“My Experiment” or “Process: Ridiculous”

I recently completed drawing John Bell’s autobio/science story “My Experiment,” for the upcoming BCR anthology (and Kickstarter sensation), Boundless.

For this project I once again put into practice my philosophy of the comics-making process, which may be described as: make everything as complicated and torturous as possible and add as many steps as you can (or maybe that should be, “retrace your steps as many times as you can”).  Works for me!

Anyway, “My Experiment” is a six page story, and it started reasonably enough, with some roughs, which i also roughly ink:


…and I’m ready for final pencils.  (Just as a side note, this comic is drawn at actual print size, unlike the usual 1.5-to-2-times larger, so each drawn page has an image area of about 4.25 x 8 inches, which is kind of challenging.)

My problems started when I pencilled the first page in blue pencil, and just “experimentally” I inked it digitally in Photoshop:


Hmmm… I liked the slickness of the digital inks, but on the whole I wasn’t satisfied.  I found the effect overall to be clean, yes, but also somewhat tight and finicky. So I resolved to ink the whole thing with a real brush and real ink.  Here’s page one:p1 v2 scan

…and I proceeded to pencil and ink the entire story that way.  Done, right?

Nooo… all the while it kept nagging at me, that the slick, clean digital look was somehow better suited for this story.  Maybe because it was about science and labs and stuff?   There were places where I wasn’t happy with my abiity to draw at this scale with a brush.  I just wasn’t sure, and I felt like the ONLY way to feel confident was, well, to re-ink the entire story digitally.

Which I did by taking each inked page, scanning, and converting to blue…


…then adding another layer and digitally inking over the “blue pencils” created from my REAL inks:


Gimmicky gifs aside, I ended up with two versions of each page, a traditional ink and a digital ink, and I could make a side-by-side comparison:

p 1 comparison

Click on it to look close, and ask yourself: which did I choose?  Which would you choose?


…I couldn’t just choose, though, that would be far too simple.  I decided I overall liked the quality of the real-brush-and-ink lines, but there were some details I was much happier with in the digital. So, since the pages were identically composed (the digital being inked over the traditional) I could just go through and grab details I wanted from the digital and paste them in over the inks.  I hoped that I was being careful enough that the different styles (no, the different media wouldn’t clash.  The final result:

Bell-Mazur p1 final

Can you spot the digital paste-ins (hint: mostly faces).  Anyway, I repeated this ridiculously complicated process for all 6 pages — for some pages I liked the digital overall better, and pasted in some details from the real-inks!

And that, friends, is how we fly across the ocean!

Lives in: Cambridge, Mass. Does: comics. Used to live in: Topanga Canyon, California But grew up in: Cambridge, mostly Used to do (maybe still?): Screenwriter, journalist, teaches some too