Author: Erik

byte-sized_comics

Byte-Sized Comic #2

Here is the second Byte-Sized comic drawn by the awesome Pedro Mendes.

Lost Identity

6 Pages

“Logged out of her Book-Smiles Account over the weekend, Margaret attempts to over-ride the log-in system due to a forgotten password. The results were not quite as expected.”

Page 1_Lost Identity23456

Boom! Our second Byte-sized comic. Hope you enjoyed it.

Tip of the hat, to the great artwork done by Pedro Mendes. If you want to see more of his work you can check out his profile here.

If you liked the comic and want to have more of them, please subscribe to my mailing list. It is mailed out every two weeks with behind the scenes looks at some of my projects, zanny anecdotes (working on those), and other fun goodies that I know you’ll enjoy. You also get a free 22-page digital ashcan preview of Hard Wyred #1 as a thank you for signing up.

Til next time.

– Erik

attracting an audience

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Sleight of Hand

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to a behind the scenes feature for the mini comic Sleight of Hand. If you haven’t seen it, just click on the blue link in the sentence prior.

You all know how the comic looks like in it’s finished form, but today I’m going to show what it looks like from start to finish.

To begin:

Brainstorming, and planning

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my notes or some of the pre-writing work that I do. I’ll have to rectify that in my next blog post.

To give the jist of how I normally approach a comic script, it’s first with Dan Harmon’s story circle. Read that link, it changed how I approached structuring my stories. Then I break down that circle into a more detailed outline. In bigger comics, I’ll have notes like Page 1-3, this is what happens. However, in smaller comics my outlines usually go page by page instead of clumping pages together in one scene, as there can be numerous scenes happening on a single page in short comics.

 

Writing and Drafts

Next up is the actually work part (for writers that is). With short comics you usually have a shot at writing multiple drafts of the entire story rather quickly. I often times find that when going from outlining to writing, let your outline guide you, but do not let it dictate to you. It’s there as a map, not as a GPS. Some people approach it differently, and that’s perfectly fine (you gotta find what works for you). But for me, it’s a map. You can see the final script I sent over to Linn in the following link. full script here. Next you’ll be seeing how Linn took these words and transformed them into a visual story.

*Sidenote: There are two different approaches to generally write comics. The script you see through the link is what is referred to as “DC Style” of writing comics. That is where you break down each panel individually and explain what goes on in it. It’s also known as “Full Script.” The other general format of writing comics is “Marvel style“, or “Plot Script.” This is where the writer either writes what happens on the page, and the artist breaks it down into panels themselves. Or, back in Stan Lee’s heyday, he would write an outline of the story and the artist  (mostly Jack Kirby) would then take that outline and break it down into pages and panels. I’ve never tried Marvel style but it really piques my interest. If you’d like to read a modern comic who currently uses Marvel style in their writing, check out “The Wicked and Divine” by Image comics. If you get the trade paperback you can see how different their script appear in the back.

 

Thumbnailing

Once Linn received my script, she began thumbnailing. This is where the artist does very quick and mostly rough drawing of the comic page. This is where they figure out perspective, and how the panels will be looking on the page, and which panels will be the key focal points of each page. You can see some of her thumbnails below. Linn did approach this slightly differently in making her thumbnails more detailed. That’s a fine way to do it, but many artist try to go through this section as quickly as possible and will often stick to geometric shapes to represent everything.

SOH thumbnail 1 SOH_2 SOH_3 SOH_4 SOH_5

Pencils

Linn then takes her thumbnails and begins the pencilling process. This is where you will begin getting close to what the final page will be looking like. Details, facial expressions, pretty much everything you see on a comic page is created here. Pencils are the largest stage of the art production side and take the longest. This is also why pencillers are commonly paid more than participants of the following stages (inks, colours, and letters).

SOH_1_P SOH_2_P SOH_3_P SOH_4_P SOH_5_P (1)

Inks

Pencils are complete and Linn moves onto inks. Now Linn has a cleaner art style with very crisp lines and so only a small amount of black is necessary. Sleight of Hand involved minimal inking. Still, with only minimal ink you can see how well the ink defines each of her lines.

