Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nathan Pretzelberger 16 (or "a handy-dandy guide to ripping off Nathan Pretzelberger")

Just wrapped up the 16th Nathan Pretzelberger strip, which will be the final one to run in The District this quarter. I've always found something inherently absurd about the idea of desiring a car as an end in itself rather than a means, as well as the popularity of SUVs and the masculine culture built around expensive cars. Recently, a "post sexxxy pix of cars" thread on SCAD's message board provided me with more than enough material for a strip, and sooo...

Doing these on a weekly basis is getting to be a bit of a strain, what with other homework / side work competing for my attention, so I'm hoping to "bust out" a "whole buttload" of them in whatever free time I have o'er summer break.

So far, the process I've used for creating these strips has been more in the interest of speed and consistency than creating a truly polished, finalized piece, because of the weekly deadline. As such, I don't bother drawing or inking them on bristol board, use felt tech pens for inking (when I'm not doing it digitally), and letter digitally rather than by hand. These all save time, but do result in a lower quality look--one of these days, I'm thinking of drawing all of the older strips over again (complete with hand-lettering and brushwork) and fixing up all of the visual problems, probably whenever I put out a large, comprehensive book collecting them.

When creating a Pretzelberger strip (after I've scripted out all of the dialogue and maybe done some thumbnails), I start with a 12 x 8, 300 - 600 resolution canvas in photoshop, upon which I use guidelines and the shape tool to create panel borders. Then, I put in the lettering. I've been using Comic Book from I'm not crazy about it, it's less awful than most of the other free "comic book" fonts online, and, as I've used it for the past 15 strips, I feel a bit obligated to it in the interest of visual consistency.

Next, I flatten all of the text layers and reduce the layer's opacity so that it barely shows up--this is so that after I print the page, draw on it, and scan it, the text won't show up. I want the text to be on the page before I draw so that I know how much image room I have to work with--as this comic is a bit on the ridiculously wordy side, cramped images are an ever present issue, so I try to reduce that as much as possible.

Next I'll print the image, fitted to 8.5 x 11, 95 lb paper, and draw the initial pencils, taking care to keep important visual stuff away from the text area.

This is the point where I would get out the tech pens and ink this naughty little biz-natch, but since I've recently gained access to a drawing tablet, I decided to try digital inking this go-round. Though I'm still getting used to drawing digitally and it shows, I think that method shows promise, and probably looks better overall.

I had to tweak a few things during the inking process, most notably flipping the first panel, which I think improves the visual flow. And uh, corrects for the fact that I drew his steering wheel on the wrong side. I also moved the image in the third panel up a little bit to keep Nathan's pudgy little fingers from getting lost behind his whithering insult to Chester.

I attended a presentation yesterday at the Sequential Department discussing the various "business models" possible for indy comics, mainly with an eye toward the web. It provided a lot of food for thought, and I've been pondering ways to attract more of an audience to the strip. Most of the *really* successful webcomics have a sort of built in audience based on whatever niche interest they pander to (which, in general, seem to be video game fans). I doubt that Pretzelberger has "niche appeal" to anybody but thin, twenty-something art school students interested in comics who are named Isaac Klunk; on the other hand, the feller that makes Achewood doesn't seem to have any targeted appeal other than people who like the funny, and last I heard, he's doing pretty well for himself. There's always hope.

It would probably help if I managed to create a REAL site for the strip, rather than just the current MySpace page. Hopefully I can get going on that sometime within the next year.


delusion said...

Hey hey~ Nice to see a post from you! thanks for giving me the heads up on your moving locales. I knew telling you that I was stalking you would make my job easier... though less sneaky, to be sure.

It's neat seeing you do digital inks- I'm so used to your hand lettering and croquil- but you do a bangup job with this as well! Certainly gives a different feel, but I don't think it's so much "low quality" as it is just something different entirely. Can't wait to see what else you post!

Anonymous said...

Hey Isaac!

Ryan said...

Good stuff. Glad to see you've finally come around to the digital age. Pens are absolutely worthless these days. If I may make a suggestion, though: you'll find digital inking 100 times easier and more natural if you use Painter instead of Photoshop (you could try Manga Studio EX as a cheaper alternative, although I have it and can't get used to the clunky interface... but you can make some nice stuff with it). The reason for this, aside from a superior brush engine, is the ability to rotate the canvas freely in any direction and at any angle. You just hold down the shortcut key, rotate, and continue drawing... just like you would a regular piece of paper. Try it, you'll love it. (And actually, I think Painter is free if you download it off your MySCAD page.)

Anonymous said...

Yah. MacArthur is my pen name.

Ryan said...

Good to hear. I always suggest Painter to people who are using PS for inking, and they usually just say they'd rather stick with PS instead of learning a new app, even though PS totally sucks for inking. If you need any help with Painter let me know (but I don't think you will... you just grab a brush and start inking). The best inking brush is the Scratchboard Tool in the Pens category.