Thursday, February 23, 2012

Final digital paint of the Starfire re-design.

Starfire was one of those characters that was not mainstream for me. George Pérez really did a nice job of designing this character in the 80's, but I just wasn’t into flying women with flaming hair. I liked Conan the Barbarian, Batman, Spiderman, X-Men ... So, this character was a challenge for me. Even though she is an alien with a human form, I decided to give her a little more of a human touch. She was originally very muscular, and chiseled. I like the idea of making her more feminine. I also thought that her flaming hair doesn’t need to be on jet power all the time. It's still hot, like an idling engine dropping molten sparks to the floor.


Final ink of the Starfire re-design.

The way to break up the monotony of drawing a 300 page graphic novel is to draw something totally different. That is the case here. I occasionally need to take a break from the dark brooding Noir and hammer out something on the lighter side. It keeps me balanced. This is an entry for a re-design contest over at Super Hero Of The Month. I've had my fun, now it's back to work!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Part 1 is here if you missed it.


Step 2, write it down:

Moving on, now that you’ve narrowed it down to one idea you need to write the story. I am going to approach this the traditional way. Any basic story has three parts the beginning, middle, and end, or three acts as they call it. Sometimes the end is told first through a flashback or some other instrument to give you a glimpse at what is to come, or it could be told in a 1,2,3 manner. If you are new to this, then write the way you would speak to a friend, and keep sketching your characters.

 
Prisoner of the Mind Character Sketches

Now keep in mind this is my opinion because my background is film scripts and that is how I write. I started writing screenplays almost 20 years ago, so this process and style is ingrained in me. There are actually many great websites which have templates and examples of comic book scripts which are an industry standard for the likes of DC and Marvel.


 
When creating a graphic novel you wear many hats. As the writer, you should always carry something to take down random notes for your story. I keep my sketchbook handy for just that reason. As the artist, you should always have a sketchbook or IPad handy.

I choose to write in a screenplay format for my graphic novel because I am also the artist and the only one that has to interpret my words. With my finished story, I have a good idea of how the scene should play out through storyboards. If you have a busy schedule or live in an environment that is not conducive to writing, then you have to make time for it. Go to a park, or the Library to get away from the hustle and bustle. If you are trying to model your story after the professional comic book writers of today, here are some resources to help you.

Comic book scripts to read for reference.

  1. http://www.comicbookscriptarchive.com/
  2. http://homepage.mac.com/dmcduffie/site/Scripts.html
  3. http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=10319
Film scripts to read for reference and the How To’s of writing.

Hollywood screenplays to read for reference: http://www.script-o-rama.com/table.shtml
Screenplay writing 101: http://www.screenwriting.info/
Formatting your screenplay: http://www.simplyscripts.com/WR_format.html

Don’t get caught up in the formatting yet, it will only delay your writing. There are many ways to tell a story, and you should write it the way you feel most comfortable.

Prisoner of the Mind Screenplay

American Author and Cartoonist James Thurber http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Thurber said, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” You have to put it all in writing first, then you can always go back, edit and enhance. If you don't write it, you’ll have nothing to edit or enhance.


Here are some more tools to help you get your story written. Start with a character description. The thing that makes most stories believable even if the setting is on another planet, are people. We all connect with people and personalities, this is important! If you do this before you start drawing everything will go much faster. This is an extensive list so only use what you need.

Character Description Template

Physical Description:

Gender:
Species:
Sexuality:
Age:
Birth date:
Astrological Sign:
Height:
Weight:
Hair color:
Eyes:
Body type:

Physical Condition:

Scars, marks, and tattoos, handicap:
Clothing:
Possessions, jewelry, etc:
Personality type:
Likes:
Dislikes:
Goals:
Fears:
Manner of speaking (accent, speech impediment, etc...):

Physiological condition:

Positive characteristics:
Negative characteristics:
Quirks

Background Information

Family and History background:
Home:.
Birthplace:
Occupation:

Click here for Part 3 ... Write it better.





Sunday, February 12, 2012

Step 1, the idea:


I started this blog many years ago to document my experimental path to making a graphic novel. I have deviated on occasion from the real purpose here, but lately I've been getting back to the mechanics and art of visual storytelling.

This is a multi-part series on how to make a graphic novel based on my own experience. There is always more than one way to do things so keep in mind that if you’ve done it a different way and you’re reading this now, congratulations! Keep going in the direction you're going and we will both get there together. There is no wrong way of doing things, only a different way.

Sometimes I outgrow my tiny studio and overflow into the dining room.

The professional comic book industry does things a certain way which I will mostly adhere to. However, there are several things that I do differently to achieve the same or similar results. In the end, my book is as professional as anything on the market is today.

Prisoner of the Mind prototype. I have gone through over 100 revisions and counting. It takes a while to get it right. We'll get into more on that later.

