Sunday, January 17, 2010

E.T. Dollman - Animal Control: SCU Letterer!

After reviewing sample sequentials and title logo designs from more than 30 letterers, one in particular stood out -- a gentleman who goes by the name E.T. Dollman.

E.T. has established credits including lettering gigs on FemForce for AC Comics and on Myth which appeared on Zuda Comics, among other titles. He provided extensive samples in one handy PDF, and one sample that caught my eye was from a story called Decayed Orbit. It had a nice mix of readable comic book fonts, clean sound effects, and a slick title design. Another thing I liked: E.T. is both the scripter and letterer on his own webcomic project, The Evil Wannabes, at Caleido Comics.

On top of his lettering work, E.T. had about ten logo design samples, and numerous advertisements, flyers, and web banners. On the logo front, I especially loved the work he'd done on Dinosaur Girl for AC Comics.

But in addition to proving he could do the work, E.T. was just a great guy. His enthusiasm for the project and his interest in doing the work came through loud and clear from his first email. It felt like a great fit, so we went to contract and got started on a title/cover logo for Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit.

I sent along about three conceptual ideas for the logo and some examples of classic logos I liked. Pretty much immediately -- it seemed like only a few hours -- E.T. sent along some very cool logo designs, with a rough mock-up of a badge as well!

We went through a number of iterations of both -- with E.T. usually sending along three, or even four versions each time. You can see the final result in the images accompanying this post!

I'm pleased to report that on the heels of completing the title logo and SCU badge for AC:SCU, E.T. agreed to sign on to the project long-term. He's now beginning to letter the first 5-page story that will appear in the Comics Experience anthology. I look forward to continuing to work with E.T. on AC:SCU!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Finding A Letterer

Not long after the artist was signed up for Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, I turned to searching for a letterer. I know a lot of creators like to letter their own stories, either as a learning experience or to control costs -- and there's nothing wrong with that -- but I knew that if I did it myself, with my total lack of artistic sense, it would not turn out well. So I began searching...

If you read my post on Finding an Artist, the same principles and tips apply here. I posted in the same spots on the same sites (,, and, this time asking for a letterer.

I also tried out one additional spot where a lot of letterers seemed to hang out, Digital Webbing. I used the "Talent Search" link in the small menu along the top (at the time of this writing) and then clicked on the appropriate category (either "collaboration" or "paid"). One little bump in the road I had on this site was waiting for my account to be activated. Make sure to read the post on the site that explains how new users can activate their account.

In my advertisement for a letterer, I gave just as much information as I had in the original post seeking an artist. It was essentially the same post, but with added details on the density of word balloons (light to medium), the rough number of words per balloon (average), captions (none), and sound effects (only a few). I also made clear that I was in the market for title/logo design as well, and asked for links to samples of both lettered sequentials and logo/title design work.

In the case of letterers, I did eventually receive the most responses from Digital Webbing, and second most from Concept Art, but I received strong replies from all the sites, and ended up with more than 30 serious responses, including many from very established and talented folks. Once again, I made sure to get back to everyone and held on to the contact information for a number of very strong folks for possible future collaboration.

Out of all this, I did find my letterer, and we started on the title/logo work right away. More on that next post!

Friday, January 15, 2010

From Pencils to Inks

Inked pages for Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit have begun to arrive. Artist Leandro Panganiban inks his own pencils, and the pages look awesome!

To follow along with the discussion from last time, the picture at left shows (from top to bottom) the final pencils, the first round inks, and the final inks.

As you'll see, the only suggestion I had after viewing the initial inks was a touch-up on the Panda Dog's markings. Just like true pandas, the Panda Dogs have a black band running around behind their front legs. With that tweak in place, the page was done!

I've also included inks of other partial panels as well, showing Kaminski (taking a swig) and Vasquez. The center panel also shows Vasquez, checking out some exotic transgenic animals that resemble a certain mythological creature. (Please note: these panels are not in sequential order.)

