Posts tagged: Commentary

Commentary: Young Justice #10 “Hot Case”

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!

YJ 10-01 pencils

Page 1 pencils

YJ 10-01 inks

Page 1 inks

YJ 10-01 color

Page 1 color

YJ 10-01 letters

Page 1 letters

Page 1: It’s funny how the successive stages of completing a comic book page make a page look simpler and simpler. The background for these opening pages seemed really busy with detail when I was penciling them. Of course, you have the texture of the pencil lines, and black areas are either filled with X’s or shaded in, as opposed to the smooth solid blacks you get when the artwork is inked. Then when the artwork is colored and the background is colored in muted tones so the figures stand out, what once looked seemed like a lot of time-consuming detail just fades into the background and is easy to not even notice. Greg Weisman has started listing me as “Christopher A. Jones” in the credits section of his scripts. Now it’s actually shown up in the credits on the comic. Now my middle initial IS “A,” but I try to keep my credit consistent. It’s been mentioned to my editor, but won’t be fixed until after issue #11. So if you are blogging about comics or moderating any kind of index or gallery or forum – I’ve been listed as Chris Jones, Christopher Jones, Christopher A. Jones, and Christopher R. Jones in various places and on various books. “Christopher Jones” is the preferred credit, and the “R” is flat out wrong. You’d think with a name like mine it would be simple, wouldn’t you? I wonder what kinds of problems Bill Sienkiewicz has?

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!

YJ 10-05 pencils

Page 5 pencils

YJ 10-05 letters

Page 5 final

Page 5: Bibbo! This supporting character from Superman comics runs a Metropolis diner in the continuity of the Young Justice animated series. And yes, that’s Perry White at the counter.

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.

YJ 10-10 pencils

Page 10 pencils

YJ 10-10 letters

Page 10 final

Page 10: Halfway through part two of the story, the mystery-solving is largely out of the way. Let’s get ready to rumble!

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.

YJ 10-15 pencils

Page 15 pencils

YJ 10-15 letters

Page 15 final

Page 15: Superboy gets to play the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet game. I had to show one of the bullets bouncing off Superboy’s chest and hitting the shooter. I was really happy with the layout I came up with that draws a direct line from the point of impact on Superboy’s chest in panel 3 through a silhouette of the shooter in panel four. I had hoped the silhouette would make the action clear without having to show any kind of wound that I knew would cause problems with the folks that worry about the all-ages nature of the Johnny DC titles. I was especially happy with how this worked with the red background provided in the color version.

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!

Commentary: Young Justice #9 “Cold Case”

OK, I’d meant to do this about a week ago, but I was too busy for blogging, but at long last here’s my commentary on Young Justice issue 9! 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!

YJ #9 pencils pg 1

YJ #9 pencils pg 1

Page 1: This was a fun way to start the story with single-character panels showing the members of the Team bored by the lecture they are hearing, but all demonstrating their individual personalities. Connie cameo in panel two! Probably the most interesting detail on the page lies in what Aqualad is writing on his notepad…

Page 2: This page was a little frustrating to compose, as it features the Team arranged classroom-style listing to a lecture by Captain Atom. I felt I needed to show Captain Atom from the front as this full-page shot was the reveal of his character as the guest-instructor for the Team, and we needed to see what was written on the holographic “white board” behind him. I ended up doing a side shot of this scene in order to clearly include all that detail. A downshot would have been a little more visually interesting, but I was worried that the setting wouldn’t be clear  as the Mount Justice Mission Room if we could only see the floor, and I didn’t want to wait until page 3 of the scene to make it clear where we were. The biggest problem with the angle I showed is that it begs to be a panoramic *wide* shot, but has to fit within the portrait aspect-ratio of the comic book page. I tried to sandwich the shot I wanted before the overhead dome fixture that tops the Mission Room, and some space at the bottom left open for credits and/or the title.

YJ #09 pencils pg 3

YJ #09 pencils pg 3

Page 3: One of the big things in this story were these holographic displays that appear throughout. I created these images (note the ID photo, typset text, voice print, and fingerprint seen on the display in panel 3), and in any panel where the background is partially visible through the semi-transparent holographic projection, the holo-image was provided as a separate layer from the line art so it can be composited at the coloring stage. Once upon a time this would have been sent to DC comics as a vellum overlay on the original artwork for the production people to deal with, but now it’s a separate layer in the scanned art Photoshop file.

Page 4: The shots of Miss Martian in “camouflage mode” are hand-drawn rather than created the same way as some of the holo-displays, but as those figures they needed to be transparent they also were provided as separate layers.

Page 5: Yet another holo-image, this time projected from Robin’s gadget-laden gloves. It was around this time I realized how much this mystery story was turning out to be very special-effects heaving regarding the artwork.

Page 6: This flashback sequence was described in the script as being in “sepia tones,” and the scenes within the sequence were meant to be not bound by discrete panel borders. Multiple-image montages are a fun challenge when they’re a collage of figures and faces, but given that these images were individual scenes with specific background settings, I had a real challenge. My solution was to stylize the sequence so the characters are floating against an inky black background, with the figures and settings picked out in the (sepia toned) light. This let me suggest backgrounds where they were needed with bits of detail but letting the background otherwise bleed off into darkness so the images were separated but without hard panel borders.

