What I’m Reading – Jan 17 Edition

Hey all. Like many nerds, books are my comfort zone, so I read and buy a lot of them. I thought I might do these monthly recaps to share with you what I’ve been reading. Length will vary.

January was a slow enough month and I was away for 2 weeks. Contrary to every other holiday ever, I actually read the books I brought with me. Well, most of them! So let’s get to it.

Proto Anime Cut Archive, Stefan Riekeles

I visited Berlin last year specifically to see the Anime Architecture exhibit the Tchoban Foundation had on. Once there, I had to buy the book that went along with it (although it was initially published in 2011).

It’s an interesting book that explores the work of 5 Japanese visual artists for such movies as Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion. The book focuses on those 3 movies (and their subsequent sequels) and sheds a bit of light on the production process and the role of each artist. For instance, concept photographer Haruhiko Higami scouted and photographed locations for Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor much like one would for a live-action movie.

After the storyboard and the first designs for a film have been produced, Haruhiko Higami’s job is to find and photograph appropriate landscapes and city-scapes to underpin the film’s vision. Higami makes images that form the basis for the final design. Some of his photos are used directly for layout drawings or as models for inspiring the production design.

The book features concept designs, layout drawings, photographs and painted backgrounds from the movies mentioned.

Was surprised to see that most of the hand-painted artwork these artists created were actually a composite of  a background painted in gouache and other elements in middle or foreground painted on transparent film (also gouache). The originals were also smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and while the book reproduces them larger than that (so you can take in all that ridiculous detail), it sadly doesn’t really capture their exquisite color.

Very interesting book and not to take away from the brilliance of the artists featured and their legacy, but I really wish the author would have included at least one female artist.

Clear Blue Tomorrows, Fabien Vehlmann, Ralph Meyer and Bruno Gazzotti

I picked this up along with the two below at the Cinebook stand at the 2016 Thought Bubble Festival. I read about it from Comics&Cola and it really intrigued me so I picked it up. I love that cover, by the way.

It’s an impressive book written by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by two artists, Ralph Meyer and Bruno Gazzotti. Nolan Ska travels to the past to stop a megalomaniac from starting down the path that will doom mankind and instead push him towards his first love: writing. But, of course, things aren’t as easy as that.

It’s an interesting premise (and timely, isn’t it?), executed well (in my humble opinion) and I thoroughly enjoyed the overall thread Vehlmann weaves as well as the imaginative self-contained short stories, often humorously illustrated. It could have just been an anthology of shorts and still been excellent, but the creative team goes one step further with an overall story that gives them purpose. I feel this is a book I’ll go back to frequently. Highly recommend it!

Berlin: The Seven Dwarves 1943, Marvano

I have mixed feeling about this book. As you might know, I’m interested in stories that take place during WW2 and Marvano delivers a touching story. It is very well researched, painfully beautiful in the way that only franco-belgian comics can be and the writing is top notch as well. The story is well paced and flashes back and forth between a peaceful present and the war of the past. The colouring  by Claude Legris is exquisite and full of subtle changes. Sadly, I found a few of the page layouts confusing and that took away from my enjoyment of the book.

I do love some of the things Marvano does visually, like these panels and pages:
   

The Amulet of the Great Pyramid, Lucien De Gieter

This is a really fun book! Set in Ancient Egypt, it’s an adventure book that follows the lead, Papyrus, and his friends as they solve the plot. Simple, fun and so enjoyable! What really impressed me about this book is how De Gieter approaches some of the pages and the inventive and fun ways he leads the reader across the page.

 

I love, love, love the arrows, such a fun thing to do in a comic! Safe to say, I’m gonna be buying all of the books in this series!

I’ve also been reading the sci-fi noir novel Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (soon on Netflix!), but haven’t finished it yet.

And that’s it for now. Until next month!

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2017 Sketchbook 1

Hi all!

