Fixing Shades Of Men - The Story

in #art5 years ago


Hello everyone,

As you may know, I've been drawing and posting a comic called Shades Of Men for 7 years. I'm currently working on the final chapter and I'm posting every page to Steemit when completed.

As I reach the end of the runway, I'd like to take a look back at what I created, and point out what worked and what didn't. I grew a lot from this experience and given the opportunity now I would probably do a few things differently. Let's see how I could have improved my work in each area. Hopefully this art introspection will benefit some of you creators out there...

Fixing the Story

When I started, back in 2012, I had already the story in mind, A Parisian action adventure at the cross-road of Taken and Tokyo Godfathers. I'm not much of a writer but I wrote every chapter summary instead. I planned a fixed number of pages per chapter to provide a bit of a structure to follow.

For some of you that haven't read Shades Of Men, here is the official plot summary:

The story follows Lev and Ricky, two long-time hobos living in Paris. As they meet a young boy thrown out on the streets, they decide to help him no matter what. The quest for survival and redemption won't be easy and trouble from the past will stand on their way.

As a matter of fact, that's also basically the main goal for our characters.

I knew the character Lev for a while then. A version of him had already been the hero of a 5 pages mini comic called A Train Can Hide Another One.


I had obsessively drawn him throughout my school years. He was like an old friend I could count on. Someone I knew inside out.

The other character grew organically with the story. I feel like each character has very clear goals and his own personality. Most of the time, I had positive feedback on that end.


So what's the problem?

I think the main problem comes from the villains...

You see, in real life, my own personal goal is to stand out. I will go out of my way to be truly original. That's one of the reasons I never started smoking. Everybody was doing it!

Anyway, when writing the story I wanted to make sure I avoided some of the biggest cliché.

  • The good guys against the bad guys.
  • The world destruction plot.
  • The powerful item everybody wants.
  • The damsel in distress.

I'm a sucker for action flicks so there are tons crazy, unrealistic, gun blazing stunts in Shades Of Men, but plot wise I wanted something closer to real life. In my eyes, there are no arch-enemies in real life. When you're in trouble, it's only due to a series of events, choices and conflicting interests.

Bad guy have nothing personal against you, just specific interests.

1453400033 (1).jpg

For those reasons, I think the villains in Shades Of Men are not as strong as in other stories. There are 3 main villains but no overarching bad guy covering the whole story. If we go back to the 7 types of conflicts in fiction, Shades Of Men would probably be closer to Man VS Self than Man VS Man.

The tight story structure I created also prevented me to dig deeper in the bad guy's psychology. Their respective interests are told but not shown to the reader. It could feel like they are kind of flat in the end. That's just my impression looking back. But you tell me!

So how can I make this better?

Spoiler Alert!

I will cover some of the main turning points of the story below. If you feel like reading Shades Of Men. Please go do it before this next session!

Having isolated the main issue, I can tell what I'm missing. Without compromising too much on my vision, I think I can bring elements to improve the comic.


  • Adding more information on the second villain Mr. Pomerec. (Possible flash backs)
  • Better wrap up his part of the story (Adding his reaction and personal involvement)
  • Emphasizing on character/villain opposition (Friendly bums/Rough businessman)
  • Adding a bigger enemy/entity as a continuous thread to the story.

Concrete Changes

Unfortunately I won't have time to redraw it all!
Looking at improving what I currently have, here are a few easy steps I can take.

  • Changing Mr. Pomerec's initial interests to be more personal. Instead of having Ricky's friend, Pablo owing money, I could make Ricky directly in debt of the bad guy. That's only a sentence to correct in the text!

  • I think I can add an extra page in chapter 9 to show Mr. Pomerec's point of view. It could possibly break the rhythm of the action scene. Also Pomerec would have to be present in the casino at that time for it to work.


This short dialogue could help wrap up this part of the story, strengthening character arcs and opening up for a more personal confrontation later on.

  • I could easily add a short epilogue, presenting an overarching plot I had in mind for the next book. It would be kind of a cliffhanger but it could show Pomerec taking it a step further. It would cover the larger consequences of the actions taken and an opening for what's to come.

Bonus idea

One piece of criticism I received on Shades Of Men, it's the slow start. Getting to know the characters and the main situation takes almost 3 chapters. I feel like it's needed, that the story unfolds this way but it can be difficult to sell an action adventure story with a slow start.

What I often see is a teaser action scene at the start, that sets the pace and captures the readers attention. Then you get to know the characters and their relation to the initial event.

That thought opens 2 options for me.

  • Mirroring the epilogue with an action scene related to the overarching entity. Setting the world, intriguing the readers.



  • Showcasing a bad-ass Lev, being in trouble in one of the later action scenes. The readers would then see the character progression from the start eager to reach a conclusion to that tough situation later on.


Any thoughts on the way to go?

Thanks for reading through this. This was a long train of thought. Probably a hard one to follow if you haven't read the comic. Please consider upvoting or sharing this page to support my work.

If you want to read a formal review I received this amazing blog post from Wintre Kitty Reviews a few years back. It goes into more detail about the flaws and the qualities of the comic.

In the next post I'd like the revisit the art and figure out how I can improve it as well. Any suggestions are welcome!

See you on the other side,





Cool article on the progress and quandaries of your comic making, @jrej! Those are really interesting questions and I'm sorry I cant help very much cuz my brain is drawing blanks on advices but I'd be interested! to see! how you tackle this hurdle and Im of course 100% interested to see how this will affect your comic's future issues :D

Anyway, I really appreciate you sharing this post and I've shared it on Twitter, as well :D

Thanks a ton. I know it's difficult for readers to chip in on this one. It's such a personal introspective process. I hope I'll have time to incorporate these changes at the end without ruining anything. It's more fine tuning than anything. ;-) Let's see how it goes... Thanks again for the support. It helps a lot!

Sup Dork?!? Enjoy the Upvote!!! Keep up with the dorky content for more love!!!


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