Heavier inking is typical used to help bring certain objects to attention, as well as increase contrast and emphasize lighting. Something like a film noire book (like Fatale… actually anything done by Sean Phillips is typical very ink heavy) is where you would find a more liberal use of ink. A well inked page can impart a tone that can capture what a book’s about in just a glance. If you want to see a well inked page do yourself a favour and grab the free electronic preview of Hard Wyred. Ross does a great job showing off his amazing inking skills.

SOH_1 Boxes SOH_2 SOH_3 SOH_4 SOH_5_Robots

Colours

Usually, we would have colours here. But Sleight of Hand does not have any colours as I personally like the black and white nature of comics… it’s also less expensive to not have to hire a colourist. You may also experience a term known as a “Flatter” in this stage. Now “Flatting” refers to the process of separating the different elements of the page into flat solid blocks of colour. This allows the colourist to come in later and add effects, such as lighting, shadow, special effects, etc. Some books use a flatter, and many more do not. It all comes down to how the team is assembled. Usually books coming out of the Big 2 (Marvel and DC) will be employing a flatter to help keep the production line moving. In terms of great colourists, my personal favourite is Matt Wilson who colours “The Wicked and Divine” (two mentions in on post, new record). His work is phenomenal.

 

Letters

Now the art side of the comic is done and we are onto the final stage. Letters!

This is where we would have a letterer (or letterist depending on who you’re taking to) add the dialogue bubbles, caption boxes, SFX noises, and basically the large percentage of words that grace a comic page. I will say they are often the unsung heroes of comic creation, as when there is amazing lettering, no one notices. But if there is bad lettering… you best believe someone is hearing about it. Kind of like a movie with bad sound, you notice it right away, but you would never point out that a movie sounded great now would you? In terms of what makes a good letterer… it doesn’t have anything to do with fonts, or anything like that. I mean, fonts do count, but they are not the make or break point. It’s page flow. A letterer needs to be able to place comic balloons and boxes to lead the eye around the page in the way the story is meant to be told. It can be awfully confusing if you are reading a dialogue box that is out of order, or seeing an action long after the dialogue for said action has already happened. Bad lettering takes people out of the story, and is jarring to their immersion. With good letterers (Like Rus Wooton, who letters almost everything under the sun) you will be sucked into the story, and just cruising along without a thought to how all those nice bubbles conveniently got to their locations.

I took on the lettering duties for Sleight of Hand, and it’s not uncommon for the writer of the comic (John Layman from Chew does it) to letter their own comics. Luckily, for me, Sleight of Hand was quite easy to letter, often only having 1 caption box or speech bubble per panel.

soh_1_lettered_boxes soh_2_letteredsoh_3_letteredsoh_4_letteredsoh_5_lettered_robots

The End

And that’s it. That is the comic creation process. I hope you enjoyed a dive into what went on behind the scenes of “Sleight of Hand” as well as what currently goes on behind the scenes of some of your other favourite comics. If nothing else, I hope you gained an appreciation for the amount of work and effort that people across the industry put into making these books with pictures that we love so much.

 

Until next time,

Erik

byte-sized_comics

Byte-Sized Comic #1 – Sleight of Hand

Here is the first Byte-Sized comic drawn by the amazing Linn C.K.

5 Pages

“When crushed by a food cupboard shelf, it looks like the game is up for poor Andy. Until he gets a pair of robotic limbs that change his life forever.”

soh_1_lettered_boxes

soh_2_letteredsoh_3_letteredsoh_4_letteredsoh_5_lettered_robots

And that is our first Byte-Sized comic. Hope you all enjoyed it.

Special thanks to Linn C.K for doing an awesome job with the pencils and inks. Soon as she has her DeviantArt ready, I’ll be posting it up for all of you to see.

If you liked the comic and want to have more of them, please subscribe to my mailing list. It is mailed out every two weeks with behind the scenes looks at some of my projects, zanny anecdotes (working on those), and other fun goodies that I know you’ll enjoy. You also get a free 22-page digital ashcan preview of Hard Wyred #1 as a thank you for signing up.

Til next time.

– Erik

hand-globe

Creating Worlds, One Meteor at a Time. 4 Tips to Aid Your World Building.

First blog post in a long, looong time. I was honestly having a hard time figuring out what to write about. There are so many topics related to comics, writing, creating, or just anything interesting that it can be a little intimidating to begin writing anything about…. Well anything. I’ve got a bad problem with procrastination, and it usually flares up around the fear of what would appear to be an insurmountable object or task. So this is me, gritting my teeth and getting down to do some work. For now fear has been subsided by the sheer amount of caffeine I have just ingested via the heavenly gift that is coffee. I’ll write until that wears off, so let’s get into something interesting.

