Hi everyone! Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I was super-busy for a few days and then had an internet outage. But I’m back, and raring to go!
Here’s my commentary on Young Justice issue 10, part two of our murder mystery featuring Captain Atom! I’m including samples of a few pages of artwork here, but I’m commenting on close to every page, so grab your copy of the comic from your local Comic Shop or your digital copy and read along!
Page 2: In combat with Rako, the Artist formerly known as the Cambodian. I think I’ve been drawing the characters in their stealth costume variants more than the standard versions.
Page 3: This page featured a lot of action that was kind of challenging to depict. First we have Miss Martian freezing some thrown shurikens in mid-air, and then having them clatter on the floor. Both of those action beats are hard to effectively convey in a static image. Then a tapestry falls across four charging heroes, engulfing them suddenly in darkness. It’s a bit of a jarring transition (which it’s meant to be), but I’m pressed to envision how the tapestry got from the wall to covering a flying girl, Superboy and Kid Flash without them seeing what hit them. But hopefully you weren’t thinking that when you read it. Of course, I now had to go and bring it up…
Page 4: I like the moody last panel with the silhouetted heroes looking on the scene of Robin crouching over Trang’s body. And the body count for this story continues to climb!
What’s that? Why is Miss Martian green when they’re sitting in their civilian clothes in public? Um, because Metropolis is one of only three cities in the DC Universe that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in August. Uh…, because there’s a big Star Trek convention taking place next door and she’s passing herself off as an Orion girl. Would you believe Red Kryptonite? Move along, move along…
Page 6: Cell phones, headshots, and fingers. One of the most pulse-poundingly dynamic pages I’ve ever drawn!
Page 7: How many ways can we show characters looking at pictures on their smart phones? From panel-to-panel it was a question of whether the reader had to see what was on the phone, and how large I could make the picture on the phone while showing who was holding the phone and allowing enough room for dialog.
Page 8: BOOOOM! The body count continues to climb.
Page 9: It was nice to draw Kid Flash doing his stuff. I’ve drawn remarkably little of KF moving at high-speed six issues into my run on this title.
I’m going to share a trick with all of you. Whenever possible, it’s nice to keep backgrounds simple. For one thing it actually serves the story by keeping the reader’s eye focused on the action of the page, and for another more self-serving thing for the artist, it makes the pages faster to draw. But backgrounds ground the story in a specific reality, give the story texture and can provide story information in their detail. What to do? My preference is to open a scene with a detailed establishing master shot, hopefully providing bits of distinctive detail that can be repeated throughout the rest of the scene to continue to establish the location, but without having the repeat the complex opening master shot.
Case in point, panel one of page 10 has a detailed exterior establishing shot of an abandoned airport hanger. Panel two moves us inside, and the rest of the page shows the silhouetted windows, the grubby floor, and the catwalk where our villain is standing in front of some overhead lights. Notice how those elements repeated over the next few pages are enough to maintain our sense of this place, but rarely do we see more than a reference to the detail established on this page.
Page 11: Mostly close-ups on this page as we set the stage for the final confrontation. Note how much background detail we see…
Page 12: It’s not related to the artwork, but I just wanted to mention how much I love the way Robin laughs when he disappears into the shadows on Young Justice. To me it’s a callback to the earliest kid daredevil incarnation of the character. Greg Weisman told me that he figured Batman would have taught Robin his disappearing trick, but that as a 13-year-old kid Robin would think it was so cool he’d just laugh as people freaked out over his disappearance rather than just keeping his trap shut like the old man!
Page 13: It’s interesting the kinds of things you learn how to convey in a line drawing. The script called for Artemis to fire an arrow at Rois who is holding a dead-man switch. The arrow is tipped with a canister of foam that expands up Rois’ arm and hardens so that by the time Kid Flash plows into him in the final panel on the page, it’s a hard shell covering Rois’s entire arm and part of his torso. It’s largely about texture – trying to make the foam initially gloppy with curvy smooth lines, then more angular and chunky-looking as it hardens.
Page 14: I’m really happy with the first three panels on this page as Aqualad takes out Rako with his water-bearers, but even while I was penciling it I realized that Rako’s sword and Aqualad’s water weapons are all colored cyan blue and were going to all run together a bit in this action sequence. Hopefully it plays even though the action is a bit monochromatic.
Page 16: Back to Mount Justice to explain the solution to the murder mystery and wrap things up. I just drew headshots for these holo-displays and unfortunately they didn’t get typeset captions at the lettering stage. The dialog makes it clear who everyone is so it’s not a huge problem, but it makes me think that next time I need to typeset that stuff myself like I did the previous issue.
Page 17: Almost all of the imagery from what Kid Flash is describing hear had appeared previously in flashbacks in the previous issue, but this time I have the convenience of placing them within panel borders.
Page 18: The last of the holo-displays from this 2-parter. Whew!
Page 19: What??? Captain Atom IS Captain Nathaniel Adams? I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you!
Page 20: I’m amazed that after all the concern over a knife hilt sticking out of a corpse’s chest and whether we could show blood on Superboy’s chest wound that we got away with a character lighting and smoking a cigar in an all-ages book. I guess it’s OK because he’s the bad guy…
Well, that wraps up another one. Check back in about a month’s time for a Commentary on Young Justice #11, featuring Batman, Ra’s al Ghul and Talia! I’d love to hear from you if you find this kind of detailed commentary interesting. Drop me a note in the comment section below!