Empty calories for hungry brains

I've been asked various question by various people about how I work, who are my influences, and so on. I've decided to sit down once and for all and commit it. This isn't and exercise in narcisism, and I would be really suprised if someone actually read this whole thing. But if you did have some question, hopefully this will answer it.

Art Technique Materials
All of my art begins at the basic level of the sketch book. I keep two- one strictly for thumbnailing and scripting Mister Blank pages, and another character designs, outside projects, and doodling. I usually go with the classic ringed sketch book, a mechnical pencil (never needs sharpening), and a Mars Plastic Eraser. Exciting, no?
Once I have a Mister Blank page thumbnailed, I lay it out on a sheet of 11 x 17 bristol. Some people are obsessed with getting those "official" comics pages, with all of the layout and hot areas blocked in for you. It's a complete waste of money. I buy a pad of 14 x 17, 2 ply, cold press bristol for about $6-$10 (depending on the market), and have it cut at a copy shop down to 11 x 17 for a mere $1. Measure in your working area of 10 x 15, and you're ready to go.
I like to use "non-photo" or "non-repo" pencils to lay in the page. They're like blue colored pencils, but harder and cleaner. And when I xerox the page, all of the messy construction lines fade out and I just get the lines I want. Hence, "non-photo". Once I get the page layed out in blue line, I go in with a lead pencil and knock in all of the lines I want. It's like inking, and it's an extra step, but it keeps things clean and clear.
As for drawing tools, I like to keep all the basics handy- compass, T square, circle templates (easier to use than a compas, but less versatile), flexi-curve, and french curves (invaluable). C-Thru makes an 18 inch ruler that seems like it was designed for comics. Light-weight, flexible, durable. It even has a key for font point sizes and half-tone lpi. And it usually only costs about $3. I also highly recomment getting a roller-ruler. They sound cheesy, but they are a clever, inexpensive alternative to a parralel glide. They make action lines a breeze.
So about 5 weeks later, I have 24 penciled pages (so I'm slow. Big deal). Now I take them to the copy shop. I make two sets of copies. The first set is reduced by 65% to 8.5 x 11. I put these in one of those plastic "presentation" books. This lets me get an idea of how the book will flow, how spreads will work, etc. The second set of copies is at full size, but now all of the messy blue lines have been filtered out. I ink on overlays, and using xeroxes prevents me from spazing out and spilling ink all over original pencils. Believe me, it's happened.
I'd also recoomend to find or start a refernce collection. Some librairies have photo collection available, and the internet is also an excellent source for reference. Toys are good, too. Matchbox cars are excellent reference, especially if you need to draw vehicles together or from many angles. It's easy to tell when an artist doesn't use refernces, and chooses to just bullshit through it.
I ink on a material called "denril". It's like a frosted acetate. It's extremly durable, translucent, and fairly cheap (about $.75-$1 for an 18 x 24 sheet). It has no grain, so lines always come out very smooth on it, but it is also no porous, so it is very sensitive to finger grease. I wear a white cotton animation glove when I ink. They're not very cheap, but you can wash them and use them over and over. The other nice thing about denril is you can scratch into it, like scratchboard. You can scratch out mistakes, make patterns, etc. No need for white-out. As for ink, if it's opaque, waterproof, and smooth, I'll use it. I usually by Pelikan out of habit. There are some who insist on mixing one part Pelikan, one part Sumi, and one part printer's ink, and then allowing it to sit open for a week in a humidor. These people are idiots. The same goes for brushes. I've tried dozens of different sable and sableen brushes, with mixed success, but the most reliable ones on the cheap, synthetic student-grade brushes. They get the job done, and if they get ruined, they're cheap to replace.
Once the page is inked, I xerox it again, for 2 reasons- because it is translucent, the denril sometimes casts drop-shadows. Xerox machoines are less prone to this. I also xerox it to reduce it to a size I can scan. The average xerox machine can handle slighly over 11 x 17, while most scanners can't do much past 8.5 x 14. The real trick is to find a good copy machine. Machines that see a lot of traffic usually have dirty glasses or scratched drums. Machines in non-design offices usually suck as well. I've had good luck at Office Max and Staples, though, and Kinko's when the machines are brand new.
Then I scan in the copies. I have a UMAX Astra 600s scanner, connected to a Power Computing Powerbase 200, with 80 mb of RAM, Mac OS 8.5 (Microsoft can kiss my hairy white ass before any of those dirtbags get my money). Cheap, but it gets the job done. I clean up the bitmap scans in Adobe Photoshop 4.0, convert them to vectors in Adobe Streamline 3.0, and then add the grays, sound effects, dialogue, bubbles, whatever, in Illustrator 8.0. Let me explain about "vectors". Vectors are a method of storing graphic information as an equation rather than mapping each individual pixel. On the downside, they work better on tight graphic images that on photo-realistic stuff. On the upside, they don't rely on resolution and print letter-quality. They're also very cheap memory-wise. A whole issue of Mister Blank is only about 8 mb! Once you get the hang of them, it's also easy to tweak them and create some interesting effects.
When an issue's done, to the best of my knowledge, I have a friend proof-read it. In case you can't tell, my spelling is horrible, and when you've been looking at the same images for months, you don't notice glaring mistakes. Then I look through the issue one last time, copy it on to a zip disk, and mail it off. A months later, the comic shows up on my doorstep.
Sorry to be so long-winded. I'm just trying to be throrough.

