Está en la página 1de 180

WOIRKING

METHOIDS

WORKING
BY JOHN

METHODS
LOWE

Comic Creators Detail Their Storytelling and Artistic Processes

TrVOrkingMethods: Comic Creators Detail Their Storytelling and Artistic Processes byJohnLowe
Book Design by Scott N ewman

Edited by Annabelle Carr Artwork photographed by Ben Dashwood Early edits by Tia Lam, Scott Newman, and John Lowe
Transcription services by Steven Tice Irving Proofreading by Christopher

Published by Twofv1orrows Publishing

10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27614


www.twomorrows.com • twomorrowsraoj.com

First Printing • May 2007 • Printed _in Canada Softcover ISBN: 978-1-89390S-73-3

Trade-marks & Copyrights


Entire contents are ©2007 John Lowe and TwoMorrows Publishing. All rights reserved .

.iVI scripts and art are ©'2007 the respective authors and. artists.
Special thanks to the Savannah College of Art and! Design, especially coUege President PallllaWallace,

for granting the Presidential Fellowship that provided the funds to complete this book
Special thanks also to George Collazo, John McKinnon and Charlie Ribbens for-providing college resources. Further thanks to Professor Mark Kneece and ScottHampton for providing the scripts used In this book.

WORKlING h/fETHODS

CONTENTS

06 07

Acknowledgements Introductio-n

09P'addy
SCOTT HAMPTON
TIM LEVINS

12

30

47

Fight Night
JIMlvIAHFOOD
PAT QUINN SEAN .j_V~URPHY

50 66 82

99

Time Troubling
MARK SCHUL,TZ
CHRIS BRUNNER

I02 I26
150

KELSEY SHANNON

,_.

WORKlING h/fETHODS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This book would have not been possible without the help of rnany people who virtually volunteered their talents and services. Professors lvlark Kneece and! Scott Hampton were kind enough to create scripts for this proj ect before I even had
3L

a few weeks she could make it more professional. After she returned it to me with her initial edits, I felt like the miller's daughter when she discovers that she really can spin straw into gold (and I didln't even have to give Annabelle my first-born child) ..With the combined help of Scott and Annabelle, Working Methods has evolved into a unique and professional book. I sound like I've just won an Oscar-and Ikeda, :not on]y for encouraging ation. To
111Y

publisher. Steven Tice was very efficient, all of the taped in-

courteous and qnick ill transcribing

terviews. Tia Lam provided an initial edit of those interviewswhen she wasn't hopping trains with her boyfriend. I would like to extend a special thanks to the Savannah College of Art and Design, particularly college president Paula Wallace, for granting me the Presidential Fellowship that funded this book. Scott Newrnan and Annabelle Carr are the two people who contributed the most to this book. Scott is responsihle for the outstanding visua] design and byotlt in vVorking IVlethodls.In addition to being a great designer, he also happens to be a very good artist and illustrator, and I predict he will be drawing his own comic book within a year. Annabelle is a family friend who also happens to be an editor by profession. I showed her this book for a quick proofread a few days before I planned! to send it off to TwoMorrovrs. She let rne know that if I gave her

I still have a this

few more people to thank. I'm grateful to my lovely wife


me to undertake project, but also for putting up with me during its creparents-in-law, Stanley and Fumiko Feinsupport and for helping me gold, for their continuous

my students at SCAD, who challenge and reward me daily. To m)7


decide upon a career .in teaching.To mother, fur raising me properly and always encouraging me to pursue my interests. 'To al] of the artists who donated their time and effort to make this book possible.

}\..110 finally, to ilny children-vjonah,


Betdhem-for the world. I do.

Koji, Atticus and

thinking their dad has the coolest job in

----l

WORKlING h/fETHODS

INTR10DUCTION
I have always been profession.
As a young man, I tried to bridge the isolation by

Clur]OUS

about the creative processes

I've since developed a storytelling exercise that requires all my students to draw a three-page story from the same script. The scripts are visually challenging. Students must create original characters and research historic or scien ~ rific specifics. I emphasize narrative craftsmanship over drawing style. For the critique, I ask the students to share all the research materials, notes and drawings they used to design their final pages. Each person brings an entirely unique visual sensibility and approach to the work. Since all of the students have wrestled with the same problems, they pay particular attention to each other's varying solutions. 'One day, at the end of one such critique, I mentioned that I ought to have some of my fellow professiona] sequential artists attempt the exercise. I thought it would be valuable for my students to see how a seasoned storyteller would interpret the very same scripts. My students liked the idea so much; they were upset that I hadn't already done it. So I got to work. I sought out working comic book artists with strong experience and excellent storytelling

of other sequential artists. Visual art is often a solitary

scouring the library for books on techniques, illustration and comic production. I found an abundance of material on the first two subjects, but I can only remember one concerning production: How to Draw Comics the Maroel HI£l:)1 by Stan Lee and John Buscema, I borrowed that book so often that I eventually bought n1!y own copy. I would sit up at night with my sketchpad and pencils, trying to master the books lessons of perspective, anatomy and dynamic panel compositions. During Eisner cused my undergraduate y,ears in college, Will Eisner's book fothe principles published
011

Comics and Sequential Art. Unlike It outlined

Drawing Comics the Marvel ~Y:5Mr. visua] storytelling.

and theories involved in creating a narrative with both words and pictures. At roughly the same time, I discovered the magazine Step-by-Step in the university library. Each article used photographs :and an interview to dearly document the helped demystify the creative steps a working artist took to create a particular illustration. This publication ceed as an illustrator, Many great books on comics technique and theory have since been written ..The mternet and its vast resources now make it possible to find tutorials) artwork, and other artists' documented processes without leaving home. However, when I began teaching comics and visual storytelling at the Savannah College of Art and Design in narrative process that makes our art unique.
2002,

skills, For each script, I intentionally chose professionals


with dissimilar styles. I asked the participating terviews to explore their script interpretations storytelling ideas, artists to and visual photograph their physical processes, and I conducted! in-

process and made me believe that I could one day sue-

'Io llfly knowledge, no other book has compared the


processes of professional artists interpreting the same script. I hope that this comparison will shed new light on the fllany creative possibi]ities inherent in visual storytelling. I hope it win inspire new artists to explore those options in each script they encounter,

I saw of the

that students still needed a deeper understanding

-JolmLowe
(whose mother is proud to call her son a professor)

WORKlING h/fETHODS

PADDY

Script by
SCOTT HAMPTON

Artists
SCOTT HAMPTON TI~I LEVINS

WORKlING h/fETHODS

Script: Paddy

PAGE I

Note: This segment is seen as a flasbback 'with captions for dialogue until we cut to present-day.,
Panel
It

Black panel with a small point of light. 'This is a. tunnel opening.

Voice: Wbat happened then, Paddy? Once you uere in the car. Paddy: He said she'd have to be dispatched. That was the toord he used, "dirpatcbed"-' Panel
2::

We now see the tunnel opening clearly, Vague hint of the city,

Paddy: Like a telegram full of bad nc'LVS. Panel 3: POV into car. We exit the runnel and see that we are on a curving tVv~o-waytreet along the edge of Central Park s in New York Cirv,
"

Paddy: He gives me the lctu-doum; bot» she's the pro:teclttions star witness, blab, blah. IOu knm» the drill.
2:

Hands me a photo.
OUf

Panel 4:

first good look at the car and its occupants: A goon is driving. Another goon is riding shotgun and keeping an

eye out. Yet anomer goon (paddy) is looking at a snapshot. The fourth guy is the Big Boss; classier, older than the others. The time period is the 1930S or '40s. Classic gangster period. Paddy: And I lencau her. Panel 5: The snapshot held in Paddy's hand,
'Voice:

H7eIl?

Paddy: Not really. To say hello to. She lioed on the street. Panel 6: 'The car pulls to the curb outside a subway entrance.

Paddy: SbeW'as a neigbbor.

---l

]0

t---

PADDY SCRIPT

PAGE 2

Paddy makes his way down into the subway and waits for the woman to show up. Its rush hour; lots of people are getting off work I-Ie sees the woman corning onto the platform from a stairway. The woman waits among the crowd at the edge of the platfonn for the train. Paddy moves into position behind her. Voice: So, 'what did you do? 'The train is entering the station. He pushes her, Paddy: Nly job.

PAGE

Panel r: Many years later. Paddy is much older but recognizable, leaning against a large oak desk in a nicely appointed office. Young (mid-twenties) goons are clustered around him, Another older guy stands by the door. Older guy: All right boys,let:r break it up. It's still a tuorkin' day. Panel
2!

Paddy stands and takes a drag on a cigarette. The others start to leave the room. Older guy singles one out. guy: lim've got the Keller delivery; right?

oICIer
Goon:

Right; no sweat.

Panel 3: Older guyT speaks to Paddy from the door as the others finish exiting. Paddy is behind the desk, looking out the window, Older guy: Okay ifl take off? 1 pro1nised ~MarshaI'd give ber a ride to La Guardi«. Paddy: Sure.

OLder guy: I'll be back in a couple of.hou'l"S.


Panel 4: Ext. Guys are leaving big) nice house and getting into cars. Some are laughing or smiling ..Paddy watches from an upper-story window.

Panels! Back in the office. Paddy is alone as he takes another drag on a cigarette while pulling a snapshot from a drawer.
Panel 6! Paddy sits behind the desk and contemplates the snapshot.

----l

]1

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Scott Hampton

Known for his artistic diversity, Scott Hampton has i1Jlustrated such iconic properties as Batman, Sandman, Black

fVido'zv,Heltraiser; and! Star Trek. He has also worked on


creator-owned projects such as The Upturned Stone, Scott began his career by following in the footsteps of his brother, fellow comic book creator Bo Hampton. Both Scott and Eo studied under the great ~7jJI Eisner in 1976.
Scott's first professional comics work was the s[;"{-pagestory

Godfather Deatb, released by Epic Illustrated ill! 1982 .. His work on Siloerbeels from Pacific Comics in 1983 is regarded
as the first continuing painted! comic. Recent works include

Spookbouse, released in

2004

by TDW Publishing, featuring

sequential adaptations of his favorite ghost stories; and Batman: Gotbom. Cou:nty Line, from DC Comics in
200S.

Scott Hampton

is also pursuing a passion outside of


ill April) 1006 ..He

comics: fiJnunaking .. He completed his first short independent film, The Tontine, lives with his 'Wife Letitia in Chape] I-1iU, North Carolina ..

SCOTT HAMPTON

THE SCRIPT

sometb ing that would allot» certain decision~making opportunities on the part of the artist. I wanted it to baoe a great deal
offlexibilit),
i71

Jo1m Lowe: When you wrote the script for Faddy, did you write it for other artists or for yourself? Scott Hampton: Both for 71Z)iSel{ and as an exercise [or

that way. For examp.le, an artist could turn the

1VO'lna'ftinto a little f6unfecfl year-old gIrl. The bade-story could

be interpreted diffirently. I hope other artists 'will take it in dif= ftrent directions than I did. Sometbing that seems quite specific can actually have a lot of room jorplu,y.

other artists.
JL: It's a full script. Do you always work that way?

SH: Tbat's the way I usu.ally,dO' them.


ROUGHS

JL: I know some artist/writers will use pictures as well as words in their scripts, but you prefer to write all the words first. JL: What are the first steps you take when approaching this or any story?

SH: Absohuel». I really don't confer witb the visual part a good stor». The challenge later on if visual!J.I.
JL: Do
YOll

~fIny '

SH: I take the script and block off"what I thi1zk ere natural
tiers. I break it down in that way" from page to page. Then I

brain 'when 1 it, because I'm mostly tbinking abou:t telling do


to'

make the stO'ry 7.vork

start doing the rougbs. I'll do up a 'rOughtbat'sa quarter afa piece of 8.5;1 X
II
I;

typing paper; so I get four on a page.

approach everything you write like this?

JL:Do you have a little template that you make for yourself to do those?

SH: As long as I'm 1vritingfor myse{f, I da.l] I'm writingfo,r someone else,.l.bave
to

tbink about the visuals at tbe seme time.

SH: 1es,.Fnn:n that point, Til just get the rougbs where I like them. Sometimes I'll do multiple roughs, depending on the comple:x:it)'.Then I transfer the best one over-usually':with the

That's what I did with mJl Legends of the Dark Knight job. I was supposed to 71J'rite fix!' Kent Wiltianw but be took on that anotherprcjtct, so I ended up doing tbe an on it myself.

A rtograpb , became it will enlarge. And boom: Lstart working.


JL: When you're working out your storytelling, do you stick to basic shapes? SH: Not really. I draw most of the stuff It'll befoirly 1~ougbit 'WOTi'tbe super~tight-· but it'll be there. In betueen the four

JL: 'iVe should mention that you originally slated! Paddy as a four-page script, with two pages in between as a way to help build! the SUlspense. For our purposes in this book, we decided to condense the script to three pag,es. Also, you initially planned to do it all in a six-panel grid,
but then you changed it to accommodate the plot. Those

or five lines will be the real line. But no) they're not just shapes,
hunch of trees.

unless of course there s some sort of dense background like a

bits that were condensed into page two are especially interesting because they contain no dialogue) which leaves a lot of room for interpretation story there.

by different artists. It's

JL: Right, a generic background. But


able to read them? SH:

_if you showed the

really up to each artist to decide how to show pacing' and

roughs to an editor or someone else, they'd definitely he

SH: E,:l.7actiyi. I :thougbt that 'Would be really effictive as an ex~ erase. It seems very .specific .and you might tbink everyone wouJdapproach it in exactly the same way. Not so. H7JJenI 'wrote thirsr:ript,
11lJtIS

os, yeah.

JL: And! they're done very small with pencil, right?

SH: Right.

very consciousof trying tornake

----l

]3

WORKlING h!fETHODS

·Working small allows Scott to develop storytelling and compositional choices quickly, It also prevents him from wasting roo much time and effort on a drawing that may ultimately be eliminated,

]4

SCOTT HAMPTON

JL: How do you go about placing the word balloons? Do you Ieave space for dialogue thumbnailsplacement in the

SH: I don '1: leave space; 1put the captions and balloons rigbt
into my thumbnails and I try not to let anything imp(wtal'lt get up in that area.

RESEARCH AND REFERENCES

JL: Whh a story like this, do you do a great deal of re~


search prior to drawing your thumbnails, or do you research after your thumbnails in order to get the finishing touches
011 YOllr

drawing?

SH: It varies a little bit. E7)ery once in a 'white, I lay it all aut
and then search out my reference. But I usuaUy look at the script

and get an idea in

m)1

bead of roughly 'lvbat I'm looking for.

Then I go through books I baoe, find my reference, and cull it. I :mayfmtl just what I'm looking [or; or something that's approximate .. I often nzake a note to "myself that says, "Put in a castlefrom this book, page 62, here." 17.lJon'.t eoen dretu that on

the 'rough,
JL: You'H just note the reference so you can draw it later.

SH: Right.
JL: Is that how you approached this story? There's a very specific tune period here, so the cars and the background were all researched and referenced, An1 I correct?

SH: You bet.


JL: VVhat referencing tools dloyou use? Probably use the Internet, Fight?

SH: No, 1 never use the Internet .aridPIl tell _youwby. Asfar
as I'm concerned, 72 dpijpegs aren't clear enougb. IfTrn going to use reference, it's usually not for a pen:on. Ttl either shoot 'flO'
O'lV'l2

One of Scotts favorite reference sources frorI930's environmental

photog-

pho:to reftrence on a person or rllfust make i.t up. But ento

raphy is the Dover Publicaucns book Nnv York in tbe Thirties by Berenice
Abbott. Panel one on page two of Scates story is ill perfect example of using reference photos to create a believable, derail-rich environment.

uironments such as architecture and cars often need


exact. I want to be deal; so 1 go to print.

befa.i1·1:y

]S

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Scott often sketches right on tDp of his reference images to approximate the settings and poses he plans to draw.

JL: Let's talk about this story specifically. You worked with exteriors from the I9405. Did you use the library? Is that your referenc e tool of choice? SH: That's often where 1 go. I also have a number of books of

that correct? SH: Escactfy. JL: Did! you actually set up the interior for that panel in your own house? SH: That's right. I use my otun bouse !fit twill ':work.I haoe a staircase that allo'wed me to get SOlne angle-sfrom above fairly
easily. 1 used my dining room table as the desk for the main

my oum. 1 took out my Douer books 7vith photogiraphs by Berenice Abbott, tabo did all these photographs in the thirties and .forties. I use ber pbotos as the basis for my backsrrounds
and cars all the time.

JL: Is Abbott's work in one Dover book or a series? SH: It's a series of books, but then she's also been collected i12 one big book) 'with larger photographs. JL: But where there's an interior, like the one on page three.you've said you often set up your own reference, Is

character. Tjus« made it a little smaller in

111;;)'

drawing. And I

had '1n:y ife, Letitia) shoot me standing around in overcoats in w


a nu:mbet" of different postures so I could be the henchmen. JL:You were all the henchmen?

SH: All the bendrmen and tbe main cbsraaer I tbink once or

----l

]6

r--

SCOTT HAMPTON

tuiice I might have asked Letitia tofill in as a person.


JL: I remember that when you began
lng 111 someways,
rOtH'

comic career,

you would never use reference. You thought it was cheat-

SH: Essentially, yeah.


JL: But now you realize that, for someone who can draw, reference is almost essentia] to getting natural poses, rather than the generic, repeatable poses that the brain calls up from memory,

SH: That's exactly right. First> J think it's important to be able to dre» most anything from your head. You don't want to use reference as a crutdi, but as sometbing tha:t gives you g'r:eater
uerisimditude asid variety. You're 'light,: ·we do fall into
patt€'l7JS

Scott uses an Artogtaph to transfer his small pencil sketch onto two-ply Bristol board (Strathmore
500

series).

