Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Evenings with Klaus _ PART 2

Last week I introduced you to some lessons and the assignment set forth by Klaus Janson in his MOCCA comic class. This week, I'll share my first page of the homework with a few quick observations about my process.

I'm a nut for any instance in which several people, in this case comic artists, produce their unique personal responses to the same set problem. There's inherently so much to be learned in the comparison of approach and technique and greater insight into the subjectivity of experience in general.

As a reminder, here's the description we were given. We had to take this 18 point story and translate it into a 3 page wordless comic.

Some students intentionally set the story in the 50s, some had a multi-gendered cast, some had a definitively lighter or darker touch when it came to "horror." The overall effect was as many different stories as there are students, and all as jumping off points for further discussion that I'll get into next week.

My friend and co-worker Rick Ritter happened to sign up for the same class. He's a storyboard artist by trade and he specifically challenged himself to break the static mold of a board page and tell this story utilizing varied panel sizes for greater impact. But, the mark of his boarding background can especially be seen in the way he logically transitions through the sequential details of a moment, particularly the kid tripping and falling. You can see his homework here.

Now, here's my first page (still need to scan the other two) and some of my thoughts on it. Please keep in mind that I was pressed for time, and, as a homework assignment, it's a little rough around the edges.

- Given the horror theme and the fact that we were going to be looking at these from across the room, I specifically decided to work with bold blacks and whites. This was also an opportunity to practice that particular skill, the alternating of black and white forms to illustrate space and volume, one that I had wrestled with in a previous assignment.

- I wanted these kids to be recognizable but universal, so, I decided to cast them as Abercrombie-wearing teens in clothing as familiar today as it was 40 years ago. The bold patterns and hood would also allow for identifying them individually AND provide opportunity for cool graphic treatment. I put them in a conversion SUV to say TODAY but also suggest a first car or parent's car.

- One challenge everyone struggled with was how to casually let the reader know that it was Halloween. I decided to dress them in fall wear but also have a mask dangling from one kid's neck as if he had worn it on their previous jaunt. Also, a skull hanging from the mirror as a knick-knack.

- To communicate the Pumpkinhead legend, I tried to create as bold a gesture as possible with the the main guy mouthing the word "HUGE!" In general, I find photo reference indispensable at this stage in my ability for communicating these subtleties.

- I kept to wide panels for the first three to give a sense of travelling with this crew. They move from left to right and from IN the car, to OUT in the open, to IN the porch, enveloping them and the reader. I also tried to convey graphic lighting coming from the headlights out of frame in Panel 3.

- The kick is the first dramatic moment and I hoped to set it up by showing the aggressive posture of the rugby teen in Panel 3 and deliver with a canted angle kick in Panel 4. I felt the angle gave extra thrust to his kick while planting his stable leg.

- In order to give character to the house, I decided to make it Gothic and ornamental like a classic haunted house. I think I could have done a better job in setting up the staircase in Panel 5, along with a wider view of the interior.

- Finally, Panel 6 was actually the first I drew because it had the most nuanced detail and because I don't want the first panel of a page to be the one to inadvertently look wonky if I'm not warmed up yet. I do think this last panel was pretty successful in setting up the space and forward motion/ impending doom. I decided that the transition to the second floor was the perfect place for a page turn and to leave the reader wanting more.

With that, more to come...


  1. great job mike,i was floored when i saw your assignment,i spent so much time trying to get the information in the shots,that i think i missed the detail and mood you were able to get across.and on a pure style note,i'm loving the inking treatment.
    thanks for the kind words pal.

  2. Well, your pages definitely pointed out what I was missing in terms of staging and coherent action. They're so well directed.

    Good class and glad we wound up in it together.