inside the buckwild sun bakery oven

I’ve been a big fan of Corey Lewis ever since I first read his Sharknife graphic novels. His art and storytelling both have an intense energy about them that’s hard to nail with the right level of sincerity, and he’s only gotten better since. His current project, Sun Bakery, has become one of my favorites, and it recently moved from the self-published zone into the gin-yoo-wine world of Image comics.

That means issues are even easier to pick up now, and I highly recommend doing so.

Besides Lewis’s incredibly bold artwork, the best thing Sun Bakery has going for it is its overall structure. It’s essentially a one-man anthology, so every comic within is a shotgun blast straight from the same barrel. It’s like Image’s Island anthology… if every comic in Island was drawn by the same dude. Or maybe it’s like Creepshow 2, except it’s a comic and it’s more Redline than The Raft. I probably could have just left this at “it’s a one-man anthology,” but I really like anthologies in general!

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I’m really into Lewis’s anything-goes approach to making comics, from the broad strokes to the tiniest details. There’s a lot of imagination in each issue of Sun Bakery, and most of the stories carry on with new chapters throughout the run. Dream Skills, for instance, is exactly what you get when you give a fighting game fan free reign to unleash his own world. In this case it’s a world in which swords rule as the ultimate weapon; just like in real life, guns are for wimps and you won’t find any here.

Look at this Dream Skills-based cover issue #3 sports. It’s one of those images you can get lost in, and I love all the movesets pulled straight from a 2D Capcom fighter.

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Arem is another standout. It’s basically a Metroid fan comic that skirts all the nasty copyright issues associated with a typical Nintendo property. Only in this story, Arem Lightstorm—the Samus Aran analog—travels to exotic planets for the perfect Instagram snaps. Arem is as solid an argument as any for Lewis’s expert handling of color and powerful layout decisions.

Here’s a cool splash page from Arem:

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And a second example of that instruction manual aesthetic I dig so much:

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There’s also choice content here for those who prefer their comics in black and white. Batrider stars a hero with a supernatural skateboard, which is about as much of an elevator pitch as I need. The layouts and direction are particularly strong here. Just dig this two-pager that’s straight off the screen. You can practically feel the animation when the Beetle crests the hill and slams down next to Batrider.

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There’s plenty more within the pages of each issue, but I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own. My key takeaway from Sun Bakery is nothing short of a boatload of inspiration. The one-man anthology isn’t just a great idea, it would make for a killer exercise for comic artists of all levels. Do you have a ton of ideas you want to workshop all at once? Why not do exactly that? Focusing on one story is all well and good, but sometimes you just need to break out your Contra Spread Gun and fire away with reckless abandon.

That’s what Corey Lewis is doing, and maybe everyone else should, too.

You can see more of REYYY‘s work on his website and tumblr. His GI Joe one shot is also rad. And get Sharknife, because he’s coming back in the next Sun Bakery! 

 

cut. it. out! crafting comic flashbacks from construction paper

The latest update for Big Dumb Fighting Idiots may not have clocked in at a whopping 10 pages like the one before it, but it had a few tricks of its own. Besides playing around a little more with colors and shadows, I decided to do something special with the Mayor’s flashback sequence. Going against the traditional style of the comic for flashbacks—whether they’re a single panel or multiple pages—has been my goal since the early pages, and this time I busted out the construction paper and got to cutting.

I could probably leave it at that and most would get the picture, but I didn’t start out with this exact idea in mind. The reason I went with it is entirely thanks to the way I drew the thumbnails for the page. I was originally just planning to make the Mayor’s flashback consist of purposefully bad drawings, but the sketch accidentally gave me a better idea.

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My sketches already looked enough like cutouts…

The second panel sparked the idea: Why not just get a bunch of different paper and start cutting directly with scissors? Sketching the characters out beforehand would be too accurate. I wanted it to look kind of bad, which is a great way to turn your brain off and avoid overanalyzing whatever it is you’re doing. In fact, if you really want to just mess around, you might want to do the same kind of exercise in a sketchbook. Not with paper cutouts, but with extemporaneous drawings that may or may not go anywhere.