'when we drm» from our heads. As much as 1 love the 'Work ofartists like Mik« .L~1tgnoJa) Kevin Nowlan endMark Schultz, sometimes I see that the choices
they're tJ11Jkingare the same ones they norvwlly make. And l fond that in 'flt)'self. I decided I had to gi1Je myself permission to

use tbe reference, both as a r~fining toot and as a time-saoer; because I have to workfastl

I thought

to'

myself; ('Okay, Ttl use these reference tools to make


d071m

my process morefun. " And oddly enough, itgives me something to do besidesjust sit to a blank piece of paper and draa»,
Next, he refines the pencils 60;5 percent, saving the rest of the detail for the inking stage.

wbicb is sowzetirnespai'J1fui.So reference speeds me up .. Rsfereno: can add that extra element Say
111Y

~fealism r

that we some-

times want. But the ke:y is never to be a slave to the reference. background is a castle. J might change the lighting on
71Z)'

it or 1 'itiight not, but Pm not going to break it diffirent

back to m:ake

if it's more or less what

I need.

CHARACTER DESIGN JL: Did you design the characters prior to going to the page, or did you just have a good. idea in your head of what

they were going to look like? SH: I bad an idea.


Using a Hunt
102

crow quill, he inks the figures and backgrounds in F\V

Acrylk ink. Sometimes he clips the ends ofcheap brushes to square them off.

]7

WORKlING h!fETHODS

JL: Right. This is just a three-page larger-say,


acters in advance?

story', If it were

a graphic novel=-would you design out char-

SH: Sadly, no. !Jobn laughs.] Tbat'swhy tbey generally start ta look better after a couple of pages. [Laughter] I basically have to do it that way. I'm running at full speedfrom' the very beginning.
JL: So it's v,ery organic. You don't do turnarounds of that stuff?
OJ[

any

SH: NO'.1just dan't baoe the time, and often I don 't have the patience .. 1 have a sense afwhat 1 want, so I'll go in and start
The ..:xaccl: 1Il&e ~ol"lbili, 54' iSllJll ts IJneethil1!.'Ollie thlflg
lhol.i;gD.ilJ m.cb!l werH a IODg. way' 'When U:rds'Was :in IJsel Mea~ Sll:res 1.0" 't/2", and dat>e$ 100~mundl 1m. M01rtllld''''lO-'C;~ at x t~boI:lom. C.ow1esy rJJ&~ll'tlldSitlI Jr,
~O'I' ~ure

,doing it.

GOING TO THE BOARD JL: After you have your rough pencils, I assume you take them to the Artograph and project them onto board.
OIl?

What type of surface do you prefer to work

SH: Rough. It tends to be two-ply' Bristol board because that's


'whltt zue get frO'fl't the

company. But ifl·71Jant to get


l1ty

some better

effects 'witb the paint, Pit sometimes pullout

oum four~ or

five-ply paper.
el\!g ICo.d. Dates '10ilirou~d l.he 1'940s, i!f!dmeasures U)"' x 10", COllr!l.'S!/ r;!Rod' Kn.r~,

JL: Do you still use Strathmore :Bristol?

SH: You bet. I use the Strathnw're soo series, not


is bad stuff.

400.

Tbe

400

JL: When you're projecting those drawings down and


sketching them in, do you still work loosely with pencil on your board?

SH: Wben I'm putting doum the


,Kirk's l=lnkeSoop si;p. MleulIJt'!S, 40·' x IS"'. D<!lIes 1.0 Irn~ 1915 era. CcrraJI5!l!' oj' Il1n ~I!~rls.

'lV 0 r'k from

the Artograpb)

I'm just laying it out. 1 refine it once 1 turn off'the machine.

JL: So you sort out your placement first. Then you finish
up your drawing.

Scott uses the. public HbraIl.'Y his personal book collection to seek out and reference materials for environmental details likecars, buildings and signs.

SH: Right.
JL: With this project, was the choice of medium solely budgetary) or was it dependent
OIl

the story?

-------1

].8

SCOTT HAMPTON

The final panel is completed on a piece of two-ply Bristol board. Scott wiU sam this drawing and use Adobe: Photoshop to place it in his page: layout ..

SH: I tend to get hired for painted jobs)' so 1" have topaint. But if I can choose, 1 base £t on the story. Tm doing a bunch of stories for tbis solo book right now ..I'm 'I1taking them up as I go, and after I'ue 'written each one, 1ask myself, "All ncght,
do I approacb this? UiOuld it be better
h0'7.V

Joey Cavalieri hooked me up with, they spec~ficall::)'asked me if I could do it in blacl: end white. rVhy? Because of these
Paddy pages.' JL: Will you work the Batman story in a similar fashion? You used a lot of ink wash with Paddy. You warmed! and cooled some things. Will do that for the

if it 'were 'monochrome,

full-color, or a mix afboth?" !fits my choice, 1 choose based on

what represents tbe story best,


JL: So, when a COlllpa!l1}T hires you to freelance, its ge.nerally because you're known for painting.

Batman story? SH: I don't tbink so. Wbat 1will do) tbough,is a good bit of
d'ly brU:fh. roe seen Robert FmV,Gfu's 7INJrk. Dry brush tuorles.

SH: Rigbt, But for this Batman story witb Steve Niles that

----l

]9

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Many of the steps in Scott's process can he seen on this piece of board,

20

SCOTT HAMPTON

To increase the tension and.urgency of a moment, Scott cuts between points of view. Although he doesn't show all the action, Scottuses isolated images to imply that Paddy pushes the woman in front of a passing train.

INKING

SH: Often) 1 do rIlJ' linework with a Hunt

102

crow quill. But

ifTm goingfor something that:! more in tbe Fawcett vein),like JL: flow much "rill you refine the drawings in pencil before
YOU,

a few panels in Paddy,thert Til do almost all alit with brusb.


Wben it comes to brushes, I use a realty nice brush like a Series Seven
/\10. 2:

go to ink?

SH: I'd sa.'y maybe 70 percent. 1 absolutely have to have some


things tight-like eyeba!Js. Crossed and imprope1~~Ylaced ,ryes p wit! screw upa face. The eyes are tbefocus ,ofalmost a11J1 p.anel, so 1have to be exact. But fwith eve·rything else, there's room to just kind of malee it up as 1go or play with it. JL: What specific tools do YOlll use to ink with?

or N'o'3 WinsorNemton

a,

But Psn alsofind~

ing it e.ffective to clip the ends ~ff la little che.ap brush like a o Yasutomo Siloerada. I clip them euer so slightly, just to make them a little bit more squa1~ed-off They're great. They're acrylic brushes; black 'with tubite tips. Fauxett once said that toben other painters are about to throw their brushes away,
that's when he can really get the most out of those brushes. I

21

WORKlING h!fETHODS

know I keep bri1flging hi1'fl up, but be's my biggest influence

SH: ll10stly the brush. Again, it's not watered doum that mud: The tbicke» it is) the bluer tbe tint.
floating in it.

tbese days, and he was right .about this.


A brush that's been messed with enough doesn't come to a per~ feet

If it dilutes

too much

itjust becomes it transparent wash uiitb little dots of pigrnent

tip. Have you ever taken a brush that's crumbly and then

found thetyou couldget the mosrperfea, delicate lines ~y turning the brush?
JL: You have to turn it a certain way

JL: What would you do if you wanted to warm it up?

SH; First of all, you canmix a paint called Unbleached Titanium with a black. Use more of the Unbleacbed Titanium than
the black,. and you'll get a toarmer sort of gray. JL: So you use the watered-down
102

SH: Its a ''feel'' tbing. JL: As a painter, you have a more organic approach.
You're used to working with mass and shape and tone, and I imagine you have a great feel for the brush.

crow quill pen with FVV Acrylic

Ink, and when you create a wash with a brush, you use acrylic paint?

SH: Rt:tlctly.

1''171very

conscious of that.

l''fll

always attracted

SH: P.cl say 95 perce'f2t of the time, yes. JL: So, if you're paiuting, first you work out the panels on your Bristol board or Strathmore, and then you tape off the edges before you paint. What tape do you use?

to the diffirent textures ..

JL: What kind of ink do you use?

SH: I use the FW A crylic.


JL: I'm specifically looking at page three, pane] three, where Paddy is looking out the window. The ink on his face is much lighter. Do you achieve that by just adding water to the ink?

SH; Scotch Magic tape. There was a time when they used to
differentitite it as Scotch Magic Transparent, bu: 1 think it's just called Scotch 1l1agic tape. It's a 3M product. It's fabulous.

YOu can get.tl nice) dean border that doesn it kak. And careful toben you pult it up, it won it rip your paper:

if you

're

SH: So me times. But ifyoujust


)IOU 're goi:n:gto get

use water to dilute your i11k,

JL: So you essentially create a border for yourself that allows you to paint organically without worrying about stopping at tile edge. It keeps the border clean.

afairly warm-looki:n:g grtl)1 without adding

any pigment.

It will go down very S'flZoothly. If it's a big sp.ace,

it may baoe some uieirdness on the edges 'when it dries. But more often tban not, it's fair~y flat .and you can lay it doum
fairly easily. Here, I was looking for s01ftething with a little

SH: These da)ls, with Pbotosbot; 1 rarely use tape because I don't care abou: tbe original going outside' the borders. But when I work 7..vitb .severa/panels on one page, I tape them to protect the border in between.
JL: So with this story you didn't have to worry; your ink washes were done on separate sheets of paper. You would just import them into Photoshop and arrange them ..

'more texture to it. So I probably took my ac;ylic paint, the Mars Black Liquite;,"C, nd diluted that down until it was very thin. a
Then I used that for ·rrn:y toasb.

JL: Oh, okay. So his face and! hair are probably diluted acrylic paint. How did you achieve the blues that we talked about earlier?

SH: For a cooler, bluish gray, all you have


Black 'with Titanium Wbite ..

to

do is mix il1ars

PANELS VERSUS

PAGES

JL: When you ink with watered-down use a pen or a brush?

acrylics, do you

JL: I think your approach to your work has changed. You don't work
OIl!

a whole page at once anymore, do you?

----l

22

SCOTT HAMPTON

To achieve a more textured effect for his washes, Scott dilutes Mars Black Liquitex acrylic paint.

SH: Sometimes J do. 1 probabl:y will with the Bannan job I'm: about to do. JL: But you work out most of the panels individually? SH: R"C{ut!y.

SH: NO', 40,0 dpi [ull-color. JL: And then you just placed then] together in Photoshop
for output?

SH: Right. I imported them into a page t:e''Fflplate had, then I 1 sized and ,cro1JfJed then: and often played untb the levels and saturation little bit, .but that's all about getting the i1nage tbats already there
to'

JL: In sOlneways, that frees you, doesn't it?' If you screw


something up, you can just throw it out.

look a certain

7VtlY ..

It's not a radical cbange.

SH: Yeah, that's right. JL: Did you scan them in at


300

And that's basically it. There 'might be the littlest bit of cleandpi gray scale?

z~p.I might bate had something goofy bappen and I decide to


fix it by cloning. That's the danger of Ph 0 tosbop. JOn kno» that

2-') ;)

WORKlING h!fETHODS

J10U

can always 'lnake corrections in Pbotosbop. That makes it

you're notleaving it open for the color. Is that a little bit faster for you aswell?

harder toJust go in and correct it on the original. [Laughter}


JL: So for the BatnuJn story, you're actually going to work on the page as a whole?

SH: Ies) because I don't beoe to color it. Then Pm loo/eing for
fifteen pages a month; three or four a toeel:..

SH: That's tobat 1'11'1 planning ..


JL: How do you make that decisionr Why choose the whole page after you've been working one panel at a time? ADVICE JL:Do you halve any advice for young cartoonistslWhat are some things that you think are just essential to good storytelling?

SH: I like the page as a whole .. That's the main thing. I don't
want to turn this in as a scanjob. I'd 'rather turn tben: in as

actual pages so .that taben Iget them back, I've got continuit)! pages, which I love. Uf never get to see those an:!l1tlOre.If J
could get
1llY'WIlJ!,

SH: Well, 1 think the single most essential thing is to have a reader who doesn't
know a thing about comics look at )Iour

1would have it lettered on the board as 11)ell,

because I bate the separation.

'work. Ulf take a lot for granted in comics because tve speak the language. But to be SlJ£ct'sifui, a s.tory bas to be clear to tbe gen-

eral public. Show your girlfriend or h~yfriend the rough. Ifbe


RATE OF PRODUCTION JL: If you want to make a living in comics, you really have to be able to produce pages quickly. How quickly will YOll produce a page like these, using a pen-and-inkwash? you have a quota for yourself per week or per month? Do

or she can understand it tnitbout help) it's going to work.


Clarity is the most important thing. In tbe theater; tbere'sa

great old xa)'ing that aUyMJ1'- emotion and subtlety is of no use

1f you can't be beard fronz the back 'Y0'l1). And that's 'what I'm
saying .. You've got to speak loudly and clearly so tbat the back: row hears it. Then you subtleties. NI ostkids who do comics are attracted to tbe design aspect.
They're interested in thosewa~cky design choices that make 'really f"U:n-looking pages. The p'roblem is that people read comics
;;1:a11:

layering on all those nuances and

SH: The painting sometimes takesa little bit longer, on!:y .because of.tbe way I paint it. I pencil itfirst. Then I ink thefigures and the backgrounds. Then I put a little color in and[us:

moldfrom there. Tbe inking stage if part of it, butl don't ink it to the same level I 'zvoukl if I were leaving it in ink. I try to produce a page of painted work eVe1Y one to three daJls, depcnding on the medium. I try to maintain that rate throughout the course the month, taking a tlay offbere or there.

more .fi)'}" the stories than to bejazzed ~y the design. Look at your audience and make sure you're communicating well before you take off with the design.
JL: That's good advice for students. Make it work in a grid; make it work in a panel first.

I don't baoe a nine-to-jioe sort ofsituation like some artists do. I work pretty mUlban:y time I can mo:nage it ..And thetoeekends an not for going
to

the beach. 1 tend to use those as well.

SH: Yeab, So that's the old bugaboo. Kids think we're so boring to keep on them about that, but a glitch in storytelli'J1gis like a scene in one of those old movies 'where you su.dClenlytsee the microphone in tbe shot. YOu k1fiMJr? 1don it
tuent
to'

i'~Y days off come in the middle of the week, out of nouibere. JL: So, if you're working on a painted project, you expect to complete somewhere between two and three pages per week But if you're doing strictly black-and-white work, the inking is going to have to be more refined because

see the machinery of the gods. I tnant to believe. I

want to be absorbed.

---l

24

r--

SCOTT HAMPTON

At work in his home studio, Scott usee a regular-sized drawing table);'! tabloret to hold. his inking and painting supplies, a Luxo light and an ordinary chair (with a really comfy cushion).

Some peoplejust don't question their own dioices enough. They


don't question bin» their tuorle will be perceived. They just asSU7ne that if they like
it)

SH:Yeah

1 told a student, "This is the best compliment J can

gi've you: If I Ca'l1U across this on the stands, 1 'WMIJd buy it. "

everyone else w£ll.

JL: Absolutely.

When you're showing your work and you 'n listening to other people talk about it, try to read between the lines. A person might say, "Ob, 1 think this is very nice" "7vhen, in foct, they're just trying to get you to go away. [Laughter.] "TlVelt) Billioves
ir!" Bill's your best friend! And B£ll sells you pot at cheap prices. lou kno,:w? [Laughter:}

JL; This is nly benchmark: V\t'ouldI pay il110ney out of lll)T pocket for it? If I'll pay rnoney for it, then it works.

----l

25'

WORKlING h!fETHODS

ScottHampton's Paddy

2:6

SCOTT HAMPTON

27

WORKlING h!fETHODS

28

SCOTT HAMPTON

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Tim Levins

II

II

Tim Levins studied fine art and classical animation before breaking into the comics business in the nlld~I990S
with two creator-owned series: The

Copybook Tales (Slave Labor Graphics) and Siren: (Image). A fill-in issue for DC's Batman: Gotham Adventures led to an eventual four-year run on the tide, followed by sev-eralissues of Justice League Adventures, After taking a two-year break From comics to stay at home with his young son, Tim recently returned to the drawing board to work on DC's Scooby-

Doo

as well

as

a project

for

'VHdstorttl.

Tinl Jives in lVHdlaLlld, Ontario with his wife, Shad, and


son, J runes.

their three-year-old

TIM LEVINS

THE SCRIPT

JL: 'There are a lot of notes on your copy of the script, especially
011

page two. You've got aU those different

Jolm Lowe: How m.any times do you typically read


through a script? Tim Levins: At least tuiice. 1 usually read it through once to

ways of showing him pushing her in front of the subway station. One note indicates reference materials. You wrote, "193 os, The Untoncbables, Gangs of Nem YOrk" for visual reference, maybe fashion or clothes, You also jotted quick visual sketches to determine some of the panels. TL: Yeah, ifS07nething pops up in my mind as I'm going through it; I try to scribble it doum sO'I can use it for reference how to frame

get a general sense a/the story. Then I go through it again and 'llzake notes. I consider dijferent
71:'W)IS

to approach certain pan-

els..Especially in a scr.ipt like tbis, because Scott Hampton in~


.tentionally left mucb of it open to interpretation. Tbe DC

scripts I've 'lvarked with usuall.y baue pretty tight, detailed descriptions. it was a cballenge doing this one, but it was fun. JL: What kinds of notes do you take? Visual notes? References you plan to look up? TL: It all kind o/goes doton together. I don't have a strict waYI

later on when I'm doing a [ull-size drawing. O'JfJ age two I p reatl.y went back and forth trying to figure out the best wt/:y to show hin'!pushing ber infront of the subway. The tbi:ngs J usua.tly drm» on the script are either the i'mportant scenes-the

sbots that I think Pm really going to have toput


into=or

SMite
it

tbought
certain

of going about it,. 1 write down whatever I'm thinking about when Pm going through it.

things tbat might pop into :my head, like

way of looking at something. Ijust jot it down, because more often than not Tli/ustforget about my tboughts later on,

\
Co
PADD·Y

o
By S:coU Hamp'to.n

NrOte: TilLis segmenr fs seen we cut to present-day,

IS,

fla,shback with Ica.plt.ions :foll di.a~og,ue

UDitU

Panel

1: 8,la,c'k panel w~tba

small pOlin.t of lig.bt. 'Thi.s is a junnel ,opening.

