February 16, 2011

Monster Blueprints

Thumbnails, storyboards, pre-viz (pre-visualization)... the art of translating the script into a quick and inexpensive vehicle to depict the written word.

While I was writing this script, I would do page breakdowns to determine the amount of info I wanted to have per page.  This script was a little special in that it has these self-contained scenes that I wanted to fit per page.  I knew going into this project that the finished comic pages were going to be of a 3x3 layout... up to a maximum of 9 panels per page.  I also have limited myself to one splash page per issue... which would be the first page of each.

Using non-photo blue pencil, I draw out tight thumbnails... full anatomy, backgrounds, gestures... that are about 1/4 scale of the final comic page.  Some scenes are visualized in 3DS... mostly when it involves structural logistics.  All the word ballons are added for spacing/composition and dialog padding.  I'm using the Joe Kubert font from Comic Book Fonts and I make my own ballons using the Photoshop ellipse and pen tools.

Here are the first 6 thumbnailed pages to the first issue.  Click each to view a larger image.

February 08, 2011

Sets with Monsters: Fright Finders Studio and Set

Architecture is one thing, set design seems like an even more complicated craft.  It's not a permanent structure, it's an illusion, made to look like simulated materials.  In movies and on the stage, sets need to be flexible... mobile.  Thought needs to go into lighting and camera location and access.  How much of the set can be repurposed?  Is it safe?  It's fascinating to understand it all.

When I was in high school, I wanted to study the art of an architect.  All they could offer was mechanical drafting.  There was no such thing as AutoCad or 3-D modeling software so it was t-squares and rulers for me... old school.  It was archaic and criminal.  I learned what I could and exhausted their offerings.  I yearned for more so I moved on to painting.  You know, portraits, landscapes, and still lifes... not house painting.  It would be a few more years til I get a chance to revisit my architectural interests.

My foray into comic book drawing pitted me with crafting logistical backgrounds.  I like to explore different perspectives and I knew that static backgrounds weren't going to cut it.  Initially, I used graph paper, then simple constructed structures made of paper and cardboard.  Thank goodness that in the digital age I was able to educate myself with virtual environment fabrication.   Today, I use 3D Studio Max for most projects.  I model the majority of objects myself unless it's going to take too much time or it's beyond my skill set.  In that case, I'll search it out and buy it.

Once I have the models built, I then determine the camera locations required for the script.  I'll use image outputs to be used as guides in drawing the panel/pages.  For me, this process works because; 1) I can pan the camera around in search for that sweet spot with out having to redraw the panel several some odd times.  2) Lighting and shadow placement.  3) Sets are reusable.

Now on to the relavent content.  The television studio and Fright Finders set.

Studio Floor Plan

Fright Finders Set

Set Backdrop

Studio From Stairs

Studio From Loading Dock

February 07, 2011

Investigations and Impressions with Monsters

This was going to be a daunting project with putting words to the ideas in my head.   I had years of grooming... years of influence.  Write what you know is what they say.  I grew up, in my opinion, durring a fantastic time for Television and Movies.  The 80s.  TV made use of inexpensive tricks and limited budgets while Hollywood exposed us to amazing special effects... especially with practical effects and latex appliances.  Ratings seemed less restrictive.  Political correctness had yet to be ushered in.  The world had a bigger problem to worry about... Global Nuclear War.

It's safe to say that that made a huge impact on my outlook and my place in the Universe.  Grim and bleak.  Apocalyptic.  Hopeless.  It seemed I was dead before I ever got to live.  I would become forever a pessimist.  To escape, I would buckle myself into anything that would whisk me away from this plane of existence.  This was the inception to losing a foot-hold on reality and drift head-first into the clouds.  I did a swan dive inward splashing into my imagination.  Don't get me wrong... I didn't become unhinged or have any real mental issues.  This was considered healthy.  An active imagination.  My surrogate parents (TV and Film) didn't seem to mind at all.  In fact, they encouraged me.  They showed me things... things that could never be unseen.

Actually, lot of things shaped me, but it's more important to know what shaped this comic.  Here, in no particular order, is a list of those things...
That's how this story of mine gets inspiration.  Researching the different story elements took a bit more leg work.  It included fact checking for dialog.  I have a character that uses a lot of popular culture references as part of her vocabulary.  I also had to research the 'science' needed to define the boundaries of the monsters. The toughest research item, I have to admit, was the television studio... a set piece that was going to be featured throughout the series.  It needed to be completely realized.  I didn't have access to one or could stroll up to my neighborhood TV studio to take pictures.  I had to do a lot of Googling to piece together a seemingly operational television studio and set.  In the next post, I'll go over the end result in more detail.

February 03, 2011

Monster Maiden

Comic books are made differently from person to person.  Some just put pen to paper without thinking of what's coming next.  I, on the other-hand, am the complete opposite.  Every element needs to be thoroughly thought through.  For this project, I had the initial volume plotted and wanted the first three of six issues scripted before I even began to draw the pages.  I also needed to have thumbnails of every page including all the necessary text that was going to be on them.  To say I dawdled through the pre production would be an understatement.  There was a lot that needed to be done!  Character designs.  Set designs.  Creature designs.  Icons and Logos.  Inking and coloring tests.  This is world building folks!

The beginning began with an idea.  It also began with a co-creator.  However, creative differences sheared that partnership.  Maybe it was for the best that that happened early on and maybe not.  I do enjoy a sounding board and often think my writing duties wouldn't have been so cumbersome had there been a second talent in the mix.

That initial idea... a TV's Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk type of 'on the road' journey that frequently ran into monsters.  Honestly, it sounded too much like Supernatural.  I knew I wanted it to be about monsters.  Transforming monsters.  People who become monsters.  So I reworked some things and mined some other concepts and came out with a golden nugget.  Unfortunately, I can't reveal that nugget just yet.  It's a very revealing concept... a twist, so to speak.

What I can tell you about the story is this...
"Fright Finders is a very popular television series that showcases interviews and reenactments of monster encounters.  The program features cryptozoological investigators Bob Bakersfield and Jack Johnson.  As their 5th season comes to an end, a best-of round-up episode is aired.  During the airing and behind the scene, Bob and Jack have found a legitimate source that, through coercion, can validate their career and expose a vile secret that continues to terrorize the country."
Once I had the concept and plot figured out, I needed to establish many rules and define how aspects of the world I was developing worked.  Is there Magic?  How do transformations get triggered?  How do you kill the monsters?  What's the scope of the threat?  What's the end game?  What's the worse case scenario?  Who knows what?  What's the time and place?  How do I tie in future volumes?  Is this a compelling story that people would want to read?  I was able to answer them all but one... the last one.

Finally, this endeavor needed a title.  A title that was catchy, looked good, sound intriguing, and encapsulated the entire complex story that I wanted to tell.  Initially, it began as Scion of the Macabre.  Then, Legacy of the Macabre.  Both were scrapped when my co-creator left the fold.  Son of the Macabre came next, but I couldn't use that once I shifted the stories point of view.  There was no longer a "Son" in the first volume and Macabre as part of the title could lead to difficulty in mispronunciation and branding.  Then, Monster Apparatus was good for a while, until I ultimately settled on Monster Made.