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:

Some praise for Paul – MOAR BLACK! THERE IS NONE MOAR BLACK! I APPLAUD THE USE OF BLACK! IT IS INKY GOODNESS!

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!

 

Friday Fixup: Paul McCall

Here’s a page, with my very quick notes, by Paul McCall. Rather than go in with all guns blazing and add black to everything, I’ll hit the key thing and talk rather a lot about it…

Paul’s page first…

Ok.

Let’s talk basics.

We read left to right, so comics are read – obviously left to right. Now this has all sorts of weird ramifications that you don’t realise until you’re sitting looking and thinking about this.

Let’s talk panel 1:

Left-to-Right basics: The top left of any panel should be considered dead space for dialogue. On the original it’s taken up with the guys arm, and you find your eyes slipping through the panel and stopping at the dead space behind the guy in the background. Flipping the horizontal on this panel does a lot of useful things, now we can make use of that deadspace for dialogue. Plus we get to see the action happening and end up on that cool standalone figure with a bag – what’s he about to do? TENSION!

Panel 2

There’s a thing I’ve been thinking about in the left-to-right reading order that happens INSIDE the panel, which I’m calling Action/Reaction (believe me, I’m not smart enough to have come up with anything clever or unique – if this is clever someone has beaten me to it, if it’s not… well, that’s more than possible).

The idea is this, when an action happens inside a single panel there are actually TWO things happening – an ACTION and a REACTION. Now, because of the left-to-right reading order, we know REACTION has to follow an ACTION (your cup breaks AFTER you drop it, not before), and because of the left to right reading order we encounter events in panel in left to right order, so our brain is instantly assuming ACTION-REACTION with everything we see in a panel where something is happening. In the redraw in Panel 1, people tied up on the wall ACTION, person walks in to frame REACTION.

In panel this breaks down a bit, but we’re still reading left to right, and I suggest to you there’s something similar going on – dictated ENTIRELY by the reading order:

ACTION – man off panel is handing bag over
REACTION -man in panel takes bag.

So, if we flip the panel then what happens is it feels like

ACTION – man in panel is handing bag over.
REACTION – man off panel is taking bag.

The drawing hasn’t changed, we’re not informed by the body language (if this were film you’d see the physical movement of the body and you’d know instantly what’s going on) this is all coming from OUR IMPOSED ACTION-REACTION reading via left-to-right reading.

Man, this shit is fascinating.

Anyway, this is why I didn’t flip this panel – I’d still prefer to have more space on the left for dialogue, but sometimes that can’t happen.

Now, Panel 3 – the big splash.

ACTION->REACTION. The original splash felt, as a reader, like I ended up staring at a big empty hole in the wall and my first thought was “why is that wall blank” then I flipped the panel – the hole isn’t important. Monster leaping through is ACTION – the cops getting ready to fire is REACTION. Drawn as a single moment this is all happening simultaneously but it’s pretty clear that you’d draw your gun out AFTER the threat is revealed, so it makes sense here to flip the panel.

Panel 4 unchanged (though I’d question why the sudden spot colour of the logo on the sleeve, seems important but also unnecessary) I’ve left it here unchanged.

I LIKE spot colour (I grew up on British comics during the 70s/80s, spot colour was pretty much the standard) but it needs to be used in a way to draw attention to things (because it draws attention to itself in spectacular fashion!)

Panel 5

ACTION-REACTION!

Monster slashes a guy – ACTION
Guy’s arm bleeds out, gun goes flying, Guy reacts – REACTION!

Seemed clear it needed a flip.

Anyway, I’m no Scott McCloud so this may either be bollocks OR so self obvious that everyone knows about it and I’ve never even thought about it until now. Either way.. in all these things, YMMV, every artist will do something different, and this has been useful to me and I hope it was useful to you.

Friday Fixup: Rapha Lobosco

Hey! every Friday I ask if any artists would like me to see if I can’t pump up the storytelling on a single page of their art.

I find these fascinating, both for the insight they offer me in to other artists but they require me to really think about the decisions I’m making on storytelling (more so than when I’m just drawing)

Today my 13 year old son is off to Rome for a week long school trip, and I’ve at least four submissions, so let’s see what we can get done.