Voice; What happened then, Paddy? Once you were in t:~

(l6f= ,
it a second time

Tim reads through

the script once to get a general sense of the story. He then goes through to sketch visual ideas and make. notes about reference materials,

WORKlING h!fETHODS

REFERENCES JL: Did! you go back and view some of the things in your notes, like Tbe Un.toucbables or Gangs ofNe»

York,

Of

did

you go to the Iibrary or Internet for references? TL: }\1)1 lnain source of reference was the Internet. I'mve1'Y lazy,

J knou: Butlalso live

£12 afoirly s"moJItoum, and the

.tibrary here

is tierylimited, so the Internet comes in handy. lactullJJy didn't rent The Untouchables. I Googled the images online. 1 used a number of referencesfor dotbing, hairstyles and cars. I just glanced at most of the photographs to get the general feel or look of something. I didn 'tactually use them as models. Actually, I 'was surprised at bm» difficult it 'was to find period clothing styles and hairstyles. 1 'lvould' 1Jtpein
didn't have i'l'}ulges. JL: Do you use the Google "images" search?
"t94 as 'lvomen 's

clothes,"for example, and I uould often get referred to sites th.at

TL: ,1 search botb Goog]« "web and "images."


H

~fthe person

who posts an image hasn't included tbe word "1940S'; in tbe title o.f the image, it won't show up in the "images" search. I usual/;y start off with irnages, and this time I didn"t baue a lot of luck. So Ijust started sca'Jtn:ingtiebsites and a McCall's pattern site came up. The pictures were realf)' small but, the tbing

is, I can probably fake a lot o.f thisa'/~Y1Va_y. 1had a vague idea
~flVbat people looked like back then but I just wanted something

a little more specific. So it's kind of ironic that in thefinal drawings )'Ml don't actual!:ysee much of mibat the WO'l!14tl S l1Jea;ring. Her feet, bead and shoulders are visible bu: that~about it.
JL: Do photographic references make you feel more corn-

fort able with what you're drawing, even if a lot of the information doesn't make it to the page? TL: Ies. ViJ"lI1.l1 references help me get into the [rame of mind

to dnn» the story. The angles I choose determine how much of


Period details like car hardware, architecture, and wornens hairstyles help Tim get into the right frame of mind to draw the story.

the injo'rflUttion shows up in the final story .. JL: So sometimes


YOll!

had to actually scour some websites

Just to come up with specifics?

----l

32

TIM LEVINS

TL: Yeah. For example, I fOZlrid plenty of referencefor cars. Not

as much for women 1hairstyles. One movie 1 looked ata lot was
Harvey 'with ja'fnes Stemart. it's set in tbe late 40's and it

sbozus a bunch of regular-looking people 'zvea'ring bats and drio-

ing cars.. It's just an average movie set in the 40')s.


JL: Did you sketch while you were watching? TL: Yeah) I'd pause it every noteend sketch sfJf}zetbing tnithout much detail. JL: Did you reference anything for tile interior of Paddy's office?
Now it's rime for the chumbnaila+usually drawn on the front and back of the

then and just quickly

TL: Ijust made most of it up, but I also have a hook called Fa~
mous American Homes, Its full of historical interiors, end I use it fairl)! often when I need decor reference. Since this script doesn't require much interior; I 'was comfortable making it up. JL: Let's say this was an ongoing story or a mini -series, and his office was featured more often. Howwould you map that out for consistency, so you could go back into
that space visually and know where things ought to go?

script itself.

TL: 1usually do a very 'rough floor plan, and I put little 'mark-

ers where the characters are standing, In fact, there may be one scrawled somewhere on this script: 1 trying tofigure out 'Where was Paddy would stand in the window panel inreftre11ce
to

the other
Page layouts come next. Tim's main concern is telling the story dearly. At this point, the figm'es are little more than mannequins ..

characters. I1vI1s moldngfor the bestangk. Sometimes, ina» ongoing story, I'll drmoa rough version of thepart oftbe room.that
appears mart often. 1 don't usually do complete; detailed lines of the

room) although J can see the benefits of that. lIVitb a creatorowned series, I might baue the time to put more detail in.

THUMBNAILS

JL: Once you've done the research) what's next? TL: Ido the tiJu'mbnail drawZ11gs, and usually thfJ"-rt scattered

at! over the place. For the sake of this book, I tried to use one
piece of pape'r. Wbeneoer 1bad an idea that 1'wanted to put a

bit more thought into, 1 jotted it 0'1:1 that paper. These are almost like tbe little tiny thumbnails I did
O'Jl

the actual scr.ipt

Time to design the look of the characters. Though TIm already has a basic idea of how his characters will look) .he uses this stage to work out the details ..

------l

33

WORKlING h!fETHODS

pages; just fleshed out a little bit more.


JL: They're very easy to read, though. At this point, when you go a Iittle bit bigger, the storytejling's there ..Yon said you don't usually do it on a single page like dills. Do you typically work on scraps of typingpaper? TL: Yeah. The Gotham Adventures Stlljf that I've done is

PAGE LAYOUTS

JL: Once you've made all of your thumbnails, move on to character design?

do you

TL: St:rangelJ,I). no. 1go to the page layouts. JiJu can tetl by

looking at my layouts that 1 hadn't done the character design. They're so simple and generic. 1 gave Paddy a boto tie in the
final version. 1 don't think be bas one in the laJoutr.

'.usually allover the scripts, on tbe backs of the pages, or on scrap


pieces afpaper. Because the Paddy script was so short, I did all the thum.bnails 'more or less at the same time. On the other hand, w.itb afull z2-page script, I'd on 'work on afew pages at a time. JL: That's a good point. You'll complete a 22-page script in blocks of roughly four or five [layout] .pages, right? TL: Jes. 1 generally focus on one scene at a time. Scenes tend
to be anywhere from two tofi'lle pages in length. But for this

At tbis point, I'm more concerned with telling tbe story effectively' than with kJunving exactly what the characters 'will look like. 1.~p(:"nd lot of time thinking about Jtorytelling. I often sit a at
'til)'

desle cwbile I'm doing the thurnb1Zailr and rough layou.ts

and-just stare at the papet; trying to i'l1'taginebotu the action

u1ifolds. I only move on to details once I get the story settled. 1 have a generalized idea~fhow 1want characters to look, and 1 use tba: rough image in
'}fty

short script) I just went through the 'whole story and did all of those tbumb'JIl.ailsat once. JL: How long do you typically spend
thumbnails? TL: Not
7J'ery
011

layouts.
011

JL: Because you're concentrating the rough

storytelling,

you

keep the figures fair]y generic-manneqjuins most eff ectrvejy,


)1

almost-so

yon can work on the shot that's going to tell the story

long. The dra'lving part takes me just a couple of

minutes, but I spend a tittle longer planning the angles I want to use. One thU11ZbnaiJ drawing takes a total affive minutes, Iguas.
JL: Okay. So if you were working
011 a

You kept your layouts to one sheet of paper for the pur-

poses of this book. Do you typically rough out your page


lsyouts on individual sheets of typing paper?

monthly book like

Batman; on a regular page with five to six:panels, you'd

TL: Yes, Also, 1usually don't use rulerstor this step. 1used rulers /0'1".your sake so tbat tbe borders would be a little more defined. When I'm doing thisfor tFflyself, 1" kno» what my lit~ tle scribble dra71Jings mean. 1wasj1Jst trying to keep my neat so your readers could unders.tancl my process.
JL: When you work
011

spend no more than 45 minutes to an hour on thumbnails? TL: That's right. Just to get .an idea of 7.vhat J want to do in

the final drawings.


JL: In some of these thumbnails, you've changed the angle a little bit; moved! the "camera" around ..Sometimes you get it right the first time but sometimes you lilay use as many as three or four different thumbnails for a specific panel. TL: us;

11Jo'rk

Batman Adventures,

for example,

is it a bit looser than this? TL: l'tab) .and 1lf4)1be not quite this size .. The layouts are big-

if you

look at th'e script). the tbumbnail page and the

ger than the tiny tittle ones that I drew on the script, but maybe 75 p.ercmt of the size I drew here.

final version, you'll see .that the shot of him pushing her in front of tlJ'esub"waycbanged numerous times. Generally,ij I'm not sure about sometbing~ if1
wbat I
'ZV/l/flt

can't felt immediately

in 1ny head

it to look like, I'll do two or three orfour differ~

ent angles to tryl to get a visual lock on:'what 1w'ant.

---l

34

r--

TIM LEVINS

Tin} sketches three pages side-by-side in order to see how the story "flows." Each rhumbnailed pag,e measures 5.25 ,. x '.75'".

CHARACTER DESIGN

1 thought he looked too 1.v,easel-y, with the big poini!J' nose and nar'ro'wface. So then I tried the beadsbo: onthe right 'where bessmoking a cigarette. I didn't tbink I needed
to

JL: After you've drawn the small page layouts, you can
see the pages and panels sequentially so you know eve.rything's working. Doyon begin work on the character designs next to get them more specific? TL: l-es. 1 didn': 'really go crazy with the character designs in this.

redo the body

sbot, since I got the body more or less right the first time. For my

own benejit; it's main!:)' the face tbat 1 'want to get down. lOu can tell] drew tbefaces of the bendnnen after I drew the rough page Ioyouts, because thosefaces are designed in positions that matxb
the l,ayout. U7.Jen I went to dra'Z1J final page, I '(vas actzially the

I've 'worked on a lot ~fgangster'- t)pe adoentures over tbeyears, sO' 1 had some stock characters in 7t~ymind, 1 uS1ltdJy do a quick, rough sketch-nothing as detailed orfinished-looking as these,
to
'fIty

going

to

redram all the /iI-res. I thin}(;I dl"T11J one and it tuasn 't turn'-lVe

ing out Tbis pl"obab!y happens to artists all the time. TVedran» something on a napkin and then try to recreate it. ':'illy God, the l10pkin s so much better!" [Laughter.] And now, of course, we have scanners, so we can enlarge the napkin end trace it off. JL: Did! you scan these in?

I give more effirt

main characters. For e~'a11Zpk,1dreu: 'what he '(vassup-

the full-body shots afPaddy before lJinalized

posed to look like, and then I drei» the young and old beadsbots

in the middle. That's toben I realized 1 't reatly like his look. didn

35'

WORKlING h!fETHODS

After working out the visual storytelling choices with thumbnail drawings, Tim designs the characters he will use in the story.

TL: No, 1didn't scan their beads and put tben« rigbt onto the

.DRAWING THE PAGE

page. I scanned tbem, made them the right size, and then. used the lightbox to trace tbes« into place,.
JL: You.had to sketch them in your blue pencill page in order to position them correctly, right? TL: U1ben I "worked on the blue p en.cit page, I dre» roz~ghhl

JL: Once you've got your page layouts down, do you scan
in those small storytelling thumbnails, blow them up on

the

COlnpt1ter"

and print them

OlIt?

TL:No, I don't. I think it's because they're so rough. Iobvious!y bauen'tput a lot ~f,~tfortinto making sure that the angles are all right. It'S 11'tainty to get an idea of tobere I want
things to be. So no, I actu,all:ystart uiitb a blank page using the

tobere their beads and sbculders sbouJd be.

thu11zb'Jlulilsas reference.

----l

36

r--

TIM LEVINS

JL: Do you have a template for yourself so you can later blow it up in a photocopier?

TL: No; although I'oe thought about doing tbat. L~ilnga ligbt~
box if one
Of111)'

bad babits.

JL: You have it on your desk like an animator, TL:

us. And

1find that process ofdra'lving every page Ve1)'

time-consuming and annoying. It s- almost like I'm inking the page). but without tbe line tbidmess or variation. It's like I'm
dra'ZJ)ingeach page tunce. It's a habit I got into right mben I

started) and fouryeers later I still haven't really broken it.


Tim draws the pages in Stadler :non-repro blue pencil on oversized

Wben I send pages off to DC) Tsend maybe five orsix at a time.
I drat» them all first in tbat rough blue or even purple pencil
stage~ and then I have to go back and trace tbem all. I do six at a time, .and it drives me nuts.

I I" X

Ii'

typing paper.

Especiatry

'with a lightbox. It's

not great

011

tbe ~)'es.
ill

JL: Do you use

non-reproducible

blue pencil?

TL: Yeah, it's something left ouerfrom my animation days, because that's 'wbat you're supposed JL: Do you use the Col-erase? TL: No, I use Stadler. JL: Is it a nOll-repro blue?
He goes over the light blue drawings with n darker blue or purple pencil.
to

draa» in at first.

TL: Yeah, it is. And a,ctually, you migbt seepurple on parts ofit.
I started using that because 1 couldn't find any o/the n{Jn~rej_J'r() blue

in the stores 111sually went

to.

17Je label says s011zething like non-

repro, but Ifo2l11d out that it actually umsn't. Tm not quite sure wbat itspurpose is), but I like it better than using a blackpertcil.
JL: Yeah, it's a nice way to dear up the drawing. There's something about it that's nicer visually than having black. It's kind of the way Art Spiegelman worked when he was doing JVlaus. The way he would do his initial drawings was

velY curious. He worked with markers, and!he would start


out with the lightest color in his spectnun. I-Ie might start out with yellow, and then go to ora:nge, red, blue and pur~ ple. It would get progressively darker it looked interesting.
3;S

he built it up, and


Next, he cleans up the drawings by retracing his work onto the board with his light table.

37

WORKlING h!fETHODS

_ _ _ • __ _ • _ ..... __ •• _ ---

Tim tries several variations on page three/panel three before choosing to show Fa.ddy from outside the window. The windowpanes resemble the bars of a cell, implying that he's trapped.

I recently discovered that I love working on typing paper in blue pencil, A friend of mine works on 24 -pound paper, which has a ]otmore resistance. So I went out to the office supply store and I found this premium Laser] et 32pound paper. A ream costs $ 14.99 instead of $4.00, but you get
500'

TL: l"Cuh,that's something I j1JSt started using recently. Wben


I1vM-ked on Gotham Adventures I used regular photocopY' paper. I imagine it must be 20 lbs, if that's th'e stendard. For
Paddy, 1just used la'rge art paper: JL: On IJ3Lge one, you've drawn everything roughly, using basic shapes. Is this how you tend to start out, focusing in
011

sheets of paper with a super-smooth

plate

finish, And when you use a blue pencil, it just glides across the surface of the page. _l1.11d its heavy enough that you
can ink on it for practice. Its great. You use pencils
I I ,"'X tOO"

the architecture and the cars?

TL:

us.
j

[7" oversized typing paper for your blue

JL: So when you block in your big basic shapes, that's


just for composition. Then, using your photo reference, you refine the drawings and compositions. Do
YOll

right?

adld

TIM LEVINS

yom perspective points on the same page later? TL: I -usually beoe a vague idea uibere I 'want the perspeaioe points
to

ing bard on thispage.'" 1 guess tbat'ssoba» bappens-mben you're tracing. I imagine iflalwaJ!:!'drew directly on the pagemstead
of u.:r:ing lightbo~"C, probably 'llJouldn 't be pressing as hard, a I JL: You have a patch for panel three on the third page ..I'm guessing you started! ourwith your blue pencil, went to the purple for some of the figure work, and then used the mechanical pencil for the perspective, clarifying it at the end. TL: Right. JL: Would you take this panel and lightbox mt? TL: Yes.

be. They're very straightforward in that last panel; focr

example, wbich has a single~point perspet:tiv'€" Ilust drat» it all

roughly by hand and then put in tbe perspective points, And sometimes 1 don't get a point exactl,y where I want it to be, so I have to play aroundwi'th it to make sure that it looks more or
less bin» I 'want. JL: Your drafting table is big, but its not huge, is it? TL: No, it's not. As mucb as 1 use the light table, its not big

enough. I also don't have those little compartments that hang off the side. Tue been toying with the idea of getting a bigger
table. As a result, my area is uSl/:B,lly a big mess, and Ttl/, always

search Engf01~pencils. [Laughter.]


JL: Do you ever run out of table space to place perspective points? Do you have to move the page over to one side and dlo one point at a time? TL: Often. Sometimes I have the paper taped (in the one side of

STORYTELLING JL: On page one you decided to shift the tunnel to the left of where it is in the thumbnail. straight down. TL: Tue jouwd ouer the years tbat tuben 1trace
7lJith

Now it opens

the light

the desk, and l.draw a little tiny jJencilmm--k or two

0'l1

the desk.

table, I don't alwa)'s pa,rition things exact~y uibere I want them to be", That second panel ended up toofor to the left for my taste.

JL: VVhen you work small, it's v'elY easy" to put your perspective points in at a manageable distance on your drawing table. It looks like you've already done that to some extent on your smaller panels. For example, on page one, you re-

J wish it were over slightly to the ·right. if this were to go on to an inleer and then bepublisbed, it would be eas:y,enoughfor me tojust say, "Can you shift that over slightly, center it a bit better? n Especially since the background wouldn't haoe much extra wo'rk to do. JL: I also liked it off to the right in the thumbnail, because it implied that the car was going around a nice curve in the tunnel. TL: 1didn't eoen think about the curve until the next panel. JL: You created this nice feel with the car. It c_reeps over towards us like it's coming around! a curve, and then when we see the buildings in another shot, it's feels like we're continuing around that circle. I like the asynu11letry of it. In a way that most people won't think about, your placement gives the car movement, On the other hand, your final version with the straight

ally made the buildings go around that curve in perspective.


What kind! of instrument do you use for your final pencils? TL: I use a mechanicaldraJtingpeflcil for the fi'lwlpages, be-

is all black, the inker

cause its lead can get very fine, JL: Like a


2H?

TL: Yeab, it'sa zH. Wben Istarted doing this) Ifound that

anytbing s~fterS'lnudged all tbe time.


