A lot of people ask how we make our comics. The truth is, our kind of collaboration is pretty unusual in comics – we both write, both draw, both color, and both letter. And while we’re starting to do more digital drawing these days, we wanted to show the way these issues of The Uniques were made. Naturally, we start with a script. After having talked over the issue for a while, Comfort does a first draft, Adam does the second, and we bounce it back and forth until we feel it’s ready to go off to the editors. Once we’ve got their feedback, we get started on the art.
We start with thumbnail sketches – really tiny drawings that help us work out the layout of a page. Adam is great at drawing tiny and adds a lot of details early on; Comfort likes taking her thumbnails and enlarging them to 10.5”x7” to do the detail work of the rough layout. It’s a good idea to work smaller at first because it’s easier to spot perspective and proportion issues with small scale roughs rather than on the final page. It also lets us work out our ideas really fast. When finished, we scan the thumbnail into the computer, blow it up to 10″ x 15″ and print it in light blue on the final art board. That’s when the fun begins…
With our pages printed out, we then tighten up any areas that still need work. We pay particular attention to facial expressions, as they are a really important part of our book. Each of us is better at some characters than the other, so we both do some of this tightening on every page, making sure the characters and action are ready for final lines.
Adam usually does final pencils on the foreground characters, tech, or vehicles, and Comfort does all the background elements and scenery. Again, each of us has our strengths, so there are still some figures Comfort does more work on and some background bits that Adam will draw. We don’t break up the panels or add borders or gutters until final pencils are complete and we scan in the page. The panels are split up and spaced out digitally to ensure the cleanest, straightest lines for the borders and gutters.
Next, we send the page off to our Fightin’ Flatsmen for color separations (‘Flats’). This is a long, grueling process of selecting each area of color individually and filling it in. It can take a lot of time, and with as much detail as we like to cram into every page, it’s a truly Herculean effort! Flats allow us to easily select areas of color to shade and highlight. With one click of a button we can select all of Singe’s skin tone and color him on every panel all at once. Flats also make it easier to do corrections. If we need to change the color of something, we can select that area from the flats rather than reselecting the area by hand.
The last step before the toning process is to choose a color overlay to establish the lighting of the scene. The color and quality of light dramatically changes the way a scene looks. (See the pages above of the man in shadows plotting in his office – first at night, then mid-day, and then in early morning.) To the left you can see the page with its original flats on the left and with the color overlay on the right.
With that, the final coloring can begin. Comfort goes first, coloring the foregrounds and setting up the lighting. Usually, she’ll color a whole scene at once. That way she can color every instance of, say, Scout in any scene and keep everything consistent. Next, Adam colors the backgrounds and lays in the texture overlays. In the scene below, the cement brick walls, cement floors, ceiling girders, scaffolding, and metal beams. On other pages he might add carpet designs, wall graffiti, checker- board floor tiles or wood grain tabletops. The textures add that little bit extra that make the backgrounds come alive.
The final touch is to add the special effects. As with everything else, we split up the FX to play to our strengths. Here, Comfort did the fire, the blaster shots, Quake’s rings and shirt, and the fades. Adam did the sonic scream, Kid Quick’s speed trail, and the bursting goo bombs. Any given scene has its own FX challenges, and we’re learning how to do new stuff pretty much every issue.
The final step is to add the lettering. Placing all the dialogue so that it reads easily and directs the eye across the page without confusing or distracting the audience can be a challenge. Then there’s the sound effects. Good sound effects blend into the art, yet stand out from it, creating sounds in your head without getting in the way.
In the end, we do some final proofing to wrap it all up, then prep it for the printer, package it up into digital files, and that’s it. All told, it takes us between 5-7 weeks to finish an issue of The Uniques. It’s hard work, but we couldn’t be with the end product.