Monday, May 2, 2011

Bernard Chang Art On DC Source

I know I am going back a ways by talking about this DC Source post about Bernard Chang's approach to art on Supergirl but I am still wrapping my head around Action Comics #900.

The whole Chang post is worth reading and here is that link:   There is a lot in there about his work that the whole post is worth reading.

I am a complete sucker for process pieces of the creation of comics with any commentary that comes with it. I have enjoyed Chang's work not only on Supergirl but on Wonder Woman and Superman. The thick-lined carnage seen in his later stuff on Superman was really great, showing a pretty pummeled Mon-El after his skirmishes with Brainiac. Chang really showed just what it would look like if you were involved in a super-powered brawl.

And that is different that the more fine-lined stuff we are seeing in Supergirl, something he comments on here. This was just too good to not comment on. His comments are in blue followed by my usual retorts.

From the script, I need to decide what images best tell the story, what panel construction to organize them in, the tempo and pacing of panels, and other important details like research and design. I’ll use SUPERGIRL #63, pages 2-3 as an example. The script called for eleven panels, starting with a closeup on Supergirl as she’s waking up from being knocked out at the close of issue #62, finding the three Harvard friends, Justin, David and Elise. We recap her previous fight with a brainwashed Miss Martian and our new villain, Alex, and then she takes off to go rescue Robin and Blue Beetle.

My first thoughts were to take advantage of the double-paged spread and designate the two action flashback panels (five and seven) as the “money shots”. I then figured the two should be about the same size since they held about the same weight, one reintroducing her allies in the story, and the other their capture and the villain(s) intro, so that helped form four tiers. The top tier, panels one through four, focused primarily on her waking up and coming to, the middle two tiers on the flashbacks, and the bottom tier, panels eight through eleven, on her flying off and the three students talking amongst themselves.

This is one of those times where I wish I could see the script as well so I could mesh the words to Chang's vision to the finished art. I think this would have looked completely different if this had been simple panels of similar size, or flipped to be vertical panels rather than horizontal.

Then I felt we needed to drag out her waking up moment out a little bit longer, really show the effects of her being knocked out from before, so I decided to expand a sequence of close-ups of Kara’s eyes opening in varying stages, intermixed with establishing shots of her in the Harvard courtyard surrounded by the three students. The close-ups of her eyes would culminate in panel six, when she is fully awake — and aware — of the events of the last issue. And lastly, in the bottom tier, the movement of the characters would flow left-to-right, pushing the action from one panel to the next, and then building a crescendo to page four, exposing a full splash page.

I always talk about art and words meshing so I really loved this spread because it conveyed a lot without words. So seeing those closeups of Supergirl's eyes as she comes to and gathers herself as she recalls what happened just flowed so wonderfully. I can imagine as Supergirl is waking up she is probably asking herself 'what happened' making the flashback panels a perfect fit behind her opening eyes.

The second part is the actual line drawing. This is mostly technical, and not a lot of design or research work is going on here because everything should have been solved in the previous stage. I take my thumbnail layouts and rough them out on the back of the bristol board, loosely putting down the figure work, laying down the perspective angles. I’ll then begin to flush out certain details and then I flip over the page and lightbox a tighter pencil on the front.

This is also the stuff I love to see. It always amazes me to see that transition from rough thumbnails to final art. That will always be incredible to me.

When I’m done pencilling, I’ll move straight to inks, employing a variety of pens and markers. For the SUPERGIRL books, I’ve been keeping a consistently thinner line than my previous books, like SUPERMAN or WONDER WOMAN. My intent was that this thinner line would be more subtle and delicate, and being that Supergirl herself is a teenager, this linework would re-enforce that approach.

I think somewhere along the way in the past I commented on the more delicate feel to Chang's art here than in Superman, so I was psyched to see Chang comment on it. I include one of my favorite splash pages of his Superman work to contrast. The thick lines and darker feel of this panel is really a different feel than the current Supergirl work.

After the inks are finished, I scan the page into the computer and move to the digital phase, prepping the page for the colorist, and adding a layer of greytone shade and shadowing, as well as additional special effects. 

And then there is this great progression piece of that superb Robin splash page from Supergirl #62. Here we go from rough pencils to final inks, to final product with greytone and effects. 

This post made me more jealous of everyone who was able to get to see Chang draw out in California recently. 

I hope Chang finds work somewhere at DC after his Supergirl stint is over.

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