Sorry about that title — had new Shins record on repeat all day. I love how each Shins album has a distinct feel from the other ones — regardless of whether James Mercer has kicked someone out of the band.
But that has nothing to do with the process and the challenges of creating The Ghost Engine!
Terrible segue aside, right now we’re on Page 6, which is where the comic finally starts to get ghosty and supernatural. We originally intended this comic for print (shocked emoticon), but that cliffhanger at the bottom of the page works so well in webcomic form, huh? You gotta wait a few days to see what happens when Bouvie opens the triptych. I already know, but — to quote Mr. Bates — I cannot say.
Anyway, Eric’s got some killer reaction shots from Becky on this page, especially that “D’oh!” reaction in panel five. That definitely made me laugh the first time I saw it.
Should I carry on the process narrative from my last post? Prolly.
Basically, Eric came to me with a general plot idea and some character designs that would become the foundation of The Ghost Engine. Without giving much away, he wanted a story about two people on opposite sides of the law, with forces of good and evil each backing the “wrong” hors. And he wanted me to flesh out the details, all of which quickly fell into place — the eponymous Ghost Engine, the triptych thing (though I can’t, for the life of me, remember where the hell that came from — maybe a brief fascination with Hieronymous Bosch?) and a bunch of other details that I can’t talk about yet.
I’m actually pretty fond of that method. Not only does it ensure that both writer and artist have a horse in this race, but it gives the writer the challenge of making a “foreign” concept work for him or her. Eric and I are already (slowly) cooking our next project, and it came about in a similar way — Eric’s initial idea, followed by added fleshiness.
In fact, most of my comics that have actually made it to completion were conceived that way. Funny how that works out. Also, I think I need to send a few angry emails to some errant artists when I get done with this post.
Last year I realized that all of my successful projects were created in that way, which is a weird thing to notice, that the stuff that’s getting made didn’t totally spring from your head. It’s hard not to feel like a “lesser” writer who needs to be pushed on their bike to learn how to pedal it. Or something. Either way, it’s a very stupid, insular notion that surely seems dickish from an outsider perspective. So let me put it this way — the ability to independently come up with a story without an initial prompt or suggestion is a good muscle to have (especially if you hope that someone pays you to do so later), and something I need to develop a little more, for the sake of my own work.
I hope that didn’t read like a complaint, because I enjoy collaborating, and I wouldn’t have come up with some stuff that I have without someone there to work with. And I think it’s especially important that an artist cares about what he’s drawing, especially if nobody’s getting paid for it.
There’s a saying in comics — writers date, artists marry. Writers can script an issue (or more) a week, while artists generally draw an issue a month — assuming it’s their full-time job. I’ve interviewed a few creative teams and heard a similar story: the writer has a few side-projects in the works while the artist pretty much devotes his time to the book in question.
Now, imagine being an up-and-comer who has to contend with drawing in his or her spare time after work and on the weekends. That’s time that could be spent with booze or video games or loved ones or other vices, but instead they contend with drawing out your stupid script — your ridiculous preoccupations and secret kinks turned into narrative — for free.
Consider that and you’ll get why an artist needs to care about what he’s drawing.
As Danny pointed out last week, he and I will be trading off Wednesdays working on this process blog. I think he did a great job setting the tone. Something I expect you guys will find as more pages come out is that one of Danny’s best qualities as a writer is that he’s always entertaining. I’m not the best writer around, so I just hope I can keep up!
So who am I? I’m Eric Z. Or Eric Zawadzki. I’ve lived my entire life with people spelling and pronouncing my name wrong, so I’m happy to just settle with Eric Z. (Come to think of it, I believe Danny has the same last name problem.) I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and over the years I learned perspective and anatomy from studying books and doing a lot of lifedrawing. I’ve done a handful of comics over the years, many of which will likely never see the light of day (for good reason). Most notably, I did a 100-page graphic novel, The Killers, in 2005. It was a big accomplishment for me even if I’m not too proud of the work. Over the years, I also worked on a couple of projects with my brother and Tim Simmons of Spy6Teen fame. All of these comics were done the traditional way with pencil, ink and paper.
A couple of years ago, I bought a Wacom Cintiq 21ux and made the switch to fully digital art. I originally posted my digital comic drawing process in a series of blog posts on my personal site around that time. That blog outlines a routine I came up with during my first month working with the Cintiq, so naturally it needs a bit of an update. My first project using the Cintiq 21ux was a short story I did for the 2010 Cloudscape anthology. (Speaking of which, those guys are currently trying to raise money for this year’s anthology over at IndyGoGo. They’re a fun and talented crew so please help them out!)
