Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fantasy Frontier Sketchbook 1: Barefoot Investigations

Just released a new book: Fantasy Frontier Sketchbook 1: Barefoot Investigations :) 16 pages: 1 colored cover, 15 story pages, 2 of them being fully colored^_^ Hope you like it! You can see more preview on my site HERE :)
Here are the pencils for the pic I did for the cover:
The empty space upward is obviously meant for the title and credits. The pic doesn't have black areas because it's meant to be colored, so I prefer colors to define darker shades:
The looming shadow on the bottom right area for exmaple is fully added during the coloring for example. After finishing the coloring step, I also added a bit more overall saturation to have the characters stand out a bit more :)

Another thing I liked to do for these sketchbook releases (here you can seee the previous one) is to add some little drawings expressely for the website previews, featuring some characters talking about the book. This is the lineart for the "DiD Sketchbook":
And this one is for the more recent one the "Fantasy Frontier Sketchbook":
The colored ones are on the website^_^
Hope you like^__^

Sunday, March 23, 2014

[BookReview] DC Comics guide to writing comics

This time I'm reviewing a book not directly related to drawing. Yet it covers one of the most improtant steps in comics making: writing the story! Needless to say, while the cover features a cool Batman, most of the content of this book can be used for any kind of story, from your super-hero comic to your manga-styled series.

Dennis O'Neil,, DC comics guide to writing comics, 128 pages

First some general thoughts about writing comics; when you decide to create a comic series, most often just deciding the story as you draw it, doesn't pay in terms of overall quality, depsite being a funny and someway challenging approach, but also certainly naïve. So you have your great idea, wich you love it, and you have part f the main cast fleshed out and sketched and designed...now comes the part where you should organize all these ideas into a story, a story that (that's part of the goal usually) has to entertain and hook the readers, making them wanting to read more. It's definetly not something to underestimate, as of course we see the finished product, the printed comic (or the finished page on a monitor, in web-comics or digital comics cases), and we don't think too deeply about what happens before the artist sits down and starts drawing the actual pages.

So, this book is, among other things, about organizing a story for a comic book. Dennis O'Neil wrote tons of comics, most notably he worked long time on Batman (creating the villain Ra's al Ghul, wich you saw in the first one of the new Batman movies), so most script wirting techniques listed there are referred to comic books industry. While it's clear there isn't a single, unique way to write a comic book script, the methods listed are the ones most often used and they're all equally valid, depending on the situation, the kind of story and (in case you're just the writer and not also the artist of your own story) the artist who will put your script into drawn pages.

A script (wich is a description of each scene of the comic, in the order it should occur in the story, with direct dialogues) could be utterly detailed like many Alan Moore ones (see some samples on The Comic Book Scipt Archive site here), or just straight to the essential elements. They could feature descriptions of each single panels (useful if you work paired with an artist, and you wanna have strong control on the way the page layout will be), or general descriptions of each page.

In my case I worked with many varants of these methods. When I have to illuystrate my own stories, like Fantasy Frontier, I write the script more in the so-called Marvel way: the script is just a resume of what happens in that chapter, along with dialogues.The I draw the storyboard, quick sketches on how each page will look like, to knwo exactly what I will be going to draw. In tis case it works because  when I write the script I already have a good idea of how the story will look like on drawing paper.

The book is full of useful suggestion: for example how to avoid infodumping moments and, instead, revealing wisely the important infos without hurry and in a believable way: we cann't discover the hero terrible secret at page 2, without building some suspence at least, right? ;) The book won't tell you how to have great ideas, and what ideas are good or bad. This is up to your creativity of course (and personally I think every idea is valid if well developed), but it will teach you how to develop your ideas in a structured way, to make them become plots, subplots and reflect them in not-sterotyped characters (unless your idea was to create sterotypes intentionally, why not!).

My favorite part of the book is dedicated to the work the author and some other writers did on a so-called Maxiseries, a storyarc that covered many different series (thus many writers were involved) around a main big event in Batman world for over a year. Gotham city, home of Batman and many bat-related vigilantes, suffered a terrible earthquake, the city is terribly damaged and cut out from the rest of the country, it's declared...No Man's Land.
No Man's Land quite iconic pic

The story features Batman and his bat-fellows while they try to bring some order in the big chaos of this isolated, deranged Gotham city. Thus the story unfolds not only in the many Batman related comics (Batman, Detective Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman: Shadow of the Bat) but also on many Batman friends/allies related comics (Catwoman, Azrael, Nightwing, Robin...); this just to let you imagine the huge work of planning and coordination needed to make everything look solid in terms of narration (a big event in the main storyline should reflect, the next months, on all comics for example). So, if you're inetressed into comics writing techniques, this part could be really fascinating.

The whole book is full of script samples from O'Neil and many other writers, accompained by the drawn pages from said script excerpt. It's a different manual lessay: it won't teach you about drawing, but it's about a very important step in comic making. It's valid for whatever story and art style you go for and it's an entertaining reading, even more ebtertaining if you read some of the comics mentioned :)