Friday, 8 November 2013

Midnight Man

Now I'm all done with The Absence (I checked over and approved the printer proofs at Titan Comics HQ the other day - so that's the 272 page collection officially off at print!) I finally have a little time to fulfil a few promises I've made over the last couple of months to people.

Some time ago, artist Andy Bloor (check out the amazing Wolfmen series, drawn by Andy and written by Dave West) asked me to do a pin up for his and writer Mo Ali's new comic Midnight Man.

Plot details of the comic are shrouded in secrecy, but Andy has been posting artwork from it on his blog, so I had reference material and, after the fairly slow-paced Absence I was excited about drawing something that had, like, superheroes with guns and explosions and action. In his black trench coat, the titular character has a design which allows for a great deal of expressive movement and so I knew I wanted to do something with a lot of energy and along with Andy's cool mask design (an eerie blank face, with a simple arrow pointing up) I also figured I could do something quite graphic.

Mulling it over for a few days I wondered if there might be some mileage in using the arrow in a way similar to the poster for The Dark Knight Rises (see below).

From a low angle like this provides it meant I could have the Midnight Man falling onto the viewer - always a cool angle to draw a superhero. I sketched a pretty loose interpretation of what was in my head.

Happy with the general way it was progressing I wanted to sketch it up with heavier black to figure out how the composition would work.

From there I worked up a more polished pencil version. (Sorry about the pic - it's a crappy photo rather than a scan).

I spent fricking ages getting his legs and feet right. Like ages. I wanted a pose quite realistic, but the problem with that, when you're dealing with such a weird angle and position, is that (weirdly) it can look too forced and not natural enough.

So anyway, finally happy with it, I inked it up.

And there we were. I left it for the night and came back to it the following morning.

Imagine my annoyance when, the following morning, I discovered I didn't like it anymore. It felt too static. My artwork is pretty loose (some might say slap-dash…) and I'd spent so long trying to make it 'neat' I'd over-worked the inks and it had lost the spontaneity. And I'd also gone off the general pose - it too lacked the energy I was after. 

I searched the internet looking for something to spark an idea and eventually found this image:

There was something about it I like - the total lack of control and the way the guy is utterly giving himself up to the jump. Legs right back, arms outstretched. That said, it wasn't perfect - it wasn't very heroic and frankly he looks a bit bloody terrified. So, with that all in mind, and while trying to keep that urgent spontaneity, I sketched this doodle as quickly as I could:

Aha. There was something there - not just the pose but the mere fact that it reminded me not to over labour the drawing - keep it loose and sketchy. 

While drawing The Absence I'd have three stages - loose pencils, then I'd tighten those up, and then ink 'em. But for this I missed out the middle stage. I did a really rough pencil sketch - just to get proportions right, figure out where the head was gonna go and whatnot - and then went straight to inks. I ended up with this: 

I liked that. And I liked it even more the following morning. 

So I scanned it in, and played about with it in Photoshop for a while (adding various textures I've built up doing The Absence, and using some photo collage) and this is the final version. 

I'm really happy with it. It has the exact feel that I wanted and looks pretty close to what was in my head at the beginning (and it's not often that happens…)

And what's even better, Andy and Mo both like it too. I love their work so I'm hugely proud to have been asked to do it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the final Midnight Man comic! Make sure you all buy it.

Next week, I'll be posting details about a signing (my first signing oh god oh god I'm so nervous) I'll be doing for Titan Comics at Thought Bubble in Leeds.

Monday, 4 November 2013

"Stiff Competition"

I was recently asked to write a short thing for MyM Magazine about The Absence and it's nomination in the British Comic Awards. Instead I wrote an overly long, rambling thing but they ran it all anyway.

It's available now in all good newsagents and the iTunes store.