BEHIND THE SCENES In our original website we had a behind the scenes section for Patreon Backers. That is coming back eventually but for now I thought people might enjoy a look at what it takes to make a comic page. Page 10 is particularly interesting because it's a classic example of one of the liabilities in writing comics. You can have this amazing scene in your mind and it plays out perfectly (as you see it) however when it comes time for the artist to actually draw it you are informed that you're completely crazy and it can't be done. If you were writing for a major company with a strict page count you'd have to go back for rewrites (and sadly cut critical content) but with indie books it's great because you can just decide to keep it in anyway. In this case we decided to just split it into two pages so Chapter 2 is coming in at 23 pages instead of 22. CHAPTER 2 PAGE 10 Below is a photograph of the rough pencils for page 10. After reviewing the script, Eric does a rough sketch of what he has in mind for the page. The idea is to be very spartan with the drawing because I occasionally have to give him notes and corrections (and it sucks to have to redo a finished drawing that isn't going to work). Usually it will look a little more rough than this but this is what he redrew after an aborted attempt at Page 10 that split it into two different pages.
Here is the finished line work for Page 10. You'll see that the lines are all tightened up and everything looks clean. It may not be clear from this scanned image but this is the inked page. After tightening up some things with roughs you see above, Eric goes over everything with ink pens and erases all of the pencil lines. Any remnants of the pencils are covered up by the flat colors.
Here we have the flat colors and the last stage of the process that Eric has any direct involvement in. As you can see, the colors aren't particularly dynamic as it is just the base colors (called the Flats) with few, if any, details. This is the stage where it is easiest to make any corrections or changes that need to be made since the colors are pretty consistent and easy to paint over. Depending on what needs to be done I will either give the directions to the final colorist (see below) or handle it in house myself (or send it to Alex, our Art Director, if it requires something really tricky). Unless the problem is something really bad (and shame on me for not catching it before the page was inked) we want to avoid sending it back to Eric if at all possible. It is important to keep him moving on the next page of the story and sending this back to the artist to fix something risks getting us behind schedule.
This is the page that I usually label as "Adjusted." At this point the Flats have been sent to our finish colorist (Sweat; and yes, that's her real name) where she added in the highlights, details and effects of lighting. She may also be asked to fix a few coloring errors as well (such as the shadows in the cabinets in the final three panels). Because we decided to go with Black panel borders and gutters to set the tone of the series (most of it takes place at night and we felt that white gutters made it feel too bright), I have a form that I overlay on top of the page to make sure that everything measures out correctly. Since the bottom of every page features a bit of world lore it is important to make sure that there's enough room. I also end up adjusting the page a little as well to make sure that all the lines are at perfect right angles. Frequently the artist is responsible for drawing in the gutter space between panels however in this series I do that separately in Illustrator as we have a specific look we're going for.
And here we have the final version of the page. You'll see that the gutters have all been added in with the signature white outline, all of the word balloons & SFX are in place and the lore has been inserted along the bottom. At this stage all of the work is done in Adobe Illustrator. I have developed a number of systems to speed up the process or just to eliminate unnecessary steps. Whenever I construct a component that I know I'll use later (such as the cybercomm text boxes) I save it to a document I call Important Pieces. All of the commonly used element are available instantly, including a premade pattern that I can place over the page which has all of the layers for the panel borders already in place. All I have to do at that point is to add in the gutters that cover the art itself and differentiate the panels. This whole process is also handy because it ensures that everything is precisely measured for the final print version of the book.
As a final note on the production of the series I wanted to take a look at the robots we feature in this issue (actually they will be only the first of a few different designs we'll see by the end the Chapter). Due to a miscommunication the robot was initially designed around an Asian style. As cool as this looks it really doesn't fit with the style of the series. As much effort as Japan has made to get those of us in the US to fall in love with the culture (and thus create a market for their exports), in reality anime tropes aren't always very practical. Murdering a prospective thief comes with all kinds of legal complications as well as the fact that you can't prosecute a corpse or (potentially) find out who hired him. Even though this story is a work of fiction (and is part action movie) I did want to make an effort to give it all a level of plausibility. I don't like for my stories to depend on a total suspension of disbelief for the story to work; there needs to be something that echoes the world in which we live so that it is more relatable to the reader. The second image you'll see below is much closer to what I wanted and very much in keeping with the technological style of the series. We might have spent more time in the design stage but due to the need to keep on schedule it was necessary to quickly arrive at a design. The robot we ended up using isn't what I envisioned when I wrote the story but it is really cool looking, very dangerous and would be an effective security robot (which is of course the bottom line). Comics are similar to film in that it is a collaborative effort. As a writer you come up with an idea and do your best to communicate it to the artist but in the end you do have to ultimately settle on something even if it isn't quite right. Sometimes you get exactly what you wanted and sometimes you find that the artist saw something in the script that you didn't (pretty often what he comes up with is even better than what you envisioned). You have to meet in the middle and focus on the details that really matter; those that tell the story in the best possible way. Small details, like the design of a robot that you may never see again, don't really matter at the end of the day. What matters is whether or not it serves the overall goal of moving the story forward and whether or not it fits into the mythology you are creating. In this case the first one didn't but the second design accomplished this marvelously.