Friday, November 07, 2008

New Wordless Comic: Superman Story

Here's the first in what I hope will be a long series of black and white wordless comics. This one is a Sergio Aragones-style humor strip.

This strip is based on a revelation I had as a kid about superheroes. When I was 13, it occurred to me that Spider-Man was an asshole. Spider-Man would routinely wrap up the bad guys in his web and hang them from a lamp post for the police with a note. But then what? What happens to these people after they've been hanging there for a while and the police find them? It's not like they can arrest them. Where's the evidence of a crime? Are they supposed to take Spider-Man's word for it? Is it somewhere in the note?

And then there was the Super Friends. For some reason during the late 70s and early 80s people were even more paranoid about TV violence, and superheroes weren't allowed to punch people on TV. So Superman's default method of capture was to wrap a lamp post around the bad guy. You would think that there would be obvious consequences to this kind of casual damage to municipal property, and that punching the guy would have been more civically responsible.

For those curious about such things, I made the tones by doing a series of dry brush and pencil textures that I then used as a palette to clone from in Photoshop. This way I could get a lot of natural looking textures while still maintaining a good deal of control. I like the effect better than your standard flat photoshop gray tones or airbrushed modeling, and I'll probably use it a lot more in the future for my black and white comics work.

And yeah, either the van or the car in the last panel is on the wrong side of the road. It just worked out better that way compositionally.

A lot of the characters here are left-handed probably because I'm left-handed, and when it occurs to me I try to make people right-handed because more people are right-handed than left-handed.

Obviously I've been over thinking this.


  1. I like it. A lot. I love the way you have to really pay attention and even look back a panel or two, to really appreciate it. Like the bad guy's dangling legs...

    I like the little details. The bird on the lamp post...

    You're cookin'!

    I also create pallets of textures that I build and control in photoshop.

  2. Thanks Mark! This is really the first time you've genuinely expressed enthusiasm for my comics, which is a good thing, because I don't think my comics had really gotten to a point where I was satisfied with them until recently, and I'd rather have you dig them when they have, than flatter me when they haven't.

    The last Blue Kid story (yet to be posted) is also wordless, and making wordless comics is really teaching me to make better comics--learning what I can get away with off panel, pacing and clarity of storytelling in general.

    I'm also using some tricks I came up with in Blue Kid: repeated figures in sequential action in the same panel, a dotted line to show the path that something has taken instead of motion lines (stolen from Family Circus!). Motion lines limit you to rapid movement, while with the dotted line trick you can say, "ok, this was here, and now it's here" without these big swooshes of action.

    But it's not like I invented this stuff. The key for me is to use these trick as tools, and when they work best, they stay invisible. Sometimes when people like Chris Ware or Dash Shaw do these kinds of formal tricks, you end up gee whizzing at the technical virtuosity of it, which can sometimes take you right out of the story.

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  4. Hey Jed, thanks for all your kind words on my blog. I agree with you on everything..and unfortunately most of my clients prefer the more "polished" that's all I can work with at this point. Howeeeeever :) I have currently updated my blog with some recent comic book work (personal stuff) that I think you might enjoy.

    Your pages here are incredible btw. They flow so nicely from panel to panel and I'm really enjoying the dry brushed texture that was added to them . I almost want to see a spot color distributed throughout them. Your line work is truly marvelous and I'm glad that you are taking advantage of your strong points in these.

    Hey still up for a collaboration on some short stories??
    keep me in mind :)


  5. Thanks Tin!

    I'm really into drawing my own stuff right now but maybe we could think of a true collaboration at some point--collaborating on the art maybe as well. At the time I was trying to collaborate with others on comics as a writer in part because I had lost all confidence in my art, but I got it back.

    One of my sticking points was perspective, but recently I started using some computer models, mostly primitives on sketch-up. Also, for some reason, this new ruler has made all the difference. Seriously. I got one of those transparent rulers with a grid on it. Why hasn't anybody told me about these things? I've been doing my perspective up big and then shrinking it to panel size and tracing it up on the light box.

    Going to take a look at your comics right now!

  6. Hey Jed,
    first of ..WHOA!!..thank you so much for your detailed critique!. I'm very happy that you are liking the work thus far. I agree with the dialog...but this is a complete rough first sample text layout. As a matter of fact I'm looking for a writer to work with me on this anyways. So we'll see how it goes and I will repost this once the pages are actually all complete. Also...all of this is done digitally. I even do my inks digitally nowadays. I'm still able to keep it loose and fluid but it allows me to play with some distortions using the free transform tool and the skew tool when I'm doing funky expressions.
    And you are going to love this....but I use sketchup myself. Well...the car only actually..was a model from sketchup that I modified and used as reference. The building was photo reference I shot from some buildings around town.I also agree with redrawing the same background over...which I should have done..since the car was cut and paste. :)
    (I get impatient at times, I suppose).
    This comic will be part of an anthology. A bunch of us (3-4)are creating something called THE RICHMOND ANTHOLOGY which will be a collection of mini stories taking place in our city.

    I'm very happy to hear that you have decided to continue the path of illustration. I always felt your work was incredibly strong!!

    And in terms of collaborative art??....Count me in!! :D


  7. thanks man, for checking my blog. this strip is hilarious

  8. Thanks!

    Gum Kid is Shawn Yu,a great painter an illustrator who deserves your attention, if you aren't familiar with him and are reading this. Check him out!