Once again, I plan on attending the coolest zine/mini comics show in the southeast. That's right I'm talking about Fluke! I have been trying to come up with a new mini-comic for a few months. I have had writer's block for a while. I wrote and drew 2 issues of Fantasy Adventure Quest. I learned a couple of really important lessons with that project. Firstly, I wasn't ready for that project, secondly I didn't properly set up a decent story. The whole thing was sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I also discovered that selling issue 2 was much more difficult than selling issue 1, I think the reason for this is I needed to convince people to buy issue 1 in order for them to have any interest in issue 2. I found myself really upset with the quality of the first comic and the second comic was a meandering story with uninspired and forced artwork. I have decided to drop the project and move onto shorter projects and eventually, work my way up to longer stories with more involved characters. FAQ was really ambitious and I am not ashamed of the project at all. It's just at this point I feel I could grow faster as a cartoonist if I were to work on shorter stories and move onto new projects without feeling like I'm abandoning a child or something. Anyway I am now working on something completely unrelated and self contained. It's a story kind of triggered by my short piece I did for Subterranean 2. It's a parody of Power Rangers. It's nothing too advanced, pretty basic plot loaded with jokes, robots, and fights. I would love to do something more cerebral, but alas, I'm sort of a dullard. That first picture in the top left corner of this post shows ya what I'm talking about. I kind of break down the beats of a story into page lengths and add them up. I also make little graphs of the climax, you can sort of see this in the bottom part of the page.
After I lay out the beats to the story, I break down each sequence of pages into really rough thumbnails and descriptions. I don't write the dialogue just yet. The way I approach dialogue is I kind of digest the actions of the page and write the dialogue in my head while I'm at work. I then do a tighter rough of each individual page right before I draw it. By this point I know my panel layouts, my dialogue, and my basic gestures. I put them all together in my tight roughs really quickly. To the right you can see my loose thumbnails of the first 4 pages, or the first "beat" of this mini comic. First I list the actions that are necessary to happen in each page, after that I draw quick roughs that mainly feature panel layouts and stick figures that go along with the actions listed above. I don't really expect anyone to really understand any of these little scribbles. I want to document my weekly progress on this book as a reminder to myself and encourage myself to keep posting material on the web. I'm not doing this to teach anyone how to make comics. Internet, please understand this, I'm a complete IDIOT. I have developed these techniques by myself. I have never taken any sort of comics writing class and I never really even took any sort of writing class besides grammar and composition classes. The goal for this project is to complete 2 pages of a comic per week, post my progress, and learn a little bit more about my process and how I can improve it. I plan to have this mini-comic complete two weeks before Fluke so I can have a little time for post-production and printing of this bastard. It will have a 2 color silkscreen cover and the first print run will be 50 copies. My price range is looking like $1.50-$2.00
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Back in October I had an assignment to draw a series of comic strips that were loosely based on my life. It was a really hard thing for me to do. Mostly because I feel my humor doesn't translate to comics very well. I tried a few different ideas and none of them really stuck. I ended up illustrating a series of horrifying events that had happened to me when I lived with some really crummy roommates. I was supposed to do 6, but I was only able to complete 3 1/2 strips because they took a lot of energy to make. (Mostly in the writing process) I was really hesitant to post these in fear of offending my old roommates, but fuck 'em they made my life very difficult for 6 months and never re-payed me or even apologized. I did them the favor of blocking out their names from the strips. Each strip took about 8 hours for me to fully develop. I was really stressed out about this thing and it was the only assignment I wasn't able to complete for my class. Hours before the strips were due I had a minor panic attack. It was going to be the first time I would turn in an incomplete assignment, and it was during an intro class no less! I went to class with my incomplete assignment and my tail between my legs. We critiqued everyone's strips and I quickly realized that most of my classmates either didn't turn in the assignment or spent very little time on each strip. I was furious with this because I killed myself on these dumb strips, but then again these students were able to finish the entire assignment on time. The other night I dragged these out to show a couple of my friends and they really enjoyed them. It's probably the best reaction I have gotten from any of my work and oddly enough this was the most tedious and painful project I ever worked on. Enjoy!
