Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #14: Disquiet on the Western Front

The action in the Evil Star Graphic Novel momentarily shifts from a chaotic Peru back to a calm night-time London. There’s still trouble brewing though…

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #14a

There might be a traitor in ‘The Nexus’, the group who help The Gatekeeper characters in the series. This is a little two page scene where, in a strange move for fiction of this kind, two middle-aged female characters have a conversation. That kind of thing wouldn’t be happening in a Hollywood film, that’s for sure. The swanky flat belongs to Nathalie – the character with the lighter hair – and she’s invited Susan – the woman with the glasses – round. It’s always a challenge to come up with environments for your characters to live in when you’re drawing comics: they should reveal something about the character who lives there, and be convincing as a real place.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #14b

I also did a bit of scene-setting by way of page layout here: all of the scenes with the Nexus or back in old London town have a very straight and regular layout with plenty of evenly-spaced ‘gutters’, usually my page layouts are a bit wonky and on diagonal angles, and the scenes that happen in Peru are more like this.

Next time:
Enemy territory!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #13: Dream Pairing

Happy New Year, bloglins. As the lucky among us emerge from the family food bunker, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way that this fat-ciggie-end of-the-year’s seasonal message of true goodwill to all men could be realised? A place where we can swap ideas with our fellow human beings the world over with no hang ups on language or tone of voice? Contrary to its own moniker, Evil Star has the answer…

Evil Star Graphic Novel workingsWhile asleep, the main characters of Evil Star can access a kind of dream-world in which they can speak to each other no problem at all, even though they speak English and South-American Spanish in the waking world.
My approach for the dream-world was inspired by how Bill Watterson drew Calvin’s ‘Let’s Pretend’ sequences in Calvin and Hobbes. His style switched from ink-brush cartooning to more realistic comic illustration. The gag being that the imaginary world was more ‘real’ than the real one.

Evil Star Graphic Novel workingsSo most of the figures in the dream sequences are photo-referenced, to make them sing with the note that can only come from direct human figure reference, compared with drawing from the imagination. As always with my work, it’s usually me in the photos, using a tripod, the furniture and now a ‘Gorilla Pod’ to balance the digicam on, curtains drawn and angle-poise lights dotted around to control the lighting, and using a long AV cable to the television to use it as a viewfinder while I’m posing away. And the auto-timer, obviously.

Next time: Apprehension!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #12: Heart of Gold & Sketchbook Daubings

Evil Star‘s very own Fagin, the grungy old fella Sebastian, is one of my favourite characters in the book. He lives in ‘Ciudad de Veneno’ in the slums of Lima, ‘Poison Town’. He lets local street kids sleep on his floor in return for their earnings as thieves, shoe-shine boys and jugglers. His suit’s so old it’s falling off him, he’s unshaven, there’s an old cigar hanging off his lip and he has a drinking problem. And he’s a goodie!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

Sebastian isn’t actually in the book for that long, but he commands all the scenes he’s in. By the time of his departure from the story, he’s travelled along his own little development arc and become a real hero with an emotional punch to his character. He really seems like a real human who stumbles into a narrative and then stumbles out again.
I based Sebastian on the actor Ricardo Montalb├ín. (Yes, he of wrathful ‘Kahn’ fame). I needed an aquiline patriarch with a Latino cast, and he fit the bill perfectly.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

I had a good time drawing Sebastian, Matt and Pedro in the candle-lit dark of the tumble-down slum, it was great fun throwing all the shadows around the filthy surrounding built out of rubbish, wreathed in cheap cigar smoke.

Oh, and here’s a doodle from the back of a page of script of another one of the ‘five’ who have ‘the power’ in question in The Power of Five. Scarlett, the main character of the fourth novel, Necropolis. It’s shaded with a half-working water brush pen with ink dropped into the reservoir.

Scarlett from The Power of Five book IV: Necropolis

She won’t actually end up looking like this, but I like the spontaneity of these.

Next time: Parallel Dimensions!

And while I’m on, I thought I’d show these few pages from my ‘out and about’ sketchbook that’s always at my side in a manbag. I’ve been getting into using my Pentel FP10 Brushpen for sketching in dimly-lit pubs and gig venues, and I’ve been quite liking the results.