Technical Training
You've probably heard this a thousand times, but I'll say it again. Drawing from life is vital to drawing comics. Even if the comic in question isn't one designed to look realistic, like "Tug & Buster" or "Milk & Cheese". An understanding of gesture and expression on a mechanical level is vital to telling a story. How someone moves when they sneeze, so they don't look like their yelling or vomiting. Moonlight vs twilight vs streetlight. How to render motion with energy. Figure drawing classes are incredible helpful. Especially the gesture drawings. A gesture drawing is a quick rendering of the figure done is 30 seconds or a minute. All you have time to concentrate on is the weight and posture of the figure, in the simplest and most expressive lines possible. I still use gestures to get the feel of figures down, especially in "dynamic" poses. Perspective drawing is also a good skill to develope. How buildings and trees and people and whatever look from various angles and distances. Again, not readily apparent in non-realistic comics, but an understanding of this is always enriching. There's no a lot I can teach you specificlly here, but suffice to say, it's pretty damn important.
While also on the subject of education, I'd also recommend writing classes- specificlly screenplay writing classes. Screenplays, by nature, demand minimalism and efficiency in describing the story. It's a good way to ween away from captions. A comic with too much text is just a hunk of text with background pictures, not a comic. It also helps establish the idea of a story arc, and developing foresight so you can construct a good climax.
If you've actual read this far, you have the attention span of a god. I tip my hat to you.

Story Telling
I once had the opportunity to ask David Muzzucchelli about his thoughts on the relationship of comics and film were. He said their weren't any. Films, he said, had sound effects, camera angles, sets, actors, motion, editing, and special effects. I haven't read a bit of his work since then, and I probably never will.
Of course, comics do have actors. And editing. Some have more special effects than any movie could ever afford. Knowledge of camera angles is essential for a comic book arts. And just look to Jack Kirby for motion, or Don Martin for sound effects. Comics are one of the the only, perhaps THE only, plastic art that deals directly with a temporal element, necessary to tell a story. Large panels are like lingering shots, taking longer to digest, while many small panels are like a dazzeling flash of edits. There's a lot ot learn about comics by watching good (and even bad) movies. And vice versa.
I won't go into the tired cliches about bird's eye vs worm's eye view, but suffice to say, the eye is a camera in comics, just as it is in movies. Subtle, empathetic scenes rely on eye-level shots for an empathetic draw, while disorienting action scenes jump all over and play hell with balance. Patterns, distortions, blurring, repetition. All devices shared by comics and film. So why does film get all the respect? It's easier for the average person to watch a film than to read a comic. Film is passive. You sit back and it tells the story to you. You still need to pay attention to understand it, but essentially, film does all the work. The viewer merely digests. Comics are an active medium. They require the viewer to deceifer and energize to the story. For some people, their brains cannot comprehend the assemblege of images and text. Others are just lazy. So to summarize- film is for idiots, and comics are for us upright walkers.

Influences Comics
I'm not going to be very formal with this section. Pardon me as I take a deep breath.
Katsuhrio Otomo, Moebius, Bill Watterson, Rick Geary, Marc Hempel, Mike Mignola, Jordi Bernet, Mike Allred, Kent Williams, Duncan Fegredo, Alex Toth, Winsor McCay, Bill Sienkewicz, old EC comics and Mad Magazines (I suppose that would be Bill Gaines & co), japanese comics in general, and...well, that's all I can think of for now.

Other Visual Arts
Futurism, Cohen Brothers, Egyption arts, Russ Meyers, Stanley Kubrick, Chuck Close, John Singer Sargent, Alphonse Mucha, early soviet poster art, art nouveau, George Romero, Victor Horta, Norman Rockwell, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Al Heirshfeld, and minimalism.

Ska, Electronica, Morphine, Ben Folds Five, G Love and Special Sauce, Sugar Cubes, the Pixies, Lush, Crystal Method, the Agents, Portishead, the Amazing Royal Crowns, the B52s, Primus, King Missle, Chemical Brothers, Soul Coughing, Bizet, Desmond Decker, Mud Honey, Foo Fighters, Phillip Glass, Fishbone, Propellerheads, and the Presidents of the United States of America.