T Bubs 2016

That’s right: Thought Bubble Comic Con is this weekend! After missing out on last year’s show, I’m overjoyed to be tabling in the Marquee at table 61 with my man Ryan O’Sullivan.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-16-21-33 Be sure to swing on by for a copy of his wonderful book Turncoat, and while you’re at it, please have a look at my pretty things as well, including Karma Police, Drones, and the last remaining copies of Mixmancer. I’ll be offering special deals, free trading cards, illegible autographs, snarky asides, longing glances, and emotional connections.

Come say hi.

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Let’s talk lettering – with Nic J. Shaw

Last week I had the pleasure of talking shop with Karma Police collaborators Tony Gregori and Jasen Smith, and now I’m excited to bring you some more tasty tidbits relating to what went into this karmic sausage we all love. Today’s topic – lettering – something that always fascinates me, even though it’s unfortunately left out of many discussions regarding this whole comics thing. So here goes my second attempt at an interview – this time with Karma Police letterer extraordinaire Nic J. Shaw!

Chris Lewis: What was the most complicated page to letter, and how did you solve it?

Nic Shaw: Page 17 from Issue 3 was a challenging page. While there’s isn’t a tonne of dialogue, there’s a lot of important character placement that leads into the next page. So the reader needs to know where characters are in the scene, which means I couldn’t cover ‘em up. Which doesn’t leave me too much room for balloons. And then on top of that, the first speaker in panel 2 is on the right, which instantly makes a panel harder. This lead to a bit of back and forth with the team, and I think we ended up with 4 or 5 different versions of the first 2 panels. Thankfully we’re a collaborative team, and we found what I think is pretty great solution.

Karma Police issue #3, page 17

CL: I love the letters on page 3 of issue #2. The placement just flows down the center of the page like a waterfall, gently leading the eye from one panel to the next. What was your favorite page to letter?

NS: Pages like Pg03 of Is02 are always complicated. Looking at the page, you’re drawn to the empty space, and that’s where you’re naturally inclined to place a balloon. But as a letterer, first and foremost, your job is to lead the reader’s eye. And while I’ve done that well here, I have broken panel borders in a few odd ways to get that flow correct. But it works here.

Karma Police issue #2 page 3

As for my favourite page, it’s hard to pick just one. My favourite pages are the ones where I need to fit a tonne of dialogue into a small space. It’s a challenging puzzle that only a letterer could work out, and I love that. Page 9 of Issue 1, panel 2 and 3 were stand-outs. Masking Jack’s balloon as she and Dorje walk away from a happy client came out nicely.

Karma Police issue #1, page 9

CL: Issue #2, page 7, panel 4 got some really nice compliments on social media. What went into the creation of the “El Superlativo” balloon?

NS: Originally I just had a regular balloon in there, but it didn’t sell that panel as well as it could’ve. So I built on Toni’s love hearts. I traced the love hearts in Illustrator, and then layered together a fun, bouncy balloon. Then I eye-dropped Jasen’s colours onto the hearts, letters, and balloon stroke; and voila! It’s a nice little throwback to Jack Morelli’s lettering in Archie. Actually not even a throwback, he’s still killing it with Waid and Staples.

Karma Police #2, page 7

CL: You created some beautiful caption boxes that really fit the tone of the book. They resemble torn pages from some kind of ancient religious tome. For somebody who doesn’t have a clue how this is done (not naming names here), can you go into the process of how to make something like this?

NS: Originally I wanted to use scrolls for the lettering, but they were a little too ‘busy’ for Toni’s art, so I cut them down to a torn page look. There’s a few ways to create that look or similar. I created a box in illustrator, then using the pen tool took ‘tears’ out of it, then I used a custom stroke to give the lines some varying weight.

Karma Police issue #1, page 1

CL: One of my favorite things about having you on board is the design sense you bring to the additional material, such as the inner front covers, back matter, bonus material, etc. Let’s start with the “Design Covers” you created to tease the release dates on Comixology – what was your inspiration here?

NS: I find minimalist design really challenging; so to counter-balance Toni’s wonderful and busy art I wanted to see if I could create some minimalist “b” covers for the series. I felt the light and calm design would also go hand in hand with some of the Buddhist teachings that Karma Police touches on.

