Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Page 12... and a peek inside the writing process

First, here's most of page 12 inked (minus one panel - I didn't like the gag and I'm trying to think up a better one)
...So I thought maybe you'd like a peek inside my comic book production process (since I don't really have much more art to show off). It is a long, intense, draining process, but well worth it when the result is such groundbreaking work as The Strange Adventures of Toaster Guy.

Here's how it works. First, I'll come up with an idea - What if Toaster Guy met, I dunno, a talking whale? Or what if the IRS investigated the Master Ninja for tax evasion? Something like that. For these first few issues, it's pretty much the "pilot episode," so, for example, the premise for #1 was "What if Toaster Guy came back home a failure and found his lazy housesitter living in abject poverty?" Number two really came about because #1 was taking me way too long and I needed to get it published and keep moving. Since #3 is what I'm working on now, I'll go into more detail on that one.

So for issue #3, my friend and co-writer Andrew Allen had an idea (which I won't spoil here!). I grudgingly agreed with the premise and started roughing things out. Which looks like this:

...Basically, I have an idea of where the characters are, and what they're doing. So I rough out a few pages and I type up some dialogue. Then, I drive up to see Andrew, a five hour trip just to have access to his "genius," and we have a three day writing summit. The first day of the summit is all eating; bitching about life, wives, and each other; and watching I Shouldn't Be Alive reruns. Day two is generally consumed by errands and more eating. By day three, we are finally in our "writing zone" which is generally Panera, three hours before I have to head home.

Andrew and I will find a table, secure coffee and pastries, and some variation of the following takes place:

There's a lot more profanity involved in our actual writing sessions, but the long and short of it is that some of my layout sketches survive (this time, it was just the one I posted above), and I lay out the rest of it as we both pitch dialogue and argue over story points (ME: But that doesn't make sense! For the STORY we need to... ANDREW: Nobody GIVES a rat's ass about the story! DAMMIT can we go to Wendy's now?!). Andrew and I have been friends a long time - twentysomething years, and we're only 33 so that's most of our lives - and so this is a safe environment to say terrible, horrible things to one another, and to make incredibly hurtful and disparaging remarks about one another's life, or home, or children, all in the interest of finishing the script.

So at the end of three hours, we have a script (which is mainly dialogue, with a few notes to myself on location, attitude of the characters, me convincing myself not to end it all, etc) and we have every page laid out.

Once I get back home, I start penciling. With this issue, I decided to attempt a page-a-day schedule, which is killing me. I'm behind but not TOO behind - I still think I'll be done by Halloween. Anyway, the tight pencils for the above page look like this:

They're done on pre-ruled 11x17 Strathmore paper (since I find Canson to be the bastard of the paper world). I eyeball the poses from the layout drawings, making sure in most cases to give zero consideration to the placement of word balloons, leaving me to cram them in wherever I can. So at this point I ink the page, which takes a full day, usually.

I use a brush with Speedball India Ink, which I am slowly learning how to yield with slightly more precision than a retarded chimpanzee, and I use Micron pens for areas of small detail and for panel borders (though here I think I used the rounded rectangle tool in Photoshop for the borders, to give a more consistent look). After this, I shade the page, and then I force those word balloons in someplace.
I'm still learning this whole process, so I think #3 looks better than #2, which looked better than #1... and I really hope by #4 I'll have some idea of what I'm doing.

Anyway - there you go! A look inside my process! Hope you enjoyed it (both of you loyal readers)! If you know a better way to do any of this stuff, PLEASE share!