Drawing with Dr. McNinja: Creating an Action Comics Page | Christopher Hastings | Skillshare

Drawing with Dr. McNinja: Creating an Action Comics Page

Christopher Hastings, Comic Artist, Writer

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11 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction

      0:42
    • 2. What We're Going to Do

      0:47
    • 3. Your Assignment

      0:35
    • 4. Why Comics?

      2:51
    • 5. Writing: From Prose to Script

      6:26
    • 6. Sketching I: Character Design

      4:52
    • 7. Sketching II: Panel Layout

      6:45
    • 8. Drawing I: Pencils

      5:15
    • 9. Drawing II: Ink

      4:22
    • 10. Final Touch: Lettering

      1:23
    • 11. Conclusion

      0:23

About This Class

Peel back the curtain and see how an action comic comes to life! Join Christopher Hastings — creator of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja — for a 30-min class showing his process for creating a black-and-white action comic.

This class has a sly sense of humor, moves quickly, and covers a lot. Learn how to adapt prose into a comics script; lay out panels for visual interest; and sketch, draw, and ink a comic in a style of your choosing. Plus, along the way, Christopher recommends a number of additional resources for further study.

You should take this class if you're interested in comics, love Christopher's acclaimed style, or simply want to see a master at work. Artists, illustrators, writers, and enthusiasts of all skill levels welcome.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Christopher Hastings, creator of The Adventures of Dr Big Ninja, a Web comic that also has collections published by Dark Horse. I'm also the writer of the Adventure Time Comics series, and I've written a bunch of deadpool stuff for Marvel all I know, I've been working in comics for nearly 10 years. I'm reading this text directly off a computer monitor. I'm sorry about my moving eyeballs. What I'd like to teach you is the basics of have drawn action comics. Page will go from a concept in your head or another writer's head to script designs, layouts, rough pencils, final links and then lettering, and when you're done, you'll have a finished comics page. 2. What We're Going to Do: making this comic, we're gonna touch very briefly on different steps from start to finish. It won't be a comprehensive education on how to make comics. I have a cartoon in degree, and that took four years, but it will give you enough information to get on a great start. We're going to be adapting some sort of prose into a comic script, picking out which moments we want to actually see in the panels. From there, we'll take a look on what we want to design with our characters and environments when we actually get into drawing. The comic will start with rough layouts, taking into consideration clarity and aesthetics. From there, it's on to tighter pencils where we really hone in on shapes and features, finally inks where we get into texture and shadow. And then, if you want the end, there is a little bit on lettering 3. Your Assignment: you can draw your comic with anything you want. Pencil on paper, paint on canvas. You can use M s paint, whatever you're comfortable with or excited about working on my lesson comic, I'll be drawing with a wakame tablet and manga studio. I won't be getting too much into the technicalities of that program because I barely understand it myself. This lesson will work no matter what medium you choose. You're also gonna want to get some sort of text you'd like to adapt into a comic. Actually, things will work better and it shouldn't be too complicated or long. If you don't have anything, I've got one you can use. 4. Why Comics?: why comics comics is an art form have been around forever. A lot of art history books would claim that cave paintings were the very first comics. Yeah, they totally are. It's a visual rendition of stories this buffaloes all hate moon news. It's a buffel is the concept of weeks anyway. These days, there are a lot more options for entertainment than stick men with spears. So why do we go into comics? My personal belief is that comics or special because they allow you to visually tell a story without the need for, say, of film, crew or actors or a special effects budget. You do it all with your own hands. Comics are relatively inexpensive to make, though not as an expensive ist say, a novel. Words are super cheap to type, but which do you prefer? A really cool explosion happened or, you know, seeing that nice explosion. Uh, because they're so inexpensive to make and thanks the Internet really easy to publish. There's a great variety of comic books that can be shared now. It's not just Dilbert or Batman, though. Now that I am mentioning it, I I badly want to see a bill Burton. Batman Cross overcome. There are some downsides to making comics, too, not as many people read them as they used Teoh, and as a result, there's not a ton of money in it. If you're looking to make a career, it's also a lot of lonely work. You could spend hours at your desk just trying to figure how to draw these hands without them looking like weird carrot mittens. Um, this doesn't bother some people the first time I've spoken out loud in a month. I feel great, but just a heads up on that, Uh, finally, if you're just starting out, it's truthfully kind of hard to get people to care about your work. There's so much out there calling for our attention all the time, and you really need to do something special. Teoh. Get a little bit of that attention for yourself. Um, a ninja in a lab coat. Did that trick pretty well for me? But all of that is something to worry about for another time. Right now, I'm going to show you the basics of how to take just a story concept and turn that into a finished comic page and hopefully you'll get to see how fun and satisfying that is in itself. If you want to know more about the history of comics and get into more that upside downside stuff I got into, uh, check out the documentary stripped and I will be honest with you. I am in that documentary. 