The “X” on the cover was something that struck late at night. I wanted to use a really simple Buddhist symbol, but they’re all quite detailed, and they just didn’t fall well on the centre of the page. So I broke down each symbol into its simplest form. The Svastika, Buddha with his arms in prayer position and his legs crossed, the intertwined fish, the Dharma Wheel, the Lotus, and the Eternal Knot, broken down have some similar points that create an “X” — It’s one of those things that no one else will ever see except those in the know…

KP_DesignCover_01

CL: As we’ve discussed in a few other interviews, we decided to change the coloring approach halfway through issue #1. Did that make you reconsider your how you wanted to letter the book?

NS: Colouring will usually only affect captions and SFX. Toni handles most of the SFX in KP and my captions fit with both color styles. So it didn’t make a difference to my work.

CL: Tony would sometimes draw the sound effects that I included in the scripts. In my experience, this has usually been something the letterer would take on. How do you feel sharing SFX duties with the artist? Would you prefer a different method?

NS: I’m either all or nothing on this point. If the artist is going to handle the SFX, handle ALL the SFX. If I have to try match an artist’s work, my job just get’s harder. Not that I mind it, creating brushes in Manga Studio and Photoshop is fun. But it can get tiresome.

On the other hand, I love building SFX, so let me do ‘em if you got ‘em.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you’ve got an explosion, and the writer wants a giant “BOOM!” Across the page, and the artist wants to use a lot of exploding debris, they’re better off doing the SFX I feel. They know the perspective and composition of the page better than I will. And it saves me half an hour of masking little bricks and mortar.

CL: I know I can sometimes be wordy in my scripts, even if I always try to shorten any dialogue to make it fit with the final artwork. What is the number one piece of advice you like to give to writers and artists in order to make your life easier?

NS: “Sometimes” good one.
There’s 2, and used in combination it’s hard to go wrong.
Writers: Maximum 25 words per balloon, Maximum 3 balloons per full page width panel on a 5 panel page. Artists: Leave the top 20 – 25 % of the panel for lettering.

 

Thanks so much to Nic for being such a good guy, even if he called me wordy. And please pick up the brand new Image title The Fix, lettered by Nic, written by Nick Spencer, with art by Steve Lieber. It’s out in two days (April 6), and you should own this.

For all of you attending ECCC in Seattle, Tony and I will be at table T-05 in Artists Alley with copies of Karma Police. Come by, say hi, and don’t be surprised if I’m not entirely wordy in person!

If you can’t attend the show, or if you prefer your comics to be of the digital variety, Karma Police is available right here via Comixology.

Peace,

Chris

 

 

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An interview with team Karma Police

Hello gentle readers!

Even after all the great reviews we’ve received and inspiring interviews we’ve done over the last month, I still feel an irrepressible urge to talk more Karma Police. There is just so much good stuff that goes on behind the scenes here at KP central, and while I’d like to ramble on about my inspirations for the series or delve into how time is perceived in a particular 16-panel page, I realize that the main attraction here is the amazing creative team that put this thing together.

With that in mind, I decided to reach out and interview artist Tony Gregori and colorist Jasen Smith in the hopes of learning more about their creative process, what it takes to work as a team, and whether or not they hated me for one specific page in issue #3 (hint: they did just a little). Let’s get to it…

Karma Police #1 - Cover

When did you guys first start working together, and when did you realize that you made a good team?

Tony Gregori - I think we started working together on Michael Sarrao’s Unmasked, before then Tim Daniel and I tried getting him to work on a book with us called Throwback but we weren’t able to work it out. I was a fan of his work from afar, I saw some stuff he did with John Broglia and I really loved the vibrancy of his work, it is very unique. I think we are a natural fit, have a lot of the same sensibilities ,and we understand each other pretty well. We’re close friends now, he’s one of the few people I confide in, so when there’s an obstacle we’re able to talk it out and get to the bottom of it.

Jasen Smith – Yeah, the first thing was Unmasked and then Armada X. Michael Sarrao brought us together to work on those two books. Then we were crossing paths again and again from other guys wanting to pitches and short stories. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how I wanted to color Tony’s work. He’s got a mixed bag, detailed backgrounds, simple characters. It’s like Mignola mixed with Sean Gordon Murphy.

 

We have already talked with a few people about the decision we made to change the coloring style on Karma Police. Do either of you have any regrets that we abandoned the original style? What is it about the second style that works so well?

KP #1, page 3 - before and after

TG - I liked the old style initially, but after getting in the new pages from Jasen, I was in love. It fit the book perfectly, simple yet creative and beautiful. It just grabs your attention, and it’s consistent. I have no regrets, except that we didn’t get to it sooner.

