I think it was around a year ago that I was contacted by Threadless Tees about doing something for them. Upon hearing just what it was they wanted me to do I threw up and suggested something less awful, possibly my doing some shirts with them and they agreed, but to this day, whenever I see their reps at conventions or at the T-shirt clubs, they give me the creepster eye, leering lasciviously at my beautiful ears.
Eventually, Threadless asked me to do one of their Comics on Tees series, and so I did, employing the freakishly talented help of Ethan Nicolle, JR. Goldberg, and Becky Cloonan. I had just seen 13 Assassins, the Miike remake, and one by one, I collected each of those artists, convincing them that what I wanted to do was right and just and bloody-minded. They agreed, except for Cloonan, who swore never to kill again. I assure her that no blood would be shed in the making of these shirts, lying through my teeth.
If you don’t know anything about these Comics on Tees things, it basically goes something like this. Someone, me in this case, thinks up a sort of script that would be told over the course of four shirts, and then four artists illustrate said script, each getting a shirt (issue). Pretty straightforward.
My series, MAKING FRIENDS IS EASY, is about an inventor recounting the various robots she has built. That’s all. What more you need besides robots, though? The shirts are available over at Threadless and you should probably feel like a complete jerk for not already buying it. Psh…
Anyhow, here’s a short bit about the process of making my shirt in particular. Can’t speak for the other artists as I don’t really know how it is they work. Everyone has their own approach, and what I’ve seen of Ethan’s work style makes me hope I never really know more, what with the topless butter-dances and the summoning of many-eyed horrors.
That up there is one of the earliest sketches I did for the front of the shirt. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a lot of early sketch work in Sketchbook Pro as I really like how clean the interface is for just dropping ideas down quickly in an environment geared towards drawing and nothing else. It actually didn’t take me long to get to the basic idea for the image, so I spent a good deal of time after doing that sketch up there high-fiving myself and telling myself how I’m pretty much the coolest guy I know. After that it was about an hour of staring out the window at a power line and feeling nothing inside.
Still in Sketchbook Pro, I use a fat marker tool to drop in some basic shading to give myself a general idea of how I want to light the thing, and to make myself feel like a real designer. I rather liked the sketchiness of the image this early on and considered holding onto some of that for the final design, but my anal retentive side won out and the more cleaned up style won out. I also can’t stand when people leave their clothes all over the floor and step on them with their disgusting feet throughout the course of the day.
Now, in Manga Studio, I do a more detailed sketch, paying more attention to the big robot since it was the roughest thing from the Sketchbook file.. I started up with Manga Studio maybe a year or so ago as I wasn’t at all happy with the line work I was getting out of Photoshop, which tends to have a very “computer” feel to me, more of an interpolation of my line rather than what I associate as my actual line. I think Sketchbook Pro does a better job of it, but even then it doesn’t feel quite right to me. Manga Studio seems to do the best job of making the line look ‘mine’, and even gives you a little bit of room to play with correcting and smoothing out just how much of the computer you want to see in that line. All in all, I like that the little or big imperfections in the ink work I get out of Manga Studio look more organic to how I’d screw up with actual pen and paper. Pretty cool.
Why don’t I just stay start in Manga Studio instead of starting the sketch in Sketchbook Pro? Manga Studio, aside from having a name I think comes along with bad associations, doesn’t let you create documents of all shapes and sizes and that means you’re stuck using mostly physical paper proportions of up to a limited size. Sketchbook Pro, and almost any other virtual drawing program, is aware of the fact that in computer land, document sizes are limited only by your imagination and your computer’s muscle. Somebody please call Manga Studio and tell it that it exists inside of a computer and to let me work on drawing boards the size of a goddamned bus if I want to.
Looks pretty inked up to me. In reality, I was also coloring the image as I was inking it because I’m so horribly impatient when I draw. One thing I did very early on was drop the color of the glowing eyes in on the robots, making sure to turn that layer on and off to make it appear as though the machines were powering on. I’d laugh and laugh and call people into the room and say “Hey, check this out!” until they no longer came into the room and eventually stopped coming over to my house.
Ultimately I end up with that image up there, done entirely in Manga Studio. You might notice, if you’ve seen the final shirt, that it looks a bit different up there. That’s because my original design was much more colorful than the shirt the design ended up as. The blues and foamy colors I thought looked sorta nice, especially with the bubble designs on the big robots arms and legs. In fact, almost all of the shirts went through some color changes for final production. In my case, I had to adjust the colors for the shirts Threadless had available at the time, so everything got a bit more muted. I think it’s cool, but I’d still like to use the design in a way I’d originally pictured it. Maybe a screen print? I think so.
The process for the back image is much the same as it was for the front, only I skipped the SBP stage and started that one directly in Manga Studio. Overall I think the shirt’s pretty nice, but I wish I had taken advantage of the format a little more and not simply treated it as though it was two basic, vertical sheets of paper. Maybe next time!