Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hell freezes over, part 2... Plan and Process

It's been a long time coming, but my plan for this thirty-second issue of TMNT Volume 4 is to try -- and I emphasize the word TRY -- to have it ready to purchase, in printed form, in time for my appearance at Steve Lavigne's "Shellback Artworks" store in Wells, Maine, on May 4. My intention is to offer it there exclusively, at least that day and probably for a little while afterwards. I thought it would be appropriate to do this, given that Steve Lavigne inked this issue, and did a really good job.

I think it is possible -- I have a few more tweaks to do to the work I've already done on the lettering and sound effects, plus I have to figure out what to put in the extra inside pages and inside covers and back cover, and my pal Mike Dooney has not fully completed the wonderful painted cover he started a long time ago -- but I don't want to offer any guarantee that the book will be ready for May 4. But it almost certainly will be ready and on sale this spring, probably in both the limited edition, $10 per printed copy fashion I tried out with issue #30, as well as a freely-readable digital issue available online.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to send a letter of comment for consideration for possible inclusion in this issue, I am open to that. I would prefer to not get questions about the upcoming TMNT movie or the Nickelodeon animated series or the ongoing IDW TMNT comics, as I have no involvement in any of those things, but if you must ask questions about those topics, I will deal with it. The sooner letters get to me, the better, with a real deadline being probably the first of April. Of course, I can't guarantee I will print all of them.

If you want to send a letter, it would probably be easiest to just post it here as a comment. And to make sure I understand that your comment is actually intended to be in the running for inclusion as a letter in the printed comic, it would be a good idea to include "Okay to print" somewhere in the comment.

In the meantime, I thought some of you might be interested in a small peek at my process of putting one of these books together, specifically in the area of writing the dialogue for the story. 

Sometimes -- back when we were doing this on a regular basis -- I would do this with the penciled artwork, but in this case, I had Steve's inked versions to play with. I scanned them all, and did a quick assembly of the pages in Quark XPress so that I could print out a copy of the book with all of the artwork in it, with pages back to back, but obviously with no dialogue or sound effects yet. There were also no tones at this point. Here's the cover of that "dummy" copy, on which I have scrawled some words to let me know what it is.

Once I have this comb-bound dummy copy, I start referring to the plot synopsis I had originally given to Jim Lawson to remind myself of key elements which need to be in the dialogue (this text is printed on pages which I bound into this copy, in the back). Once I have gotten myself warmed up and my memory is refreshed, I get out a fine point color marker (in this one I began with a green marker, then switched halfway through to a brighter orange one) and start roughing in the dialogue. Occasionally, I will indicate where the dialogue should be located in the panels, but often is just enough to have it around the edges of the panels, and I rely on memory and context to make sure I know where to put it when I do the finished lettering in Quark.

Sometimes -- not often -- I will realize that, for better flow of the dialogue I am coming up with, I should consider moving panels around. In the case of the two pages seen below -- pages 2 and 3 of issue #32 -- I actually did some of that on each page. The first image is of the roughly-dialogued pages with the untoned art as originally drawn and inked…

… and the following image shows how things were changed in the later stages, with tones, lettering, and some shifting of panels. -- PL

Sunday, February 23, 2014

TMNT keychains at

Browsing through one of my favorite online sites,, I happened upon these TMNT plush keychains:

Pretty cute, eh? I may have to pick some up. -- PL

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Eastman and Laird art for IDW 30th Anniversary TMNT cover!

About a month ago, I got an intriguing request from Kevin Eastman. He was penciling a cover for another IDW TMNT-related comic book, this one a thirtieth anniversary special, and he wanted to know if I would like to ink it.

Having just had fun inking Steve Lavigne's penciled cover for another IDW book, a reprint of some old Archie TMNT stories, I agreed. I thought it would likely be a somewhat different experience…

… and when I saw the pencils, I knew I was right. Kevin had crafted a beautiful, very tightly-penciled, montage-style image featuring a complicated cityscape and a bold group shot of the Turtles leaping into action, all dominated by the looming image of the Shredder.

It was so tight, in tact, that I suggested to Kevin that it should just be used as is… but he wanted to see it inked, so I went ahead and got out my brush markers and set to work.

(Oh -- I should stop here and mention that Kevin also wanted me to have the original art for this cover. Sweet!)

So I was faced with a small dilemma -- should I ink directly over the pencil drawing, thus losing forever its greyscale coolness, or should I somehow transfer the image to another piece of paper and ink it on that, preserving the original pencils?

I opted for the latter, via a technique I'd used before. Employing the color laser copier at Mirage, I copied the image onto a sheet of 11" by 17"  card stock, using the copier's ability to print a greyscale image in the color of my choice. I tried to pick a hue as close to "photo-blue" as possible (that being a shade of blue which is difficult for cameras -- or scanners -- to pick up).