JL: Also, once you go much higher than a wo_rking with a chisel.
2H,

it's like

TL: (Laughter.] Yeah, you'1:e making grooves. Altbougb even when I used asofter penal, Terr» Beatty, my inker on Cocham
Adventures, used to say to me, "H70w, J101J, really were press-

---l

39

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

><

In these five panels, Tim uses a cigarette to measure the amount of time Paddy waits for his victim to arrive. The cigarette also serves as a visual link, matching Paddy's shoeswith his character,

TIM LEVINS

shot leads us to that focal point of the photograph. think you can make a case either V!,ray.

So I

you show just the hands and the hat. TL: J-es;as I mentioned before; I toent ouer that panel m..arry

TL: Tbet's just it. I'm not sold

100

percent either way.

times, rrying tofigure it out. It 'wasoriginally going to be an obuious shot of hint pushing bel: And tben I thougbt about doing a silhouette. At some point, this option just popped into
JL: It's very effective-very
1UY

JL: I think some of the little touches you added in the last panel are redly nice, For example,
Building Everything stands out because else looks older.

the Empire State

head.

it~ the only skyscraper.

subtle. The violence ofit is

implicit in the two actions: the very stiff arms and the hat
floating off. I Iike it a lot ..I like the shot because the corn-

Did! you actually reference the buildings, or have you


done so many for Gotbam Adventures make things up? that you .kind of

position is very active. I also like how you were able to


maintain the horizontal panels throughout the end, opening up that space in the subway station.

Its v'ery crowded ..

TL: 1made up most of the buildings, although lobvious!:y ref

People move back and forth across rhe playing field,

ere-need tbe Empire State B-uilding


when I looked at photograpbs"

1'12

the backgrOllffld. Even

1didn't necessarily say) "'I'm

TL: Tbis

71)125

a cballenging page because of hen» it tuas torit-

going to reproduce tbis exactly. );


JL: On page two you have a period car and "Roosevelt

ten. He tbreu: in that little part about time passing. 1 just '11)llS going to have ber shm» up almost as soon as he got there ..1 can}t tel7 whether panels
tuo

and three are a teaste of time.

Wms" written across the newspaper.


u.s over the head! with the time period,

You're not hitting but you do start

JL: No, no, they aren't at all, because you notice how the crowd changes. People are getting on and off the trains, so you've got that feeling he's down there for a while.

noticing the hats and other details, so it's really nice.

TL: 1e.ah. It'sfu:nny. I challenge myself to tell any story Tdnnu as though tbere were no written dialogue, Tbis is my way of ens'Uring that
11ty

TL: That's what I 'll)asgoingfor. The diminishing size oftbe cig~ arette is en example. Ltsented to tnake it look like he had a vague idea ofwhen sbe ua« going to show up. He wouidn1t baoejust gone there to stend all day. 1 wanted
to

storytelling is as ,effectiveaspossible. ,obviously it'S

hard to conVe:)1 exactly what:) being said, but 1can stilt depict the

action (};Pid the mood of the amoersation, especially 7lJi.th this story.
I worked on this during a family vacation, and I sbotoed it to various members ofmyfomily who knew nothing about tbeplot;
1)1y sister-in-lam looked at it and said, "T1?bat'S'with eoerybod»

build a sense ojanticipation.


have been to show would imply a
Each additional

JL: Sure. Another approachmight more cigarette

butts by his feet. That

whole different length of time, In this scene, you show a passage of roughly seven to ten minutes. cigareue would add a new element of history to the scene.

weari1rzgbats? TOday, people don't 'wear hats. " Exac.t~y,f JL: Right. I liked that. And on the second page you use patterns very effectively to make connections for the reader ..

TL: It's funny; the ideajor the cigarettes just came to me in the middle of the process..1 don': think bes smoking a ciga-rettein the

TL: I did those little crisscross patterns on Paddy and the girl to make it more obvious that tbey're the ones to tceub.
JL: You're using design as a storytelling element. I really

page layout. He needed something

to

do to look inconspicuous w/;ije


Wh~7'l e sees her. h

waiting. I tbi-l1kbe 'was r:eading a newspapc'f: There S a .tbumbnail somewhere where he throws the paper down It just didn': seem to convey tinzfs passage 'welt enougb. And I liked the idea of a cigarette falling better than tbe newspaper.
JL: Yeah, that looks nice. It also emphasizes

like the cigarette falling as her feet walk by him. A little


crisscross is all we see, then we cut -up and we see him behind her ..We know it's her because of that pattern once

die different

again. I like the choice you made on the last panel, where

era, because you can't smoke in subways anYlnore.

WORKlING h!fETHODS

TL:

res. That's why 1added a couple

of other smokers in the

is he regretting bis actions despite all the gains he s made? JL: "Panel Six: Paddy sits behind the desk and contern .. plates the snapshot." I like that there's a certain amount of atnbiguity. You don't really know.

background.
JL: On page three, you draw a much older Paddy. You\re given him some liver spots
OIl

his hands. AI ..

though he's obviously aged, you link hun to the younger Paddy with the cigarette, Is there any significance to the rings on his fingers? TL: It wasn't spelled out in tbe script, but I imagined that this
kill helped move him up thr,Qugh the ranks. I liked the paral-

TL: les, exactl)'. And I·was !Japing the reader would decide.

JL: Thars where the rings really do come into play. We


start connecting the two things even more: his success; her death. And we begin to wonder, exactly why does he still have this photograph?

lel betuieen the young Pad~J' holding the picture on the first page and the old Paddy holding it on the last page. For me, the rings imply that he j- made a success of himself in his world of crime, £n part by flllo'wing the orders to kill this 'Woman. The rings demonstrate that be's s,Q'l1Zebod)' f distinction o
JL: And he's surrounded by YOllllg thugs.. TL: Yeah. My designfor all these characters was veryl simple,

TL: Exactly ..It's kind of.an odd thing. You:bear of criminals keeping things as tropbies. Personally,judgi:ng

bJl

the 'way the

story is prc:f:ented,I think he has regrets on some level. Othe'rwise, tbepicture might beframed up on bis wall.
Another possib£lity 1 considered was a down shot inuibid: be

now.

would bepretty small, sitting at hi') desk, at such an angle that you can't re.ally see his focial expression. 1 'was thinking of setting the photograph on his desk and having him sit there and look .at it. That shot mi gh:t fit better with the contemplation
that's mentioned in the script.

but 1tried to make the ones in the present look more amtemporary. For example, the guy in the middle has a port),tail.

JL: Right. And you've got a guy with a goatee. There are
some physical similarities between him and the guy on the first page, so it's good that you show the difference between then and now ..The hairstyle, the lack of hats, and the goatee make a nice contrast. And. you even have a cell phone in panel three. TL: Yes, that 'was an ea:sy 'way of saying, "Look.' We're in

But the way I've drasm it, 1guess ,'you assume he's contemplating. lou don't actual!.,)!see his face.
JL: I think it's v,ery effective. I like the idea of leaving something open -ended for the viewer.

the present!"
ADVICE

JL: The last panel creates a nice contrast with the past, and not Just by adding the rings and liver spots. We can also see that the photograph is starting to deteriorate
over trme,

JL: Based on your experience, do you have any advice for young cartoonists? TL: This sounds like an oboious anstuer; burprectice and pc'r-

TL: I tsrestled witb the ending

~fthe wry becausebis thoughts


to 0'11£

severance are real?y important, The more .you .d'ra~v,tbe more your skills~vitlimproue. :Vfiork bard to developyour st01ytelling abilities; lots of artist) can draw prett)I pictures, but surprisingly few can use those pictures to telt a story efficti7)ely. Send your work to editors, meet tbem at amoentions, and keep trying~if)lour

are not described ckarry in the script. I could have gone

e.:'(-

treme in the last panel and sboued bis face with a tear coming
doum his cheek, dearf)' thinking, HI regret l1Jhat I did all those

),ears ago." At the sanu: time Ijustwanted keep it vague. 1'wanted to leave it up
to

tbe reader: Is be banging on to tbis phoroWapb as

work is good; it'll eventually get noticed.

a trophjl, thinking, "This is what made me'1v/Jo 1 today, " ocr am

TIM LEVINS

Tilll Levins' Paddy

43

WORKlING h!fETHODS

44

TIM LEVINS

45'

WORKlING h!fETHODS

WORKlING h!fETHODS

FIGHT NIGHT

Script by
SCOTT HAMPTON

Artists
JIM MAHFOOD PAT QUINN SEAN NIURPHY

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Script: Fight Night

PAGE I

Panel r: Opening shot. Night. Giant futuristic building lit by spotlights and searchlights, surrounded by cops on the
ground and in the air. Smoke and flames pour from part of the building. Cop from a helicopter: lOcu'r:e surrounded! Throw down Jour weapo'JIls!Do it now! Panel a. Interior building. Two super team membersin cool battle garb. The male is Lewis. He's the nervous type.

Tara (short for Tarantula) is dark and beautiful. Born leader, The place is a mess-s-one hell of a flght has recently taken place here. Dead alien-looking creatures lie here and there. Cop (off-panel): This isyour last chance! Lewis (still holding a smoking gtln): Oh great.' Nom tsba: do 'we do?
2:

Those cops think this 'was ourfa:ultl

Tara (Grabbing a large gun out of the rubble): flo tim« to WOTry abou: it net» .. Corne on, Lewis.

Panel

j:

RU11l1i.ngdown a hallway. Wreckage everywhere,


ber; she 'was 7.v'res.tling 'V.;iththat crocodile thing.

Lewis: Wbere are we going? And tobere's Toy?


Tall-a: Last time I sau:

PAGE 2

Panel

I!

They enter another large

\VTGck of a room, all aircraft hanger. Lots of planes including one incredibly big, cool

one ..Also, a lot of places where cops could spring out at them. Lewis: Rol!}' Nloleyl Didyou know these tcere beret!
Tara: Ofmurse. lOu uould, too,ifyOZl ever took the time to glance at tbe blueprints befvre an operation ..
2;

C01ne on, let's bot-mire tbis bab.JIand get the hell out of bere.

Cop (off-panel); There they are.' Get 'em.'

"lGHT

N.I: HT SCRIPT G

Panel

2:

Cops open upwith machine gunfire that hits the planes and spallgs off our heroes' armor,

Tara: No.' Not the fuel tank, you idiots.' Lewis: Tara,. come on! This Panel
jr 'lJ.}!J)'!

'They jump through an opening or hatch just as an explosion rips the planes up behind them,
a1110ng

Panel 4: They are now Tara:

air-conditioning ducts and!rusty; nasty-looking pipes. Lewis leads the way and is turning a corner.

Uell, there s another

twenty million bucks the tax payers can kiss off.

Lewis (whispers): Ob no. Panel 5: Tara reaches Lewis. They are facing a large round window, overlooking the city from high up.

Lewis: u:;e're screwed,

PAGE Panel r: They turn to fight the cops. Cop (off-panel): They went this way.'

Tara, nlf're going to have Mfight. Try not to kill roo many of them. Lewis (pulling a mean looking gun out): Ob, man. Panel
2:

The cops open up on them. Lewis and Tara aim low, shooting them in the legs.

Cop: Tbere they are.' Get 'tnt.'!

SFX: Blam/ Blam! Kpa:ng.'


Lewis; Stop it, you morons! Jilt don't want to hurt you! Panel
j:

They turn their heads toward a voice outside the big window as the bullets continue to sping and! spang.

Voice (off-panel): Hey, you with the glasses! Panel 4: A plane is hovering outside. vVe see that another team member is piloting it. Lewis and Tara: Toy'! Panel 5: They crash through the window ... Panel 6::And land inside the plane through an opening in the top.

Toy: Say .bye-bye! Panel y: The plane zooms off as the police continue to fire away, spraying bullets all over the city.

----l

49

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Jim Mahfood

j im Mahfood
books, dram

(a.k,a, Food '0 11e) makes comic

flyers, designs album covers, and rocks

live art in various clubs and bars around the coun-

tlY.

BOKll

in St. Louis, l\1issoUlri, he studied at the


Mahfood

Kansas City Art Institute, where he founded 40 Oz.

Comics with artist Mike Huddleston. went


011

to illustrate Kevin Smith's Clerks comics

and launch a number of creator-owned


and Stupid Comics. Mahfood's mainstream

indy rework in-

leases, such as Grr/Scouts, One Page Filler Man, Felt,

dudes a collaboration Parker: Spider-Man,

with Brian Michael Bendis

on Ultimate Marvel Team- Up #9, two issues of Peter

a short story in Bart Simpson's

Treebouse of Horror #6, and Grendel: Red, White, and Black, among other titles ..The artist now lives Los Angeles, where he's branching
videos and animation.

out into music

He shares his work and news

on his website, ,\vV{\v.4oozcomics.com.

JIM MAHFOOD

THE SCRIPT Jo1m Lower When you get a script) how many tunes do you look it over?

THUNIBNAILS JL: You)ve sketched eve!LY pag·eright here on the script: in ballpoint pen. You've made
yOill'

frame. You've decided

Jim Malhfood: Two or three times.


JL: Do images pop up in your mind while you're reading?

the number and size of the panels you're going to use, as well as the basic layout you'll stick with all the way through the pencils. Another artist mightwork very differently. Some will

JM: Absolutely .. The whole scenario-s-the 'whole vi"uallook~ starts to come together i11 my mind. By the second or third read,
I'll be like, "Hmm, that panel has some coolstuff going on

complete numerous sketches and!thumbnails to work out the best way to illustrate a single panel. In contrast, you seem to edit in your mind. JM: Yeah. 1 have the bad habit ofcmaking one-shot decisions.

there. 1 can draw it from this angle or do it this way."


JL: It sounds like you have the whole page layout roughed out in your head before you even. sit down to do the first rough thumbnail.

Jf'lJzy first try 'works, I just stay 'witb it.


JL: It looks good; very solid, You put just enough informarion down to give yourself a pretty good idea of what's going on. You work with very rough basic shapes but the

JM:

us.

Jim typically reviews a script two

01"

three times to get a good sense of the visuals. Then he draws his thumbnails directly onthe script.

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Jim draws his initial character designs directly in ink using aPilot Precise marker ..He uses a Sharpie to fill in the large black areas.

----l

52

JIM MAHFOOD

sketches are legible.

JM: Ye.ah. I did the thumbnailr on the script in pert. That fi'rst
step is key .. JL: It's the most important phase because it helps you pick out any problems right away.

JM: Th.at~ right.

CHARACTER DESIGN JM: After C011'lpieting the dra'Zvings on the script, 1 sat down and started the cberacterskeubes. I wanted to get an idea of the shapes inuoloed: the costumes, masks, and body types of the characters. Lkne» lrnmediatel)! that 1 wanted the guy to he big and muscular, and tbe girl to look sexy) Batgirl-style. JL: Did you draw those in pen also? JM: Yeah, most of them are straight

pen drawings. 1 rectify like

to 'work

tbof

~way.E'lien in m:y sketchbook, I do eve1yth.ing in


USU~

pen. FVhen J.was in art school, I got the Bill Sienkiewicz sketcbbook .. He bad this gre.at qU()te in there; sO'lluthi1'lg like, "I

ally force my/self to always draw in pen), because when I make a mistake, tbe drawingjust laughs at me, There's no going back, no chea.ting, editing, or erasing. I bace to turn the page and
start from scratch again. " Pen is the most blatent ~wayafforc-

ing mJself

to

see things cOt//>rect!y.

JL: Not only to see"! but also to put things down correctly, with the right placement tionships" right? and proportional rela-

JM: Right.

TOOLS

JL: What pen did you use for the sketches? It looks like it
might be one of those Penstix,

Hls final character designs emerge ..

JM: It's a black Pilot Precise rolling ball pen, the kind you can get at Office .lLfax. I dig tbose, and I also have tbe Alvin Penstix.

WORKlING h!fETHODS

JL: You'll alternate between the Pilot and the Penstix to sketch, and then probably blacks, .right? use Sharpies to fill in

FORMAT

JL: You work at a reduced your board? and you decide

size. What is the area of

JM: reab I use Sharpies on the fill-ins.


J

JL: So you work out YOllr characters out the blue pencils on 8,5 x
It

JM: I staled down 'iny original art on the new Grrl Scouts series. The actual board is 9" x 14 "~and then I put an inch of space at the top, an md: of at the bottom, and a half-inch on

which costumes you're going to go with. Do you work


I In

typing paper next?

both sides.
JL: Okay, so that means its 8'" x I z"?

JM: Yes.
JL:Do you have a template for your layout paper, or do

you rule it out as you go?

JM: Right. 1 really like tbat forrllflt now. I did tbe whole Grd
Scouts mini-series that way. Ts» doing most of my Stupid
n07lJ.

JM: I rule it out;


JL: I read an interesting article about this subject in

Comics for Image that 'way

The thing is, ifl 'went back

to do It gigfor Marvel or DC 'with a writer tobo did e£gbt to ten panels a page, I might have to go back to I I
JL: How did you come up with this size?'
t~ X

Draw'! Magazine, A lot of kids are now buying that BlueLine paper, which I generally find inferior,

17 paper.
It

JM: Right. Some guy at a convention gave me a sampk pack


of that stuff. There toas a certain typ.e that was really good. It held the ink 'really 'well. Butsome af the other stuff isjust crlJP.

JM: My friend Scott Morse works toitb it, and be's all about
efficiency and productioity. This is a gr,q wha can do an entire

comic boo]:in a tneek anda half His originals are this size, or
even smaller: Sometimes the;I're 8'·5" x
11",

I buy my own Strathmore a:nd cut my own boards.


