Monday, 17 June 2013

The Adventurers Comic - process interview

My brother is a great guy, he has also just released the first issue of a new mini-series.
We discuss how his creation has gone from the brain to the page...

Dan:Hi Andrew, thanks for joining us, first off would you like to tell us a little bit about your new project?
Andrew:  The Adventurers is a story about 3 unlikely heroes who become friends. Ellie - a dragon, Booster - a robot, and Rocbadger, a well...Rock Badger. 
They end up having exciting adventures together!
D:  Obviously I've read it, and its a really great story, I love that by making it all ages its also accessible for any one to read.
The art is excellent by the way, there are some similarities to Bone, was this intentional? By the way I meant that as a compliment...

A:  Thank you... I love to say that the Adventurers comics is all ages...that means kids can enjoy it as well. My hope is the story can be enjoyed on different levels by children and adults alike. For me good all ages is just that...all ages and to be honest most of my favourite comics are. As for intentionally being similar to Bone no. I'm definitley a Bone fan and Jeff Smith is an amazing story teller so I can say I was inspired by Bone.
D:  Can you tell me about your creative process, story wise do you write the whole thing full script?
A:  I'm still finding my 'process'. Initially I did start with a full script... but fortunately the final script has been changed from the early version. I basically have a plan for what needs to happen in an issue and on each page and work with that. I find fine tuning dialogue the best after the art is finished..
D:  I agree sometimes the characters look like the want to say something else when they get on the page...but you wouldn't change key sentences from the original script would you?
A:  Not pivitol ones, no . I pared down a lot of unnecessary dialogue, but some dialogue is necessary to the development of the story.
D:  So do you then go to the thumbnailing stage, or do you just put it out on right there on the page as you go?
A:  I use thumbnails, usually very loose in order to position panels, characters and to see what works or needs to be reworked.
 D:  So you go from a loose script to thumbnails, and then pencils? Are you working digital, traditional or a hybrid of both?
A:  I guess you could say mostly traditional but we have needed digital to make the final issue print ready. Initially I thought it would only be for lettering but the whole design of the issue from logo, to look, to getting pages the right size for print required digital assistance. A lot of that help came from my letterer Cara(our sister to those not in the family). 
 D:  Yeh we've been to a few of the same parties [they both laugh]
 A:  Haha! Without her help I doubt there would be an issue 1 out there.
 D:  Poignant message about working with family, I covered some of my ideas about this in a previous blog here:
D: Onto inking,so you're definitely a marker guy, you don't go in for the beautiful mess of ink, brushes etc?
A:  No... some people have tried to make me feel like less of an artist [glares at Dan] but I guess it comes down to control... I like to control which lines are thick and thin. Also it's what I'm used to working with.
D:  Where was I? That intense glare really threw me for a second there...Oh, you can really see that in The Adventurers art, its very clean, a lot of that would be from a tight rein in the inking stage...speaking of the art, do you think The Adventurers would work better for you in colour? 
Or were you a victim of the high printing costs so it never crossed your mind, or did you always envision it would be a black & white book?
A:  I'm an absolute fan of black and white art. As far as I'm concerned the readers imagination colours the world effectively. The first question most people asked when they saw the art I was working on was "Are you going to colour it?" I guess it's expected today and some people would consider that a failing of The AdventurersHowever a few people have seen the printed copy and actually commented on how the black and white art is just right for it.
D: I totally agree of course (my top 3 all time fave comic series are all black & white - Usagi Yojimbo, Xenozoic tales and TMNT.) However the red cover is kick ass!

A: The Adventurers is a lot less shadowy than my previous art. I drew it with colour in mind. Who knows? maybe one day...
D:One of the trademarks of the art in The Adventurers appear to be the physical 'acting' of the characters, was this intentional when starting out, did you want the story to be told mainly in a visual sense?

A:  Yes. I did not want to use a narrator. I was inspired by the fact that Bone and The Batman animated comics didn't require a 'meanwhile...' to tell you what was happening also you could tell what the characters felt by the art ...not by expositional thought bubbles.

D: Yeh, expostional thought bubbles are so 10 minutes ago. As the writer and artist, it must have been difficult to choose who to get editorial advice from, how did you go about that?

A: [laughs] I got it from anyone who wanted to see my work! Friends and family were a big encouragement... My friend Mike in particular would put up with me bouncing ideas off him and if I suggested changes that didn't suit The Adventurers he'd tell no uncertain terms.
D: I been to a few parties with him also, he certainly would know what it takes to be an Evil Genius! That would have helped when writing the main bad guy for the series!

