Even from the beginning of my relationship with Nick Mag, I had the opportunity -- and was encouraged -- to experiment with layouts... always trying to come up with an interesting way to tell the story.
It was always a huge challenge to try to tell a complete story in two pages, so it was really important to find a way to condense the storytelling. In the first panel, I wanted to establish the setting as well as really set up the emotional empathy between Arnold and the goldfish
The rest of the first page is pretty standard stuff, but on the second page there are two panels that really stand out in my memory. The first one is a wide shot of the Japanese gardens... I really wanted to contrast this scene of openness and peace with the earlier panels that were crowded and confined.
There's no panel border here, and it helps emphasize the openness…
I also like to create a sense of depth wherever possible -- hence the foreground elements and the multilayered background.
The fifth panel on the second page is another one without a panel border. Again, I wanted to emphasize the new-found freedom that the fish has.
My favorite panel in the whole story is the last one; by showing Arnold and Gerald in the reflection of the pool, I was able to keep the emphasis on the most important story point. The irony of the last panel is that as much as the goldfish wanted to be free, it was totally afraid of its new wide-open surroundings. The clever idea that Arnold comes up with is to leave the goldfish in the bowl, and let the fishbowl float around in the beautiful pond.
I got to do about a dozen of these comic strips over the three years that I worked on the show. Supervision by Craig Bartlett, story and art by me, coloring by Steve Lowtwait.
Here’s the whole two-pager: