About the Comic
A Question of Style
I had my characters and basic looks for them down, but I still needed to give them a bit more character, some uniqueness. It was a birthday present for my 21 st birthday that gave me the inspiration I needed. I received two books on cartooning (I have quite a few, unsurprisingly): one on drawing manga, the other on drawing in the “retro” style that has grown popular in such shows as Dexter’s Laboratory and Fairly Oddparents. It was here that it hit me: I should combine the two genres! I had created a new style: Manga + Retro = “Mango!” Loving the hilarious new name and the intriguing new style, I redrew all my characters, who previously looked more Manga-esque. Mango seemed to breathe new life into these characters, and I was inspired to create even more characters. These characters will be introduced in the future, so I’m not going to reveal any spoilers just yet!
The elements of both Retro- and Manga- style drawing are more apparent in some ways more than others. I made the characters fairly angular-looking, which is a commonly-used retro method. The angles are especially apparent in the characters’ musculature; you’ll note that Belt Boy and Titanium Maiden have somewhat block-shaped biceps, rather than round ones. I draw their hands in a retro style as well. Usually, the male characters’ hands are somewhat blocky, with flat fingertips, while the females’ are dainty and rounded when in a fist, and come to a point when open. Titanium Maiden’s catlike eyes, which seem to surpass the boarders of her face, are also based on the Retro style.
Manga influences are also seen in the comic in several places. Most of the characters are drawn with pointy, upturned noses reminiscent of the manga style. They also occasionally switch into a specific style of manga known as “super-deformed” or “chibi”, in which the characters have big heads and small, child-like bodies (such as in the middle panel of the ninth strip, in which Belt Boy swipes a book from Cannon. You can also see manga style clichés , such as large single sweatdrops to show fear or exasperation and red hatch lines to indicate blushing. And of course, there’s Belt Boy’s goggles, characteristic headwear of animé heroes.
Each style has its own clichés and characteristics. Thus, the combination of the two styles can create limitless possibilities. The characters’ mouths are somewhat versatile in that they switch between manga and retro styles. They can also use wild takes taken from both styles to express a wide range of emotions, whether it’s the exaggerated manga mouth which reaches to the edges of the chin, or the classic cartoon eye-sproing. And of course, the combination of the two gives the characters a style all their own.
Color Me Moody
I use a little something I like to call "mood coloring", in which the backgrounds change color from panel to panel. While sometimes I'll draw a fuller, more detailed background (Usually if the background has something of importance), more often I'll give each panel a different color depending on whatever strikes me as appropriate. I'll give sad panels a muted, gray color, and more cheerful panels a brighter color. Panels with angry characters would probably have red or orange backgrounds, while proud, determined characters would be set against a golden color. You get the idea. On occasion, I'll have a semblance of a more traditional background, but still use mood coloring. I might have a hallway with features such as lockers or doors all share one color scheme (Like different shades of blue) in one panel, and then the same hallway with another color scheme in the next. I feel that mood coloring adds a little extra "oomph" to getting characters' emotions across and adds some style.
I like to keep a "buffer" of about 3 comics (Meaning when I upload a comic to the website, I've already finished the three comics that come after it), which keeps me a week ahead of schedule. Since I do three comics a week, I finish each strip a week ahead of time.
I draw the entire comic in Macromedia Flash, because I can draw, edit, color, and letter the comic all in one easy place. WAY less complicated than having to scan drawings (And I suck at coloring things on paper). When I work in Flash, I use three layers that I work on. The first is what I call the "border layer", which is nothing but a big, long box. Since I try to make my comics long and thin so readers can just scroll down with their mouse wheels without needing to scroll side-to-side, I use this border to limit my maximum comic width. Over the border layer is what I call the "sketch layer", and over that is the "inking layer". These last two layers are what I do the actual work on.
Most comic artists sketch out their drawings on white paper with a light blue pencil, which doesn't come up in black-and-white photocopies. I, on the other hand, use the sketch layer. Using my Wacom tablet, I sketch out my comic on this layer using a hot pink paintbrush tool, because I almost never use this color when I begin coloring in my comic. Sometimes I'll use other colors when I have multiple sketched-out characters or objects overlapping each other, like if I were drawing a group of heroes dogpiling on top of a villain. In that case, I'd use a different color for each character or object so I don't get mixed up when I "ink" the comic (But I'll get to that step later).
While I'm sketching out the comic on the sketch layer, I'm simultaneously writing out the comic on the inking layer. Word balloons can take up a lot of room in panels, so I find myself playing with the layout on the sketch layer while I also play with the placing of text on the inking layer. During this step of the process, I also find myself toying with the wording of my comic if something just doesn't sound right.
Lastly is inking and coloring. Obviously, I'm not using any actual "ink", but what I AM doing is drawing all the outlines on the top layer. Occasionally I will deviate from how I drew things in the sketch layer if things don't look just right (Even in this penultimate step, I can play around with how the comic looks, thanks to the glorious "Undo" button). The coloring step is pretty self-explanatory.
After I've finished the comic, I copy/paste it into Microsoft Paint. Yes, MS Paint isn't TOTALLY useless. I'd tried simply exporting images from Flash, but - because I use multiple layers - the other layers were shown and it simply didn't look right. Copying/pasting is simply the easiest and most memory-efficient way for me, plus it still manages to look good. After I've saved the image, I put it on my site through Macromedia Dreamweaver, upload it, and bask in its awesomely awesome awesomeness.