Posts Tagged ‘comic art’

Comics on Campus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This past week I had the pleasure of sitting in on a free lecture “Comics and the Art of Visual Communication” by legendary comic creator and theorist, Scott McCloud www.scottmccloud.com who was out promoting his new graphic novel, The Sculptor.

The event  was hosted by Rutgers University at their Camden, NJ campus. This was the same campus that hosted the second annual Camden Comic Con just a month ago where CO2 Comics presented a panel on our experience as independent publishers reuniting with some of the crew from our days publishing Comico comics back in the 1980’s.

It is so exciting to see the medium of comics finally being accepted by the great halls of higher education! When I was in college back in the early 1980’s at the Philadelphia College of Art, the administration and faculty showed complete disdain for the medium describing it as derivative and kitsch while vowing to break me of my interest in this lowly form of art. It is ironic that now, renamed the University of the Arts, they boast about  graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman’s inspirational commencement speech in 2012where they also presented Gaiman and Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist Tony Auth each with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts!

My, how times have changed!

More and more colleges and universities are including comic art or graphic novel courses into their curriculum. Some are beginning to build robust libraries dedicated to collections of comic books. Because of the rise of the graphic novel format and the popularity of comic related adaptations into other forms of media, educators have begun to take the comic medium seriously and since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics in 1993, educators have had a blueprint for teaching the subject.

My experience at PCA was not unusual. Comics history is wrought with degradation by  educators who widely considered it a form of base communication with no educational merit. Comics were believed to contribute to the delinquency and corruption of the minds of young readers. This notion was exasperated further by Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent. Discussion among educators was more focused on how to steer readers away from comic books than to encourage them. Many even resorted to public burnings of the comics!

This sentimentality was buffered slightly by the comic industry’s 1954 adoption of a self imposed censorship called the Comic Code Authority which warranted against  any corruptive material in comics in the wake of a U.S. Congressional inquiry. It stood for decades as possibly the most rigorous form of censorship of any American medium.

Somehow, comics managed to still find a way to be interesting and in the early 1960’s with the help of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Marvel Comics discovered how to appeal to young adults despite the shackles of the Code. The interest in the medium by college students in that era developed a fertile foundation for the future generations of comic creators to grow from.

Stan Lee recognized the interest of the college students and brought his show on the road as evidenced by this recording of Stan addressing students at Princeton University in 1966. Marvel comics spoke to the youth movement of the sixties. Those comics empowered some to create more comics that grew with the readers and reflected the unrest of the new culture that was rising.

Comics evolved throughout the seventies and eighties giving rise to the underground and independent movements that aborted the Comic Code, fought for creators rights and developed a new distribution system that allowed the unfettered medium to flourish. By the dawn of the new millennium comics were poised to explode as a form of powerful artistic expression.

Then came the internet, digital distribution, and print on demand.

Few mediums have benefitted so greatly by modern technology to put both the literal and visual power  into the hands of a single creator. From this has come great works of expression that need to be digested by those interested in learning and understanding the powerful form of visual literature known as comics.

Colleges and universities have figured this out and are actively reaching out to communities to share the mechanics of this exciting medium that has had such an incredible impact on popular culture.

A quick browser search revealed a few programs since the beginning of the year at schools like Vassar,  William & Mary, University of FloridaOhio State University, The University of Hartford, Drake University, and Northern Illinois University.

Those combined with the stops on Scott McCloud’s tour which have already included Mississippi State, Wittenberg University, Champlain College, and Rutgers University make it a wonderful time to be enlightened about the true cultural value of the comics medium and how it extends so far beyond what many know as just superheroes or funny animals. If you love comics, you may want to get to know them better at a college campus near you.

Take the time to check with colleges or universities in your area to see if they are promoting any public lectures on comics. Some provide courses that may be accessible to you. I promise you will be impressed by the diversity of the group that attends, it will be what you expect from any college, a broad mix of age, gender, and culture and everyone had a great time. Special thanks to Rutger’s Digital Studies Center, the Office of Campus Involvement, the Chancellor’s Office, the Department of English, and the Department of Fine Arts for pulling their resources for a great event that covered so many disciplines.