JL: I think that's the way to go. And you're right about the paper. They finalJly put out one line called Premium Paper thats good. The problem is, they charge kids that paper.
$2~2'50

for

B,LUE PENCILS JL: How much time do you usually spend


OIl!

your blue

This guy in Dram! was saying that instead of just buying Bristol) which is a better paper,. the kids are buying Blue-

pencils? JM: I try to hammer those out pretty quick. I think I did all three pages of this
sto'Jjl

Line Pro. They buy it for the ruled guidelines, which


make it very easy to sit down and do a page. This guy suggested cutting out the live area of that Blue l.in e Pro paper with a straight razor and a ruler.
YOlll

in a matter afhours. Ijust start scrib-

bling uiitb .that blue pencil, maki'f2g shapes and figu'ring out
tbe layout. When I think I'm close to sometbing~ 1 'move on to the next board" Once 1 baoe all my blues doom, I go i11 'with

end up with a

template that you can slap down over another piece of rea] Bristol. Just tape it down and you've got your guide~ lines there automatically, without ruJling them out. You can also make your own template by marking and cutting your windows in a piece of BristoL If you hang onto that, you'll! never have to rule a page out again.

that No. 2 pencil and 1 start penciling.


JL: That brings up a good! question. This is a short story; If it were a
22: -page

Marvel book with a full script, would

you thumbnail and blue-pencil the entire issue before

you started inking? Or would you do it chunks of pages at a time?

JM: ~b, thats a good ideal I've never thought of tbat:

JM: I'd do chunks of pages. U)ben 1'worked with [AxelAionso,

----l

54

r--

JIM MAHFOOD

-_

After the thumbnails, Jim uses a blue pencil to draw the pages on 8" x

12"

bond paper '..vithruled guidelines.

At this point in the process~Jim is still focused on basic composition.

------l

55'

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Editor], be 'was 'really good about forcing me to do six to eight pages at a time. I would do a blue pencil leyout and add some
petlciling in there. Theymere pretty tight layouts. illJould fa.,'r those to him, ·'We' utlk about them, and he'd give me many, d

'many minor corrections. Then he'd say, "Go ahead and compktely finish penciling these tights end ink tbem. 1 don't need to see finished pencils, 1 kno» what your work looks like. Now you're setfo« the next week to completely finish these pages." I
would send .him inks oftbe jpeg-s, and I don't think be bad nze correct a'11ything once we got to inks.

JL: 'That's because all the corrections were made ill the
layout stage, right?

JM: Right.

PENCILS
Jim takes his blue pencil layouts to the lighl:bQX and transfers them to Bristol hoard nsing an American Standard
NO.2

pencil

JL: When you draw your final pencils, you use a .2B mechanical pencil. Do you work at a light table with your bhie pencils as a guide underneath?

JM:tes ..1 do the whole light table tbing and try to do some
clean) simple, line-J' penciling. JL: The interesting thing is, even though your pencils are
tightened up considerably from the blue pencils, they're still organic and somewhat unfinished. have some fun in the inking stage as well So you can still

INKING

JM: J always baoea lot of room to add, delete and messaround


in the .ink stage. That's 1vh.e~re 'i1Zmost confident. I think I baoe P
Vf~e~e A~e WQ
A~.d 'fIeieRe'-S:
. 6o-o1N<=- ~

my inking pretty much down, so a lot .happens in tbe inking stage that you won 't see in breekdoums or penciling . JL: I imagine some of that confidence carne from your

.TD1·~

He uses Pilot Precise V 5 and V7 pens during the initial inking stage. The .xs indicate areas that will later be filled with black.

years of sketching in pen, didn't it?


JM:Yeah,

it gave me a

tot of confidence.

----l

56

r--

JIM MAHFOOD

JL: It looks like you use pjJot Precise pens, V7 and V5, to ink.

JIvl: Righ t:
JL: In the final step you. use a black Sumi ink brush pen,

JM: Yes.
JL: You do all of your linewor k and even finish up some of your drawing in the inking stage, don't you?

which I'rn assuming is one of those synthetic- haired


brushes with a cartridge?

J1\;1: Yup.'
JL: And then a Rapidograph that for? JM: Sometimes 'when 1do Tny Q- Tip phase, 1don't go to the
NO.

JM: Yes, aJ! the lineuior]: Its almost like a coloring book. I do all nzy liru'llJ'orkand ':X ~, in all the black, using Q- Tips to fill in the largest areas. I really j~eetbe page start pulling togetber
at that point. That's an important stage, because I begin to see

4- What do you use

where the whole graphic sensibility comesfrom ..


JL: 'That way, you can also see if you need to balance the contrast.

edges ~fall tbe tiny black areas. My Rapidograpb and Sumi brush, all permanent ink} are more precise. Tbey fill in the little cracks and crevices and make everything mper~tigbt. I complete the blacl: phase b)l filling in all those areas and
adding little details on, like guns or highHghts .. Ijust make everything tight.

JL: I want to ask you about page one, panel two, where the guy and the girl are in the room with all the dead aliens.Tn the foreground, you've really thickened up the limesfor the heads of these aliens. Did you build those up with yo-ur Pilot Precise pen?

JM: Yeah. I went back and added tine weights, 7'toSt~y 7.vitb the
pens-· -tbe Pilot pen, and sometimes with Rapidograph. 1 really just have a bunch ofpen.'!in
,}'flji

desk and I'm just grabbing

them. and addirng line 'weights 'where I think they 're necessary.

Jim uses Q-Tips to quicklyfill in large areas with black India ink,

He fills ill the remaining small blackareas with a variety 'of pens, including a black Pentel Sumi ink brush, a Rapidograph and the Pilot Precise v5 and V7.
N0,4

(1.20)

------l

57

WORKlING h!fETHODS

The final pages rest on Jim's drawing table in his studio. The plastic tny attached to the left side of the table allowsjim to kleep all of his drawing and inking cools within arm's teach ..

LETTERING

JL: You do the letters before you put the balloons around

them, right?

JL: You have all interesting lettering style. After you put yOWl word! balloons in, you rough ill! the placement in the
pencil stage. Then, I guess, you do the lettering. Do you do your lettering before you ink the figures?

JM: Yes.. I do lettering,. and then I edit the balloon to make it fit around tba: letter.
JL: Your lettering is very unique, yet it's still very legible. Has your penmanship always been good?'

JM: My lettering style is so balf-assed. 1110st people an: shocked when they hear bow I do it. Sean Kono« laughs at me) but he loves 1J~)! lettering wo'rk. Wben I'm in penciling mode) 1 rough in the baltoon based on how much space I think 1'1Ineed. Tben I do the lettering in the peri-drawing stage. I don't pencil out the 'word's. 1 ,:writestraight in pen. just
JL: Are you serious?

JM: No, that's sO'flzetbingI had to work at. Back in art school, when 1was lettering my oum comics, Evan Dorkin 'was like) "lOur lettering sucks. YOu need
to

work on that. It's inamsis-

tent. ):, t's a process that evolved over the years. And with this I latest Grrl Scouts series for l11zage, I really 'worked bard to 71Zake the lettering part of the art. The lettering and the balloons are as important as the drawing in the panel. Isoant them to be integral to the design of the page. That's sOrlzething I

JM: I don't rule .it out; 1just use m_)1 eye.

JIM MAHFOOD

learned from Scott Morse: Bv{"rything we put


is part of the design.

tlrYW11

on the page

JIvl: Yeah, that's what it was. I ':would dnn» cO'l'J'lpuisiveiy in tny sketchbook to improve. I worked constantly. Also, I was
around Mike) 'who ~ like the He
71J0 1710St

JL: Right, every element is equally important.

disciplined guy I've ever

171et.

uld spend hours and days 'without leauin g his table. He'd

JM: So now I'm 'really trying to approach every aspect of 'In,)1 comics as a designer. The panel, the word balloon, the lettering-(7)erything.
JL: When Evan Dorkin criticized your lettering and you had to make a conscious attempt to improve it, what did you do? Did you look for books on the subject? Did you sit down and do some kind of daily practice? JM: 1" would fust'lvrite in
'tftJ

work like crazy.


JL: This is something I like to bring up to students who give excuses about why they're not done. Even when you were in school, Y0111nust have been putting ill or
SLX

:it least

five

hours a day at the table, right?

JM: Ob). ye.ab ,.I would alwa"ys go to class and take care ~f1l_'}! 1
school assignments first. Wben the school assignments were done) that snas when J would really start to havefun. 1 would start doing my own comics at 'midnight. That stuff71lasjutt for
me; I tuasn ~teven getting credit for in scboo] or making nzoney
off of rny little mini-comics ..

sketchbooks. 1would uirite down

ideas. I would play around, lettering words and sound effect!


£n my style. It's ,a tbing tlJat evolves over time. My lettering two
011"

three years ago 'wasn't as strong as it is now. Ijust

learned it 7vitb time .and ~ffo'rt..

MINI~COMICS
STYL,E

JM: I was lucky because I 'was banging out 'witb a network of

JL: How did your artistic st)de evolve? JM: I leamed how to ink first. J was inking comics when I was
£1:1

coolyoung artists in Kansas City. Some of them we're in school

with me. Some afthem weren't. But we were .all actively putting (Jut 'zincs and mini-comic. And that whole uorldjuss
r'e-

high schoolfor a

lOCJlI

publisher in St. Louis. I learned the

toots of inkt:ng, brush, pens, .and all that stuff At The Kansas
City Art Institute, 1" used to ink Mike Huddleston S ioork. He

al!:),appealed to me. 1 had ahvays dreamed of working for Moroe! or DC, 'makil!Jgmmey. And then it dawned' on me that
1 could put out product and not baoe a publisher malu: T!toney off of it. Jou can at least see your work in the stores, in coffee

was my roommate. We weretry'ing to get work as a team hack then, and we went tbrougb many years of refection. Byjuniocr year, I started drawing m)' own 7.vork and publishing mainstream inker anymo're.
And at that time ltoas really, rea/~! looking at Ja'rnieHewlett on Tank Girl,. end Vaughn Bode's Cheech Wizard. and I've alwtlfYs
'llf)l

own

houses around town..

mini-comics. 1toasn 't even concerned about getting work asa

vile 'Would do our

oum 'zincs and mini-comics, drive them

around in our car, d1t'Op them off at hip-hop shops, record stores,
comic shops, coffee houses, and sell everything on consignment. ]lily linle mini-comics tuere a buck each, and they actually started to sell. And that's 'when it danmed on me: "Uinv, peo~

been into hip-hop and graffiti. I was looking at all these real{y graphi(; really unique styles of drawing, So it inasjust an evotu.tion type thing-,end it's stili evoiving.lfyousa11.) my work in '97, ),ou'd see traces of1Dhat 1do not», but it's It much cruder thing. JL: So you started doing mini-comics for yourself, just by trusting yourself and having fun drawing?

pie I don 'tknow' are actually paying money for my tuork!" So that teas a sign that maybe 1was on the right track. JL: Whatkind of numbers were you putting out? JM: 'u;e. 71Joulddo 300'-500 print
rU;1'lS.

The coolthing

'mtls that

1 knew a lot ofprint makers at school, and 'we had an offset press,

----l

59

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

U>ewould fold, staple, end box the books ourselves. It suas reall:;l hands-on. It was like, "Let'};' aue a party and get drunk and lisb
ten to music and put together our books."

were huge words of encouragement for me. 171JdSgetting rejectlCin letters all the ti7rtefrom Dark Horse, 1Wa'f~ vel, etc. Dan vado at Slave Labor att1Jally 'wanted 1just wanted to write and dre»
7t1)l
to' publi'd)

my

I tuould. sbip copies to my buddies back home in St. Louis, and

work bade in '95 01' something,. but at the time 1just tuasn 't 'l"eady.

they would get tbem in the stores for me there. vVe got them
£J2tO stores in Chicago through friends we knew. So it became

,antics as I went along and

he W.IJS like, UNo'! dude. I need to see a full script for issue one. I need to see a story, a breakdoum of thefour-issue mini-series. "At the time 171Jasjustdra!zvingfi7Je a-ndsix-page stories: and 17JJou-ld just w'rite and dra» as 1went almzg. JL: Wen, I actually th ink that's a really good thing to do
at that age. You probably got more out of that than if you were trying to sculpt an epic story.

this Midwest tbing, and we tried to build frout there.


JL: How often would you put out these minis?

JM: I only did four or five 24~page books fvr mysel.f But at the same time, I toas also doingfour and.five~page short stories for 'zincs and 'lnagazines in town.
JL: Did this also lead to some local illustration gigs or anything like that? Did it lead to any other kind of work? JM: Yeab Mike asul Ifinally started getting a couple of payJ

JM:Well) yeah. I bad no idea how to develop a big project or a mini-series. I11Ja.m't a turiter at the time. Pm still not a great writer, but T'ln working on it. It's an evolutionary process..

tng gigs around town. 'Ute· did a Jour-page, [ull-eolor comic strip for Kansas City l\1agazine, makingfim
paid $300-40,0
faT

of the local media or


7VBS

whatever. To us, that was a huge deal. 'u;e actually each got
our 'work, and it

onh' four

WORKING AS A FREELANCER JL: Currently, you go back and forth between your ])ersonal projects and your work for mainstream companies.

or fi've

pages. And we sat» our work in print. 1started to get spot illustrations in the localpaper here and there. Small things; but

at tbe time they uiere bug« to me because I '1.VaSfil1ally getting ~lJorkon my own.
JL: Did you get much feedback from your mini-comicsj

JM: Tbet» the thing 1 like about tubere I am right now. I can
do six months on a [our-issue mini-series of my own st-ujJfor Image~ like Grrl Scouts, then I can go .back and do a
O1Zt

or

JM: 1 did send them out to all the srnall puhlishers, and then to artists. Evan Dorki» 'wasone of thefirst guys 'whoever wrote back to me. He wrote me back every time I sent him one ofnt)1 comics. l-Ie would give me three tofour~page full~,on critiques. He would write things like, C"Okay,your panel borders need to
be tbideer: JOur lettering S'ucks-you need to iPlZp'rove on that.

two-issue freelana gig for Maroe] or DC. I do 1nJ! freelance illustration 'work,. and I do amoentions where Lsell my art.
JL: You're like an independent choose his roles. film actor who gets to

JM: Yeah, I like being freelance. I could never do a 1!lonthly


hook, so I'm not the rype of guy who would sign a one~year gig 'with Marvel or DC.

This looks good, this rooks good." I hadn't actually met bis« at tbat point, but he would tell me things like, "The work)'ou're selwing me if go ptrcen.t better than any of the
Stuffl''l1'l

see~

JL: WIth something like Grri Scouts at Image, you pay them for advertising and distribution) and then you get the royalties back on that?

ing in the underground scene right noui. You 're doing good but here's wbatyou need to change." Dan Clowes sent me a post:..
card one time saying, "He)" yowl' stuff's good, I've been getting

it. Thanks.' Keep at it. Hopefully the comics £l1.dustry doesn't crumble nextveer. l'ou should be able to get work. " So those

JM: Right~ no mon.ey up front at all.


JL: So is that one of the reasons the conventions come into

----l

60

r--

JIM MAHFOOD

play: in order to make it financially? Or do you have a big


enough fan base that on the stands?
YOll

JM: Ob)ieah, it's all them. I think its a realf)' simple, straight~
jO'l'1JJard deal. A lot ofpeople toerned me to be careful when 1 got
into it 7vith them. But tht:)!send me the papeJf"Wo'rkand 'num-

sell a significant number of copies

JM: 1'nt ntaking good money ofIt be £1'ld£vidual issues tb'rough


Image, But you need to have money to survive on when you do so'Itzething with Image because those checks don't come' for :two months after the book if out.
JL: So that's like, five months after you've finished it.

bers and e1Jerything, and 1think I'm doingfine. JL: That's g.reat!

ADVICE JL: Do you have advice for anyone considering putting out their own book? JIvl: 1 would suggest sticking7.vith blade-and-tubite.

JM: The orders have been really strong with all my stull
through Image, so I am making good money per issue. And tbe« there ~ the money on the trade. There s all tbis other stuff

going on. But tbat': the deal with Image going into it: l'Ou've
got to beue money to survive off of JL: So you) d either need to work a clary job and do comics at night out of jove, or do what you're doing: take some mainstream work and then live off that llloney while you make what you want to make.

That's

'what I'm doing with all my work. 1 'tknot» who these kids don
an: uibo try to da a full-colo~r mini-series through Jtnzage. fOU 'd

have to sell over ten thousand copies of an individual

issue to

break even.' In hlacle-and-uibite, you)v,e got to sell over three

[thousand]. Do the math! I have a pretty bardcorefotI01Vi'f'lg of people tbat buy anJlthing 1do) and I still can't break the ten thousand mark on a black-.and-wb ite book.
JL: Right. Your numbers aren't going to be pushed up significantly, if at all, if you do color. And it won't matter

JM: E:ract!y.
JL: With the Image deal, what were your numbers for

Grrl Scouts? JM: They iuere really good. With No.


I

for YOUlran base. f


they were about

8,500. Then it went doum. Two) three and four were in the

JM: I plan to do a color book in .ayear or sojust for [un, as a 48-page one-shot. But until then, I'm set
comes later: JL: Absolutely. I love black-and-white work. Often, color
011

.trying to make

money ojT of each individual book. The trade and everything


JL: That's still very good! though .. JM: Aiy very first book through tbem, Stupid Comics, was

shocking. It was, like) 9,500 copies. Wejust solicitedfor the second one; and I'm hop£ng that the orders
stro·ng. Grd Scouts
NO. I I,

can be a crutch for bad work. 'With black-and-white, the


design of the page and the linework are almost displayed
,11 , '"m th e b ff," so to spea k.
I.

0'J2

that are real/!y'

through Image completely sold out. and 1 have seoeral trade collections

So 1 a royalty on 1\10. got

coming out tbr~oughImage this year; so I'm l11,aking tmoney ~ff at! of that.
JL: And it seems like Image really has the system ironed out now. It's
all

JM: I would also advise artists to learn the rules of storytelling, anatom», perspective, pacing, tbJling,mood~ lighting, tension, and balance. And then learn when to break those rules.

upfront business proposition.

They're

producing some interesting stuff, andyou don't have to worry about the distribution or advertising; right?'

----l

61

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Jim Mahfood's Fight Night

62

JIM MAHFOOD

0M &FteAt-!

