Friday Fixup: Vince Underwood

Friday Fixup is where I take a page of some willing volunteer’s work and see if I can add some extra oomph to the story telling.

First page this week is by Vince Underwood

As ever, his version on the left, my edits to the right, annotations follow…

Let’s begin!

Panel 1:space! The final frontier. The edits: more drama! Just because we’re in space doesn’t mean we can’t have dramatic lighting around a figure (check out anything at all inked by Kevin Nowlan, the master at two source lighting). This little pure white figure against a pure white background felt a little dull, so some nice shadows inside him. Now, in panel 3 we meet some sort of villain, but where’s he come from? He just sort of appears – so I added a little flying figure of him in Panel 1 (it’s not much but it stops that can from just sort of showing up – it’s a reverse checkov’s gun problem we have – if the dude shows up as a massive threat on panel three, we’d better see him earlier than that!)

Panel 2: Couldn’t tell if we were looking at a sun or a planet, so I added some shadow shapes to help sell the planet, adding some central shadows around the flying good guy (Which really focuses you on his mouth and that scream) and added some more pew! pew! pew! (the original has two laser beams, but they’re white and on top of a white planet so it’s all a bit lost, now the planet is in shadow, added some jagged effect lines so it’s not just pure straight laser fire – visual interest! and lots more pew! pew! pew!)

(I make s/fx noises when I draw. I’ve learned to accept that about myself. Pew!)

Panel 3 – OOF! Here we want that impact point to be seen more, by adding shadow around the body of the hero that sort of guides the reader towards the chin/knee interface and adding a little white halo around the back of the villains leg, and more laser beam (pew! pew!) the panel has crunch and movement and focus.

Panel 4-6 Ok, I get what you’re doing here, a classic build up and then explosive punch! but I don’t think it’s working. Firstly the splatters of blood are too blobby and distracting, they’re not helping do anything but obstruct – this is a complex sequence so you want to simplify as much as possible. Plus, I think you’ve got Panel 4: PUNCH! Panel 5: Angry Panel 6: Angry and I think you really want Panel 4: punch! panel 5: PUNCH HARDER! panel 6: PUNCH EVEN HARDER, Panel 7: PUNCH THE HARDEST THERE IS. It’s sort of the rule of threes (I’ve gone for panels 5-6 as closer up views on the villains fist punching with blood, in case the drawing isn’t clear). Build and build and build and defuse. You have build, defuse, defuse, build, defuse.

Panel 7 (centre big punch). Ok, the centre visual effect here is cool but pointless, hard truth – it’s making me, the reader, look at the central effect and think “WHy am I staring at this dudes arm” – I’m completely missing the punch in the face that’s going on – I’m a dog that can only see on shiny thing at a time, and that shiny thing is SO shiny. So I moved the shiney to where the punch is. I did mine crudely you could do it with cooler v/fx, but the point is: the point of impact is the point. Not the dudes arm.

Panel 8-9-10 Again removed the blood splatter, so much clearer (I didn’t do it, but I’d be inclined to flip the horizontal on panel 8, as he’s arming his right hand and punching with his left, which looks a bit silly, but would work if it’s his right hand). Panel 10 I made it another punch, one with more gusto (I admit, my drawing of it is hard to make out) the point is: this is our heroes redemption moment, he gets his punch in, he’s going to win…

Panel 11: BUT WAIT! NO! Bad guy grabs him. I think you need a beat of the villain grabbing him before they start entering what I assume is limbo – I’m guessing the villain is vanishing them both away? I added a background to panel 11 (it’s the planet behind them, maybe I’d add some of the space ships too)

Panel 12-13-14-15 largely unchanged (I did add some white little lightning bolts to tie it to the visual effect on panel 7)

And finally, the background – let’s call it panel 16 I put some space ships in, because, frankly, they just seem to vanish around panel 3 where’d they go? Hopefully a reader won’t notice this stuff they’ll be so engrossed in the story, but there will be something nagging them in the back of their head, some sort of flaw they can’t quite see, and it’ll never occur to them that the spaceships just left, without a by-your-leave.

