September '09

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Artwork from Todd's graphic novel-in-progress, "Crestfallen".



Artwork for this article is the property of Todd Cronin.

As for why I decided to take on the challenge of making a graphic novel... the answer is kind of simple.

 If I didn't do it now, I would never do it.

You wait for the right time to do something like this and it never happens, something always comes up.  At this point in my life, I did some soul searching. I needed to do something in my creative life that allowed me two things - to have creative control over a project and to have steady work without having to depend on someone else.

I love animation. I love that I am fortunate to do a job that I look forward to doing. Thing is, the work is not consistent, only lasting as long as the production on a specific project.  I need for some type of stability, and see this book as a way of solving this problem for myself.  I would continue to animate, but I would have a new creative outlet as well.  My work in the animation industry has helped me develop the tools that I need to do this successfully.

I was drawn to comics when Todd McFarlane was the penciler for Spider Man. He brought a new, unique style to comics.  So when Spawn came out, I began collecting that series.  Simon Bisley's early work is a major influence. The look of the early Lobo comics is great. I have a promo poster that he painted for “The Harvest of Evil/ Hellraiser” and it is one of my favorites.

Writing influences are a different story. I'd have to say Christopher Moore was the biggest influence. I think his writing and comic timing are fantastic. I relate so well to the comedic sarcasm in his books  ("The Stupidest Angel" is my favorite), I felt it should be the direction my story took.  My goal was to write a good story, keep the audience caring about the characters - what they were into, and what was going to happen to them next. Along the way, things that happen would be humorous, more so on the dark comedy side.

I met Steven T. Seagle at the San Diego Comic Con in July.  He had some very good advice for me, suggesting I try a different approach to the look and style of my page layouts and characters, pointing out one character design in particular to draw influence from. This advice resulted in a rougher line feel to the artwork, a heavier, more organic line rather then the animation-style clean up I was doing. 

It was important to design my book in a way that was different from what is out there on the shelves now.  I see a lot of copycat style artwork on the shelves - very polished Image and Michael Turner looking.   So I did a lot of digging to find different looking inspirational books. I found some very good samples of alternative comics:

Soul Kiss - Man of Action Studios
The Great Unknown - Man of Action Studios
Lock & Key – IDW
Archibald Chases the Dragon - Shadowline
Killer of Demons - Image  - very cool
Urban Myths - Top Cow - I really like the art direction in this one!
The Umbrella Academy – Dark Horse
Impaler - Top Cow
The Goon - Dark Horse

I began to design the main characters about a month before I started writing. I needed to establish what these characters looked like in order to properly develop their personalities in the book. I started writing in June of 08 and finished in March of 09.  While, writing I was always mindful of how I was going to approach actually doing the book when the time came. At first I was doing rough page layouts on my Cintique (How I ever got along without one is beyond me), then printing them out, cleaning them up, and scanning them back into the computer to color in.  To streamline this, I am now going to do it all digitally. I'm doing some sample page layouts to can show potential publishers.

I'm approaching the page layout as I would storyboards.  I want to be sure that the story is clearly laid out for the reader to follow. The research I did of other comics has been a big help. This process for me has been very organic so far, starting with an idea of how I want the page to look and then seeing what works and what doesn't.  I know that other books are thought out down to the page and what will be in panel # 17, but that's not how I'm doing it.

The main obstacle I have been dealing is time. I've been animating on "The Mr. Men Show" since January, and that takes a lot of my time during the day.  There have been many occasions where I put that aside so I could get what I needed done on the book, then play catch up to meet my weekly quota. I expect that it will take 18 months of full time attention to get finished. No-doze, Diet Mt. Dew, Rockstar, Monster, Red Bull...tooth picks to keep the eyelids open.

See more of  Todd's artwork on his website: www.fishtoonzanimation.com







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