.&0 \He -4.() 1'! +\-\0 Se <.ofS +H, .. K

HOW

w~Ai

"""~l=.~\U ..tl~ "",..s ~

WHei:e A~V4e
I

I\tf4 VltieRe"-S;

6o-oiN ~

1:"

TCYC:

/"

WORKlING h!fETHODS

o? .c:. o\lItSe" "'lev. w c:> \U,4TO<C> \~ You. e"~ +-0'\0< 1"i4e -t!~MQ'"tIC> .. LANce

M~ eL.~lf1ttN·'t'$ &etiOite fAN ,or.e~.M-loN

64

JIM MAHFOOD

tltV Nrt ioKlt 1..1•., tz,o, MAtJ V' "F ~eM.u

tw.

\H e' lU:~ c:;. 0 t N l:,.

HAVQ

to fl,t-\t·

0.

65'

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Pat Quinn

Baptized!on the day of the Lunar Landing, Pat Quinn spent his first few years in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before spening the bulk of his formative years in the suburbs outside of vVasbington, D.. . Pat always had comics" particularly super-hero C comics, around his entire life. During his college years,. he majored in Art Education, always assuming that he would do comics professionally: It wasn' t until after he graduated in 1993, when he discovered that he needed to start training seriously to make a career in comics a reality. After several years, a few thousand submissions and dozens of conventions, Pat started to get smaller press work.His first sequencia] pages appeared in Claypool Cornie's SoulSearchers and Company.

In ]I 999; Pat decided to increase his training further; aswell as broaden his options, by enrolling in the Sequential Art M .. .A. progrru_n at the Savannah F
College of Art and Design. It was during his stay in Savannah that Pat started to get work from larger publishers such as Wildstorm, Idea, and DesignWorks. Pat relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 2003 and has been with the Savannah College of Art and Design's Atlanta Campus since
2005.

He currently leads

a double existance professionally as the Academic D1ire,ctor of Communicacion Arts for SCAD-Atlanta by day and a freelance comics artist by night. His

wife Pilar and! daughter Alison help him maintain his sanity".

PAT QUINN

Pan~l I,; OpeirJJings:h(lt. Night. (;jal!J] :mlurislic blilllil:~C: lit by spoll.ii,g.bU; aAJ:~ :se~hligh:I~ .. sumnmded by eops (III mesroulldJin '[h:~ I,ll'. S;mot~ and ElamlCspo"f il'il'om pM' 'I>r the lbuil!dlmg,
C~p'from

w=il,p0Il~1 Do it 110""'!! pib. Thj)

a heU(:o,p!e!!'~ Y'ou'l'Ie surroY!lde.~! Tlhr()w down your


ill fewl b:a~lle (ShQlll; '~or

Panel 2: [n'tc:'dw 'buiIJdi.ug,.Two

mate is u:wis. R~',S,ltiicli,¢:N<!l\l$ type. Tara

:Syptt

l.eammembe:r,s;

om "iiHl

'Far,a!J]tlolla) is aMI!: ,~d beall.ufUil. Bom leader. 1'ihe pl:aee !)n~ h-,dI !)fa, Eight has l'Cocntly IDc;n ,pl!l.:~ hen);,I)t!';ad tl:::re3ii~reS lle ,here and,l'ber~.

i.s,a

mes:;.~ -

iJ8.

air~mr~
Also" .~

to!!llon¢J.

Illi:c:n·looki.ng

m .•

I...ewis t{rt;till hl:)ldin,g a smQking ,gUM'!):Ob [glle!lltl Now '2:: Tho~ c_op$tiJJi~k 1J'ji_;s was .am: fault!

what: dQ we do'l
worry

1'ua: ((]rn'bbi.llg a large gun eat uf the mbble:) Nor ti:me, ili!~OU~ illWw. Come Dill" le'wis. -,Panel 3: RlIlifiing ,aowo ra hdliWI!.)'. Wrkkllligc Lewis: Wberc
:De ~

~I)

everywneJe.

-Siling'l'A.n:d.

wnete's 'roy?

I.
I

j)ist
U~lS

M'

IIln explosic;
FUSty"

fllmtng ,actl'!',ner.

ood

Pat fills the script with visual ideasfor pattel compositions and character designs.

THE SCRIPT John Lowe: Whars the first thing you do after reading

lliyfirst set of thumbnails.is u.\UlJ,lly a knee-jerk reaction that


1 put on paper. Then I '11'lixup the composition and try diffe'r(tnt camera placement. Sometimes 1 might find that a differ~

the script? Pat Quinn: I read it at least twice. The first time, I read to
assessthe pace-which for
'flU

entry sized or oriented panel might work better, tobid: means I have to retbinl: my overall layout.
W£th this script, I'11Jcflt 'ZiJitha "cinematic' me to using horizontal
01~ sqw1:e

is the page layout. Ldo a littk

or "undescreen"

tbumfxnail of the layout on the bottom left of a script page. 1

layout, which is 'vny trendy right now. That format .lirni.ts panels~'lOtbing vertically

draw emptypaneis).ju.st to see how the pace and pene] size will work. The second time J read the script, 1 go back to thei:ndlvidual panel desmp tioss and sketch tbumbnails.

oriented. JL: Sinee this script doesn't have established characters,

67

WORKlING h!fETHODS

how did you decide what they would look like?

PQ: Well, there's a bigfight scene on page two. They con-

PQ: That came later: At this stage, Pm just focused on the stor}~'lj)bat the draractersare trying to do.
JL: You're perfecting your shots? PQi: JTe.ah.1just see some of them in my head, while others

veniently find an ,open hatch or vent to dive tbrough, which


1 thought
7JJaS

a pretty s.tupid idea. So I decided to have the

male cberacter blast a hole through the flOOt; and that's bo» they can escape. Once 1bad that idea, it seemed k.ind of funn:y to me to beue him squat and shoot through the floor. [Laug bter]
JL: AlJlright, let's not even get into the scatological references. [Pat laughs.] These are probably not characters you would design for a book you wanted! to sell to Image or a mainstream publisher. PQ: 1'lO'. I did11'treally knock 111(!lself out on character designs

'J'flakeme think afseveral variations I w.ant

PJtI)l

out.

JL: So the notes on your script are all about ideas for

"l~'~ panes.
PQ: ]-eab.

for this particular story. But since the s.r:ript felt deliberately
CHARACTER DESIGN JL: This script asks Y0ll! to invent some characters, After looking at your paRes!, I get the sense that you made a game of the character design. You took it a little bit overthe-top and had fun with it. PQ': I did have fun. The script and characters seemed to be inJL: You gave yourself some latitude with the visuals of the story. P'Q: Well, tbe script calls the male cberecter "Lemis" and
tbe female "Tara, sbort for Tarantula." The girl bas the code-name, which tells 'File must be cooler tban the guy. So sbe

cliched, 1thought some wacky characters might bring something different to the table.

tentionally cliched, so I thought I could go for laughs and still sta:y true to the script.
JL: Is it a challenge to. have to create new characters for a three-page script? PQ': A little, but 1 suppose it's a171Ja}s a big cballenge in super-

1 made his 0 versll looleand design as goofy as his name. Afro) since the femalcJ naen« 'Was "Tarantula," I.figured the intention must befor her to have some spidery attributes. And then tbe question became: J-Vhat haven't we seen in comics
with spidery figures? That created different story opportunities for me.

hero!action stories. T¥e've seen the same scene so often that the different possible takes an it pique our interest. Let's be honest; Part of the joy in comics is fi'luiitllg new solutions to the same old problems.
Another aspect of the script that threw me off a little
7VtlS

JL: Once you get that, you go back. In the course of your
process" you work out the story first, right?

the

PQ: I hope that I've establisbeda decent pllge leyout, that Tm


begin'J'Zingto get the sbots that 111Jant, and that tbt layout and

beginning. T# come in on tbe action, rather than building up


to it tbe way we tuould witb a standard beginning. That's not

story are becoming more interdependent not».. I'm also storytelling.

CO"1}-

a bad w.ay afcngaging the audience, but it did tbnn» off my sense of the story's direction, 1thought" "1-10-(1) hell do I get the to where I want to be?" 1 started playing around' with the char(Jeter designs, and that loosened up m:_y brain/or approaching the story.
JL: How did the script influence your character designs?

cerned w'ith the role the individual compositions play in the

----l

68

PAT QUINN

-,

Pat draws several potential character designs on the backs of old e-mails before settling on his final characters.

THUMBNAILS

cific accommodations

the same way you 'would

ifyou 'were try~

ing to 'work Batman JL: You did your thumbnails before vou did the character designs, right? P'Q: Right.

s cape into

a sbot, or make spacefo'J'a big

figure like the Hulk. JL: So you're just working out the story with very generic

~fI don't

have a character design in 'tJ'tind~JI tbe

shapes. And then you go back and adjust accordingly once you have your characters.

layout phase, 1 canju:rt dl'Y)p stide figures into tbe compositions and see where thi71J;gS are going. Since these designs came about
'Zvh£leI was' 7lJorking on the thumbnails, I did make some spe-

P'Q; Jeah. This stage is like setting up the cinematography ana ch01~eography. Once I have atl rny visual notes and panel doo-

---l

69

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

dies on the script, I start putting them. together in the final thU11tbnaBpackage.

JL: When you rough out your little notations on the


script, is that basically the first draft of your thumbnails? P'Q: Yes..But again, 1 use e'lnpty panels. The point is to look at the p.anel shapes all together; so I can choose tahidr one should be the biggest and that sort of tbing.

...

JL: You'll choose the scenes that need more room and giv'e
them the larger pane] shapes. You've been doing this ]ong enough that it may only take one ortwo versions. P'Q: Righ t. By the time 1 get read)1 to put it together; I've al-

ready decided which pane/is going to ?J.)orkhe bestfor each shot, t


,keeping in mind the page and tbe story as a whole. Sometimes I realize tbat a certain shot or composition isn't

working,

TV7Jt>n tba: beppens; I me the original thumbnail as


to'

a place-holder and make a mental note

change it for the

final. Of course>sometimes even at thefinal stage 11M)' notfeel


like I've found the right solution, .but I lmot» I have to cut the

cord and put the pages in the mail That

may

be the w'rong ajJ-

proad: to some, but think about 'what 'we mentioned earlier:

fVe've all seen this sort of scene a thousand times before, and
chances are Ttl see it again at some point in my career. The

scene wit! hopefully turn out better the next time 1 get a chance
to dram it.

JL: Okay. The next step in the process is drawing with a


pencil ..What pencil do you use to do the under-drawing on your th umhnail? P'Q: 1 do all the notes on the script, and then the finished thumbnails) wit!; a 1'10. 2-iust a regular p en.cit.But general/:y speaking, I'll
USe'

tabateueris handy> even batlpointpens.

JL: When you draw your thumbnails, you draw the borders first, right? After that, you use a 2 H. What do you use
Pat roughs out his thumbnails in pencil, then "inks" them with a Zig Millennium marker in order to
$(::20

to finish them? P'Q: A Zig~Vriter Millennium.


2H

or enlarge them easily.

JL: How

long do yOUl spend on the

stage of a thumbnail?

----l

70

r--

PAT QUINN

1..

The final thumbnails are very simple and readable.

PQ': Not long. I try to do it as quickly as possible.

'where I'm filling in and picking up pages here and there, 1 rna]

JL: Do

YOll

average thirty or forty minutes?

shift to a page-at-a-timeapproach. On Cryptopia 1 would do the tobole tbing, because there's no set deadline. JL: vVhat about Green Lantern? PQ: I think I did all the thumbnails first, because Ihad to send
then'! in.

PQ: Ji:ab.
JL: When you go over it in marker, is that another ten or fifteen minutes?

PQ: Sure, approximately.


JL: So for this part of the layout, maybe a total of

45 minutes?
PQ: lVlaybe. JL:vVheIl you're working
OIl!

JL: Layout probably isn't taking you so long at this stage in your career, is it? PQ: Actually, it'sprobably the longest stage since it's the most

a regular

2 z-page

story, do

important to me. Tbat~ where to a certain degree.

i''fft

doi'ng tbe math and solv-

you thumbnail out a page a day and complete it:, or do


you try to thumbnail out at least ten pages at once so you call see how the story is progressing? PQ'! I prefer to lay the 'Zvh()/ething out first) so 1 can see the 7vhole story, check the pacing, staging and choreograph)!. Tneed

ing the problem. Everything after that should be on autopilot

JL: So From reading the script to completing the thumbnails, you're talking about maybe about an hour-and-ahalf per page?

to make sure Cbaracter A is always on the left side of a partieular scene or tohateoerHmoeoer; sometimes tbat» not the most

PQ: At the extreme .. Hopefully I'm fas-tel;. depending on my deadline.

practical approach .. If the deadline is very close, or

if it's a job

71

WORKlING h!fETHODS

GOING TO THE, BOARD

JL: Once the thumbnails are done, you enlarge them on


the photocopier, right? P'Q: To save a Uttle cash) I used to scan the pages and blow them up to 8.51'
1 tnem

X I I"

using the scan'JIZeranaprintcl; then take the en17 .


~I

larged versions of the thu7'nbnails over to the copy place and b.t071)
Up'

to

II

II'

No» I have a 13"


After enlarging the thumbnails, Pail:transfers the page layout
I I"

19 printer at home and I do this all inIt

house. This method helps a lot when doing a '''tight'' or Hen~


1:0 an

hanced"'pencil gig, 'l1}herethe publisher doesn't hire an inker.

17"

piece of two-ply Bristol hoard using a blue pencil and a lightbox.

They just scan the pencils, which means the pencils baoe to be
very tight. Stray marks from u11.de'J"~dra1.J)ings ,"tight not be

acceptable.

JL: Okay. But if an artist wanted to, he or she could just take these to the copy place and blow them up twice.
That's what you used to do before you scanned everything ill, right? P'Q: Yeah, I guess I.did tbat with the Green Lantern sf:U:ff.

JL: Do you remember the percentage you used to enlarge it?

P'Q':
He. draws the panel in detail with a blue pencil, then indicates shadow placement
II

iVO), thad: the

biggest pain. Nom I base templates in Pbo0;

tosbop. When J use


II

photocopier to enlarge the drawing

to

[7", I -may blow it up at three different sizes, tobid: also

allou» me to pla)/ with panel size a tittle bit. That's' also tbe point subere I double-check the dialogue. Pit verifY, "Okay, 1 make can

this panel bigger, because the panels below tkm't have as much dialogue. I don't have to
71JOrty

about crO'lmiing the space ."

If I

work dig#al(y in Pboto,rhop 1can 'make all the changes there. Photosbop is also great for duplicating panels andflipping com-

positions.
JL:VVhen you draw the thumbnails, you leave room for the dialogue and work out the compositions. Then, when you blow up the copies) you refine them even more, right? P'Q: Rigbt. Especially toben I get to the finisbed
Pat uses a 0.), mechanical pencil with a on the Bristol hoard. A
2lH

version; bethe

2H

lead to complete his drawings

cause then I 'IT-read the dialogue to consider gesture and facial expression. But 1have to admit my b£ggest weakness-holel

is lesslikely to smudge than a softer lead.

PAT QUINN

jokes-is

compensating for balloon placement. I'm consciousof

PQ: Right. Its kind of a bass~ackwardsprocess, 1 guess. Once

£t, but 1 stiil struggle with it. JL:Mter you've enlarged the thumbnails and made ad-

1 bate a background roughed in, I chooseone vanishing point


llTld

try tofind tbeangle that works best. Wber:

OFJ.€

vanish-

justments, do you sketch thern lighdy with blue pendl? PQ': Yes.Tli use a light box
to

ingpoint is established; I find the second. Once the backgrvunds are cornplete.,1 put in the contours and tbefigu'res-tbings just

trace tbe thumbnail quickly in

like that. JL: Do you add a little bit of line weight variation?

blue pr:ncil).just to see if everything stilllooks okay on the boerd.

Then I start drawing and refining.

If 1haven't

ai1r'f,aJy fig-

ured out 'where my hlluks should go in tbe rhl:J!nzbnails,I use


the blue pencil to indicate blacks. After all that, 1take out my mecbsnical pencil and real~ytighten

PQ: 1pr'efer not to indicate line 'weight too mucb. 1 mean, it's
not really ntyjob, is it? That's 'why there are inkers. Line

up tbe drawing.

weight is part of wbat's un£que and necessary abcu: their discipline. 11'7 tIl)' opinion, it's a waste o/preciozlS time to try to imitate a brush or-pen mark with m:)!pencil.
though. 1

JL: Wl1at size lead do you use: 0.5 or o.7? PQ': I use the 0.3. Ido tend to go tbrougbpbases, on that an5'7.vcrstanding a few months
jro'flZ 'JIWW.

favor different types ofpent:ll:r at different times, so don': count

JL: Is the placement of blacks an important design consideration for you?

JL: Okay, but right now you use the finest mechanical pencil you can get: the 0.3.

PQ: yeah.~f 1 don't add them in the thumbnails, I scribble


them in ioben Fm roughing the board out in blue. Then, when
Tm doi1IJgthe finished dra'wing with the regular pencil, 1 just outline those blade areas end put an x througb them. 1don't li.kefilling in tbe blacks because it's a 7JJOSte afthne. Unless I'm doing it as a presentation for aJL: Portfolio editor?

PQ: nab. The blue pencil is actual a mechanical pencil, too.


Tbat'sa 0.5. Once the page is ailroughed out in blue and the drawings are a bit more solid) I moue on to the backgrou'Juls

and lay.in tbeperspectioe.


JL: You lay in the backgrounds
YOUJ[

roughly and then find

perspective lines, right?

P'Q: Or a friends book.

After transferring his Initial freehand composition to board, Pat locates his perspective points.

He works ona large) slightly angled drafting table, where his reference materials, tools and Rolodex are easily available.

73

WORKlING h!fETHODS

STORYTELLING

every single step every single time. But IjustJelt like this script needed the extra info.ll1aybe it's becausewe come in at the '1ttiddie of the sto~ry.As different pieces appeared to me, they changed
the entire pace afthe three pages.