I’ve decided to put together pdf sketchbooks from time to time, free to download right here! The goal is to motivate me to fill up those empty sketchbooks and draw without reference more often. Depending on deadlines, these will be more or less frequent.

Here’s the first one with my favourite sketches from January.

JN_Sketchbook1_2017

Give me a shout on Twitter if you want to let me know what you think!

Until next time!

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Pulp Stories: Process

You can read Pulp Stories for free here and if you like it, you can vote for me in the ICN 2016 Awards here.

Inspiration

Like all projects, Pulp Stories was born out of research. I hadn’t set out to create it, but somehow in between reading about the pulp genre (which was for another project) and about women’s roles in World War 2, it just came to life.

I toyed with creating a pulp hero for a while, like Francesco Francavilla‘s Black Beetle, but short stories about different protagonists appealed to me more.

Character Designs

While not being based on, the two characters that appear in Pulp Stories were inspired by real people.

Edith in Fighting Time was inspired by two rad ladies: Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license and amazing aerial daredevil,  and Nancy Leftenant-Colon: first black woman in the US Army Nurse Corps and former (and, so far as I can tell, the only female) president of the Tuskegee Airmen. Click those link to read a bit about them!

I put Edith in a uniform from the UK Glider Pilot Regiment, simply because it seemed practical for her story.

Nancy in Running Start was (more noticeably) inspired by the badass that was Nancy Wake. Seriously, click the link and read the whole obituary, she was amazing and did a lot of work for the Allies throughout WW2.

I wanted the bad guys to be pretty generic so they all look the same, dressed in a Nazi Elite Honor Guard uniform (simply because I liked the design of it!). The masks are extrapolated from gas masks designs, minus the tubing. Pinterest is great for researching historically accurate stuff, you can view the board I set up for the project here.

Script and layouts

Fighting Time started with the idea of a runaway train. I wanted to ramp up the action with each page up until the final page which releases the tension and concludes the short story.

Layouts-wise, I was directly inspired by the work of Bernie Krigstein, whom I had just discovered at the time. I loved that he opened some stories with this 3/4 of a page splash, but still had other panels at the bottom. It felt to me like you still get the impact of the splash page, but can squeeze in more information as well, like I tried to do in both stories.

If you’re not familiar with his work, I highly recommend getting Messages in a Bottle, which collects some of his comics, from early on up until his more famous works, like The Master Race. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from studying his work and I’ve just barely scratched the surface myself! Excerpt from that New Yorker article by  I liked to above:

“Look at all that dramatic action that one never gets a chance to see. It’s between these panels that the fascinating stuff takes place. And unless the artist would be permitted to delve into that, the form must remain infantile.”

An artist after my own heart! I also looked at the modern master that is David Aja and how he does action and fight scenes, since I’d never drawn them! His work on Hawkeye with Matt Fraction and Matt Hollingsworth is a constant inspiration and you all know how freaking good he is, yes?

I tend to keep my scripts very loose and work out most of the stuff in the layouts. Sometimes I just write what’s happening and what I want to achieve on the page, like “play with negative space”.  I’m a visual person, so I’d rather work with pictures!

For Running Start, I definitely wanted a sneaky story culminating in a gunfight . If you have a keen eye, you’ll notice that the two page spread changed significantly. Initially, I wanted to do a sort of birds eye view of the castle layouts, almost like a map. It turned out to be problematic when roughing it out, not to mention extremely flat, so I went with a more video game approach, like from my favorite series, Trails in the Sky:

Any time, Estelle! Page 5 also changed when I went to pencil it. The L shaped panel was going to be another map view, but it really uninspired me so I changed it on the page. It happens! The bottom of page 5 was probably the most challenging to draw. It’s one thing to draw someone taking a piece of clothing off, but doing it for 4 consecutive panels is…something else! (You’ll notice that I  also removed one of the panels from the layouts, like enough already!)