Pub and Gig Sketchbook spread in Brushpen

This is friend Lux Harmonium and The Diamond Family Archive playing at The Barrel House in Totnes.

Pub 'n' Gig Sketchbook spread in Brushpen

Since it’s heavy black ink instead of faint pencil you can actually see what you’re doing in the dim light, the bristles get marks down fast, and you can muck about with shapes and textures. Linework’s a bit tricky, but that’s why I’m using it, so that if I’m good at brush-wielding when I’m cramped in a corner somewhere of a hostelry after a drink or two, I’ll be able to turn on the same approach when I’m sitting bolt-upright in the daylight at the desk at home.

There’s an online archive of my wanderin’ sketchbooks up here if you haven’t seen them already.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #11: Bad Cop, Bad Cop

Every baddy needs a henchman. Henchmen, preferably. Diego Salamanda, the villain in Evil Star – who I’ve not actually shown any proper pictures of yet because his very image is a wee bit of a spoiler – can buy anybody he wants and his ‘man’ is Captain Rodriguez of the Peruvian police. Rodriguez brings all the henchmen.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

Rodriguez is fun because he has no subtlety whatsoever. He’s an explosively violent bully. So his design is very simple: just plain old nasty in every possible way. You can really let rip without having to worry about nuances! He’s built like a wrestler but with a gut, hands like shovels, a small cranium and beetling brow, recessed eyes with bags underneath, pock-marked skin, dressed in cheap clothes (a polo shirt with a suit jacket, gharsp) and with loafers on his feet, the most evil shoe in existence. Especially when he’s giving people a kicking with them.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

In the top-left corner of the second image, you can see Matt almost doing a Capoeira move. G’wan, Matt! In the script he’s scrabbling around on the floor and rises with a kick to an approaching bent copper, so I thought that suited. Always keen to break the monotony of sitting down for a living with a bit of leaping about, I even posed it up myself for a bit of photo-reference.

Next time: How the other half live.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #10: Escape to Victory

Do things tend to go well in adventure stories? Not really. Are they deliberately so to impose a sense of impending peril? Yes. After Matt and Richard touch down in Peru in Evil Star, things go pretty perilous pretty fast.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings 10a

Leg it! As they don’t say.
It’s not all bad though, because soon Matt meets somebody who becomes an important character in the book, and the rest of the series:

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings 10b

Pedro! Pedro’s character design is supposed to make him look as different from Matt as possible for a boy of exactly the same age. He’s more defined by his body shape as a character than Matt, who’s defined more by his trademark clothes; hoodie, baggy jeans, trainers, and his haircut. What a spoiled Western kid, you may think. Pedro has his body and little else to call his own, as becomes clear in the story, so I wanted that to define him visually. As malnourished and dirty as it is. His clothes are hanging off so that helps. He has mixed Native South American / Latin features, which were interesting to look up. I wanted to give Pedro a kind of Peter Pan quality, he’s from another world to the main character of the book and can flit about strange landscapes – like the urban hell of run-down Lima – effortlessly, like he’s somehow fey; full of life in surroundings full of decay.

Next time:
Bent coppers!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #9: Air Miles

The action in Evil Star now transfers to where the rest of the book will take place: Peru.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #9

Before they get there though, Matt has another strange dream… Funny that, eh? I’m going to render the dream sequences in a different style to the waking world in the finished book, as they’re important, and become more so over the course of the series. What can Matt’s dream mean though? There’s no time to find out, as they’ve touched down in-country.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #9

The book’s most important character soon appears. A little bit more than the script says, actually. I pulled a background cameo for him from the text of the Evil Star novel itself, a little aside that didn’t make it into the Graphic Novel. Yet.

Lego Judge Dredd

(Oh, and looking through the GN’s script to post this entry, I noticed a doodle on the edge of a page of… A Lego Judge Dredd. Not sure why, I must’ve been getting distracted. Here’s a scan. I reckon the amount of world-building 2000AD have done in Mega City One for Judge Dredd would really translate to a bunch of Lego sets. If it works for Batman and Spiderman, why not..?)

