In the event you haven’t been paying attention (and shame on you for that), G-MAN: CAPE CRISIS #2 came out on September 9th, featuring Part 2 of the 5-part Pix: Teenage American Fairy story, “The Most Dangerous Donut”. Did you miss it? Well, go to a comic shop and get a copy. Come on, people!
Now that that’s out of the way…
A lot of people ask me what my process is for creating comics. And by “a lot of people” I mean hardly anyone if anyone at all, and by “ask what my process is” I mean people, when they ask, like to ask things like do I use a computer for everything now, do I also put the words in the “little bubbles”…things like that.
But regardless, I thought I’d take the time to give you a tour of how page 5 of “The Most Dangerous Donut” came to be.
It all starts with the writing. When I’m drawing my own story, the writing happens in three basic stages. First is all in my head, where I think about the story, picture pages in my mind’s eye, and figure out the basic beats and some of the dialogue and how it’ll all fit together once drawn.
Stage two is the layouts, and this is maybe the meatiest part of it. Here’s where I lay out the pages, panel-by panel, including a rough sense of dialogue and where it’ll go. Here are my initial layouts for page 5:
I then scan that and size it to print size and then block in all the copy and dialogue. I do this in Adobe Illustrator. And this is to know that everything’ll fit and flow properly…that the words and art work together as a cohesive unit. Here’s the lettered layout:
And with that, the page is “written”.
The next step is cleaning up the layouts into clean, proper pencil art. This is where things tighten up quite a bit and figures, facial expressions, and backgrounds get locked down. Here are the pencils for this page:
You might notice some changes between the layouts and the pencilled page. For example, what was once a front in panel 4 became more of a 3/4 to profile shot. Looking at the layouts I was struck by the similarity of panels 3-5 in that they all seemed to “lean right”. That change broke up the rhythm more and made the sequence feel more random and tense, if you will. You might also notice some stuff as particularly light or incomplete. Since I was inking myself that sort of stuff I’d take care of in the inks…
Inking is when a page gets turned into clean, printable, black & white art. Varying line thicknesses and shadows help create depth and weight to the characters and elements on the page. Here are my inks for this page:
Once again, you can see some changes from the pencils. For example, in panel 2, the background figure above the guy lurching forward is gone. In panel 6, the kid in the background changed into a different kid. And panel 10, the shaking hand, has been flopped to again, break up what I felt was a too similar composition to the panels before and after it. Oh, and that last panel, which I pretty much re-drew a number of times before settling on this inked version.
Now once the page is scanned and cleaned up, I got back to Illustrator where I re-work the lettering and add proper word balloons and sound effects, etc. Those are then combined with the art in Photoshop to look like this:
Minor edits here or there, but at this point the page is ready for color.
Coloring happens digitally using Photoshop. This a whole process unto itself, and quite tedious at that. And that’s at the level of coloring I’m doing, which is a fraction of what top colorists pull off in terms of shadows, highlights, effects, etc. But here’s the final, color page:
And if you’ve been paying keen attention you’ll notice yet more changes. In the last panel, I opted to totally black out the nose and mouth (save for the teeth) as it looked more dramatic and menacing that way. And in the second tier of panels I swapped panels 1 and 2. Once the page was colored and I had those three monochromatic, pink/purple panels, I thought it looked better and made more design sense to space them more uniformly on the page.
And there you have it…a comic book page from conception to colorization. I’d show you what it looks like in print, but for that you need to go to a comic shop and pick up the comic it appears in, G-MAN: CAPE CRISIS #2!