Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Like Flynn

Figured it was probably time I started showing some artwork here, as the blog was getting a little text-heavy. I'm not going to start drawing actual pages until I have the entire script nailed down, but I do have all the chareacter designs etc completed so I'll stick a few up over the next while.

This is Tommy Flynn, or 'Irish' to his squad-mates in the marines. He's the main character in the book. Obviously these clothes are not standard marine-issue(although they are all US military wear of the era - A2 flight jacket etc), this is the look he sports after certain events shake up his status quo. I'll post his colour-scheme up very soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quality or Quantity?

One of the most exasperating aspects of work-for-hire books can be the turnaround time. On any of the projects that I've worked on to date, the most time I've ever had to draw(pencil and ink) a page has been a day. Now this is normal enough in the scheme of things; any artist working on a monthly book where he/she is drawing every issue will only ever have a day to complete each page. In many(most?) ways, this is a good thing. It forces you to be less precious with your work, and teaches you shortcuts and tricks to make the work go faster. But it also inevitably leads to compromise. There are only so many hours in a day, and after 12 to 14 in a row, you can get pretty burnt out. So you produce the best page of artwork you can in the given time-frame.

Then there are the books that you get 3 weeks per issue to draw, because of certain mitigating circumstances. I recently drew a run on a title that simply needed to be drawn in three weeks apiece over three issues. It isn't down to anybody else's failure on any part whatsoever; sometimes that's just all the time that's available. So you do the best you can, and hopefully it'll turn out well enough that nobody will notice that some of the pages were hurried along in places. But it can lead to some work that you're less than happy with, work that you wish you could've had just that teeny bit more time on. Early last year I drew a mini-series that needed to be completed in an even shorter time-frame; 2 weeks per issue. This was due to the tie-in movie's release date being just around the corner, and the fact that our story was a prequel tale meant that it would work much better if released before the movie and read as a primer. So we double-timed it, literally, but we got there. The book was really well-written, so it was actually good fun to work on, though it was a killer getting it in on time.

But get it in on time you must, since professionalism and time-keeping are incredibly important aspects of the comicbook creative sphere. Now these examples are not meant to be complaints, far from it; they're just the most extreme recent examples I can think of. As I mentioned above, the norm is you get one full day to complete one full page. And that is pretty darn do-able when you get down to it. That said, the frequent result is that I usually come away from a book wishing I'd had a bit more time to make the pages just that bit better across the board.

More and more lately I've been realising that in 20 or 30 years, not many people are going to remember a large body of work that is competent and solid, but not particularly stand-out or significant. I need to take the time in places to do some work that allows me to spend longer with each image, that lets me wade around in the creative pool discovering new techniques and methods. To produce an entire project of work that I'm really excited by and proud of. In other words, to end up with something memorable.
I'm thinking, would I rather my favourite movie director rush a new movie out once every year simply to meet a quota, or would I prefer he take his time and craft something that really says something, regardless of execution time? Well, maybe not quite regardless of deadline, because that way chaos lies. But certainly giving something enough time to breath and gestate.

So this time I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm going to take TWO(count 'em!), maybe even three(steady) full days to complete each page, from pencil to inks to colour. I've always wanted to take a bit more time with the work, and now I can. I'm hoping that I can manage to surprise myself, and that the work will be even better than I imagined. He said confidently.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dial D For Dangerousness

So what exactly is Half Past Danger? Well, it aims to be high adventure of the pulpiest vintage.  It's the tale of an Irishman(surprise surprise) serving as a US marine in the pacific theatre of WW2 during 1943. He becomes embroiled in a rather hairy situation out there that has potentially worldwide ramifications. As a result he gets dragged into a heart-pounding adventure that encorporates British spies, US super-soldiers, one rather cheerful ninja, and most importantly; Nazis versus Dinosaurs. Pterodactyls v Messerschmitts, Panzers v Giganotosaurs.

I'm hoping it'll be a heck of a ride, very much in the vein of the classic matinee serials that influenced the likes of Raiders of The Lost Ark, The Rocketeer and the 60's Bond movies. Adventure serials like Dick Tracy, Tarzan, Doc Savage and Flash Gordon. All going according to plan it will share the pace and tone(if not the quality!) of those movies and serials. Lofty aspirations; I know. But these are the kinds of high adventure stories I've always loved and gravitated towards, and I have what I think are some pretty cool and original angles and ideas. And besides, aim high or go home, right?

Obviously, corralling all of these disperate elements into one cohesive, fluid whole will be the trick. A bunch of cool concepts and set-pieces does not a coherent, flowing story make.  That's where the real meat of the writing process lies. A beginning, middle and end that effortlessly blend and satisfy(Mmmm...).

All of the design work is done, and I'll start posting bits and pieces of art very soon to introduce the characters. Right now I'm on the fifth draft of the treatment, and after I get that nailed down I'll be heading into full script. I'll start documenting these processes over my next few posts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh Heavens no, It has to be TERROR SWEAT!