A: My sister (& letterer) Cara watched me drawing it for 10 years...she literally grew up with the Adventurers and is the most protective of what I do with them than anybody. Also I think my brother had a thing to say every now and then...
D:  It's great that those trusted few actually helped to keep the story on the right track, those trusted few, how much of their feedback changed the finished product vis-a-vis story? Or was it more about minor tweaks here & there? I think any input I had was just as a gushing fan boy though if I remember...
A:  Minor tweaks... I guess like me they realised the story has to happen a certain way...I'm just the messenger in a way. I had thought about going a bit more Hollywood with the first issue...jumping straight into a dramatic/action sequence making Ellie more a victim of circumstance than having an adventurous spirit.
D: As the father of a baby girl, I like that Ellie is no-body's victim. Great role onto the visuals of the characters - anyone who has had a go at drawing The Adventurers would agree they are darn hard to get looking right, how did you go about retaining the visual integrity of these deceptively simple looking characters?

A:  [laughs] Some would argue I didn't. As with anything you can see the subtle changes in the way the characters are drawn from issue 1 -3. I did create turn-a-rounds for the characters and referenced these. I also referenced each previous panel when necessary.
D:  Well that means the guy doing the back up story about Booster (me) can breathe a sigh of relief [laughs]
A:  [glares]
D:  So would you say to people about to embark on something that a good rule of thumb would be to have your character designs down before embarking on your story?
A:  Absolutely. Even with the turn-arounds it still made for slow going in some angles to get them to look just right.
D:  Great tip there for those keeping score. Ok, now The Adventurers is a 4 part mini series, how much of the series was completed before you sent issue 1 to the printers?
A: I had almost completed all of the issue 3 art. I know I know...I should have had issue 4 finished as well...but
D: So having the first issue under your belt and in print, is there anything you would do differently production wise with issue #2 onwards?
A:  Apart from quadruple checking your spelling and grammar? Mostly tweaking the digital processes a bit and having the art the correct size first before lettering etc.
D:  So it will still be mainly all done on the page, scanned, and then basically just lettered on computer?
A:  Yes. Some minor edits may be done digitally there are some in issue 1. I have only began my journey really so I'm not sure what advice to give. I can say it's been hard work, rewarding and exciting. My advice is if you have a story that will not go away and you really want to tell it - do it!
D: Well thanks so much for being part of the blog, lastly did I hear that The Adventurers ships Australia wide  with postage for free?
 A:  Only til the end of June!!!!
D:  Well folks better get on it! you can grab a copy here: or you can pick it up in person at Supanova Sydney this weekend 21 and 22 June, table O1 in artists alley.

Note: Andrew has just completed a series of blogs about the character development which are also very cool, go here:

Follow him on Twitter: @Andventures or like the Adventurers facebook page for all the latest: 

Next week: Betrayed by one of my own...

Follow Dan on Twitter: @TheDanTribe

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Darkest Night creator talks comic process

This week I discuss comic making process with prolific creator Hayden Fryer, best known for his Billy the Demon Slayer series. Here we discuss his latest work and how he goes about making comics...

Dan: Thanks for being a part of the blog! Can you tell us a bit about your latest release DARKEST NIGHT?
HF: Thanks, this is always the tricky part, in all honesty I haven't quite worked out the perfect "summary" for the series as yet, hows this: DARKEST NIGHT is an original graphic novel series, written & illustrated by me and published through Siberian Productions. The series follows the trials and tribulations of 3 lives as they cross paths in love, death and revenge.  
Darkest Night - Turning the emotion up a notch
Dan: It's a great read, there's a real produciton quality to this series. For those who need to order this (and you all do) where can one grab a copy?
HF: You can order it directly from me online through my website, and for those of you who are in Sydney I'll also have copies available at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in June. And for those of you who read comics digitally now, it's also been submitted to Comixology and is currently under review, so fingers crossed by the time this goes online it's available!

Dan: Cool, nothing like getting yourself a global audience! First off I would just like to say how intriguing the DARKEST NIGHT series is, it's not really an action/comedy adventure like your Billy stuff, its a lot heavier thematically but once you start reading you are totally sucked into this story about real people and you can't stop reading it - even without superpowers or folks being bulletproof in it at all! I think that kind of storytelling is a testament to your skills. Kudos to you for that. The series has a lot of visual storytelling and for me it really reinforces the old comic book making axiom, "show, don't tell".
HF: With regards to the "show don't tell" approach, I've got the mindset that comics as a medium are a quintessentially a visual narrative first and foremost. Follow on for that is that the biggest focus for me on the art side is that it be able to tell the direction of the story coherently without the inclusion of dialogue, exposition, etc. With DARKEST NIGHT I also realised early on in the scripting stage that it would be the visual elements of the story that were the connective tissue to the reader and their empathy towards the characters.

