Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things I Could Have Done Better Vol. II: FOCUS

Hey there Meat-Heads!

So previously on Things I Could Have Done Better I talked about the importance of thinking everything out before you put your pencil to the page, and today I'd like to talk about a related subject, namely how and when to create focus through spotting blacks.


No not that kind of...ugh... anyway.  When I was prepping Dead Meat to be put on sale through (available here, plug plug), I found myself looking at the pages for the zillionth time, and as I scrolled through issue 2, there were a number of panels that felt kind of kind of off to me.  Take a look for yourself at a couple:

Dead Meat #2 Page 4, Panel 2
Dead Meat #2 Page 23, Panel 2
For me, anyway, these panels lack focus.  It might not appear that evident when isolated, but within the context of the page, I noticed the eye doesn't really know where to go, at least without a struggle.  This is where spotting blacks comes in.

Spotting blacks is the practice of filling in areas of your image with black ink in an attempt to push the reader's eye to where you want it to go.  It's a compositional tool, and a very important one that can be easily overlooked.  When creating a comics panel, you have to do 3 things:

1. Create a dynamic composition and camera angle
2. Make sure you the reader sees what the script requires them to
3. Leave room enough for lettering.

But sometimes number two is more difficult that it should be (try more fiber, maybe?) because your panel, though dynamically composed and plenty wide open for lettering and containing all the information you need is not FOCUSED. You can draw all the pretty lines in the world, but if the reader doesn't know where to look, then you're not doing your job.  This is where dropping some sweet, sweet black can focus up your panel.

In the first panel, even though the text clearly shows where the action is happening, I still felt that it was  unfocused, so I went back and dropped some black in some choice areas like so:

As you can see, taking the wall of that building and blacking it out instantly focuses the action to the right side of the panel where all the fun stuff is taking place.  You can see the same in the changes I made to the next panel:

Here, dropping some black into the ceiling instantly stops your eye from veering right out through the top of the page, and reinforces the main point of the image, Walker looking back and spotting Cordy and Galdos.

Being relatively new to inking, concepts like these, though obvious to others, didn't come naturally to me, and I have plenty left to learn as far as this stuff goes, but that's what this is about, right? Learning and continuing to get better at this crazy thing called comics!

If you'd like to learn some more about applying copious amounts of black to a page, please watch these video demos from one of the best comic artists working today, Sean Gordon Murphy.  His work is fantastic, and watching him work is definitely watching a master.  I could watch this video every day, and probably should


Thursday, October 4, 2012


Hey there, Meat-Heads!

It's been so long since I've talked to you all, my how you've grown!  I see you've changed your hair...not my favorite, but who am I to complain?

So recently I completed my third convention this year, the wonderful Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (or MICE) put on by the great Boston Comics Roundtable here in Boston.

Keep your eyes open for next year's!

  Now from what I've experienced tabling at conventions, no two are the same, and this year has been no different.  Things that didn't sell well last year did much better, and things that sold great last year sort of leveled out, and this just seems to be the way things go.


Honestly I'm not sure.  I'd like to say "hey, your sketch cards just did better this year," or "that new print you had came out really nice, so I can see why that sold well," but the fact is, I table at these conventions for one reason really, and that's to push DEAD MEAT, and if sales are down on that I'm probably doing something wrong. 

After the convention, one interaction in particular stood out to me.  A young fellow approached my booth, and after discussing some light philosophy and waxing poetic about the victorious aspirations of the local sporting concern he was heard to remark: "I say! Wouldst you take a cherished moment to relay the delicious intricacies of your illustrated wares?"

Yes he looked like this

In other words, he asked me to tell him about my book, and I was rather dumfounded to realize that I...didn't know exactly how to respond.  One thing I hate is when people decide to take 45 minutes to tell you each plot point for the first 20 issues, so I made sure not to babble too much, but I actually found it difficult to summarize what DEAD MEAT is and is about.

This is a problem, I know.

Looking back on this interaction, something occurred to me: Every convention interaction is its own pitch meeting.  

You're there to get people to buy your work, right?  Well how is that any different than if you were infront of a publisher or a company?  It's all the same thing--you're trying to get someone unfamiliar with you to buy your work.  It's your job to get them as excited about your work as you are, to the point where they can't wait to give you their money, either to pay for your book or to get you to shut up.

In retrospect this is where I blew it--I just wasn't talking enough.  I was trying to let the material sell itself, instead of selling the material, and that's just not going to work.

...unless you have some sort of futuristic, talking sales robot, where part of its sales programming includes selling itself, the sales robot, in which case you can probably go get a sandwich or take a nap or something.

Until Next Time,