Next time:
impromptu exercise sessions in Lima.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #8: Shadowy Enclaves, But in a Good Way

Helping out Matt in Evil Star are a group of sagacious sorts. If this book had a medieval setting, they would probably be a round table of high wizards with voluminous robes, but because the series has a modern setting, they’re all normal people with day jobs who meet in a converted office building in Farringdon

Evil Star Graphic Novel workings 8

While a benevolent team of thirteen advisors are a wonderful thing for a self-doubting hero to have, sometimes they’re a bit of a chore to draw. That’s thanks mostly to the ‘person-on-the-left-talks-first rule’ we have in comics. Once all the characters are in a room and sitting down in their positions, it takes some visual storytelling gymnastics to get their speech balloons falling in the right place regardless of the seating plans. Oy! It’s like being a wedding planner, I tells ya! You can see a little seating plan I scribbled (twice over) in the image above.

Next time: The meeting’s agenda sparks a bit of a relocation.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #7: Church in the Morning

The first point of greater story-arc drama in the Evil Star Graphic Novel takes place in a fictional church at Shoreditch in London. I know it’s fictional because I tried putting the name Anthony Horowitz came up with for it (‘Saint Meredith’s’) into the interweb to see if it had any reference images to show me, only to find out it was made up! Those writers!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

Anyway, Matt has to go on his own to a set-up meeting to pick up something that might help him and his friends over the course of the book. The stakes are very high, everyone’s out of their comfort zone, and friendly police officers are hiding around the corner to intervene if it all goes wrong, which strangely enough, it does.
This scene is important as it’s also the first time in the entire series that Matt uses a method of travel which only he and the rest of the Gatekeepers can access, and occasionally do in the rest of the books to great effect.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

Crash! It’s all gone pear-shaped! Also hiding in these images is the villain of the piece, one Diego Salamanda. Who I’m deliberately only showing so much of at this point. He’s a bit special.

Lee is a happy doodle

Also, here’s a little something. A deliberately crappy self-portrait I doodled to be the placeholder on the last page of my old blog. This is the first entry I’m putting up on flash-git WordPress under the umbrella of my own web domain after a few-too-many years of ‘blogging’ elsewhere. Oh, you see that header banner up the top of the page? That’s not a stock one, I made that from scratch. There aren’t any Photoshop brushes used in it either, it’s all assembled from scans of painty things I’ve daubed myself.

So, here’s to the new venture!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #6: Keep Moving

Travel becomes a theme in Evil Star, Gwenda’s got a ticket to ride in a flipping huge petrol tanker (I had a bit of a nightmare referencing that, but it came good in the end.) Matt seems somewhat shocked by something…

Evil Star

There’s a killer scene I’m skipping over here that I don’t really want to show here because I’ll spoil it. Afterwards…

Evil Star

Richard and Matt have a chat on the train on the way to somewhere. I’d just been looking at a lot of Sergio Toppi‘s work before I drew these, so I was buzzing with layout ideas. When they arrive, the get out and stretch their legs a bit.
The nice thing about this series is that it gives me chance to draw very British things that I and most of the readers over here are familiar with, like the train thundering along the top of the page. The lobby is referenced from the lobby of a hotel in Bristol I’ve stayed at a few times, when I’ve been attending the comic convention there.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #5: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

…A woman who claims she can talk to ghosts, and a Peruvian academic! Yes, once Matt gets back from school it’s a big night in at big-brother figure Richard Cole’s flat in ‘The Shambles‘ in York. (Exactly the kind of street-level detail that makes this series of books sing.)

Evil Star Graphic Novel workings 5

Here, unexpected guests drop in and offer information on potential forthcoming adventure!

Evil Star Graphic Novel workings 5

The squashed-up grid page of reference-heavy work is supposed to be a news item on television. For the grey-line frame of the flamboyant fellow in the hat, I’m going to create an engraving style frame based on old paintings of Francisco Pizarro. At the top of that block, there’s a bit of straight-up photo-ref, it’s a photograph of my ol’ PS2 console’s disc tray and my non-drawin’ mitt, standing in for Mr. Fabian putting a DVD on for the rest of the characters in the scene to watch.