Author Archives: Nick
The above image is by Thierry Martin and besides just being an incredible drawing, I’m impressed by the fact that all the perspective lines seem to be drawn freehand. I don’t see any vanishing points and the lines don’t seem to be laid down with a ruler. Obviously, Martin has a lot of skill, but I just find the idea of this so freeing. Sometimes I find ruling out all the perspective lines on a drawing to be deadening to the drawing process and it fills up the page with unnecessary marks. So why hold onto approaches that don’t work?
And this is the theme I want to embrace in this new year. The further I progress with my art, the more I see how I get in my own way. My conceptions of “how things should be done” hinder my ability to freely create. I’ve already changed my penciling process and so far I really like it. I just want to set myself free. My goal is to create more. The older I get, the more I see how little time there is. So, onward.
Through the Comixology app on my iPad I try out comics that I probably wouldn’t buy otherwise. And some of the stuff I’ve found has been fun. Image, especially, has a nice range of sci-fi titles that make for fun reads. Anyway, I recently read through the first four issues of Vertigo’s The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy with color by Matt Hollingsworth. Basically, I feel the same way about The Wake as I did about All-Star Superman: the art is gorgeous, but the writing is schlocky. Sean Murphy has a realistic style that is nonetheless full of energy and sketchy lines. I really like it. And Matt Hollingsworth’s color choices are subtle and evocative. But Scott Snyder’s writing… well, it smacks of uninspired Hollywood recycling. And because the problems are ones I’ve seen before, I’ve made a list: the mistaken assumptions of plot-driven writers.
Lots of back story must equal lots of character. One way writers try to bring a character to life is to give information about that character’s past. The Wake does this in the first issue by showing us that Lee, our main character, is not only a marine biologist with a checkered past, but a mother who only gets to see her son for a few months out of the year. The goal here is to get us to sympathize with her, I suppose. But this back story doesn’t really reveal who Lee is. Sure, she has some scruples about killing sea animals unnecessarily, but beyond that she’s kind of a blank slate. You see, characters are revealed by their actions, by the decisions they make. Since this comic has a lot in common with Alien, I can’t help but make the comparison between Ripley and Lee. In that first movie, we know nothing about Ripley’s past. And yet her character is clear. We see it when Ripley sticks to protocol and refuses to let the injured Kane back on the ship, even when the other members of the crew get on her case for being a hard ass. We don’t know where Ripley is from or how she got her job, but we know who she is. We know this because we see her make decisions and interact with other characters. Yet since most of the character interaction in The Wake is plot exposition, hardly any of Lee’s personality is revealed. Back story details like the fact that Lee has a son or that she was kicked out of some organization or that her father was killed don’t really tell us about the kind of person she is. Back story does not equal character.
Our government must secretly spend billions of dollars on secret high tech projects that we don’t know about. Sure, there is evidence for secret government programs. But, come on. For one, this is a huge cliché. Yet it’s one that The Wake gives into with full force. Second, a deep sea laboratory worthy of a James Bond villain is a little over the top. Yet again, that’s what we get here. It is not exciting. It is silly. As an aside here, I also find it odd that Agent Cruz has been going around gathering up his top secret crew and putting them on board his high tech submarine in Alaska. That means that each new crew member has to wait in the sub while Cruz flies off across the world to talk the next person into joining the team. So by the time Lee gets there near the end of the first issue, how long have the three other crew members been waiting around on the sub? Hours? Days?
More action must equal more excitement. No. No, it doesn’t. Basically, before midway through the second issue of the comic the sea monster that is in captivity on the high tech base escapes and the killing begins. That means that the next two and a half issues are basically people running away from and being killed by sea monsters. That’s it. And that gets boring fast. Again, I think a contrast with Alien is helpful. It takes a long time for the alien to even show up in that movie. And we don’t really even get a good look at it until the end. So there is a lot of tension that’s built. And there is contrast. The beginning of the movie is slow and quiet. The end of the movie is hectic and loud. The Wake has no contrast. It’s always hectic and loud. Having the dial stuck at eleven doesn’t make a story more exciting; it just makes me want to turn it off.
Long asides during dangerous situations can miraculously lead to solving conflict. This is probably the most common inanity on this list. I’m sure you can name your own examples of stories that have this convenient plot device. In The Wake, there is a scene where the remaining crew members are huddled together in a room trying to come up with a plan of escape. They have just watched countless people die and are next on the list if they don’t act fast. And so… one of them decides to tell a folk story from the Netherlands. It is such an incredible bursting of the suspense balloon and so out of character for the moment that it can only be there as a plot device. And lo and behold… the story makes Lee realize that they could use sound to battle the sea monsters. Conflict solved! Until the new conflict: a bigger sea monster! ‘Cause, hey, if a sea monster is a threat, then a big sea monster must be a big threat. It’s logical. Sigh.
And this is where I stopped reading The Wake. I’m sure I will go back to the issues I have to look at Sean Murphy’s art, but still, I’m surprised that this comic is such a big hit. But, again, that only goes to show how far away from the mainstream my tastes lie.
I realize that this doesn’t look much different than the previous version. But I spent all day trying various options, using so many different brushes that my computer turned to molasses and each stroke had a five second delay. Then I scrapped it all and went back to doing something closer to what I did the other day. The colors are more muted and I added some red to the sand to match the Las Vegas sand more, though in this jpeg it looks more brown. I also added some noise, because texture is my middle name.
I’ve been going back and forth about the color choices here. This is the mix I’m the most happy with so far.
All these figures were inspired by other people’s drawings that came through my tumblr, but this was just an excuse to practice color.
I did thumbnails for all of Carnivale and at times it felt more like an abstract requirement than an organically necessary part of the process. So I’m trying something else now with the stories I’m working on. Yes, I’ll thumbnail pages that have specific framing or when all I have is my notebook, but mostly I’m going to go straight to pencils. I’m letting the pencils be pretty rough, as you can see, and I’ll either go back over them at a future date or maybe even do a second layer of pencils. But this has several advantages. For one, I feel like I am actually working on the final version of the story. I also have an idea of how it will actually look, which is not true of thumbnails. Also, I tend to settle into a way of drawing characters as I work on a story. Like, I’m still not so sure how the character above should look. He might change as I keep working on things. So what I can do is go back and change the pencils at a later date and thus keep things more consistent. It allows me to work on several stories at once. Anyway, my goal is to get me to be more prolific. I think thumbnails and then penciling and then inking one finished page at a time is not the best approach for me. We’ll see how this one works in the end, but for right now I’m liking it.
Of course, the upshot of all this is that is will be some time before I have anything finished to put up here.
This is a new story I’m working on. I’m still figuring out how I want to do it visually.
The story itself is set in Las Vegas in the late 70s, early 80s. And it will have words. I mentioned it before here.
The top one is gouache and ink with some computer-assist color. It’s also based on a Modigliani painting I had never seen until yesterday. The bottom one is ink and wash with flat computer color and some speckled color overlay.
The problem with wash is that it’s difficult to scan properly. If you leave the soft tones, then the blacks lack vibrancy. If you beef up the blacks, then the softer tones get lost. But I like playing around with wash. It’s just that if my intent is reproduction, it may not be the best choice.