Why Star Trek? I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek on the H&I network since the pandemic started. Comfort food.
To put that television watching to good use, it’s become… inspiration.
Sometimes I have an idea for a Star Trek gag from the prompt. Mostly though, I plug a prompt from Jake Parker’s official Inktober 2020 prompts list and run a search for the prompt on memory-alpha, the Star Trek wiki, to give me some inspiration.
The other nice thing about relying on memory alpha is that it helps spread the gags around between the different Star Trek series through the years. Otherwise they’d all be TOS and TNG gags.
My plan was to have all of the strips drawn by the end of September, so that when October 1st hit all I would have to do is ink every day and wouldn’t have to worry about drawing, too.
Unfortunately, all I’ve managed to do so far this month is pencil in the panels on half of the pages of bristol. (That’s what you’re looking at in the boring photo at the top of this post.)
My first impulse was to not participate this year. I felt I didn’t have any ideas.
Then your brain starts working on it in the background.
“You could do this for Inktober,” your brain says. “Or you could do this.” Then your brain says, “Of course! This is what you should do.” And your brain is right, so then you have no choice but to do it.
Then you pick up the pencil and get it moving. Just drawing simple shapes and lines suggests ideas.
Before I know I know it, I’m doing actual research to help ignite more more ideas, and I’m off and running.
I’ll talk more about the research and all the prep work I’m doing in September to prepare for Inktober so that next month, all I have to do is ink.
Honestly, that’s a woefully misleading title. Grabby, though, ain’t it?
In January, comics writer Kieron Gillen teamed up with Project Art Cred to write a script, release it to any artist that wanted it, and bask in the wide variation in storytelling that resulted. You can check out the results that resulted here.
Amongst all the brilliant entries, you’ll find one that does not look like the others. Mine.
I did not adapt Kieron Gillen’s full script because I didn’t realize he had written more than one page. When I downloaded it from his newsletter I didn’t realize it was a multi-page document.
I adapted Kieron’s letter to the artist.
When Gillen mentioned in the letter that he was keeping this loose and minimal, I thought to myself, “No kidding.”
Here’s my final inked artwork. There’s another pass at the pencils below, as well.
Here’s a one-page comic I recently illustrated called the ‘The Origin of The Amazing Spider-Foo’. It’s a Spider-Man parody written by Crhymes; a writer, comedian, and musician based out of San Diego.
From Script to Rough Layout
Originally conceived of as a one-page 12 inch by 12 inch record insert, Crhyme’s script was a brillliant parody of Stan Lee’s verbose Marvel Comics stories.
Here’s the script:
My first task was to break the text up in to individual panels. I was originally thinking a 9 panel grid, but couldn’t squeeze all of the text in, so I added a tenth introduction panel on top. I even started thinking about color at this stage. Here’s an early rough that was meant just for me.
I refined my roughs and sent them over to Crhymes. (I sent them without color, since I wasn’t sure yet what my color plan was.)
At this point, Crhymes had some much-needed suggestions to help make my drawings more convincing, including the addition of palm trees, making Spidey-Foo’s sandals more accurate, and adding tattoos to Pedro Parker’s arms and neck. Crhymes also wanted Spider-Foo to break the panel borders in the last panel.
Changes are welcome at this rough stage because they’re easy to make before inks and color are added.
Pushing and Refining the Poses
At this time I also decided to push the poses in the piece, especially in panels 1 and 2. (The poses of those two panels in the roughs just looked too similar to me.) Pedro Parker also looked too relaxed in panel 3, so I changed up that pose as well.
Here’s a few rough drawings I made while working on the piece.
Digitally Inking the Comics Page
Inking went slowly for me, though you wouldn’t know it from the timelapse below.
If only I could work that fast.
I originally estimated the page would take me about 6 – 8 hours, but each panel took about 3 hours including rough drawing, inks, lettering, and colors.
A lot of that time was spent trying things that didn’t work out, like those early rough colors, or some of the unused poses, for instance. And a lot of undos. Undo. Undo. Undo. Making comics is hard.
Here’s the final inks.
Coloring the Comics Page
I finished the colors, (done on a separate layer from the inks and pencils, as you can see above), choosing not to show Spider-Foo in full-color until the final couple of panels.
I sent the final artwork to Crhymes. He had a few edits to the text, which was no problem since the lettering was a well-crafted font I purchased from PixelSagas.
I’ve struggled with the idea of using dialogue in ‘steps’ for awhile. I’ve used it a couple of times in one panel strips like this one and this one, but it has never felt right for the four panel strip.
So using it the other day was a personal milestone. I hope that it opens up more storytelling opportunities, and it still may, but the strip feels more powerful to me without the dialogue.
And with the added element of the dialogue, it became more difficult to juggle all of the other elements of the strip, especially color.
I published and replaced three versions of the airport strip before finally settling on the final.
Here’s a little of my thoughts behind each version.
The first problem was version one of the strip just felt too crowded. The dad, especially, is too tall, giving the strip a rigidity that feels wrong.
So I went through and reduced the size of all the figures and backgrounds in the panels, giving a little more white space around everything.
It also felt like the big blob of blue on the plane in the final panel diminished the impact of little guy’s ‘I DON’T WANT TO GET ON AN AIRPLANE!’ by being too visually distracting.
Now there’s a little more white space around all the figures, which makes me feel better.
I also decided to remove the color from the chair that the Woman Reading sits on in Panel 3 to better emphasize her.
But even after removing the blue of the airplane in the final panel it still feels too crowded. Now what?
I removed the lines in the background suggesting the doorway to the jetway out to the plane.
I also removed the color from the podium that the ticket handler stands behind, giving more emphasis to her, the dad, and the son.
The final change I made was to panel 1.
Though I really liked the blue and green on the backpack and shoes of Random Traveler #1, I decided to eliminate those colors when I couldn’t find another use for them in any of the remaining panels.
The last minor change was to the Reading Woman’s sweater to brown since that purple wasn’t being used elsewhere either.
(I remember my high school art teacher telling us that if you use a color, always use it twice so that it looks like we did it on purpose.)
I made up a fan shirt in time for the new Star Trek movie that came out a month ago.
I ended up canning this image; or the slogan, anyway. It just felt too insider-ish. First you had to get the reference to Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope Poster. But even if you got that reference, unless you were a hard core trekkie, you were left scratching your head at the IDIC slogan.
So, instead I went to print with this image, instead.
I wanted to do a Kirk shirt as well, but I didn’t have the right one-word slogan. Yet.
Here’s a look at a sketch done in preparation for my piece for an upcoming art show. Be warned: “Thar’ be crazies on that link!”
The theme I’m participating in is Peanut People; right now the name of my piece is Peanut Gallery. I’m going to draw gobs of characters from fact and fiction.
Here’s a color version of Peanut Spidey.
As always, you can click on the image for a closer look.
The inks are too heavy; too lifeless; no thicks and thins; no line variety in general. (Inks were done in Macromedia Freehand, by the way. I used the variable stroke pen tool. If I had it to do again, I’d use the Bezier pen tool. More control.)
I’m fairly happy with the color job. Also done in Freehand.
Coupla weeks ago. The comic book store; after a few pints. It’s the last place you’d expect an epiphany.
Buddy Don is scoping out the Star Wars action figures; I’m whining about work.
Don picks up an action figure based on the Ralph McQuarrie concept art. The toys themselves look pretty chintsy, but most toys do. The packages, however; loaded with McQuarrie’s artwork, look terrific.
“The trouble with working at a tshirt shop,” I say, “all I ever get to design is tshirts. I don’t get to learn anything else. I’d like to try some package design.”
Don looks at me like I’m an idiot.
“Then design an action figure tshirt,” he says.
Epiphany: I am an idiot.
It’s up to me to learn what I want to learn.
Because I’m an idiot, a week goes by before I realize I need to scrap my idea for the upcoming art show and instead design a package for my Hulk Herocap, (Herocap origin for another day) and enter that in the show.
I start to take a closer look at the construction of boxes. I make a trip to Wal-Mart and pick up a Spider-Man Mighty Muggs. (The colors on the Mighty Muggs boxes are appealing; if a little flat. I love the top panel, with the close up of Spidey’s Eyes, but overall, the boxes are a little boring. Why have a static image of the exact same thing that’s in the box? The box design should be more than appealing; it should be exciting. But the packages do feel very solid, not at all flimsy, which I like.)
I do a little package design research online: to try and learn techniques for cutting the boxes so i get a nice smooth line; if I have to worry about the ink bleeding, where I can get a plastic mold insert to secure my Herocap in the middle of the box. I find a couple of interesting sites: The Dieline and Package Design Magazine, but I find little on the nuts and bolts of making your own boxes.
I am on my own.
I start drawing up templates for the box on graph paper.
You saw some of the artwork for the Hulk box last week.
I learn a lot from the box of a Dashboard Monk that Don’s brother Les gave me.
I learn even more from finally putting together a mock up of my own box.
Here’s the artwork. If you take a closer look ( by clicking on it), you can see that I don’t have flaps on the side panels, and you can see that I ran out of room on my graph paper; so I didn’t have a back panel, which was going to be fine, because I would cut it out when I cut out the cardboard backer.
Only, when I cut out the panel, I cut it out an inch shorter than it needs to be; so I end up with a, what, parallelogram? With the front panel one inch wider than the back panel.
After I put it all together, I color in Spidey’s mask with a magic marker so that it’s brighter. The cross shape is the graph paper glued onto a cardboard backer. What you can’t see is the giant glue glob resulting from my clumsiness. What you can see is that the box is just too big for the Hulk Herocap prototype. Don’t worry, I will be making up a Spidey Herocap.
The cardboard interior felt dark, so I added a sheet of paper to brighten things up:
You can see here where I had to trim the top of the box to run (semi) flush with the side panels.
I kind of like the box shape. I think I’m going to use it; just flip it around so that the small panel is in front…Failure is the perfect teacher and I learn a lot.
Design a smaller box. Set up a cutting and gluing station separate from your drawing table. Be sure of measurements.
Ooh, all of you lucky dogs out there are getting a sneak peek!
I’ve been working on (well, not so much working on as, mostly thinking about) a new big project for the art show coming up June 7th.
Here’s a first glimpse at HERO CAPS…the future of uncollectable collectibles.
Don’t tell anyone, but this is a glimpse at the artwork for the limited edition ultra-rare Hulk Box. Just one of a kind. It won’t be like any other Hero Caps box!
If you look close in the upper right hand corner of the picture you can see I’ve started working on the real Hero Caps boxes. The Hulk Box was just a crazy idea….ooh, inside, I was going to have a puny Bruce Banner Cap, but it would be even cooler to have a Hulk Brain! Wonder where I could get one…
After taking a look at this artwork, I know that this is just a rough draft. The Hulk just doesn’t look ANGRY enough to me…he looks more confused, or astonished…
You can click on the picture for a closer look, you know, if you’d like.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why it is you’ve never heard of a Hero Cap, it’s because I invented it! My buddy Ryan came up with the name, and my pal Donnie (of penguin fame) helped shape the first Hero Cap with a precision-dependent heating system.
Boy, I can’t wait till I’m all done creating them. They’re the perfect collectible for keeping in the box!