Here is one example of the making comics process, from script to art to letters.
Writer: Carl Smith
Art: Stan Chou
Letterer: Wes Locher
Subject: “Smell A Rat” Horror Comic.
I start off with hand drawn bluelines*. At this point, the rough sketches does not have to make sense to the audience, so all you see is scribbly inks. I do not follow the comic page aspect ratio at this time either. This is how my mind puts words to paper at the earliest stage. The key is freedom and raw visualization.
* What’s a “blueline”? In general terms, bluelines are rough sketches / layouts. In technical terms, they refer to the blue lines made by blue-leaded pencils. The blue color is a type of blue that copy machines do not reproduce (also called non-repro blue). I don’t use the blue pencils anymore but I still call my rough sketches / layouts “bluelines”. Check out my old lead holder and replacement leads. Artist geek power — on!
Let’s break down the bluelines, panel by panel, side by side with the script. I’ve also added my digitally cleaned up sketches next to the hand drawn sketches.
At this point, the writer and I usually agree to move onto finalizing the inks for the page. Other times, the writer and I continue to tweak the page. For this article, I specifically chose this comic page because a few more interesting changes occurred.
In panel 1, Dawson looks over his shoulder, and then in panel 2, Dawson sees the rat pointing to the crawlspace. Carl and I decided that we could add another slice of time between these panels: Dawson sees the dead end. I also tried reversing the camera angle in panel 2 to give the rat a proper character introduction. Also in panel 1, I went with a more extreme closeup of Dawson. See the comparison below.
Next, we have panels 3 to 5. Dawson enters the crawlspace, sees the trapdoor, and then looks into the trapdoor. Again, Carl and I decided to add a slice of time: Dawson opens the trapdoor. In addition to that change, the the panel of Dawson entering the crawlspace was shortened because I decided that it did not need to be so tall. It just needed to be thin to convey claustrophobia. Comparison below.
In panels 6 and 7, Dawson enters the trapdoor and goes down a staircase. I changed panel 6 from a closeup of his hand to a pulled-back shot of both hands. There are already a lot of details and panels on this page, so I felt that a simple high-contrast panel would fit nicely. Also, with the interplay of black above and white below, I am suggesting visually that he is running from a bad place (black) and entering a safer place (white). In addition to that change, Carl and I agreed to add a panel of Dawson reacting to what he sees when he passes through the archway, because the big opening panel of the next page focuses on what Dawson sees. Comparison below.
Between the finalized blueline and the finalized digital inks below, the only difference is the addition of the chain link fence in panel 5, which helps to establish the chain link cage that Dawson crawls into.
There you have it, the making comics process of page 9 of “Smell A Rat”, part of an anthology called “The Horror of Loon Lake”, currently being funded on Kickstarter. “Smell a Rat” is also available as a standalone digital comic on Amazon here. Thanks for reading.