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|SF/espionage and adventure... Genjiro Nakadai thinks he's found the perfect job, when he volunteers for the Special Forces, an elite division of the Greater Union Army of Exedra. The recruiter's promise of adventure and high pay sours, when Genjiro finds out what the job really is. By then, it's too late to back out. As he falls deeper into intrigue and danger, the likelihood of getting his own life back dwindles. Updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.|
|(NOTE: This comic is not for children; it contains graphic violence, strong language and occasional nudity.)|
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|ShadowFall Cast | ShadowFall Worlds | The Making of ShadowFall | Latest ShadowFall Comic|
The Making of ShadowFall
Some folks have asked me what materials I use for drawing "ShadowFall." Until 29 June, 2001, I used no ink, only pencils. I now use a number 4 sable brush and Gillott pen nib for the black hair, but nowhere else. (This doesn't save any time, but it saves a lot of wear and tear on my overworked drawing hand!) I use either Winsor & Newton waterproof india ink, or Speedball Super Black india ink. The steps I follow are still the same, though. I add Photoshop special effects, after scanning, and also do the panel borders, word balloons and lettering in Photoshop. The entire process, from thumbnail sketch to completed digital file, takes me anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete. This does not include writing time! The time requirement is the main reason I can only produce 3 pages of "ShadowFall," per week.|
As for drawing tools, right now, I'm using smooth surface Bristol paper, cut to 12 x 17 inches, with an image area of 10 x 15 inches. This size is standard for the U.S. comic book industry. I also use a variety of pencils for the linework and shading: B or HB mechanicals for dark, sharp lines; 2H for medium shading; 4H for very light shading; and occasionally, an ebony for soft dark shadows. I used to use 5H mechanical leads for very sharp linework, and while they look great and stay cleaner on paper, they don't transfer well through the scanner. You can see this in the early pages of "Into the Abyss;" the lines are much lighter than those in the later pages. The mechanicals in B or HB seem to work best for the linework.
"ShadowFall" started out as a novel series, and I'm drawing "Into the Abyss" from the first book. However, not everything in the novel translates well into comic book form. Therefore, the comic is slightly different from the prose work. Genjiro et al have been with me for 20 years, now, but this is the first time they've appeared in comic book form. If you'd like, you can check out some excerpts from the other two "ShadowFall" books (and one comic book series script) in the fiction section. Some of these may be available in illustrated eBook format, later, and all will eventually make it into comic format.
That being said, here are the steps I follow to draw a pencil-only ShadowFall page (I'll add one with inking stuff, later). Click on any of the thumbnail images, below, to see it at full size (600 x 900 pixels at 72 dpi). There is no larger image for the first thumbnail thumbnail, because it is at actual size. The images will appear in a new window. Just close it, when you're done.
|The first thing I do (after the script breakdown, of course) is layout my page in a thumbnail. These are tiny: about 2 inches tall and 1 inch wide. I usually do these on the same piece of paper that I used to break down the script for that page. (I break the script down into individual panels, before I start drawing, so I know exactly where I'm headed, when I sit down at the drawing table.)|
|Step two moves us to the Bristol board. After drawing the panel borders, I lightly sketch out the characters and limited background stuff as guides for size and placement.|
|Next, I begin the finishing stage. This is where I tighten up my sketchy drawings and add background details and shading. I finish each panel, completely, before moving on to the next. This keeps me from smearing the graphite over already finished areas.|
|This page is almost completely finished, and I've gone ahead and tightened up the characters in the last panel. I occasionally do that on the last panel of a page, to give my hand a rest from the heavy shading of the previous panels.|
|Now that the actual drawing is finished, I move my work to the Mac. I scan in the artwork in three sections, with the scanner set to greyscale mode at 600 dpi and Gamma 1.2. The gamma setting helps to correct for my Mac's excessively bright monitor display. You can see in this sample that I've added panel borders, gradients and fills to the artwork. I also fill the gutters between the borders with white, so any pencil lines that spill over the borders will be covered (I put the artwork on the lowest layers and multiply all the layers above them, except for text and border layers). All of this is done in PhotoShop. Sometimes I use multiple gradients within a single panel, as in the first and third panels on the sample. There's a gradient at 35% grey on the background room, within the door frame, and another at 65% grey on the wall behind the foreground characters. Generally, I gradient fill the whole panel, then erase the parts I don't need.|
|I finish the PhotoShop work by adding onomatopeia (sound effects), dialogue and word balloons. I make the word balloons in Photoshop by using the ellipse tool to create the desired oval or round shape, filling it with the same grey that I use for text and borders, then contracting the selection by two pixels and filling that with white. I use either the line tool or paintbrush to create the balloon's "tail," with those tools set to 2 pixels width. Then I fill that with white. For the text, I like to use Witzworx, and have started making all my regular dialogue 11 points with 14 point leading, and 1 point spacing. All the borders and balloons and text are anti-aliased, so their edges will look smooth onscreen. (Series two breaks from the grey borders and text, and goes to straight black, instead, as well as a new font, Zud Juice, from Blambot fonts.)|
Once all that is done, I flatten the image and save it as a high-quality PICT file, then open it in Graphic Converter for the final save. I do this because Graphic Converter gives me more control over the size of the final JPEG file than PhotoShop 4 does. I can get a much higher quality image at a lower file size. I save all of the ShadowFall pages at level 50 JPEG in Graphic Converter, and they average 50-80K each. The same level file in PhotoShop can top 115K, which is a waste of bandwidth, IMHO.
