Making a graphic novel 10: V2 to Sputnik

SputnikI can’t tell you how many versions this spread went through. Early in the project I had made the decision to use Manga Studio EX4 (™), a drawing and layout program aimed specifically at producers of manga, the popular Japanese form of graphic novels. It took quite a lot of work to get the program to produce stuff that looked like the sort of pages I had in mind, rather than standard manga styling and layout. I soon got the hang of how to make the program do what I wanted, but on this spread the two story arcs, Yuri’s and Korolev’s, were coming together for the first time – just when the pace of storytelling needed to be fast and furious! von Brown's V2 to Sputnik

I aimed for a kind of old-school documentary film feel, with fast-cutting, montage, dramatic shots and crisp narrative.

I was also keen to include the actual words of the Moscow radio announcement of Sputnik. At the time the reference to Tsiolkovsky just sounded to Westerners like incomprehensible Soviet Cold-War propaganda. Now, with the distance of time, everyone can see it was an important part of the whole story of how and why Sputnik got to be launched. I wonder who wrote that famous bulletin?

A curious technical note: Soviet industry didn’t seem to have any intercom headsets to spare – production of everything was geared to five-year economic plans rather than market forces, so all Korolev’s ground staff had to use pilots’ leather flying helmets, which had earphones and microphones built in. Must have been a sweaty job.

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