June 17, 2010
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC,    PART 4: LET’S GET DIGITAL
At this stage, it’s common practice for an artist to “tighten up” the pencils to improve clarity for the printing process. Back in the day, this was achieved by inking onto the artwork itself with a pen or brush.
But Jeremy scans the pencils and does everything digitally, because he is secretly Tron like that. (Or he’s been drawing a webcomic for the past two years.) You can see above how the digital inking process gave him a wide range of line fidelity. The pencils are darker, heavier, and fit for reproduction, but there’s still a nice detailed, delicate look to the artwork.
It’s possible to get the same effect with a brush, but it takes hella time and experience. Thanks, computers! Please don’t forget me when you make all writers and artists redundant.
Jeremy also added some preliminary colors at this stage, to see how it affected the artwork. Even a quick pass of color added striking depth and complexity to the page. Red looks like she is actually walking through a cave instead of down a white piece of paper.
Tomorrow: Words + more pretty colors

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC, PART 4: LET’S GET DIGITAL

At this stage, it’s common practice for an artist to “tighten up” the pencils to improve clarity for the printing process. Back in the day, this was achieved by inking onto the artwork itself with a pen or brush.

But Jeremy scans the pencils and does everything digitally, because he is secretly Tron like that. (Or he’s been drawing a webcomic for the past two years.) You can see above how the digital inking process gave him a wide range of line fidelity. The pencils are darker, heavier, and fit for reproduction, but there’s still a nice detailed, delicate look to the artwork.

It’s possible to get the same effect with a brush, but it takes hella time and experience. Thanks, computers! Please don’t forget me when you make all writers and artists redundant.

Jeremy also added some preliminary colors at this stage, to see how it affected the artwork. Even a quick pass of color added striking depth and complexity to the page. Red looks like she is actually walking through a cave instead of down a white piece of paper.

Tomorrow: Words + more pretty colors

June 16, 2010
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC,   PART 3: PENCILED ARTWORK
Once the script is finished and approved, the creative process moves to a new person on the team: the artist.
In the case of the Fraggle Rock story, I was lucky enough to have my good friend and awesome artist Jeremy Love on the job. If you don’t know, Jeremy is the Eisner-nominated creator of Bayou, a fantastic comic which happens to be available online for free. It’s like Alice In Wonderland in the American South. If you’ve never seen it before, I highly reccomend you check it out.
Jeremy wanted to illustrate the Fraggles as if they were real creatures you could study and draw, with things like legs, expressions, and butts. So he adopted an art style he developed from Bayou, a sketchy pencil look with lots of soft shadings and naturalistic details. (Click on the image above to see all the lush detail in the work.)
FACT: Boober, the Fraggle in the hat, was Jeremy’s favorite character to draw. Too bad he figured that out after I made Red the star of the story…
Tomorrow: Digital inks and colors

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC, PART 3: PENCILED ARTWORK

Once the script is finished and approved, the creative process moves to a new person on the team: the artist.

In the case of the Fraggle Rock story, I was lucky enough to have my good friend and awesome artist Jeremy Love on the job. If you don’t know, Jeremy is the Eisner-nominated creator of Bayou, a fantastic comic which happens to be available online for free. It’s like Alice In Wonderland in the American South. If you’ve never seen it before, I highly reccomend you check it out.

Jeremy wanted to illustrate the Fraggles as if they were real creatures you could study and draw, with things like legs, expressions, and butts. So he adopted an art style he developed from Bayou, a sketchy pencil look with lots of soft shadings and naturalistic details. (Click on the image above to see all the lush detail in the work.)

FACT: Boober, the Fraggle in the hat, was Jeremy’s favorite character to draw. Too bad he figured that out after I made Red the star of the story…

Tomorrow: Digital inks and colors

June 15, 2010

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC, PART 2: THE SCRIPT

So I cleared the pitch stage with my inspired tale of one Fraggle and her struggle against an art world establishment that doesn’t understand her genius. (Hey Banksy, I’m available!)

