Schedule

“How long does it take you to do a page?”

Every comic artist has had to answer that one at some point (and more often than not, they have to answer that one over and over again, both to fans at conventions, to family and friends who’ve no idea and to other working professionals, and finally, most hauntingly, to editors…)

For me, the answer is and will always be: a page a day. (it’s also reassuringly definite)

I mean, it’s a lie. Sometimes I can do two (sometimes three!) pages per day (3-4 hours of solid work can get a page done depending on what’s on it) and sometimes a page refuses to cooperate and can take a week or more (I mean, only when the deadline has the slack built in, otherwise you’re shooting yourself in the head doing that).

There’s a good blog post here about schedules and working within deadlines. They talk a lot about 200 page graphic novels (longest I’ve ever done is 174 pages, and it took a year – longer than I’d anticipated owing to family illnesses)

To help me work through deadlines and jobs, I sometimes use my “comics calendar” – it has 25 boxes – representing 25 pages for each month.

If I can get through each month and tick each of those 25 pages then I know I’m on schedule.

Sometimes I’ll adjust that up or down, for me 25 pages is doable (I’ve done 50 page months before… they were pretty good pages, but it is hard work)

I’ll combine this comics calendar with a proper big wall chart calendar, so I can keep track of when I’m doing work and how much. Subscribing to the Seinfeld joke writing method – essentially put an X on every day that you draw a page, and keey going til all the Xs join up.

And if you work full time and a page a day is just an absolute impossibility (and I sympathise, I worked part time for the first decade of my professional comic drawing career)-then divide the page down into chunks you know you can do – half a page, a quarter of a page, the pencils – single panels, then everytime you do a chunk put and X and move on to the next. Even if you imagine you can do a quarter of a page everyday with a full time job, and you do that every day, that’s still 90 full pages of comics per year…

Here’s my comic progress chart – I mark each project with a different highlighter colour and mark it off through the month – if I only do pencils, then I’ll mark half the box in that colour, and then fill the box when the page is completed.

Oh, and one last thing, I’ve blogged about it and talked about it before, but the pomodoro method is an incredible useful tool to get stuff done. It breaks work into 25 minute highly focused chunks with a 5 minute break with every fourth 25 minute break followed by a 25 minute break. Even if you can only get two of those 25 minute chunk in a day and you do it every day (al Seinfeld method) then you’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done.

There’s apps to make it easier, but you can do the same with a kitchen timer – the app I use is called focus keeper and it’s on the iphone or ipad.

Anyway, all said and down the big, horribly obvious advice is, knuckle down, do the work, don’t get distracted by writing a massive blog post, like I just did. Keep drawing!

-pj

Folklore Thursday: Locker

Oh man, we messed up.

Well, we didn’t really, we work from a list in advance of what the next Folklore Thursday is gonna be. The list is pretty far in advance, and, apparently, this week, changed. So instead of whatever-this-weeks-topic was it became insects. BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST WEEK I WAS ACTUALLY AHEAD! so, poop. Instead you’re getting too Folklore strips. Locker, was my new fav.

Davy Jones’ Locker. The deep-sea Hell of the drowned, according to pirate-lore and later nautical-lore. Davy Jones a diabolical figure, sometimes said to be glimpsed among the rigging during a storm. More often than not though, the sea-devil simply waits below.

John Reppion via Twitter

I love stuff like this, instantly I could see it all – deep-sear Hell of the drowned. Class! Trying to get something of a narrative in there – the sailer with the red scarf, drowned in the waters. And shifting to a symbolic skull in the water, was fun in the last panel.

I enjoy drawing gruesome faces, so that much is fun for me.

Uniform

I cobbled my version of dredd together over 15 or so years of lifting and removing the bits of his uniform I liked and didn’t like.

The Stallone movie (*spit*) added a couple of things to my Dredd armour – notably a neat tidy collar and tiny little judicial badges (which I only give to fairly senior judges) and a lip or rim around the red part of the helmet…(and my Dredd helmet probably owes more to Steve Dillon than anyone)

(er.. collar badge missing in this picture).

I’m still working on how my eagle looks, but, for the most part it works like this…


Made up of two parts, the lower/inner part acts as the support for the arm, and the eagle – and then the eagle pivots/rests on top of it. Frequently colourists will colour both the same, but my preference is for the inner part to be a dark blue (darker than the uniform even)

I’m still playing with the gloves, but I tend to favour this style (Jock’s design is so strong that even for the brief window he drew Dredd some of his improvements to Dredd’s uniform rippled down through the years)

I imagine they’re velcro fastners. I’ve no idea what the hell they’d keep in those glove pockets -I mean two per glove is a silly size – maybe some bullets?

Belt pouches are fairly classic standard, button with a central ribbing…


Which I think are largely McMahon design.