5. Writing: From Prose to Script: all right. Are we ready to get started on that comic? First, we're going to be doing sort of, ah, training wheels version of how I like to take Ah, an idea that I want to draw and then translating that into a script that will make it something I can actually work off of. You're going to need a short piece of prose that describes a short scene that you'd like to drop. You can adapt anything you want, but since we're only doing one page, this needs to be pretty simple. I don't think down the entirety of infinite jest per se. Also something to keep in mind. Um, I am teaching with sort of more of a focus on the action e or superhero We. So if you want to do a fight scene or a chase scene or some sort of other action type thing that would be well suited for this exercise. Um, if you don't feel like finding something you want to adapt or can't come up with your own idea, that's completely fine. Uh, you can do this example along with me. I'll have it linked here. Uh, now I am not a prose writer. So please excuse my amateur baby novel excerpt here. Okay, So I want to draw a scene where Dr Big Ninja has to stop King radical from awakening a bunch of mummies by tossing some artifact into a mysterious hole. So the first thing we want to do here is take a look at this pros and break it down into individual moments that we can show in sort of frozen snapshots in time. So first things first, we need to show where these characters are, and we're gonna accomplish that with what we call the establishing shot. This is typically accomplished by sort of showing the New York City skyline or, you know, the house that the scenes about to happen in in this case, we're doing caves, and I don't really need to have anything other than just showing them right through the cave. So that's gonna be the start, um, writing at our dialogue here. So the way that I've been originally envisioning this is that Dr Macknin Gia is sort of running, and we don't quite know why, until you read his word balloon and then you go to the next panel and then you see King radical further ahead. This would be sort of very filmy kind of mood Move something that is to say, something easily accomplished in film or TV. But it might not be the best thing to do in comics. I am narrating this after I've already written this out just to let you know spoilers. It's gonna change. So I've decided that we're gonna show King radical further ahead. Kind of envision, maybe the first shot. It's sort of ah, white sets. You see a nice big hunk cave and then resuming on King Radical, we get to see what his deal is. And we want to make sure that in that second panel with King radical, we're going to see both Dr MK Ninja and King radical. And having them both in the cave is really gonna help this moment be clear in the reader's mind. Um, whenever you, whatever you can, you have to remember that this is not film. This is, ah, sequence of frozen images, and any time there's the slightest bit of disparity, it has, ah, the potential of jarring the reader out of the comic and saying they don't necessarily know what's going on. So you really need to make sure that there is some sort of glue in between your panels whenever you can. So we got the K with the ninja and then Dr Nature with King radical. He got that connection and then back to Doc. We know he's still there with the now, his furrowing his highs, and then we're gonna pull it back out again to a new location. Um, a note on the close up on Dr Manager. This is something that is really important, not just in comics, but I think in visual storytelling in general is you really need to allow a little space for the characters to react to the events. So that's what we're gonna have that close up where he's just furrowing his eyes. It doesn't really move the plot along, but it lets it feel a little more real. So let's see here. Now we've got them in this, uh, bigger room, and, uh, King radical is gonna show him threatening to drop this little mummy, and he says his line, That's an important moment. We can't just jump from running through the tunnels to this next thing where he just throws it in because that would be Where did this cavern come from? Where is this room? We can be? We need to be a little patient with showing each step. That said, uh, we have got too many panels here. I haven't number them yet, but I can see establishing shot one in your ankle to 34567 and have him pause for sick again. He's reacting, and then eight, and you just jumps in after that Mummy's That's eight panels. Um, sometimes that's okay, but it's a lot to cram on