The World Map.
I play a lot of video games still, or try to. (Where does the time go?)I enjoy them for their aesthetics and immersion. Very few acts of entertainment are responsible for extended periods of interactive fantasy. And, over the years, the industry has developed a keen awareness of the need for players to get lost in the sprawling landscapes and urban jungles that represent simulated reality. My perspective on comics, in regards to video games, is, “why not attempt the same immersion?”
Every video game has a “world map,” a large canvas of locales that represent the scope of where the narrative events take place. It’s important to have something akin to this in comic booking. It doesn’t have to be a traditional map, or even something that that public has access. But you need to see it!
I drew my own world map. (One doesn’t need to be an artist to attempt this.) Drawing this layout on your own is really important. The world that you are creating needs to be yours, and I feel, personally, that if the map is the handiwork of your own fantasy that the subsequent stories will be more immersive. Building a world creates a connection that draws you in. It also helps the writing process ease along. If someone else is creating the world, half of the time spent writing is investigating what should be the product of your own imagination.
How does one draw a map? Well, it doesn’t take an artist. My original attempts were very forced. I “tried” to draw a map. So I looked at some world maps for reference, particularly areas that I wasn’t familiar with. Google Maps is very helpful for this. Zen speech and Yoda-like aphorisms aside, returning to the map, I was able to draw realistic landscapes by remembering the basic layouts that I saw on the maps. Peninsulas, archipelagos, coves, and desert landscapes seemed to jump onto the page. Even though my graphic novel doesn’t take place in our own reality, I was able to draw on it for inspiration. Rocks and valleys are rocks and valleys no matter where you go in the universe.
The world map helps build cohesion to your world, at least as far as geography is concerned. It also serves as an introduction to what you will ultimately describe in your panels. It helps factor out what could amount to a considerable effort by laying the groundwork ahead of time.