Studio

Assignment list, compartive presentation of "how do I tell this story?" techniques, state-of-the-art production methods, a collection of templates and external resources.

Assignments

All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the designated date, unless otherwise noted. Late assignments and make-up work will be accepted up to one week after the due date for half credit. Assignments may not be submitted electronically, except by prior arrangement with the instructor. All writing assignments must be typed.

Getting to Know You

This is your first assignment, due within 48 hours of our first session. Send email to dsm@artofthecomicbook.com with a "CLASS - SEMESTER YEAR: YOUR NAME" subject line format (example: Creating a Comic Book (LALW415-01) SP 2022: Alex Toth), please answer the following:

  • What do you hope to get out of this class?
  • What is your experience with comics? Please include examples or websites if you've made or written about them.
  • Is your primary interest creating, teaching, or analyzing comics?
  • What is your major and/or career?
  • How did you hear about this class?
  • What type of stories are you most interested in telling?
  • What comics do you enjoy reading?
  • Who are your favorite creators?
  • Are you involved in any comics-related groups or activities?
  • Anything else about yourself that you want

My Day

Three pages of comics continuity (minimum). Write and draw a story of a personal event, either directly experienced or witnessed. Focus on personal details unique to you. Consider not being the protagonist.

  • Phase 1: Develop a story
  • Phase 2: Thumbnail + Research
  • Phase 3: Pencil + Lettering (Ames 3.5)
  • Phase 4: Inking
  • Phase 5: Sign-off

Folk Tale

Three pages of comics continuity. Write a full script in Microsoft Word. Do whatever it takes to make it your own (alternative time periods, personal details, experimental techniques, a "lost ending" approach, etc.) Provide research, setting + character notes.

Minimum requirements

  • Original art size 10.5" x 16"
  • Dialog/caption lettering Ames 3.5 at two-thirds scale
  • Minimum three pages of comics continuity (you can do more if you like)
  • Minimum average of four dialog/caption balloons per page

Script

Write a full script in Microsoft Word. Do whatever it takes to make it your own (alternative time periods, personal details, experimental techniques, a "lost ending" approach, etc.) Provide research, setting + character notes.

  • Phase 1: First draft
  • Phase 2: Second draft
  • Phase 3: Sign-off

Art

FOO

  • Phase 1: Thumbnails
  • Phase 2: Pencil art and lettering
  • Phase 3: Ink art and lettering
  • Phase 4: Sign-off

Your Story

Three pages of comics continuity, minimum (you can do more if you like). Create a story you want to show off to people outside of this class. Subject matter is entirely up to you: romantic, historical or political, personal or objective, a comedy or drama, for kids and/or for adults. Think of this as part of an anthology where I'm editor, art director and production manager. My primary purpose is editing for clarity and consistency; my secondary purpose your sounding board for ideas.

Pitch meeting

One-on-on 15-minute Zoom breakout room with me to pitch your idea. Bring any supporting documents (character drawings, visual ideas, reference material, etc.). With editorial approval, you should be able to start working on a first draft script.

Script

Based on feedback from the pitch meeting, plot and write a first draft script. Don't nail everything down since there'll be at least one round of revisions.

  • Phase 1: First draft
  • Phase 2: Second draft
  • Phase 3: Sign-off

Art

Beginning with thumbnails, draw and letter three pages of comic book continuity. Tightly follow the approved script while improvising for visual media. Use everything you've learned from comic book art history, dramatic use of camera angles, pacing, observation, and wit. Expect at least two rounds of editorial feedback. Letter and ink to completion.

  • Phase 1: Thumbnails
  • Phase 2: Pencil art and lettering
  • Phase 3: Ink art and lettering
  • Phase 4: Sign-off

Zip's Last Day

Three pages of comics continuity from a full script. Follow the script as tightly and creatively as possible.

  • Phase 1: Thumbnail + Research
  • Phase 2: Pencil + Lettering (Ames 3.5)
  • Phase 3: Inking
  • Phase 4: Sign-off

Marvel Method

Three pages of comics continuity. Collaborative assignment based on the Marvel Comics assembly line process.

Story Conference

Writers and artists team up to plot a new story. Each student will be the writer of one story and artist of another (if time allows, students will write, pencil, letter, and ink different stories). Students are paired as writer/artist teams for 20-minute brainstorming sessions to plot a story of any tone or genre. Don't worry about dialog, focus on visual elements. The artist should walk away with a brief synopsis of what to draw. At the end of the first session, students will be reassigned and paired with a different student. Writers become artists and vise versa. This new paring meets for their own 20-minute brainstorming session. Every student will be the artist of a story at the phase.