Usual caveats apply: this is what *I* would do, and not necessarily the right way to do these (they’re certainly not the only way, give a hundred artists a script and you’ll get 100 different pages)

BUT! I think there’s lessons to be learned, even if you disagree with everything I do – it firms up what you think, and that can’t be bad? right? (Unless you’re full of wrong-think in which THAT IS BAD. But you wouldn’t know that)

Here’s Rapha Lobosco’s original, and my redraw and annotations to follow…

I know Rapha, so I may be a little more heavy handed than usual (just bear that in mind)

Ok, I have two initial thoughts about this:

1) Where the heck are we?

2) This is all very light (both in the brightness and in the weight of it) looking. Lots of freespace for colouring, but as I’ve said before MOAR BLACKS! ALWAYS MOAR BLACKS!

SO these are the things I’ve got to address. I have to make a decision : night or day. It’s not really clear. So I figure NIGHT with floodlight arena. Floodlighting means heaver crisper shadows.

Panel 1 – This gets the biggest, most dramatic make over. Assuming night I add a heavy star studded night sky with clouds. Added a lot of shadow over the figure, and bleed that black into the surrounding gutter. Now we’re grounded (a trick I’ve used before)

The sword looks a little odd to me, too short and stubby (maybe it IS a short and stubby sword) but assuming it’s a normal sword, it would jut out more – because it’s a rigid fixed length/width, and we have a passable idea of what a sword should look like so any variation can look a little weird unless we get a good hero shot of it.

(Anecdote time: Aged 18 I drew a one page sci fi strip, it featured a barman on an alien planet, I drew him from the back and sort of stunted his arm a LOT. John McCrea [we go way back] saw it and said “what’s going on with his arm” – “er..” I replied, looking for an excuse, “he’s an ALIEN”.

John thought this over for like a millisecond and said “well, yeah, but it just looks badly drawn”.

Cruel, but fair)

Since everything is a little darker, we can add a bit of a shadow around the other primary figure here – just a bit of weight to help her pop out of the background.

We now have a few, clearly defined planes – foreground with heavy blacks, midground, girl standing, medium black and far background which is lighter.

On drawing crowds: crowds have a ragged appearance at a distance, crowds are a pain and you DO have to find shortcuts, I’m not sure the flat line with black blobs is entirely successful. Even just adding the ragged lines I think help.

Panel 2 – 3 – 4

There’s an entire story telling sequence here which I think needs to be tidied up a little. Girl in leather jacket cuts her arm with a knife and lets other girl suck her blood (a tale as old as time). I think we need to be crystal clear, so..

panel 2 – added the knife in her hand (with a bit of a glint). This actually looks far more threatening than I’d intended (esp with her hand at her neck). I also added a bit of background, I don’t think we’ve earned the ability to drop the background just yet (backgrounds don’t need to be complex, they can be suggestive, just enough lines to keep our sense of place)

Panel 3 – we’re pulling out a bit to make what’s happening here clearer (it’s far from perfect here I’ll admit, I’m trying to compromise between a decent close up and yet still enough information to know what’s happening)

Panel 4: I’ve added some background (stars and wotnot) and made the crowd a litlte more blobby, and then most dramatically I’ve added her other hand with the dagger, this neatly ties these three panels together. (I’ve also added in the bg little silhouettes of the other warrior women, who appeared in panel one then just sort of vanished!)

Panel 5: Felt like a flip happened here, I’m not one for saying NEVER break the 180 rule, but I think if you’re going to break it, have a good reason. It felt like it was broken here (or at least it was a more dramatic camera movement than was neccessary) so I flipped the image on the horizontal (this is a great way to try something out, not sure if it looks right? flip the horizontal) THEN – dramatically, I made her a silhouette, but not your common or garden silhouette, rather I kept her hair and some shoulder armour, this has the advantage of making this feel more like a reactive moment and because she’s silhouetted, we don’t mind so much there’s no background here – we’re concentrating solely on the action happening here, but it also has enough physical attributes visible (specifically the hair) that we don’t confuse her with any of the other women in the scene.

(Looking at it again, I think panel 5 could be pulled in much closer (maybe right up to her mouth as she vomits up the blood)

Panel 6: I pulled out, felt weirdly cropped as was, and it needed to be flipped to be consistent with how I was yanking the camera about. I also drew those other warriors back in, witnessing this moment between the characters.

