The conclusion to the bone-splitting, chaw-chewing, mutant construction worker mini-series, coming soon to Kickstarter!
Category Archives: comics
BORN TO BUILD, DESTINED TO DEMOLISH!
I wanted to share with you a book I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s called MITCH HAMMER, and it looks like this:
As you can probably surmise by the cover, it’s about a construction worker who runs afoul of science gone wrong at the local community college. That means big monsters. Oh, and there’s also the militant wing of the National Blood Clot association. It’s silly fun with a splash of NEXTWAVE, flaunting its girth in the manner of SHIRTLESS BEAR FIGHTER.
The reason it has taken me so long to release this into the wild, is that, while I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done, and while this creative team deserves EXTREMELY LARGE MOUNDS of praise, I’ve been quite nervous about how it will be received. On the surface it looks like a bigdumbaction comic, and though we do have copious amounts of slugging, there’s an emotional heart waiting to be uncovered. But will people take a chance on a book about construction workers? Blue collar action doesn’t exactly scream out BUY ME!
But the truth is, I’ve owned a hardhat and steel-toed boots, and once know how to use a jackhammer. (I even put that on my resume, much to the amusement of my girlfriend at the time.) I’ve worked among and grown up around these people*. I’ve got welders, and sheet rock layers among my immediate family. They are hard-working, beer-guzzling guys and gals who don’t know Cormac McCarthy from a hole in the wall, but for the most part they are down-to-earth heroes who never fail to inspire me and get my creative juices flowing.
This is my love letter to the men and women who build stuff. It’s also about not letting other people dictate to you how to be happy in life. It’s about the pleasures of having a mullet and a can of chewing tobacco always in reach. But while our hero might have simple tastes, you better believe he’s willing to stand up and
fight injustice in the form of PUNCH domestic science-terrorists and multi-story mutants.
I want to get this book into all the hands because MITCH means something to me. MITCH inspires me. And MITCH isn’t willing to remain hidden any longer. (Cue the rousing string section.)
And why would he with such an amazing creative team?
- Fernando Pinto is our Chilean wonderman on pencils. His layout and design skills are bursting with energy, and he absolutely kills it on the caterpillars – both the mechanized and mutant-ized versions. He can do humor, he can do emotion, he can do action, all of which we are serving up in manly amounts.
- K. Michael Russell is one of my favorite colorists, a superstar in the making, and I’m overjoyed we were able to get him on board before he blows up even more. I might not understand the ins and outs of color theory, but I do know the old-school palette he’s using for MITCH is just so much damn fun.
- Nic J. Shaw has lettered the hell out of this book, somehow finding the time between lettering tons of other indie work and the hit Image title The Fix.
- Dan Hill has edited all 3 issues, and it’s his insights and dedication to the craft that led me to dig deeper into what could have easily been a meaningless book about punching. Truly the man is Dan.
- Chris Kosek is a brilliant designer. If anybody’s going to take a chance on this book, it’s probably going to be because of that cover.
With our little sausage fest complete, it’s now almost time to launch this thing on Kickstarter. Right now the plan is to go live on Tuesday, September 5th, and taking some inspiration from the extremely talented Ryan K. Lindsay, we’re only charging $1 for this 24-page issue.
With that low entry price and some other fantastic reward levels, our goal is to get this into as many hands as possible. Speaking of rewards, here’s a little run-down:
$1 – MITCH HAMMER #1 pdf – 24 pages of construction worker vs. mutant monster madness
$5 – EXTENDED HAMMER pdf – the complete story, including script, special pinup, sketches, and other snazzy bonus material
$10 – DIGITAL HAMMER + PINUP – Extended pdf and one 5 x 7 pinup delivered to your door.
