subhumancast episode 01

ChefMarioHey, guess what? Subhumanzoids has a podcast now! That’s right, subhumancast is here to blast out a regular dose of myself and co-host Canaan Schladale-Zink as we jabber about video games, movies, comics, and whatever else happens to cross our path that week.

My wife and I recently moved from New Jersey to South Carolina, hence the lack of updates, but I’ll finally have many more regular posts and comics coming soon! For now I want you to plug your ears into the debut episode of subhumancast!

subhumancast Episode 01: Mario’s 120 Michelin Star Rating

You can also subscribe to subhumancast on iTunes, with more sources on the way! 

step-by-step: the making of a comic cover

I recently put together a cover for Big Dumb Fighting Idiots, anticipating the eventual need for printing as we enter the final chunk of the story. Thus, I decided to document the process to show how I did it from beginning to end. While this is by no means the ultimate way to make a cover, it should serve as a nice overview of the way I work on this kind of stuff.

Step 1: Coming up With the Idea

Before you begin on a cover you should have a rough idea of the kind of layout you want. It needs to be something you could see standing out on a shelf. Even if it’s never going to make it to a shelf, just think about what might make you want to pick a comic up from the crowd. Naturally, the idea for this one came to me right as I was trying to go to sleep, so I grabbed my phone and jotted down  some quick notes.

Most of this ended up making it to the final cover! All except for that COMIC ON FIRE text at the bottom, which mostly sounded like a cool idea at 11:36pm.

Step 2: Logo Work

Since I just post BDFI on this website, I rarely have need for a logo. I find it really difficult to come up with cool logos, but thankfully I still like the one I made way back when I first drew these characters. Here’s a flashback to that original drawing:

I still had the logo sitting around somewhere, so I dug it up and scanned it in like so:

I set this file aside for…

Step 3: Digital Sketch

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I use Clip Studio Paint, AKA Manga Studio, for everything. It’s a great program for comics—even in the case of the cheaper version, which is just about $50 when it’s not on sale—and it doesn’t take long to learn. My only major complaint: it isn’t primed for printing. Clip Studio only produces images in RGB, which is great for online. It doesn’t output in CMYK, though, so if you want to print anything color from the program you’ll want to tweak it in a program like PhotoShop first.

I always see people setting their backgrounds to grayscale when sketching, but I never understood why. Well, I do now! After reading up on it some and trying it myself, it made it much easier to get in a nice blue-lined sketch to ink over, and gave me a more reliable view of the page’s overall space. Here’s how it looked once I worked out a rough sketch and dropped in/cleaned up the logo:

Step 4: Inking & Layering

Alright, this part is going to involve me trying to break bad habits. While inking on a separate layer, I basically had to force myself to start titling said layers. I knew this would end up having quite a few—especially considering the effects I had in mind—so I went against my typical lazy instinct and employed a simple naming convention for each. It probably sounds like a no-brainer for some of you, but I have a horrible tendency to end up with 45+ layers all named “Layer 16,” Layer 38,” and so on, which means I have to click them off and on just to make sure I’m on the right one.

Step 5: Final Inks & Background Work

I laid the rest of the inks down until I was able to remove the sketch from the equation and start working on the background. Most of the background is going to be color-based and not dependent on ink outlines, so it’s pretty simplistic at this point.

Step 6: Flame Effects Time

This was the biggest challenge I gave myself from the concept stage. The idea alone kind of made me hate Past Joe, but I have a hard rule of at least attempting everything I tell myself to draw. If I have the confidence to put it in an outline or in a set of thumbnails, I can work out a way to bring it to life. The fire effects ripping away at the page ended up being a combination of multiple brushes, primarily the Colored Pencil brush and the standard G-Pen I use for almost everything else. I basically played with it until I liked the way it looked, and topped it off with some spray from one of the Airbrush sub-tools.

Step 7: Character Flats

Flat colors were up next! This step is pretty straightforward. I just made a layer right under the inks to color in Trunk, Wizz, and the pair of Frogmen surrounding them. I use the G-Pen tool for pretty much all my coloring, and while I change character tones a lot in the comic, I went with the classic hues for our heroes.

Step 8: Logo Colors

I actually ended up changing this a few times throughout the process, because it’s tough to tell what really works until you have the entire image together. The colors I started out with were a little garish, but they worked fine as a placeholder until I figured it out. Like the composition itself, the logo has a split second to draw someone’s attention, but you don’t want to go overboard.

Step 9: Background Colors

Sometimes I find backgrounds intimidating. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do with this one, but it started to come together once I filled in the brick wall and added a few lighting effects to that and the fire escape. When I popped in the night sky and stars the trick to filling in the background Frogmen was clear, so I worked in some shadows, added a few glowing eyes, and made detail marks on the concrete for good measure.

Step 10: Shading Wrap-Up

I always save shading for last. Not just because it’s a good final detail, but because I’ll occasionally look at a drawing or panel and decide it doesn’t need shading at the last minute. This is a cover, though, so of course it needed some good shadows! There’s also the matter of the fire, which I still had to add on Wizz’s shoulder as he feverishly attempts to blow and wave it out. That brings us to the final version of the cover below!

Odds of me finding a mistake I made or seeing something I need to change: HIGH. For now, though, I’m happy with it.

To recap:

Step 1: Coming up With the Idea
Step 2: Logo Work
Step 3: Digital Sketch 
(or physical if you’re on paper)
Step 4: Inking & Layering
Step 5: Final Inks & Background Work
Step 6: Flame Effects Time
Step 7: Character Flats
Step 8: Logo Colors
Step 9: Background Colors
Step 10: Shading Wrap-Up

big dumb fighting idiots 59

Previously

First – Previous – Next

NEXT TIME: Metal Face Doom

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally had time to get this latest update done. While I was going to wait a few more pages at first, this seems as good a cliffhanger as any. Get ready for a bunch of action in the next few installments as we build up toward the climax. Yep, that’s right, we’re about 3/4 of the way through this thing!

Thanks for reading, and spread the word!

death by dairanger: 14 days of madness

Neighbors and local authorities are all no doubt wondering why an area man has been running around the streets in his underwear screaming “TENSHIN DAAAA!” for the past two weeks. Did he follow that battle cry out with a spirited “Whoaaa, whoa-whoa-whoa”? Yep. Will his brain ever be the same? Nope. To shed some light on these ramblings, I am that man, and I recently finished mainlining all 50 episodes of Gosei Sentai Dairanger.

What does that mean, you ask? I’m well aware of the awkward Venn Diagram representing people who read my blog and people who know what the hell Dairanger is. I’ll buck my old ways and play to a broader crowd here, because everyone needs an introduction into this deadly world at some point.

dairangercover.jpg

The easiest way to put it is right on the cover of the Super Sentai box sets Shout! Factory releases once every few months: “Before Power Rangers there was… Super Sentai!” Sentai shows are the Japanese tokusatsu (special effects) TV series that went on to be localized in the west as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and all its various follow-ups. Saban basically just took all the costumed action sequences, monsters, and rad giant robot battles and wrapped it in a sunny Saved by the Bell-esque California Roll.

The results were cotton candy to my still-developing 12-year-old mind. Thus, it would stand to reason that snorting the original uncut lines are exactly what my still-developing 36-year-old mind needs just to wake up in the morning. Each episode is a spandex-clad coffee bean that makes me a little more human than human.

dairanger4.jpg

Dairanger is the 17th entry in Toei’s still-running Super Sentai franchise, airing in Japan from 1993 to 1994 before coming stateside as the continuation of Power Rangers‘ adaptation of the previous series, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. This one has a cool Chinese mystic vibe to it, with all the martial arts styles one might expect making an appearance; even drunken style! Their Dairangers’ mentor, Master Kaku (pictured below, right), is basically Splinter.

dairanger5.jpg

No one needs to know all this crap, though; it’s not like there’s gonna be a quiz, and if you see one you can bet it’s part of an insidious plot devised by Dairanger enemy du jour, the Gorma! Digging in too deep is dangerous, so let’s go for something different with:

THE SUBHUMANZOIDS SENTAI AWARDS: DAIRANGER EDITION

That’s right! Everyone’s here and it’s the moment they’ve all been waiting for, so without further adieu, let’s start handing out the honors.

