The Evolution of a Comic

I’m not talking where my comic strip starts off as a floundering fish yearning to have lungs on land, but rather how I create a strip from scratch.  A blank piece of paper is a rather formidable foe until you strike that first pencil line.  Once you start down the Dark Path, you must finish it.  So, tag along and let’s create a comic!

I draw full page comics now which updates once a week rather than the standard newspaper style comic.  By doing it once a week it gives me more time to create a better product, it allows for more story development in the larger format and my readers are getting an overall more enjoyable experience from reading the comic.  That said, it has the same challenges: only so many frames per page, so many word balloons per frame and only so many words per balloon.

I start off from a script I’ve written. In the script, I have written the dialog and given a frame by frame description of what I envisioned for the comic.  Image #1 shows the result of my rough pencil sketch of this comic.  I started drawing the last frames first on this one as I wanted to “back-time” my drawing into the ending.  I wasn’t sure if I had written too much dialog for the middle part, and by drawing the last frames followed by the first frames, I can better judge what will fit in the middle.  Once I have drawn these roughs, I now have a good idea of the frames I need to create and how much dialog I will be able to use.

Image 1

Image #2 shows the finished pencils. Note I’ve put in the word balloons and dialog.  I will tweak these for content and position as I draw the comic.  I often edit dialog right up until the time I export the comic for use on the web.  Not often, but it’s nice to be able to change it as you need.  Something traditional methods can’t offer easily.  The finished pencils are generally good enough to present on their own, but inking and shading only takes it up a notch.

Image 2

Image #3 shows the inks and shades. I use a 40% shade on most comics unless I need a really dark look.  In this comic, the sun is setting so the shadows fall mostly to the sides as the light source is lower to the ground.  I try to imagine where a flashlight would be placed and shine on the characters, this gives me an idea of where to put the shadows.  If you compare the final pencils to the ink, you will see that panel 4 I’ve raised the woman’s left arm; I hate dangling limbs!  In panel 5 I’ve adjusted her breasts to be more even with the ground as she’s not leaning to the side so much as she bending over.  And in the final panel, I moved the women in closer to Bud to give it a more personal feel.

Image 3

Image #4 is the final product. After I do the inking and shading, I will go in and draw my backgrounds.  I do not put a lot of time into the backgrounds as they’re just filler to give the reader an orientation of relation to their environment.  I prefer simple backgrounds as I think a reader’s focus should be on the foreground.  Not that intricate backgrounds are bad, it is just not my style.

Image 4

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  1. I struggle sometimes with shading. I tend to almost always have the light source coming from the top right.

    Anyone know of a online resource that might show facial and body shadows and allow you to move the light source??

    • Yeah, I think that’s true in a lot of comics… the light source comes from the right. Interesting now that you point it out.

      I shall some research for other articles on shading and post them here. Good suggestion!

    • I usually fudge the shading…and try not to do too much…too much shading can overwhelm the final image. Sometimes I look at the strip before shading and think it stands well enough without it but then add some subtle shading because it has been what I always do.

    • I usually don’t shade unless it’s to foreshadow impending doom, hide a character for later, or to hide some terrible aspect of my drawing. Usually it happens for the last reason. 🙂

  2. Top left for me, but I move the camera around a lot so sometimes it flips by the end of the strip. Great look at your process, Byron. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Brock! It seems we all get asked how we create our comics, so I like to do this from time to time. Makes me aware of what I actually do as well. It’s a lot of time, as you well know!

      Thanks for reading!

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