We're just about to the lettering stage, which will be the next topic of discussion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From Thumbnails to Pencils

As the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit project has progressed, one of the most exciting aspects (at least for me as the writer) has been watching the words from the story become real on the page. After Leandro Panganiban and I settled on character designs, the next step was thumbnail sketches. I was surprised by how much fun it was to review even rough thumbnails.

Leandro put a lot of effort into the thumbnails in terms of trying out "camera angles" and positioning, and even placing empty, placeholder word balloons so we could get a sense of if there was enough space for the dialogue in the script. We bounced ideas back and forth extensively via email, with Leandro doing two versions of at least some panels on four of the five pages. You can see the thumbnail for a partial panel at the top of the picture at left. (Click the image for a larger view.)

The script, in describing this part of the panel, read:
Something that looks like a cross between a panda and a dog pisses on the tire of the truck.
Although, as I described last post, we extensively discussed the Panda Dog during character design, we didn't discuss this particular Panda Dog much at the thumbnail stage. But when Leandro later provided the first pencils on the panel -- shown in the second portion of the picture above -- he asked for my opinion on the Panda Dog's size. With all the detail we'd discussed, we had never said how tall or heavy the thing was!

As much as I liked the cute face, I did picture it being much larger, at least as big as a large pit bull. Since I had provided photo reference for the specific ACO truck in the frame, this gave us something to work with. I wrote back:
On your question regarding Panda Dog size, the Animal Control truck that we used for most of the pictures is a Ford F250. The height of the tires on those things (although tire size can vary a lot) is around 28 inches high. (I looked around a bit at truck/tire specifications and tire height today.)

A Panda Dog is at the very upper end of the size for a Chow Chow -- a very big Chow Chow -- so around 80 pounds, with a height of about 22-24 inches. So, bottom line, the Panda Dog in Panel 5 is too small. Basically, its back would be only a few inches lower than the top of the tire before it lifted its leg.

I also wonder if you'll need to back it off the truck just a little more, and maybe even pool the piss down and around the tire, to emphasize that it's pissing? I know dogs get real close when they piss (as shown in some of the silly pics I've attached), but this may be a case where you have to exaggerate the distance just a few more inches to make it clear what it's doing?
And, yes, I admit, I sent along photo reference of dogs peeing. I even found several photos of dogs actually peeing on tires. It's amazing what you can find on Google Images.

Leandro decided to make sure people caught that the Panda Dog was pissing by changing up the angle. And as you can see in the bottom panel of the picture above, we have a much bigger Panda Dog!

We've changed some panels more than others -- sometimes Leandro decides he wants to tweak the angle of a panel or emphasize something to improve the storytelling. Other times, I might make a suggestion or simply point out my reaction to something. But the end result seems to be something we're both very satisfied with.

We're now near the end of the penciling stage. I'm waiting patiently for the final tweaked pencils on the last couple pages, and I can't wait to see the inks. Leandro says I'll love them -- and I believe him!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Character Designs

With Leandro Panganiban on board as artist, the next step was character designs. I provided Leandro with my synopsis (a one page overview of the story), character biographies (1-2 paragraphs per character on their backstory and motivation), and the full script.

The central characters of Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit are two Animal Control Officers (ACO's), Aleksander "Alex" Kaminski and Marita Vasquez. In terms of physical description, here is how I described Kaminski:
Approximately 48 years old, moustache, badly balding but with hair around the sides, noticeable beer gut and out of shape, but very thickly built. Approximately 6' tall. You can tell by his shoulders, his arms, and his forearms that he's extremely strong under the dumpy brown uniform, despite being on the fat side. However, he's not going to win in a foot race.
Other than some photo reference I provided on ACO uniforms, that was about it for the physical description. You can see from Leandro's initial character design that he nailed the look right out of the gate!

And as you can see from the small panel from the story, Kaminski has truly come alive and become more and more "real" as we've moved through final pencils. This is exactly how I pictured him in my mind as I was developing the concept for AC:SCU.

