19 October 2008

Zoob: 24 Hours give or take 6 years.

This past Saturday was 24 Hour Comics Day.  I wanted to pull off an awesome 24 page comic in 24 hours but I failed.  I did knock out a comic.  It's just not awesome or even finished yet.  It's a good beginning upon which I will build in the next few weeks.  I just couldn't ignore my family for 24 consecutive hours to knock this out.  Still, I did manage to write and thumbnail out the whole 24 page thing in much less than 24 hours.  Probably more like three hours.  Of course I cheated a bit.  I did not have to spend a lot of time inventing the characters or the story because I'm using an idea I came up way back in early 2002 called Zoob
Here is my very first Zoob drawing pulled from the same sketchbook that holds my thumbnails for Spaghetti Junktion, Brush & Pen, Phillip Henry and most of the Dadtrooper stuff.  (Lots of unused and unfinished stuff too.)  I do this kind of page at the beginning of almost every project.  It's my way of brainstorming.  
Here is a quick ball point pen drawing from the same 2002 sketchbook.  The main thing I wanted to do with Zoob was to draw a lot of motion and this was just practice to see if the suit could move.  
Cut to 2008.  I wanted to do a 24 hour comic.  I wanted to draw a lot of action just for fun so I came back to this Zoob idea.  I decided the suit was too busy to be able to pull off a lot of panels in 24 hours so I simplified.  You can see my first two drafts of the new version here (or just scroll down).  I kept the spirit of the design.  Big boots, big hands, big helmet but I streamlined the thing.
The next step is to start making the comic.  Whenever I do a multi page story, I like to start off with a little mock up book of thumbnails.  I'm a minicomic guy and one of the recurring mistakes I see guys make in minicomics is that they did not draw the thing for the size which it was going to be printed.  I always take some paper and make a little book at the estimated size and do my thumbnails at that size and block in all the lettering.  That way I have a good idea what the finished product will look like as I'm going and I won't crowd the page or make my lettering too small.  You may be wondering, "why worry about the lettering, don't real cartoonists just put the lettering in later with a computer at whatever size they want it?".  No.  Not me.  I hate, hate, double loathe computer lettering.  I draw that stuff in by hand which means I have to make sure I do it big enough that it will still be readable when shrunk down for the web or minicomics. 
Here are a couple of interior pages.  This book is about 99% action so there is not a lot of dialog.  Just running, jumping and fighting.  I don't do a lot of drawing in my thumbnails.  It's just a visual shorthand to block out my shapes, positive space, negative space, the places for text, the beats of the panels and the overall pacing.  I try to make the last panel of ever page have it's own impact.  I feel that with every page by the time you get to the last panel you should have moved the story from where it was in the first panel.  I know you are thinking, "well, duh, of course something should happen in a page of comics" but it's not always a given.  I see a lot of comics where the beat or the scene transition will happen in the middle of a page.  I'm not a big fan of that.  
After I get the thing thumbed out it's time to start drawing real pages and packing them full of awesome.  I never draw the pages in order.  I just draw what I most feel like drawing at that moment.  A great thing about having the thumbnail book is that I can go back and forth from page to page, panel to panel and not get confused because I can refer back to the thumbnail book to stay on track.  And with that, I'll end this post and get back to packing those pages full of awesome.  Finished character sheets and story pages coming soon true believers!

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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