This is a brief behind-the-scenes of the weekly comic Bonemeal.
By the time of posting, it is best to revisit this piece after having read/engaged with the strips when it's out.
Unless you really like blogging..
Well.. I figured if I got a platform to talk on longer than 280 characters,
I might as well drop some comments on the over-a-year project that is accumulating to the weekly upload comic strip I will be rolling out November 1st.
Click here for the First post
Click here for the Second post
Click here for the Third post
Oh. One more for the road..
The look and feel to the art of Bonemeal changed in a few, but in extreme, sweeping moments.
In the beginning, the blocky, stick limbed figures with no jaws were hastly done to nail down the movement, gestures and the ideas that were running out the hand, and of the ballpoint.
The thought of any design was less inclined to be of a concern, as the thing was barely out of the postmortial soup.
For around two weeks, into the month of August, there had spawned no less than two dozen ideas (minus one that was drawn on a crab shell and left on an island) until the choice to give it a full treatment as a comic after graduation.
The series would serve a great exercise and routine build-up as a transition towards full-time comics was the though while the strip was resting in the mortuary cabinet until 2021.
And so it was, that these skelly doodles needed a proper bone structure.
The overall aim of the feel was to convey a sense of easy, carefree existence in an otherwise morose and moody atmosphere, highly influenced in the early stage from straight black-and-white underground comix inking.
Robert Crumb's hatching approach from the 60s-70s, Tony Millionaire's squiggly and sharp backgrounds on par with the minimal approach by the European creators like Milo Manara and Hugo Pratt, the trashy urban edged renderings of Swedish comix artist Charlie Christensen of his funny animal comic for adults, all whispered forth the anatomy and visual language.
The worry that bubbled up that the images wouldn't be that distinct, as most- if not every namedrop had a nature of having a character outline and detail level mixed and balanced indistinguishably from the background.
Then a friend of mine had to completely ruin this direction by introducing the wacky world of Shawn Dickinson.
Kustom Kars, high octane caricatures of the undead, gorgeous matte approach to his backgrounds liken the Rubber Hose era rendition, only made cooler and daring.
At the time, there was already a withheld gripe with the portrayal of skeletons from back in the old cartoon era, but at that moment, the convincing cartooning that could break the formula by addressing depth and still wear its influence lead to second-guessing, followed by doubt, then finally caving in.
Because the love for "Mickey Mouse" gloves was strong
Now, with a new direction to articulate life of the undead, there was still a struggle to find the creative streak that would set it apart from its contemporaries, but internally as well.
One lesson to take away from adapting and remixing visuals is that the dominant influence will always have the last say.
With this in mind, it was time to bring in new artistic inspirations that matched with the Fleischer Studio style.
The sleek and brushy outlines from family comedy Beelzebubs by Finnish J.P Ahonen, the haunting, sadistic inkwashes of Al Columbia, and the stillness and kindness amongst the oddities found in Charles Addams' works had entered at this point, to push the tone and textures, but there was a missing component for the look.
That component echoed the worry from before, where the fright of the picture couldn't bring out a form wholly on its own, and not become derivative.
Along came UGO.
It came rather late through the virtual door - almost up to the production cycle for the first outlines - and it was a music video created by French artist Matthieu Bessudo (Mc bess) for the band The Dead Pirates that he also plays in. Its existence was known months prior, but the mind's eye paid no attention.
Upon watching the music video and working on something not relevant to the strip, a memory jogged up an effective method that had existed in animation for quite some time that was in a picture I had seen used by mangaka Osamu Tezuka whole career.
The form which he drew manga, already heavily inspired by Disney and Fleischer's animations, had an element in them where the simplified character had thick outlines, easily recognizable shapes, and less, flat rendering contrast to the detailed tone-heavy environment. The two elements didn't intrude hard either, as there's a slight/narrow negative space between the two to balance them.
All that had to be done was to study the mattes the way Mc bees/Fleischer/Disney/MGM did them with this in mind.
For half a month straight, the video went on repeat to break down to learn when and how the separation of the characters from the matte that was present and utilized in the composition and shots.
With a sigh of relief, the shoulders could come down.
It had coalesced and transformed to the thing it is now.
The main objective achieved.
Carefree, easy living shaped by a thick line to shape simplified, flat-rendered animated skeletons parading in a somber, dank and eerie matte afterlife.
Ready for refinement as production throttles onward.
Bonemeal finally had its skin and bones.
That's all, folks!
Thank you for reading the Bonemeal Commentary mini-series.
I hope the information provided here were of insight, and help to inspire your journey and research.
it was meant to be brief, onto the point, although the stuff could be expanded to a chapter of its own.
Maybe one day... In a physical publication..
"Wiggle your big toe.."
Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill