Monday, 9 April 2018

Black and White is the new Black – Why I just said no to color in “Heroes of the Dead”

While I admit I have been quiet on the Inter-webs of late (not having blogged since last August!) that doesn’t mean these old hands have been idle. No sir! In fact, in the last months I have taken the art of “Heroes of the Dead” in a completely new direction, one I hope you’ll find pleasing and terrifying: I ditched the colour and went black and white. Yep! I couldn’t take it anymore. My agonizing over hues and colour theory is done! I’ve gone tonal baby! And I couldn’t be happier!

It wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve colored the damn thing twice now, so the thought of trashing all that work was daunting. I remembered how the first time I barely faked my way through it, emulating the art of “Afterlife with Archie” as best I could. The second time through I felt more confident, inspired by Elizabeth Breitweiser’s “Outcast” and finally figuring out how to use Clip Studio Paint’s layers to my advantage. But as I finished the second pass I realized I would never really be happy with it. It all just seemed slapped together and faked. What to do? What to do?

In the end, I knew ditching the color was the only solution. A black and white zombie comic just felt right. Obviously the countless times I watched Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” as a kid made a deep impression on me, associating the noir-ish quality of black and white film with the horror of walking corpses in my young mind. And of course there’s “The Walking Dead” comic series, a huge influence on me and yet another black and white masterpiece. The more I thought about it, the more losing the color made sense. Tone and shadow I can deal with, perhaps because of the years I’ve eked out an existence in this dark crypt of mine; playing with shadows comes second nature. But I digress.

Once I realized I wanted to go black and white, I let out a heavy sign and flipped back to page one to start the arduous process of eliminating the colour from each panel and punching up the tones and contrast. But in all honesty, it was liberating in so many ways. And the best part was along the way I felt like I was really finding my own voice in my artwork, and that was super exciting.

textured shadows

I started fooling around with texture, and I came up with this texture-y shadowing that I love! It made everything so grainy and grimy, just how a post-apocalyptic world should feel. I’ve been searching for this loose, grungy style for many years, and it’s great because it feels second-nature to me. I need to have a loose line for my drawings to stay alive; too clean and everything gets flat. And the grimy shadows seem to compliment my crappy line in a strange way that makes it all come together.

As of today I have eliminated the color from fifteen pages, so only nine more to go. Here are a couple of finished pages with the new look!

On another topic, I’ve also settled on a new design for Monsterus. As you know I’ve struggled and struggled with this design (here and here) mainly because I wanted him to be a recognizable character for the series, and that pressure to create something original and iconic seemed overwhelming at times. But all things seem to come full circle, and I’ve settled on a werewolf type design that, while not terribly original, I’m happy with. I think any kid would love to be able to turn into a giant demon dog-thing, right?

So fear not friends, old Specter still has some life in him, and these cracked, moldering hands will continue to labor on “Heroes of the Dead” until its completion or until death finds me. And who knows? Perhaps even that grim fate won’t stop me! Stranger things have happened!

As always, yours in horrific distraction,