"The Evil Underground" in production

If you haven’t been keeping up, I’m doing a comic book (ahem, graphic novel) about the life and work of Richard S. Shaver, the artist, writer, conspiracy theorist, outsider, etc. (chapter 1 was previewed here).

I haven’t tried to draw a comic book in something like 30 years, so I’m learning as I go along. But it’s been a very interesting learning experience, although it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I started by trying to write out what I would have happen in the series, but that made it kind of difficult to imagine and I found myself writing things like, “1) Richard thinking, “I’ve got to figure out what is happening…” Foreman: “Get to work!” 2) Richard (working)”All right, all right.” I just didn’t think that kind of script would be very helpful.

I then started doing pencil sketches on notebook paper — just fast scribbles — as an outline. In this way, I could think about and work on pages as a complete unit. I’m not tied to a specific page count or layout, but I want to avoid having a particular interaction between two characters end on a page where the viewer/reader will have to turn the page to resolve that interaction.

Below is a sample page. This is page 1 of chapter 2.

I decided that the first 2/3rds of every page 1 of each chapter would be taken up by a ‘splash’ panel that sort of introduces each chapter. Between the time I drew the rough layout (above) and the chapter 2 page 1 (below), I decided to make the art of the ‘splash panel’ refer somehow back to the cover of one of the pulps. The splash panel from Chapter 1 was based on an Amazing Stories cover from one of the early issues that had the Shaver Mystery in it. The splash panel from chapter 2 is based on the artwork from another pulp from 1938 (can’t remember the title right now, but I’ve reproduced the art below (last picture in the thread).

After I have my rough layout, I begin drawing the panels on bristol board. I initally use hard pencil to rough out the panels and figures, then add the lettering and then try to improve/tighten up the drawing. When the pencil roughs look pretty good, I use a pen to ink all of the letters (lettering is my least favorite part), then I go in with brush, nib pen and a fine tip magic marker (usually in that order). Finally I use a little china white to cover any smudges or add white highlights. As you can see, I made a few changes between the ‘rough’ version and the inked art below. Instead of the woman being tortured (above), I borrowed the girl in chains being menaced by “Igor” (below) with some sort of furnace/idol in the background. In the panels below, I made a few changes, including giving Shaver’s wife more of a 1930s contemporary hairdo. There were also some small changes in dialogue.

Finally, below is a copy of the artwork I used for the inspiration of my chapter 2 splash panel. It’s a fairly typical pulp cover from the 1930s… you have a ‘mad scientist’ type lowering a woman into a glowing vat of some kind in the background while a girl chained to some girders is being menaced by a defective in the foreground. I liked the woman’s pose and thought the defective could model as a stand-in for one of Shaver’s dero. In case anyone is wondering, this picture was the model for the splash page of chapter one.

3 Comments on “"The Evil Underground" in production”

  1. Very nice! I can't wait to see the finished work. I try to do the sequential art thing but it is very difficult for me as well. I have a sketchbook that I do my very rough layouts in. I then break out the Bristol and do the pencil layouts, followed by inking. I usually scan them in and do corrections via Photoshop. I despise lettering as well. Perhaps it is because my handwriting in real life is completely illegible. I've toyed with using images inside speech baloons to convey the ideas of the characters in the story. Keep the updates coming!

  2. Scott says:

    I <3 Shaver.

  3. Holy…! That's awesome. Somehow I missed your original post about this project and just got up to speed. Very nice work and looking forward to seeing the rest.

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