Nicolas Labarre has conducted a cool experiment in which he’s re-drawn the same page from an issue of Planet Comics five times. The point, he says (if Google translator is accurate), is to examine where the story is built in comics. Because of their brevity, Golden Age comics are famous for making the reader fill in many of the details between panels and Labarre seems to be trying to figure out just how that works and how what you don’t show is as important as what you do.
It’s fascinating to watch him as he plays with not just composition, but styles and character designs as well. In the three versions that aren’t sampled above, he replaces the characters with NASA astronauts, talking animals, and a version that’s almost purely design.
(via The Comics Reporter}
As someone who’s fascinated with the process of making comics – and someone who occasionally writes them as well – I read a lot of process advice. A few years ago there was a post by cartoonist Matthew Bernier on the First Second blog that’s stuck with me. It was about the benefit to artists of working with a writer. As a writer, of course I loved that idea, but beyond my own ego, it also speaks to one of the greatest advantages of collaborating: forcing everyone involved to leave their comfort zones and stretch artistically.
I couldn’t have told you that Bernier was the author of that post, but it makes sense that he’s also the creator of the awesome new process blog, Comic Tools. In addition to teaching difficult anatomy like horse legs and canine feet, Bernier stresses the importance of visual details, proper storytelling, and other vital elements. It’s a blog that process junkies and aspiring creators will want to make a habit of checking in on.
(via The Beat)
Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley has been answering all sorts of questions from his fans over on his Tumblr blog this week about Scott Pilgrim, his upcoming book Seconds and several questions on his process, among other topics. For instance, here’s where he came up with the idea for Seconds:
Q. When you finished Scott Pilgrim did you have a concrete idea of how Seconds would play out? Or do you have a vague idea of a concept then make it concrete along the way? I guess I’m really asking: what is your thought process when coming up with a new story?
A. To be honest, I came up with the basic idea of Seconds in 2004, a few months after finishing the first scott pilgrim book. There were moments during the series when I wished I could quit scott pilgrim and go off and do Seconds, this other unrelated book, but I was good & patient & I waited until I was finished.
Anyway, over those years (like 6-7 years thinking about it before I started really writing it), the idea grew and evolved along with me. I don’t think I could have done it properly at any time before now, but it’s still the same basic idea from 2004.
My actual process is to have 1 idea, write it down somewhere, then have idea 2, 3, 4, etc (all stemming from the first idea?) and write them all down, and then go back over everything i’ve written and try to figure out what i was trying to say. What is the point? What’s the core of the idea, what are all these little ideas orbiting around? Once you figure that out, that’s kind of the first real step.
I know I link to Ben Caldwell a lot, but that’s only because he’s awesome. When he’s not sharing someone else’s suggestions for creating interesting visuals for stories, he’s sharing his own. And explaining how film noir helps inform his choices. There’s even more in today’s post. Great stuff for process junkies.
Ben Caldwell tested for Dreamworks a few years ago and received some very cool notes about effective character design and visual storytelling techniques. He’s sharing those on his blog in a couple of posts, noting that while the pages were designed to help storyboard artists, “a lot of it is good, commonsense advice for graphic storytelling in general.”
I occurs to me that this isn’t just for artists either. Some of the advice could be helpful for comics writers as well, especially the stuff about “cuts,” which is just another way of talking about using panels to facilitate more exciting pacing.
I love these posts where an artist takes you from initial concept to finished work, and here’s a fine example of that: Bryant Paul Johnson, the creator of the wonderful faux-history webcomic Teaching Baby Paranoia, shows us a step-by-step account of his creation of an illustration for the Avarice Industries RPG, which is yet another Kickstarter project that has already exceeded its goal. Johnson discusses composition and character design and shows his work along the way. Good stuff!
With the 10th anniversary of the college romance/drama Stylish Vittles, Volume 1: I Met A Girl approaching, Tyler Page (Nothing Better, Chicagoland Detective Agency) is thinking about ways to celebrate his debut work while also acknowledging his growth as a cartoonist. In a recent blog post, Page shared some potential cover designs (there are more at the link), but talked about handling what he calls “the deep flaws of the work.” He’s currently working on an ebook collecting the original versions of all three Stylish Vittles volumes, but is considering a Director’s Cut to trim out what he considers to be problem areas.
I can’t help but think about George Lucas as I read that, but Page’s approach is different in a couple of important ways. First, he’s approaching the anniversary spruce-up from a position of humility; looking back at an early work with the eyes of a more mature artist is different from saying that the new version is “what I always intended the old one to be.” More importantly though, Page is keeping the original available for long-time fans (like me) and side-by-side comparison. I need to remind myself that the Director’s Cut is just something Page is thinking about and not a done deal, but I hope he goes through with it. Offering both versions sounds like a perfect way to both celebrate and offer a critical retrospective of an early work.