To provide just one more example, here is how (in part) I described the Panda Dog:
Their face is mainly panda -- definitely panda in terms of color and markings, if someone looks at the face, it shouts "panda". The dog breed they were spliced with was Chow Chow.
I then provided about ten photo references of pandas and chows along with this description:
These are the things that really make the Panda Dog like a Chow Chow/dog:

(1) they have a distinctive, fluffy chow mane (around the panda-like face) (see "chowmane.jpg")

(2) the fluffyness of a chow's coat/body fur(see "chowFluffyCoatandTail.jpg")

(3) the chow curled up tail (same picture)

(4) the paw structure of the back legs are like a chow, with chow/dog paws -- straighter back legs, unlike other breeds of dog. (again, same picture)

(5) the eyes are just *slightly* more droopy and less round than a panda -- not squinty like some chows (see "chowNOTeyeslikethis.jpg" for an example of what we *don't* want for eyes).
In contrast, these are the things that make the Panda Dog like a panda:
(1) the face, other than the chow fluffly mane, is pretty much a baby panda. (Chow Chows have shorter snouts than other dogs anyway, and baby pandas have pretty short noses). Note facial features are more BABY panda than grown panda. (See "pandababyface.jpg")

(2) the coloring, markings are all panda from head to toe. So a white face with black patches around the eyes, black ears, black front and hind legs, white in in the middle. (see "pandamarkings.jpg").

(3) the **front** paws/claws are more like a panda's than a chow's. They can grab things with their paws, unlike a chow. This is important because their ability to use their claws (kind of like a ferret or racoon, or...panda...) gets them into all kinds of mischief a dog wouldn't get into. (see "pandababyEarsandClaws.jpg")

The ears are not really adult panda-like nor chow-like. They're smaller and less round than panda ears -- they're more like baby panda ears but with a chow point to them. (again see "pandababyEarsandClaws.jpg"). If you look at standard, grown pandas, their ears are more like circles at the top of their head -- **not** ears like that, please.
As you can see by the character design sketches, again Leandro got it right from the beginning, even as he tried out a couple different things.

Outside of the script itself, I sent photo reference and ideas on everything from alligators to the two kinds of Animal Control trucks in the story. Thankfully, Leandro saw this all as helpful (the way it was intended) and not overbearing. We make a good team.

In any case, that provides you with some idea of how the various characters and creatures came together in AC:SCU.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Leandro Panganiban - Animal Control: SCU Artist!

Out of the more than 50 serious responses I received to my advertisement seeking an artist for Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, there was one candidate who just seemed perfect for the project -- a talented guy by the name of Leandro Panganiban.

The character sketches of the Panda Dog hybrid in my banner and in my first post are Leandro's work. And, as I write this, he is working on pencils for the final page of the AC:SCU story that will appear in the Comics Experience anthology. We're making great progress!

Leandro first caught my attention because his initial reply to my classified advertisement was so professional. This was very important to me because I knew most of our interaction once we started would be via email. Next, I checked out his sequential artwork. In particular, a six-page story featuring Peter Parker, Mary Jane, and Norman Osborn caught my eye. I loved the realistic portrayal of the characters, especially the facial expressions. The storytelling seemed very strong to me; I could follow the story without any words. Leandro also had just recently completed work on a zombie short story titled Sacrifice, which looked great and will be featured in the horror book Dead Future #4.

I sent along a note and we exchanged a couple of emails to clarify a few points. Partially, I was seeing how we got along via email. One of the things I wanted to confirm was that Leandro was comfortable drawing animals. I mean, the project is about "Animal Control" after all, and some artists really hate drawing animals. I mentioned to Leandro that, for example, the story contained a transgenic hybrid that resembled a Gryphon. Leandro responded almost immediately with a character sketch of a Gryphon he had done for a gaming client. That pretty much sealed the deal for me! We got a contract in place and got to work.

In my opinion, Leandro's art on AC:SCU is the best sequential art he's done to date. I'll be sharing a few snippets of his work in future posts so you can see what I mean. I feel very fortunate to have him as my collaborator on AC:SCU and I can't wait for everyone to see his work on it in print!