If I haven't mentioned it yet, the contract has been signed and I'm now officially slated to produce my first graphic novel, DEAD DUCK, published by Ape Entertainment and released in bookstores in November of 2009! I've been plenty busy producing new stories for the book which is partly why I haven't been heard from in about a month. But now I'm back with a behind the scenes look at the production of my DEAD DUCK graphic novel.
To begin, here's an expansive look at my studio. Not long ago I'd cleaned the space up and took a bunch of pictures with the purpose of showing my studio in all its immaculate glory. That never happened. Instead, I'm choosing to show you the gritty truth of creation. It's messy, it's not always pretty, and it comes with lots of empty pop cups from the gas station across the parking lot. Anyway, this is where the magic happens.
My computer is 1/2 the nerve center of my artistic complex. In the old days, I used to carry around vast notebooks so that whenever an idea struck or I wanted to work out a gag or story idea, I'd have something to record it in. These days I've streamlined the process a tad. Little bits of scrap paper litter my backpack and jeans pockets with tons of notes and ideas that I've jotted down off the cuff. I then take those little crumpled gems and refine them at my trusty Dell PC and turn them into polished Dead Duck stories. In a way my computer has become a kind of crutch, and I'd eventually like to get back to the point where a notebook will be good enough to write complete scripts. But for now, I need my computer like a sugar fiend needs Ho-ho's.
After the script is written, I do research. Each Dead Duck story brings its own set of challenges, so having the internet at hand is a real coup. Take for example the story I'm currently working on. It details Dead Duck's long history of encounters with the Canadian Mafia, or The Nova Scotia Cosa Nostra. Because the story takes place in different eras and different locations throughout Canada, I did a fair amount of research online to make sure I drew accurate Mountie Costumes. This also required some preliminary sketches, which is a lot of fun.
A Native American woman figures largely into the story, so I made sure to accurately reference her tribe (The Micmac, native to Nova Scotia) and to get a fairly accurate look for the character rather than drawing her with the stereotypical feather in the back of her headband.
For another part of the story, the action takes place in an old 1950's TV studio, so I wanted to make sure I accurately drew old 1950's TV cameras, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
For another story I wrote (the first one to appear in the graphic novel, actually) I needed to create three roughneck characters, and could think of no better models than me and my two best friends, Pat and Justin. Though the caricatures are highly exaggerated, it's still a loving tribute, and it's always fun to draw your friends into your art.
After research and preliminary sketches, I like to surround myself with inspirational material; works that inspire me to do what I love to do. In the realm of comics, especially Dead Duck, that falls under three categories...
Hellboy, Scrooge McDuck...
And Cheech Wizard.
Mike Mignola's Hellboy is a huge influence on Dead Duck thematically. I've always been a fan of folklore, gods, fairies and monsters, so Hellboy was a perfect fit for me. I've even attempted Mignola's usage of huge block shadowing in several instances, though nobody can be Mignola but Mignola, so the end result is still decidedly my own style. I've always been a closet fan of Carl Bark's Scrooge, but recently got my hands on the work of Bark's successor, Don Rosa, and saw parallels between my work and what he was doing. The art is great and the stories are very rich and intriguing. And lastly, the late great Vaughn Bode's immortal Cheech Wizard is my biggest influence, in theme, in dirty humor, and certainly in art. His cartooning is untouchable, and makes me want to be a better cartoonist every time I read it.
My influences do not end on the printed page, however. While at the drawing board, I like to pop in a DVD while drawing. It helps me concentrate, all the more so when it's a film from my childhood that really inspires me. And these two top the list of most watched....
Ralph Bakshi's animated film Wizards has been one of my favorites since I was thirteen. It's a dark post apocalyptic fairy tale with incredible visuals and a haunting story.
And the other most watched film...
Rock & Rule, another post apocalyptic fairy tale, this time a rock and roll fable produced by the once great Canadian animation studio Nelvana. This movie has been stuck in my psyche since I was ten. I absolutely adore it. And whether it's this film, Wizards or another inspirational flick, there's always something playing in the background within my view to help keep my creative furnace stoked.
Dipping into my well stocked art supply cubby, I begin the process of illustrating the written story. Using a t-square and ruler, I measure out the borders of the page, break the story down into panels (or boxes), carefully letter the word balloons and then sketch out the action. When that's done, I use a myriad of different pens to ink the penciled drawings.
I used to go through a ton of markers, but these days I've become a bit more economical. Any big black areas will be left empty until the next stage when I scan the artwork into the computer and color it all in Photoshop. This saves me money on markers (which are more expensive than you would imagine) and makes for a very glossy finished product when completed.
And basically, that's how I do it. I hope this has given you some insight into my creative process, for what it's worth. Next time I'll show you some potential marketing ideas we're considering, plus take you deeper into the well from which I draw out my story and character ideas (if your psyche ain't already scarred, you're in for a rude awakening)! So until them, take care, thanks for sticking with me, and be her in November 2009 for the release of DEAD DUCK!!!