a page, and it's not gonna let moments breathe. So I have combined to moments, and now we're down to six panels, as you can see. Ah, I've combined Doc and King radical running after each other in the first panel. And, um, and then we have that reaction and then then there, in the big room and, um, yeah, then I just have him one there in the big room. That's what gonna happen, threatening to hold the mummy out. So that's two things combined, and then he just throws it in, and I think we're set here. Let's get drawing 6. Sketching I: Character Design: all right. Now, even though we have our script done, we're not quite ready to go to the page just yet. First, we need to figure out what our characters look like and what our backgrounds look like. So let's get into some design now. We already know what Dr MK Ninja looks like. I've been drawing him for a very long time, but I'm gonna pretend right now that I have just received this assignment for this character called Dr Big Ninja. So obviously we're gonna have the A ninja mask that is very, um, iconic sort of thing we can go with. And if he's a doctor MK ninja. Well, let's just stick that ninja mask into a lab coat. Uh, he's a doctor. He's a ninja. That's about it. For whatever your characters might be. It may not be so simple as the name literally describing what they look like, but trying to think about anything that their character evokes and how you can, uh, say that visually, if the if you know that the character is athletic or is a warrior, they're probably gonna be more muscly. If they're, um, a specific type of athletic, they may have a different kind of body. Are they, You know, the male or female or differently. Gendered, um, something to consider now, for King radical, my original inspiration was three playing cards sets again. I wanted to have a very iconic looking king that we're gonna be mixing with this other concept of radical eso. You know, we sketch up the card here and then eventually get into, like, what does it mean like, this sort of nineties idea of radical? And get to that there was sort of pizza and mountain dew and sunglasses of a particular looking type. Um, so, yeah, tryto try to think about what your character means, and then think about, um, sort of cultural symbols that you can make use of. Um, if your characters mysterious, you may want to hide their eyes. That is very typical. Uh, if your character is strong, they'll be big. If there, uh, sneaky or shy their posture maybe held in a little bit more. Just take into consideration what are different ways. You can show what your character is. I wanted to talk about the sort of money figuring, basically, I knew it had to be a magical figure. I wanted it to be a mummy. So I just Googled King Tut so I could get one of those sort of typical Egyptian burial masks on him. Something that I really like when it comes Teoh sort of superhero we characters is this idea of what they do, what they're called and what they look like all have. They're all the same. Basically. So, uh, the great example when this was first thought to me was the shadow. He's called the Shadow. He moves in the shadow, and he does shadowy things. Um, same with Batman. You know, he's ah, creepy Batman. His name is Batman, and he looks like a bat man. Um, this is, Ah, one of the advantages of superhero type stuff That doesn't work for all comics. But this is something to consider. King Radical is the radical King, and he looks like a radical king. It's the same thing with Dr being injured as well. And, um, the's air riel, basic drawings. I'm here talking right here cause I don't wanna you know, these videos don't need to be 20 minutes long me perfectly sketching things out. I'm just getting down some of the basics. Let's move on to the background. Eso we wanna have a cave tunnel? I'm going to do a quick check. It sort of some cool looking cave tunnels to give me a little bit of inspiration, and you should be doing the same. Think about what your location looks like. Now. I just really like this photo. So gonna do a little sketching and sort of just figure out what the vibe is with the shapes in this place. If you read my comic, you know, I draw a lot of caves, so this isn't exactly new to me. Um, but yeah, just are like, oh, you know, feeling out thes the way the sort of circles work, the little texture of the wall. You know, the nice way that, like things sort of pop up in the foreground and in the background. The way the light comes through the way might see some vegetation popping up here and there . Well, I'm drawing this. I'm also just honestly thinking about how I wanna stage characters moving through it without obscuring too much background. How to take advantage of this particular location. Your comic might have more than one different type of location. So you're gonna want to figure out what's going with all of those. Um, and once you have your designs all finished up, we can move on to the next step. 7. Sketching II: Panel Layout: all right. Now that we have our character designs figured out, it's time to move on to actually making the comic. We're gonna start with layouts, which may actually be the most important step here. We're gonna figure out short of just where everything needs to be things to take into consideration our clarity. Um, you're gonna want people to be moving around and appearing in a way that doesn't confuse the reader. And you're gonna want it to look entertaining. Things should look cool or funny or whatever it is that you are trying to evoke. Um, and that's where we get into composition. We're gonna be taking a look at different ways of composing an image in an aesthetically pleasing way That also makes sense to read as a book. Now, to keep things from getting too long, I have skipped ahead to having the panels figured out. Now, first we'll be taking a look at how people read Western style comics, which is from left to right and then from top to bottom in that order. So we like to try to prioritize the information on the page keeping that in mind, you can see I made a little zigzag if things go straight down to the left, which is to say Onley interesting things are on the left. Um, it's gonna be boring. And then if you go all over the place, it gets confusing. So let's start off with this cave. Um, I've already sort of pre figured out these layouts because again, this doesn't need to be an hour long video. So our first panel here is fairly large because this is where we're going to see where everything is happening. It's in these caves. So right now, I'm just sort of kind of using my instincts to figure out what is a nice way of arranging these objects in the space. Dr. Macknin Gia is chasing King radical. So as the reader of Western comics does, they he is being chased from left to right. Ah, fun tip that you might notice in some movies or comics or when the bad guy moves, they go in the opposite direction. You can check that out in Star Wars. Actually, Darth Vader often moves from right to left, and it's meant to give you a sort of vague sense of unsettlement. And this next panel here, we're gonna have a close up of Dr Manager just reacting, and we're gonna show the speed with some speed lines. I'll get into that a little bit later with the thinking stage. And then, as the script says, we open the shot back up again to show a new location. Any time you're showing a new location, you're gonna want to pull that camera back. A lot of people's instincts are to push in closer on the cool looking characters and drawing people and fund pose. This is fun, but the reader really needs to see where things were happening. So we've got this big hole in the foreground that's important. And then we have Doc on the left. All right, now what? I'm working on this next bit here. I'm gonna talk to you a bit about something called the 1 80 Rule. Wikipedia says it's a basic guideline regarding the on screen spatial relationship between a character and another character with the scene. It's a little complicated to go over here, so I suggest you do further reading. But basically it means that dock in this page will always be owned. King. Radicals left here will be on the left and will always be moving from left to right on the page until he breaks and moves past him, which I want to show as clearly as possible, which will be in the last panel so again here. Ah, we're getting into a reaction now. This is something that's really important in comics is you need to show that things have meaning. Uh, in an art form like this, you only have so much room on the page and you need everything to matter. You can't have any sort of moments of fluff just because it's ah, It's an art form that demands an economy of form and use of the medium. So always be keeping that in mind. Your economy. Now in a second here, I'm going to be getting into how we made use of contrast of the shapes here. This is getting more into making the page look nice or entertaining. Having contrast, um, real quick here will drawing this guy Doc is leaping in space and a great way from you. Show that often the pages and make sure that he has actual physical blank space surrounding him. He's not touching up on other lines, and I'm using the rock formation to point at the actions. Sort of like a fake speed line here, Aziz diving after the large mummy thing in the foreground, back to the contrast of shapes. Things. You see that the mummy is rather large and then dockets sort of smaller than it. It's not about how if these people were real, how big they are, it's about physically on the page. How big there. Now here we have. We're into another problem with the composition. I've got Doc here. And then here he is again on the left side of the page. And then here he is again on the left side of the page and then once again, on the left side of the page. He's only on the right side of the page in this last panel because it's the last panel. Now we're When I was saying about that l shape, it gets a little boring. So why don't we just tuck this guy over to the right? And now, suddenly there's a reason for your eyeball to go to the right side of that panel, which means that once again, we've preserved that digs actually now get him into that contrast. I think that first panel actually looked a little boring with just those tootle characters . So I'm going to show Dr Big Ninja in the foreground, making him much larger. Which means now we have this great contrast between the two shapes, which makes it visually exciting. And he's still moving from left to right, as I mentioned before. So see here we've got this nice little arrow going here from the big to the small and then from small to big again. This is It's just exciting