When I started out on Gutter Magic, I wanted a very specific look. I had in mind a highly-textured, worn world, clearly patched-together. I was experimenting at the time with working digitally and decided to pencil and digitally ink the entire thing. I used modified versions of the amazing NKS5 brushes. If you don’t know about these, please do yourself a favor and check them out.
I used the NKS5 pencil brush to pencil the pages on page templates I created, based off some old Image art board I had (which, turned out to be the wrong dimensions for use with the company that eventually picked up Gutter Magic, but more on that some other day). I was proceeding with the inking, but wasn’t happy with how it looked. It just didn’t look like Gutter Magic to me. I wanted this world to be textured and worn, but the black and white just didn’t work for me. Gutter Magic features and morally gray protagonist. What won’t he do to reach his goals? The black and white were too contrasted. I needed something to further emphasize the gray area Cinder operates in.
I had been revisiting Leinil Yu’s amazing work on Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk and loved the texture and tonal variations he accomplished through the use of pencils only. While I can’t imagine colorists would be too happy with this, the style was exactly what I wanted. The tonal variations, the depth I could accomplish through rendering, the grittiness…the HUGE amount of pencil strokes per panel…ah, that’s just what I was looking for (all except that last one.)
What do you think? Does it work? I think it does. It was a lot of work..a LOT of work…but I loved the tones. This is a world Cinder would operate and thrive in.
***Bonus points to anyone noticing the page was originally drawn to full-bleed. This caused problems as well and had to be changed…after having completed an issue and a half. I had initially wanted to go with full-bleed to draw the reader in even more, make the experience more immersive. I don’t know if it would have actually accomplished this. I’m still torn on this. Editorial thought it would look messy with two pages running together in the spine.
This is the cover repaint I had intended, only partially completed (obviously), but this is likely where it will be staying. It’s very inspired by Atkinson Grimshaw, whose moody palettes captured exactly what I wanted to do with the first issue of Gutter Magic. The logo would have been painted onto the brick of the building at the left, faded and chipped.
But we went another direction. That’s one of the things that most impacts me about the comics industry; how fluid things are. I think it’s easy to over-emphasize the creative process, putting an emphasis on creating, creating, creating that just can’t be sustained in light of deadlines. You have to be creative and fast, the books must go out. I certainly need to learn and relearn this. If I could go back to the beginning of my career, this is probably one of the chief points I would make to my younger self. Speed is of the essence! You have to be quick enough that the tempo at which things change doesn’t catch you off-guard.
At long last, Gutter Magichas been completed. I want to use this space to write a bit about the experience for anyone interested, as it was rich with
learning and growth and may be of interest to someone else–sort of a behind-the-scenes, but also a journal of what I learned. To start off, I’ll address the cover for the first issue.
general, I think it works. I really wanted this first issue’s cover to
convey, to distill the world of Gutter Magic into a single image. I’d
worked hard on the interiors to create a unique and believable world,
something with real depth. Bringing that to the cover, trying to yell
that out from rows and rows of other covers, was definitely something I
pondered a lot. I looked at Dave Johnson’s amazing cover critique blog (and kinda fudged a rule here or there), but I think this generally
works. It puts the viewer’s focus, which is Cinder’s focus, on the
decapitated Chrysler Building. It towers over his character, lights
impossibly lit and glowing ominously. Cinder’s back is to us (yeah,
this is probably the biggest rule I broke), but it was important to me
Cinder NOT interact with the viewer. Personally, I don’t like covers
and movie posters with characters or people looking out at the viewer.
It often reads as desperate to me; “Please! Look at me! I’m worth your
time (money).” Cinder, however, couldn’t care less if we’re there. He
is singularly focused on his goal, as will become evident throughout
Interestingly, this wasn’t my intended final cover.
This cover had been done for the ashcan Rich had printed up for the
NYCC, way back when we were looking for a publisher. The final cover
(someday I may post what I completed of it) was to be painted and evoke a
very specific period feel. I think this works, it just forced me to
rethink the rest of the covers, which would no longer be tied together,
as I’d intended.
In any case, this piece was inked in Painter (the only time I did anything in Painter for this series) and colored in Photoshop.