The next step is to write out the script, the page-by-page, panel-by-panel blueprint the artist will use to draw the comic book. Not too dissimilar from a screenplay, but with more nerd references.

The notorious Alan Moore was the first writer I saw who wrote out a script like a letter to the artist. Tim Beedle and Paul Morrisey (my awesome editors at Archaia), and relevant people at Henson will all read the script as well, for the purposes of notes and approvals. But it’s the artist who will spend hours and hours with this jam, possibly hating me for incredibly complicated panel compositions. So I might as well butter them up from the get go.

Here’s one section of the script, covering page 3 of the comic book:

PAGE 3

Break this page up into three panels, two panels on the left, stacked on top of each other. The third panel on the right is 1/3rd the width of the page, but as tall as the height of the page.

PANEL 1: We are back outside Gobo and Wembley’s dwelling. On the left side is the front door. In the middle is Red, backing away, shouting her dialog back into the door. A hasty retreat. On the right is Red’s painting leaning against the wall.

This is the first time we see Red’s painting and thus understand her dilemma. It’s not…childlike per se, but it is certainly rudimentary, especially considering the accomplished paintings we’ve just seen inside. It wouldn’t hurt if it was attractive, but it needs to be somewhat sloppy and almost primitive.

1. RED: I…uh, left mine at home!
2. RED: I’ll just run back and grab it!

PANEL 2: A scene from Red’s imagination. This panel should be somewhat visually different to indicate that it is imaginary — sepia tone or fuzzy borders or something like that. She is thinking of the criticism she will get for her painting. The scene is Boober Fraggle holding Red’s painting while Red looks on.

1. BOOBER: It looks like something a Gorg made.
2. RED: …

PANEL 3: This is the tall panel taking up the whole right hand side of the page. We’re looking down on the winding path that leads out of Fraggle Rock and into the world of the Gorgs. (The Trash Heap is on the other side of the Gorg’s garden.) Slight angle, looking down, like 45 degrees-ish. We see three Reds in this panel, at the top, in the middle, and at the bottom, as she progresses down the path. Time passing in a single panel.

1. RED: I gotta take this to the Trash Heap before someone sees it!
2. RED: How will I win the art contest now?
3. RED: If only I was as good at painting as I am at swimming…

(If you don’t know what a Gorg is…I don’t know what to tell you.)

Two things about this script that are different from most others:

One, Red Fraggle and pals already have a predefined look thanks to hours of television. I’m not inventing the wheel here, so in this script I didn’t have to write out a lot of descriptions for the artist. "Red is a female Fraggle of undetermined age…her wardrobe consists mostly of…" Etc. Phew.

Two, Archaia printed the Fraggle Rock in the shape of a square, as opposed to the common vertical rectangle format. Therefore, each Fraggle page is about 2/3rds the size of a normal comic book page. Pro: I only had to write 2/3rds as much! Con: Less page space to play with. l had to compress the story and conserve real estate as much as possible. Hence the time shifting in the third panel, a technique I stole directly from is an homage to an obscure Japanese manga.

Tomorrow: Finally, some art.

June 14, 2010

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC, PART 1: THE PITCH

LA-based Archaia published the Fraggle Rock comic, an anthology featuring short stories by a variety of creative teams. Stephen Christy, editor-in-chief of Archaia, told me about the book at a party, and asked if I wanted to pitch some ideas. That’s how these things happen: with booze.

