DC Comics Spotlights Artists’ Creative Processes on ‘The Source’ Blog [Art]
While you can always count on ComicsAlliance to highlight the work of some of the best and hardest working artists in the comics industry, we rarely have access to their in-progress material or get a chance to discuss the creative process in-depth. Luckily for us, DC Comics' The Source blog picked up the slack last week with a series of "Artist Spotlight" posts that are as fascinating as they are pretty. ChrisCross & Marc Deering, Nicola Soctt & Doug Hazelwood, Moritat, Doug Mahnke, Brett Booth, Bernard Chang, Art Baltazar & Franco and Jock are among the artists whose work is dissected. We've curated a few of our favorite pieces and remarks below.Supergirl artist Bernard Chang was among the most generous in revealing his creative process, which he summed up thusly: "I'm all about 'story'. Choosing the right images and compiling them in layout and sequences that create the most impact. Everything should be in service of that concept."
I break down my creative process into two stages - the layouts and the drawing. All of this encompasses approximately one day's workload. The layout stage is where most of my brainpower is used. From the script, I need to decide what images best tell the story, what panel construction to organize them in, the tempo and pacing of panels, and other important details like research and design...
...The script called for eleven panels, starting with a closeup on Supergirl as she's waking up from being knocked out at the close of issue #62, finding the three Harvard friends, Justin, David and Elise. We recap her previous fight with a brainwashed Miss Martian and our new villain, Alex, and then she takes off to go rescue Robin and Blue Beetle.
My first thoughts were to take advantage of the double-paged spread and designate the two action flashback panels (five and seven) as the "money shots". I then figured the two should be about the same size since they held about the same weight, one reintroducing her allies in the story, and the other their capture and the villain(s) intro, so that helped form four tiers. The top tier, panels one through four, focused primarily on her waking up and coming to, the middle two tiers on the flashbacks, and the bottom tier, panels eight through eleven, on her flying off and the three students talking amongst themselves...
...Then I felt we needed to drag out her waking up moment out a little bit longer, The second part is the actual line drawing. This is mostly technical, and not a lot of design or research work is going on here because everything should have been solved in the previous stage.
Much more from Bernand Chang at this link.
The Teen Titans art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood have worked together for several years now, and you can see that clockwork precision in their art.
For me, usually on the second read through, I start doing thumbnails, for each page, in the margins of the script. It's at this stage that all the tricky stuff needs to be ironed out. Blocking the scene so that characters aren't randomly jumping around from panel to panel. I think it's important that it's clear to the reader who everyone is and where they are. If it changes it's because they've made a move. It keeps the storytelling clear.
I then go straight to the finished art boards and do a really loose composition breakdown in blue pencil. Then I flip the page and on goes my magic lightbox!
I do all my real rough work on the reverse side of the page. Getting my anatomy and faces right is really important and I don't want to damage the surface of the right side with regular erasering. Next step is flipping it back to the right side and doing the final pencils. Even though this stage takes the longest, it's the most straight forward because I've already done all the grunt work. What I'm left with is generally pretty tight, clean pencils all ready for Doug to ink.
More from Scott and Hazelwood at this link.
Veteran penciller ChrisCross, whose most recent work with inker Marc Deering is Superman/Batman #83, takes a more holistic approach...
I call up the writer and talk with them. And most time's not even about the script. Just to hear them. Get their views, their humor, their lifestyle. SO I can mimic them. Get in their minds. Their heads. I spend an inordinate amount of time collecting tons of reference. Either from the editors themselves or the writers, but mostly from books I have or the web. Or taking pics from outdoors. Take a trip. Take a pic. By either my phone camera or an actual factual, 'hood way of saying, 'the real deal.'
...before getting super-technical.
I blue-line and then I pencil. After each page, I scan at 400 dpi and import into Photoshop. I clean up the page to the best of my ability (I can be messy on a page) and switch it to grayscale. Then to duotone, which gives me many options as to which type of blue I'm going to turn the gray and black lines. Once converted to blue-line, I switch to RGB mode, which now allows me to "stroke" borders in black on top of the blue in layers. I don't ink borders anymore and neither do the inkers I work with. They thank me heavily.
Much more from ChrisCross and Deering at this link.
Detective Comics artist Jock demonstrated how an artist's interpretation of a script can enhance the writer's vision. Scott Snyder's script for Detective Comics #876 included this page description:
JOCK, I'd like this to be a page where you show off! The idea is that the first panel is an aerial view of Gotham, with BATMAN dropping towards the roofs. We are directly above BATMAN, as though we're falling right behind him. The next panel, BATMAN (and WE) have dropped closer to the city, the next closer... And in each panel, you can pose BATMAN differently, highlighting DICK'S acrobatic style with the PARACAPE. In the final panel – and feel free to do 3, 5, 7, anything you want]. We should see a penthouse patio beneath him. Like he's been dropping towards it the whole time. This is the patio/balcony of SONIA ZUCCO'S penthouse apartment. The place should be sleek, modern, with a rooftop pool, steaming in the cold, a table, a bar, tasteful, sharp ... Something along these lines?
Jock took the essence of Snyder's idea and made it work as a splash page. The results speak for themselves:
Justice League of America editor Eddie Berganza posted a double-page spread by series artist Brett Booth to display the artist's skill with facial expressions.
For instance, on page 3 of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #56, the last panel is a close-up of Batman's face as he feels like he let Supergirl down. It is no easy feat to zoom in on the sorrow and disappointment in a face covered by a mask, yet Brett's illustration showcases Batman's devastation and vulnerability without question. From the tilted head to the cracked frown, Batman is undoubtedly in pain. And furthermore, his art supporting the Rise of Eclipso proved that not only can Brett give attention to subtle detail, but that he knows how to tackle events and characters of epic proportions.
The Spirit artist Moritat's remarks reveal basically nothing about his incredibly beautiful art but much about his wicked sense of humor.
I print out the script. I place each page around me and meditate on the meaning. I boil down certain words that come to me in my subconscious. When I feel ready, I ride my motorcycle very fast at night until it finally clicks in a cohesive artistic pattern that I am comfortable with. Sometimes I can't find the meaning. I confer with Joey Cavalieri and Dave Hine until I get maybe 90%. It's not a perfect process but I'm getting it to where it works.
I love the noir genre. It is the field I fancy. The characters are flawed. They carry around some kind of hidden shame. There is something wrong with these people. The environment is barely hanging on. A few steps away from post-apocalyptic hell. The color has been washed away or moved to the suburbs. Gabe Bautista, the colorist on THE SPIRIT, would call me some nights and complain that working on noir was too depressing for him and that he had to quit (he lives in the suburbs). I would spend hours lying to him that it was going to get better.