JL: You altered the layout of the first page significantly


during your thumbnail process. PQ: Right. I cbanged it from three to five panels, which 1 suppose 'I1Zight be a little atypical
uironment.
i12

JL: Like dominoes? P'Q; Orsome other appropriate dichl. [LaugIJter.]

a mainstream work

e12-

JL: How so?

IVlos.tof my .additions
71J'OU/d

to

the story 'were in the second and third

pages,wbich rnade tbem ·r,eallycrowded. So I decided to let a fl·w expea a penciler to dre»
panels run back
to

PQI: Well, 1 supposemost-people

the first page to let the otbers breathe and

exactly cwhat's given to him. Tba rs true in ma11:J1 situations. However, I've also[ound that ifl make a b£gchange and bate
a goodjustification for doingso-one that melees the end prod-

hopefully set a nice overall pace. Page one ended up with the first two panels fro '11$ page two, so to spe.ak,.

uct stron gC1;. not just ""causeI thougbt it 'was cool,man "-then. I tend to get 'my writer's and editor~') upport.. Of course, so'flte~ s times l just get shot doum. [Laughter}
JL: So why did you add panels?
PQI: After 1'read it through a je71) times, itjust

JL: Wily just those two?


PQ: Panel.tlJ)() on page tuio is a nice action shot) tuith tbe cops opening fire. So I figured I could end tbe page on sonu: action to complete the thought on that page, but also provide the reader with some incentive to turn tbepage.

fett choppy to

me. Lunderstand how quick cuts can tuork, and I get the value

JL: But the panel ynu drew doesn't match the description in the script ..',Vhy not? P'Q: 10 give mesome extra room in the '~whathappens next?" approach.

in letting your audience fill in the gaps" , JL: Like David Marner talks about in his book, On Directing Fihll? PQ: Right, exactly.' He a'rgues that we don't beoe to sbou:

JL: Walk me through your shot choices on page one.

Once he has established his perspective points, Pat concentrates on contouring, leaving line weight up tome inker.

----l

74

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

PQ': Okay, panel one is a fairly standard shot,

~1iO

1 tried to

JL: I noticed that your vanishing point is 011 the gas tanks.
Why is that?
P'Q: It's that technique of placing the vanishing point 7Dhere
yO'll

break it up a bit with the foreground character in the left to


lead us into the shot. I kept the building 'white' and attempted toframe it 'with black buildings to 1~ehzforcethe idea that tne

should be looking at that building. For panel two, 1reat!:y wanted a big shot in a big space so 1 could pia)1 with scale a bit. I wanted the i'flI11'telfJSity of the build:" ing to symbolize the bad-guys. This also gave me the opporU;t:_
nity to use tbe sbadot»: cast by the cops, rather tban baving to draw nine-million cops charging in.

want your audience to look and letting the diagonals point


taJllks~were

that wa.y. I knew the gas

going to be important on

pa ge tto», so 1didn't 'want anyo:ne to mils them. lienee the "da'rJgerstripes" around them too. JL: Yeah, subtle. [Laughter] PQ: Thanks. Which leads to panel five, the action shot tbat hopefully gets everyone to turn the page.

JL: You drew a hunch of other stuff why stop there?


PQ: Two reasons. One: I alreadrydr;ew a bu:nch of other s.tuff And two: I was trying to be a little clever there. 1 think it gives

JL: Where we see the result of the action?


PQ: Hopefully. And 'we also see your favorite panel.
[Laugh ter.J

reader:'!the i1?fO, wbile allo7ving them to linger visually on tbe


heroes and w'reckage, to understand the scenario.

JL: So we have seven pa.nels on this page.


P'Q: Right: one addition and one panel that drifted over from

Panel three is not a great shot. I was looking for a w.ay to have them both leavefrom an inte~esting angle, and it'sjust
kind afblab.

page three. JL: Walk us through it. PQ: Panel one bere is the revised page two/panel two shot. I basical/:y split that original moment into two different moments. This is the second moment. Heres tobere 1decided l'dgo with a sight gag) rather tban the conuenient hatch/vent.

JL: I agree. The black frames the characters well, but it


doesn't have the impact you seemed to be looking for ..
PQI: }Cp. On panel four, tohicb used to bepage two/panel one,

I thought needed some scale as well. So 1 backed my camera up so the uieuier could sec more.

Pat uses-contrast and a vanishing point to frame the center of the action and lead the eye to its desired focus.

------l

75"

WORKlING h!fETHODS

JL: Do

YOll

think an editor or writer 'Would accept that

JL: In panels six and seven, it looks like you're repeating


your approach of taking a single scripted panel and breaklng It mto separate moments.
-Ii ·1;1-

solution? The "squat and shoot?" [Laughter.]

JL: VVhy is there an inset panel?

PQ: R£gbt~ and in penel seoen;

PV1Z

trying to end on sor!letbing

interesting to get people to turn the page.

PQ: I was trying to condense thepassage of time between soben Lewis blasts the whole and the)1jump through. 1think that .as:.. peet of tbe panel '7.vor},s.The problem is that the angle and dis:... lance don}t sbmucese the bullets bitting the gas tanks.
JL: It looks like you've got little sparkmarks don't think that's enough? PQ: I'm not sure. Maybe it's enough wben 1complete the thought 'with the explosion i12 the background of panel three. Tbars similar' to the original panel three description. there You

JL: On to page three. Whatswith

the spitting web goo?

P'Q: That goes back to the thought about doing sometbing different untb the cbaraaer: f4ie"ue seen jpide1Jl characters before, and 'most of them have webs shooting out of their bands; so I thought l'lvould go with something else,

JL: 'The script doesn't cal] for allY webs, does it?
PQ:l\TO'. Lemis arid Tara shoot back at the cops in the script. I

zuent v)ith the Taral7arantula

na1tU and came up toitb some-

JL: Heres another point where you've made some


changes. VVhy?

tbing else that 1tbougbt would make an interesting visual element. As it turned out, I was able to use tbeweb to help pace

out the story,


to'

PQ: In this cast, I thought the dialogue hod 'more impact than
the panel descriptions, so I tried accent the text in panels four

JL: How so? Are you referring to the way you've broken
the action DIp in panels one through three?

and five .. I tbougbt the o1JjJosingcamera angles and distance


would work well 'with tbe dialogue. Closer and up in panel four

P'Q: J:eah. It struck me

as

a:1'1nteresting way to cut betueen i

for the "~b, no," tben down andfurther aw.ay in panel five for the "We 'r« screwed. "The distance in panel five aim allo71J&ti
'1'11&

some quick actions, then have the "reveal" in the next tier. I thought the heroes needed a moment to beer the voice/rom

~IJ

to show their altitude relative to the dry outside of the window.

panel. This meant they needed some kind of protection against

Pat cuts back and forth between the opposing sides of the battle, building up a sense of urgency;

----l

76

r--

PAT QUINN

the gunfire. So Tara spits a 'web 71Jallto shield them franz the
bullets, wbich 1indicated with the little peaks in the wall,

JL: Then ill panel four we see another inset .. Are you
using this inset rile same way you clild earlier-to COIl-

dense time?
PQ': I hope so. 70 me

it also acts as a separate

nz011U'lU

that re1

veals where the voice is c07ningfro'm and its location relative to


the heroes. Panels six and seven are pretty straightforward. did try to pay attention to left-ta-right orientation on panel

seoen

so

tbe reader "leaves tile story'; witb the getawa_y sbip,.

JL: You've mentioned previously that you want each page to complete a thought. Where does that idea come from and is there more to it?

PQ: I read an article, or 'maybe it 'Zvasan excerpt from an article on Flarvey Kurtzman. In it; he talks about eacb tier ofpan~ els as a sentence, and the page as a paragraph that ends witb a completed thought. I'm probably 1nisquoting~ but the idea stuck
7.vith me. That's the kind of page 1 like to mak« 71Jh.en can. 1

ADVICE

JL: What words of wisdom do you have for young artists?

PQ: Tbere'sa difference betuieen being a really bigfan and


being a professional who 3: also alan. Make the commitment
to'

be a p'1:ofossional. Be willing to accept criticism and learn from:


it, Don't be a.fraid to try a new technique or tool, And know'

)Iour history-comics didn't start in 1993. Pay attention to other visual storytelling 'media and learn from
them. And remember: If you have to explain tbe story, then
)'OU didn~t doyourjob .., no m-atter how mol the dr.awings are.

------l

77

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Pat Quinn's Fight Night

Inks by JoInt Lowe

-8 /

PAT QUINN

79

WORKlING h!fETHODS

80

PAT QUINN

81

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Sean Murphy

Sean l\1urphy lives in Los Angeles with his dog, Red. His credits include BatTitan, Superman, Star War"S and Teen Ti~
tans, but btely he's been striking out on

his own, writing novels. Off Road was his first original graphic novel for Oni Press in
2005.

In

2007

he released Outer

Orbit, another creator-owned project

with Zach Howard for Dark Horse.


It should be noted that Sean cornpleted this work years before turning professional, while studying in the Sequential Art department style and! methodology at the Savanhave Since

nah College of Art and Design. His

ehalllged substantially,
terpretation

but this work

represents a very promising student inof th e script.

SEA_NMURPHY

THE SCRIPT

CHARACTER DESIGN JL: After you read the script and!make drawings and notations, what's thee next step? SM: I research my material and get references to draw from.

John- Lowe: vVhen you get a script in hand, what's the first thing
YOll

do?

Sean Murphy: 1 read it a few times to see wbat the writer is really saying. 1 take notes on tobat I like and tobat ideas I heme: buildings, cars,
COStUn1iJS)

cbatracters-anything
lit

that comes to

1 figure out how the characters wit! look, endI decide on: the
backgrounds. JL: With this three-page Fight'f\light fairly mainstream, action-oriented the characters, script) you have a

mind. Ifit~ a good script with

good story, I tr)' to empbasize

a distinct visual storytelling element. For example, 1may 'want


the theme of the book to be dark or light. 1 might decide to tell the star:y with
'J'flOst!y

short story with char-

straight-on shots,

0'1"

mostlJI dynamic

acters that aren't established. Was it full for you to create


,-

shots. But

if it's light

on story or the script!s uninspiring, Ttl

0['

did vou have to work a lot with it?


!r"

just do what I can to i711,p'rOVe it through the images while


meeting my deadline.

SM: It should ha'iie been fun because it 'lvas so s'fl1JJ11. But the

characters were ste'reotypical. So Ljust, you know, dret» a female


your visual cbsracter
'wit};

JL: So the type of story really determines approach. SM: Yeah.


]r;

a gzm omd her nerdy assistant It was three pages

and it had a deadlili'Je.1 the best 1 did could witb ever:y single
it an adoenture or m.ys.tery? Is it Iv:nr,!!! and corny

panel under the circumstances.


JL: Let's say you were designing an environment that the characters return to several times in the script. You would have to establish a visual continuity for that space. In that case, would you map the environment separate sheet of paper? SM: It depends on how important the enoironment is. Ifit's the
Batcave,. Ldo» 't want to have a hal{-assed idea and inconsistent

or really serious? JL: If it's something you like that's visually exciting, like a Bamtan script; it's easier for you to make the art really dynamic, right? SM: Definitely. JL: Do those images come to you immediately when you read through a script?

for yourself on a

details. It's going to be very important to keep track of where


they're sitting, uibere the car is parked, where the entrance is

SM: Ye.ah)pretty much, Ideas come to 1nind .immediately, But


I try to steer away! from anything tbat': fairly obvious. I.try to tbink as creativel)1 as possible. In comics, nw'1ty common themes

and where the dropofJ if. All these things make a difference.
The more i11'lportant a scene and its stage are, the more thtry need to be planned (Jut.

and scenes can spal1Jn certain familiar images. 1 try to avoid


those and do sometbing neui, you know? Wben Tm dra'!.ving these little sketches, I take a number

~f

THUMBNAILS

thin:gsi:nto consideration, Wbat do I need to show? Wbats the


simplest .and easiest 7.IJa!)l convey that to a reader? What do 1 to
1J)ant

JL:Now that you're working on full scripts, do you generally thumbnail out the elltire story before you begin?

to draw? Wbat 71)ozdda reader vJant to see? How can 1


7.V0 rtb

irnpress readers and make them feel like the book was

tbeir money?

SM: No. I usually

(to'

scenes. Tbumblng

is such a tiring process.

J can't do a whole issue in a daji. I can do roughly five pages at


a time before Pm exhausted. For someone like lVlike Migl'loJa)
it's the best part. But although l apprecuu« the process, it gives

me a beadacbe.

----l

83

WORKING 'ilETHODS

.FlGBTNJ:GH.
B.YSe&ttHaJDpton :P~CJB ONB
Pansl I: Ope.ufl.g smo·[. Niig,hm. G.innt fUllII.ri.stic bl.lihli'lllg lit by spotllghIS .a_nd~seafC.hlights." sU1nIiuJ1uled'bf cops 'CAlke ,Groundfili!lll:il air .. Smoke lam.d flames pour 'fro:m pm ohhe: builc1bmg..

Cop from ,s helicoptm.':

YOIl~1iC

urrooma dl

nuo·w

do;wn yoW" w!;QpOms! Do it no,w!'!

Pane] 2: InteriQr building ..Two super [earn mc.rnbers in cool bIde B,arb.The male is. Lewis ..He's th,e Incn01l5 l:)'pe. Tam (short for Tanmtula) Is dirk and beat'ud&L Bem leader. The >lac.eis a mess-one h·eUof.31 fi,gh'[ has mccl1llUy lakenpl:ace here ..Dead aJien·-loolting, crea," ·qbq.m - :
!JiIen. V.

Lcw.is (rtill.h:oJdidg a smoking ,gun)::Ob greattNow 2~Those oops think 'lbis was .QI[ fauld

what do we do,'

Tara: (Grabbing a lafige·gun Dum.of the rubble) No time

w worry

.about itnoiw. Come on I Lewis.

Lewis: 'Where are welDing'" And where'.s Toy?' Tara:: Last lime
I

saw her she was wresdm,g. wHit diu C]iooodUe thing.

Sean jots possible panel compositions directly onto the script while he reads.

----l

SEA.N MURPHY

\
He uses Sctil.pS of paper to play with early character designs.

JL: ,"Ven, there's a lot of thinking involved. This is really


the problem-solving part) right?

JL: What does your final rhumbnail look like?

SM: P'l1Z really cheap, so I try touse as'ffluch space on each page as 1 can..Lbase a stack of scrap
I 1;1 X

SM: }Cah. Definitel». Tb ere S '110 question that th is is the most


hnportant step. 1 need tofigure out whicb panels are going to lead the page. Wbat sizes and dimensions are they going to be? I don't .think dra'll)ing skills are necessarily the most im.por.tan:t factor in being a successful comic artist. Sometimes it's more
about being able to lay a page out well. JL: If you do five pages and get all the shots the way you want them, is that a £1111 day? SM.: UlCll~ can do ten pages in a day, but it's a long day. 1

17'" paper. 1draw a small

thumbnail in the corner; about four to six intbes tall. Once I figure out what I 'lvant for tba t page) I 'Usethe same piece of paper to sketch in exactly 7.JJhere panels ,:willbe and bow I'll the
crffP eacb panel. I even dratu the characters and the per.~pec-

tive-things

like tbet=or: that same piece of pape'}:

JL: So you work out a little notation, like a postage stamp, in the upper left hand cornerThen on the same sheet ofpaper, you develop the page

SM: Right.

----l

85'

- "NG 'WORKi!

METHODS

86

SEA.N MURPHY

Sean draws his final layout'S on

I I';

x 7" newsprint. After making the inirial pencil sketch, he refines the drawing with a ballpoint pen and a Sharpie.

JL: You used newsprint: for these thumbnails. You've said you'll use basicaUy anything that's
I
111

same size, or obviously! d{ffc'ren.t. Even when the pan.els are


blank, 1think they shouldalreruiy look good, like distilled paint-

17", which is the

same size ratio of the live area on an original comic page. What specific tools do you use in YOlllrthumbnail stages?

ings ..lust the size of tbe squa:res and their relationship to each
other are really impO'rtant..

SM: A pendl or a ballpoint pen~'whatever:) lying around. JL: Okay, so Y0ll! just sketch it in. And you're pretty loose
with these ..YOl1 just work with composition at this point.

At the time I dret» this Fight Night script, however, I 'Wasless focusetl on the relationships between thepa'J1e/s. JL: But that has changed. SM: leah. At this first stage, Lpu: som« thought into everything Tm going to design. I tuent to make Jure I know where I'm go£ng. I
try

8M: Right. Tm also deciding which panel is the most impor


tent one on eachpage. Tbat will be m_y biggest panel.

I.look at the s.ym71ittry of a page). too. I don't want panels that are too close to the same size. The)1 need to be either .exactly the

to make most of my architectural decisions at


71Jant

this point as 'wett. 1 don't

to be lost in the penciting procesJ;

1 want to knou: wh.at I'm drawing.

WORKlING h!fETHODS

GOING TO THE BOARD JL: It looks like you used a ballpoint pen to solidify the figures in these thumbnails. What next? Do you take it to the lightbox? SM:

important. But sometimes, especiallywith wide shots that sbou:


it

lot ofdistant:e, I'll just imply perspective and structure with


Squa1TS.

tines and

res, 1use a non-photo

blue pencil to trace onto the Bris-

INKING

tol. 1 alretu:ly have tbepenel borders inked 71;ith a no. 8 Micron

and a ruler; so it takes me about two minutes to loosely trace tbe wbok page. Tracing helps me place eacb object in the palul. Wben my panels have perspective),1 draw the perspective marks on the Bristol with a difforen.t color.
JL: I see. Then you adjust the drawing to fit your perspective marksifyou need to.

JL: Okay, so now it's tune to ink?


SM: Yeah. My inking process isa little different now than it

was back 'when 1did this story.


JL: I remember, I was always hammering on you about this. You were just using lvIlcrons" right? SM: Yeah. JL:VVith these pages in particular, you used the Pigma Microns, right? Which points did!you use? SM: A .005; 7tlaybe a .ot or .03.