There were some revisions on this page around the fact that the body at the center of the story’s murder-mystery was meant to be found with a knife sticking out of his chest. It was key to the plot, as the murder weapon was the key piece of physical evidence in the original trial. Even though that this storyline was in keeping with the tone of the Animated TV show upon which the comic was based (the show whose head writer Greg Weisman is writing the comic!), there was concern that this was too much for a comic considered to be part of  DC’s Johnny DC line. The price of trying to push the envelope of what we can get away with in the comic is that sometimes there’s some negotiation required and sometimes the battleground of those negotiations are art revisions. Ah, well…

Page 7: Problem: How do you do an establishing shot of the Las Vegas strip when it’s the small first panel on a page of 5? You put a couple of palm trees in front of a recognizable neon and light covered entrance to one of the iconic Vegas casinos. Problem: How do you make said entrance even less recognizable even though the name of the casino has been removed from the facade? You change the color scheme!

BTW – I’m amused by Superboy’s flippant response to the unknowing casino employee’s concerned question about his age.
Dealer: “You ARE under twenty-one?”
Superboy: “In weeks or months?”

YJ #9 pencils pg 8-9

YJ #9 pencils pg 8-9

Pages 8 & 9: Part of why I wanted a good solution to the flashback montage issue back on page 6 was I knew it was going to come up again on this double-page spread across pages 8 and 9. The biggest challenge was the 3-panel Viet Nam combat sequence, but I think I was able to successfully frame the action in the negative space within the silhouettes of palm trees. Man, the stuff you have to figure out drawin’ comics! (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the inked and colored version of this double-page spread!)

Page 10: The flashback continues! These images seemed relatively simple to deal with after the jungle combat scenes on the previous pages. Back in the present, Wally is still eating.

YJ #9 pencils pg 11

YJ #9 pencils pg 11

Page 11: The sequence with Robin and Miss Martian finding a body was fun to draw, as it was filled with lots of moody shadows. I love doing sequences like this, which I suppose is partly why I love drawing the Batman characters so much.

Page 12: Miss Martian proves telekinesis is useful when carefully investigating crime scenes. Oh look, another holographic display!

Page 13: More CSI work simplified by Miss Martian’s superpowers. When the inevitable Miss Martian Mysteries series happens, can I draw it?

Page 14: We meet Captain Nathaniel Adams’ adult children. His son was meant to strongly resemble his father and is wearing an Air Force captain’s uniform, but I didn’t want the characters to appear identical, so I added an extra little cowlick of hair to the short, military haircut, and added a slight cleft in the chin.

Page 15: Aqualad and Artemis walking on the beach. Nice, interesting color choices for this sequence by colorist Zac Atkinson.

Page 16: Another holo-display AND thermal vision. I should have taken the time to do a color guide for the thermal vision panels, as I’d have preferred to see these panels without the black line art and with brighter colors for the “hot spots” in the image. Oh, well. Next time…

Page 17: More panels with Miss Martian in camo-mode, meaning more figures drawn on separate layers so we can see background showing through them.

YJ #9 pencils pg 18

YJ #9 pencils pg 18

Page 18: Here’s our first look at Rako, the artist formerly known as The Cambodian. This guy was a villain in the Captain Atom comic series from the 1980s during the time Greg Weisman was working on it. One of the first notes I saw about this character from Greg was that he intended to rename him. I guess nothing great ever presented itself other than the guy’s given name, as that’s the only thing he’s called in this story. Rako’s look was redesigned by me from his original appearance as The Cambodian. The armor is meant to look like traditional armor of the region if it had been rebuilt by Tony Stark. I’ll be doing a blog entry on that process very soon. And oh look, another thermal vision panel!

Page 19: That’s the last camo-mode panel of the story. I was kind of surprised to see that a sound effect wasn’t added to Rako’s backhanding of Miss Martian here.

Page 20: As much back-and-forth as there was over that knife sticking out of the murder victim’s chest earlier in the issue, it was nothing compared to the negotiations around how to show the wound on Superboy’s chest. Again, a crucial plot point – Superboy is cut and bleeding. But could we show blood? Was it enough to just show energy steaming up from the wound and have the dialog indicate that Superboy’s skin had been cut? Ultimately a little blood was indicated with color with no wound being shown beyond a slashed T-shirt.

Well that brings us to the end of another issue. I’ve previously done similar reviews/breakdowns of Young Justice #7 and Young Justice #8 over at World’s Finest Online. I’ll eventually be duplicating that content here as well as going back and doing similar reviews for my first two issues on the title.

Anyone still with me after all that? Is anyone finding this level of detail in analysis interesting? I’d love to hear from you. Leave some comments!

Young Justice #9 pages 8-9 color

Young Justice #9 pages 8-9 color

Young Justice #8 Commentary

I’ve done something of a commentary on the current issue of my Young Justice series for Worlds Finest Online. It shares my thoughts on the art for the issue in the form of a page-by-page breakdown, and provides some samples the artwork in pencil form.

Young Justice #08 page 1 pencils

Young Justice #08 page 1 pencils

I did something similar for the previous issue which you can find here. Going forward I’ll be doing these commentaries directly for this blog, but I’m sure I’ll be finding something to do for World’s Finest. Before next month I’ll be putting commentaries for my first two Young Justice issues on here as well, so we’ll have my whole run on the series covered!