Ever want to get inside the mind of an artist and follow their thought process as they take someone’s words and transform them into pictures?
John Coker takes us behind the scenes of a story debuting in the Sci Fi issue of The Gathering…
This is a four page story written by Jason Hissong titled “DOCTOR BRICK BRAVERY: SPACEMAN, in WORLD ENOUGH” I love the script, it’s big, fun Sci-Fi adventure, and a little pulpy. It brings to mind Flash Gordon meets John Carter meets Indiana Jones, meets Adam Strange. Jason had fun with this, and I can tell that I’m gonna have a blast drawing it. A few things we wanted to do with this- 1) Big, widescreen action, so never more than 4 panels per page, and all of them nearly the width of the page. 2) No dialogue. All narration. And if you’ve ever read any of my work before, either from previous issues of the Gathering, or my weekly webcomic Decompressionism, you know that that’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I do. I am an admitted dailoguephile. I, LOVE, words. As a cartoonist, my two biggest influences are not cartoonists or artists at all, they’re Aaron Sorkin, and David Mamet. I love dialogue, specifically conversational dialogue, the back and forth, characterization through interaction, through reaction. What we say and how we say it tells us who we are. But here, that’s not what we’re doing. Here, we’re building character through action. Which for me, as a cartoonist, is not in my wheelhouse, and it’s not easy, as I have to put my words in my pocket, and I’m not used to that. I write and draw romance comics where people stand around and talk, and Jason here has written a great action adventure tale, so I’m going to have to stretch some artistic muscles that I’m not used to using. 3) No text on top of the art. All the narration (which isn’t a lot since we want the art to speak for itself and to do the heavy lifting) needed to go next to the art panels. In other words- we didn’t want Jason’s words mucking up my hack drawings (insert sarcastic emoticon here).
With this story, I’m drawing each panel separately, scan them in, shrink them, and then paste them into the overall page. I draw on watercolor board, and for this I cut 11.5 by 6 inch pages. My pencils are very loose, very rough, pretty much just general shapes. I do the real drawing when I ink the panels, and I use the word ink very loosely here, as with this, I’m using Sharpies… yes, you heard me (read me?), I’m inking this story with Sharpies. As I want a very chunky, kinda rough overall look. I use a fine point for the outlines, an extra fine point for the details, and then a Copic sketch marker to fill.
Here is what the script calls for in this panel-
We’re overhead on Brick Bravery on a hospital bed. Three of his friends stand around him. One woman, two men. These are his Wife and his two scientific/adventure partners. They are in their base, in the side of a cave, but the reader doesn’t need to know that. What the reader sees: Brick on the hospital bed, the Wife and one of the males standing around the bed. The third off to one side, looking at a monitor or something.
Now, I did take a few liberties/make a few adjustments here. I wanted the focus here to be on Brick, so I took the other characters, sans their hands, out of the panel. This is our first shot of our hero, and our establishing shot, Brick had to be our focal point. Which means the monitors wouldn’t be visible either, so I replaced them with a handheld scanning device and a tablet of some sort.
Then I added the grays. If you notice, there is no white in this panel at all, some fairly light grays, but no white. There will only be three things in this story that will be white. Also- for the most part the grays start out light in the center of the image, and then get darker as you move out towards the panel borders. I have no idea why I did that actually, I just thought it looked cool.
Well, that’s Panel 1 of Page 1. Next week…
PAGE ONE, PANEL 2!
-John M. Coker