Story: Ian Boothby
Inks/Pencils: Toren Atkinson
Colour: Tanya Lehoux
Letters: Christopher Barrett
I’m pleased to announce that the World Wildlife Federation of Justice comic I started working on in 2011 is finally done! At that time I had hoped to pull enough donations from friends and fans to pay for the writing chops of Ian Boothby, the lettering skills of Ed Brisson, and one page of pencils from Captain Carrot comic creator Scott Shaw!
I did get all the funds I’d hoped for and more (thanks donors) and a script from Ian Boothby. Shortly after I started the project I was offered a full time job at Atomic Cartoons to work on character art for some Marvel motion comics, which naturally I accepted! That 7 month contract turned into three subsequent positions on 2 more projects which didn’t leave me with the time I had anticipated to work on the WWFJ story. Recently however, I found myself with a couple months off and an opportunity to include a story in the Cloudscape Comics anthology “Mega-Fauna” and this story seemed the perfect fit. Ed had moved on from lettering to writing, including Secret Avengers and Robocop comics, but he recommended another Vancouver local Christopher Barrett. I also drew from my Atomic Cartoons talent pool my friend Tanya Lehoux to colour the thing. The page from Scott Shaw fell through, unfortunately, but in the end I’m very pleased with the results.
Look for “Eye Eye Eye” in Mega-Fauna August 2014, and on worldwildlifefederationofjustice shortly thereafter. Preview below:
Last year I worked on the Astonishing X-Men motion comic for Atomic Cartoons. My job was in the art department, specifically characters (not to be confused with the background artists or the animation department). So what exactly did I do? What are the challenges of taking an established comic book, in this case written by Joss Whedon and illustrated by John Cassaday and turning it into a “motion comic” which is somewhere between a comic and a cartoon?
First off, check out this clip from youtube:
Now, here’s a scan of the original comic book.
As you can see, this particular page is three panels and they are all vertical. In a motion comic, however, the format is the standard TV ratio 4:3, as shown to the right. It’s the job of the director and storyboard artist to figure out how best to translate the printed page into this format. In panel one, it’s easy, start at the top of the tall panel and slowly track down to the group of X-Men, as seen in the clip. (The animators added some jitter and smoke effects) The second panel is similar, but rotated 90 degrees, not much work for the illustrator (me) to do on that one either.
Panel 3, however, is different. Here’s three screen shots of the video clip which I quickly patched together in Photoshop:
In the original comic, you can’t see Wolverine’s backside, or the top and bottom of the robot’s head. It was my job (and my teammate’s David and Carmen) to create all of that. Usually that was done from scratch, but sometimes there were poses and images re-used from panels earlier or later in the comic. It all depended on the scene.
In addition to filling out characters that were partially (or sometimes fully) “offscreen” in the print version, there’s also the matter of filling in what was behind characters whenever they moved. This was often a background artists job, but if for example in the print version we see Wolverine’s claws in front of his face, and in the motion comic the storyboard calls for it to start on Wolvie’s unobscured face and for the hands to then move into the shot and then pop his claws, it’s the character art department’s job to make sure the empty spots behind the claws are filled in with some good-lookin’ art. Same deal if one character steps away from someone behind him.
Make sense? I hope so!
Above is a rough panel from the comic in progress, of Awesome Possum.
I redesigned Doctor Gnucleus, below:
And finally, Flamma-Bull, a work in progress:
Here’s a couple of art updates for my World Wildlife Federation of Justice project.
For the second half of 2011 my full time job was working as an illustrator on the upcoming motion comic for Joss Whedon & John Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men (specifically the “Dangerous” graphic novel). The release date for the DVD has been announced – April 10 – and here’s the trailer:
So what is a motion comic, and what exactly was my part in this production?
A motion comic is basically an animated version of a comic book, but instead of using traditional cartoon or computer animation, the production uses the artwork from the original comic and uses a variety of computer tricks, including turning the characters into ‘puppets’ to make them walk, disembowel other characters, etc. Add to that music, voice actors, visual and sound effects and you have a Rocket Robin Hood cartoon for the 2000’s! (This is not a slag, I love Rocket Robin Hood).
So what did I do? Let’s look at a couple of pages of the original comic:
There are five panels on this page. None of them fit the standard 4:3 TV aspect ratio, which is this:
What our talented director Jesse had to decide for each panel was how the action would be framed for TV. In panel one it’s a quick pan down and back up to follow Cyclops’ red eyebeam. For this panel the art team (there were 4 of us at any one time) expanded the broken floor and smoke on the left and right of the action to fill the frame, and we had to fill in all the art behind the beam (Scott’s lower face and body) since the beam itself would added via animation FX.
In panel two I pretty much had to draw in an entire broken floor that Cyclops is standing on as well as his arms. Basically the same idea for panel three.
For panel four, if I recall correctly it’s a pan from right to left, so I had to draw in Colossus and the White Queens’ butts. This panel also gives a good example of how art needs to be filled in when a character moves. The White Queen starts off behind the evil robot known as Danger. But as she runs to the left all of her back and arm is visible and we have to draw that stuff in.
For the last panel, it’s been drawn in an extremely wide, thin format. This is the kind of panel where I’d have to fill in the top and bottom to make the art fit a TV ratio. This includes colouring, which I had very little experience with when I started, but thanks to the rest of my fantastic art team I got up to speed relatively quickly. I now have a much greater appreciation for comic colorists like Laura Martin.
One last example, from the first panel below, Wolverine walks in front of a character out of frame. In a comic, all John Cassaday had to do was draw half of Logan and half of Hisako and that gets the point across. In the final DVD motion comic, Wolverine starts at the left and walks through and off frame to the right, so we artists get to fill in his face and chest, and fill in Hisako’s face behind Logan. All this has to be done in a style that makes it look like John Cassaday drew it all.
Luckily Cassaday has a solid, simple style that conveys all the information required without being ‘showy’ like you might get with (off the top of my head) your Todd McFarlanes or your Chris Bachalos (not saying these are bad, just that they are more complicated line art) so it was a real pleasure to work on.
I look forward to watching the final product!
Octopussycat, as a kitten, showed some psychokinetic powers and was taken by the government to be groomed as an assassin. Later, through the help of one of the scientists working on the project, she escaped. After exacting her revenge on those who created her, she became a vigilante in the streets of Zoopolis. This led to a series of run ins with World Wildlife Federation of Justice members such as Go-Rilla and Shaolin Monkey. Eventually they convinced her to join the team.
Powers: limited telekinesis and fear projection. Camouflage cloak. Ninja-oriented skills and octopus-related gadgets.
Toren Atkinson will be sharing a booth with his Caustic Soda Podcast co-host and creative cronie Kevin Leeson of Critical Hit Comics at Comix & Stories on August 28 2011, 3102 Main St, Vancouver BC.