So there I was, a 20-year-old living in Dubai who decided to drop out of college and start from scratch. I needed to find myself and to do that I needed to start fresh. Some place new, where nobody knew me. I needed to embark on a journey of self-discovery that would illuminate my path. A year later, I arrive to the states. Morgantown, West Virginia: Wild and Wonderful.
I was a 21 year old and a freshman in college again! So, I checked into a hotel and went out for a walk exploring the area when my eyes were drawn to store with a bat signal, a superman cape and a sign that said “Gary’s Comics and More.” Flashbacks of a young kid drawing superheroes and Pokémons came rushing through my head like a 80s movie montage. Comic books are an original American art form and weren’t easily obtainable else where, I couldn’t get over the nostalgia and curiosity so the next morning I walked in. “If you need help finding anything let me know.” Said the guy on the counter, overwhelmed by awkwardness due to my lack of knowledge about superheroes. I uttered the first superhero name that came to mind, IRON MAN! “Excuse me?” he said. I replied: “Iron man, you guys got any Iron Man comics?” He chuckles recognizing my anxious state and offers a couple of options.
When I opened that book it felt like I was opening a door into a new life. Dramatic? I agree, but true! I couldn’t bring my self to read anything. The whole thing was like eye candy: colorful images popping out of the pages like a movie playing out in front of me. Like any other well-crafted objects, we tend to forget that it didn’t make itself. Someone drew this. That’s when I thought, “Ptsh, I can do that!” And so began my pursuit. After all, this is America right? The land of opportunity where you can make a living drawing cartoons on a piece of paper. I promised my self a bite from that American dream.
During the last four years, I have made it a priority to work on my skills, learning about the visual elements of story telling and cinematography. Producing comics is a lot like producing a movie: the difference lies between the concepts of moving and still images. On a movie screen, we see a series of rapidly moving images hence the name “motion pictures” while, in comics, these images are still. I’ve done everything there is to be done, from studying anatomy books to learning from artists that I liked or drawing comics from cover to cover for practice or even attending awkward figure drawing classes and saw enough naked people to last a lifetime. When I felt I was finally good enough, I published my art and waited to get noticed. Sure enough, an independent writer enjoyed my work and wanted to collaborate. I agreed to work for free.
Ever since then I’ve been living my dream. No longer questioning if I could do it because I already am. Here’s an inside look at my process:
After receiving a script from a writer, I skim through it quickly, and then figure out the simplest page to start with. It doesn’t always have to be in order, whatever sparks creativity first. A script would look something like this.
Panel 13. Panel 1.
Feather standing amidst raining dirt and mud and earth. He’s proud and has his hands on his hips. Caption: Now that’s how it’s done!
An earthquake is occurring. Feather is unsteady and the rest of the team also feels it.
A hear of Triceratops, and long neck dinosaurs and various other bursts out the forest.
Now its up to me as an artist to transform that into images, after reading the script I play it out in my head like a movie and freeze frame at essential images that would tell the story effectively. Putting a page together is basically summarizing a movie scene into a basic form that would still make sense. I start off by drawing test panels on a sketchbook, just to have an idea of how I would like the page itself to look, and how each panel will be drawn. Through this process I have decided to add an extra panel to emphasize the occurrence of the earthquake. These test panels serve as a reference point, a blue print to work from. The second and equally important step is transforming the design into a new page and finalizing the drawing. This process involves drawing, redrawing and a lot of erasing. I’ve always thought of my self as an eraser first then a penciler.
When the page is complete, I re-read the script and follow my panels to check weather the story is properly translated through images. Can a reader have a basic idea of what is going on without reading? Similar techniques are considered in movie making, will a viewer comprehend the basic idea of a scene without the sound? If I’m satisfied with the end result, I send the penciled page to an inker who traces over the pencils with black ink to make it easier for digital coloring. Here’s how the page turned out.
If I am to pass one thing on to you, let it be this. When you do what you love hours pass like minutes and vise versa. Do what you love first; even if it’s for free, the money will follow as long as there’s a plan. It’s better to examine the possibilities than ponder them. Fear is the real enemy here; not making it is part of making it. So go out there and fail, its part of the process.