The difference is, that I employ time-saving devices to streamline my process. Remember it is only you, not a company full of writers, pencilers, inkers, letterers, graphic designers, and editors. You can see that you will wear many hats in the graphic novel making process.

I like to see things visually, so wall placement is part of my process of elimination.

Throughout this series, I will give you many links and resources to help you. I suggest you read my entire post first, then go back and click on the links for more information. If you click on the links as you go, you might get lost on the way to the light at the end of the tunnel because the tunnel is long.

Ok let's get to work, so, you want to make a graphic novel or comic book. You are creative, artistic and a decent storyteller. That’s good, you’ll need all of your skills to pull it off. First of all, don’t think about anything format related yet, like the number of pages, size of the book or any of that. We will have plenty of time to get into the technical details later. The first and most important step is a good story idea.




 Some of my early character sketches for Prisoner of the Mind


If you have a good imagination, you probably already have several ideas bouncing around in your head. Before you proceed, you need to figure out which one is the strongest. I will approach this in two parts.
  1. You have too many ideas and don’t know which one to develop.
  2. You have no idea what to write.
I have a solution to both problems, let’s tackle number one first.

You have too many ideas. Let’s say you have five different ideas. Take all of the ones you have and compare them to what’s been done already.

Some of my best ideas come from my sketch book. If I really need some inspiration I go back through my sketchbook and pluck out one character then develop it further until I have something interesting.

Example; If you have a story about an average character that develops some type of superpower, check out what’s gone before. Chances are you’re not reinventing the wheel here. Spiderman, Daredevil, Hulk You will most likely find it hard to beat those stories without copying them in some way. 

If it’s already been done, cross it off your list. Unless, it really, really, really stands out in some unique way that perceptive comic readers will say hmm. Ok, now after you are down to say three final ideas figure out which one makes the most sense and which is the strongest. Here is what I do to figure this out.

Creating the best idea: Come up with a working title for only three ideas and then write one or two sentences to describe what the story is about.

These are mine:
  1. Prisoner of the mind is a neo-noir thriller set in the near future of New York, the Unforgiving City. An agent accidentally uncovers a seventy-year-old secret, which opens a door that cannot be closed.

  1. Vault of Heaven: The vault of heaven opens once every millennium. A burning star falls to the earth and new life is born.

  1. Ghost Circus: Do you believe in magic, the Cyclops, werewolves, or the supernatural? If you came face to face with your disbelief, would you die of fear? Throughout history, the ringmaster has taken his circus of freaks to one lucky town somewhere in the world. Children watch and believe and when they grow up, it’s not too late. Is it too late for you?


Here is some additional info on writing a story synopsis:

Now that you have three ideas, think about what your main character will look like. Start sketching. Many times, you’ll make two or three sketches right off the bat, and know that this story isn’t your strongest. Great! Save that one for later. Focus on the one that rises to the top of your list. It is all about process of elimination. Once you have it down to one story, then you need to write.

Here is a stack of P.O.M. scripts that I have collected for each revision over the years. Eventually, they will probably be recycled.

In my case, I chose Prisoner of the Mind because I already wrote the first treatment many, many years ago and I always wanted to draw a spy noir thriller so I had a jumping off point. Second, there are too many crappy stories about aliens and ghosts floating around out there anyway. You can only choose one because you are going to be working on it for a long time. Keep the other stories in a file somewhere and when you finish your first one, revisit the others down the road. Write them in a word document, don’t write them directly into your blog. Why, because the web is notoriously unstable and you would hate to lose everything because a server went down somewhere and wasn’t backed up. I also print out all of my stories just in case that happens.

Back to problem number two. You have no idea what to write your story about, ok, start by breaking it down.

The Ancients was a story about discovering an old civilization that I started to develop in the 90's.

Is it a story about superheroes, on the other hand, non-superheroes? Is it set in the past, present or future? What era do you want to re-imagine? WWII, Neanderthal, a distant alien planet orbiting a double star? Remember, it’s all about the process of elimination.

Once you have an era or an idea, expand on it. With my stories, I like to include historical facts that are somewhat re-imagined for today. Think Forest Gump or Captain America, both stories had some historical foundation that really grounded the viewer/reader in facts, and then twisted them into fiction.

I am personally a huge fan of Science Fiction, so all of my stories tend to have a bit of that in them. If you’re still hurting for ideas try reading these, and play a little game called.

WHAT IF?

Be creative, what if this didn’t happen, or what if someone else got there first, or what if history got it wrong?
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_technology
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_physics
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_inventions_(before_1890)
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacefaring
From this list, you should be able to generate some cool ideas.

Still don’t have any solid ideas? Try this: Writing techniques using the snowflake method: 

Once you have one idea write it down and keep going until you have three. Go back to step one above. You want to start with three ideas then pluck out the strongest to develop your story.

Click here for Part 2 ... Write it down.