Gerry Giovinco

Original Comic Art and Digital Comics: The Common Bond

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A stroll around a comic convention is a lot different today than it used to be when it comes to experiencing original comic art which for me, as a young aspiring comic artist, was the highlight of any show. I would always immediately venture directly towards artist alley where pros and amateurs alike would form a welcoming community of comic art practitioners. To me it seemed less like an opportunity for the creators to market their work and more of a joyous reunion of folks with a common bond: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Maybe it is just a product of comic conventions no longer being the casual events they used to be, held in basement ballrooms of fading city hotels with the most sophisticated displays being a hand lettered card stock sign hung on a pipe and drape background.  Professional comic artists were not viewed as the superstars they are today. They were heroes that we related to more like a favorite uncle who always new how to appeal to our inner child. Their art touched us in a personal way that established a relationship that was respected between them and their fans.

Those were the days when you did not wait in line to meet your favorite creator. At best you gathered around their table and shared as a group, listening to their stories, watching them sketch, and learning from their teachings which, though small casual tidbits of technique, were gems of insight into the magical world of creating comics.


Stacked high on their tables would be pages of original art that could be thumbed through and purchased  for prices as low as ten or fifteen bucks! The opportunity to scan through those pages was a chance to stare into a window of a professional comics bullpen. Each page told a production story that was highlighted by the scents of bristol board and india ink often commingling with odors of white-out and rubber cement.

To be able to view those pages and see script notes in a corner, blue lines behind lettering, pen strokes appearing as a texture on the surface and brush strokes laying a deep wash in large shaded areas with a barely visible “x” etched in pencil beneath was a hands-on lesson in every page.

I always got a kick out of seeing revisions. Panels or words would be cut out with an x-acto and replaced with art that was cut to fit perfectly into the hole and secured from behind with a strip of masking tape. Splash pages had photostat logos pasted on leaving a trail of ever yellowing rubber cement beneath.

Every page was art, yet each was also just a mechanical, a production board from which final films would be photographed on large upright “stat” cameras. Each was a path of history, chronicling the creation of the page through the hands of the writer, penciler, letterer, inker, editor and production hand. Void of color, the line art resonated with a power of its own lending a new found appreciation for comics in black and white that would empower the independent comic publishers of the day.

It is still possible to marvel at original art at conventions but the atmosphere is so much more hurried that it is difficult to be absorbed into each piece. Those “uncles” are slowly passing away leaving a void where once was a nurturing wisdom behind the craft of each page. In its place is a new energy that is equally intoxicating, a new brand of comic artist with an entrepreneurial spirit hawking their own works.

It is  thrilling to see the new, unlimited variety of comics, invigorating to see the community widening to include a wave of talented women that was always sadly lacking in that bygone era. What is missing is the original art, replaced by an ernest need to sell small print runs and assorted related merchandise or to direct readers to a growing web-comic. The art exists, but digitally, and can be panned easily on an iPad evoking a sterile creative process free of the sensory stimulators that fueled a personal romance with comic production in my formative years.

As I sit here at my keyboard, I’m suddenly realizing that I am now one of those “uncles” I came to embrace. Not that I could hold a candle to any of them but I have an opportunity to share from my experiences, as they did, only from the venue of this blog instead of a convention table. The new generation of comic creator, who creates digitally, shares too, through all kinds of forums and social networks on the internet.  An aspiring comic creator no longer has to wait, as I did, for an annual comic convention to experience the knowledge of a comic pro, they can watch a tutorial on Youtube or follow a comment thread on Facebook!

Yes, I miss the sensory experience of the creative process of comics. Yes, I wonder if creators are losing an opportunity to cash in by not having physical comic art to sell.  But it is not worth pining over any of my attachment to these relics while I am witnessing the future of comics as it blossoms before my eyes. The community of comic artists is no longer small and relegated to a musty convention hall. It is vast and continues to grow. It exists at our fingertips any time we wish to access it.

Today’s comic artists are creating much more than original art. They are creating the future of the medium. Support them any way you can if you love comics. Go read their web comics. Buy their print on demand books. Order their merchandise. Join them on forums and share ideas. Learn from them and teach others. We are all part of the same comics community that began in those old convention halls. Embrace that past and build the future.

