Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Behind the scenes with Nick Bertozzi, graphic novel projects and and working with Dean Koontz

Here's the second page of the next scene, All in. I forewarned that you'll see left hands where they don't belong - and on this page the terror returns.

Graphic novel news
I really love behind the scenes stuff for graphic novels, and there's an absolutely great post from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group about the Lewis and Clark graphic novel I posted about earlier.

Queen for a Day: The Queenie Chan Interview
Danica Davidson
Graphic Novel Reporter

Queenie Chan was barely an adult when she began drawing, but in a short amount of time, she was able to make a successful manga career out of it. Launching her career with The Dreaming, she expanded her work with TokyoPop by working as an illustrator on some of the graphic novels based on Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books. Chan talked to GraphicNovelReporter about how she got started, what her work process is like, and what advice she has for people interested in making their own comics professionally.

How did you get started drawing? Was it self-taught or did you learn from classes or books?

I actually didn't start drawing until I was 18—before that, I only ever drew for school projects, which makes me entirely self-taught. Back then, my motivation was to develop a hobby that I could enjoy while I studied for my Information Systems degree. I wasn't enjoying my stint at university, and so I spent my spare time skipping lectures and writing/drawing instead. Drawing became a way for me to cope with my studies.

Gradually, the writing and drawing got so enjoyable that I wished I could do it for a full-time job! Looking back, I think I would have seriously benefited from taking art classes or reading books about drawing, because that would have made some aspects of it (especially anatomy) a lot easier. However, because I didn't have any art instruction, I had to learn things the long way around, and so I developed some bad habits that took a while to undo. It all worked out at the end, though, because having to draw professionally meant that I had to do research and expose myself to a much wider range of art than an Information Systems degree person would otherwise be exposed to, and that opened my eyes to the possibilities out there.

How did you get involved with Dean Koontz’s graphic novels?

I think it was after book two of The Dreaming that Dallas Middaugh, then of Del Rey, contacted me and asked me if I was interested in a book by Dean Koontz called Odd Thomas. I'd heard from Dallas before—he enjoyed volume one of The Dreaming and had emailed me to ask about another project, which I had to turn down due to volume two of The Dreaming. I read Dean's books as a teen, so I was immediately intrigued, and after Dallas sent me the book, I decided I'd be happy to work on a prequel to Odd Thomas. The end result was working on In Odd We Trust and volume three of The Dreaming at the same time (overlapping schedules for a few months), so I tell you, I was totally addled by these two books, and my memories of them have actually merged together in my head. Yowza.

So I guess it was being in the right place at the right time. And Dallas (and Dean) for taking an interest in my work (many thanks to them!).

Did you work with Dean Koontz while making them? What was the process like?

There were a few back-and-forth emails, but back in those days, no one had a clear idea of what the whole thing would end up looking like, so my contact with Dean was pretty minimal. Basically, I wrote the script, then Dean rewrote the dialogue to fit his vision of his characters. It was a tad awkward, and the whole thing was an experiment, but it seemed to have worked out well enough (judging by the sales figures of In Odd We Trust). For my part, I concentrated on making the characters likeable and interpreting them as close as possible to the way they were in the books. After reading the emails I received from fans of the book telling me they liked my interpretation of the characters, I think I succeeded there.

The second book, Odd Is on Our Side,was a lot different, since I was just doing the art while Fred Van Lente worked on the script with Dean. This time, Dean had a much clearer idea of the final product, so he provided a story summary, while Fred took this summary and wrote a comics script. Fred and Dean then worked on the script until it was the final version, and I have to say, the two of them gelled really well and produced a very good script. It was a pleasure doing the art for Odd Is on Our Side. I'm currently working on book three, called House of Odd, and the process is the same.

What tips do you have for people interested in making comics professionally?

