Artist Spotlight: Bernard Chang on SUPERGIRL
Bernard Chang's done some great work on books like WONDER WOMAN and SUPERMAN over the years, but he's been straight up killing it on his most recent gig as an ongoing artist for SUPERGIRL.
We asked Bernard to walk us through his artist process and how he creates the stunning art currently appearing in the pages of SUPERGIRL:
“I’m all about ‘story’. Choosing the right images and compiling them in layout and sequences that create the most impact. Everything should be in service of that concept.
I break down my creative process into two stages -- the layouts and the drawing. All of this encompasses approximately one day's workload. The layout stage is where most of my brainpower is used. From the script, I need to decide what images best tell the story, what panel construction to organize them in, the tempo and pacing of panels, and other important details like research and design. I'll use SUPERGIRL #63, pages 2-3 as an example. The script called for eleven panels, starting with a closeup on Supergirl as she's waking up from being knocked out at the close of issue #62, finding the three Harvard friends, Justin, David and Elise. We recap her previous fight with a brainwashed Miss Martian and our new villain, Alex, and then she takes off to go rescue Robin and Blue Beetle.
My first thoughts were to take advantage of the double-paged spread and designate the two action flashback panels (five and seven) as the "money shots". I then figured the two should be about the same size since they held about the same weight, one reintroducing her allies in the story, and the other their capture and the villain(s) intro, so that helped form four tiers. The top tier, panels one through four, focused primarily on her waking up and coming to, the middle two tiers on the flashbacks, and the bottom tier, panels eight through eleven, on her flying off and the three students talking amongst themselves.
Then I felt we needed to drag out her waking up moment out a little bit longer, really show the effects of her being knocked out from before, so I decided to expand a sequence of close-ups of Kara's eyes opening in varying stages, intermixed with establishing shots of her in the Harvard courtyard surrounded by the three students. The close-ups of her eyes would culminate in panel six, when she is fully awake -- and aware -- of the events of the last issue. And lastly, in the bottom tier, the movement of the characters would flow left-to-right, pushing the action from one panel to the next, and then building a crescendo to page four, exposing a full splash page.
The second part is the actual line drawing. This is mostly technical, and not a lot of design or research work is going on here because everything should have been solved in the previous stage. I take my thumbnail layouts and rough them out on the back of the bristol board, loosely putting down the figure work, laying down the perspective angles. I'll then begin to flush out certain details and then I flip over the page and lightbox a tighter pencil on the front.
I've been using this process since the mid-90's, and learned it from my good friend and fellow comic book artist, Sean Chen, when we were both just starting out at a company called Valiant Comics. Sean had learned this process from Chris Sprouse, so you know if Chris is doing this, then it must be good! Flipping the art and viewing it on the lightbox allows me to catch any errant drawings, like skewed faces or misproportions. I tend to erase a lot, so this allows me the freedom to erase to my hearts content, without damaging the front of the board.
When I'm done pencilling, I'll move straight to inks, employing a variety of pens and markers. For the SUPERGIRL books, I've been keeping a consistently thinner line than my previous books, like SUPERMAN or WONDER WOMAN. My intent was that this thinner line would be more subtle and delicate, and being that Supergirl herself is a teenager, this linework would re-enforce that approach.
After the inks are finished, I scan the page into the computer and move to the digital phase, prepping the page for the colorist, and adding a layer of greytone shade and shadowing, as well as additional special effects. The greytones are something new that I'm experimenting with and I think I will continue on my future books as it allows me to open the lineart more and create additional sculpting of the figures.
All the digital work is done in Photoshop, although I have used Illustrator in some cases when I'm adding text or other graphics. Finally, when everything is finished, I upload the file onto the DC server and send over a layered version to the colorist extraordinaire, Blond.
Pentel graph 1000 .05 mechanical pencil - H lead (rough pencils on back)
Pentel graph 1000 .03 mechanical pencil - H lead (tight pencils on front)
Pentel clic eraser
Micron pigma ink pen .01
Micron pigma ink pen .05
Micron pigma brush pen
Copic 110 marker (for larger areas of black)
DC Comics smooth plate bristol board
Apple Mac w/ Cintiq 21
SUPERGIRL #63 lands in stores today.