JS – I wasn’t positive on the first round of colors. I think I was more concerned about mimicking other people’s style to try and get it to work. For it just wasn’t working, not a fan of the soft airbrushed look with heavy textures. I’m more a fan of the simplistic look. Something you’d see in cartoons or what Stewart did on Hellboy. Tony and I had worked on a short for a book called, “Imaginary Drugs” and in it I did a cell shaded style and loved how it looked. I didn’t add any effects to it, and did a bunch of color-holds. I really dug how that style looked and when an editor asked us to change to a simpler look, I knew more of what I wanted to do.

 

To my constant delight you both went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected in terms of speed, quality and dedication to the project. Is that just how you roll?

TG - Yep.

JS - We know each other pretty well, despite living several miles away and never meeting face to face. It’s like a long distance relationship sometimes. But I think we hit our stride with Karma Police. Before, it was really about finding how to fit these two pieces of a puzzle together and now those two final pieces are together to create a work of art.

 

Jasen: could you choose one page of Tony’s work that really inspired you, and give us a rundown on how you made your coloring decisions?

JS - Could I pick one of my kids as my favorite? I’ve colored for a lot of different people in a lot of different styles. When I started working for Hi-Fi Color it was like being thrown into a battlefield of guys who have been fighting since the start of a war. There I am, not sure how to even load my gun. But in those situations you either give up and quit or you struggle and become better. I chose the latter and since then have learned so much more. I thought I reached my peak on coloring years ago, coloring a page that took only 8 hours was what I thought was my best. Now, those same pages take 2 hours and look much better.
There isn’t a favorite page of mine in Tony’s work, I like to compliment the artist, it’s my job to compliment his/her and not overshadow. There are pages that are so detailed that I question if he hates me though.

 

Tony: was there a page where you and Jasen had difficulties coming to an agreement on the final colors? What made that page such a challenge?

TG -To be honest, not really. There are sequences that we debated over, the opening to issue 4 was a source of contention for a day or so, but we came to an agreement. He wanted to start off at Defcon 5, but I knew that we’d get there eventually and wanted to It’s been a great learning process for me, listening to Jasen’s ideas, juxtaposing them against what I had in my mind for the page, and finding a common ground. I’m just proud and lucky that I get to work with him and call him my friend. He’s tireless, dedicated, and talented. And he has a great head of hair.

 

Okay, I’m going to have to dig a bit deeper here. Can you tell me what went into creating the massive double-page in issue #2?

KP #2, pages 12-13

TG- There wasn’t a description of the Grove in the script, if I remember correctly. You just kinda told me to go nuts. So I did some research and decided upon the Buddhist Wheel of Life as an archetype and went from there. It’s supposed to represent the wheel of cyclical existence, so I drew it in order from top to bottom. Starting off with individual souls that descend into birth on another plane, with some cities and landscapes, then some cataclysms recycling through a cycloptic deity’s hands into another plane of being, which in turn cycle back up to continue the process. I mapped it out, diagrammed it, and wrote an index for Jasen. I was visiting my parents in Florida at the time, so one night while they were asleep, I cleared off the kitchen table and drew it. Then Jasen and I went back and forth for a day or so as he colored it, figuring out what everything should look like. I think we did a decent job!

JS - I was both looking to and dreading those pages. There are so many details and it’s so massive, and it’s my job to help bring it together without making it confusing. I spent a lot longer on those pages than any others in the series. Tony had a specific way he wanted it to look and I got as close as possible to that.
When I was all done with the colors, I didn’t feel like it had enough depth, so I copied some of his clouds and blurred them a bit to push that depth a bit more.

 

Also, do both of you guys hate me for issue 3, page 14?

KP #3, page 14

TG- That was a little tedious, but I liked doing it, to be honest. I had to redraw it, initially I had less details on the BHLs in the bg, and realized they needed more work, so I scrapped it after I was ½ done with it and started over from scratch. I was kind of hating myself at that point for not thinking it through before I started.

JS - It took so long to flat and color that page. Hate is a strong word and when I was done with page 14 I sighed in relief. Until I saw the next page which had just as many details. When it’s all said and done, those pages look great and stand out I think.

 

Yep, this is definitely true. Tony and Jasen are my main men, and if you want to see more of their magic, please consider backing the Karma Police Kickstarter in the next HOURS, as time is running out!

Peace,

Chris

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Download a free 24-page comic!

I’m giving away digital copies of my 24-page sci-fi hip-hop comic MIXMANCER to all those who sign up to my newsletter. Simply click here to receive the greatest remix comic of all time!

BUY NOW!