Anyway, hope that’s interesting/informative/something. YMMV on all of this stuff.

Friday Fixup: RL Rudge

Rich sent me this page (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Rich!) a fine cyberpunk type one pager.

As ever, Rich’s page first, followed by my edits followed by notes on why I did what I did…

Hey ho! Let’s go!

Panel 1: I think if you’re going to rely on perspective you need to lean hard in to it, get out the ruler, draw the guidelines. Then start measuring making sure you’ve got straight lines where you need them. I cheat (and goodness if you can cheat ALWAYS cheat) by using Clip Studio Paint’s perspective guidelines. I usually would use them to refine a pencil sketch, then I’d free hand the lines in. You’ve also got to be aware of scale – if the building is large what kind of tiny details can you see? What gives it a sense of scale? Usually it’s the number and size of windows – we all have a general notion of how big a window is so if the window looks small then boom it’s further away.

The van is suffering a bit from a flat tyre here too (I’m guessing that’s more accident than design) and we have one character walking out of it. So, I pushed us closer to the woman walking out of the van, van and her now dark heavy foreground, gives us more a sense of who’s important in this scene – on the original the building was important, in the redraw the woman looking at the building is important. Of course, check your script (which I don’t have) it may well be this shouldn’t be that type of scene – this panel is now the exorcist movie poster.

Panel two, pulled out from the van, stayed with her, dropped the panel border up top. Felt all a little close. Also It takes seconds to google “door of white transit van” give that a go! Google everything real world, you may not use it but it can suggest new shapes so everything stops looking like a persons memory of a thing.

Panel three – in the original it’s a little confusing to me, suddenly the girl we’re looking at is in the middle and beside the other guys? I think – but can’t swear, this is supposed to be a chat between them were we erase the boundaries of time and space which is cool and a comic book trope, I think though, if you’re GOING to do that then bite the bullet and do it …


Floating heads are fine!

Though if you are going to do that then the very next panel BETTER HAVE A BACKGROUND! failure to do so will make the reader think they’ve entered some sort of limbo dimension where backgrounds don’t exist.

Now, what I did on this panel is I just pulled us in closer to the action (I cheated by reusing the art on panel two – which is fine for what I’m doing here, but try and avoid reproducing art in this way as it gets a bit dull and samey – it’s fine to do use a copy as a pencil if the inks then add some subtle changes. There’s room for dialogue and it’s clear where everyone is in relation to each other (I’m big on the geography of a scene, reader should never be confused about where they are UNLESS YOU WANT THEM TO BE…).

Panel Four

Hey, I’ve done backgrounds everywhere, so we can drop them out for this panel, that’s cool. It’s nice and clean and keeps our focus on our tin-chinned chum.

And that’s it. YMMV, I hope this is interesting!

Friday Fixup: Stephen Ward

It’s friday fixup, this slice of sci-fi silliness is from Stephen Ward who has a whole strip for you to read here.

I took his first page to see if I could pep it up with the story telling, His page then my edits, then notes to follow!

So let’s talk SCALE!!!

You have the vast, endless expanse of space (“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” the great Douglas Adams) and yet panel one feels super cramped. It’s also got the main characters flying against the direction of the reader (reader is, of course, moving left to right – anything that is on the page attempting to move right to left is gonna feel either very jarring or like it’s not moving at all – a still moment). So panel 1 I pulled the camera right out – since we have two characters the dialogue – in the context of the rest of the page – is actually pretty clear which character is speaking so we don’t need to show them just yet.

I’ve also ramped up the threat – and I think it makes the first line funnier – “he’s gaining” is vaguely worrying when the other guy has a ship the same size as you, but it’s very worrying when his shape is so vast that it’s really gonna pulverise you (plus he’s so close it’s very much an understatement)

Second panel: It’s always a pain to have the first person speaking on the right – it’s not ideal, but sometimes you have no choice (I always blame the writer)  making the second person to speak (on the left) lower down in the panel, and giving the letterer plenty of room to work on in the middle is about the best compromise you can make (ideally you don’t get in the situation, but here we are!)