  • Phase 1: Team A Brainstorm
  • Phase 2: Team B Brainstorm
  • Phase 3: Homework - Everyone pencils all three pages loosely

Pencil Art

Thumbnail story from story conference notes. Take over the story, improvise and elaborate on whatever your writer didn't cover. Gather any additional photo and historical reference if needed. Focus on visual drama and storytelling. Anyone should be able to tell what's going on without the words. Leave room for writer to place word balloons and text. Use thumbnails as basis for making loose pencil art on full size paper, with just enough detail to distinguish characters and backgrounds (body language, facial expressions, furniture, etc.).

  • Thumbnail, pencil
  • Send pencils to writer

Script

Send your artist a letterer's script with indications of where the words should go. No lavish panel descriptions, just dialog, captions, and onomatopoeia for sound effects. Ingest the wordless art when seeing it for the first time, especially if the they improvised from what you agreed on in the story conference. Write dialog and captions in the form of a panel-by-panel letterer's script. Don't bother with descriptions, just the words. Label each balloon or caption with a number within each panel. Draw indications of where you want the words on copies of the art (scans if it's digital, over tracing paper on analog), using the corresponding numbers from your letterer's script. If this is a four-person team, send your letterer's script and marked-up art to your letterer. For two-person teams, send those assets back to your artist.

  • Write letterer's script
  • Mark up copies of art with lettering indications
  • Two-person team: send letterer's script and marked-up art to artist
  • Four-person team: send letterer's script and marked-up art to letterer

Lettering

Upon receving letterer's script and marked-up art, proceed to letter and border the final art in ink. Use the Ames 3.5 two-thirds setting for default dialog and captions. Improvise and embellish the more expressive lettering (titles, credits, sound effects, shout balloons, etc.). If this is a four-person team, send your lettered art to your assigned inker. For two-person teams, finish inking the art, scan and format to the Photoshop production file, create page TIFs of final art.

  • Letter and border in ink
  • Two-person team:
    • finish inking the art, finish Photoshop production
    • create page TIFs of final art
  • Four-person team:
    • send lettered art to your assigned inker

Inking

Working from the lettered and bordered pages, feel free to interpret and enhance the pencilled art with your personal inking style. Scan and format to the Photoshop production file, create page TIFs of final art.

  • Ink the art
  • finish Photoshop production
  • create page TIFs of final art

Production

While your work is traditional ink-on-paper, print media is exclusively produced with digital tools. Photoshop has been the industry-standard tool to this end for more than 20 years.

Make Raw Scans

To get each page done in one pass, you'll need a tabloid flatbed scanner. Resolution paramaters:

  • 400 ppi
  • 100%
  • Grayscale

Save each page as a TIF with the naming convention of YOURNAME-STORYNAME-PAGENUMBER (example "davidmarshall-zipslastday-01.tif")

Budget approximately 5 minutes to scan each page. For instance, scanning 20 pages took me 90 minutes.

The files will most likely be too large for email. Therefore, a long-term cost-savings tool is a portable USB hard drive. This one, for instance, holds 320 Gigabytes for $110.00.

Photoshop Production

  1. Save scan as Photoshop
  2. Trim and rotate (as needed)
  3. Retouch up with "Image/Adjustments/Levels"
  4. Scale to 60% at 400 ppi
  5. Save each page as YOURNAME-STORYNAME-PAGENUMBER
  6. Print, compare to original. Adjust if necessary.

Photoshop Format

  1. Copy scaled art, paste into "page-400ppi.psd"
  2. Convert from RGB to Grayscale
  3. Hide all other layers, Flatten image
  4. Save each page as YOURNAME-STORYNAME-PAGENUMBER

MassArt's Tabloid Scanner

Location: Tower T308 | Make/Model: Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL

Storytelling Process

Whether you're collaborating or working on your own, there's no one "correct" way of creating and developing a story. Here are just a few I've picked up over the years.

Full Script

Full scripts are organized by page with panel descriptions and "camera" angles. The writer is completely responsible for dialog, captions, SFX onomatopoeia, and story pacing.

  • Some writers begin with thumbnail sketches before typing anything. "Chicken scratch" drawings can help visualize "camera" angles, left-to-right speaking order, space for word balloons, and the like. These thumbnails are only tools for writing a script, and should never be given to the artist.
  • Writing just panel descriptions and dialog -- without page numbers and panel indications -- is an alternative approach that lets the artist pace the story.

Page Builder

Create each page one at a time in one uninterrupted session, without an outline, script, layout, page count, or overall plan in mind.

Design Method

  • Artist or writer makes a page layout
  • Artist fits the story into this page layout, accounting for writing and art

Harvey Kurtzman Method

  • Writer creates thumbnails with final script
  • Artist follows the thumbnails

EC Method

  • Writer writes a tight plot
  • Artist breaks plot down into pages/panels
  • Writer writes script based on artist breakdown
  • Letterer letters and borders the pages
  • Artist draws on the pre-formatted pages

The Post-It Method

Create panels in isolation, organize them into groups for pages, which you'll eventually organize into a multi-page comic book story.