Page 6 is my favorite and probably the only one I wouldn’t sell. Basically, I didn’t want to draw a huge splash page of an explosion (the one in Fighting Time was like pulling teeth for me, I hate drawing debris!) so I had the brilliant idea of this huge BOOM and then we see the aftermath. I think it works!

Method in the madness

From then on it’s pretty straightforward. Draw the pencils, ink them, scan and edit. And then you have a comic book!

I usually take lots of reference photos of myself and then rough out the pencils, often times combining two of the best ones. I try to keep it really loose at this stage. If it’s a particularly tough angle, I use action figures to see what the body looks like.

If you ever need to draw a train, a really helpful thing I found is to look at train simulators gameplay on youtube and at walkthroughs, as they often have helpful screenshots! And they usually put a lot of research into them so they’re really accurate!

For military reference, a great site is Military Factory, lots of photos of historically accurate military stuff from different angles.

Tools

To pencil, I just use a regular HB pencil which I like because it’s light enough to not leave a trace when erased.

I usually ink over the pencils using a Japanese Deleter brush. I use the large one, which took a bit of getting used to but it allows for a wide range of marks, from thin to very thick. As for ink, I’ve been using W&N India Ink for years, but have now switched to Deleter brand. They’re pricey but the blacks are super black! Fine details are inked with technical pens. I do washes with the same brush, or even a larger one, if necessary!

I always scan at 600 dpi in grayscale and then use Photoshop to adjust the levels since the scan tends to take some of the black away. I add the gutters in Photoshop and make sure everything is properly spaced on the page. Export as PDF and then merge everything for the print file.

And that’s it! Hope it was interesting! Anything else you wanna know about my process, give me a shout on Twitter!

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Pulp Stories nominated for 4 ICN 2016 Awards!

The ICN 2016 nominees were published yesterday and Pulp Stories is in 4 categories: Best ArtistBest WriterBest Irish Creator Comic and Best Irish Anthology! Fierce competition overall as 2016 was an excellent year for Irish Small Press Comics, with more great work being published than ever before! I’m blown away to be considered on the same level as these creators and beyond happy to just be nominated!

To celebrate, I’m making Pulp Stories free to read right here! So have a look and see what all the fuss is about and if you feel like dropping me a vote in any of the categories, I’d really appreciate it! 🙂

You can still pick up a physical copy from me, which includes all the extras: scripts, layouts and character designs!

Note: It takes a few seconds to load each page (or maybe that’s just me!)

Fighting Time

 

Running Start

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Coloring progress

Hey folks, I’m hard at work writing the next volume of Pulp Stories, but thought I’d post about coloring.

Recently I’ve felt an urge to work with color so here’s a bit of practice. For my first attempt, I tried picking the colors myself. It. Is. Hard. Second attempt I worked with a color palette I found online to which I added a few light/dark values.

Definitely like the second one better (even with my sorry attempt at texture) as it has much nicer contrast. And overall, I’d like to lean towards blues, not purples. Might stick with preset palettes from now on until I have a bit more experience with color. Aiming to dedicate an evening a week to color practice so we’ll see how it goes! Weirdly enough, I now see stories I work on in color, which never used to happen before.

Onward!

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2016 Round-up

Yes, it’s November, but I am completely done with 2016, aka the year bad news constantly tried to top itself. Since things are pretty grim right now, I am trying to focus on some of the good things that happened. So let’s have a look at what I was up to!

wiha_julie_nick_previewStarted the year off doing a page for the Women in Horror Month Anthology. I think this was the last page that I inked on a light box. Completely hated the inking and since then I’ve been inking straight onto the pencils. I’m much faster and happier for it. Also my eyes are better off!

After that, I did 2 pages for the Mine Anthology, with a script by Jessica Maybury, which had a very successful Kickstarter campaign and will soon see the light of day!

vaudevillanousAlso did a pin-up for the Vaudevillainous Anthology, which was sadly cancelled. I learned a lot working on it and sold the original to a very lovely person, so it worked out in the end.

