Friday, May 29, 2009

Feedback from the Jazzy One

I recently found my notes from when, years ago, I had then-Marvel Art Director and personal hero John Romita , Sr. critique my stuff. His comments are a valuable list of things to remember in drawing comics, and expecially relevant for those who, like me, have struggled with stiffness in the figures and achieving a Marvel-ready level of dynamism.

This stuff is golden:
  • Twist hips, shoulders
  • Avoid parallel lines (it hurts the design of your page)
  • Figures in groups: Vary angles (of bodily attitudes and body parts)
  • Vary poses, gestures within the group to avoid repetition
  • Order large groups into subgroups and vary the spacing between those subgroups
  • Look at how old pros handle groups
  • Open mouths of speaking characters more (This one is more specific to me)
  • Can't over-do the deep perspectives in BGs (so more 1-point persp?)
  • Avoid the sleepwalking, antiseptic, talking-heads look--more acting!
  • Push the expressions--boost emotion with dramatic lighting like split lighting
  • Take poses to greater extremes! Easier for Raiders (art correction team) to tone down excesses than to add excitement where none exists (Romita stood then to show how, when one really leaned into a simple pointing pose, the arm came out of the sleeve a few inches farther!)
  • Keep a little "air" around figures in action--Don't pin them near borders (esp. don't put figure outlines parallel to nearby panel borders)
  • Remember to spot room for balloons
  • Keep individual characters' faces more consistent as to features (e.g., nose long/short), young-looking/old-looking
  • Keeping individual characters' reactions internally consistent will make the characters live in peoples' minds--making story overwhelm art in readers' mind--which you want!

In this last one, Romita was deeply influenced by Milton Caniff's classic adventure strip Terry and the Pirates, wherein the characters were superbly individuated and true to their own natures--that is, consistent, yet without being predictable. This helped Romita make the Spider-Man cast very human for his readers.

Thanks, Mr. Romita, for sharing your knowledge and undimmed enthusiasm for comics!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Portfolio Game, Part 1

It's easy to be nervous about presenting your portfolio to an editor or another artist at a comic book convention. It's easy to delay it, in the mistaken belief that a lot is hanging on this one early incarnation of your portfolio. It's not so. The first convention at which you show your portfolio is the beginning of a process, it's not the whole game. You will very likely not walk up to an editor, wink, say, "Have I got a style for you" and blow him away. Not at the first con and probably not the fifth.

For now, just pick the very best pages you have. The ones that you don't feel you have to make excuses for or explain anything about. Maybe that's just three pages now. That's fine. Your job is not to convince an editor that you are already the artist you secretly hope to be. You need to make the most favorable representation of where you are in your growth now.

Right now, you can only be as good as you are right now. You are accountable for nothing more. Don't wait for inspiration to strike so you can finish that really great page you know you have within you. It'll come out some day. For now, the most important thing is that you get the process started.

Be clear on this: You will only show editors pages with storytelling. No pin-ups, no covers. I should retype this ten times because people always seem to dream up reasons why they should show some single drawing. Don't! Story pages only!

If you are demonstrating inking, make sure that you have xeroxes of the original pencils. It's much better if these are not your pencils, but those of a professional. If you know a comic book artist, ask him or her if you could make copies of some xeroxes of their pencils and others'. All artists have some. You can ink these on one-ply bristol on a light box, with a duplicate on hand to refer to. Or you can scan them and print them out in blue ink onto two-ply bristol on a large format ink-jet printer. Again, have a copy on hand to refer to.