A baseball game has nine innings. Catwoman has nine lives. Here on THE SOURCE, we’ve got nine art teams we’ll be focusing on over the course of the next week. We’ll be in conversation with various artists – pencilers, colorists, and inkers - and editors to shed spotlight on nine samples of art. Needless to say, comic books are a visual medium, and we here at THE SOURCE like to pay extra attention to those artists who bring our stories to life.
Why nine? Obviously there are far more styles of comic book art, but nine is just the nice, magical number we decided on. The artists we’ll be spotlighting run the gamut from superhero artists like Brett Booth or ChrisCross and Marc Deering (whom we’ll be leading off with today), to genre artists like Moritat, to the cartoonists of children’s titles like Art Baltazar and Franco.
ChrisCross and Marc Deering have formed a dynamic pencils/inks team, as evidenced in the above spread from the upcoming issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN with writer Cullen Bunn.
Up next for those two after this arc of SUPERMAN/BATMAN? A stint on SUPERGIRL, joining writer Kelly Sue DeConnick with issue #65. ChrisCross and Deering's next issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN is #83, and hits stores next week.
We asked the duo to talk a little bit about what it’s been like for them collaborating on these titles and to give us a backstage tour of how they take the script pages and turn them into the final art you see in their books. Click on the jump to read what they had to say:
“For my part, this has been an awesome opportunity,” Marc Deering said. “ChrisCross is a phenomenal artist and it's been a pleasure to ink him. I try to bring a slick, clean look to everything Cross draws as well as adding all the textures that an epic story like this asks for. It's been a blast!”
“You never know how a story is going to go and how one should tackle it until you read it,” ChrisCross told us. As for his artistic process?
“My method usually goes: editor gives me the script, and I go automatically to the heading to see if the writer put their personal info up on the top of the front page of the script. I read the script ‘cover to cover’ 2 to 3 times so I can memorize all I need to know so that I can dream on the story a bit.
Then I call up the writer and talk with them. And most time's not even about the script. Just to hear them. Get their views, their humor, their lifestyle. SO I can mimic them. Get in their minds. Their heads. I spend an inordinate amount of time collecting tons of reference. Either from the editors themselves or the writers, but mostly from books I have or the web. Or taking pics from outdoors. Take a trip. Take a pic. By either my phone camera or an actual factual, 'hood way of saying, ‘the real deal.’
I start thumbnailing the pages. 2 to 5 pages at a time to get the rhythm and to figure how many moves are in one panel in word form so I can make decisions. Add more panels, or take away panels and/or combine. Ad-lib some panels to make things more natural as far as flow ...
Then I get into the actual drawing. I blue-line and then I pencil. After each page, I scan at 400 dpi and import into Photoshop. I clean up the page to the best of my ability (I can be messy on a page) and switch it to grayscale. Then to duotone, which gives me many options as to which type of blue I’m going to turn the gray and black lines. Once converted to blue-line, I switch to RGB mode, which now allows me to "stroke" borders in black on top of the blue in layers. I don't ink borders anymore and neither do the inkers I work with. They thank me heavily.
I add in many layers and many sfx that will tell the story. It could be clouds, trees, leaves, cracks in pavement, explosions, tornadoes, speedlines, energy signatures, Kirby Bubbles...even 3D rigged cities and photographs altered by various other programs at my disposal (including Photoshop)... whatever it takes to make it seem flawlessly hand-drawn when it gets inked, colored and printed. After I apply my PS techniques, I collapse the layer and turn it that background layer into a "0" layer. By this time, I have already set up background bordering that will fill the gutters between panels that will accent or spiritually mood the story. You won't notice it on purpose, but your mind has already accepted it as information. I do tons of graphics that will go behind panels. Art you'll never see in one image. But it's there. Once I fill those areas and add whited borders to separate the panels from the background art in the gutters, I finally collapse the page and name it for the file folders, which I hold on to until the job is over.
I then make small grayscaled jpegs of the images for the inker, the editor and the colorist. For the inker, so he can see what he couldn’t in the blue-line on the page he's inking. For the editor, to give he/she the virtual idea of what it will look like when it's finished in black and white. And to the colorist for color notes, which I will work on again in Photoshop with notes (purely digitally) so that the colorist knows what I'm going for – yet not encumber their abilities. That's a fine line. Colorists and inkers can make you or break you. So you have to treat them right. :)
I put the blue-line TIFF files on the DC FTP server or the inkers personal server, or even mine, where they'll be able to print the blue-lined and black and white images on paper from their own printer – thus saving on courier costs.
And then it starts all over again the next day until it's all done by, GOD HELP ME .... DEADLINE!
All that production goes into a page so that the reader can enjoy something from me that will be of singular experience to that of any other artist. Storytelling, graphics, draftsmanship, special fx. Even cinematography. I take a ton of pics that in some way will find itself in those pages. I wanted SUPERMAN/BATMAN #81-84 to feel like a great cartoon or a cool DVD the reader had just picked up and could had the time of their life with. And that's what I had on those four books. And having a great team with me... Marc Deering, Brad Anderson and Cullen Bunn didn't hurt one bit. I wanna do it again with Supes and Bats soon!”