Friday, July 30, 2010

Fogtown pages 46-47

This is one of my favorite sequences in the novel. I was emulating two of my favorite cartoonists, Milton Caniff and Alex Toth.

Caniff was the auteur of "Terry and the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon," and one of the most influential American cartoonists from the mid 30's to the late 70's. His inking style was almost macho in its sloppy expressiveness, creating high contrast, dramatic, muscular drawing.

Toth was a key Caniff acolyte as a young man in the late 40's, but branched off into his own style in the early 50's. He took the "Caniff" approach to an even more extreme level of simplicity and graphic innovation. His calculated simplicity served him well when he transitioned to TV animation in the 60's, working primarily as a designer and storyboard artist on "The Herculoids," "Space Ghost," "Sea Lab," "Superfriends" and a host of other Hanna-Barbera series.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fogtown - pages 42-43

After reading the script, I felt the character called for a beefcake shot. Frank Grissel, the main character, is a closeted, gay-leaning bi-sexual, but his straight side dominates the book.  Based on this character, I asked the editor if I could show Frank’s genitalia. Bob gave the okay, but later recanted. I had to conceal the offending flesh without appearing contrived and prudish.

The gay aspect is much more oblique and left up to the reader’s imagination. This is somewhat frustrating, but appropriate to the time period in the novel.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fogtown pages 30-31

This is the second appearance of Greg and the first appearance of Jack Kerouac Alley (though one can't tell from these pages). I had the same problem keeping Greg looking teenaged that I did with the nameless teen whore on pages 6/7. It's extremely difficult to achieve a consistent likeness of a young, pretty character and avoid having them appear to age when they emote or I use dramatic angles or lighting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fogtown pages 22-23

Page 22 is part of the sequence that introduces three main characters: The Blood of the Lamb Ministry (BotLM), Father Fischer, and Greg, a semi-reformed teen hustler. The BotLM building was based on a number of buildings and locations I photographed while researching the North Beach district. Father Fischer is based directly on the author, Andersen Gabrych, at his insistence. (I was more inclined to base Father Fischer on a middle aged Spencer Tracy). Greg is an adolescent version of James Dean.

Andersen originally pitched Fogtown to DC/Vertigo as a 12 issue, regularly formatted mini-series, meaning that it would be 144 regular size pages, averaging six panels per page. They decided to publish the novel through their newly conceived Vertigo Crime imprint. This meant that it would be trimmed to 170 pages, averaging four panels per page. Much expositional information was lost, along with many establishing vistas of the city in transition. When I had to make a choice between the city and the human characters, I usually chose the humans.

Also, the editorial mandate to limit the panel count to four per page sometimes had to be circumvented simply to convey the plot and emotional points Andersen and I were trying to make. Page 23 is a case in point; panels needed to be added simply to explain the characters and milieu.

Page 23 is also exemplary of how my initial attempts to be gestural didn't serve the artwork. I avoided using a straightedge while inking the Sentinel building, resulting in a distractingly crude look. This was done before I started working with my assistant, Lee-Roy Stephen Lahey, and could assign the drawing of tedious detail to him.

Page 23 introduces Bone, Frank's rough-trade paramour and (seen in silhouette in panel 8, through the windows of the Cadillac illegally parked next to the hydrant) Bone's boss, the civic reformer and secret crime boss, Colonel Rupert Thorpe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fogtown pages 12 - 13

Page 12/13 will be used to explain the creative process for the graphic novel. First I'll show you the script, then the steps in turning it into graphic novel form.

First comes the script. This is a printout from the relevant page of Andersen Gabrych’s script. Andersen is an up and coming comic book writer (Batgirl, Batman, the Demon), travel writer for LA Confidential Magazine and actor ("Hit and Runway", "Another Gay Movie", "Another Gay Movie 2")

Panel 1

Loretta hands him the hanky. As he drinks the coffee.

Loretta: Do it yourself then, tough guy.

Panel 2

TENSE SILENCE as Loretta smokes and Frank wipes off his face.

Panel 3

Loretta finally speaks, but doesn’t look at Frank.

Loretta: You didn’t come home last night.

Panel 4

A sudden KNOCK provides a relief for both and their heads turn toward the door.



Panel 1

The door opens to reveal MAGDA, an adorable little middle-aged Mexican woman. She peaks wide-eyed around the door as she opens it.
Magda: Hello? Senor Grissel?

Panel 2

Frank stays seated. Loretta goes to welcome Magda in.

Frank: Who’s askin’?

Magda: I am Magda. I am look for my daughter. Carmen.

Frank: Well, Magda. She ain’t here.

Magda: No. No. She is go runaway.

Panel 3

Magda looks up at Loretta.

Loretta: Here, please sit down.

Magda: Gracias. You are Senora Grissel?

Panel 4

Loretta’s eyes turn to slits.

Loretta: No. I’m just the secretary.

Panel 5

Magda hands Frank a photograph.
Magda: I bring photo. See?

Frank: Lemme see.

I adapted the script, roughing out each page on copy paper, rendering my concept of word balloon and blurb/display copy placement. I then copied both the editor and the writer for their suggestions/ mandates.

Next is the first pass at finished art, done at the original, smaller size.

