comics

New Star Wars and new lightsabers

So the trailer for the new Star wars film has dropped and predictably it's causing a stir. In particular the new lightsaber has many renouncing their faith.

Well I'm not so fussed. A few years ago I did the following strip explaining why I thought light sabers were a little stupid. It seems it may have has some influence on JJ. That's me. Ahead of the zeitgeist all the way.

Light saber.jpg


Black Dog- A personal Project Update.

Black Dog is a personal comic project about a pair of dingos trying to save their newly born litter form a puppy devouring monster and her minions. It started out several years ago as a short film script I was going to make into a 3D CGI animated film. But then I realized the shear enormity of the task meant that realistically, as a new dad, I'd be hard pressed to find the time to learn Maya let alone produce a short film of the caliber I'd envisioned. So fed up with having truck loads of good ideas and nothing to show for them I scaled back my ambitions to something more in my comfort zone but still challenging. So I decided to make a comic out of it. It's a 50 page long primer to a much larger story that I hope to tell down the road.

 

Writing

I had to rewrite the script for the comic format. I used celtx which is a great script writing program which has formatting for comic scripts among others. Then I shot the script off to a bunch of trusted friends for their feed back, telling them to tear it apart and be brutally honest. Feedback is useless unless it's brutally honest. Disappointingly most thought it was pretty good and I only got a few notes on dialogue. The best being from the 15 year old daughter of a friend. "Why would a female dog call another female dog a bitch as an insult?" She had a point.

The original short film script had no dialogue and relied heavily on the character acting similar to Wall-e; Something you can't do as well in a comic. So I had to add a bunch of narration and dialogue to make the story comprehensible. Writing dialogue isn't something I'm really good at and I still think some of it is on the nose but I know at this point the story and structure work and dialogue can be refined. I actually found as I roughed the pages I was rewriting and deleting dialogue especially if I found I could show and not tell.

A script page and the rough layout. This is one of my cleaner layouts. Looks like I added more panels than I'd scripted. I did this a lot.

A script page and the rough layout. This is one of my cleaner layouts. Looks like I added more panels than I'd scripted. I did this a lot.

 

Character Design

So to the drawing bit. I had an idea of how I wanted the characters to look but I hate drawing things in isolation. It's not how my brain works. If I can draw a character as part of the story I'm good but just drawing unrelated hero poses bores me and it's like pulling teeth. I also don't have a solid personal clean up style. Most of my work is storyboarding which you don't really take to a fully beautiful finished and rendered stage and this is where the real challenge for me lies.

I know myself well enough by now that if I tried the sit down and design the characters and look in a traditional procedural sense that this project would stall, so I decided to play to my strengths and just start roughing out the page layouts and work on the design as I went and got a feel for the characters. Designing this way I felt I had more freedom to experiment with the designs in the actual layouts they'd be in without the constraints of a locked off model. The evolution is most evident in the monster character Mirigung. She started out being very grounded in her anatomy but as I progressed I found I wanted her to be more monstrously, supernatural and other worldly.

There is a rule that all good monster movie makers stick to. Don't make the monster talk! The extension is, don't make it look like it could talk. That's what I was going for here and why I moved away from my original concept.

There is a rule that all good monster movie makers stick to. Don't make the monster talk! The extension is, don't make it look like it could talk. That's what I was going for here and why I moved away from my original concept.


Rough Layout

So this is what I've just completed using Manga Studio 5EX. The pages are in varying degrees of "roughness" and with some I've revisited with red marker notes to make changes to story beats and panel layout when I come the clean them up. When I started I wanted to have the roughing done in 6 months. It took me a year. If I can get the clean up done in the next year I'll be doing well. That's about 1 page a week in my spare time.....Watch this space.

This is a collection of my rough pages. Most are pretty tidy. Some are quick thumbnails inserted where I thought I needed an extra story beat and others have my "Editors" notes all over them.

This is a collection of my rough pages. Most are pretty tidy. Some are quick thumbnails inserted where I thought I needed an extra story beat and others have my "Editors" notes all over them.

