January 29, 2013
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: Behind the Scenes

This is a space suit:LAIKA_RESEARCH_Slide08

It was designed by the Soviet space program to send the first live astronaut into space, during the Sputnik era. The astronaut’s name was Laika. She was a dog.

A picture of her before her historic space flight:


At the time, at the height of the space race with the U.S., the Soviets claimed to have brought her back from orbit—even filming spurious footage of a healthy dog leaping out of a returned space capsule. We now know it had always been a one-way trip for Laika. There never was any plan to bring her back.

Her story has been told over the years, most memorably by Nick Abadzis, in his exquisitely poignant graphic novel, which we published a few years ago. A perennial favorite, it continues to draw superlative praise, and for good reason.

A little glimpse behind the scenes, then… Nick’s research took him to Moscow, to the space museum there and deep into the archives of the Soviet space program.


The photos in this post are from him. From Russia, he returned with volumes and volumes of notes and raw materials.


He spent time exploring character designs, and fine tuning the visual handwriting he would put into the service of his story…



Eventually he zeroed-in on a distinct feeling, not overly cartoony, but not strictly realistic either—which would give him the ability to relate historical fact, but also the flexibility to take us inside a dog’s view of it all, and even into a dog’s dream state…

Alongside that, Laika‘s tale took the form of a kind of thumbnail/diagram/script, which few if any, other than Nick Abadzis, could actually read:


Then to a very rough thumbnail version of that, in which Nick played with pacing, staging, framing, but fast and loose and not bogging down on detail. He would work and rework this stage…


… until his finished ink pages…


And then on to color, and combining the text overlay—Slide21

… for a masterwork result, which I believe will be around for a long, long time.

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