Bill Cucinotta and I, here at CO2 Comics, are committed to both and are excited to be part of this growing comics community of artists with a keen eye on the future. No matter how comics are made we intend to maintain that common bond we always had with those comic creators in artist alley: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


Comic Art, Trash or Treasure?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

You sure wouldn’t know that the world is in an economic crisis by looking at the prices that have been paid recently for original art. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses, who’s  recent auctions collectively tallied $266,591,000, established record sale prices for pieces of art including the most expensive work ever sold at auction, Edvard Munch’sThe Scream’ which garnered a whopping $120 million!


Fans of comic art began to scream themselves when Roy Lichtenstein’s painting, ‘Sleeping Girl,’ sold for $45 million, a record price for any of his works. Lichtenstein is often criticized by comic art enthusiasts for not having credited the long list of comic artists whose work he used as subject matter for his paintings. Comparisons of ‘Sleeping Girl’  and the Tony Abruzzo panel which it is derived from, as well as dozens of other comparisons,  can be seen here. David Barsalou deconstructs Lichtenstein with a vengeance and it is well worth following his crusade on the internet and in his facebook group.

The good news is that, though comic art has been generally viewed by the fine art community as “low brow” and is still not in a position to command the kind of money that Munch or Lichtenstein’s pieces do, original comic art is beginning to command some very respectable prices. It has long been known that there is value in collecting comic books. The highest price paid so far for Action Comics #1 being $2.16 million. The same comic book is estimated to be currently worth about $4.3 million.


Original comic art, on the other hand, is now gaining in value as well. The most expensive piece of comic art ever sold is reportedly a full page panel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson from ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ The piece sold to an anonymous collector for $448,125 as part of Heritage Auctions’  Vintage Comics and Comic Art Auction in 2011.

In the past week Heritage auctioned two more significant pieces that collected big bucks. Contradicting the earlier report Heritage claims that a Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott original from Fantastic Four #55 featuring a half page splash of the Silver Surfer and signed by scripter Stan Lee achieved the highest price paid for a page of panel art selling for $155,350, roughly one third the value of the Batman piece.

Another work of original comic art that proved its muster was the first ever drawing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that fetched $71,700.

Forbes recently ran an article on their site that lists good reasons for investing in comic art  but neglects the obvious: Supply and Demand.

Though it may seem that there are tons of original comic art proliferating in the market, and there are, how many show significant images of major characters drawn by masters of the industry or are pages from historic works? Not as many as you might think and now that a lot of art is created digitally, the chances of hard copy future original art surfacing for sale are dwindling.

The idea that there are over seventy years worth of original art numbering in the millions of pages trafficking around the collectors market is false. Most comic art that was created prior to the mid sixties was simply destroyed by the publishers, considered by them as nothing more than waste once the printable films were made.

Flo Steinberg

Flo Steinberg, secretary at Marvel during the early years of the ‘House of Ideas,’ was quoted in David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW #17 saying, “We used to throw it out …when the pile got too full…it was like ‘old wood’ to us.” Likewise, there are stories of Neal Adams dashing across the office at DC to rescue original art that was about to be destroyed in a paper slicer! Any art that survived that slaughter was generally given away as gifts or just managed to filter its way out of the office as random souvenirs. The scary part is that most of the artists just accepted this practice as the norm!

By the late sixties when fandom started to prove that there was a secondary market for the art through the establishment of comic conventions and comic shops, artists began to demand that their art be returned. This was a tricky process since several people generally worked on any given issue. The art would be split up among the writer, penciler, inker, and even the letterer. Colorists usually would get back the color guides that they made for the color separator.  Because of this practice entire issues are nearly impossible to acquire.

By the 1980’s the independent movement gave creators many more rights and more creators were responsible for their work in its entirety but still, usually, would sell off pages at conventions, one at a time,  to support themselves economically.

Today more and more comics are being created digitally and hard copy originals don’t even exist. The work and creative talent  that goes into creating a comics page is once again being trivialized as an unfortunate part of the process. Instead of ‘old wood’ it is now just a collection of magnetic data hogging up a hard drive, facing obsolescence with the next wave of new technology.

