making the final cover
publisher of this project, Kim Thompson, wanted a color image
of my cover for use in a catalogue. I took the art to a stat
house and had them make a film positive. I then painted the
back of that with Cel Vinyl animation paint, a technique I
picked up from cartoonists Mary Fleener and Wayno (fig
4). Cel Vinyl looks great. It has those plasticky Eurostyle
colors I love, but it's tough to paint on actual film with,
even though that's what it's designed for. You have to kind
of pool it on. Also, if you want some shading or any color
on top of another color, you have to lay the colors on in
reverse order, because you're painting on the back of your
image. It's an awful way to work. I'm glad Wayne and Mary
to like the piece. I didn't like it so well. I saw lots of little
problems with it. I had inked the greaser's hair in a way I
liked, but the dark brown I colored it with obscured all the
inking. The coloring in general was off. Also, the emptiness
of the image started to bug me. It had nothing holding it together,
just these two figures floating out in the middle, looking like
some kind of bizarre spider. Where were Denny´s legs? The final
art wasn't due for a while, so I left it alone and tried to
think of ways to improve on it.
The temporary color
version I submitted for the Fantagraphics catalogue.
All the colors were too dark and the image lacked
focus. Eichhorn looked like The Boy With No Legs.
The matchbook in the upper left seemed like the
focus, and rightfully so —
it was the only part
of the drawing I liked.
I placed the logo behind the greaser's back,
which relieved some of the flatness and brought
dimension to the image.
I finally decided the drawing would be more creepy (and accurate)
if a bunch of kids were just standing there watching this bigger
kid strangling Denny. That's how I always remember it going
on the schoolyard. A ring of shoes around the top would add
depth and tension. I also added legs to Denny. Now I had something
much closer to what I wanted. I moved all the little matchbooks
and combs on the ground to suit the new layout. And this time
I was going to color it on a blueline like a civilized person.
used my own shoes and pants as reference for
all the feet I added to the top of the cover.
There's nothing like the extra realism you get
from using true reference. It's also fun to
see your own stuff in a picture.
It's tough to draw feet splayed around in random
directions. Another job for tracing paper.
that computer coloring is everywhere. In the old system you'd
have a positive and a negative made of your art, then you'd
sandwich the negative between a piece of glass and a piece of
chemically-treated illustration board. You'd expose this whole
mess to sunlight, and a non-photo blue image of your art would
burn onto the illustration board. You'd hand color the blue
image, register your black film positive over it, and voilà
— a painted cover. Nowadays you do this same thing, but all
gives detailed steps for the digital method. If you want
a real handpainted look to your art, though, I still recommend
the old analog procedure described here.
The feet and Denny´s legs added with tracing
vinyl colors on the blueline.
how pale the colors look without the black ink
line. The ink line contributes much of the darkness
and contrast to a cartoon image. To adjust for
this while painting, you have to continually flip
your line art film down over the painting to make
sure your color values are right. This causes
wet cel vinyl to splotch the back of the positive,
which you then have the pleasure of removing,
painstakingly, with a Q-Tip and alcohol.
of comic book publishers (especially alternative
publishers) aren't always the most professional
bunch. More often, they are fans, with
few editorial or artistic credentials and little
quality-control sense. Pat Moriarity, Fantagraphics´
art director from this period, was an exception.
He made the Fantagraphics comics look great. In
this case he placed the logo and matched its colors
perfectly to the elements in the art, giving the
cover its final polish.
page: doing the back cover