World Building.

A big topic. Something that some might consider insurmountable (No fear, you stop right there. *Sips coffee).

Now I’m not a master of world building, although I’d really like to work towards becoming very good at it. In this pursuit I have seen some great questions and posts around world building on my favourite comic and writing subreddits. So I’ll add to the conversation here, and give 4 tips that I have found that revolve around world building.

 

  1. Build a world of appropriate size to your story.world-size

This seems like an obvious statement, yet it’s something I catch myself breaking on the simplest of stories.

Why?

Because world building is fun and I can get carried away. Despite all this fun, we creators have to keep the length of our story in mind. If we’re writing a short story, or short 4-10 page comic, the world building required for that story is going to be minimal. These stories are often fairly specific, so you only need the elements of a world that are going to directly affect this story. If you do happen to be writing an ongoing comic series, or epic, well then world build away. Building extra elements into a world that will feature long or epic length stories will come in handy if you happen to find yourself in a writing block pickle. While world building is mostly beneficial, it can also be detrimental (a real double edged sword), which leads us right into tip #2…

 

  1. You don’t need to know everything.world-search

Some of the very best fictional worlds ever created are still incomplete. There is large pieces of land left unexplored in Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings, because it was not required to tell the story. Same with the world of Harry Potter (although I’m still holding onto hope that it’s not completely fictional and that my Hogwarts letter was just lost in the mail), where the story almost exclusively focused on the happenings of the wizarding world in the United Kingdom. Rowling did give us bits and pieces of information and news of the wizarding world outside the United Kingdom, but she left plenty unexplored. We are just now getting what the wizarding world was like in North America via the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Leaving yourself with world left unexplored provides you with two benefits.

The first benefit is you start writing sooner. Many of us can get stuck in world building and never actually get to our story.

The second is that it leaves you room to explore other stories within that world should you so choose to do so after the summation of your first story. Or, bring in new elements into your story as they are required. This helps if you happen to have written yourself into a corner and need a helping hand to get that story back on track.

 

  1. Check your rational mind at the door.knockknock

While providing reasons for why a world might operate this way, an open mind at a world’s creation is more useful. You can cut and trim elements that don’t work later on, but when initially creating your world, bring everything to the table.

I find writing down all ideas while brainstorming to be really beneficial. As even the ridiculous of ideas can eventually lead to some amazing world elements.

If you decide on a world element, try flipping it on it’s head to unearth something you might not have thought of before. It may completely change the way your story works, but sometimes that’s for the better.

 

  1. It’s okay to use familiar concepts or other people’s creations in your work. Just make it worthwhile.idea-lightbulb

Creating is one of the few spots where it’s kinda okay to steal. But stealing is only really allowed if you do something a little different with it. There is so many amazing fictional worlds already created that taking concepts from them is almost unavoidable in some circumstances. If you find yourself “borrowing concepts”, take it to the brainstorm sheet to try to find a way to add something fresh to it. Sometimes you just can’t, it happens. Other times you’re going to be making a world that is bringing something new to a medium that has already seen a few renditions of a particular concept. It’ll help your world stand out in a way.

Speaking of standing out, let’s talk familiar concepts that readers and consumers are already aware of. These familiar concepts (light speed travel, black holes, warp drives,etc. As you can tell I usually write sci-fi) allow a bridging point to a brand new concept your world may be introducing. One of my favourites, in terms of space travel, comes from the Expanse book series. They have the typical space travel that allows them to travel large distances quite quickly (no light speed travel yet), but they tweaked it by taking a more realistic approach and taking into account the effect of gravity while traveling. The faster their spaceship travels, the more gravitational force is being exerted on the crew, sometimes risking their own health to quickly get to a location. It’s one of the only sci-fi books that I’ve read that has done this concept, and it is something that I find separates the series from the others I’ve read. A simple concept, yet extremely effective in establishing how their world works.

So that’s it. My 4 tips for world building. They are fairly general, but I do find myself referring to them time and time again when creating stories.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the read.

Until next time.

– Erik

 

If you like what I’ve written here, feel free to subscribe and get a free 22-page digital ashcan preview of Hard Wyred. Plenty of world building happening there.