The printed version may remain as the only collectable hard copy of future comic works and even that is challenged by digital delivery of comics. The art of making comics is finally being recognized as something of value yet its new found respect is threatened with its own potentionally temporary creative process.

Criticize Lichtenstein as much as you’d like, but his copy of a single panel, swiped from a forgotten romance comic, will exist for a long, long time and will only become more valuable while the original line drawing it was lifted from has probably been trashed for fifty years. How can we come expect the art world, or anybody,  to respect comics as more than source material for pop art parodies when we continue to allow the originals it to be disposable.

Is comic art trash or treasure? As comic artists, we need to decide for ourselves.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco


The Future of Comics is 3-D

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Remember the commercial where one person eating a chocolate bar collides with another eating peanut butter presumably inspiring Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? The ad capitalized on a well known fact that some of the best ideas are the results of accidents.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could anticipate these unlikely turn of events and forecast an outcome accurately in advance? Scientists attempt this all the time and perform experiments to prove their hypothesis.

Well, I’m no scientist but I think I know a few things about comics and I have been witnessing some developments in technology, distribution and comic art production that lead me to believe that 3-D is the key to a bountiful future for the comics industry.

(Laughter?)

I know this is  a daring statement considering that 3-D has never been anything other than an eye-blurring, headache-inducing fad requiring optical accessories that defy all fashion sensibilities but the stars of fate are lining up like the reflection of lights in disco infinity mirror!

Ever since the incredible commercial success of AVATAR, Hollywood has been cramming 3-D films down the throats of audiences in theaters everywhere. Any film that can be remotely adapted to 3-D is going under the stereoscopic knife. Still, most audiences prefer the traditional 2-D  versions so what is the rush?

There is a 3-D technological boom on the horizon.

3-D has been steadily infiltrating our homes as more and more HD televisions are equipped with 3-D capability.  Though these televisions still require the use of eyeglasses with polarized lenses or more the sophisticated shutter glasses, the 3-D effects, especially on large screens, are astounding.

Hand held mobile devices, however, are poised to overtake the market using a new technology called APB or Autostereoscopic Parallax Barrier. They are capable of displaying crystal clear 3-D on their small screens without the need for any special glasses. These gaming units, cell phones and, soon, tablets are also being equipped with 3-D cameras making them capable of capturing, sending and sharing photos and video of unique 3-D content.

Content is the magic word!

For these new 3-D devices to succeed there needs to be content. Lots of it. Hollywood is scrambling but it can’t make it fast enough. Video games, tapping into the already present 3-D CGI will be broad providers of  material. Web developers will employ more and more 3-D imagery as the viewing devices become more readily available. Manufacturers are betting the house that users will become the biggest provider of 3-D content simply by sharing their images and video. Anaglyphic 3-D content that requires the use of the old red and blue lensed glasses is already proliferating on YouTube, paving the road for the more easily viewed autostereoscopic material.

I believe that no media can produce more dynamic 3-D content at an economical cost than comics. Comic art is a natural for 3-D with its traditional dependancy on line art and frequent use of dramatic forced perspective.  The effects in 3-D comics are enhanced and the layers of depth are more clearly defined than traditional stereoscopic photography and even 3-D CGI. Comics also give the reader a greater opportunity to appreciate 3-D in each static image of a story while in a 3-D video the effects stream by quickly, offering little chance to digest the depth of the graphics.

Motion comics offer the best of both worlds. In fact it was my having watched DC’s commercial for the New 52 and noting its achievement  of creating the illusion of depth with its graphics and motion of layers of art, combined with an ad for a newly released 3-D cell phone that includes a 3-D camera that  pushed the chocolate into the peanut butter for me. I had already seen the trailer for Green Lantern displayed on a 3-D capable  Nintendo 3DS and was quite impressed by the technology and the clarity of the image. The idea that any user could easily generate this type of 3-D photos and videos with their cell phone camera gave me hope that comic artists could do the same with simple ingenuity and the help of a program that could generate stereoscopic images from line art.

Click and Visit M2

I came across a 3-D motion comic made by the guys at M2 on Bleeding Cool that is a must see if you have an old pair of red and blue anaglyphic glasses on you. It will give you a chance to see the potential of motion comics in 3-D.

M2 : 3D Sizzle Reel 2011 from M2 on Vimeo.

