Thursday, January 31, 2008

High Moon

High Moon by David Gallaher, Steve Ellis and Scott O. BrownWhen I last wrote about Zuda Comics, DC Comics’ recent venture into webcomics, I pointed out two of the new webcomics that I thought were standouts, Bayou and High Moon. Both of them are now running as features, and are prominently promoted on the Zuda Comics home page.

High Moon is a horror/western by writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis, with lettering by Scott O. Brown.

The High Moon team has been chronicling their work on the strip in a blog, from initial proposal to acceptance and production of the currently running strip.

It’s a loose, stream-of-consciousness kind of account, as blogs commonly are, but it covers many aspects of the process of creating a webcomic (or print comic, for that matter). You’ll find posts on initial concept designs and character sketches, photo reference, notes on writing and preparing the project for submission to DC Comics, plot breakdowns, page layouts, decisions about word balloon placement and, of course, preparation of the final art for the pages.

There is a recent post that starts to go into more detail about that process, in which artist Steve Ellis shows how he creates the unusual look of the comic.

He draws the pencils and inks in the traditional manner and scans the art into Photoshop. This is the most common method of working in the comics field today, though some comics artists, in particular some webcomics artists (like yours truly), do all of the drawing directly on the computer with a pressure sensitive tablet.

Ellis often adds to his drawing once it’s in digital form and then applies an unusual step in that he tones the final ink drawing with color adjustments in Photoshop, giving the entire work a sepia, old-photograph look particularly suited to the story and its setting. He further adds to the gritty texture of the images by leaving some of his pencil marks in place, eschewing the ultra-smooth look preferred in many mainstream comics.

Under the toned inks go a layer of color fields, that fill in color areas for the main forms, and on top of the ink layer goes another layer of detailed color highlights and final touches to make the finished image snap.

As I pointed out in my previous article on Zuda Comics, one of the things they have done brilliantly (in sharp contrast to the history of the “big two” publishers’ less than stellar forays into webcomics) is to utilize the medium to advantage in offering the option to view the pages at high-resolution. This enables you to not only get a cinematic feeling when reading the comics, but also a more detailed look at the artwork than afforded in normal printed comics or smaller-scale web comics.

When viewing the comic pages you have the option at the bottom right of the page frame to choose a full screen mode, and then read through the pages at that size. This is a wonderful feature, and particularly enjoyable with a comic as interesting and well-drawn as High Moon (see detail from the top-left panel of the final page in the image at left, bottom).

BTW, for those of you who may be too young to be aware of it, the title High Moon is a perfect take on the title of the 1952 Fred Zinnemann classic with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly (not to mention Lon Chaney Jr.).

3 thoughts on “High Moon

  1. Steve Ellis

    Wow, thanks for talking about the High Moon/blog art stuff. It’s really great to hear other artist’s thoughts on process. I left out a few little details with how I create the textures and such( I have to keep some trade secrets) I also have to say I think this is a fantastic site, Donato is one of my favorite artists(and a great friend) and I’m going to check out Gorilla Artfare right now…Thanks!

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