$16 – XXL PRINT VERSION – Issue #1 in super-size 7.5″ x 11″ print format, perfect for crushing your enemies. Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$20 – MIXMANCER BUNDLE – Mitch Hammer #1 plus the Mixmancer one-shot. Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$20 – XXL PRINT VERSION + AUDIO COMMENTARY – you’ll get to hear me talking up the team and discussing the creative choices we made while putting together the book – includes XXL print version, pinup and extended pdf.
$26 – KARMA POLICE BUNDLE – Mitch Hammer #1 plus Karma Police #1-4 (Vault Comics). Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$28 – DRONES BUNDLE – Mitch Hammer #1 plus Drones tpb (IDW). Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$38 – XXL BUNDLE – Mitch Hammer #1 plus print copies of Drones tpb, Mixmancer one-shot, and Karma Police 1-4. Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$50 – XXL PRINT VERSION + HAMMERED SCRIPT – in addition to Mitch Hammer #1, I’ll print out and send you a script that I’ve abused with a variety of power tools and alcoholic beverages. Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$68 – XXL PRINT VERSION + SCRIPT REVIEW – in addition to Mitch Hammer #1, I’ll provide detailed notes on your comic book script (24-pages or less), followed by a 1-hour run-down on Skype. Includes pinup and extended pdf.
$100 – CONSTRUCTION SKETCH – Series artist Fernando Pinto will pencil and ink an 8.5 x 11 sketch of you as a construction worker – includes XXL print version, pinup and extended pdf.
$125 – CHARACTER SKETCH – Series artist Fernando Pinto will pencil and ink an 8.5 x 11 sketch of the character of your choice – includes XXL print version, pinup and extended pdf.
$150 – STAR IN MITCH HAMMER #2 – You’ll appear (and most likely get horribly disfigured) in Mitch Hammer #2 – includes XXL print version, pinup and extended pdf.
$250 – DELUXE COVER – Fernando will draw a cover and send you the original art, while K. Michael Russell colors the file and makes it purty for your own comic. Includes XXL issue #1, pinup and extended pdf.
That’s it for now, but expect to hear more around launch time, as I’ll be shouting in the bullhorn all over the Facebooks. Please consider sharing this info with your comics-loving friends, and we look forward to building this story with your support.
*Which in no way shape or form makes me a handyman, as my wife will happily attest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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?
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?
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?
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!
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:
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.
This 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!
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:
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!
Drones is published by Comics Experience and IDW. It is available NOW at your local comic shop, or digitally via Comixology. Meh-he-he.
As we get closer to hitting our funding goal for Mixmancer, I’ve started putting together all my scripts for the “Script Selector” reward level. This will feature the script for Mixmancer, as well as at least 7 others that I’ve written over the last 7 years.
I just finished reformatting one from 2008, and it gave me quite a laugh. Chris Lewis ca. 2008 was waaaay into hitting the return key to get to the next page of the document. He also like using captions. A lot. I decided to reformat it to make it look (and read) like my current scripts, but I haven’t changed any dialogue or panel descriptions in order to make it look like I knew what I was doing back then. Because, really, I didn’t. The story, Little Earth People, was the first miniseries I wrote. A slightly altered version also saw the light of day in 2009 as part of DC’s Zuda competition. Check out that Joe Pekar art!
It would take hundreds of more hours at the computer before I would get to the point of being able to write something like Mixmancer, or my book Drones that is coming out in April via IDW and Comics Experience. Sometime in the intervening years I also figured out how to add page breaks.
In addition to LEP, you’ll see my script for the Intro To Comics Writing course from Comics Experience. That will take us to some Azkaban fan fiction that was also developed as part of the Comics Experience Creators Workshop (and which still cracks me up). Then it’s time for the first issue of Drones, the short story I contributed to the psychedelic Imaginary Drugs anthology (IDW), and two current projects I’m incredibly proud of.
Looking at these scripts, I realize they tell the story of my development as a writer. Sharing and remixing stories is at the heart of Mixmancer, and I’m excited to share this one with you.
Bro-hugs to all,