Hi, and welcome to a behind the scenes look at my process for making Rocket & Bounce. This is how page 1 came together. Let’s go!
Step 1: Comic Script
Since this was Rocket & Bounce’s first comic, I wanted to introduce them quickly and set the tone for the reader: both adventurous and comedic. I also wanted to pit them against a threat that, while still deadly, was sort of a beginner’s level bad guy. Hey, the kids are just starting out. So viola, bank robbers! Here’s what I wrote for page 1:
Riveting, I know. Heh. As you can see, it’s a pretty loose script. I find a lot of new ideas or refinements come during the page layout and final lettering process. In fact, since the drawn page must communicate the bulk of a story to the reader, the page layout is “writing” for me just as much as the script is.
Step 2: Thumbnail Layouts
Sometimes I doodle my thumbnails in a sketchbook, but lately I’ve been doing them in Photoshop with my pen tablet. Four to a page, with each page laid out the way it would be in print (so even numbered pages on the left and odd numbered pages on the right). Here’s my first batch of thumbnail layouts.
Scribble-tastic. This is where I figure out the visual flow of my comic, how the page will be layed out, what angles will be used, etc. I played with a couple different layout ideas, but since this was the reader’s first look at the main characters I wanted a decent close up while still making their situation clear. The gag needs to work in one panel, so clean storytelling (and simplicity) is key.
Step 3a: Big layout/rough pencils
Alright, now we move to the big board for the start of some real drawing. If you’re curious, I use 11×17 Eon Comic Art Boards. The boards are pre-ruled and the guys at Eon are pretty cool to boot. Here’s page 1’s rough pencils.
Here I expand on the idea in the thumbnail image and rough in the figure placement. I’ve also marked where I thought my horizon line would be. It will turn out that I was wrong, heh heh, but that’s where I started. Take note of the gestures and body language of the figures in this stage. Even without fully rendered facial expressions, costumes, etc, hopefully you can still get a sense of how each character is feeling. (Showing is better than telling.)
Step 3b: Rough pencils continued
Once I’m pleased with my big layout, I’ll refine the drawing and also get reference for anatomy and props as needed. Back in the day I’d use a mirror to get hand and face reference. Kind of awkward drawing and posing at the same time. Thank goodness for modern technology like the webcam. A couple clicks and wa-LA! Instant visual reference and no need to hold your pose. Here are just some of the stupid faces I make while drawing a comic page… sheesh…
And here are the slightly tighter pencils, having used said reference…
Step 4: Detailed pencils
As you can see below, the figures are cleaner and more detailed, the guns have been referenced and drawn in, and the bank robbers have taken shape as well.
Step 5: Inks
I ink with micron pens of varying widths, then scan the pages into Photoshop for additional cleanup. Some pages need more cleanup than others. On this page I saw a lot of things I ended up not liking. Here’s the original raw inks:
Amongst the things that bothered me, the crooks (who now have mouth holes in their masks) are too calm. The situation, while dire, didn’t seem over the top enough to be funny. The crooks need to be angry and snarling and reacting to the suber sibs like they’re an actual threat. Similiar problem with Rocket & Bounce’s facial expressions. The argument should look silly, but here they just kind of look bitchy… and no, I don’t know why Bounce looks like Whoopi Goldberg here… or what the hell happened with her hair. Hey, I’m still learning too! Moving on…
A zillion times better, right? I redrew Bounce’s face (and the newly added background hostage) on a new sheet of board and scanned them in. Then I just did some cutting and pasting and some clean up with the brush tool. Oh, the magic of Photoshop. Better facial expressions, reworked hair, more youthful body proportions and a background drawn digitally as well (with a more appropriate horizon line).
Step 6: Colors and letters
Sometimes I do colors first, sometimes I do letters first. I’ll go into more detail on those subjects another time, but for now here’s the completed first page. (You can see the full size page here.)
As you can see, things have a tendency to evolve from inital idea to finished art. So don’t be too rigid about your plans, remember you can always fix your mistakes, and above all enjoy making your comics!
Hope you liked this little sneak peak. Feel free to visit the forum and share your thoughts, or even ask more questions. And if you want to see more of this kind of thing, let us know!
Thanks for reading!
Check out an exclusive step by step look at the making of Rocket & Bounce page 1, with creator commentary. Enjoy! (…man, now I have that New Kid’s song, Step by Step, stuck in my head… argh… )