Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Special Guest Robert Pope on Drawing Comics -- Part 2

Above: Robert Pope hard at work drawing a page from one of your favorite comic books. Now he's going to tell us more about what goes into drawing a comic book story.

If you haven't done so already, make sure you read Part One of our Q & A with penciller extraordinaire, Robert Pope before we continue here with Part Two.

8. What goes into your decision making on panel layout? 

Amount of space needed for word balloons.  Juxtaposing camera shots to create variety on a single page (so that we see a close-up, then a medium shot, then maybe an extreme close-up, just to mix it up a bit.)  What the layout of the previous page was, so as to avoid repetition, unless the script's tone calls for it, as it sometimes can.

Above: Here is a page which shows what Robert means when he's talking about using close-ups, extreme-close ups, medium shots and long shots. The top panel uses an extreme close-up of the newspaper to bring us the details of the photograph and the accompanying headlines. The third panel is a medium shot showing the speaker at a podium on a stage. the flag is an important detail showing that this story takes place in England. The next panel of the speaker is a close-up used to show us the award trophy he is holding. The final panel is a long shot showing the speaker, the stage, the banner above him, the audience he is speaking to and a new character in the foreground. Credits to this story also appear in this final panel. Notice in all of these panels, Robert leaves plenty of room for dialogue balloons and the credits so that they don't interfere with the artwork, or the way that you read the story. 

9. Do you ever do things differently than what's in the script?

Very rarely will I deviate from the writer's intentions, and only for good reasons.  Sometimes, a certain shot is called for (long, close up, ect.,) and the nature of the characters will make this either impossible or clumsy.  For instance, a wide shot works well for showcasing a lot of characters from the chest up, or a panoramic take on a cityscape from the distance, but if you want to show a entire figure from head to toe vertically and spotlight something like clothing details, a medium-shot would be more in order.  

Sometimes very rarely I will be compelled to change something based on how I consider I "know" the characers.  I once drew a "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" story where, at the story's end, Bloo was supposed to punch Cheese in the face.  Even though they had been at each other throughout the story, I felt this oddly violent and out of character, as Bloo is, to my way of thinking, more of a sneaky slacker, mischief-maker and prankster.  I drew the panel with Bloo kicking Cheese in the butt, sending him flying.  The panel was much more tolerable drawn this way, as to my mind a kick in the butt seemed less violent than a punch in the face.  I e-mailed the page to my editor, noted the change, and offered to draw it the way the writer wanted it if I had overstepped my bounds.  My editor agreed that the face punch was too visceral, and the butt kick stayed.  This sort of correction is extremely rare.  

One thing that DOES force the penciller to tinker with the script on a fairly regular basis is a situation that happens when multiple characters are talking in a single panel and, reading from left to right, the character at the far left of the panel has to deliver another line of dialogue AFTER the character that is at the far right, which should be the natural "end" of the panel.  In this instance, I either have to A) make space in the layout for another word balloon and hope that the reader can follow the narrative flow in spite of having to double back "into" the panel, or B) break down the panel into two separate panels to ensure that the narrative flows correctly.  Obviously, "B" is a better solution, but it makes more work for the penciller as you have now added a new panel that must be shoehorned into the page layout and not require you to draw so small that the reader has to look at your art with an electron microscope to figure out what is going on.  

Above: Some panels taken from the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends story "Color Me Bloo" written by Scott Cunningham, pencilled by Robert Pope, inked by Jeff Albrecht, lettered by Travis Lanham, colored by Heroic Age, and edited by Ian Saddler for CARTOON NETWORK BLOCK PARTY #45. Notice how Robert placed the characters in each panel so that their dialogue would read smoothly from left to right without crisscrossing word balloon tails. Even when characters speak more than once the arrangement allows for the balloons to be placed in such a manner that reading them is easy and not confusing. This is tricky for the artist and something the writer should also be thinking of when writing a scene. 

Further, it is also difficult when a character or characters in a single panel are written doing multiple actions.  This also happens quite often, as in "Page 1, panel 5:  Johnny Bravo runs down the street, bursts through the door of his home, and lifts his couch to look for his missing date."  This would work much better as at least two, or maybe even three panels.  

10. What are your favorite characters/ comic book to draw?

I love cartoony comics, and the Scooby gang are of course faves.  Working recently on "Batman the Brave and the Bold" has been great as well, due to the fact it's a weird hybrid of mainstream comic book theory and of course a translation of an animated property to the page, something I think I'm pretty good at.
I have drawn stories based on many animated shows:  Fosters Home, Grim Adventures, Johnny Bravo, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and drawn covers featuring most of the "modern" Cartoon Network properties.  While they are all challenging, I love them all for various reasons.  

