Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Customized Comics

The notion of creating and customizing an avatar is almost ubiquitous in gaming these days. Especially with the popularity of Nintendo's "Mii" feature, where you make a cartoony version of yourself, so when you swing the bat you connect with the character on screen. Have you ever heard of a comic you can customize? I've been working hard for the last year or so with my friends at FableVision, and more closely with Keith Zulawnik, on an educational game that incorporates this very idea. The story component of the game is delivered using comics, and the character you build gets inserted into every panel. In the page above, even your pet gets customized.

There's been a lot of drawing and coding tricks, and the work is really paying off. The visual style is a blend of Keith's character design and my line quality. They are all drawn and colored in Flash, which was a first for me. I'm really happy with how they're turning out. Below is a more direct example of what I'm talking about. I can only hope that kids will appreciate all the hard work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cafeteria Rumor Mill

I'm featured again in the November issue of Nickelodeon Magazine. This is a cartoon about how food rumors start in the cafeteria. I had to strategically leave space at the top and around the characters for various word balloons, which the designers added afterwards. It printed a little too green, but I guess that's okay, because it made the food look more gross. My favorite character is the crazed one.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Genius of Tintin

My co-worker and friend, John Lechner, has some thoughts on Tintin that I'd like to share with all of you. He just completed and posted a short essay on his website, which can be found here. He sets out to focus on Tintin as a "unique comic creation." Rather than delve into a biography on Hergé as many have done in recent years, he writes about the comics on their structural and narrative merits:

The similarity in the comic panels, which hardly vary in size or perspective, give the stories a documentary-like quality, as though the viewer is there watching the action from the side. Close-ups are rare, unusual camera angles are rarer. But the flow of the action is effortless, and Hergé can cut back and forth between scenes like an expert film director. The simplicity of the layouts makes for quick reading, as the reader never has to decipher a page or puzzle out experimental designs. While this won’t win the author many design awards, it does serve the stories well, and the story is the most important thing to Hergé. Even the smallest background details are there to serve the story.

Unlike John, I didn't grow up reading Tintin. I grew up watching cartoons (good and bad) instead. But in recent years I've acquired great admiration for Hergé's perfection of the adventure/detective comic. The stories are easy to follow while engaging for readers of all ages. John touches upon page layout. I too am a believer in the grid, and I look to Tintin when I construct my own comic layouts. In particular, I love it when Hergé leads you from one tight panel to the next, and then opens to a beautifully detailed full page illustration for key moments. His page construction is efficient, simple, and to the point. Plus, he allows his characters to exist full figure in the panels. Headshots are rare. And above all else, the drawings are fantastic. This spread from Tintin in Tibet is by far one of my favorites. All the comic pistons are firing!

Most of all, I love that Tintin doesn't pretend to be anything else but a comic. It doesn't read like the storyboard for a feature film. Characters don't leap out of the frame borders. It's comfortable being what it is—modest, yet genuis at the same time. Thanks again, John, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Images courtesy of Hergé

Wednesday, October 17, 2007