Killeroo Oz comics Challenge

Occasionally I find the time and inclination to have a crack at something different. The weekly Oz comics face book group challenges offer this sort of opportunity and it's always great to compare and contrast what different artists come up with.

I use the sequential challenges to practice my comic page layout, lettering and inking. I find experimentation easier using other peoples work than my own, benefiting from a detachment from the source material I think. I always try to add a little personal flavor or plus the story in a way not covered in the script page. In this instance it was having the character reluctant to join in the brawl pick up the stool tossed out the window and go to sit on it as he delivered his line, and having Killeroo go into the bar fight with a cricket bat and ball. What's more aussie than having a kangaroo fighting bikies with a cricket bat?

Anyway here is the progression of working up the page from rough , inking and to final rendering. The script for the challenge and model sheets can be found here.

Enjoy.

Rough blocking. I pretty much use the same process for drawing comics as I do when I storyboard. Here I lay out the the panel frames and block in the visuals and speech balloons. I also tend to think cinematicly when drawing comics and tend towards almost beat boarding the story as if it were a film. I also like like the 180 rule of cinema camera placement which I think a lot of comics could benefit from adapting.  I also try to make sure I'm telling the reader as much , if not more in the pictures than the speech balloons are. I'm a show not tell kind of guy and like to think that if you pulled the speech balloons off the page the reader would still know what's going on.

Killeroo page rough

Killeroo page rough

Inking or clean up. This is where I tidy things up and draw things properly and inject a bit of style. Some people pencil things before they ink. Because I work digitally 80% of the time I can just ink over my rough blocking. If I want to refine something a bit more I'll do a more detailed rough before inking it. I did that with the two foreground guys in the last panel.

Killeroo inking cleanup.

Killeroo inking cleanup.

Rendering or coloring in. For this page I was undecided initially weather or not I was going to color it or just use grey tones. I was keen to have a play with the half tone function in Manga Studio so I decided to go with a grey scale render. However I wasn't that happy with how the half tones looked in the final render. The dots were too big and it just looked untidy so in the end I just used solid grey color blocks. Really what it is, is layers of black on about 5 different layers and with the transparency set from 20% to 80%. 5 tones in all but over layered in areas to give the appearance that more are used. Using the transparency of black layers this way makes adjusting the layer tone very easy and doesn't effect black line work.

You may also notice I completely changed the 4th panel. This was because I didn't like the layout. It was too wide, I felt it gave the emphasis to the wrong character in the scene and the dead space to the left of the foreground character looked crap. Also the layout was too similar to the preceding panel which made the page look boring. That and because all the characters looked like they were standing still killed the energy and momentum of the action and page flow.

Killeroo rendering

Killeroo rendering


Pixar Finding Animation Seminar

Finding Animation.jpg

Recently I got myself along to the Pixar Finding animation seminar. I did the two day story stream with lectures by Pixar story artist Matthew Luhn and story consultant, Bobette Buster. It was two long days with so much information that I'm still digesting it all days later.

Matthews lecture focused on the Pixar method of story development from concept to final animatic. I found the story development stuff the most interesting and it has given me a fresh way of looking at a few projects of mine that had stalled and just needed a new perspective to get them back on track.

Bobette's lecture was a gripping and refreshing analysis of story structure that wasn't as Joseph Campbell's heroes journey focused as I was expecting and which I really appreciated. The lecture finished with a deconstruction of Toy Story 2 in it's entirety which has got me looking at the kids films my children watch in a whole different light. Picture that scene at the end of the Matrix when Neo is seeing the code behind the world and you'll get what I mean.

I've come away from these lectures by two people who really know and love the craft feeling inspired , far more informed and with the tools to help push forward with my projects which had stalled because I knew something was wrong with them but didn't know what. It came at the right time for me and consider it well worth the money. If you are interested in telling stories and telling them well I can't recommend getting along to one of these seminars enough.