Over on her blog, Gingerbread Girl artist Colleen Coover takes us step by step through the design of a cover for her short story a male/male romance titled Home Port. Coover has a nice, fluid style, and the drawing comes together pretty quickly, but it’s interesting to see how she keeps on toying with it after that.
She also talks a bit about using photo references from the web: “Now, it’s important to note that I did not just trace these photos directly, or stick ‘em in a Photoshop filter or anything like that; that would be a violation of the photographers’ copyrights. I drew from them as one would from a live model–to place the features in all the correct proportions and angles–but I made significant changes.”
This is an hour-and-a-half long, but dang it’s cool. I’m not sure which is more awesome: that Ben Templesmith draws a comic book page before your very eyes, or that it’s a page from the next issue of Fell.
It took place at the Noise Pop music festival in San Francisco last year, put together by comics retailer extraordinaire James Sime and hosted at his Isotope Comics Lounge. According to Sime:
I took over [Noise Pop] last year with all sorts of cool live comic art content. The highlight was definitely bringing in Ben Templesmith, putting him on stage in front of a packed house with one of the SF Bay Area’s best DJs and having him start drawing the next issue of Fell!
DJ SamSupa loves Ben’s work so the set is definitely tailored for him, there’s even a Doctor Who theme moment that had the live audience cheering. Here’s the footage of what we projected up on the big screen for the audience, and the sound mix pulled directly from the soundboard.
Ben is fucking hilarious, twittering to the crowd and writing inking lessons on a spare piece of paper for the fans. And he even INKS WITH BEER.
Comics | ICv2′s latest report on the comics market shows a mixed picture for monthly comics and graphic novels. While DC’s New 52 reboot has helped push comics sales, the graphic-novel versions of those comics won’t be out for months — and Amazon is gobbling up a larger and larger share of graphic novel sales, especially at the high end. And this is interesting: “Digital sales are growing as a percentage of the market, but apparently not at the expense of print sales. Retailers interviewed by ICv2 do not feel they’re losing sales to digital competition on DC’s day and date titles.” That seems to be more anecdote than data, but you would think retailers would be the first to notice a drop in sales. The report also includes lists of the top 10 properties in various categories. [ICv2]
Reading a great comic is like enjoying a great meal, but at the end of both sometimes you want to know more about how it was made to get a larger sense of just how good it was. One of the things I like is seeing production work and behind-the-scenes notes on great comics. From the excellent Watching The Watchmen book by Dave Gibbons to collections with backmatter, they give you a larger appreciation of the work.
Later on this month, Image is set to publish a collection of the recently released Undying Love miniseries by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman. When CBR’s TJ Dietsch spoke with the duo earlier this year, Coker described it as a romance “filled with action and monsters,” like some modern-day pulp story soaked in blood and vampires. With this collection on its way, Coker and Freedman shared with Robot 6 some of the preliminary art and sketches that helped the series get off the ground.
IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall has posted some interesting bits from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 at his blog, including the variant covers, a link to a preview, and side-by-side comparisons of Kevin Eastman’s storyboards and Dan Duncan’s finished art (colored by Ronda Pattison). It’s interesting to see how much the layout changes from draft to finished product, and also how dynamic Eastman’s drawings are — the figures are rough, but there’s a lot of energy to them, and they could almost stand on their own.
Regular visitors of Skottie Young’s blog have had a treat lately. Young has announced that’s he’s working on his own graphic novel (in addition to his other, current commitments) and he’s updating his progress in a series of extremely honest, self-reflective posts. There are a couple of things that make this different from other production blogs, a big one being that Young is already a beloved artist with a strong career and plenty of fans who follow it. Most production blogs – and I don’t mean anything negative by this, I promise – are publicity tools as much as anything else. Not that Young’s necessarily above wanting publicity, but the tone of his posts aren’t hyperbolic promotion. They’re educational, as much for Young as for any of his readers. Probably more so.
In his first post, he talked about motivation: Why he wants to create his own graphic novel and why he’s failed in previous attempts. The second post – the one that really got my attention – was more process-related. He wrote about his experience at Trickster in San Diego this year and how it gave him an idea for his next attempt. It’s not just a process-post though, it’s a beautifully told story with a twist ending that made my heart skip a beat when I finished it. He left Trickster with an idea for a cute, very Skottie Young-esque story about an apocalyptic rabbit. I would have bought it for the art and the hopes of some chuckles, but after playing with it for a while Young found the story turning into something else – something deeper – that I can’t wait to read now.
His most recent post is about the writing process: a topic I find especially fascinating when discussed by people who are drawing their own material. Is it best to write a full script first? Just make it up as you go along? Or something in between? Young doesn’t suggest that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, but the way he applies the question to himself – and particularly to his previous failures – is heart-warming and enlightening.
“I did extensive research into historical documents for the styles,” he said on his blog. “In order to make that work, I used different typographies each issue, emulating different typefaces in real work; so I needed a uniform tone, technique and color in the finished art to identify all the covers as a whole collection.”
The five-issue miniseries by writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak kicks off in July.