I don’t think there’s much remarkable about my elbow or knee pads or boots – it’s all big chunky shapes, that look like they’ve been battered about – that’s my preference.

On last thing, and the reason for the blog post… I think – though I may be wrong – I just invented a new way to do one part of the uniform that.. well.. I’ve never been happy about.

The respirator – I’ve seen this done where the badge slides down and covers the mouth and where the entire bulged part where the badge is attached comes down. Which seems marginally more likely (while explaining why it has that bulge)

My new innovation… ta da! is to add pop out fins – now these pop out either side of the respirator when activated, and form a vacum seal around the face (and in fact, possibly they inflate a little – and may – if animated – look like they’re breathing with you).

It looks like this:

(NOT ACTUALLY Judge Dredd… this is another Judge)

I doubt anyone else will ever steal them from me, but even so, I’m happy knowing I adding something totally new to Dredd.

Holden and Reppion are Making Comics (on Patreon)

So, been chatting to John about our next moves, and we’ve set up a patreon. If you’ve enjoyed the weekly folklore comics, and want to help us justify to ourselves why we’re doing it, you can sign up to our patreon at patreon.com/holdenreppion

If you sign up, for $5 you’ll help support us and for $10 you’ll get to see things early, I’m usually a day or two ahead of the deadline for art, so you’ll see that.

The back room details and blog posts for everything will all migrate over there too, I’m afraid. But will try and keep it alive here too.

Serves you right

For many years I ran a wordpress blog off a server on phpwebhosting, I started it so long ago that I don’t think there were that many options for self hosted wordpress blogs.

It was always a little slow, but inexpensive with unlimited storage. And it was dirt cheap since – at the time, the dollar to sterling exchange rate was well in my favour.

But times change.

Last year or so I moved over to wordpress. I didn’t really need a php server, I didn’t need the ability to add new websites, I didn’t need infinite storage, but I did want speed and to not have any hassle at all (not that there was much, but even looking after a wordpress blog behind the scenes was more hassle than it’s worth, sometimes)

But… it was more expensive, and, ultimately, was too restrictive. So I went crawling back to phpwebhosting. It felt like a safer option.

But it was still laggy, still a little prone to breaking (for me) and the final straw was, I think, I somehow got flagged in their servers firewall so I couldn’t even access my own site from home (it would work via my iphone – which was on 3g and had a different IP).

So I gave up and started the move to a new server. Thanks to Ben at https://www.stratagem.host who transferred my old wordpress over and sorted me out, I’m back up and running on a faster server at a cheaper price.

Anyway, that’s all very dull for you, but super interesting for me, and hopefully will make adding updates to the blog that much easier.

-pj

Folklore Thursday: Boudicca

Oh man, let’s start with the Tweet. I admit, on first read of this, I got very excited, I knew EXACTLY what I was gonna do. Which sounds great, but it’s inevitably crushingly disappointing as your abilities fail to meet your ambitions (and even worse when the failing is one of laziness more than anything)

60AD. Britain 18 years into a Roman occupation lasting nearly 400. Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni – widowed, whipped, her daughters dishonoured – fought back. 70,000 fell before her. A layer of ash in London’s soil still marks the day she burned it to the ground. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion

Straight off the bat, I knew we’d see Britain (grabbed here from an internet search of Roman Britain, just used as a placeholder graphic for inking over), then a single strong image of Boudicca killing thousands of romans (ambition) because of the nature of these things you don’t get too bogged down in realism, it’ll slow you down (if she was in the midst of the murderous revenge rampage, you’d probably not even see her at any angle, buried as she would be by roman bodies). So her leaping over a bunch of shields to get to the next tranche. Ideally I’d’ve drawn literally thousands, but (abilities) couldn’t (lazy) do (time) it.

Sent John pencils cus I actually thought this would be a winner of a strip and I wanted that early Dopamine hit of the writer seeing it and going “Awesome”

Pencils

The last panel would be a transition from the battle to modern day london, I thought that would be suitably poetic. The caption in the pencils was, though, destroying the transition – so I ended up moving it for colour.

Boudicca I drew as an older woman out for horrific revenge, coated in Blue Woad, unfettered by clothing (apart from some trousers – I mean my thinking was she would start fully clothed and shed it as the battle continues over days, untroubled by modesty)

Strongly muscular, and I tied the hair into a single braid – there is a historical description of Boedicca by Dio (not Ronnie James)

“In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire …” 

Dio, Roman History (LXII.1-2)

I’m willing to bet money he never set eyes on her (I mean, given she is reckoned to have died around 60/61AD and he wasn’t born until c155Ad, it’s a safe bet).

That said, the way these things work (and the way they HAVE to work to make them viable) is John sends me a tweet (which is always smart, well researched and based on extant folklore myths or legends) and I use that as a basis for an inspiration that I do WITHOUT RECOURSE TO RESEARCH. I literally don’t have time to do that. Plus, it’s more fun.

