There's fish in the tank.
Hey Everyone, it's Mike Huddleston back again with another process post.
Initially I just planned to do a walkthrough of a single comic page, but then I thought it might also be interesting to show what it's like at the beginning of a new project and some of the communication that goes back and forth between the team.
Everything starts with Jonathan sending me a script, which after a couple of reads, I break down into layouts (and since I'll be coloring this piece, a simple color rough too.)
Layouts are really simple sketches with no concern about the quality of the drawings. They're just a communication tool for the writer and artist to make sure they're on the same page.
And it turns out on one panel we weren't.
Page 3 - Panel 4 (from Jonathan's script):
FLASHFOWARD. BIG PANEL. Probably the coolest shot of this whole thing. We see the Dad and the other scientists on the Magic Moon.
"Our ship will arrive at the outpost early tomorrow morning. Once we land, we’re supposed to spend three days in the Academy ruins. Then, a few days later, we’re on the next flight back."
Reading this description I thought all we needed was a shot of a couple astronauts looking cool, and as there were too many panels on this page to do a wide shot, I thought a square composition would be fine. But I wasn't picking up on what needed to be emphasized here.
After seeing my layouts Jonathan responded: "...This isn’t planting a flag and conquering a new world — they’ve been there for centuries. This is about the MOON, not the characters in the panel."
Ah, ok! I get it now. This needs to be about the location itself. The dialog still mentions both arriving on the moon, AND spending time at the ruins so I sketched out both to see which worked best. Maybe the base is most important... maybe the ruins are the most important...I really don't know yet. We're establishing all this stuff right here.
Turns out it's the ruins that need to be our focus. The father and the other astronauts are on an exotic alien world and it should feel at least a little dangerous. And with that quick back-and-forth, we're on the same page and ready to tell this story.
Okay, now to what I planned to do originally, walk through a page coming together and show some stages of that process.
After reading the script and doing my rough layouts, the first thing I do is blow them up to final print size and start working over top of them. Often those first sketchy compositions or gestures work great so I don't waste time trying to recreate them.
Here I’m just starting to rough out these characters. Need to find a look for dad's suit, as well as the son's room. I start thinking about the acting/expressions/gestures.
As I'm working digitally there isn't a clear distincition between the "pencilling" and "inking" phases. There are lines in panel 1 that are final and remain unchanged while other parts of the page will be roughed out and erased several more times.
Final "inks". I'm really happy with the look of the father and son, and I feel like the son's room is starting to feel alive. There's more to figure out (you can see some notes scribbled on the son's helmet), but as I'm coloring this also, I decide to finalize those elements with the colors.
First color pass. I know the aquarium behind the bed is the big statement for this room, so I want it's color to dominate the scene, but I also wanted this room to be lit by the setting sun... so I have a problem. Warm light of the sun versus the cool light of the tank versus cool glow from the book - something probably has to go.
I simplify the color scheme and remove the sunlight. Instead, I know we start and end with sunsets, maybe those cool blues and pinks could come into the room with the father and change the mood.
Final colors. I brought the stars from page 1 into panel 1 with the son, and added a window in panel 2 showing the sunset. I'm hoping these additions really make you feel like this story is happening inside the house on page 1. A bunch of details have been added: the fish, the son's drawings on the wall, his customization of his helmet, the 3W3M insignia on the book. Hopefully all these add up to a place that feels lived in with a history.
Lastly, I removed the color from Father in the final panel. I thought it made him feel more dreamlike as he started describing the mythology of these planets. It also began the process of the color being removed from the child's room as the father leaves and ultimately disappears.
Great. Now we’re all depressed.
And that's pretty much how we do it. I hope you enjoyed this quick look behind the scenes. If there are other specific questions you have about process let me know below.