Thankfully, after the hangovers wore off the offer was still open. Armed with a bowl of hallucinogenic Lucky Charms a charming antique fountain pen and bamboo papyrus, I sat down to absorb several hours of the Fraggle Rock television show, which holds up surprisingly well. When I emerged from my vision quest research, this is one of the ideas I had:

The Birthday Present
It’s the World’s Oldest Fraggle’s birthday, one of the biggest holidays in Fraggle Rock! In celebration, Fraggles create artistic portraits of the beloved geezer, and the World’s Oldest Fraggle picks his favorite as his birthday present. Mokey, Gobo, and Wembley are all hard at work on their paintings, depicting the birthday boy in a variety of expressive styles. Red, however, rejects her own attempt as too ugly. While her friends create art with ease and joy, Red stomps off to Marjorie the Trash Heap for a dose of wisdom. Surrounded by garbage, Marjorie helps the frustrated Fraggle realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Back at the birthday festival, Red reveals her entry, an abstract sculpture assembled from found pieces of the Trash Heap. The other Fraggles are confused by a piece of “junk” in an art contest. But the Oldest Fraggle sees the beautiful essence of Red’s creation, and chooses it as his birthday portrait for the year.

I knew I wanted to write a story with Red Fraggle. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is very competitive; enthusiastic characters like that are a blast because they almost writes themselves. The minor, obscure characters like the World’s Oldest Fraggle are some of my favorites, because they tend to be more eccentric than the five principle Fraggles…and I like weirdos. The TV show has hella singing in it, but a comic book is silent. I wanted something that would be fun for the artist to draw, something to work with the visual strengths of the comic medium instead of against it. Like an art contest! Of course, there needs to be a message, a lesson, and I wanted a message I believe in. I ain’t no poser!

Me me me. I want this, I want that. This is how you come up with a story, by putting your own selfish desires first. What do you want to write about? If you don’t have fun writing it, no one will have fun reading it.

The Birthday Present was one of three pitches I sent to Tim Beedle, my editor at Archaia. I’d like to say that everyone who read the pitch immediately recognized it as a pristine lotus flower of brilliance that simply demanded to see print. But in reality, the first pitch was similar to another story in the Fraggle comic, and the second pitch was too complex to tell in six comic pages.

The Henson Company, god bless ‘em, they have several million reasons per year to get picky about what their Fraggles do and say in public. But they had no notes or changes on my pitch. You can swing a dead cat on the floor of Comic Con and hit a thousand nightmare stories about working with picky licensors and their precious intellectual property, but Henson was a pleasant exception.

So The Birthday Present won, and the other two bit the dust. It’s hardly ideal to have 66% of your ideas go into the trash bin. But, it’s better to pitch several ideas at a time to hedge your bets against rejection. "You think that pitch sucks? Psyche, what about THIS one!"

What counts is getting the job, and with the thumbs up from both Archaia and Henson I was IN.

Tomorrow: Writing a comic book script

June 14, 2010
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC!
If you haven’t been paying attention, my first gig as a comic book writer was a Fraggle Rock story in Archaia’s Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock Special Edition for Free Comic Book Day.
This week, I’ll be posting some material showing a bit of how the Fraggle Rock comic got done…the awesome team of creatives, the step-by-step evolution, the gruesome behind the scenes, the ugly truths you didn’t want to know about the chicken nugget factory.
Above, is an early version of the Fraggle Rock gang drawn in pencil by Jeremy Love. This was later cleaned up, colored, and used as a variant cover and on the flyer for our FCBD event.
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: The Script
Part 3: Penciled Artwork

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRAGGLE ROCK COMIC!

If you haven’t been paying attention, my first gig as a comic book writer was a Fraggle Rock story in Archaia’s Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock Special Edition for Free Comic Book Day.

This week, I’ll be posting some material showing a bit of how the Fraggle Rock comic got done…the awesome team of creatives, the step-by-step evolution, the gruesome behind the scenes, the ugly truths you didn’t want to know about the chicken nugget factory.

Above, is an early version of the Fraggle Rock gang drawn in pencil by Jeremy Love. This was later cleaned up, colored, and used as a variant cover and on the flyer for our FCBD event.

Part 1: The Pitch

Part 2: The Script

Part 3: Penciled Artwork