I’ve added some background, both of the interior of the spaceship – needn’t be too much, just some lines to help us know where we are, and windows to the exterior with stars flashing by – it all helps give us a sense of movement. You could also maybe give the panel a dutch angle which would help give a sense of a spaceship jigging left and right to avoid being shot at and would elevate the character higher on the right so it helps the letterer even further.

I’ve also changed the body language, I think the joke works a little better if the character is one minute deeply lamenting the mistake, then the next sort of “but it was delicious”.  Panel 2 made me go back and change panel 1 a little, I took the reference to the pineapple and decide to give the big spaceship in panel one more of a pineapple look to it – helping to reinforce the silly (the big teeth on it are supposed to be a big docking bay with an crunchy open/close gate thing)

Panel three: BACKGROUND! doesn’t need much, just some moving stars and planets and some odds and ends round the ship, stuff to add personality (I added here a tree car smelly thing – you want to add tchotchkes around and about, things that show the world is wider than the blank walls of the ship)

Panel four:

Show don’t tell! Pulled the panel out, dialogue from inside the ship showing intent, the giant wall of asteroids, bullets flying past – we see a plan, the threat and the possible solution. All better than another shot of our heroes inside the ship which conveys little information that “let’s do this”

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got – ymmv, pick from this what you think works and what doesn’t.

Friday Fixup: Ahmed Raafat

FRIDAY FIXUP! I did another one! Ahmed sent me this page, caveat: this is for an Egyptian comic book so reads right to left, so I had to flip it before I could make sense of it, so from here on in I’m going to talk about this newly flipped version as though it’s the original (make sense? otherwise I’ll be talking about flipping things back to the way before and it’ll drive us all mad)

Anyway here’s Ahmed’s original (ie his page flipped to read left to right) and my amendments, notes, as ever… to follow..

Panel 1:

Ok, first off. This is clearly a night scene in a busy location, but owing to the stylistic choice of the buildings in panel one it felts too bright. So That was my first job – bringing the lighting down. I pushed all the buildings in to silhoutte in the background leaving the odd lit window as an indicater they’re buildings and then I masked off the top of the buildings and added a splatter stars (more than were originally there – some time ago I created an ink splatter and scanned it and turned it into a brush for Clip Studio Paint, this is my go to splatter brush for stars or blood or just chaos). The splatter allows us to read a continous set of straight lines for the roofs (rooves? roofeses?) Then I blacked out the floor. Next I wanted more crowding so I added another -I’m calling them – tucktucks just to beef it up, then I figured I needed depth, so I took the waiter guy and blew him up and moved him so he was taking up a big bit of the foreground (I fixed the cups he had in his hand which seemed to be tilting forward and about to spill) but him in isolation looked great, but it’s not really his story, is it? So I needed a good visual link to the next panel so I ended up poorly drawing the guy in panel two in panel one – just a suggestion to link these panels, panel 1: reach for cup. Panel two? drink from cup.

Panel 2: The glass looked like it was weirldy floating. Our hands and fingers curve around and take on the shape of the object they’re holding – as best as they’re able. The squishy flesh touching the object soaks into the shape of it increasing the surface area and grip, and on the exterior surface of your hand the bones wrap around and you’re seeing mostly bone and sinew on that side, but bone and sinew trying to be a cup holder. Unless it’s a light glass we will try and get as much of that glass in to our hands as we can. I also flipped this panel, there was a lot of symmetry going on with the next panel and I needed an easy way to disambiguate the two, I also think this is a neater way of hemming the second character in here.

Panel 3: The facial expressions on the smaller character here and the smaller character in the previous panel were nearly identical, so I needed a way to stop that. Decided that since the character turned up first off in a lot of shadow he should remain in a lot of shadow this further made it look different to the smaller character in the previous panel. I also blew up the other character in this panel, helping to add some depth to the scene.

Panel 4: I pushed him back in to ominous silhouette, we lose the facial expression, and maybe the intent – depending on the script, but really it felt much better to have him in all silhouette here, it looked cool and felt like a good moment on the last panel of the page.

