Tag Archives: Comics Experience

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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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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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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DRONES publishing deal

Good news, folks. DRONES is coming to a comic store near you! As recently announced by Multiversity Comics, DRONES will be one of four books to be released by the new Comics Experience / IDW publishing alliance. I’m incredibly proud to be alongside fellow CE members Rich Douek, Paul Allor, and Rob Anderson, as well as all the fantastic artists involved. More information, including shipping date and pre-order codes, coming soon!

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