Best Characters
San Baka (AKA Three Stooges)

dairanger1.jpg

Known in Shout!’s subs as the Three Stooges, this team of ne’erdowells consists of, from left to right, President Gravestone, Telephone-sensei, and Boss Kamikaze. The latter is, as you might have guessed, the leader, and he’s a totally smooth delinquent. He ends most every sentence in a very enthusiastic (and English) “Baby!,” and he’s generally in charge of all the ridiculous plots to rid the world of the Dairangers.

These plots are also always games, and please believe anything goes. From exploding baseball games that would be right at home in a Yudai Yamaguchi flick to, uh, exploding soccer and exploding bike chases, the Stooges are a fabulous font of foolery from their first to final episodes.

Worst Recurring Story
Kujaku’s Quest for Peacock Heaven

dairanger2.jpg

Here’s the skinny as best as I can remember it off the top of my head: Kujaku shows up and quickly becomes the love interest of Daigo, AKA Shishi Ranger. There’s only one problem, her Peacock Buddha powers are running out thanks to the crummy, polluted atmosphere of Earth. Much like the Stooges above, Kujaku episodes are scattered throughout Dairanger‘s run, and they’re just tough to get into. Masako Morishita really ups the melodrama in the role, and her beleaguered shouts of “Daigo!” will be etched into your brain for weeks.

Best Dairanger
Shoji AKA Tenma Ranger

dairanger3.jpg

Would it surprise you to learn that the pompadour’d dude above is the Dairanger member who builds an intense rivalry with the Stooges? They troll him time and time again, and he always falls for it because he just knows one day Boss Kamikaze will present him with a fair challenge. Ei Hamura is the man in this role, and he sells every single one of his Bruce Lee nose swipes with aplomb.

Best Mythical Chi Beast
Won Tiger

dairanger6.jpg

Sure, its pilot may literally be a child, but none of the mechs in the series hold a candle to Mythical Chi Beast Won Tiger. Ryuuseioh comes close, but there’s somethin’ about that slick white paint job that wins me over. Just to give Ryuuseioh and the rest of the beasts some love, though, let’s take a moment to appreciate how they look combined with Won Tiger (cue the Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1”).

dairanger7.jpg

Creepiest Episode
Episode 34: “A Prickly Maiden Hunt”

dairanger8.jpg

And finally, we have everyone’s favorite category, Creepiest Episode. There’s always at least one! If the name didn’t make it clear, episode 34 wins by a wide margin. The monster of the week is General Cactus, who looks like the gas station attendant above in human form. Here’s what he does to this dude’s daughter as soon as he leaves his car:

dairanger10.jpg

dairanger11.jpg

And here he is as the somehow-less-threatening General Cactus:

dairanger9.jpg

General Cactus loves to kidnap little girls, paralyze them, and turn them into dolls. It’s a plot that would be at home in any prime time police procedural (tune into NBC next month for the debut episode of Chicago Cactus Childnapper!), but the real creep-out comes when we stumble upon some of freshly-animated yet oh-so-still dolls.

dairanger13.jpg

dairanger12.jpg

dairanger14.jpg

dairanger15.jpg

This is a moment best summed up with video.

Creepy. Yet… I love it! I think that’s about all the Dairanger energy I have at the moment, but if we get any late award-winners in the future, I’ll be sure to update. Once I have my powers back, it’s on to… Ninja Sentai Kakuranger!

Creator Spotlight: Wes Black

L0l87UOi_400x400.jpgIf the name Wes Black doesn’t ring a bell, clearly you haven’t been reading this blog for very long! That’s okay, because we’re here to introduce the man/myth/legend/etc. in our very first Creator Spotlight. This series is exactly what it sounds like: I’ll be shooting questions at artists and writers behind comics and other creative endeavors, finding out more about what fuels their work. 

As a quick catch-up, Wes co-wrote Two of a Vine with me and both Post-Nuke Pre-School and Neon Starlight Express are his feral brainchildren. 

I’m going to pepper this spotlight with unseen Raisins art. I think this was one of the first drawings I shared in our Two of a Vine notes email.

subhumanzoids: Hey, you’re our first creator spotlight! No pressure, but this has to be really good. For right now maybe I should just write “Wes says something funny here” and fill it in later.

Wes Black: Remember when that homeless guy with the high-pitched voice chased us into a Japanese video store on his bike, and then sat parked in the doorway, taunting us by ding-dinging the bicycle’s bell? That was funny after we realized we weren’t going to get stabbed. I recall us having a good laugh about it.

