Friday, May 8, 2009

How We Make Comics

So about a year ago Fred and I did a talk at Drew University, and part of the presentation was a walk-through of how we produce our comics. Here's the first part in blog form , without my long-winded explanations.

Let's get started!

My part in the comics making process starts when Fred writes the script – almost completely independently from me – and sends it to me in its completed state. We are both very hands-off with each other, something we’ve never really planned out, it just sort of evolved naturally. My job is to then take Fred's hillarious scripts and translate them into visuals as well as attempt to make them even funnier by any means necessary.

Turning this:

Into THIS:

(click to enlarge)

Art research and character design process.

So 90% of the stuff Fred and I do is based on real people and real events from history, but with a lot of artistic license. Still, since the facts are always accurate in our work, I think it's important to at least try to be visually informed by the subjects true history and/or appearance, if not a slave to historical accuracy. So, I try to make them look like the actual people, but if I can stretch it so it's funnier, more compelling, or in some other way better, I'll do it, accuracy be damned.

Sometimes I get it right away, like when I designed Bodhidharma for Action Philosophers.

Of course there are no photos of Bodhidharma (some people even claim he never existed!) and all existing artwork of him shows different types of people - some fat, some skinny, etc. The things that all depictions of him have in common is that he was wild-eyed, bearded, Indian and a monk, so I went with that and ran with it. In the story I always had him staring strait ahead at the viewer with a stoic expression, to play up the intensity of his character. I think it works, and out of all the Action Philosophers designs this is the one I'm most proud of.

(and yes nerds, his costume is ripped of from Shang-Chi, but it only appears in this one panel anyways so let it go.)

Other times it takes some work – I start with photos or paintings of the subject, like Mr. Schopenhauer here:

Do a couple of sketches, usually starting off a realistic rendition:

Keep drawing until I’ve got something that looks like a cartoon character:

Sometimes I can’t find reference and have to wing it – THIS is how I first drew young, circa 1930's Jack Kirby in Comic Book Comics #1:

Luckily Fred had some nice reference of Kirby during that time:

So I changed it:

Much better.

Drawing a page.

I start off by drawing little thumbnails pages right on the script print-out.

Layouts – really rough and loose, really just working out the placement of images and text on the page. (sorry, I don't have an example of this)

Pencilling – You may have seen a penciled page before – full of tight detail and visual info it almost looks like a finished piece of art itself. I don’t work that way, I only draw just enough in pencil so I can ink it myself, sometimes even drawing directly in ink at the end of the process. Like so:

Send the final inked page to Fred to letter in Adobe Illustrator.

Fred sends it back to me, I sometimes do minor compositional tweaks but that’s it – boom! The page is done!

Only 31 more to go!


1 comment:

GB Tran said...

Thanks for the peek behind the curtain! It's always interesting to see how other cartoonists work their magic.