I should point out, I’m really looking at these things out of context of overall script, so, arguably, I’m losing information and intent from the overall story, so it may well be that edits I suggest here are unworkable, but still, it’s fun to figure this stuff out, right? Anyway, as every YMMV!


Friday Fixup: Steven Grey

Every Friday I ask, on twitter, if anyone has a page of art they want me to go through and see if I can’t help them ramp up the storytelling (it’s always about making it better, even by small degrees) and then I talk about the decisions I’ve taken and why they might be good (or bad, who knows, right? it’s all subjective)

Steven Grey sent me a couple of pages, I went with the first one, so here’s his version to the left and mine to the right with notes to follow…

Ok, the first big thing I did, and something I want to talk about: black panel borders.

Black panel borders can be awesome, they can add mood and moodiness. The can really draw a reader in to the story, but like most decisions that impact on a whole page there are down sides. For me, the downsides are considerable. I LOVE open panels, I LOVE being able to blow out a background and panel borders and have the reader just look at the characters reaction, and these are things you lose once you decide you want to have a pure black panel border.

So, for this page I decided to go all out and remove the panel borders. Panel 1 is the one that is most impacted.

Panel 1: There are two things on this page that seem to be important… the boy and the boys reaction to the butterfly (which implies the butterfly is important). I opened up Panel one so it became a vista on a wide open space, allowing me to uncrop the tree (because cropping is great at making you feel like you’re in an enclosed space it felt -inappropriate to crop on this big picture view). I also added a silhouette of the boy walking toward the tree and made the butterfly more obvious (there’s a little noodle drawing, that, due to the low resolution on the original, may have been the butterfly or might not, I just tidied that idea up a little)

I also took the dense foliage around the tree away, lifted it slightly above the panel border, but keeping it on the ground plane, and added clean black into the bark of the tree. All this is to help the reader “read” that they’re looking at a tree.

Panel 2: Flipped the panel and added more black in to the butterly. Added a little bit of foliage to the background (never needs to be too complicated, just enough to suggest background. Film and TV can do a focal effects – basically pushing the background into a blur and that’s harder to accomplish with lineart [you can blur lineart but it looks horrid] but you can lightly draw some background. Flipped the background here because it felt like, as a reader I was skipping over this butterfly, flipped it feels like I’m forced to stare at it a little longer (this is very much, as is all of it really, in my humble opinion)

I really like the lineart style, but I think there’s a danger of things getting a little lost in the light feathery lines, so I decided the butterfly was in that danger, so gave it a solid black wing so we’d never lose it in any panel.

Panel 3: Unfortunately, I think your art style can be a bit of a rod for your own back, it feels light when there’s no background details (even simple ones) so added stuff here.

I wanted to drop the panel out and just have the butterfly, and the boy in the panel but as they’re both cropped slightly to the opposite sides of the panel borders it felt like that would look odd.

Panel 4: Couple of big edits here. I flipped the panel, It felt like our reading of it in the  direction meant we skipped over the butterfly entirely (it also felt like it was so hidden in the foliage we’d never have seen it) so flipping the panel actually produces a slightly more interesting narrative witin the panel – in the flipped version: boy reacts to something, we see the hand of the big guy moving foliage, butterfly flies off. In the original unflipped version: big guy looks at boy (who lets go of butterfly and it flies off in the opposite direction, zig zagging our view). Also tidied up the foliage around the butterfly and gave it black wings with eyes, so we never lose sight of it (eye joke!)


Panel 5: unchanged. Nice closeup.


Friday Fixup: Paul Moore

Ok, Paul has done this absolutely beautiful page, that, like some kind of heathen I will now scribble all over. But I’ll explain why… (it’s up to you whether the explanations hold water – and by YOU I mean the reader, as I write this both for me to understand what I’m thinking, for the person who drew the page and for those few people who may stumble upon this looking to learn comics!)

As ever, first Paul’s page, then my edits.

