Monday, December 6, 2010

The Little Idea That Wouldn’t Die: Part Five

Let me say a few things on comic book creation. I like equating drawing a comic book to making a little movie, but you are in charge of the writing, direction, lighting, costume design, set design, casting, acting, and special effects.

If you are going to do a comic set in a certain time period and you want it to look and feel authentic, then you will have to do a lot of research. I found one of the best resources for an artist is the kids section at the bookstore, because everything has illustrations. A 400-page dissertation on medieval fashion is great for the academic, but it doesn’t help the artist much. Another great resource is movies; that is if you’re willing to let Hollywood be your guide to realism. But hey, it’s your book. Make it look like “First Knight” if you really want.

One challenge in designing the city and the fashions is deciding where in the world they are and what the climate is like. I settled on a warmer region so the clothing would not be too layered, and the buildings would look more Mediterranean. I really like the aesthetics of Tuscany and I wanted Portshia to have that feel; lots of cracked plaster with bricks underneath and creeping ivy, tiled roofs and little balconies. Beautiful, functional and easy to draw.

The next thing to decide was the city’s age. A medieval town starts with a castle and spreads out from there, but over time the older buildings tend to get replaced and upgraded, especially if there are wars and destruction near the castle. Portshia is nearly a thousand years old and was designed in the style of the “old empire” so the streets are broad and everything is well ordered. The castle, which started as a tall imposing affair, has been rebuilt several times and now lies low behind its thick outer walls because powder cannons have been invented and tall castles are not so popular anymore. The area just below the castle has been renovated over the years to be a posh area for rich people. There is also a Winter Palace which is a much newer addition, and positioned to impress the city folk rather than defend them. The churches of multiple gods are clustered in the center of the city with a grand polytheistic cathedral right in the middle. The wealth and status of a town or city is often directly tied to the number of churches it can support.

Yes, I made a map too.

 I’m not saying everyone should approach world building like this, but that map led to some really nice cityscapes and detailed scenes.

Costume design is something often overlooked in illustration. Many people just look at the face and what the character is doing, but the costumes they are wearing don’t always get that much attention. Superheroes have not helped this, since most of their costumes are skintight with little designs on them, making them more a study in anatomy than style.

Speaking of anatomy, one big influence in men’s fashions was that I didn’t want to draw codpieces. Certain historically accurate clothing is not really fit for modern eyes, and the medieval banana hammock is one of them. Luckily I found a few styles of lower garb that worked out better. Sometimes it’s all about not wanting to spend too much time on the crotch.

Insightful, huh?

More later....

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