Shortly after that, I started drawing The Ghost Engine (which was about a year after Danny delivered the script to me, for those keeping track of dates). This was my first longform comic done completely digitally, so I went through a lot adjustments in how I create a page. Over the past year-and-a-half while working on this project, I did a lot of reworking and learning through trial and error. On more then one occasion, I had to go back to every page to fix big mistakes like page size or lettering faux pas. Fortunately I was already fairly familiar with Photoshop, though I’m no expert. I had been playing around with the program since my teen years when my parents bought one of the early versions in the mid ’90s and I had actually colored a couple of my pencil and ink comics before getting the Cintiq.
The Ghost Engine is my first longform comic in which I’m responsible for all the art chores, from illustration to colouring and lettering. So my intention for this blog over the next several months is to put my process out there. I’m sure I’ll be changing a lot my approaches in the next couple of years because I’m expecting to get feedback on how crazy some of these routines are.
In the meantime, please enjoy this comic which was done by a couple of rookies who hope to one day make the big leagues.
Hiya. Danny here. I wrote this here webcomic, Eric drew it and every Wednesday we’re going to switch off on a blog post where we talk process and other related things.
First of all, thanks for all the reposts/retweets of the first page. I was already major-excited that The Ghost Engine is a thing that people can read, but now I’m doubly excited because a lot of you responded to it and helped spread the word. Y’ALL THE BEST. Seriously.
It’s past midnight on (technically) Wednesday night — though I still consider it to be a Tuesday. “Jam for Jerry” by Holy Ghost! is bangin’ inside my ear-holes and I’m trying to figure out just what I’d want from this kind of blog post if I were a reader. And, hey, what do YOU want to know from us? Comment and let us know. We’ll totally answer your questions in the blog.
I guess I’ll kick things off by telling you how it all began.
As a lowly college senior in July 2008 I answered one of those rare, highly coveted “artist seeks writer” ads on Digital Webbing’s job posting forums. This particular ad mentioned Joss Whedon as an influence, which is usually a good sign, so I quickly responded with a script that I had written to get over the fact that I ran out of Veronica Mars episodes on DVD.
Eric thankfully didn’t tell me to fuck off and liked my script enough, so we tossed around some ideas based on this comic concept he wanted to get off the ground. It was pretty cool, but our approaches just weren’t gelling, and eventually Eric told me so, and that he was going to try banging out the idea with his twin brother. Which gave me a hilarious anecdote to share with people: “He left me for his twin brother! My life is a soap opera!”
But seriously, Eric was polite yet honest about the whole thing — which I respect more than anything else.I carry grudges against collaborators and girlfriends that have fallen off the face of the Earth and stopped replying to emails/text messages, but anyone who’s said “I got too much on my plate, sorry” or “Hey, you’re cool but your penis doesn’t interest me” gets no shade thrown at, on, or in them. So, Eric’s a good guy. High five, good people.
Which, I suppose is my first PROTIP: Be a good person, and always answer emails.
(I’m still working on the latter half of that tip. And some of the former.)
Then, for a while, not much happened — I moved to San Diego, realized I was unhirable and decided to try being a freelance writer while occasionally scripting comics with no idea how to make them into real things that people read. Some screenwriting and forty-drinking may have occurred. I know I went to Comic-Con and Disneyland. That was fun. But not a whole lot happened with comics.
PROTIP: Finish stuff, figure out how to get said stuff out in the world.
It was in October 2009 that Eric sent me an email out of the blue, telling me that he wanted to work on something different. He had some ideas, I had some ideas, and we eventually put together an outline for what would become The Ghost Engine. So, I guess this comic is technically nearly four years in the making. Which elicits a lot of existential horror, so I’m going to focus on this electropop for a little bit.
Ah. There. As of the middle of this week, we’re only on the first page, which happens to be one of my favorite pages in the series. Which isn’t to say, “IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE, FUCKO!” — not at all. It’s just that I love the interaction between Becky and Geoffrey on this page, which kinda serves as a microcosm for the entire series. While the sleepy, grounded milieu isn’t completely representative of the shit that happens over the course of The Ghost Engine, it’s a digestible little scene that I’m really fond of, and one that I’ve shown off to other people the most.
(And! It wasn’t originally the first page. More on that when Chapter 1 concludes.)
In two days we’ll have a new page, and in one week Eric will write a post where he rightfully trashes me on the net for the things I wrote in this post.
See you Friday.