I think, as well, there’s a stronger bit of acting going on when we see this flipped horizontally – blood-eater-girl is sad and a bit vommy, and slice-her-arm-girl is very happy how this has played out. This particular order feels more satisfying – as though slice-her-arm-girl is smiling BECAUSE the other girl has vommed (I’ve no idea what’s happening on the script, and could be I’m way off base!)

Anyhue, as ever, YMMV. I apologise profusely for everything I’ve ever said or done, it’s only my (often wrong) opinion and Belfast is currently experiencing a heat wave the likes of which it hasn’t seen in decades, so I may be heat-haze-hallucinating (Plus I drew the edits of this last night in bed, and I may have gone over board, sorry Rapha!)

Rapha is a top bloke, and fab artist, and can be found here.

Friday Fixup: Paul Ridgon

Paul, kindly decided to take part in this, and set me a page. As ever, his original followed by my annotations:

paulridgon.PNG

 

Ok, before we begin: 2000AD is my bread and butter, but I’m always concious that there’s a danger with things like this that I’m trying to hammer someone else into the shape of ME, and look – one of me, frankly, as my wife will tell you, is enough. So it’s a struggle to try and NOT do that (this is entirely on me, not anyone who contributes). Anyway, taking Paul’s page in isolation…

I think my first thought on this was… well, this isn’t a comic page – it’s four images of four locations that are entirely unrelated as far as I could tell. There was no continuity linking the panels together,  no chain, now clues for the readers that they’re four images that are related to each other. So that was my first task, figuring out what’s going on.

Panel 1: I do this trick occasionally, where you’ve got an establishing shot and everything is happening in that location, Paul’s original felt small, like a vista of a location. So I opened it up, by bleeding the entire location down the page and by opening up the top it feels bigger somehow – now at least, it’s clear that what follows is all happening in the city.

(I also added some spots of light below the panel, in the borders too) to show we’re moving deep into the bowels of the city as we read down the page.

 

Panel 2

I think we have two jobs with this panel, one establish that the Judge-Cadet (if you’re a 2000AD reader the fact they’re a cadet will be obvious from the white helmet) is near the bloke standing outside the building (a building I decided was a refuelling location) and that the cadet is holding a baton – without this it’s unclear where the baton on the last panel comes from. I also added, behind them, the figure of a Judge (cadets are normally accompanied by a senior Judge, and in the dredd world set stories that senior Judge is usually Dredd).

I have them passively watching, because that’s the sort of thing that would happen.

Panel 3

It’s too clean! I added MOAR SHADOW – we’ve established it’s a noirish strip in that first panel, so we’ve got to follow through, in the original it’s in danger of looking like a CGI rendered cut scene, so I’ve added shadow to help indicate this is an exterior location (without it it could well be part of an interior) and since it’s outside and probably low down in the city, we need dirt and grit and – inexplicably – sheets of a4 paper floating around. I’ve also added some furniture to the tops of the buildings, just to get away from the perfect square shape of everything. And, deep in the panel, a silhouette of the cadet. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Panel 4

As my 13 year old would say “OOF!” It’s not terribly clear in in the original whether this is a baton thrown to distract or one that’s impacted him and gone further in. So I had to make a choice. My choice – for the sake of impact – was to really get it more visceral and in your face, larger baton, in the foreground, and some blood pouring out and losing a tooth help to give it impact. (Also speed lines, and directional lines pointing to the action).

Everything, EVERYTHING, should be helping to enhance the storytelling; shadows, textures, everything. If they don’t deliberately push a reader towards reading what you want them to read then they’re sort of useless decoration. Also, and this is entirely on me, I’m not a big fan of the Clip Studio Paint hash brush it tends to show up in a lot of people’s work and just pushes any charm or personality or quirkiness of your work out of the way, moving to a homogenous bleh. But that’s me.

Anyhue, thanks for asking me to do this, take from it what you will, I think art is pretty solid, this is really about squeezing every millimetre of quality out of a piece of work but like most things is entirely subjective.

Friday Fixup

So for the past few weeks I’ve been doing this Friday Fixup thing. I needed a hashtag, #fridayfixup sounded good but it’s now painfully obvious to me that I really needed to call it something like #PJ-bodges-around-with-your-page-and-/maybe/-makes-it-stronger-but-maybe-not-your-call. But that didn’t scan. So here we are.