If you are enjoying the motion comics please be sure to check out Bernie Mireault’s Jam motion comic right here at CO2 Comics. I’m sure you can easily imagine how great that would look in 3-D.

Check out Bernie Mireault's The JAM Motion Comic

I have always been intrigued by 3-D possibly because even though we live in a three dimensional reality it is so hard to capture. As an artist the biggest challenge is being forced to capture that third dimension on a two dimensional canvas.

My first experience with simulated 3-D was with a Viewmaster.  We all had them as kids, staring through those binocular-like viewers at a disc with a series of transparent slides. They were a toy adapted from basic stereoscopes that had been around since 1838.

Mighty_Mouse_3D

I was also a big fan of 3-D baseball cards that used lenticular graphics to create the illusion of depth. I at one time even owned a Nashika N8000 35mm 3-D camera that took photos that were processed and printed with this same lenticular process as the baseball cards.

3-D Comics have been around for a long time. The first 3-D comic featured Mighty Mouse and was published by St. John Comics in 1953. The 3-D effect was created by none other than the legendary Joe Kubert along with Norman Maurer and his brother Lenny. The 3-D comic fad in the 50’s was short lived but 3-D comics enjoyed a comeback in the 80’s under the guiding hand of Ray Zone.

We published a  ROBOTECH 3-D comic in 1987 while at Comico aond used Ray Zone’s expertise to produce it. Of course it contained pencils by CO2 Comics contributer Mike Leeke. Here are a couple of scans that you should be able to enjoy with a pair of 3-D specs.

With all of these new viewing devices and autostereoscopic technology 3-D may be here to stay permanently and comics may benefit. Digital comics will have an opportunity to separate themselves from print entirely offering an eyeglass-free experience that cannot be had in book format. Will the added dimension create added value? More importantly will it create an interest in comics that attracts a broader audience? I’m betting that if it helps to sell more 3-D devices then the answer is yes. Only time will tell if my hypothesis is correct but right now I’m in the mood for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Mini Comics to the Packaging Revolution

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Monkey & Bird…a Love Story by Joe Williams and Tina Garceau is AVAILABLE NOW!!!

The highlight of my week was receiving a copy of Joe Williams and Tina Garceau’s printed mini comic, Monkey and Bird, in the mail. Snail mail, that is.

Back in August we featured a couple of posts by Señor Williams that outlined his experience personally  making the mini comic. He peppered his posts with so many juicy details that almost anyone could go out and make one themselves.

I’ve known Joe and his lovely wife Tina for years, we go all the way back to our college days at PCA and I am well aware of both of their incredible attention to detail and quality not to mention their brilliance as designers yet I still did not expect to be so taken by what a gem their mini comic turned out to be.

Holding Monkey and Bird in my hand as a mini comic was a defining moment for me especially after having published it as a web comic here at CO2 Comics for the last two years. Maybe my reaction is a reflection of my long history of publishing on paper or just evidence of a generational  preference for things printed on paper, but I liked it. A lot!

The web affords us comic creators so many options to be able to present our labors of love to a potentially vast audience with minimal expenses compared to the printed product. Everything about making comics for the internet is so much more convenient and spontaneous that it has given us the opportunity as creators and readers to be able to witness the biggest creative explosion of the medium in its history. All those virtues, however, in my jaded eyes, do not supersede the experience of reading comics in print. I will always have a warm place in my heart for the tangible paper package.

mathmanauts

Mimeograph machine

It has always been clear to me that a comic is never complete until it is in front of an audience. The reader’s experience is a much a part of the final execution of the comic  as any step taken in the creative process along the way. Because I have always felt so strongly about this I began publishing my own comics almost as early as I began creating them. My first published comics were printed on a mimeograph machine. My audience had as much fun smelling them as they did reading them. I slowly graduated to photocopiers and small offset presses before finally dealing with  large, commercial, four-color presses to make Comico comics.

Comico Covers

As I sit here holding Joe and Tina’s  32 page (including covers),  full color, 4 x 5.5 inch, landscaped pamphlet that  is hand folded and saddle stitched with a good old-fashioned Swingline stapler I can’t imagine what my comic producing  experience would have been like if I would have had these production capabilities available to me back in the seventies. I would have traded tracing mimeo stencils and hand cranking purple inked copies for full-color pages spat out of an ink jet or laser printer in a heartbeat!