SM: reah.
JL: So you keep aU your energy in the thumbnails, and then make any little adjustmenrs you need once you blow them up?

SM: Yeah.

~fit's

the edge of a building or somethi'llg,

JL: Honestly; it doesn't really matter what the inking tool


is, as long as you're comfortable with it. These days you've moved! to brush or quill, but some people still use

migbt bend it sligbt~y, rather tben rnake it precise, Even

though my sketch isn 't correct, I can get away 'with bending
this and that. JL: Okay; so what's next?

Pigmas very effectively .. Even though you used a mechanical pen for this, you built up the lines to get your variations, correct? SM: Yeah. I 'was a lot less confident about my tine 7peight back
tben, but I didn't stay there. I've grown into my ,confidence.

SM: I erase tbe b/uepe'llciI.The blue stains the page, so it doesn't really go envay. Plus the
'wax messes up

inks. 1find it lessdis-

tracting tsben it's less pronounced. I start penciling lightly with a NO.2, and then tigbten it up as Igo.
JL: How tight do you want your final pencils to be before you start inking?

JL: That~s good. Did you fiU in all the blacks on these pages with a Sharpie? SM: leah. JL: Do you use the cornputer to fiU in blacks now?

SM: Not very, 1 go fast, Ba,ck zsben 1 dret» this, I p'robab~y


worked tighter than I do 'now. I used tv 11zakee·velything
Vel)1

SM: Neuer: I stilJ like the craft of tbe page" from heginning to bookfor '11tJ1 friend, Zatb. Then there s another bookfor Dark self, and sometimes he pencils and I ink.
JL: vVhen
Y0ll!

geometric and sharp, 'without shadhzg or a11:Jtbing. Everything


7.JJas lodeed away in that animated style. Wben l ink now, 1 b use
a brush and quill. It's organic, a-nd I try to embrace the mis-

end. Tue actual~y become a professional inker: I inked a DC

Horse in which we use three methods. 1ink myself, he inks bim-

takes, rather than to plan how it 7.Va ks. Ljust give myself a r loose drawing and start blocking it in ink according to feel. J'fah, I'lipencd the hell out of a particular space or image tbat's

ink someone else, do Y0ll! change your ap-

proach to fit their style or theme?

88

SE,c\.NMURPHY

SM: Yeah, I'd have to. Zacb Hcuiard has a very angular, Mike JVligJtlola-meets-.:lamie Hewlett style. He uses a Rapidograpb to ink, but he fools most people into thinking he uses a brush. JL: When you ink him, GO you use same approach that you use to ink your own pencils?

how to appl)1 it ..

JL: Right. How did!you study placement of blacks? What


approach do you take to this stage?

SM: First, I think about balance. I don't want tbe top half of the page to be weighed doum wit!; .blac.kswb£ie the bottorn half
is white; 1 w.ant itfoirly evenly distributed. 1 also direct focus

SM: No. Bad: toben lfirst started, he basicallywanted a tracer.


Tbat 'was unrealistic, and I didn't realize it, so 1tried "fly best to trace him. I got into the brush and the quill, and 1 was vrry

witb blackjust by surrounding something with it end leaving a 'white center. That~fra'J1Zi'Jllg;it drm»: attention to tobat': going on in the white area. JL: Do you instinctively know where you want the
blacks to go?

mechanical about it, I rarely took liberties. Eventually, he realized that I beoe a better knack for adding to the drawing than just tracing. lie started drawing in a
creating one style alart together.
1Va)1

that alloued us

to create a style togetber, you know?- TJieworked' out a s)lstem for

SM: Back tuben I did these pages, I didn't quite beoe a process for it. I
W ould

draw on tbe fly and then fill my uiorl: that easier

JL: So when he inks his own work, he uses a tight penciling style? SM: Right.
JL: When he works for you., will he pencil it much more loosely?

in 'witb black, iobicb is not the best w'ay to do it. Now, 1 plan

it with black shapes from the get~go) and Ifind and more effective,

JL: When you plan the black shapes, what


process? Do you start with the thumbnailsj

118

your

SM: Exactry. 1 think about tbe kind of ligbting 1 'want in a particular thumbnail.. Al5'O~ know shadows and dark objects I
are going to be black.

SM: Ob, yeah. lie luay write notes (In it about. addt~ngsomething: a texture there, a splatter effect bere, things like tbat. JL: Is that more interesting for you?

JL: Wha t is your inking process like? 8M: I mle a panel at a time so that I don't smudge. I use
Sharpies, micronsr ruiers, French curves, templates, ink,

SM: It is. Also, sometimes be has me ink the hair on his characters because I use a brush .and hair turns out better 'with a

brush. Ifhe's on a strained deadline, he gives me more liberty to interpret. Sometimes it': been like inking his tbumbnails because the sketches tuere so loose and gestural. ",My penciler doesn't uiant: 'file to change his sty.lecompletely. Most pencilers think they get mauled; and I We1J,t through that stage, too. But
after a wh£leyou begin to see that the best inking is acbieoed

brushes, ballpoint p.e:ns)sponges for textures; .a d1j1 brush, a white gel pen and a Faber Castell brusb pen,

Ifi» tbings

with

Nlr. Martin's and add my splatter effects at the end. Ttl ink aU the big) black areas 7.lJitha Q- Tip because ink is cheaper

than Sharpies. Pm careful) though, because J7J.Jeaty ands can b


absorb in.k and leave little fingerprints allover

tbe page.

when two artists work together. JL: These Fight IVight pages have a really good distribution of black and white. Do you always pay attention to that ratio?

Don't kill anyone witbe page because the police will easil:y track your prints.

SM: Oh,yeah.1l1y process is simple. I putdO'lvn as much black as I possibly canjust becauseit'sfast) potent and easy ilyou know

----l

89

r--

WORKlING h!fETHODS

SCHEDULING JL: I remember that even as a student you were pretty fast at all this. SM: Ispent about six hours per page, from leyouts to inks. JL: Everything. Is that still the case today?

Sl\rl: Yes, Ts« done. Of course, when it takes


time. 1justfinishmy page, scan
it)

12

hours, there

isn't any free time. There's no gym; there's very little downand go
to

bed.

JL: Right. But if you do fUlish early, you feel like you've earned that day and you're done.

SM: Yeah. I'm going out of the bouse.


JL: So is this a five-day schedule? SM: Six days:, and 1 tuor]: as quick!;1 as I can because I never

SM: Uill, 1 try to slow doum because I have a whole day to do'
tbe pencils. When I 'was 01'l Batman, Iwotild take anywbe1:e he-

noeen eight and tuelee hours per page.


JL: When you're working on a book, do you keep a consistent schedule?

kna» when the power might go out or I might need a da_jl you know? So I try
to'

~ff

Sometimes 1 just can 'I: draw because its jus: no:t comfortabk, get through the pages as effective!)1 as I
it~fnot

SM: Absolutd;y. Pvc never missed a deadline,


JL: Do you start at a certain time every day? Do you complete a page a day? SM: }Cab, a page a day. 1 stair! at 8 a.m. JL: When you finish that page, are you done for the day? SM: Yeah. JL: So if a page only takes you six hours, you're done at three in the afternoon?

can, and prepare for those days tuben


JL:
YOlll)ve

going to 'Work.

never missed a deadline. That's a very important

point to make folL' anyone aspiring to do comics, Someone could be a v,ery effective storyteller and a great draftsman, but that's not worth much if they're unreliable. 8M: I don't ":wantto euer be that guy who}" late. JL: Editors respect that, too. Ultimately, thars what they remember about an artist when the hiring time comes,

Sean's work always contains a well-balanced distribution of black and white space, Micron ]pens provide the ink In this story, while the splatter effect in the lower left corner consists of Dr.Jvlartins Bleed-ProofWhite, applied with a toothbrush.

----l

90

r--

SEA_NMURPHY

PERSPECTIVE JL: Another thing that always stood out about your student work was your sense of perspective, It always seemed q-uick, easy and natura] for you. How did you go about learning perspective? You had art Iessons when you were

the things the book suggests, 'Iny work l!)ould be really slow ..So l learned eoerytbing, then used only what I realry needed.
JL: Absolutely. One thing I see with students is that if you give them a system, they tend to over-think it and make it too mathematical, Once you have a true understanding of perspective, it becomes instinctive in some ways. It's a grid that you start seeing everywhere, The
in Net»

young, right?
SM: My mentor 'was Leslie Swank, afreelancer Hampshire., He taught me for eigbt years. JL: Early on? SM: Yeab) from age eight or nine through high school,
maybe. I learned a lot of'wbat l Imm» today from his influ-

more I teach, the more I stress the importance of being aware of the horizon line. If you know what your horizon line is and where it is, perspective is really pretty straightforward.

SM: The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. And after.a while 1 learned abo-ut the tick mark system. JL: Okay, tell me about that. SM: Sean Cry/stat taught
11'tC

ence. He taught me perspective, value, painting, d'rawil/1g,


design and all that stuff And be warn 't close-minded
to'

comics like most art teachers. In fact, he draws a comic strip to this day. I learned to be fast, to respect clients and deadlines, and to treat art like a business, not a bobby. He alwtl)!s told me tbet great artists are always hungry) and I strongly believe that. JL: So since you practiced perspective from that early
age, you. kind of got it down.

to create a set '~f marks along

tbe sides of the panel, As long as you don 'teross any of those lines, and they allgo to the same vanishing_point, you're fine. 1 make the marks with a red pencil so I don't draw too much on my page.
JL: That waYj you don't confuse yourself when you go back over the regular pencil.

SM: Yeah,

it~la language

that's extremely impo'rtant to learn.

The more you learn all about the complicated nzathematical

SM: Right. The thumbnails have so much energy in tbem, but even though 1do them
to the drawing, even
7J)ith

rules ~fperspec.tive~.the less you need them. I high~y recommend learning perspective so that you can balf~ass it better ifyou need to save time. JL: Right. And once you get one-point and two-point
perspective) it's fairly simple.

perspective in mind, they're not


of tbe cone of vision
01~even

correct. So wben I dre» them bigger; I try topt the perspective

if it's out

if

its tecbl1ica11.yincorrect. I still embrace incorrectness sometimes ifit makes the shot more impressive visually.

SM: Yeah.
STORYTELLING JL: Did you find any books that were useful, or did you mostly learn through observation and tutoring? JL: I'm comparing the script to your visuals on page one. First of all, you pulled the number of panels out from three to five. Also, in the opening panel, the script calls for a "giant fururisric building lit by searchlights and spotlights, surrounded by cops on the ground and in the air. Smoke and flames pour from paxt of the building." I think most people would probably approach that: from the

SM: Wben 11J).as in ert college, I read Perspective for Cornie

Book Artists ,by Dav£d Chelsea .. That book has some complex, l'lASA-level perspective in it. 1 actually '{vent through the
whole book with a:piece

~faper p

and a ruler to learn every les'-

son and make sure I understood it. Houieter; if1 were to do all

91

WORKlING h!fETHODS

Sean win later cast the machine on the left in shadow to keep its detail from pulling the reader's focus.

ground, emphasizing all the cops surrounding the building. You chose to go to the skyWhy did you do that?

I want to ask you about a choice you made on page two. On the first panel you had this big machine drawn out on the left that was pretty detailed. Then you put an overlay on there and redid the panel and!pnt most of it in silhouette.W~y did you do that?

SM: So many comics sboto the cops on the ground looking up. I tbougbtmaybe a SWAT team rappelling from the roof with a belicopter hoveri:ng beside them tuould be more suggestive and visually interesting.
JL: We do get the idea of what's happening even though we don't see all the cops on the groumd. \lVhy did you ex~ pand this to five panels? SM: A layout has to make sense silent!:)'Jot' me. And I don't

SM: That panel bothered me. As cool as the macbine looks, it

doesn't matter to tbe story. It's distreeting. If they are ru1ming


from gtI)ls'lDith guns) there sbouldn
it

be a panel like that in the

comic. It looked great but I didn't think it told the story. JL: In a certain way it stops the action because they're in repose in that panel, and then all of a sudden they're being fired at again. Looking at it now, is there another way that
YOll

think tue're really capable afdigesting too much in a single p.arte!. I tend to digest one idea at a tim«. 1chose to break this page
down into five panels to cla'rify the introduction to the story. JL: I notice that you establish the shot, then cut away with the helicopter coming ill more closely ..The cops are closer to the window now, and!we start to see the two figures. The mset panel-where

might have approached that panel?

SM: 1 'would continue theirgu:n blasts somebotu.L 'l'llight sbtn»

the 71)OJ'J'Jal1 in tbe foregroundfiring at the viewer;witb bullets hitting the ground near her feet. In the backg1~ound]IOU could clearly see the other guy finding the hatch or whatever. JL: So by having her in the foreground, you'd continue
the action. You would keep the background the same, so

hes turned around, react-

ing and talking to her-e-is good. It gives us a little breathing sp~ce as readers. Then you have that silhouette

of the helicopter in the backgroWld, so there's a visual


link between the inside and the outside. Finally; you cut to the heroes running as the cops break in through the window.

you'd still be able to establish their environment. But the


sequence of events would make more sense. SNl: Right.

JL: Three years ago when you did these pages, you must

---l

92

SEA.N MURPHY

have thought this was good. Looking at it now; it may not serve the story most effectively; but you didntt have the benefit of hindsight. As artists, we do the best we can with a project, then move on. It's good for us to look back at o]d projects and see how much we've grown and what we'd do differently now. SM: Comic artists work at such high volume in: a short amount

of tit/teo An illustration bas to be in and out.1fyou make a mistake-fine,. Just learn !yarn it, JL: On page two, you expanded on the number of panels once again, from five to seven, Was that for the purposes of a clearer narrative? SM: The '(vay eacb panel 'was zoritten just felt really cramped to me. There no room.
to'
uias

so nzuch bappening in each panel. There was

breathe. I didn't want each panel to have a clut-

tered background. Also, 1wanted to separate some of the actions. I made small "moment' panels uibere one thing happens
at a time. JL: Right, right. I think you achieved! what you were after. The script does seem to end rather abruptly, For exam-

ple, I do think you have to indicate the hatch before they


jump through it, even though that panel isn't in the script. In panel three, you put the
W0111al1

behind these canisters

that we instinctively feel could blow up. Then she turns around, be's motioning her, and he's got a hatch open ..I also like the use of the vertical panel to illustrate them dropping down through the hatch. SM: A panel is essentially one second out of the whole story.

The wri:ter tries to fit "the guy finds a door and then opens it,"
into one panel, but that's two dijfe'rent actions. 1 don't see that happening. It'sjust like how you can't sbot» a guy punching
S/J071)

Sean uses the shape of a helicopter to link the interior and exterior shots.

someone and then

that someone ~ying on the ground in

tbe same panel. It just dOeJ12 w01"k like that. 1 separated those 't

because otbenoise tbe scene isn't sequential. It doesn't make tempera] sense.
JL: Do you take those liberties with scripts now? Since did this exercise, you've done a lot of professional work. Ifyou got something like a DC script, and you wanted to insert

------l

93

WORKlING h!fETHODS

a few panels for the clarity of the story, would you do it?

probably the best kind of panel you c-ando

if you're

trying to

SM: }Cah, 1 'would do tbat. JL: Would you consult the writer or the editor beforehand? SM: 1just 7'flake the cbanges. 1 don't ask. I was told they don't

explain sometbing. This p.anel is sort of a map of the situation. It's not necessarily that exciting, and 1 don't necessarily know if
it '{vas the right tbing to do, JL: That makes sense. You solved!the problem of keeping them alive in a credible way. Then we get avery-'- dramatic shot of the dtyas they're leaving.

mind. An editor's job is to get work finished by deadline, above all eke. Editors care nbou: the art" but that~r not really theirjob.
It's the artist 'sjob,. Tfe're usttally fine interpreting the script, as
kmg as we keep the same costumes on tbe characters and stay

ADVICE

consistent w'itb the story.


JL: As long as you don'r change the story so dramatically that you go against the intent of the writer.

JL: You did this exercise as a student. After years of


professional new artists? experience, what advice do you have for

SM: Of course, I l1iouldn 't always recommend doing it. There


was a Batman scene where Bat'rnan and Robin tiere talking

SM: Get used to saving moneyand stretching dollars. Surround yourse!f with people who are equal or better than you and learn from them. Neuer let .an)/ont treat you asa'flJ,thing other thana professiocnal. And keep an
,tJ1C

while swinging over buildings. And I thought it 'was too cliched, and I didn't think it likely! that they could talk while swinging around. Plus, I thought it'd be nice to put them in the Batmobile. 1 asked the ed£torif I couldjust drin» then» driving a'round

out for ne» mis-

takes in )Iour toorl: Tbere's always room to grow.

in tbe Batmobile and end it'lvitb Bruce U/a.yne talking to Robin


while dressing into bis regular clothes. He uias wea1ing bis Bat

clothes and a tie. It uias really strange and 1 don't know

if J

should baoe done it. It was interesting in a different kind of way, but at the same time it lacked the dynamics usually associated 'with Batman and Bruce T1Iayne. JL: Right. The last page of Fight Nigbt is pretty straightforward. You only omitted one thing from the script. 'The description of panel two says, 'I'The cops open up on aim low, shooting them in the them. Lewis andTara

legs." But you just have the heroes facing off with the cops at the top. Yon don't show that they're not trying to kil] the cops, and it isn' t the most dynamic panel. vVhy did you make tills choice?

Sl\ti: I was looking for a clear way! to sbo» wh), she doesn It get shot. They're ess:entialf:yfish in a barrel. They're easy shots. One
grenade would do it. But Jfigured 1could show her shooting up at an angle, so that the cops 7.iJouJd' afraid to handle ber: This be

kind ~ffull, standard) side shot c()n-'{).~ys ideas vny d-ear/y,. It's

---l

94

r--

SEA.N MURPHY

Sean Murphy's Fight Night

95

WORKlING h!fETHODS

~. b~ " "

4~.....

SEA.N MURPHY

97

WORKlING h!fETHODS

98