So if you’d like to take part simply reply to my tweet stream with the hashtag #fridayfixup with a single b&w unlettered page (why? cus it’s easier for me to fiddle with it if it contains no lettering and no colours, but I can work around it…) and I’ll pass my somewhat experienced eye over it and see if I can’t pump up the jam on the story telling. With the caveat that it’s entirely in the eye of the beholder this, I’m very much an action comic artist so if your page is calling for something poetic or emotive I may be well out of my depth.

Now … speaking of which… here’s a page by Nick Shingler...

And here’s my edits with annotations:

nickshingler.PNG

Ok, I have a few thoughts, this is going for mood/theme/etc, one of my many-many weak areas, so caveat emptor.

First things first: the original file looks to be a colour scan – there’s all sorts of colours going on in this image that aren’t meant to be there. I can understand greyscans, but colour is madness! You’ll want to scan it in greyscale, and if you’re me, you’d probably be happier scanning it in pure b&w. I converted the colour image to pure b&w for this edit, you can see how clean the blacks are and how pure the whites. Ok, now on to business…

Panel one, I thought long and hard about this, my instinct is to add caption borders – but it was clear Nick was going for something else, so I started thinking about ways to avoid caption borders. So panel on I ended up truncating the panel, now it felt truncated anyway the lack of border on the panel meant it was just eating up a big chunk of space and it felt empty, this way though it feels deliberate.

I also added a shadow of the tree. Without it there’s nothing linking the geography of the girl and the man until panel three and that doesn’t have the tree in it so it could be anywhere or anyone. I’m always trying to figure out ways to link one panel to the next – visual chain links, things I can point to and say “see panel 2 has this, so panel 1 has this little clue about it” confusing a reader about geography is only good when it’s the intent, if that’s NOT the intent then you’ve got to really nail down where people are in relation to each other and in relation to any large ‘hero’ object (hero object here means any prop or set element that is a fixture).

Panel 2

I removed all of the panel border and pushed the guys into silhoutte and cleaned it up less scratchy lines and then pushed the tree over to the right.

I think in compositions of paintings or photographs it’s OK to put a big important element dead centre of the frame, in comics, where lettering tends to be on the left it always feels weirdly unbalanced having them dead centre. Plus the reader has to travel from the caption text across the people to end with her in white-silhouette in front of the tree (a marvellous idea that felt a little wasted without that considered distance). I was a little tempted to add dappled shade over her in this panel :

 

dapples.PNG

There’s something very Klimt about it, but in ultimetly, the text ends with “a vision all in white” and I felt like I had to hold true to that (though by having the dapples peter out from heavy shadow to pure white, it has a lovely mirror to the contents of the text… YMMV)

Panel 3:

So much dead space beside her face! I moved the text, to right beside her, I also cleaned up her face a little – the rule for drawing beautiful is: remove a line – does it still look good? remove another and keep going until it stops looking good.

Oh I erased his word balloon and forget to put text in to it, the balloon was butting up against the frame in an ugly way – don’t do that! Good lettering is incredibly important and can really really increase the perceived quality and value of the work. There’s loads of free resources online too for it.

People talk about writing being more important in comics, others that it’s the art. Here’s something that’ll blow your mind: it’s neither. It’s lettering.

Lettering on its own can make or break a comic.

And finally, I removed the scritchy scratchy greys in favour of a bolder solid black / white mix on the guys suit because that felt right.

Panel 4:

I split that caption up – it felt like it was two captions that were just bunched together. The gap now makes the experience of reading it a little better. I wasn’t terribly happy leaving her dead centre again but that mysterious (and I’m hoping, metaphysical) bull adds weight to the right side of the page, keeping the composition from feeling overbalanced by the lettering.

I also cleaned up the edges of the lettering box – I realise it’s borderless, but I still think a neat tidy invisible border is better than a messy one. Ugh. Just realised I should’ve deleted the panel border on the bottom of the panel, I think that’d really make it feel very open.

lastpanel.PNG

And there we go, I’ve done what I’ve done, it is JUST my opinion, if you feel it’s improved stuff then awesome, I’m very happy. If you feel it’s made stuff worse, well, that’s even better because it means I’m just some eejit with an opinion and like all opinions you can happily ignore mine!