I love Paul’s work. I think he’s got a gorgeous rendering style going on, and is such a solid draftsman.

That said, NO MAN IS SAFE FROM MY MENACING! (on which subject, why all the men submitting to fixup friday? is it me? have I made it seem like I’m only looking for blokes? Honestly, not the case. More than happy to do the same for anyone of any or no gender. All the matters is the artwork)

Ok. Let’s get rolling.

Panel 1:


Ok, that done. Panel 1. I think there’s a couple of things here, some things I’ve addressed and some I haven’t.

What I’ve addressed: let’s give more room for dialogue, once you’ve drawn something if you think you can move every single person on the panel LOWER in the panel (leaving some extra lettering headroom) then give it a go! if you can do it with zero impact, well, that’ll save your letterer some effort. The car the other car is driving towards feels like it’s right beside it – or at least very close (time being something of a fluid concept in comics) so I shrank it, these stops an already cramped panel from feeling too cramped (gives us a bit of depth). I have some synpathy with Paul here, a conversation with four people in a car is hard – really damn hard – to choreograph, and without lettering I’ve no idea if he’s pulled it off. I’m assuming he has, but even so, more room required!

Panel 2 – 3

I HATED that I had to shrink this gorgeous panel, but I felt I had too. There was a lot of information to convey in panel 3. As was, panel 3 could’ve been the guys in the car 10 miles up the road from the other car. We sort of lose the geography of it – in panel 2 the car speeds towards the (I’m assuming parked) car, then the dudes get out – but did they get out before it? beside it? after it? We just don’t have the information – so by making panel 3 I was able to (badly) draw both cars in and stop the reader from getting confused.

Panel 4

DEPTH! I wanted depth! so I shrunk the background a bit, giving us a bit of depth. Even with distance shots (the original panel 2) there’s still a tendency to rob it of depth and scope. Sometimes you’ve got to let things breath.

Panel 5-6

I think I could’ve gone even closer in panel 6 – this sort of telescoping effect over panels, moving closer and closer in, heightens the drama, I’ve also add a little dramatic shadow over the face – Paul does lovely shadow work, but not really used to add atmosphere on this page, we can afford a little bit of that. Also added a gun bang bang effect on the gun – I really like the white out in the barrel but I don’t think it’s terribly clear the gun has fired (I’m guessing it did because there are two shells flying off on the original page). I also added a bit of shadow around our shooter’s face, happily this pulls multiple duties – it makes the light look cool, it makes him look sinister and it frames the image of the gun, pushing the reader away from the shadows and towards the muzzle.

Ok, on panel 1 I said there was some things I haven’t addressed, and it’s a bit of an elephant in the room for me. It’s this. I think the characters all tend to look a little samey. Now we all do this – god knows I do it. I have three blokes, and one of those is Judge Dredd, and maybe two girls – maybe just the one. But I know how to disguise them with wigs or moustaches (or a chin) so they FEEL different. If the guy with the gun had a moustache, for example he’d be super-easy to pick out at every single panel. But he doesn’t. He looks like any one of the other white guys with a polo neck and a jacket. (they don’t need to be all white, in fact it’d be better if they weren’t)

It may be intentional. Clones. A gang dressed the same to confuse. They’re all brothers. But I think it makes the storytelling job that much harder. When you have a crowd scene and multiple characters that are important you really need to do the legwork of making them INSTANTLY distinguishable from each other. If they’re clones, then a shirt with a number on it. If they’re brothers, then dress them radically differently. If they’re a gang dressed the same then give them all different body types Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph (these are real words, I haven’t made them up!) mix up the races

The reader is reading a single page in milliseconds, and you have fractions of that to keep them on the page, panel 1 is a great scene to deliver who every person is, one might have a big scar, a large honk, sideburns, a clown nose. Anything you do here sets the reader up for understanding what’s happening in the rest of the story.

I always do a little set of character sketches and I’m looking for two things : 1) meet the brief and 2) make sure the characters are all easily distinguished from each other.