for readers. It makes the page seem dynamic and cool looking when it comes to composition with one thing you really need to keep in mind is what do you really want the reader to look out in that first panel? Uh, it's king radical because he's the last thing I want them to see. I want to see doctoring through a tunnel. Anyone seeking radical So all that information is pointing sort of towards King radical in that way that I made that wedge before and that's layout. Let's move on to pencils 8. Drawing I: Pencils: payouts are done. Now we can actually start drawing the comic. Uh, you don't need to be watching me right now. Let's get to the drawing. So in the pencil stage here, what we're doing is we want to make sure that we have the basics of all of our forms figured out before we move on to our final drawing. We're still going to be pretty sketchy here, but we just need Teoh really nailed down what everything looks like so that it's gonna be easier in the inking stage for us to have a final, confident line. Now, I'm not gonna get too much into draftsmanship here because I am not a master draftsman whatsoever. And in fact, my pencils are quite loose compared to a lot of other comic artists. What's important is that in a comic, things need to look what they actually look like. Um, which is to say, if hand looks like a carrot mitten, as I mentioned earlier, uh, that will take the reader of the story. They'll suddenly wonder why there's carrot mittens and not hands. You know, fire truck needs to look like a fire truck if you want a fire truck in your story, and that doesn't necessarily mean you have to draw perfectly. But it needs to look right within the universe you've created. So if you have a cartoony loose style than and it should be a cartoony loose fire truck, um, another big thing here is you really need Teoh use reference. Uh, you may think you know what a Coke bottle looks like from memory, but you probably don't have it exactly right. Take a couple seconds and go do a Google image search. Uh, Google Image search has made reference a lot easier for artists, and there's no reason why you shouldn't be using it. And it may seem like it's adding work, but in the end, it's making things a lot easier for you, and it will make you a better artist. Another thing to be thinking about here is you need to think about how objects look three dimensionally early on in our school system, we are taught that the sort of diamond shape is an eyeball and ah square with the triangle on top with three squares in the front and rectangle. On top of it is a house when actually things are more complicated than that. You're taught symbols when, actually, I mean, which makes sense then. But it doesn't work anymore when you're actually, you know, trying to do this for real. So here you can see I am trying to figure out what doctor just skull looks like under that mask so that I really think about the contours of where the edges of his mask go. And here's also where we need to take into consideration acting just a So this were a film . We have characters here, and you need to make sure that they are acting well. Um, fun. Easy tip here in comics is combining a face with a hand. Could make a lot of, uh, different dynamics for you. So here we're showing surprise. Like I mean, how often do you see something and throw your hand up to your face like that in gas? If you do great, you're probably doing a more exciting life than I am. But here it quickly shows docks, shock and horror. Every thing to consider is ah, a little tip is how big the people's aren't in the eyes. We know that the mawr white oven I that a human is showing, Um, the more serious their emotion is, usually means they're scary or they're scared. So that's why I drew dock with ease, weird tiny peoples in the previous panel. Um, here is where I have most of my stumbling with this figure. It's the most dynamic pose on this page, and it is the trickiest to figure out if I really wanted to get it right. What I would do is actually do something like this, set up a camera, lie on my bed as though I'm flinging myself outward and take a picture of it so I can see what my arms actually look like, what my fingers actually look like and where my legs were going because that's what's really hard here. A lot of his body in this is obscured by things in the foreground, and so his legs were really hard to figure out, and that brings me to figure drawing class. I have taken hours and hours, days worth of figure drawing classes, and I still have a hard time. So if you are having a tricky time drawing people, you may want to look into going someplace where you're allowed to draw a naked person in front of you will help a lot. And also in that in mind, you should just be drawing everything in comics historic and call for anything. And you need to figure out how to draw anything. It's not just capes and explosions, though. Ah, it should be. All right. So here we have my finished pencils. These are very loose for pencils, but because I'm thinking over my own work, I know I can handle that. All right, then let's move on to that thinking. 