Initially, I had been trying for a loose, gestural look. For instance, I opted not to use a straightedge while inking backgrounds, emulating cartoonists like Milton Caniff ("Terry and the Pirates", "Steve Canyon"), Jordi Bernet ("Torpedo 1936"), and Tony Salmons ("Vigilante", "The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft"). I discovered, working in the smaller format, that my results were more sloppily crude than successfully gestural. My editor, Bob Schreck, was also unhappy. We agreed that the remaining 100 pages would be done at the more traditional 14" x 9" size. This would achieve a tighter, slicker look.


Bob had extensive revision notes on the first 70 pages. I elected to do the alterations in the larger 10" x 15" format and composite the fixes using Photoshop. I delivered the finished pages to DC via the Internet, uploading the finished files to DC’s FTP site.

The production process for mainstream comics is typically an assembly line. One person executes the script, and then various other people provide the pencil artwork, the inked artwork, the lettering, and the coloring (or, in this case, the gray toning). The editor will assign the various chores as s/he feels fit; it’s rare that one artist or creator gets to do all of them on the same project.
In this case, I was unhappy with the original lettering when Bob sent me the rough lettering pass, in early '09. I sent a detailed, page by page listing of all the mistakes and lapses in aesthetic judgment I saw. 

Bob left the project soon after and was replaced by the new editor, Will Dennis. Will sent me the pre-publication galley in early '10. All the elements of the lettering I had objected to were unchanged. I re-sent my critique to Will and he gave me permission to re-letter the display and SFX lettering (I didn’t have the time or ability to re-do the body (balloon) copy and had to let that go). I was not comfortable with Illustrator, the program of choice for letterers, so I hand lettered the re-dos and composited the fixes in Photoshop.


Now comes the final step before publication, where any mistakes can be caught and last minute changes call be made. The galley was the first time I saw the gray tones, which were executed by Rivkah. Although she was chosen by the second editor on the book, Brandon Montclair, I was happy with her work. She was surprisingly sympathetic with what I was trying to achieve with lighting and mood, and even imitated my brush strokes, leading to a very seamless look. She also avoided glow effects, self-color lines and other excesses allowed too easily by the computer, for which I am extremely grateful.

This page is an example of what I changed from the original lettering pass.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Celebrating Fogtown - pages 6 and 7

The prostitute shown here is supposed to be 14 years old. I found it difficult to keep her looking teenaged in the relatively realistic style I was using. It might have been easier if I’d chosen a more cartoony style.

The first 70 pages of the graphic novel were done in the smaller 6" x 9", two images per 11" x 17" sheet of art paper. This was the format chosen by the publisher, DC Comics, for their new imprint, Vertigo Crime. These books are 8" x 5 3/8". Comic books are traditionally 10 1/4" x 6 3/4" or 11" x 8 1/2". The original art for this larger format tends to be one 15" x 10" image on each 17" x 11" sheet of art paper. The smaller format for the original art was chosen because of the smaller size of the published work.

These images are from the graphic novel Fogtown written by Andersen Gabrych with art by me, Brad Rader, published by Vertigo/DC. Copyright 2010 by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader. Fogtown is available from Amazon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Fogtown" published - here's the splash page


This is the “splash” or opening page to the graphic novel, which takes place in 1953, mostly in the
North Beach area of San Francisco, known by its denizens as “Fogtown”, hence the title. It was the concept of the writer, Andersen Gabrych, that the city would be as much a character as any
of the people in it.

This was my second pass at the splash page. My editor, Bob Schreck, rejected my first attempt as too crude. I tasked my new assistant, Lee-Roy Stephen Lahey, with enlarging the image from the initial 6”x 9” to 9” x 14” and adding more detail, like such as the bay windows. So this page is very much a
collaboration between Bob, Lee-Roy and myself.

Images are from the graphic novel Fogtown copyright 2010 by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader. Fogtown is available from Amazon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Going to Comic-Con!

Hey y'all,
I'm tabling at the PRISM Comics Booth at Comic Con this year. Come check me out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Inferno 2010

Fellow graphic artist and CAPS member, Jim Wheelock is trying to raise $ for his graphic-novel-in-development, "Inferno 2010". He's using, a cool site for this purpose. I donated $40 to the cause; he bought a copy of my self-pubb'd graphic novel, "Harry and Dickless Tom" last year. Plus, I've seen the work in progress; it looks pretty cool.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rivkah, The Gray Toner

Tonight I "met" Rivkah, the artist who did the gray tones for my upcoming graphic novel, "Fogtown". I googled her name; there are tons of "Rivkahs" on the web; luckily her site was the first. All I knew about her , courtesy of Will Dennis the third editor on the book (following in the abortive footsteps of Bob Schreck and Brandon Montclair) is that she was a woman and does manga. Her blog archive mentioned nothing of working on the book, which was perplexing given that she blogs often and at length. Yet what are the odds that there is more than one single named female cartoonist who does manga? So I emailed her last night, and got her reply this evening.
In tonight's reply, I told her about my upcoming exhibition of the original artwork at Flazh! Alley Studio. I'm in the process of writing placards to go up next to each piece. This is what I wrote about Rivkah on the appropriate placard: "She was Bob Schreck’s choice, not mine but I’m happy with her work. She was surprisingly sympathetic with what I was trying to achieve with lighting and mood. She even imitated my brush strokes, leading to a very seamless look. She also avoided glow effects, self-color lines and other excesses allowed too easily by Photoshop, for which I am unbelievably grateful." (However, she informed me that Brandon Montclair picked her, not Bob. Hats off to Brandon for an excellent choice).

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