Dan: I think somewhere I read you have done like 600 pages of comic artwork using the same process, for those like me who are trying to nail down an efficient process can you run me through how you go about things?
HF: Sure,actually it's over 700 now! There's a quote by Dave Sim where he references the need to draw 1000 pages before you draw a "Good" page, by that standing I'm nearly 3/4 of the way there. The main difference for the DARKEST NIGHT pages is that I've increased the size of the page; these ones are all at A3 so I've also increased the amount of detail in the frames, redesigned how I draw characters from the ground up and focused more on heavier lighting. This is something that I was tinkering with in Billy: Demon Slayer series two, and also something that's continued to evolve over the course of the series. I also put more focus on the digital effects like lighting. I've also been focusing more on breaking down individual scenes; whereas before I'd have a rough general outline for the story, thumbnail it out hitting the planned story beats and then make the adjustments to the sequential elements of the story telling on the final page (flow, action beats, etc). Now I'm spending a bit more time before I start a drawing a scene/sequence to re-pace it out from the original thumbnails and in some extreme cases this has meant reworking the entire sequence, expanding/trimming the pages involved/needed, repacing panels and on the odd occurence changing the sequence of the individual panels on the page in the final digital layouts to give a different effect.

Starting rough

Story Outline
The series is kind of evolving as I'm creating it, I have a rough outline of events that'll happen in each of the books which all build to the overall finale. But the smaller moments in between have been in a constant state of flux throughout the various stages of production. I knew exactly where I wanted the first book to end, but I was completely blank on how the narrative would get there after the Wake scene in Act Two. After quite a few months of mulling over both the script and the notes I ended up biting the bullet and began Thumbnailing the book from what I had written. Specifically with the intention to just get it started, around this point I was itching to draw some more comic sequentials...
Dan: I know that feeling well! 
HF: By the time I reached where the script ended in the thumbnailing process I'd managed to crack the missing pieces to drive the bridging sections and put everything in place for the lead in to that book's finale.
Dan: That's some good advice there, work on what you can until the missing links show up...At this point do you have a full script for the series?
HF: So at the moment there is no real script per se written for the latter half of Act 2 or any of Act 3. Before I start drawing up a new scene or a sequence I'll generally go back over all of the previous pages and between them, what I've written in the Outline and drawn in the thumbnails I'll have a rough idea on what needs to happen. It's also at this point I'll expand the scene out to more pages or condense it as needed to suit, this is done by working out the focus/keys shots on the page, intent of the sequence & associated elements that will be in play during the sequence.
Sequence Breakdowns

Pencils & Inks

Once I've worked out the key shots, focus elements, character movements, rough dialogue beats and camera movements; I'll rule up an A3 page and start pencilling up the frames. It's normally at this point where I'll start looking more at the flow of the frames and the general effect of the sequence. Following the pencils is the inking stage (Felt-Tip pens for line work, Brush Pens for larger black areas), where I'll define the shadows and highlights.

And then once the inks are down I'll scan in the page for the Digital work; each of the frames are worked on individually, half-tone shadows, special effects added, etc. Following that is the digital imposition stage where I'll rearrange the frame sequence where needed if they don't feel to work how I'm intending them to story telling wise.
After all the pages have been digitally positioned for that particular issue, I'll then go back over any previous issues, the script (if it exists), the outline and the thumbnails to work out a rough dialogue to suit the frames.

Dan: So you adjust the script to match more closely match the pictures at this stage?
HF: Yeh, the dialogue then usually gets reworked a couple more times before it's finalised. Normally I'll get a couple of other people to read over it just before finalisation to check for spelling mistakes, grammar, or any dialogue that reads in the sound of my voice [laughs].
Some nice digital post production work 

On the left, inked page, on the right, same page re-ordered for maximum impact!

Dan:Thanks for taking us through your process, it's encouraging to me that you can get a great finished product even though it may not be fully formed at the start! I'll be sure to catch up with you at Sydney Supanova! I'll show you some of my process progress then!

HF: Cheers! Pleasure to do so and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you've got in store for us local readers!

Dan: Will do!

Some great advice there from a real gentleman of Aussie comics, and a truly great storyteller.If it could sum up his advice succinctly maybe it up would be:

I'll leave the last words of the article to Hayden, with his preferred quote when it come to making comics: "Less Talk, more Comics!"

Next week: Progress on the digital frontier...