Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lightshade page 7 step by step!

I'm taking a class right now in Fundamentals of Speech, and I have a demonstration speech due today. In other words, I have to demonstrate to a group of people how to do something. I'm going to be demonstrating how to make a comic book page from start to finish, so I started on page 7 about a week ago and scanned in my progress along the way.

Below is the text of the speech and visual aids. It's written for people who aren't familiar with comics to understand, so forgive me if it's too elementary for you.

How many people here have ever read a comic book, or a comic strip in a newspaper or on the Internet? Even if you haven’t ever laid eyes on a comic, I’m sure everyone here has seen a movie based on a comic, such as X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, The Dark Knight, Watchmen, or other non-superhero movies based on comics such as Ghost World, The Road to Perdition, V For Vendetta, A History of Violence, Constantine, or From Hell. Many people think that drawing comics is an easy job, or even that it’s done by computers. I can assure that any time you see a comic page, not only was nearly every line on the paper meticulously drawn by a human, or several humans, it took many hours to finish. Today I’m going to demonstrate how to make a comic page from start to finish.

The comics industry is based on an assembly line method of production. Since most comics are produced on a monthly basis, it’s nearly impossible for one person to complete 24 pages of story himself in four weeks. Terry Moore wrote and drew Strangers in Paradise for many years on a regular schedule, but he released 16 pages every six weeks, and I’m sure even that was tough to finish on time. Instead, a team of people work on most comic books, each one tackling a specific aspect of the art. One person writes the script, another person draws the comic in pencil, another person goes over the art in ink, another person puts in the dialogue balloons, and yet another person applies the color. I’m in the position of currently working on a project where I’m handling everything but the script myself, which is the process I’m going to be showing you today. I only had a week to do this, so unfortunately I didn’t have time to letter or color the page I’m going to show you, but I have a few examples here of what comic art looks like when it’s lettered and colored, which you’re free to look at.

First let me show you my desk, which is angled about 20 degrees so that it’s parallel to my face when I’m drawing. On the right you can see my T-square, which I use to rule panel borders. It butts up against the side of the desk and ensures that all the panel borders are exactly 90 degrees. Here are the tools I use typically: a wooden pencil for roughs, a blue lead holder for finished pencils, a click eraser, an electric eraser, a large eraser, and two different sized ink brushes. I have all these tools with me today if you’d like to see them.

The first step here is the script, which I got from the writer. I printed it out and started drawing small compositional thumbnails so I could see how I wanted to lay out the panels. You can see there were a couple panels I had to try from different angles because it didn’t work the way it said in the script. Panel three said it needed to show the demons from behind, with the house in the background, but I thought it would be better to have the shot from inside the window, since this is the first time in the story we see the demons in their adult form. I also changed the panel in which the male character lights his cigarette from panel two to the first panel, because it worked better that way.

Next we have the rough, which is drawn on a separate sheet of paper and incorporates the best shots from my thumbnails. This is what I’m going to be working from on the final page. Now I move to the board the comic is going to be drawn on, which is called Bristol board. It’s thick like card stock and smooth, which takes ink well without bleeding or spreading. This first step is basically putting in the forms and making sure the composition works before I start doing the finished pencils. Now we can look through the progress of the page in the next three steps before the finish pencils. From start to finish, the pencils take about four hours or so.

Next I start inking the page, which means I take an ink brush and start going over the pencils with black india ink. For lines that need to be straight, I use a thin marker with black ink called a Micron, and a ruler. Again, we can go through the next few steps in the process, which takes about four hours as well. Because of the dimensions that Zuda Comics requires, which is half the size of a normal comic page, I can fit two pages on a standard board. If I were doing a normal comic page you can double the amount of time it takes to do these steps. As I said, I didn’t have time to finish the letters and colors for this page, but letters take about an hour or two and colors can take about three to four hours. All told, a single page for Zuda can take anywhere from 12 to 14 hours to finish. A full comic page takes double that amount of time.

So that’s how you take a comic page from script to finished and ready for print artwork. It’s a long and meticulous process, one that takes many years of training and practice to prepare for. I don’t expect anyone to leave here an expert on comic books, but the next time you see a comic strip or an issue of Spider-Man, I hope you can step back and appreciate the amount of hard work that went into it.

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