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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to something great fans are doing to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s get to it …
Writer Jordan Mechner and artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland are celebrating the recent release of their graphic novel Templar by giving away a free ebook chronicling its production. The Making of Templar includes lots of sketches and discussion between the three creators about what went into the book. Topics include historical research, character design, collaboration, the process of writing and storyboarding action sequences, and the differences between writing comics and writing for film and video games (Mechner is also the creator of Prince of Persia).
The 87-page PDF can be downloaded from Mechner’s website.
Though I can appreciate that a lot of reviewers don’t have the artistic vocabulary to really review art, they always have lots to say about the story. An analysis of the storytelling would be interesting.
– Marvel artist Declan Shalvey, on how comics reviewers can better discuss visual art in criticism.
It’s a commonly recognized phenomenon that reviewers tend to focus on the writing part of comics, because they are, after all, writers and that’s what they have the vocabulary for. Criticism of visual art requires a different set of terms that frankly, not a lot of comics critics know. Shalvey pokes holes in that excuse, however, by offering for critique an aspect of comics art that writers should already be equipped to discuss: the effectiveness of visual storytelling.
When learning to draw well I always thought there was some “secret” that would make me better. Turns out the “secret” was just hard work.
– Marvel artist Ryan Stegman, via Twitter
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard aspiring creators ask these questions of professionals: “Where do you get your ideas?” “What’s the secret to making great art or telling great stories?” As if there’s a magical incantation that will instantly transform learning amateurs into masters.
I love when Mouse Guard creator David Petersen writes process posts, particularly when they involve the construction of models to help him draw mouse-sized rooms (or entire towns), and sewer tunnels ideal for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. His latest, for the cover of Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 #3, doesn’t feature any little papercraft houses, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
From reference material and initial sketches to inks and the finished illustration, the artist walks us through the creation of the cover, which features a trio of musicians “that could play so well, they’d call back the dead.” However, the execution proved a little complicated.
“The inks were a bit tricky because of the ghost effects,” he writes, “and at several times while inking I worried this cover wouldn’t work the way I was proceeding with it, but I just pushed through figuring I’d make sense of it all in color.” And it did, as you can see from the finished cover above.
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 #3 arrives Aug. 28.
…I strongly believe you should start out with a great influence, learn from them, mimic them if you have to, its all healthy for the creative learning process. But at some point, once you start getting paid for your work and considered a professional in a certain field, you have to realize that it’s sort of lazy to mimic another artist’s style for your own profit. It’s insulting to the artist you consider a hero or inspiration, and also insulting to yourself as a creative individual in a sense. We ALL have done this, myself guilty, but you have to know where to draw the line for yourself. If clients wanted, say a … Travis [Charest], or Joe Mad, or Adam Hughes, those guys are still alive, they can hire them.
– Dustin Nguyen, on the development of artistic style.
Every artist I’ve ever talked to about influences — and this includes writers, too — has shared this same story of mimicking someone else’s style until developing his or her own. As Nguyen says, the trick is knowing when to get out and be your own thing.
Conventions | The University of Calgary’s student newspaper looks at the rapid growth of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, and the problems that go with it: Last year, ticket holders had to be turned away because the event was over capacity. “Last year it was really a shame that people had so much trouble,” says Lyndsay Peters, owner of Dragon Chow Dice Bags. “We saw a lot of frustrated customers and we talked to a lot of frustrated people. I know there are some people who won’t be coming back this year. But everything we have been told as vendors and everything that has been communicated to us shows that they are taking it very seriously this year.” This year’s convention will be held April 26-28. [The Gauntlet]
Awards | The jury has been announced for the Doug Wright Awards. [Doug Wright Awards Blog]
Yes, I realize I just posted something about Paolo Rivera on Friday, but this is too good to pass up: The artist has put together a time-lapse video detailing his process for Daredevil #22 (above). It’s at 20 times the normal speed, compressing three hours of work into just 11 minutes.