I did not have an opportunity to go to SPX this weekend but my fond memories of past shows include my amazement of the array of unique and creative packaging techniques that are always displayed. Monkey and Bird would have fit right in! Today’s community of independent comic artists and publishers take full advantage of the technology available to make comics that deliver an experience well beyond panel-to-panel sequential art.

Many people are pondering what is to become of the familiar pamphlet style comic that has been a fixture in the industry for over seventy years. Most believe that digital content will force it into extinction in the not too distant future, watching the sun set on a beloved package.

When I look at my little copy of Monkey and Bird, or think about what I witness at shows like SPXAPE, MOCCA, PACC and Stumptown, I see a different horizon, the shimmering rays of a new day cast by the lights of endless creative opportunity that will offer comics in print and digitally in infinite shapes and sizes. Each format, unique to its creator and not limited by the constraints of a few publishers or a single distributor.

I remember the first glimpse I ever had of this expanding possibility. In 1980 I was mesmerized by the first issue of Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman‘s anthology comic magazine RAW. The full color view out the window of a man committing suicide had been pasted on to the black and white cover of the tabloid sized periodical publication that featured an insane amount of groundbreaking comic art between its pages. The simple collage of the cover alone was enough to have numbed my creative mind for decades, especially in regards to packaging.

RAW

That, to me, was the beginning. Now, the art of making comics has firmly expanded from mastery of designing a page to the mastery of designing the whole package wether in print, on the web, or digitally for a specific device. The day where packaging that requires an entire production team is passing. The comic artist, if they choose, now has the ability to have complete control over the reading experience of the audience if they want it.

As a publisher, like CO2 Comics, today’s technology gives us the opportunity to open new doors of creative discussion with the artists that makes making comics more exciting than ever before. We plan to enjoy every minute of it!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Process of Penciling: Part 3

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Truth be told, comic art can be drawn on just about any surface imaginable so long as it is able to be reproduced. With today’s digital technology a lot of comics are drawn using a digital tablet and a stylus.

The images exist only on a computer screen and may never see the surface of paper until it is printed.

Graphics Tablet with Stylus

There are still plenty of comic artists however that prefer the relationship of lead to paper.

The key thing to remember when choosing your paper how the final image will be inked if it will at all. Some comics, like Raine Szramski’s HEAVEN And The DEAD CITY that can be found here at CO2 Comics, are painted and may require a different type of surface.

Bristol Board

The most popular paper used for comic art is multi-ply Bristol board. There are a number of brands available all of different quality. In general though, there are two types of surfaces. Smooth, which can often be called hot press, machined, or plate finished and Rough which may be considered as cold press or vellum.

The smoother surface is great for inking but has little tooth to the surface which makes it not too fun to pencil on. Vellum surfaces are much easier to pencil on but it is important to find a brand that has a finer tooth and is dense enough that ink will not bleed on the page.

X-Acto Knife

Most original comic art created since the Silver Age has used a 10″ x 15″ image area. 11″ x 17″ paper is a good size to work on and can easily be purchased in pads at a local drug store or art store. Some artists save money by bying larger pads and cutting the pages in half with a ruler and x-acto knife.

Many publishers provide paper with preprinted guides to their artists which makes it very easy to rule panel borders. Pre printed paper can also be bought online. One great source is Bluelinepro.com.

Work with your printer or editor to determine your exact bleed areas and image areas and be sure that the image size you are working with is proportioned exactly to these measurements. This means that when your art is reduced it is the exact size it needs to be to fit the printed page. Comic art generally gets reduced to 60% of the original size for reproduction.

Non Repro Blue Pencil

Using rough layouts as a guide panel borders should be ruled in using a pencil. Some artists like to use non-repro blue lead at this point to avoid erasing unnecessary stray lines. If your page is preprinted you can just use a ruler and draw lines using the guide markers on the page much like connecting the dots.

T-Square & Triangle

If your page is not preprinted you will will have to line up the paper yourself using a t-square and a triangle on your drawing board which should have a smooth strait edge on the side opposite your drawing hand.