So, quelle surprise; being a freelancer is scary. During every job, you're looking over your shoulder to see if the Real Job police have found you yet. The constant fear is that someday very soon, the jig will be up. The downtime between each job(which hopefully isn't very long; like Bon Jovi you'll sleep when you're dead) is spent frantically searching for the next paying gig. At least, that's been my experience. Some guys have reached that top table, and dine out on constant, fulfilling, well-paid work. Some guys.

I seem to straddle the middle ground like a stunted colossus. I do get fairly regular work, and have done for years now. But it rarely comes easily to me. Maybe 4 or 5 times ever I've had one comics job roll straight into the next. The more commercial work comes much easier, I could finish up with comics tomorrow and probably make a comfortable career storyboarding animation and ads for the next 35 years. But comicbooks are where it's at.

So us middle-tier guys work away, doing good work and being rewarded for it. I certainly have zero complaints; comics have been good to me. But as I mentioned in the previous post, something has been gnawing away at me, and I can't ignore it any more; it's too itchy. Must create, write, draw own comic.
And therein lies the terror sweat. Can I afford to take at least a few months off from my regular gigs to sit down and take the proper time required to nail this sucker? My biggest fear in life has always been failure. Not being successful, not making money. Which sounds kind of strange coming from an artist, I know. I'm one materialistic son of a gun. I've always had a weird dichotomy in my ambitions. Yes I wanted to draw for a living, but I also had two very successful parents, both reached the top of their respective fields. I wanted to emulate them; to make them proud. How do I marry the life of a struggling artist(which is a cliché for a reason) with my plans for world domination? Simple answer: I don't. It's an either-or thing. To be a full-time freelance artist, is in general to forego the monetary delights. Like I said, some guys manage both, but not many.

So what makes it work? This: when you're doing something that you love, money doesn't matter.  Another cliché, but if the shoe fits... Now, when I say doesn't matter, I mean once you have enough to pay the rent and get by, it doesn't matter. Because you will be content. Satiated. Secure in the knowledge that what you're doing has value, and that it will make your heart sing.

So, there's the rub. You gotta let go of the safety harness to try and stand on your own two feet. Will I have enough money to see me through this project? Will the book be any good? Will anybody bloody read it? Doesn't matter. All that matters is that I try. Even if it's a glorious failure, I'll at least have tried, and even if nobody else loves it, I will.

So lets have at it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

And Then There Was One.

How do.
I've started this blog to chronicle the production of HALF PAST DANGER, my first stab at a creator owned comicbook series.  As well as handle the art chores, I aim to write the script for this badboy myself.

Some background: I've been drawing various forms of seqeuntial storytelling professionally since 2001. Mostly on comicbooks, but also storyboards for animation, videogames and advertising. In all that time however, I never once wrote the script for any of these projects. That was some other guy's job.
Back when I was a teenager, maybe 15, I met a couple of like-minded fellas in Dublin who introduced me to the world of the American comicbook. Now this wasn't exactly my first exposure to such a beast; I had been a major fan of both the Asterix and Tintin books as far back as I can remember, as well as a lot of old British war comics like Battle. But these comics were different. They had larger than life characters, battling it out in incredible situations and predicaments. They were firmly rooted in the realms of imagination and impossibilty. This was it! This was for me. I had always loved drawing and creating, and now I knew where and how to channel those energies. I spent the following 10 or so years drawing with studiomate Stephen Thompson, learning our craft and concurrently studying classical animation in college. We've both worked on many comicbooks since, and for all outward appearances, achieved the Holy Grail; working as professional comicbook artists. Done and done.

...And it's been great. Being paid to partake in your favourite hobby all day everyday is just as it sounds; living the dream. There are obvious downsides. The days are long, usually at least 12 hours when working on a monthly book. It can be very lonely work at times, but more and more these days this is being offset by the various social media available online, such as twitter. To stave off the isolation factor, myself and 6 other pro Irish artists formed the Eclectic Micks, on online virtual studio where we post artwork and shoot the breeze. This work, coupled with regular on-the-side storyboarding assignments is how I fill my days.

But more and more lately, something has been feeling awry. Drawing these books hasn't proved to be quite as... fulfilling as the teenaged version of me imagined it would be. What could be better than collaborating with other like-minded people in telling the ongoing adventures of some of my favourite characters? Well, frankly, creating my own characters and writing the stories as well as drawing them. In other words, I'd get to tell the whole story myself. The current situation has been starting to feel more and more samey and stale.  Generally these days I tend to work on Licensed Character 'A' in Mini-Series 'B'. While these stories are generally perfectly well-written and engaging, I find myself longing for a change. A story that doesn't feature somebody else's long-established characters playing parts in somebody else's fiction. I want a shot at the wheel.

So please tag along as I work out exactly what the hell it is I'm doing. It'll be a lark! I hope.

Oh! One last thing - I aim to make this behind-the-scenes peek as interesting as possible; warts and all. I'll be honest about the mis-steps as well as the good stuff. For instance this, rather hilariously, is my third attempt at a first post. Yep, this is all I came up with.