I've been acquainted with the fellas over at Th3rd World for a few years now; they're a great bunch of guys (who put out one of the best books currently published anywhere, The Stuff Of Legend). Some months ago, I started reading a web comic they publish called SuperFogeys. The comic's creator, Brock Heasely, has a bunch of chapters under his belt, and it's been inspiring to plow through them from the beginning and watch not only his story and characters develop, but also his skills as a visual storyteller. Recently, Brock was kind enough to invite me to draw a story for his weekly Origins strip, which tells the backstory of characters in the SuperFogeys universe. I drew a story titled When Dictator Tot Met Gene, which you can read right now on the SuperFogeys website. However, I though I'd share some process stuff here, because I had a lot of fun creating these pages, and I always enjoy reading that behind-the-scenes sort of thing. Due to previous commitments and some life-changing stuff, Brock and I agreed that my contribution would have to be a short one. He sent me a script for a two-page story, and after reading the description for a character named Suckface, I pulled out my sketchbook and started drawing. I probably should have read beyond the first paragraph to realize he wasn't significant to the story, but the dude has a vacuum attachment on a mouth that is really a black hole, so yeah, I stopped reading and started sketching. I sent Brock a few concepts, he dug 'em, and I set out to draw the story.
A few years back, when I was drawing stories for the Hard Ei8ht graphic novels we put out, I drew everything separately on individual pieces of paper, and then assembled the pages digitally. It wasn't a bad way to work, but in the end I had no actual original pages to show (or maybe sell) - all I had was a stack of random drawings on loose sheets of copy paper. Before the digital era, I would have just drawn everything on one page, and I wanted to use this project as a means to do that again. With that goal in mind, I (somewhat ironically) took to my Cintiq to start roughing out my pages.
At this point, I'm just figuring out my panel layout and what goes where, so the drawings aren't that important. You can see that in some of the panels, I didn't draw anything at all - I just scratched in some words. Thankfully, Brock was able to make out everything, and after he gave me a couple of notes (I was drawing the "devil horns" gesture incorrectly, with the thumbs extended, for one), I moved on to pencilling.
As with my roughs, I do most of my pencilling digitally nowadays. I'll be inking the final pages traditionally, but at this stage, digital is more practical than paper for me. Knowing that my lines don't have to be permanent kind of gives me a mental freedom from worrying about mistakes, and with that worry gone, I tend to loosen up and feel things out more. The downside is that I often end up overworking things that ultimately print out at the size of a fingernail. If there's a right combination of brush size, resolution, and zoom (or whatever) that'll allow a handsome guy to clearly see what he's drawing without zooming in too far, I have yet to find it. At any rate, this is what my final pencils look like. The first page was a bit of a chore, since backgrounds aren't my strongest suit. If I were to draw it again, I'd do some things differently, but overall, it's good enough. The second page was a lot more fun, though. It gave me more opportunities to play with the characters and their expressions, which I love to do.
Once the pages are fully pencilled, I print out test pages at letter size to make sure everything reads well when shrunk down for the eventual printed book (I'm shamelessly hoping there will be one), and then I print out each page at tabloid size in light red on bristol board. I'll be drawing my final art right on top of this print out.
My pencils are usually pretty tight, and there were some areas - particularly the smaller bits I zoomed in too closely on - that I'd drawn so tightly that there really wasn't much point to re-draw them in ink. I decided to just print those areas out in black and save myself some stress, since I probably wouldn't have been able to ink them as neatly. I felt like I was cheating a little, but whatever. Now, with the pencils printed onto the bristol board, I pull out my brush pens and get to inking. This is my favorite part. I savor the anticipation, envision greatness as my pen approaches the page, and then start sweating when my lines don't do what I want them to.
Once the inking is done, I scan everything in, remove any traces of red using Photoshop's Hue/Saturation slider, and then punch up the levels to darken the black. From here on out, it's just a few anxiety-filled hours of obsession over color choices, and some inevitable changes to the line art (I went back in and added some cheesy puffs on the table in the last panel of page 1, and replaced the iPod speakers with the boom-box Gene was already carrying in the panel right before it). Eventually, I come to a place where I can finally call it done, and I send the final files off to Brock.
Then I make a few more color tweaks and send him the real final ones.
The finished, colored pages are up on the SuperFogeys site, so head over there and read the story of When Dictator Tot Met Gene. I hope you dig it as much as I enjoyed drawing it, and a huge thank you to Brock for letting me play in his universe for a bit!