Your t-square should be long enough to line up the entire width of your page in the center of your workspace. Line up the bottom of the page with your t-square and tape it to the surface using small pieces of masking tape. Use tape with a light adhesive so it does not ruin your paper surface when it is removed. Cheap tape usually has very sticky adhesive so be careful to find a brand you like.

Centering Ruler

Measure your paper from the center of the page. A centering ruler is a great tool for this and will become your best friend. Avoid measuring in from the edge of the paper. Paper is often not cut exactly square or exactly to measurement and you will discover inaccuracies every time you open a new pad of paper.

Use your t-square to rule all of the horizontal lines on the page following your measured marks as guides. Vertical lines will be ruled by using a triangle sliding along your t-square. You can use a either 45 or
60 degree triangle because it is the 90 degree side that is needed to guide your pencil The bigger the triangle the better. I recommend at least a 12″ height.

Go back and rule in all the panel borders. Generally the gutter space is about 1/4″ wide but should at least remain consistent throughout except when a different spacing may be required to emphasize a visual as part of the story.

Once your page and panels are ruled be sure to label the title of the project and the page number. Now you can begin penciling in your final art. Remove the tape from the board so you can work freely.

Light Box

If you are using a light box to transfer pencil roughs, line up the roughs on the back of the paper, tape them down loosely then turn the page over and trace up the images.

Next week I will go over pencils and erasers and other tools that can help you complete a penciled comic page that is suitable for sending to lettering and inking.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


The Process of Penciling for Comics

Monday, April 11th, 2011

There is no doubt that when it comes to penciling for comics the first priority should be to learn to draw as best you can and to become an expert at visual storytelling. Once you have mastered these skills it is time to put the lead to the paper, remembering that comic art is made to be reproduced and that penciling is just one of several disciplines involved in making the finished comic page.

The penciler must be conscious of the script, the lettering, and the inking of the finished work. It is the penciler‘ to produce pencils that will enable the other work on the page to be executed properly. Everything from the type of paper to how final erasures will be made should come into consideration.

The tools are important too. Beginning cartoonists always want to know about the “magic pencil.” There is one but, like a baseball player’s favorite bat or glove, it is a very personal selection for each comic artist as are most of the other tools that will be used to create a comic page.

The space that the comic artist likes to work in has an effect on some of the tool decisions. Some artists like to be mobile and move around their home while they create, others like a studio built to the specifications of the Fortress of Solitude. Regardless of the preference, it is important to have a source of light, a smooth surface to work on and a comfortable place to sit.

The above image is reproduced from The Secrets of Professional Cartooning by Ken Muse-Prentice Hall-1981

Comic artists all begin as young doodlers drawing sprawled-out on the living room floor before graduating to the kitchen table. Those flat surfaces parallel to the ground ultimately cause distortion in the image. To prevent this the paper must be parallel to the eyes of the penciler. The penciler usually compensates for this by either hunching over the work or tilting the work surface.

Lap Boards

The artist’s draft table is the best piece of furniture for the task and comes in many different styles but the beginning cartoonist may not have the space or the money to afford one. This is when a lapboard will come in handy. I’ve seen lapboards that look like small versions of actual drawing boards and I have seen smaller ones made out of masonite. Some artists like to use an oversized clipboard. The board rests in your lap and leans against a table in front of you offering a nice parallel view of your work.

Whichever drawing surface you choose you will want one with smooth strait edge on one side which will be important for ruling the page.

Be sure that wherever you choose to work there is enough light. Many artists like a swing lamp that they can attach to the drawing table. I think it helps your eyes if you can mix fluorescent and incandescent light. Some swing lamps have both types of bulbs just for this reason. It is easy to compensate for the mixed lighting if you can’t find one of these lamps. If your ceiling light is fluorescent you may want an incandescent bulb in your lamp and visa versa.

Take a look at artist studio’s on the web and you will find that they are all very different and very personal. If you plan to be a successful comic artist, expect to spend a ton of time in this space so insure that it is comfortable, inviting, efficient and productive.

In the coming weeks I will look at other tools and techniques that are valuable tip to comic pencilers, please feel free to chime in with your own personal preferences. I think it can become a fun discussion.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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