If you’ve met me at a comic book convention, you may have noticed the little herd of toy pigs decorating my table. I bought those when I was drawing the first Hereville book, to help me draw the pig character! I took hundreds of photos of those plastic pigs, from every angle and height, and used them as reference while drawing the comic.
You can see a pattern on the pig in the photo above. This was contributed by one of the two small girls I live with, at some point when I wasn’t in the room to stop them. :-p
I didn’t use the models during book 2, since the pig only appeared in one panel. But I still have the little herd of pigs, and when they’re not appearing at cons they stand in my drawing area, near a Peppermint Patty figure.
So Hereville 2 is nearly done! I’ve drawn all the story pages and the cover, and I just finished penciling the title page a few minutes ago. Jake is blazing along on the colors. I want to go back and revise some drawings I’m not happy with, but basically, my part is done.
After all these months of drawing, it’s hard to imagine that eight days from now I’ll turn the pages in and have no more drawing to do! What will I do with my time?
(Answer: Begin writing Hereville 3. But I also plan to do some more of the things I haven’t had time to do in the last half-year, such as blogging and laundry.)
Anyway, here’s the penciled title page, subject to the approval of the nice folks at Abrams:
I always enjoy seeing what Jake’s colors look like without my drawings and word balloons getting in the way.
Warning: The images below contain some spoilers regarding the plot of Hereville book 2. Then again, so does, you know, the actual cover to the book.
So when I started work on the cover to book 2, everyone (“everyone” in this case meaning me, the folks at Abrams (my editor Sheila and book designer Chad Beckerman) and my agent Judy Hasen) were agreed that we wanted a cover that looked enough like book 1′s cover so that it would be obviously in the same series at a glance, but different enough so that no one would mistake it for the first book.
So, things to keep from book 1′s cover: Big round object. Tiny Mirka (or Mirkas). The banner for the title and author lettering. Things to be different: Everything else.
So I thought of every cover idea I could and sent quick sketches of those ideas to Abrams. Pretty much all of those ideas were variations on “meteor shooting through space, Mirka sitting on or being dragged along behind it.” But I also threw in a few not involving a meteor, because I didn’t want to forclose other possibilities, even though I was pretty sure we’d wind up with a meteor.
Then the folks at Abrams discussed it, or perhaps consulted their magic eight balls (a not-unlikely subject of a future Hereville cover), and agreed that they liked a shooting meteorite dragging a panicked Mirka best.
We also sent emails back and forth playing around with several color approaches. I showed them a few possibilities — sky blue, dark blue, red, etc — and although I was secretly hoping for red, I thought they’d choose blue (a more conservative choice), and I could live with that. To my delight, they chose red.
So now knowing the subject of the drawing and the color scheme, I did some more sketches and sent them to Abrams:
I do these sketches not only for Abrams’ sake but for my own — it’s hard for me to feel that I really know what I think about a cover composition unless I first sketch it out.
On Monday I’ll post the final cover art!
Hereville book two is now completely written and laid out (although there are a couple of pages I want to go back and fix), and I’m now at long last drawing actual pages. A bunch of pages are partway drawn, a few pages are complete, and — much to my excitement — the front cover is complete.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the publisher wants me to show you any of that stuff just yet. Definitely not the cover. Maybe I’ll start showing pages next week.
Meanwhile, here’s a couple of outfits that Fruma will wear in book 2:
Here’s a preview page from “Hereville.” These preview pages can have spoilers, so don’t look if you’d rather not see!
This time I’m showing one of the pages that got redrawn between the first version of Hereville, and the graphic novel. I show both versions, so you can see how they compare.
(Info on buying Hereville is here.)
Page 107 from the graphic novel:
Compare that to page 27 from the earlier, self-published “Hereville”:
Mostly just a new inking and coloring job, plus I did a fair amount of redrawing heads and faces in minor ways. But I also made a big change, replacing four panels from the original with one larger, rewritten panel.
