Initially I thought that Delirium Comix was going to be mostly stream of consciousness art that was more concerned with images and emotions than plot. Mostly, this is because I’m lazy and I didn’t want to bother with a lot of planning and agonizing over details. After wasting a couple of pages of Bristol board though, I realized that I was going to have to break down and adhere to some kind of structure to actually make some progress with this project.
Luckily, I had a script that I’d started writing a few months back for something I was calling “Kingdom of Monsters” that was going to be my take on the type of illustrated fantasy stories that run in publications like Heavy Metal (one of my favorite comic book publications by the way). I didn’t necessarily think I was ready to do this, largely because in the past year and a half I’ve only produced a handful of sketches and none of it was what I would consider to be my best work. But, ready or not, I decided that “Kingdom of Monsters” was going to be the lead story for the first issue of Delirium Comix.
So, there’s a bit of diversity in how people write scripts for comic books. Some people use a format that is basically a modified version of what a movie script would look like (if you look at the script for the graphic novel Batman: Arkham Asylum, you’ll see that this is the format that Grant Morrison was using). A more standard format involves a panel by panel breakdown of what’s happening in the story. Since I wanted to keep myself aware of how I was using sequential art to tell a story, I decided to stick with the panel by panel descriptions.
Here’s what page 10 of “Kingdom of Monsters” looked like as a script:
1. The mech hurtles through the air as it tries to grab onto the man’s leg.
2. The mech’s hand snaps shut, narrowly missing the man’s leg.
3. The mech falls out of view to the street below.
4. The man flies with TEHRA in his arms.
We have to go back.
5. TEHRA responds.
So…it’s not a dream?
From there, I started storyboarding, sketching out a rough idea of the type of layout I wanted and what the contents of each panel would look like. The level of detail contained in a storyboard seems to be a matter of individual discretion; I usually go for a moderate amount of detail just to give myself a good idea of what the finished panel I going to look like before I start. Storyboarding for this page took, maybe, fifteen minutes.
With storyboarding out of the way, it’s time to start work on the pencils. Currently I am doing my work on vellum surface Bristol board, measuring 9 inches by 12 inches and producing a two page layout meant to be used for a digest-sized book. The other materials in use are pretty bare bones; mechanical pencil; a Mars plastic eraser; a kneaded eraser; a ruler; a t-square; and an Ames lettering guide (for making sure that lines of dialogue are uniformly spaced).
Penciling for me is still the most intimidating part of the process. Staring at a blank page and knowing that I have to fill it with art that tells a story and is visually pleasing can be quite daunting. At the same time, I have always been very proud of the fact that I can look at a blank page, have a vision of what could be there, and then make that vision come to life. It’s a simple act, but it’s not something that everybody can do.
Pencils typically take one or two hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the scenes I’m trying to illustrate. Often I will deviate from the storyboard while I am penciling, usually changing the perspective or presentation of a panel to make it more interesting.
With penciling done, all that’s left to do is the inking. Inking, even though I’ve done it with so many things over the years, still scares me because I am terrified that if my hand isn’t steady enough that I’m going to ruin a perfectly good drawing (it’s happened on occasion). So, while penciling is probably the hardest part for me, the inking is remains the most nerve wracking.
I usually start by inking the things that I think will require the most delicacy or give me the most trouble. With “Kingdom of Monsters” this is typically the female lead, Tehra, because her figure has less detail and so the lines that are there need to be very clean and deliberate. Inking actually has a tendency to take longer than penciling, generally between 2 and 3 hours per page.
In terms of inking supplies, I use a set of Pitt Artist Pens with various nib sizes. I used to ink everything using a 102 crowquill and a bottle of India ink, but I’ve found that I like the look of the artist’s pens better (in terms of line style) and with crow quills there’s always the danger of too much ink running out of the nib and leaving a big glob of black ink to ruin and otherwise good drawing.
I suppose I could actually be doing most or all of this on a computer. I actually do have a Bamboo tablet (a pretty great little device by the way, particularly for people like me who are hobbyists rather than professionals) and GIMP is a piece of software more than capable of handling penciling and inking duties. But, I enjoy producing physical pieces of art and to me, there’s something too slick looking about computer assisted artwork, even if you’re going through roughly the same process to produce it.
So that’s a bit of insight into the creative process here at Calavera Studios as we press forward with issue 1 of Delirium Comix.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all later this week.