Whenever you start a new comic, it's a good idea to make reference sheets for your characters, locations or props. Remember, you will be drawing these elements many, many times during the story, and if you’re like me and care about design consistency, you will want to keep them “on model”. You might want to make a little research first, gathering inspirations, references, and trying different iterations before coming up with a final design.
But wait! Don’t fall on the mistake of spending too much time on this stage, because you might end obsessed on “how unique and original” they have to be. It’s important to have a memorable design, but your comic is more than pretty art. Think about the character interactions, the narrative, the pacing, the plot, and the soul of your story.
Also, be careful with the amount of detail. Every extra line you add to a character, location, vehicle or accessory is multiplied by how many times it appears on the page . Sum all that up, and you have many additional hours of work . Most people will overlook small details after the first time a design is introduced,. Remember, you are creating a comic to send a message, and more detail doesn’t mean more virtue . And by this I’m don’t saying “be lazy” with your art, just be aware of your designs decisions and how they will affect every panel you will create. During the development of Arcagen, I was aware of this “detail factor” for character creation, so I tried to simplify their designs as much as I could. For example, Paloma had black and white hair, and a zig-zag pattern on her hoodie. Now, her design is even more simplified, while maintaining a similar silhouette and theme.
But what about the environments? Here’s where I stumbled. One thing is to make a post-apocalyptic city full of worn buildings, rusty billboards, broken streets and crushed vehicles. And then there’s a post-apocalyptic city that is being consumed by giant plants. The overgrown vegetation was part of the plot all along, but I never quantified how many extra hours I’d be drawing all that. After I developed the pilot for Arcagen, I knew I had to reduce the hours put on those backgrounds. I’m glad I watched this video by Lars Martinson, where the comic gives us tips on productivity after spending 13 years on a single comic project. Now, even when I kept the overall scenario of a city consumed by plants, I have greatly reduced the “stages” my characters will visit, and I’ve also reduced the detail on the vegetation. As you might have noticed, most of the plants in my story are black shapes made with a custom “bush brush” I created, and the giant roots of the first versions of the comic will be present only at key moments in the story.
I’m sure I could simplify even more elements in my story in order to finish it faster, but since I’ve already started (for real this time) I’m sticking to the decisions I made after the first pilot. If I’m going to make new design changes, I’ll make sure to: a) They respond to a need in the plot or b) Add them gradually, so you won’t notice it immediately. Now that I’ve somewhat solved the design dilemma, the next big challenge is to write believable characters . I’m already thrilled to start lettering the dialogues between Paloma and Lechuza…
To be continued...
My deepest thanks to my supporters over Patreon: