Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween Comic: Process

When I was cleaning off my work table tonight, I collected some scraps to show some process for my latest comic. Thank you for your responses, and for supporting the bunch of us this Halloween season—which marked the one year anniversary of Heeby Jeeby Comix. If you haven't seen our new batch of comics yet, head on over.

The idea for this comic came together through doodling. Sometimes it's as weird as that. I was drawing cats and pumpkins, and the one in the upper right here struck me as kinda fun—I wrote "Lucky Cat?" and counted off nine lives.

I explored the idea of a cat interacting with a pumpkin, keeping the nine lives in the back of my mind. Again, working on paper. Drawing. I can’t emphasize this enough — I think a lot of us live in our heads too much. I’m guilty, as I’m sure many of you are, of lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, forcing ideas to come. Sometimes they do (for me, an idea will arrive on the bus ride to work when I’m lucky). But by drawing (or writing), you invite randomness and play to enter into the process, which you can spin into events and story elements. I’ll run an idea by my wife, too — talking out your ideas can help things coalesce.

Here's a key drawing: A cat on a cell phone, which spurred other ideas (a pumpin getting very annoyed). And after much spiralling, I had a story.

Below: my early thumbs, where I plot out panel layout. Here, the thought occurred to make it a scrolling webcomic (which I thought would lend itself to falling). But because our intent is to get these comics into book form eventually, I structured it in 4 pages over 2 spreads.

Then, on copy paper, I rough out the panels to scale (but smaller), and scrawl out the comic, loose.

These are the drawings that inform everything—where I try to infuse the most energy and life.

I mean, this is a mess.

But it gets me to where I need to go. I transfer this scrawl onto bristol, which I refine in my final pencils, and then ink.

Something is always lost in the process. But I consider it my job to retain as much of the life from the scrawl as possible, by limiting the steps. Here, scrawl to pencil to ink.

Then, it's time to color. Sometimes I have the color worked out in my head as I'm drawing. More often, I work through multiple color attempts.

Purple, red, and orange? This is my flats stage, where I block in quick colors as I paint things in. This wasn't working.

Then I realized the cat would need to be dark for the ghost-cats to contrast as light (knowing they'd be transparent). So I reversed the value field (background lighter, cat darker). But the colors still weren't reading night. And were a bit duller than I wanted.

Eventually I landed here (above). Which is a kind of primary color scheme, with the addition of some neutrals. Orange and brown were added later. Once I mapped out the color space for the free-fall panels (with the blue night sky), it appeared I had something. Comics are funny in that the color scheme needs to work across the entire comic. Sometimes I leave it for an hour or two and come back to it, to make sure nothing strikes me as looking off. It's all about solving various elements of the puzzle.

Here's the full comic below.

So, that's basically how this comic came together. Leave any questions or comments you have, and I'll try to answer them. Thanks for following along!


Lena said...

love the end result but being able to see your creative process was really fun and enlightening :D truly awesome!

maura said...

wonderful post, Bob. it's great to see your process & your thinking behind it. i can relate to much of this. though i don't do comics, much of what i go through is very similar. every piece is a puzzle. figuring out how it fits together is a big part of what makes it so fun.

i gave 2 of the copies of Heeby Jeeby that i ordered to some kids who are now big fans. i'm going to pass this onto them :) cheers!

Bob Flynn said...

Thank you! This one was a unique puzzle to's always fun to work out the various elements. I'm sure a lot of people in the creative mode can relate.

Maura—Special thanks for spreading around those Heeby Jeebys :)

Pedro Vargas said...

Wow, really nice, Bob! It's cool to see how you connect the pieces like that. I think I should definitely try doing comics this way from now on. I usually keep a visual idea/story all bottled up in my head and write them down as notes, and usually it's through the rough stage where I get to test things out and see how things work visually.

That comic came out gorgeous by the way. Love the colors, designs, everything! Really excellent job!!

Chris Garbutt said...

Very inspiring post.
Makes me want to lock myself in a room and draw comics until my hand hurts!
Awesome stuff!

Bob Flynn said...

Thanks, Pedro and Chris! It definitely doesn't always happen this way—when I'm stuck for an idea, this is what I typically do. Draw until something comes out of it.

Jeff P said...

Got here via Mike Lynch.

Great entry, and great blog! Your animation background certainly shows in this particular comic.