Friday, March 23, 2012

Building the Page - Guest Starring Edward Whatley!


I have been sadly, uncontrollably, addicted to the Avengers Alliance game available through Facebook. I seriously cannot stop playing it. I take back all of the rude and disparaging things I have said about my Facebook friends and their Farmville nonsense. (Although after all these years bugging me about your stupid pumpkin patches, you guys do sort of owe me. C’mon! Join my SHIELD flight crew. We’re saving the world here!) 

The other day Jenny was tidying up the kitchen while I was sitting at the kitchen table, helping Iron Man and She-Hulk save New York from the forces of Hydra. I was having a grand old time, but then realized that Jenny was standing there staring at me.  

Jenny: “You haven’t heard a word I have been saying, have you?”
Me: “Uhm… No. I’m sorry. I was busy Assembling!”
Jenny (shaking her head and sighing): “Nobody ever listens to Jarvis.”


 Gray Haven Comics’ “Silver Age” volume of The Gathering will be coming out next month. As a special treat, and a tease for my story “Timesheet”, I got permission from the editors at Gray Haven to hijack their “Building the Page” column. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the fabulously talented artist for “Timesheet”, Mr. Edward Whatley!


Hello, denizens of Comic Book Land! Edward Whatley here. Grayhaven Art Director John Coker recently offered me the chance to illustrate a story for the Silver Age issue of Grayhaven's The Gathering anthology. He was also kind enough to offer me the chance to contribute to their Building the Page column. I of course jumped at both offers, and here we are.

The script I received was written by Travis M. Holyfield. It is intended as a tribute to/parody of the Adam West Batman show. It revolves around a poor hapless guy named Roy Murphy who applies at a temp agency and finds himself hired out as a henchman to various villains. I watched the Batman show devotedly as a kid, so the script had a built in appeal for me.  

My first step was to of course read the script, several times actually, to make sure I understood everything that was going on and to find out what image references I would need to gather.

 The script was VERY well written. Travis spelled out everything he wanted in each panel and didn't ask for more than a single panel could accommodate. But he did present some challenges in that even though the story is only four pages long, it takes place across many different settings and features not only our protagonist Roy, but also two heroes, five villains, and assorted other henchmen. So I had to gather lots of reference material and do lots of character designs before I got started on actual pages. The villains I decided to design as I went, but I figured I should at least know what Roy and the heroes (Dober-Man and Beagle) will look like since they appear throughout the story. So I came up with the designs below to which I referred while drawing the pages.


I then scribbled out small thumbnail sketches for all four pages. This is actually where most of my decisions get made in terms of storytelling and composition. I also work out the placement of dialogue and narration. After reading the script, it was obvious that the humor was coming from the repetition of the same events over the span of a week. Roy got hired out to a different villain every day, but every day came to the same violent conclusion for him. Since the plot was based on repetition, I figured the layouts should support that concept because the art's primary purpose is to support and convey the story. Each page had 4 panels, so I was therefore able to lay out each page in the same manner, with four long horizontal panels.

 Another example of decisions that get made at this early stage is in panel 3. The script simply called for the heroes to be pummeling the villains, but I got the idea to have Beagle throwing a bone at our villain in lieu of a batarang. This wasn't specifically called for in the script, but I figured it supported Travis' intent to satirize Batman and Robin.


From there I drew rough pencils on 11x17 printer paper. These will be the basis for the final artwork, but as you can see I don't concern myself with neatness.


Then the roughs go onto a lightbox. I take a clean sheet of Bristol board and place it over the roughs. I then trace off the rough pencils onto the Bristol board, cleaning it up and refining the drawing as I go. I also dug out a book of Hieroglyphs and added them to the doorway to reinforce the setting.  I drew the tight pencils onto the board using non-photo blue pencils which don't show up in normal scanning. I was able to capture the blue lines for this page in the image below by playing around with the brightness and contrast while scanning, but normally they don't scan (which is the point of using non-photo pencils). Since the blue lines don't scan, they don't have to be erased for scanning after the pages have been inked.

After the pencils are done, it's time for (ugh) inking! Ideally, I would have used a brush and nib for a classic brushy Silver Age look, but I'm excruciatingly slow with those tools. So I decided to use microns and artist pens and just try to replicate the look of classic brush and pen lines.

 John had suggested I include some zipatone in order to create a classic Silver Age look. That sounded like a good idea to me, so after scanning the inked pages I added some gray to the background in panel 2. I then used a Photoshop filter to convert the gray to black dots, thus duplicating the look of old fashioned zipatone.


Inching closer to the finish line, we come to the coloring. I use the layer approach when coloring in Photoshop. I create a separate layer for the linework and add color to layers beneath the inks. I also typed the flower names on the shirts in panel 4 and used Photoshop's warping tools to make them look as if they were actually printed on the henchmen's shirts.


Finally (whew! It's almost a completed page!) I import the page into Adobe Illustrator and do the lettering. I used an original font I made using Illustrator and a fairly inexpensive program called FontCreator. Dialogue balloons and captions are done with the shape tools. This is also the point at which I threw in file photos of the villains for each scene. I figured that would help establish a rhythm to the story: a new photo indicating a new scene.

And voila! It's an actual comic book page! There's nothing left to do now except close down Photoshop and Illustrator and then (literally) go back to the drawing board and start the roughs for the next page so the process of funny book creation can begin anew.

Thanks for reading.


 My sincere thanks to Edward, who took my silly script about super-villain temps and made it look like a real comic book. And thanks to John and Andrew at Grayhaven for letting me share this column with you! 

Edward is hard at work drawing a full-length Dober-Man and Beagle one-shot. Watch this space for more details as they develop.  

And remember to pick up The Gathering volume 11, “TheSilver Age” this April!


Hugs and kisses,


1 comment:

  1. Hi Travis, this is a great 'behind the scenes' post. I kind of envy you, if I'd known the Silver Age would be our first full color issue I'd have submitted a story or volunteered to do some art.

    I'll be posting some of my pages for Glenn Matchet's story in my blog. To keep up with the updates you should be following my blog.