Making a graphic novel 4: 1941, Hitler invades Russia

panzer tank invading RussiaWhen I was a kid, I used to love diagrams and pictorial information pages of the kind you used to get in ‘The Eagle’ comic and Time-Life books. Condensing Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s attack on Russia, into a double spread was a job I therefore relished. It had a darker mood than the illustrations I enjoyed as a boy, not just because of the terrible history of the war on the Eastern Front, but because I wanted to hint at the impact these events would have on Yuri and his family.

hitler invades Russia. Stalin calls back the engineers from gulag camps

This spread was one of the first where I used a model as reference. There are so many photo archives on-line these days, but If you have decided in advance that you want a particular viewpoint  on something, then Murphy’s law dictates that there will be no available photographs of the object from that particular angle.

Not wanting to spend the rest of my life proving that this was true, I went off to my local model shop and bought a bunch of tanks and planes. I was foolish enough to ask the guys behind the counter which version of the Panzer tank model kit would be right for the early stages of Operation Barbarossa. I was treated to an hour-long lecture which mainly centred on the difference in gun length between different versions. I made my excuses and left them still arguing about it. Some people truly love their jobs.

I had a curious problem with the frame of Stalin standing in front of the map of Europe. I used two or three reference photos for his face, but no matter how hard I tried to make him look stern and threatening, he always seemed to have a slight twinkle in his eye. In the end I left it there. It seemed right. People like ‘Uncle Joe’ can often seem warm and charming when they want to. I find that scarier than a stereotypical, scowl.

WW2 Panzer tank

Poor one-legged Panzer: No need -or time- to finish both sides!

Putting the Panzer kit together was a guilty pleasure, a return to childhood – until I was forcibly reminded how many damn fiddly little wheels tanks have. Fortunately, I only had to finish one side.

Panzer desktop graphic novel study

Sometimes I photograph a model to create a reference image, sometimes its quicker and easier just to hold it in my hand at the angle I want, and sketch it freehand.

This entry was posted in Hitler, Making a Graphic Novel, Stalin, The Book, WW2, YURI's DAY. Bookmark the permalink.

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