various stages, to leave the capsule itself orbiting in the silence of space.

This entry was posted in Making a Graphic Novel, The Space Race, Yuri Gagarin, YURI's DAY, Yuri's Flying Machines, Yuri's life. Bookmark the permalink.

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