MIXMANCER is a 24-page one-shot about a superhero DJ who hunts down a memoir-gone-wrong to a local bookstore. There, he must remix pop-culture in order to fight cultural stagnation, an extra-dimensional thought-virus, spiky pink tentacles, and self-help fundamentalists! Can the combined power of the Beach Boys and Full Metal Jacket help save the day, or will DJ be consumed by the forces of mediocrity? Sign up for the newsletter and find out!

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The Lost Pages

Hey folks,

With the Karma Police Kickstarter in full swing, I want to take you groovy people behind the scenes to show you the sacrifices the creative team was willing to make in order for this book to be as spiritually bad ass as possible.

Sacrifices in the form of beautiful artwork that ended up on the cutting room floor. Let’s take a look at some original pages from issue one, starting here with page 6:

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 09.36.19

I loved this introduction of the Karma Grove monastery and our main monks. But something wasn’t working.

Take a look at panel 2. Jack, our main character, is looking off to the side, disinterested in the conversation. This is what I called for in the script, but I ended up changing Jack a bit to make her more accessible. I felt she should be facing the reader while Dorje (the older gentleman monk) explains to the mother the mission of the Karma Grove. The biggest difference between the original page and the final, however, is the reveal of poor little Suzie’s inner demon. Showing the demon here raised the tension, but we buried it on the following page, only to bring it up again on page 8. It  also caused a bit of confusion whether or not the mother could see the demon (she wasn’t supposed to), and if so, why she didn’t react to it. As always, avoiding confusion is a good thing.

KPPG7_ColorsThis page is so good, it hurts me to even look at it. Tony’s layout and panel choices are brilliant – the way that round panel 2 just pops out at the reader – and Jason’s colors are so warm and pleasant. (We ended up going for a completely different coloring scheme, which I’ll get into in a later post.) Here in the last panel you see the ratcheting up of the tension, as we realize that Suzie’s little demon is about to pop out again once Dorje removes her binky. Bad move, monk, but once again I felt we had already lost some of the tension since the reveal on the previous page, and wasn’t too sure that this panel was going to be able to bring it back up to 10. Love the look on her face, though!

 

KPPG8_Colors

And it’s on – monk vs. demon baby – the fight the world has been waiting for! Here Jack was serving tea while pontificating about the peaceful nature of the Karma Grove, while master Dorje was kicking a little girl in the face. It still makes me laugh. The problem was, our main character was still passive. I wanted to get her off of tea duties and into the action.

As difficult as it was, we made the decision to scrap these pages and do something different. Of course it’s better to realize these things before starting production, but sometimes the story develops in ways you hadn’t foreseen. We are extremely happy with the way things turned out, though. Here you go:

KP_PG6_Colors.jpg

KP_PG7_Colors.jpgKP_PG8_Colors.jpg

Aren’t these pages lovely? A new pacing, new color scheme, and just as much demon baby. Now with more yak milk.

So it’s a happy ending after all.

Thanks for listening. If you want to receive your own copy of the book in digital or print format, please head over to the Kickstarter page and consider throwing some financial support our way. We appreciate all the help!

Peace

 

 

 

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Karma Police – the trailer is here

Karma Police, by Chris Lewis, Tony Gregori, Jasen Smith, and Nic J. Shaw. Trailer created by Jasen Smith.

Now on Kickstarter.

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KARMA POLICE: preview

Here are the first 9 pages of KARMA POLICE, issue 1. Story by Chris Lewis, art by Tony Gregori, colors by Jasen Smith, letters by Nic J. Shaw.

KarmaPolice001_page1 KarmaPolice001_page2 KarmaPolice001_page3 KarmaPolice001_page4 KarmaPolice001_page5 KarmaPolice001_page6 KarmaPolice001_page7 KarmaPolice001_page8 KarmaPolice001_page9Issues 1 and 2 available on Comixology. Kickstarter coming soon!

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Karma Police

New year, new post, new book, that’s all.

KP_DesignCover_01

Karma Police #1. Radness with Tony Gregori, Jasen Smith, and Nic J. Shaw. Published by Comics Experience. Available tomorrow on Comixology.

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Confidential

To celebrate the release of DRONES #2, I’ve decided to share this previously confidential Battle Damage Assessment of the strike in issue #1. Please don’t let this sensitive information fall into the wrong hands.

DRONES-01-ltrd-page-31

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So this is out there in the world now

Drones is published by Comics Experience and IDW. It is available NOW at your local comic shop, or digitally via Comixology. Meh-he-he.

DRONES 01 frontcover

 

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