Issue 2 Cover

June 7, 2012

Branch: Mint edition!

Given the generally positive feedback I received on the last issue’s cover this one follows on from its template in most regards; I’ve been trying to establishing a running style and the mix of noir shadowing with circuit patterning seems like a solid representation of Branch’s mood and themes.

While I want to create a sense of visual continuity between installments though I was also conscious here of the need to differentiate them in some fundamental way. One of my customers at the MCM Expo talked with me about how they often forgot which purchases of a series or a particular author’s work they’d made between conventions, consequently putting them off the follow ups. In recognition of this problem I completely overhauled the colour scheme for this issue, maintaining what I hope to be recognisable stylings in a radically different flavour.

The orange-reds off grey-blues in my last cover were meant to emphasise the clash between human and machine – while also being a complimentary arrangement to catch the eye – here I reprised the greens in an echo of Scratch and Curt’s initial meeting to continue enforcing a sense of queasy unease as things become progressively worse for our downtrodden delivery man. The formerly red title also felt a little too extreme against these colours so I changed it to cooler looking blue to create a stronger sense of cohesion in the design.

On the content: I’ve been getting some feedback from people eager to see action and indeed this issue will be trading much of the last one’s intrigue for more in the way of excitement. I never specifically intended Branch to be an action comic but Scratch is a character of few words prone to expressing herself physically rather than verbally – she’s not a murderer but she’ll quite happily resort to violence, making full use of her prosthetics and the advantages they allow.

Perhaps it sounds like I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but I’ve opted to loosely base Scratch’s fighting on kung-fu styles; I’ll save the exact details for another post, but along these lines I’ve been giving some thought to exactly how Scratch might fight. The idea of her being a trained thug of considerable self-confidence would suggest a refined level of skill – namely martial arts – and while I’m not planning to devote huge amounts of research to it (as fighting isn’t the story’s focus) I feel a reference model would lend greater credibility than clumsy abstractions. Besides the fact that Kung fu is the only martial art I have any hands on experience of, the directness of it strikes me as a good fit for a hyper efficient cyborg.

Hence the basis for the feisty pose. I toyed with the idea of her and Baby Face grappling as a cover image but felt compelled to include Curt given his role as co-protagonist and as a distinctly human counterbalance to Scratch’s OTT bravado. I want to avoid the heroic/badass stereotypes as much as possible and having Curt pathetically tailing Scratch with her coat hopefully takes the edge off the dramatic pose a little.

Anyhow that’s enough blabbing for now, I need to get back to work on what’s going inside this thing…

Print Making

March 25, 2011

Feeling on the one hand that I should make the most of College resources during my MA while on the other I’ve been encouraged to experiment I decided to learn something new earlier in the week and have a shot at traditional print making. Strictly speaking it isn’t the first time I’ve done it as I have taken part in workshops previously, but given that this was three or four years ago with poor results at best it was with a fresh mindset that I approached the technique again. Cutting rather than drawing an image certainly takes some getting used to but in the end I got somewhere.

The image above was the result of a lino print I created based vaguely on my Nightmares in Neon concept for Baby Face. I attempted to go for the same effect of semi-lit edges using crosshatching taking the negative printing into account, but unfortunately forgot to consider its reversal – hence the eye being on the wrong side and the initials in the corner being backwards. Furthermore, rather than spreading ink on the work surface first before applying to my linocut, I foolishly slapped it straight on resulting in my first prints coming out of the press blotchy or incomprehensible. Fortunately one of the tutors showed me how it was done though resulting in the clean version you can see now.

As far as first attempts go it’s pretty crude, my lack of skill being all the more evident looking at the other work made in the college printing room. All the same, I’d definitely like another go when I get the chance as I’m adamant I can do better, and for all my ineptitude it was actually pretty fun…

Concept: Nightmares in Neon

March 8, 2011

Having some free time today I felt like experimenting a bit, this being the result:

Antagonist Baby Face in a suitably menacing pose. What's in the case? You'll have to wait and see...

Again it seemed a cold mood was in order so I used a similarly restricted palette of blues to my previous concept of Scratch but placed all the focus on the character – Baby Face – and removed scenery altogether going for a super abstract silhouette. Having recently read Frank Miller’s Sin City: The Hard Goodbye I suppose this started out as an attempt to emulate him to some degree, however I was also considering the dark suited villains of classic Noir and the way their presence would be emphasised through high contrast lighting and threatening shadows.

I added the highlights around his figure via computer on a whim as it appeared a little too stark against the coloured background with just a pure black outline – perhaps not an entirely successful effect but one which adds a greater sense of atmosphere and menace I think. Additionally I’ve included the basic black & white version below for comparison. Note the walls and slightly different arm/body shape, changed for the better I felt but then I quite like the original’s simplicity in some ways.

Original hand drawn version of 'Nightmares in Neon'

Which do you folks prefer?

Concept: Baby Face redux

March 4, 2011

Of all my concept work the previous design for one of my villains ‘Baby Face’ received some of the harshest criticism, specifically in relation to the clothing. Even I’ve got to admit that in retrospect it was a terrible drawing, both in terms of the idea and its execution. Keeping what worked (the head) I decided to ditch the silly army-meets-Halloween vibe of the previous design and attempt to integrate the noir aesthetic I’ve been exploring more thoroughly, hopefully creating a shared style and set of influences amongst characters.

Generally I was thinking of Orson Welles’ in The Third Man when I was drawing it and how his dark suit in the role of Harry Lime gave the character a sort of ominous presence during daylight, while allowing him to disappear into the shadows during darkness. It perhaps makes the name connection with infamous bank robber ‘Baby Face Nelson’ more apparent too thanks to the fashion resembling that of his era. I’m also particularly pleased with how the old and new sensibilities mesh, the outlandish Cyclops’ eye and blank face lurking beneath the shadow of a trilby, not immediately apparent until you get closer keeping firmly in line with the cyberpunk tradition (yes again) of putting a strange spin on the familiar.

Admittedly having a villain in a dark suit is somewhat clichéd, but this isn’t necessarily for the worse; Baby Face is a henchman, someone doing the nasty work for the one who’s really pulling the strings. Being stereotypically monstrous simply furthers misdirection in the plot and all being well will stop readers guessing the ending and the true villain of the piece so easily.

So please, forget I said anything ;)

Concept: Baby Face

November 25, 2010

I recently drew up a redesign for my ironically named antagonist – ‘Baby Face’.

Additionally, during an illustrator exercise today I used one of the figure drawings for colouring work, inadvertently creating my first colour concept! It’s pretty rough, and I’m not sure if vector art is the way to go on the final graphics but it still gives a nice sense of how he might appear in the comic itself.

The idea behind the character is that of a cyborg who has taken his modifications to the absolute extreme, cutting away almost all human features in favour of a blank face plate along with a single Cyclops eye. His signature weapon – a deadbolt gun built into his palm – can also be seen in the top right corner. I’m quite pleased with the head’s look, however I’d say his body and clothing may need some re-thinking. In particular I’ve received criticism about his bare torso in the left figure: I was aiming to give it the look of artificial muscles which resemble but differ from organic ones, however feedback suggests this may have been a bad move, it needs to appear more obviously mechanical.

In my previous sketch for the character (below), he originally had a look more heavily inspired by classic sci-fi robots like Gort from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. I ditched this appearance as it seemed like it would be at odds amongst more modern mechanical designs, while also bearing an unfortunately strong resemblance to another fictional cyborg…

Either way, It’s a concept I’m likely to end up revisiting repeatedly throughout the planning process.