This past week I've been really excited about comics. I feel like I've read one great comic after another, starting with Tardi's "New York Mon Amour." Some of it I've read before in previous printings, but it was great to reread it. Then, because I love the guy so much, I read Tardi's "Adele Blanc-Sec" (Vol. 2). This series gets better and better. I've never read any of the Adele stuff before the Fantagraphic's reprints. I'm really looking forward to Volume 3. Then I read Tezuka's "Black Jack" (Vol. 2). I'm always happy when I read Tezuka. Then, what really put me over the top, I finally read Chest Brown's recently reprinted in a great hard cover edition "Ed The Happy Clown". Holy Shit! I liked that! That goes right on my list of favorite comics ever. I'm now reading Kentaro Miura's "Berserk" (Vol. 1) and it's a lot of fun. Next up is Dash Shaw's "Bottomless Belly Button." I loved Dash Shaw's "Body World", so my hopes are high.
Enough of all that. This is neither the time nor the place. This is the WEEKLY S.H.I.E.L.D. UPDATE! Not the WHAT COMICS IS DUSTIN READING UPDATE. So stop stalling, Dustin, and make with the S.H.I.E.L.D. news. Come on, spit it out, dummy.
First of all-- calm down, me. I can be such a jerk sometimes. Second-- the truth is I've got nothing new to report. This has been a no-S.H.I.E.L.D. week. I've spent the last week on my other Marvel duties. I really wish I could show you that stuff, but I can't. It's exciting though. Top secret stuff.
But no worries. I knew this was going to happen. Since I'm juggling S.H.I.E.L.D. with other things, there are going to be weeks where I've made no progress. My hope is to still have something S.H.I.E.L.D.-related to talk about every week. Like right now, I'm about to tell you all about how I do layouts for S.H.I.E.L.D. In the coming weeks I will describe other aspects of how I work on S.H.I.E.L.D. So, If there is anything specific about my process that you'd like to know, feel free to ask.
Warning: I'm about to start talking about Layouts.
If you don't know what a layout is, it's simply a sketch of a comic page. It's where you're making all of your most important decisions. This is where you're deciding how the panels will be arranged and how to depict what will be in those panels.
My methods for doing layouts have changed over the last few years, but a few things have remained the same. For starters, I've never done thumbnails. A lot of artists like to do a small thumbnail drawing of the page. For me it's always made more sense to lay a page out at the size that it will be printed. Another thing is that I've always done pretty detailed layouts. I find that I'm better at drawing in the layout stage. Knowing that I can change whatever I put down in the layout stage relieves any pressure I might put on myself and consequently loosens me up, and I end up drawing better. So I tend to draw a lot of details in the layouts. Everything I do in the layout that I like, I use.
Comic book pages can be drawn at any size, but most of the time they are drawn on 11x17 paper. They're big. This way they look nicer when they are reduced to print size. Early on, I started taking my print-size layouts to kinko's. I would make enlarged photocopies of them so that I could trace all those details that I liked in my layout right onto what would be the final page. I used this method for a long time. Joining Periscope Studio gave me access to a printer that could print in blue on 11x17 paper. So 3 years ago, I switched from tracing photocopies to scanning my layouts and printing them.
Starting with SHIELD, I began doing things a little differently. I decided to just start inking the layouts rather than enlarging them and printing them. My layouts have always been detailed, and I tend to like them pretty well. So why not ink directly on them? This meant that I'd be inking a final comic page not on 11x17 paper but at print size. Originally I started doing it this way to save time, but it turned out to be enjoyable working so much smaller. It was less overwhelming, I guess. I would still do some pages larger, like when I wanted the page to look extra nice and detailed, but a lot of them have been drawn small.
The image above is a layout from SHIELD Vol.2 #1. Here's how it looked after inks.
With this new method I started making sure that my layouts were drawn on nice paper so they could be inked. I also started drawing them a little bigger than print size. I still told myself that if I didn't like the layout, I didn't need to use it. This way I could keep the pressure off, but most of the time I like it.
With this current issue of SHIELD, things have been different. The first thing was that, since this issue was being done in the Marvel Method, I needed to figure out what I'd be drawing. I've made the resolution really poor so you can't read all my misspellings, but the image above is a picture of my sketch book where I've written out the story beat for beat.
Another thing that makes this issue different is that the whole thing has a fixed kind of layout format. You can see in the example above three color coded tiers. I'm not sure how much I want to give away. I won't say anything more about it, but it made more sense for me to just start sketching each shot in my sketch book without any regard for how these images would fit with one another on the page.
I then scanned all of my sketches and arranged them on a page in Photoshop. This would not be a great method if I were doing really design-y pages. What it is good for is creating clean panel to panel storytelling with an emphases on pacing and rhythm. You can fine-tune each panel, alter the space it takes, shift it's contents around within that space.
After I get the panels all where I want them, I then print the layout in light blue to be drawn over, and with this whole issue I'm doing the pages almost as big as comic pages are typically drawn. The reason I'm going big for this whole issue is because there are a lot of small panels and I want them to look good.
So there you go. Layouts.
Next week, I hope to have done something new and I'll show you something from it.
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