9. Drawing II: Ink: And now we're moving on to the final stage of my comic creation process, the inking Pieris, where were actually going to be doing our final drawings That that will be seen by your readers. Uh, Russian show off a little bit about some brushwork here among a studio Does a nice thing where they just sort of give you an ideal line. It's replicating what happens with an actual brush here. We can make sure that I have a nice tight point on both the start in the finish on, and you can adjust that however you like. Um, now, if you are doing a painting stage, uh, like I mentioned before, you could be doing painting. I don't have too much to say on that. This is largely about working in black and white, but you still are gonna want to take into consideration things like light and shadow and texture, which we're gonna get to now. So first up, we have, uh, doc in the foreground Here, Um, getting that head shape is tricky. And doing it on one try is incredible. So, yeah, we're just sort of thinking about where the light is. We're doing it very generalized light source here. And that means I don't have to do anything terribly dynamic or dramatic with the lights. I'm just thinking about sort of the folds in his mask and, uh, sort of the hierarchy of the shapes. Like his collar is a little bit more in the foreground than his ear is to. The color is a slightly thicker line because it's closer to things that are closer to you are bigger. Um, conversely, things that are closer you two closer to you could show more details, so there might be smaller lines on that. So, uh, yeah, we're figuring out how to do his cool tie here. This is something that has helped me out over the long time I've been drawing doctoring India is that I can show action frozen in time by having his tie with behind him Sort of lends itself to the action nicely. Um, if you're working with ink, that little move that you just did there you can't do with an eraser. Um, but you can do a little bit of white out, and that helps again with the contrast, we're always thinking about contrast. That's very important in a comic page because it helps the reader sort of be able to just organize everything in their brain when they're staring at a complex page. Um, you know, put a little shadow under docks chin there. That's just to again show where the shapes are. And then here we're just figuring out a little bit about how his coats working the drapery . There's some great stuff on drapery online. It's one of the hardest things to figure out is how close land on the body. It's really weird. So here, we're gonna get into some texture. Um, you can see I'm drawing this rock very differently than a draw docks coat because it is a rock coat. So, you know, you just sort of take a look at your reference and you think about how those shapes are. And then you just, uh, consider how to translate that into line. So with the rock, we have a lot of sort of thin little cracks and like that on these rocks, I'm gonna do it a little differently just to show you, let's say these ones are more heavily. When do a lot of little guys here and then uh, we're gonna figure out some shadow on it. So, you know, we know how light works. Uh, if it's a round object, things get a little softer is it goes around and I'm using the texture and mawr lines to help show that shadow. And again these air thinner lines than Doc is because they are further in the background. Here. We've run into an issue with tangents, tangents, airlines that shouldn't be related but look like they are docks time panel to potentially runs in a docks coat and panel one So we'll fix that like this. Also, the lines on docks head and Panel two might run into the rock on the top panel. It could potentially make him look like he's wearing a rock hat with the added black, though it should look OK. Finally, we're going to do some speed lines, which in comics helps lend some motion to a still image. And that is the finished page 10. Final Touch: Lettering: I don't have too much to say about lettering, but there are a few big things. First up, the letters are part of the artwork and should look good incorporated into it. Typically, that means going with the typeface that looks like hand lettering, not something like Helvetica. Ideally, you write the letters by hand yourself so that the letters air truly in the stained style is your artwork. And also you have impeccable handwriting. Try not to cram more than 30 ish words into a balloon. More than that, and things get boring for the reader. Allow a little space in the balloon around your words, so they're not banging up against the balloon lines. And finally make sure the tales of the balloons point toward the characters heads. And if the head is big enough, the characters mouth. It's weird if they come from other body parts, trust me. And don't forget. If you're doing a Western style comic, the reader is going from left to right and top to bottom. Your balloons should try to go in that order as well, and look out for any time they're crossing over each other. Those were some of the big basics of lettering. San effects. You can get a little more wild. Just make sure everything is legible. For more on lettering. Look up, Nate. Pecos is of bland bots guide on lettering. 11. Conclusion: And that's the lesson, Uh, time for you to make your comic. Make sure you post it here on the site. And, um, if you have any questions, you can make a comment or let me know and I'll, uh, I'll see what I can do or other members might feel help out as well. Make that comic, make it make the comment.