Create panels on individual Post-It sheets

Content can be art (static or sequences), words (notes, descriptions, dialog) or any combination thereof. Don't worry the number of panels. You should be creating moments freely, without getting distracted by visual expression (camera angles, lettering placement, page design, etc.). You could have 10 or 100 panels, maybe more.

Organize panels into groups of pages

Don't worry about visual design yet. Five or six panels per page is a good starting point, but don't stick to that for every page. Some might have only one or two panels, others might need nine or 12...maybe more! Let the events of your story breath. Feel free to to recorder panels for dramatic effect! Adjust for page count if needed.

Design your pages

Create thumbnails based on the Post-It phase. This is when you figure out page layout, camera angles, and lettering placement. The size and position will be a guide for what to write.

Write a full script

Use thumbnails as a guide for page groupings (and panel descriptions if you're the writer). Get specific with dialog, captions, and SFX onomatopoeia.

Marvel Method

Three pages of comics continuity. Collaborative assignment based on the Marvel Comics assembly line process. Writer and artist create a plot synopsis, from which the artist pencils the entire story without words. Writer then adds copy to the pencil art.

Story Conference

Writers and artists team up to plot a new story. Each student will be the writer of one story and artist of another (if time allows, students will write, pencil, letter, and ink different stories). Students are paired as writer/artist teams for 20-minute brainstorming sessions to create a plot synopsis. Don't worry about dialog, focus on visual elements. The artist should walk away knowing what to draw. At the end of the first session, students will be reassigned and paired with a different student. Writers become artists and vise versa. This new paring meets for their own 20-minute brainstorming session. Every student will be the artist of a story at the phase.

  • Phase 1: Team A Brainstorm
  • Phase 2: Team B Brainstorm
  • Phase 3: Everyone: loosely pencil all three pages

Pencil Art

Artists pencil the story on full size paper. Take over the story, improvise and elaborate on whatever isn't covered in the plot synopsis. Gather any additional reference if needed. Focus on visual drama and storytelling. Anyone should be able to tell what's going on without the words. Leave room for writer to place word balloons and text.

  • Phase 1: Thumbnail, pencil
  • Phase 2: Send pencils to writer

Script

Writers should study the art when seeing it for the first time, especially if the artist improvised from the plot synopsis. Send artist a letterer's script with indications of where the words should go. No lavish panel descriptions, just dialog, captions, and onomatopoeia for sound effects. Write dialog and captions in the form of a panel-by-panel letterer's script. Don't bother with descriptions, just the words. Label each balloon or caption with a number within each panel. Draw indications of where you want the words on copies of the art (scans if it's digital, over tracing paper on analog), using the corresponding numbers from your letterer's script. If this is a four-person team, send your letterer's script and marked-up art to your letterer. For two-person teams, send those assets back to your artist.

  • Write letterer's script
  • Mark up copies of art with lettering indications
  • Two-person team: send letterer's script and marked-up art to artist
  • Four-person team: send letterer's script and marked-up art to letterer

Lettering

Upon receving letterer's script and marked-up art, proceed to letter and border the final art in ink. Use the Ames 3.5 two-thirds setting for default dialog and captions. Improvise and embellish the more expressive lettering (titles, credits, sound effects, shout balloons, etc.). If this is a four-person team, send your lettered art to your assigned inker. For two-person teams, finish inking the art, scan and format to the Photoshop production file, create page TIFs of final art.

  • Letter and border in ink
  • Two-person team:
    • finish inking the art, finish Photoshop production
    • create page TIFs of final art
  • Four-person team:
    • send lettered art to your assigned inker

Inking

Working from the lettered and bordered pages, feel free to interpret and enhance the pencilled art with your personal inking style. Scan and format to the Photoshop production file, create page TIFs of final art.

  • Ink the art
  • finish Photoshop production
  • create page TIFs of final art

Art Supplies

Drawing Tools

Technical Tools

Required Computer Supplies

  • Access to Tabloid Scanner
  • Adobe Photoshop or similar (scan editing)
  • Microsoft Word or similar (script writing)
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro or similar (make PDFs)

Helpers

Production template

Photoshop production template of a mainstream American standard comic book, accounting for bleed, trim, and live area. Essential for formatting final art.

Comics presentation

An all-too-brief Powerpoint on comics art history, and its relation to technology and commerce

Art of the Comic Book media demos

Step-by-step original video demonstrations of ink and drafting tool related to comics, filmed in my classic "one shot, one take" style. Also included are media techniques and interviews from legendary artists, including John Buscema, Moebius, Trina Robbins, and more!