Above: The first story of mine drawn by Robert Pope featured Space Ghost for CARTOON NETWORK STARRING...#18. It was inked by Dan Davis, lettered by Ryan Cline, colored by Digital Chameleon, and edited by Joan Hilty and Harvey Richards. 

11. What comics did you read growing up? 

Carl Barks' Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.  Fantastic Four (John Buscema's run, I got my Kirby by way of Marvel's Greatest Comics, as I was born in '67)  Amazing Spider-Man, Any Gold Key comic I could find, most anything with Ben Grimm or Victor Von Doom or heck, Super Goof on the cover, any Richie Rich title, any Archie title drawn by Dan DeCarlo (I could tell) Herb Trimpe Hulk comics, Kirby's odd run back at Marvel circa '75, any Flash drawn by Carmine Infantino, Green Lantern as long as Joe Staton was pencilling, Superman, Batman if Don Newton or Dan Atkins or Jim Aparo were in there somewhere, Justice League of America (some fun runs by Perez, to be sure) and Wonder Woman when Ross Andru was pencilling.  And that's just the short list!

Above: A page from an Uncle Scrooge story written and illustrated by Carl Barks. 

Above: A Fantastic Four cover by John Buscema featuring both Dr. Victor von Doom and Ben Grimm, also known as the Thing. 

Above: Green Lantern by Joe Staton.

Above: Wonder Woman by Ross Andru. 

12. What made you decide to be an artist? 

I loved the medium, and could honestly do very little else.

13. What made you decide to draw comic books? 

I got in totally by accident, kind of sideways.  I got into animation in '88-'89, and some years later ('95) was animating for my pal C. Martin Croker, who was the animation director for the Cartoon Network show "Space Ghost Coast to Coast."  Some time after THAT ('99, to be specific) DC, by way of Cartoon Network, approached Clay about pencilling a adaptation of the show.  Clay, who is really an amazing talent, probably THE most naturally talented animator I know, knew he would need help, so he got me and animator Matt Jenkins (who had also animated on SG) to assist on the first issue, which was edited by the very great Heidi MacDonald.  I helped Clay on a couple of subsequent issues, we were co-pencilling, more or less, and when the work slowed, I approached then editor Joan Hilty (who was my first big booster at DC and incredibly patient with how stupid I was at the time) about additional work and ended up doing some sample pages for Scooby, among other things.  When Clay later wrote a Scooby script, I got to pencil it, and moved from there onto other properties, doing interiors and later cover, which I consider to be a lot of fun.  

14. How long does it take you to draw a comic book story? 

When I get the script, I read it the first night and do thumbnails.  Then I blow the thumbnails up to 1/2 size to create tiedowns.  I can do 5 of these in a night, so a 20 page book takes me 4 nights.  THEN, I take a night to rule boards and blow up the 1/2 up tiedowns at Kinko's.  Then onto the final pencils; I can pencil between 1/2 and 1 page a night, including spotting blacks.  So 20 pages takes me on average 23 or 24 days.  All in all, I average about 30 days to get through a full-length book, working 7 nights a week.  If I had the luxury of doing comics for my "day" job, I am sure that I would be much faster.  Whenever I draw on weekend days I am startled at how much faster I can produce.  However, starting in on pencilling after a full day of work and then dealing with family and other responsibilities means a drop in energy that inevitably takes a toll on speed, but hopefully not quality.  

15. Do you get to pick the inker? 
No, but over the years I have been asked my opinion on possible inkers by various editors, and this chance for input has been very gratifying.  My fave regular inker, Scott McRae, is a great artist and a swell guy.  And he doesn't cheat my details.  

Above: The cover to SCOOBY-DOO #118 by Robert Pope and Scott McRae.

16. Do you work at home? 

Yep, home studio.  I animate during the day in an office, but my comics are produced in the wee small hours, so being right there at home is crucial.

Above is the animation desk that Robert Pope works on when drawing comics at home. 

17. How long have you been working in comics?

Eleven years and counting.  Here's hoping for eleven more!

Thank you Robert Pope for taking the time to share so much valuable information with us. If you have any questions for him, please ask in the comment section below. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you're a good one. That Buscema FF cover is TO DIE FOR, I have that Staton GL issue in my "read all the time" box, and the SG page with Lokar is, well, a great memory. All the visuals you picked for support were the mostest. Thanks a zillion!