Making Comics, Part 3: Developing a Process

I’ve been taking a “Comics Projects” class online with former Marvel and DC Editor Carl Potts through the School of Visual Arts. For the most part, the class consists of weekly workshops where we critique a finished page alongside the next page of pencils. At the beginning of the course we submitted ten page scripts and accompanying thumbnails. In the class I am developing the first issue of a autobio series (or maybe the first chapter). Tentatively titled Words and Smiles, it shares the title of my zine, and the issue is called “Underlying Conditions.” Here are the first 3 pages:

In general, my process started with drafting some images as one panel comics. I provide a few examples in my previous post. Then, I took some ideas from Barbara Slate’s You Can Do a Graphic Novel and Tom Hart’s The Art of the Graphic Memoir. Drawing from some of Slate’s advice, I began to map out issues/chapters using a chart that hangs on my wall. Each issue/chapter is organized around a central theme. Using advice from Hart, I jotted down ideas for scenes on different note cards, which are color coded based on when they happened. Being in my 40s, I basically four different color note cards that correspond to a decade of my life. Then, I grouped the the note cards together by theme. Next, I took the note cards for the first issue and began to flesh them out for the script that I submitted for Potts’ class. Then, I created thumbnails for the first ten pages. Initially, I created roughs after my basic thumbnails but before penciling a page. However, I couldn’t keep up with the class working at that pace, so I skipped the page rough from page 2 onward. Once I get the pencils down, I work on inks. I inked page 1 with a hunt 102, but again, it took way too long. Since then I have switched to a combination of Rotring Isograph pens and Deleter and Micron fine liners. Finally, I polish things up a bit and add the text in Photoshop. In total, the first page–from scripting to thumbnails, to page rough, to pencils, to inks, to adding the text in Photoshop–took over 40 hours. Part of me wishes I took as long on the other pages. Another part of me wants to resist treating my first comic as this precious masterpiece that I won’t be able to finish.

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