And that’s it. I apologise for everything, it’s pretty brave of anyone submitting art for this process, since I started out so gently and now I’m like a flipping great big hefalump dropping great big hefalump poohs all over everything they’ve done and pretending my own hefalump pooh don’t stink. And it does. It stink. It stink bad.

What I’m saying is, none of this is absolute. It’s all subjective, and in this case, subjective to ME and ME alone. If you come away with nothing from this beyond insights as to how *I* would draw something and it makes you think “NO ta! that’s not for me”… well… even that’s pretty valuable, no?

Friday Fixup: Paul Jeter

Ok, I have a couple of general rules for how I do the friday fixup, some I’ve made pretty solidly clear, some I’ve sort of not (being as they are part and parcel of the other rules)

Here’s my primary rule for submissions: finished inks, one page, no lettering.

The reason for this is it just lets me think about storytelling, no lettering to confuse, don’t need to worry about colour (and since many of my edits involve me moving things around and resizing, if there’s colour I’ll frequently have to refill those colours, so it’s just extra work with very little outlay).

Now the implicit rule here is: no pencils. Partly that’s because I’m using two very specific tools to edit things, the ability to cut/paste/enlarge/rotate/flip etc which is easier in pure b&w and the ability to add shadow – big thick chunks of black, it’s much harder to do when the art is all grey (light grey, dark grey, smudged grey, etc)

And it’s partly because … well.. sometimes it’s hard to read other peoples pencils. My pencils are a goofy sludge, they make no sense until the inks hit. They are a step towards the inks, they are certainly NOT a piece of art in and of themselves. So I struggle with working with pencils and especially pencil roughs.

And because all rules are made to be broken, here’s a page by Paul Jeter which I’ve treated as a script/rough, and my pencils (which are also rough, but they are very much my own pencils)

Ok, starting off…

Panel 1: We’re in the wide open sea, but we’re given the game away early doors, so let’s start with a little mystery, so we start with the figurine, but I’ve dropped the background altogether and moved the caption over to the left (where captions naturally belong!) I’ve also opened the border, if I’d left it without a background the reader would’ve been casting around (fish pun) to find something to anchor their read too (fish pun) by leaving it without a border, they can’t do that and so this takes place in a totally unknown plaice (fish pun)

Panel 2: Changed the angle here so we see the boat, and the two passengers. The rough doesn’t make it terribly clear that there are two passengers in panel two, so I’m very explicit about it here (it also slightly echos the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, which is a fun art allusion you can wow the art-critics with. It was, of course, entirely accidental)

Panel 3-4 – I’ve swapped the panels. Primarily because the time between someone throwing something and it dropping in to the sea didn’t feel like it would leave enough time for a confrontation. It also made it stronger if the threat came BECAUSE the mermaid hit the sea. So, the new Panel 3 – I’ve pulled way out here, we still get a close up of the mermaid hitting the ocean BUT we also get the boat, and the sea and the sun – a great chance for the reader to see we’re sitting in a vast oceanic expanse, and the reader’s first chance to feel that. The new Panel 4 – I like close up of weapons, but in the original it’s not entirely clear (except through dialogue) who’s pulling the knife. Well, now it is.

Panel 5-A struggle. We’ve plenty of shots of them on the boat, so we can go close now for the grim reality of a struggle.

Panel 6-Close up on faces, it’s hard to know why they’re both turning to the reader given they’d have no idea where the mermaid is in the ocean, so I have them both shouting at each other.

Panel 7 – added some fishies.

Panel 8 – The rough wasn’t clear, in my reading, exactly what was happening (this is the reason I’m not mad keen on doing this with roughs!) but it turns out to be a fish monster snagging the statue, so that’s what we have.

This really breaks my own personal rule of not redrawing anything, I’d much rather move things around, add some black and leave the art 100% yours with 5% of me doing snazzy things with shadows. Here it’s a total redraw so I’m not entirely sure what you’ll get out of this beyond “well, now I know how PJ would draw this”.

That said, I’m pretty happy with the borderless first panel, that’s a keeper if nothing else I’ve done is.

Hope that’s interesting!