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Last week a very special book finally arrived on my doorstep. Something I have wanted to read since I was a kid. Something long out of print and very difficult to find. The Rocketeer! I really loved this movie when I was a kid. I remember going to the theaters with my dad and loving every minute of this movie. I was so enthused by this movie, the Rocketeer was the coolest hero EVER. After the movie my Father and I went to a Toys "R" Us, I remember looking everywhere for action figures, there was nothing. I scoured that damn action figure aisle forever and then I finally gave up. While about to leave I spotted a candy container that was in the shape of the Rocketeer. It was the only piece of merchandise I had ever owned from this movie. I remember telling all my friends about how cool the Rocketeer was and nobody was buying it. To this day I insist it's a really fun and exciting movie. How come none of my friends never saw it? How come I never found any toys? How come there was never a sequel or a tv show or ANYTHING?! Why was this? Well, I can only speculate. Perhaps it's because Terminator 2 came out on the very same weekend so it flopped in the box office. I also think Disney didn't have too much faith in the film and didn't try to merchandise it better. Why release it on the same weekend as the much anticipated sequel to Terminator? I also think people are very stupid and can't appreciate anything good in this world, (grumble grumble). I eventually found out that the movie was based on a comic book. Only problem was that I lived in a very rural part of NY where the closest comic shop was about an hour away. Not to mention the comic might have been just a little out of my age range. The writer/artist Dave Stevens really liked his spicy Bettie Page homages. The images of rocket packs and sexy hollywood ladies slowly moved to the back of my brain. When I finally became interested in comics as an adult (2004-ish) The Rocketeer had been long out of print due to a number of failed publishers, I couldn't even find any of the old single issues. I was really out of luck.
Sadly, in 2008 Dave Stevens passed away. I was upset to hear this news and I immediately began hunting for Rocketeer material once again. Perhaps it's morbid or pathetic, or maybe a little bit of both, but I really felt like I needed to read Dave Stevens' "The Rocketeer" to pay respect to and appreciate Dave Stevens. Much to my disappointment, I still couldn't find any Rocketeer reprints and the single issues I could find were sparse and pricey. Later in 2008 maybe even as late of the spring of '09 I read somewhere that IDW was reprinting all of the Rocketeer material as one big omnibus. As an added bonus, Laura Martin (colorist on astonishing x-men) was recoloring the entire collection. Apparently Dave Stevens personally requested her to color the book. After a release date that was pushed back a couple of times, the book is finally out on stands. In 2 different versions no less. There is the bare bones edition which features all 140 pages of the rocketeer fully colored ($30) and then there is the hardcover slipcase edition that features a boat load of extras including thumbnails, preliminary sketches, unedited original scans of Mr Stevens' artwork and more ($75). I went for the deluxe edition and I suggest you do the same.
Now that I got this self indulgent adolescent sob story out of the way, let me give you my thoughts on the book. Let me start off by saying I was a little nervous about Laura Martin recoloring the book, I tend to feel her work can be over-rendered and too digital looking. I have to say though, I absolutely loved the work she did on this book. Her colors were vivid and complimented Dave's artwork very well. I came into reading this book a little nervous because Dave was mainly an illustrator, not really a comic book artist, at least not by my wacky standards. But I was surprised at how well all his pages held together. There is a great unity to his compositions and his page layouts are surprisingly playful and extremely readable. His hand lettering in his dialogue balloons as well as his title pages are to die for. The only real issues I had with this book were the following. Sometimes in the panel, his balloons were slightly hard to follow in the proper order. He had this nasty habit of having a balloon in the bottom left corner and in the top right corner. Causing an ambiguity as to which balloon comes first. I quickly learned that Dave's balloons go in order from top to bottom instead of left to right. Also the writing was a little too loose and had a nasty habit of not tying up loose ends. The ending was a little bit of a bummer and didn't have much of a payoff. But boy was this book one hell of a ride. Dave's figures are very fluid and you can really feel the movement of every character, it's fantastic stuff. Also you can see the amount of effort that went into every single page. From the crazy thumbnails to the roughs to the inks to the lettering. Dave did it all and he did it damn well. It's no wonder this guy was a notoriously slow worker, the amount of effort he put into every drawing is incredible. All in all, the entire Rocketeer story is only 140 pages but each page hits where it counts and it will have you coming back begging for more. I only wish Mr Stevens' was still alive to see his work reproduced with such respect and craft. Get this book if you have any respect for comics.