“It’s a pretty straight forward time lapse, but there are 3 things that I’d like to point out as you watch,” Rivera writes on his blog. “First, I use reference of my own hand to facilitate the drawing process. This photo is taken on the fly using Photo Booth on my iMac. It’s as easy as using a mirror, but with more options. Second, I employ a digital perspective template of my own design for the background. It’s extremely useful, but has a steep learning curve — I plan on releasing it to the public later this year. Lastly, toward the end of the video, you can see that I had trouble with Daredevil’s legs as he’s scaling Stilt-Man’s serpentine legs. The cover as a whole went pretty smoothly, but it took me a long time to find a pose for him that didn’t look totally awkward to me. Spidey, on the other hand, was a breeze — characters who are flying/falling are always easier to draw since they don’t have to interact with any other entities.”
Ahead of the Oct. 31 release of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World #4 from Monkeybrain Comics, artist Nick Brokenshire has provided ROBOT 6 with a look at his process for creating Page 4 of that issue. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, by Brokenshire, writers Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, and letterer Rachel Deering, the first three issues are available on comiXology.
A wee while back, my friends Adam and DJ asked me if I fancied doing a process diary-type thing for Comic Book Resources. I was surprised because I am a new artist in the wondrous world we know collectively as “comics.” Of course, what with our book being picked up by Monkeybrain and put out on comiXology, I said yes. We are obviously in the business of drawing attention to our work so that we can sell copies which in turn will allow us to make more comics. … But that isn’t the real reason that I want to share this little snapshot of the way we do things. The main reason for me is: love of the process. Even as an unknown, I relish the chance to share the little I have learned with anyone that may enjoy or benefit from this information.
A few years back while I was training to be a high-school art teacher (which is what I do as a day job now), I stumbled upon the revelation that the only way to achieve anything is by starting. I had been drawing comics characters and chopped-up bits of comics but never managed to finish anything. Then, upon listening to the experiences of professionals on podcasts like Word Balloon and Art and Story, as well as interviews on blogs and magazines, the same little snippet of advice kept popping out: start. Start to write and start to draw. After you start, don’t stop. Even when you don’t think the work is that good, don’t stop. That’s the only way to get better. So I started and I think I’m getting better. I’m a long way from being as good as my heroes, but I’ve made a start. So, for those of you who want to make comics, whether you dream of super-stardom or like me, just like to tell stories, here’s a brief breakdown of the process I go through to make comics. Hope it helps you start.
For process junkies, animated film studios seem to be great sources of instruction about good storytelling, in comics or any medium. Last spring, Ben Caldwell shared some lessons he learned from DreamWorks. This time, former Pixar story artist Emma Coats is offering 22 guidelines she picked up from her senior colleagues at the studio:
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
You can read the rest on Coats’ blog.
(via Kelly Sue DeConnick)
In a recent superhero comic, the artist introduced a character who was notable for his small stature. Nowhere in the first 20-odd-page issue did you see him clearly in scale next to normal-sized characters that demonstrated he was small. This was covered in passing in the dialogue. That’s bad comics. If you were telling this story over a campfire, one of the first things you’d say is that this guy was very short; you might make it specific, with a comparison. In comics, the art should do that for you. Something about a picture painting a thousand words. Visual info should be conveyed visually.
– Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, not referring to the specific panel above, but talking about the same thing.
Allie writes at length about the importance of visual storytelling to comics. He uses lots of examples, both positive and negative, but one of my favorites is when he points at some Alan Moore comics to prove that it doesn’t matter how talented the writer is. If the artist doesn’t convey the right information, the comic’s going to suck.
This isn’t to say that the art is more important than the writing. That’s not true, and neither is the reverse. What’s true is that art and words BOTH have to do their parts to make a good comic.
Lucy Knisley has three things to delight us this week.