I made several copies in case I messed up and had to start over, and got to it.  And as I did so, I realized what an unusual piece Kevin had created here, with its impressionistic shadows and suggestions of forms. It was a little daunting at first, trying to figure out exactly how to lay down the ink lines so as to best capture the effect Kevin had achieved.

As is my wont, I jumped around from spot to spot on the image. Here are a few shots of the work in progress. I inked with basically two brush markers, and for the really large areas of black, I used a brush and bottled ink. (It's kind of funny to notice in this sequence of photographs that as more ink is applied to the page, the more the paper starts to curl up at the edges!)

One other thing I did -- with Kevin's blessing -- was to make a couple of small detail corrections, things that the casual reader would probably not notice, but which stuck out to my eye. First was the placement of the blades on the Shredder's forearm gauntlets. The way Kevin had drawn them here looked fine as far as this particular drawing went, but having worked on many an image of the Shredder in the comics we'd done together years ago, I could tell that this detail was not exactly the way we used to draw it. So I lightly penciled in the blades to look the way we had established in those old TMNT comics.

The other thing was a stylistic bit that I almost inked as is, because in this drawing the gesture looked just fine. But my practical side just wouldn't let me go there. The detail in question is Michelangelo's nunchaku. Kevin had drawn them with a very dramatic flourish, but also with cords connecting the nunchakus sticks which looked way too long to me. So I shortened them up, and made them chains instead of cords (again, going back to the early days). Fortunately, none of these changes required major alterations to what Kevin had penciled, to my relief.

It was a lot of work, a lot of fun, and took me about four days to finish (taking breaks along the way). Once I'd put the last bit of ink down, and the last little correction with a white-out pen, I brought it to Mirage to scan (the scanner there is better and faster than the one I have at home), and took the scanned file back home with me to clean it up, rotate it into proper orientation and get it ready to send to Kevin.

I was pleased to see that the "blue line" approach had worked quite well, and I was able to clean up any stray remaining areas of blue with no problem, leaving a nice clean black and white image to be colored for the cover. 

This was only the second time that Kevin and I had worked on a piece together in many years, the last time being a few years back for the Jake Black benefit print. I hope we do it again, and soon. It was a blast! And it was especially gratifying that Kevin got a kick out of what I had done with his gorgeous pencil drawing.

Thanks for the opportunity, Kev! -- PL

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blast from the Past #712: Kay-Bee sketchbook pages 20-22

Wrapping up the last few pages of the Kay-Bee sketchbook, pages 20-22, we first see a rough sketch of Casey's grandmother's farmhouse and barn. I think I did this to work out how it would look on the last page of the story in issue #12 of TMNT Volume One.

On the following page, there is another rough sketch of two of the members of the survivalist group from that same issue.

And on the final page of this sketchbook (at least, the last one with anything drawn on it) are two rough sketches -- one depicting another of the survivalists, and the other the look of the little shack wherein the survivalists have hidden their homemade nuclear device. -- PL

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blast from the Past #711: Kay-Bee sketchbook pages 18 and 19, sketches of survivalists from issue #12

On page 18 of the Kay-Bee sketchbook is a concept drawing for the character of Skonk, leader of the survivalist group in issue #12 of the first volume of TNT comics.

I drew him here posed with his foot on the homemade nuclear weapon he and his group had concocted, but in the actual comic that device was at least twice as large as it appears here.

The following page shows concepts for two of Skonk's fellow survivalists. I can't right now remember their names. -- PL

Friday, January 24, 2014

Inking a Steve Lavigne cover drawing

      A few weeks ago, I got a call from my pal Steve Lavigne. He asked me if I would be interested in inking a cover he was penciling for IDW, for a reprint of some old Archie TMNT comics stories, I think. Having had fun last year inking a couple of his drawings, I said I would.

Steve sent me this JPEG of the penciled drawing, which he had drawn in photo-blue pencil…

… which I printed out on a piece of 11 by 17 inch card stock, and got to inking. I was planning to do it all with brush and ink, but realized pretty quickly that my somewhat rusty inking skills were not quite up to handling the level of fine detail in the drawing in that fashion, so after doing a little bit -- mostly the foreground figures -- with brush, I switched over to a variety of brush markers. That was a lot more in my "comfort zone".

I scanned the inks…

… and then set about clearing up any remnants of the blue pencils, in Photoshop, eventually ending up with this clean version…

… that I could send to Steve so he could do his computer coloring. And a few days later, he sent me this…

… which I think looks very cool! -- PL