Making Comics

This collection of art blog posts is about making comics. Art in progress details, creative process, and other inside scoop stuff.

Throwback Thursday! Crows and the Zika Virus

July 15, 2021

It’s Throwback Thursday at Survival Anxiety Comics! Remember the Zika Virus? The Crows remember in this week’s archive gem Crows and the Zika Virus.

The Zika epidemic was a hot news item in 2016, and mosquitoes got most of the (deserved) flak for spreading it. The Zika virus was a big concern for pregnant women, who could pass it on to their fetus, potentially causing brain anomalies. Adults could suffer rapid muscle weakness. There was also concern for the athletes participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Simpler times, am I right? Mosquitoes ruin every party.

When working on the character design for the crows, I had envisioned one crow to be kind of dumb, while the other was smart. It’s a common setup. I got bored with it. The smart one became kind of condescending, at least in my mind. I wondered why they would even be hanging out together if that was their dynamic. The crows are supposed to be friends, with differing points of view and experiences. So I eventually eased off on dumb vs smart characteristics, and in more recent comics especially, they compliment each other better. I feel like they’re becoming a bit more like an avian Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. Judgemental about human behaviour, but certainly not without their own flaws.

I used Clip Studio Paint for this comic, although I think it was called Manga Studio 2016. I’m going to stop saying that every time I mention Clip Studio Paint. A comic lettering process I used at the time was to lay out all the dialog text with the Text Tool, then I traced the letter characters with a lettering brush. Something akin to a tech pen. I still use this process for digital illustrations. It feels a bit mechanical here, because I was just figuring it out. The goal was to have comic lettering that visually fit with the cartoon art, and was more unique than a comic lettering font. And tidy. Very tidy lettering.

Of course, today I hand letter all my comics, and it’s a glorious mess, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Thanks for reading!

Making Comics – Graphite Pencils, Blue Pencils, Get Yer Own Pencils

July 13, 2021
Pencils for Pity Party Page 4.

Pity Party – Page 4 is well under way. The pencils are done, and I’ll start inks tomorrow. The Ideas Room is about to get a bit more dangerous, as some old and bitter ideas are released! Yikes! Be careful what you think.

My pencils are a mess, but I don’t like to think too much when I start inking. I want all the visual math to be sorted out in pencil. I have a rough version of this page sketched on a comic template I print on letter sized paper. I copy that sketch onto bristol, add all the missing detail, sleep on it, add some more detail, line up the lettering, sleep on it some more, then boom! Ready for ink. Comics are easy!

I pencil with 4H graphite in an old mechanical pencil. It’s a very light line. I darkened this image in Affinity Photo so you could actually see the pencil. I prefer a harder graphite for this stage – there is less smudging, and it erases easily. For lettering I pencil with non photo blue, also in a mechanical pencil. The ink I use for lettering fades too much when an eraser is applied, and non photo blue pencil doesn’t need to be erased. I could just use non photo blue for all the lines, but I do a lot of thinking in pencil, and blue is harder to erase. You can probably see that in this scan. It would just be a blue page. Like looking at a summer sky.

If you aren’t familiar with non photo blue pencils, the primary benefit of them is they won’t be seen by the scanner, when scanning line art in black & white. After scanning the artwork, I apply a threshold adjustment layer in Affinity Photo. This effectively removes any line lighter than the black ink lines – so I don’t have to spend much time erasing graphite lines before scanning, either.

This Thursday is another Throwback! See you then!

Throwback Thursday! Crows and the Mosaic-Tailed Rat

July 1, 2021
In this comic, the crows remember their good, and stylish, friend, the Mosaic-Tailed Rat.

Welcome to another Throwback Thursday, here at Survival Anxiety Comics! Today, it’s the first full page crows story, called Crows and the Mosaic-Tailed Rat. I was going for a different look in 2016. I like it, but couldn’t sustain it.

In real life, I had to contend with crows getting into our garbage bags on garbage day. Those birds would rip into my garbage bags, even toss the lid off the garbage can, and make a real mess of the trash. One would show up, then call all their friends to join. They’d drag baby diapers all over the road. What a prize!

I’d run out out of the house to the road, waving my arms like a lunatic, yelling at these feathered bastards to get outta there! They’d just take a hop backward, and indignantly caw back at me. As if to say, the garbage is on the side of the road! We have every right to it! Caw, caw!

And so all that filtered through my brain into this idea – a couple of crabby crows, opining, and judging about people things.

Around the time of this comic, the mosaic-tailed rat had gone extinct due to climate change. A tragic story, to be sure, and also a suitable discussion for these two crows.

Side note – I avoid 9 panel comic pages these days. My panel template allows for it, but if my story is more than 6 or 7 panels, I’ll try to spread them out over two pages. I’ll leave 9 panels for the pros.

Making Comics – Imaginary Creative Spaces are Messy

June 29, 2021
Detail from Pity Party page 3, the cartoonist examines ideas in his Ideas Room, and doesn't think highly of them.

Pity Party Page 3 is nearly finished. A bit of clean up and scanning left to go, as the cartoonist’s characters get into mischief in the cartoonist’s Ideas Room. Read the completed pages of Pity Party in the Survival Anxiety comic archive.

I like to imagine that this Ideas Room space changes all the time. Like if I came back in a year, the door could lead to a desert island. Or an ice cream parlour. Or a black void. Your imaginary creative space is no doubt very different.

It’s unclear at the moment if our imaginary creative work spaces are eligible for work from home tax breaks, but I’d go ahead and claim them anyway. I’m sure it’s fine.

I’m laying off the sponge effects a bit on this page. I got a bit heavy with it on the last page, and tried to dial it back on this one. I realize I need to start creating texture in different, and in more specific ways. For example, the shelf wood grain above, or the book cover. A little sponge goes a long way.

Throwback Thursday! Communication Breakdown

June 24, 2021
In this comic, Willa and her dog Marnie build a machine to communicate with aliens. It doesn’t go as expected.

It’s Throwback Thursday here at Survival Anxiety! This week, it’s the first full page comic I made in 2015 called Communication Breakdown. Technically, Survival Anxiety didn’t exist then, but Robot is in this comic, so it counts.

In 2015 I was using Clip Studio, probably learning Clip Studio, for any comics or illustrations I was creating. The font is from Blambot. I used it previously for a webcomic attempt called The Good Little Robot, staring Robot and Francis the Sheep, so it was easily at hand when I created this comic. I’m not sure where the colour palette came from. It’s fairly bright, so maybe I cooked it up on the spot. I really like that last panel.

I don’t think I had made much in the way of comics for about 10 years before this one. This comic was made because at the time I was working on a kids picture book called Wrenched, and I needed to flesh out the characters in that story. I read a comic could be an effective and fun way to do that, so I did it, and it was. The characters in the book ended up very different from this. I’ve considered bringing this girl back into Survival Anxiety, but that idea has never evolved beyond a passing thought. Maybe one day.

Read the full size Communication Breakdown comic in the Survival Anxiety archive.