So You Think You're Special

Click to enlarge:

Launch Date March 1999

Concept This one more closely fits the criteria of “do something you’ve been talking about doing.”  Ever since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by the size of the universe.  In the last few years I’ve been reading a lot about cosmology and physics, and I’ve always wished that someone would illustrate just how everything fit together—and how big it all is.  Since I never found such a picture, I figured I might as well do it myself.  This endeavor was aided by several books and a visit to the observatory in Chicago.  They have a 5’x5’x5’ model of what the Local Cluster must look like.  It was staggering to imagine.

Putting it Together I sketched out the basic concept in my sketchbook.  It was more an attempt to get a handle on what I was trying to present than it was an attempt to figure out how to present it.  Accuracy was important to me on this one.  Admittedly, a big part of this piece was figuring out how to lay out the artwork and still have it make sense.

Layout I knew I couldn’t get the effect that I wanted with a simple left to right panel reading, because I would have to break things up too much.  I wanted the reader to be drawn into the idea as well as to get a real sense of scale.  Obviously the lack of panels makes for a different kind of reading; and when you compound that with a circular reading you may be asking too much of the reader.  I tried to suggest a “gutter” with the inner (white) curve, which was intended to help force the reader to read the way I wanted him to.  I really do want to hear how well it worked.  I think it came better than I expected, although I didn’t leave myself enough room in some places. 

I used a flexible curve (I can’t remember what they are officially called) to create the curves in this strip.  I highly recommend the tool because you can make any curve you want (just about—the tighter ones are harder to create), so you’re not stuck with free hand or some pre-fabricated tool. 

I also taped my page down to the desk this time.  This is a trick I learned in drafting.  On the positive side, you don’t waste a lot of time re-aligning your page whenever you move or you move your tools—and I highly recommend it if you are using a lot of tools (like a flexible curve, t-square, or compass).  On the negative side, you are kinda stuck when you want to really get into your drawing and want to move the page around—so you need to bend yourself into knots if you are an “active drawer.”  I can’t decide if the benefits outweigh the limitations.  Maybe I’ll figure out some compromise.

Lettering The placement of text was another issue.  I opted to put it on top of the respective pictures, but I wonder if it might have worked better to have the dotted lines always leading to the next text box (which might be on the top or on the bottom of the picture).

You probably can’t tell, but I spent more time on the lettering this time out.  I knew that this comic was gonna be important to me, so I tried not to rush it too much.  My lettering still sucks, but I think it’s a little more legible and consistent.

Inking After Francis, I felt that I was becoming too dependant on pens and markers, and I decided to go back to using a brush.  Plus I had just gone to a convention and looked at a lot of original art, and the blacks were so nice that I felt that I needed to try it again.

I must not be using the right kind of paper (it’s Bristol).  It tends to soak up the ink unevenly so that you get a real motley look with greyish tones of black.  The professional work that I’ve seen has a very flat, even black.  If anyone knows what kind of paper the pros use, let me know.

None was super big, but I was amazed at how much control I had over the brush.  I thought “staying in the lines” would be rough, but I found that I actually did okay.  It ain’t perfect, but I started to think that—with practice—I could get pretty good at it.  I think I have learned that you should probably use one brush at a time in order to speed up your work.  That is, do all the fat brushwork first, then the medium, then the thin.  I think it’d save a lot of time.

I used white ink for the dotted lines and some of the squiggles in space.  They didn’t show up real well on the page (again, I think it was the paper) so I had to go over them several times.  I think if the blacks were more even, the whites would be, too.  I used both a white ink pen and the small brush.

I used a Rapidograph (.50) for most of the very thin lines and for the stippling (using dots to create shading) on the galaxies/clusters/super clusters.  I’ve always been a fan of stippling, but I could never see how any sane person could do it.  I kept the size pretty small so that I wouldn’t go nuts.  You basically sit at the desk and tap your pen on the paper over and over and over again.  Overall, I’m pleased with the effect.

Reproduction On the positive side, photocopying really flattened out the blacks and brought out the whites, so that you can’t see the mottled effect.  On the negative side, the mottling gave the black spaces a little more character.  It was a strange trade off.

Overall I’m quite pleased with this one.  I know it ain’t perfect, and there are a lot of things that I’d change, but overall, this one had a great follow through from concept to execution to product.  Plus, I feel like I’ve accomplished something by getting down on paper not only an idea that I had, but also a pretty powerful concept.  I often have “great ideas” (or theories) that I scribble down, and this makes me feel like I should start trying to capture more of them visually—I certainly have enough material.  It also shows that you can make comix instructive and still enjoyable.  I recommend that on one of our monthly challenges that we make the theme into “explain a difficult concept” or “teach me something.”