Did a book review for the Comics Lab, where I wasn’t super nervous and shaking like a leaf at all! I do want to get more used to public speaking so this was a good experience. Hopefully it was somewhat interesting!

Also took part in the Comics Fest in Rathmines, which had a lot of buzz around it and was all-round excellent. Sold my first original piece at it too!

Spent most of the year, actually nearly half, working on my submission for the Creators4Creators grant. I can’t say much about this project now, but with or without the grant (let’s face it, probably without), it will still see the light of day. Hopefully. I took this extremely seriously and spent a lot of time researching and learning how to write. Writing is hard. I am very thankful to the professionals that made this opportunity available. It really kicked my butt into gear and make me take wanting to write comics a lot more seriously. I’ve learned so much by putting this proposal together and feel a bit more confident in myself as a creator.

Pulp Stories CoverPublished my first solo book, Pulp Stories! Worked on it for about 2 months and had a blast doing all the crazy weird layouts I had in mind! Overwhelmed by the positive response to it and the very, very kind words from folks who enjoyed it. Volume 2 is in the works and planned to have nearly twice the page count!

Did a poster for the August Comics Lab. I decided to lean in to the pulp aspect and go full on mad scientist! Shockingly, I had a lot of fun doing it!

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Tabled for the first time at a convention, at the massive Dublin Comic Con. Had Rapha Lobosco for a table buddy and we had a blast! Thank you again to all of you who came to say hi or buy something, your support means a lot!

After DCC, I started drawing and inking the aforementioned C4C submission, which took right up until the November 1st deadline. I would love to show you the pages, but maybe next year! As I was working on it, I was also attempting Inktober, but only managed to do about 17. One of these years, I’ll have no pressing deadlines in October and will draw witches and pumpkins galore!

rebelThis piece I did before things got manic was featured on the Octocon 2016 programme booklet, which was really cool!

Rounding up the year, I went to the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, solely as a visitor and boy, did I have fun! It is the best comics event of the year and always a blast.

I’ll be part of the Comics Lab Specimen Anthology with 2 pages from Pulp Stories, whenever that is out. I had planned to submit a new story, all written and everything, but between the exhaustion from C4C, Thought Bubble and, as Kieron Gillen tweeted, “the death of all hope“, it just didn’t happen. It’s planned to be included in volume 2, in case you’re wondering why I suddenly have a 2 pager in there!

All in all, I didn’t do everything I had planned to, but I’m happy with my output this year and learned a lot about how productive I can realistically be. Will be spending the next few weeks just reading, watching anime and tv shows I missed and filling the creative tanks.

As for next year, the big project is the next volume of Pulp Stories, which I’ll start working on from February. Besides that, a few shorts and anthologies here and there if I can afford it. And also getting back to that secret project!

This has been Julie. Signing off.

PS: I’m sure I missed something.

PPS: This. You’re welcome.

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Cinematography: Inside Llewyn Davis

I found this to be an immensely compelling film. Many months later I still find myself thinking about it, so I thought I’d have a look at the cinematography. The trailer below tells you pretty much the basics about the film. You should watch the full thing if you can. *Spoilers ahead!*

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Written and Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel

The opening shot is very important in any visual storytelling medium. It sets the tone for the film and tells the audience what the story is about. Inside Llewyn Davis opens on a close-up of a mic in near darkness. Camera pans right, Llewyn comes into the frame and starts to sing. This, I feel, is an extremely intimate shot and a perfect opening. For a film named “Inside Llewyn Davis” it’s only natural to focus on him as soon as the film starts.

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It’s only later in the opening shot that we see Llewyn is performing in front of an audience. What this says to me is that the music and Llewyn’s emotional connection with it comes first, performing for the audience is second. Llewyn doesn’t even open his eyes until after we’re shown the audience. It’s his personal connection with music that keeps him going. He only really has an audience for that one performance, which is the same later on in the film (the film has a circular structure, which is to say it’s basically a loop). The rest of the times when he’s singing, it’s only for a handful of people or in a recording studio.  The opening shot framing also conveys his loneliness (perhaps also the loneliness of the artist) and sets him apart from others.

A side note here, look how well we’re immersed into the scene. We’re shown people’s reactions throughout Llewyn’s performance and how still everyone is, paying full attention to him. In return, we’re holding our breath with them. This would, I think, translate into aspect to aspect panel transitions in a comic book.

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Often times through the film, we see Llewyn framed very tightly to reflect the limited choices he has. He’s homeless, he has a dwindling number of friends to crash with and ways to make money.

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I find it interesting how Llewyn is framed in 2 scenes, in both of them he’s having a conversation with Jean.

In the first one, Jean is mad at Llewyn because she might be pregnant with his child and they’re talking about her having an abortion. Look how both are staged, their bodies turned away, even though they’re sitting beside each other. This is an uncomfortable discussion that neither of them wants to have. They frequently look away from each other and are never seen together in this scene.

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Compare that to this later scene, when Llewyn tells Jean that he’s leaving town for a few days. You instantly feel they are on better terms because the frame has space to breathe and more lead room between the two. The over the shoulder shot also establishes that they’re in the same space.

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The lighting seems to place the film in perpetual twilight under a dull grey sky. There are no vibrant colors here, no sunshine, and you’re never quite sure what time of day it is. There are three distinct scenes that are are in darkness (apart from the interior Gaslight Cafe scenes). The first one we see is Llewyn getting beat up by the man in the alley, later to be completed by Llewyn sitting in the corner looking after him (this is where the loop closes).

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The second is when the car trip to Chicago goes awry and Llewyn decides to hitch-hike the rest of the way, leaving the stray cat.

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And the third is his trip back to New York, where he passes the exit that would take him to his former lover and his illegitimate child, and then nearly runs over the stray cat he left behind.

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These are all dark times figuratively, and also moments of choice for Llewyn. He can choose to fight back or follow the man (but he doesn’t, because he knows he deserves the beating), he can choose to stay in the car or keep the cat, and he can choose to go meet the child he didn’t know he had.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a compelling and brutally honest look at creative life, at times tough to watch,  that lingers with you long after you’ve seen it. I hope you give it a chance and if you’ve watched it, let me know your thoughts on Twitter @julienickart.

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Julie Nick presents Pulp Stories from a bygone era!

Masked enemy forces are everywhere! Join our female heroes in blood-pumping, gut-kicking, two-fisted tales of action and adventure! Will they prevail against overwhelming foes and save the day? Get your copy at Dublin Comic Con and find out!

Featuring two short stories, “Fighting Time” and “Running Start”, plus scripts, layouts and character designs!
Written and illustrated by Julie Nick. Logo designed by Kerrie Smith.

On sale at Dublin Comic Con • 24 pg, B&W, € 5 • All Ages

Order from my Etsy shop!
Free sticker with each purchase!

Pulp Stories Cover Pulp Stories inside DCC map

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Yearly progress – Part Three

Not exactly a year, more like 10 months, but I really wanted to have a look at these two inked sketches side by side. If you’re curious about these “Yearly progress” posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Scarlet Witch is from May 2015 and Zatanna as Dr. Fate is from this week (March 2016)

Scarlet WitchZatanna

Both postures are similar, but it’s interesting to see my take on it nearly a year later (completely unintentional by the way).

For one, I actually took a reference shot to get the posture I wanted. I did not do that last year and think Wanda’s anatomy looks very wonky (that right shoulder, ugh).

Second, I think the Zatanna piece, although only a torso shot, looks a lot more dynamic. The Scarlet Witch one looks flat and lifeless to me now. I’m really trying to push my poses a bit and choose less rigid ones (work in progress).

The hands look a bit better in the Zatanna piece, I have no clue what’s going on with Wanda’s tiny right hand there.

I also think I handled Zatanna’s costume better than the multiple unnecessary lines on Wanda’s. And I’m liking the single black mass of hair as opposed to that trailing mop of a hair (seriously, what even is that?). I’m finding I like simpler depictions better than lots of detail (personal preference) but it bugs me that there’s no texture in either of these. Zatanna’s cape could use some I think, and it would also help make her pop a bit more.

One other thing that bugs me about the Zatanna piece is the inking. I didn’t spend that much time on it but it feels like it could have benefited from bolder lines and some dry brush as well. Being too careful and safe with my inking is a problem I’m trying to consciously tackle. I’ve gotten a bit better at it, but I still need to loosen up a lot more.

All things considered, progress is slow, but it’s good to take stock every now and then and see that it’s actually there.

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Cinematography: Captain America The Winter Soldier

Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch

I re-watched this recently, really trying to pay attention to how it was filmed, and found a few interesting things I thought I’d share.

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The movie opens with Cap and Falcon’s morning runs. It’s a very interesting opening shot, very low key for a superhero movie. It could have opened with the Lemurian Star mission, straight into combat, but instead it opens with Cap meeting Falcon. Once I looked a bit closer, I realized (maybe a bit late) that the movie is really, at its core, about friendship and partnership. The relationship between Cap and Bucky, Cap and Falcon, Falcon and his lost partner Riley, between Cap and Natascha.

Right, now on to more visual things.

I love the sweeping shot of the Lemurian Star above, showing us the entire ship. It could have easily jumped from Cap landing in the water directly to him climbing aboard the ship, but the directors didn’t do that. Instead, they sandwich in a shot of the entire ship, serving to establish the size of the “battlefield” and what Cap and his team have to take back.

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Frequently throughout the movie, the camera is shaky and placed behind objects. This conveys a sense of being in the world, maybe even that the viewers are unseen spies looking in on this world of spies.

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I’m not sure if this is specific to Winter Soldier, but the camera frequently cuts back to long shots during fight scenes (more noticeable in the Batroc fight). It might be a common technique, but I’ve never noticed it before. This works really well in terms of making the fight scenes clear to the viewer. By cutting back from time to time, we can see where each character is in relation to the other and where they are in the environment.

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Another thing I picked up on this viewing is how certain scenes somewhat repeat themselves. First, the elevator scene with Cap and Fury. Fury is telling him a story about his grandfather and escalation of crime in his neighbourhood. From people being friendly and saying “Hi.” to people trying to mug him.

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Compare this with the later scene after Fury’s death. Cap is again in the elevator, but this time with the S.T.R.I.K.E. team. When HYDRA attacks Cap, we physically see the escalation of crime, in the same elevator as before.

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A more obvious one is Cap and Bucky’s visits to the Smithsonian. Both at a time when they feel lost and need to remember who they were.

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An interesting thing to note is how the scene where Bucky starts to remember was handled. After a lot of close-up shots of his fractured memory, the directors pull back when Bucky lashes out. This could have easily been filmed closer, to emphasize his strength and rage, but instead we’re shown how powerless he really is, surrounded by his enemies.

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One last thing, look at the placement and camera movement from the final fight scene, the first time Cap faces the Winter Soldier knowing that it’s Bucky. I might be wrong, but it looks to me like Bucky is presented as Cap’s equal and as coming into his own, (literally) away from Cap. Before, we saw Bucky through his relationship with Steve, as his friend, fellow soldier and member of Steve’s Howling Commandos team. Now, even though he still has a history with Steve, he’s presented as Bucky, the Winter Soldier, separate from Cap and no longer taking orders from him.

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Lastly, I leave you with some nicely composed shots.

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How freaking amazing is the above composition?

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Give me a shout on Twitter if you picked up anything else. Until next time!

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