Now, having read the description, I’d’ve probably kept the single mohawk braid, but made it a lot longer (down to her hips) and definitely given her a gold torc around her neck. But, that aside, it’s been interesting watching the reaction to the strip (there’s been some negative reaction which seems to come from certain people who reckon I’ve drawn her as a strong feminist and “ugly” – though they don’t seem to give two hoots about the diabolical liberties I’ve taken with the roman uniforms, so I’m choosing to ignore them)

Anyway, here’s the final, hope you like it!

And, finally, John wrote a really interesting article on Boedicca and it’s worth a read here.

Folklore Thursday: Labyrinth

Ok, I admit, this one got shorter shrift than some of the others. Totally on me, John gave me plenty of time (and a great bit of inspiration)

The labyrinth is an ancient symbol. Painted and carved across the world for millennia. Compared to the course of the stars, ripples upon water, the ridges on our fingertips. Perfecting and mastering the labyrinth may be one of humanity’s oldest magical acts. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion

Time was short, on first read, I knew I wanted to play with a spiral shape – setting the panels in such a way that you’d have to read it in a spiral. I *think* it works, but not 100% sure. And then the final panel – totally on me – I thought it would be a funny undercutting of the building seriousness of the strip (and the dialogue here is mine rather than John’s).

Now, my original plan was to have John walk through a labyrinth as he talked you through of all these things and ending with him facing something? Unsure what.

But I didn’t have the time, so, instead, it was large images. Which meant grabbing stuff from wikipedia. It looked like this:

Images from wikipedia

I did toy with expanding the images out to make our first photo comic, but figured I should put some effort in.

Next week’s will be better.

(Oh, and have you ever tried to reset a pokemon trainer club password? INSANE)

Folklore Thursday: Lindwurm

Klagenfurt, Austria is home to a nine tonne statue of a Lindwurm, erected in 1590. Folklore tells of the beast plaguing the surrounding swamp, until it was eventually slain by a band of brave knights. Its skull was found in 1335, and is still on display today. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion via Twitter

Well, this one came down to the wire. And, as a result, it’s the first one that’s been drawn digitally. Let’s talk you through it.

When I first read the tweet, I thought it would be fun to build up to the big dragon picture, have lots of Knights huffing and puffing and running towards it, lots of panels – a twenty panel page.

Then, I forgot about it and realised I needed to draw this just a few hours before midnight and so that all went out the window.

Luckily other options presented themselves. I took the text, chopped it up and popped it on a digital page – lettering before art. That gave me the structure and some notion of how I’d draw it. So I blarped out this super fast sketch that is, I suspect, utterly meaningless to anyone else…

Hit the drawing board to pencil it traditionally (still a more enjoyable experience than digital pencils) and … I think you can see the shape of those god awful scribbles above coalesced into what I had in mind (on panel 2 I dropped the idea of seeing lots of nights, because, frankly, I didn’t have time)

Notably Panel 1 the map I knew I’d basically find the location on google maps and redraw it, so that was blank, and the last panel, since it’s a real thing, I wanted to get the skull right – though I couldn’t find a decent picture of it, so figured it’d be alright on the night (which er… was the same night, I just mean it’d come together in the inking)

I wanted the inking to be be… richer? More line-y than previous pages. Wasn’t even sure I knew what I meant, but I wanted a different texture for the inks of the dragon. Woodcut.

Of course, I failed.

I’ll show the whole inks here, but notably, I inked panel 1 then coloured it, before moving on to the rest of the inks – I decided to keep panel 2 and 3 as a flashback / b&w but it didn’t want it to just look like I was being lazy – so – AHAH! a red spot colour would work really well.

Googled up some “medievil knights austria” to get some notion of the weaponry that would be suitable (though I wanted pikes) and here we are:

And, finally, the coloured art without lettering (for completeness sake)

Oh, John has written a fair amount of follow up on the origins of the Lindwurm in twitter (and if you’re curious, the skull they found was of a Wooly rhino). So go here to read all about the monster…

Savage Dragon

Out this Wednesday is issue 245 of Savage Dragon, Erik Larson’s impressively long running superhero strip.

A while ago (actually quite a while ago) during a bit of a lull in work, I put it out there that if anyone needed a backup strip in an Image comic I’d be happy to do it. And Erik got in touch and asked if I’d like to do a Savage Dragon strip. And ho boy would I!

This is the first time I’ve ever worked “marvel” style, and it was a lot of fun. (And I wouldn’t mind doing more of that kind of work).

Lovely colouring and some great, great lettering rounded everything off, and if you pick up the comic, I hope you’ll like my small contribution…

Image
Image

And here’s some behind the scenes sketches…

I drew this first page a few times…

This next page has Erik’s overdraw, since I was pretty off-model…

Anyway, hope you like it!