I suppose I should add a bit about my artistic influences, now that the step-by-step is done. Contrary to what a lot of readers assume, I've not been much influenced by Japanese manga and anime; most of my cartoon exposure came from the Hanna-Barbera cartoons shown on U.S. television in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as "Jonny Quest," "Scooby Doo," "Space Ghost," and others. I didn't read American comic books, until I was in my 20s, and didn't read a real manga until I was 27, by which time my artistic style was already well developed. The places where I have been influenced by manga are in the framing of my panels and the pacing of my pages. Here, I have been particularly impressed by the works of Masamune Shirow ("Ghost in the Shell;" "Dominion/Tank Police"), Ryoichi Ikegami ("Sanctuary"), and Hiroaki Samura ("Blade of the Immortal"). I also consider Rumiko Takahashi ("Ranma 1/2;" "Urusei Yatsura;" "Mermaid Scar") to be one of the finest storytellers in comics, Japanese or western, though I can't honestly say she has influenced me, much.
Which leads me to prose influences, and there are many of these. In the science fiction/fantasy genre, first on my list of early influences would be C. J. Cherryh ("Heavy Time;" "Rimrunners;" the "Morgaine" stories), Frank Herbert ("Dune"), Marion Zimmer Bradley ("The Mists of Avalon"), Parke Godwin ("Waiting for the Galactic Bus;" "Beloved Exile" and other Arthurian tales), Terry Pratchett ("Diskworld" series), and Orson Scott Card (though I prefer his short stories to his novels). In the espionage genre, far and away, my favorite author is John LeCarre ("The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"). I've also read a bit of Tom Clancy ("Hunt for Red October;" "Debt of Honor"), but was never overly impressed with his characterizations or his writing "voice." His plots, though, are superb, and I've tried to learn a bit from him, in that arena. That's about all the genre reading I do; the rest of my prose influence comes from more literary works, such as Junichiro Tanizaki ("A Cat, Shozo, and Two Women;" "The Marioka Sisters"), as well as many of the classic writers of the west, such as Dickens, Marlowe, O'Neil, and Hemingway, to name but a few.
I've also been heavily influenced by motion pictures, of many nationalities. I'm particularly fond of American film noir, and love not only the usual Hitchcockian suspects, but also almost anything which stars Peter Lorre or Basil Rathbone. One of my favorite films is "North By Northwest;" it's so well done, that I never tire of watching it. I love "The Thin Man" series, films so magnificently written that they shame most of the big-budget crap that's produced, today. I love silent films, from the sorrowfully beautiful "Broken Blossoms," to the swashbuckling majesty of "The Black Pirate." I love Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, almost all the comedians of the 20s and 30s. I love the moving poetry of Jean Cocteau, and the fine stories and characterizations of Akira Kurosawa. So many movies I've loved, yet so few from my own time! And all of them have influenced me far more than any other comics work has done. I've often thought that if I had a choice between making movies and making comics, I'd make movies. Unfortunately, making movies takes a lot more money and "people connections" than I've ever had, so I've done the next best thing.
Well, that's about it. I hope you've enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. A lot of work goes into making comics, whether they're for print or digital publication. The writing is every bit as difficult and time-consuming as the artwork, and also just as important. Too bad I can't show you the endless hours I've spent scribbling on notebook paper, typing away on the Mac, or staring into space trying to think of the best way to say something. But then, that would be a pretty boring picture, wouldn't it? This stuff is like a complete full-time job, in itself, but few jobs give workers this much satisfaction.
|Copyright 1999-2008 Kaichi Satake. All rights reserved.|