It's a difficult time to break into comics due to the recession, but I feel that if you want to do comics professionally, it's best to first have at least a few short stories under your belt. That way, you can figure out how fast you can draw and pace yourself accordingly. Believe it or not, drawing comics is really about grind a lot of the time—you have to draw whether you want to or not, and you draw a lot of things you don't find interesting. So unless you can work under those circumstances, you're better off sticking to drawing comics as a hobby. I would also advise getting a new hobby when you're drawing professionally. You need some kind of distraction in order to keep to deadlines!
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Graphic Novel Journal
The Envisionist

OK, in case I did not make it clear in previous posts, it’s official. My thesis is a graphic novel. I have, at least, tacit endorsement from the faculty, a fairly articulate presentation and a plan of attack.

My book list is growing. Some of these titles would never in a hundred years have occurred to me to read. Now, however, that I’m embarking on writing my own, the study of form and the observation of the maestros seems critical. There’s more here than meets the eye; much more. The book list is broken into two parts: books that analyze comics (a graphic novel is a comic, a comic is sequential art intended to tell a story, and some argue that a single frame constitutes a comic also), and graphic novels (most of which started out as comics with a “story arc” that continued from issue to issue and then they were compiled into a single bound edition and bestowed with the name graphic novel). That was their intent all along.

Anyway, I’m immersing myself in this right now. What it is, and what’s going on inside it is a rich visual language with conventions, and icons, and devices that communicate to those who are willing to discover within that language the story being told. Japanese is a language. Visually, it uses pictures that represent concepts that form thoughts and mental images that represent words. Comics employ a language as well. It’s not all spelled out for you the way a literary novel does it with page after page of descriptive exposition. In a comic the same description could easily be a single frame. In the graphic novel you see what the literary novel says. This well is deep. There are not only thousands of comics and graphic novels. There are hundreds of scholarly examinations of the art form, its history and the language of comics.

WInter quarter at OSU. As the process lays out. This is my quarter to immerse myself in the art form, to understand what is at work and hopefully expose myself to the best examples in the medium.

Since this is going to be a digital creation using CG, I’m also trying to polish my visual chops, learning new software and polishing my fluency on stuff I already know.

Finally, I’m trying to — at least — figure out my story line so I can begin to think in terms of character development and visualization.

More on process some other time.
Click to read more.

4 Steps to Writing a Graphic Novel
From the desk of Nick Bertozzi, author of Lewis & Clark

"STEP 1: Write a script. People will tell you this is hard to do. They are not lying to you.

STEP 2: Lay out the pages with rough drawings and roughly positioned text.
I tried using a new roughing technique for LEWIS & CLARK, putting together all of my layout using Adobe Illustrator. It's great for positioning text exactly where you want it, but drawing right onto a computer is a crazy idea. Just think, you can draw your image up to 800% magnification which means the awesome detail that you're drawing on Meriwether Lewis's epaulets will look like a muddy splotch at 100% magnification. Stay AWAY from the zoom tool is my advice here.

STEP 3: Pencil the pages onto 11" x 14" bristol board using the Roughs in Step 2 as a guide.

This is the stage in which I try to get the characters' poses and facial expressions just right. If I get the pose right, I can give an emotional resonance to the dialogue balloon that the character is speaking in order to make that character seem more real.

STEP 4: Ink over the pencils using an old-fashioned pen nib and brush with india ink.

This is the part in which I try to make the pages look good; thicken up the lines so that the pictures are easy to read, and using different inking techniques to make the background elements and props look like they're supposed to: Plants are inked like plants, example. Sounds easy, but it's hard for me...

STEP 5: Scan and manipulate the image to get it to read as clearly as possible. Even though I spend all that time on Steps 1-4, there's still lots of little things that go wrong and I don't often see them until someone points them out to me. On these pages I added black to the tops of the buildings so that the entire two-page spread appears more solid, I moved some panels around purely for design sake, and most importantly, I added more space in the word balloons so they'd be easier to read.

The whole process takes a few days and I haven't even mentioned the time spent researching the buildings and costumery of the era nor the hours spent trying to get better at drawing horses–not sure if I succeeded on that last one–but I think it's worth it since it makes for a really quick and smooth reading experience that I hope you like. Thanks for reading!"

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