Regular readers of subhumanzoids may know you from two of the “Big Three” on the site: Two of a Vine and Neon Starlight Express. What was your writing process like for each of these comics? 

I love giving myself lots of extra work. For Neon Starlight Express, I wrote a pitch (which I sent you to gauge interest) then a 17-page plot, followed by a full script — a script with way too many panels per page. After you sent me the finished art, I got mad at myself for using too many goddamn panels, and then rewrote most of the dialogue and captions, because half of it wasn’t needed. Despite this, I still managed to saddle you with pages and pages of overstuffed word balloons.

Two of a Vine didn’t have this problem so much, since we wrote that together. Except for the parts I went off and wrote on my own. Those definitely have too many panels. And words. For the past couple of years, I’ve found myself unable to read a comic without counting the panels and word balloons. I’m very good at ruining the things I love.

raisinslap
This was one of the first sketch samples I made to give an idea of how Vine might look as a comic. I guess that tall-headed Raisin is supposed to be Jamain.

Two of a Vine basically stars us and the California Raisins. Were you ever worried said Raisins would emerge from your TV screen to strangle you for twisting them into the deranged creatures we created?

That or a cease & desist letter. I went in fully prepared to make the comic about The Delaware Dried Prunes in order to appease big corporate lawyers or murderous California Raisins.

Prior to this, you had more experience writing spec scripts for movies and TV. How does your approach to writing comics differ?

There’s slightly less anxiety involved, mainly because I’m confident you’ll fix things to where I won’t look like a complete moron. Honestly, I wish you could just illustrate all my pilot scripts.

The fact that we practically share a brain definitely makes communication easier. Have you written comics for people who aren’t named Joseph Luster? How did that go?

I haven’t, but I imagine I probably wouldn’t be able to use “that thing Craig T. Nelson pukes up in Poltergeist II” as shorthand. Sounds terrible, actually.

I know you’re primarily a writer, but do you have any of your demonic drawings to share? I feel like that’s a little known aspect of Wes Black.

I think most states have some sort of law on the books preventing that.

raisingoo.jpg
This sketch comic was based on an early concept of, uh, some kind of goo the Raisins subsisted on? Our email chains are like spitball snowstorms.

Regardless of what you’re writing, what’s a typical day like for Wes Black?

Usually I start by staring at the ceiling, then I talk myself into writing, and try to get down as a much as possible before the self-loathing really kicks in. After that happens I still keep on writing, but things tend to move a tad slower. I like to follow that up with a nice long walk while listening to a podcast (Shock Waves and Pure Cinema are faves). Maybe slip in a movie late at night — most recently 1987’s Dragnet, which has aged wonderfully. Expertly strides the line between spoof and straight buddy-cop film in a way that I feel wasn’t fully appreciated at the time of release.

Alright, speed round time: What’s your current regular comic roundup looking like? 

Kill or Be Killed, Misfit City, Alien: Dead Orbit, Black Hammer, and Rock Candy Mountain. Plus early ’90s-era Valiant.

Favorite movie of 2017?

Does the new Twin Peaks count?

Might as well. Best kung fu movie ever made?

8 Diagram Pole Fighter.

Put 10 grand on it: McGregor or Mayweather? 

Mayweather in the third, unless he accidentally KOs Connor while toying with him in the first two rounds.

Dream project? 

A live-action Gantz TV series.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 11.35.04 AM.jpg
This is a good example of your average dumb email idea we shoot back and forth. In this one, the Raisins created a bridge across some sludge in the flooded shower room. They LOVE doing stuff like this, of course.

Alright, thanks for not messing up our first Spotlight, Wes! I’m writing this in advance assuming we didn’t totally beef it. Any parting thoughts or plugs?

I have a towel stained with the sweat of professional wrestler Kazuchika Okada that I keep hidden in my closet. Since I don’t have a will or anything, I’d just like it in writing somewhere that I want to be buried with said towel in the event of my death. It’s yellow and was made to look like a $100,000 bill with Okada’s face on it. That’s all, really.

Follow Wes on Twitter for a closer look at what watching a ton of wrestling and mainlining movie marathons will do to even the boldest of brains.