Why the change? First of all, the way the cut panels were written felt a little “out of character” for Mirka — that kind of over-the-top sarcasm doesn’t seem like her. Having her yell like Lucy yelling at Linus seemed much better.
Secondly, to me having lots of long narrow panels on a page indicates tension. But having that many long narrow panels on this page struck me as going over-the-top with the tension for this point in the scene, and didn’t leave much room for building up to more tension later on in this scene. Cutting down from 9 to 6 panels “relaxes” this page a lot, to my eye. (So did getting rid of the not-very-meaningful trailing of Mirka to the edge of the page in the bottom row of panels).
Plus, I love the “pushing Zindel with the word balloon” effect (something I swiped from Dave Sim’s comic book Cerebus, although many other cartoonists have done it — most famously Charles Schulz in Peanuts). The new panel is one of my favorite panels in the entire book.
I drew Hereville on my computer, using a Cintiq tablet, which is a kind of interactive pen-on-screen tool that I couldn’t possibly live without. The software I use is Photoshop CS4. I used to draw with CS2, but I upgraded to CS4 because it lets you rotate an image while you work on it.
Okay, so let’s see the sequence of drawing. The example panel here comes from page 12 of the graphic novel (I posted the pencils to page 12 here).
Mirka starts out as a stick figure. I usually start with the head, and usually draw it the same way — an eggshell shape first, then a line halfway up the egg to find the level of the eyes, then a 45-45-90 triangle to find the placement of the top of her ear. Sometimes I get lazy and just start drawing the face without those underlying lines, but then I often end up having to erase and start over, so that’s not the best idea.
Then I do a couple of lines to show the placement of her body and the set of her shoulders. This may not seem like much, but it’s actually really important — in a panel like this, where we only see Mirka’s head and shoulders and a little of her trunk, the set of the shoulders is going to do a lot of the work of conveying Mirka’s expression. It’s not uncommon for me to redraw the initial stickfigure “shoulder line” two or three times trying to get it right. In this case, I opt for slumped shoulders, as if the surprise has made her go limp, combined with leaning forward.
Then I added scribbly lines to to show her hair and clothes, and different parts of her body, and more details of her face. Scribble, scribble, scribble, erase, scribble, erase. I erased and redrew a lot at this stage, until Mirka finally looked “right” to my eyes. I don’t use photo reference for figures unless I’m absolutely unable to draw the pose otherwise, and in this case the pose was easy so no need for reference.
Then I drew in the word balloon. I draw all my word balloons freehand, rather than using premade shapes, but in this case I tried to be especially all over the place drawing the balloon, to convey Mirka’s shock and excitement.
At first, I thought that was pretty good. But over time I realized that it wasn’t working for me. Sheila, my editor at Abrams, agreed with me: The drawing didn’t have enough oomph to show how awestruck Mirka felt when she first saw the witch’s tower.
I tried again, this time giving Mirka a more stunned expression. (This is where a cartoony drawing style really comes in handy!). I also changed the “Oh wow” speech bubble to an exclamation point graphic. And I rotated the whole drawing so that she seemed to be leaning back to look up, since the tower ended up being quite tall. (So much for the leaning forward! Oh, well.)
Better. But still not there. And the exclamation point graphic I created looked jumbled and confusing to me, rather than conveying an emotion clearly.
So instead of an exclamation point over her head, I put Mirka in an exclamation-point-shaped panel border. (Doing this cropped out the set of the shoulders I worked on earlier. Oh, well!) I also enlarged the drawing of Mirka a little.
And now my internal “how stunned does Mirka look”-ometer said that this worked. So now it’s time to go on to “inking.”
Of course, since I’m doing all this drawing on computer, there’s no literal “ink” involved. But there’s still a stage where I draw the panel using solid black lines, trying to keep the lines as lively as I can without losing accuracy. Then I send a copy of the page to Jake, and Jake adds colors, using Photoshop on his computer.
And finally, the completed panel!
(Remember, Hereville is now available for preorder!)