I ended up doing four panels like this. I cut the shapes I wanted for each character—separate cuts for arms, torso, clothes, and facial features, for instance—and used a cheap glue stick to put them together.  I didn’t bother gluing any of the figures to the background itself, because I wanted the freedom to move them around if I didn’t like the composition. The final results came out exactly how I pictured them in the first place.

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Clockwise, L to R: Mayor Mustang socks a frog, Trunk looks dumb, a robot goes ballistic, the Mayor is surrounded.

The pressure was off to make these the very best. I knew if they even looked marginally decent they’d serve their purpose and look cool next to digitally-illustrated panels. Once I took photos of each collage, I opened the page up in Clip Studio Paint and simply imported them into their respective panels. I made sure to have room in each for text, which is something you should always keep in mind in advance when laying out panels.

And now I have Mayor Mustang himself on my shelf!

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Also starring: Finn, Rush, and a head-splitting Garbage Pail Kid

So, to recap, I:

    1. Drew thumbnails
    2. Cut out individual shapes
    3. Assembled characters with glue
    4. Placed and photographed each panel
    5. Imported photos into Clip Studio Paint
    6. Added text overlays and polished the page

Hopefully I’ll get to do something like this again, but I don’t know if there are really any flashbacks coming up! (pssst, I’d do clay for the next one if I could.)

the silent journey of sam alden’s haunter

It’s no secret that Sam Alden is an incredible cartoonist. Like other top-tier talent, he eventually made his way to storyboarding for Adventure Time, which is like the mothership for people who are great at comics. This post isn’t about Finn & Jake, though, it’s about Alden’s 2014 Study Group Comics release Haunter, a 96-page journey that reads like a dream.

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Anyone who regularly follows Alden’s work is probably like, “yeah, DUH, Haunter is rad as hell.” After all, this was his first long-form work, but it’s also something I just happened to stumble upon at NYC’s Forbidden Planet. The story follows a young woman who runs into an ancient evil while exploring, and from that moment on the two are entwined in a fierce hunter x hunted chase.Haunter01_01.jpg

As the title of this post suggests, Haunter is a completely wordless comic. These are tough enough to pull off even marginally well. Comics are by no means dependent on dialogue or narration, but without them you really need someone who specializes in visual clarity. Alden demonstrates his skills as a soon-to-be storyboard artist with a comic that flows perfectly from moment to moment. When the action picks up, your reading pace follows suit naturally, and Haunter takes a few opportunities to dial it down and change the timing of panels to what’s practically a frame-by-frame piece of animation.

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Sam Alden is some kind of wizard with brushes and watercolors, or whatever was used to create Haunter. Streamlined characters intermingle with deep environments, and the stark black ink outlines are used to great effect, almost like an animation cel. The color scheme is reminiscent of Katsuya Terada’s classic Zelda art. Appropriately enough, it’s also been compared to a video game. I can see that; it has kind of a Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the ColossusThe Last Guardian) vibe to it.

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The act of reading Haunter flies by in a flash, but it’s also a comic I’m more likely to revisit from time to time. Do yourself a favor and pick up this and pretty much anything else by Sam Alden. I also highly recommend his Frontier book, which is available from Youth In Decline. Actually, it’s out of print, but maybe you can dig around and find it somewhere. That’s half the fun!

His site isn’t showing up at the moment, but you can check out more of Sam Alden’s comics on his tumblr.

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NEXT TIME: Tales from the Trunkside

Finally! Between getting married and actual work, it took a while to layout, draw, and color this intense Skateboard Battle (Jungle Zone Rulez), but I’m happy with how it turned out. It also somehow made it in June, as promised! I’ll probably keep doing the updates like this, with a slightly longer wait but way more content—this one is about 5 week’s worth of normal updates, after all—but the next one shouldn’t be as long.

In the meantime, hit up my Patreon for early access and more on the upcoming stuff. And spread the word about the comic if you get a chance, I’m really excited about the rest of it!