First, a new episode of her seldom-updated webocomic Stop Paying Attention, in which little Lucy asks the big questions while playing with her toys. It’s a wonderful comic, philosophical without being dry or boring.
Second, she has written and illustrated an essay on The New Life of the Comic Book for The American Reader, which is a nice overview of the whole world of comics, sharpened with her own experiences.
And third, she has a process post explaining how she did the main illustration for the article, from concept (and unflattering photo) to finished product. It’s a fun peek at her work process, and a nice addition to the article.
I only just discovered the blog of Mouse Guard creator David Petersen, and it’s a great read if you like behind-the-scenes details. He recently posted a detailed account of the small model he made for the Matriarch’s Room, which appeared in Black Axe #5; it’s amazing to see how much care and thought he put into it. And now he has a new post, detailing the cover he drew for the Baltimore Comic Con program, from initial concept to finished art. It’s a treat for process junkies and some nice eye candy for the rest of us as well.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, it’d be an eclectic bunch featuring Jesus clones, retired spec-ops workers, environmentalists and Batman. First up would be Punk Rock Jesus #2 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), following Sean Murphy’s big-time foray into writing and drawing. Murphy’s delivering the art of his career, and while the story might not be as great as the art, it still has a synchronicity to the art that few other mainstream books have these days. After that I’d get Dancer #4 (Image, $3.50); Nathan Edmondson seemingly made his name on writing the spy thriller Who Is Jake Ellis?, and this one takes a very different view of the spy game – like a Luc Besson movie, perhaps – and Nic Klein is fast climbing up my list of favorite artists. After that I’d get Massive #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50), with what is disheartedly looking to be the final issue of artist Kristian Donaldson. No word on the reason for the departure, but with a great a story he and Brian Wood have developed I hope future artists can live up to the all-too-brief legacy he developed. Delving into superhero waters, the next book I’d get is Batman #12 (DC, $3.99), which has become DC’s consistently best book out of New 52 era. Finally, I’d get Anti #1 (12 Guage, $1). Cool cover, interesting concept, and only a buck. Can’t beat that.
If I had $30, I’d jump and get Creator-Owned Heroes #3 (Image, $3.99); man, when Phil Noto is “on” he’s “ON!” After that I’d get Conan te Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse, $3.50). I’ve been buying and reading this in singles, but last weekend I had the chance to re-read them all in one sitting and I’m legitimately blown away. The creators have developed something that is arguably better than what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord started in 2003 and shoulder-to-shoulder with the great stories out of the ’70s. This new issue looks to be right up my alley, as Conan takes his pirate queen Belit back to his frigid homeland in search of a man masquerading as Conan. Hmm, $7 left. Any other Food or Comic-ers want to grab some grub?
If I could splurge, I’d excuse myself from the table dining with my fellow FoCers and get Eyes of the Cat HC (Humanoids, $34.95). I feel remiss in never owning this, so finally getting my hands on the first collaboration between Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky seems like a long time coming. I’m told its more an illustrated storybook than comic book, but I’m content with full page Moebius work wherever I can get it.
[Update: Thank you to Ryan Estrada for pointing out Stan Sakai’s Facebook comments about this post. By way of clarification, these pages were already posted in their entirety on the Tumblr account credited at the bottom of the post. I didn’t scan them myself, but it was still thoughtless not to contact Mr. Sakai and ask before sharing them here. I regret not doing that and apologize.]
The January 1991 issue of Amazing Heroes (Issue 187) included this cool eight-page comic by Stan Sakai on his process in producing Usagi Yojimbo. There was also an accompanying interview with gems like this: “I’m not really that into manga. It’s funny: whenever I go to conventions around the country I’m always put on a manga panel, I guess because I’m Japanese and Usagi’s about Japan. But I know almost nothing about manga. So I just say my two cents’ worth and keep quiet the rest of the panel.”
Twenty years later, it’s still an insightful (and delightful) read. Check out a couple of the pages below; Vingt Et Un has the rest.