Graphic Novel: Road to Completion



I think there are probably a few skeptics out there that wonder whether or not this graphic novel thing is real or not. Indeed, it is. Therefore it’s incumbent upon me, I think, to publish a timeline. Unfortunately this one is probably not big enough for you to actually read, but nevertheless, it is real. This past summer I had multiple objectives:

  • complete concept art for eight key characters
  • write a scholarly paper outlining the academic side of this two-pronged project
  • learn a few new software and modeling techniques
  • begin an archive of source imagery
I am pleased to report that I am, thus far, on schedule. Over the course of Autumn Quarter at Ohio State I plan on embarking on Phase II. This entails:
  •  A panel calendar for completing both thumbnails and finals for every page of the book
  • Thumbnail layouts for at least 1/3 of the book, 30 to 50 pages
  • Additional research and amplification for my scholarly work (the design fiction side of this exploration)
  • Resolution of a graphic approach to text, captions, dialog, thoughts and sounds
  • Animatic for the promotional trailer
  • Additional concept art
As I am an MFA graduate candidate, this next phase could be a bit more challenging. Along with this project focus I am also teaching Basic Design 251. Thankfully, I have a class of 22 bright, and motivated students. Fortunately, I have built thumbnailing, research and exploration into credit-bearing independent study classes, and the animatic is actually a final product of Arts College 730, Sequential Imaging. Nevertheless, loads to do.
Since you can’t read the fine print above, if all goes well, it looks like we could have a completed work by the end of next summer or into the Autumn of 2012 at the latest. Then I will use the last semester to finalize my scholarly work and thesis. This much I know: It won’t extend beyond that, because I’ll be broke. : )

I’ll tell you more about the research aspect that I’m involved in this quarter in a later post.

Bookmark and Share

More graphic novel concept art

The Enforcer Synth is the latest supporting character in my graphic novel. Enforcers are part of the Elite Corps that report to Col. Lee Chen. They specialize in tactical enforcement and crowd control. A regular presence in the worst parts of the city, they spend much of their time policing “downtown” which is hundreds of floors below “top city” where the “respectable folks hang out. Downtown is old, decaying, a hot bed for techno-crime, and vice of every kind imaginable — and some unimaginable. It’s dirty and crowded; a cross between Vegas and the old Kowloon. This is the place for re-skinning parlors, black-market organs, implants and technology to elude the omnipresent surveillance of the New Asia Police. Not a place for the timid. You can get the whole synopsis on my site, and see a hi-res version on DevArt.

It’s a back to school week, so I’ll get to more updates this weekend.

Bookmark and Share

Some source images for graphic novel metropolis

I thought I would share with you some of the source images for Hong Kong 2, the metropolis where my graphic novel takes place. As I have revealed in some previous posts, we’re looking at a mega city on the North American mainland 148 years from now. I don’t want to reveal too many particulars that are central to the narrative but essentially the identity of this city has become a conglomeration of 22nd century architecture mixed in with a hundred years or so of Asian-style city stacking. A trip to Tokyo, or China and you quickly begin to see what happens when you have to stack more and more people into a finite area. Generally, you build higher, connect-on, and do a lot of retro-fitting. In the graphic novel, the high-rise now floats up there around 150 or more floors and that’s where you find the more affluent social groups. The closer you get to the street, it gets poorer, darker and considerably more dangerous. Though this was never touched on (to my recollection) in the movie Blade Runner, I recently saw a piece of promotional video from Ridley Scott that featured interviews with Scott, Douglas Trumbull, and Syd Mead that discussed much of the art direction for the film classic. Apparently they had a similar dystopia in mind.


Here are some images I collected from the web and my travels that give a peek into the kind of city texture I’m thinking of.

Bookmark and Share

Concept art for a new graphic novel

It has been about a week since I posted my concept art for the upcoming graphic novel. Thanks to all the encouraging emails and Facebook messages from friends. Response from outside the “circle of friends” has been slow. Possibly it wasn’t such a great idea to slide this out over Labor Day weekend. My rationale for getting this out so far in advance is to get some conversation going about both the project and academic paper that goes along with it. Patience is a virtue. If there was a magical formula for social networking, I suppose, everyone would be going viral, all the time. response has been 99% positive, with some reservations about my 7th character Marie. It’s difficult to explain when you haven’t read the script but one thing you need to keep in mind is that the story takes place 148 year in the future. If you think things have changed since you were in school, think about that kind of time frame. We’re looking at major upheavals in politics, religion, even the human body. We’re grappling with epic shifts in the way people look at the world and their lives, their perceptions, their lifespans, their ethics, their technology, their taboos, and their existential struggles. Even though the story falls somewhere in the sci-fi, crime thriller genre, all of this other is the swirling cultural backdrop that becomes part of the story’s texture. I think it makes a good narrative doubly fun to jump into.

Since posting I have attempted to take care of some other business, like getting ready to teach Design 251 in about 10 days, and general life stuff.

As the production schedule goes, I still have a few characters to tweak and I have been modeling away at more 22nd century props that will be part of my future design world. The next major undertaking is thumbnails for the hundred-some pages that will comprise the book.  I think this is an essential phase. (In fact, I am taking a sequential imaging class at ACCAD in the fall where storyboarding is on the docket.) Putting my people into a sequential narrative format is where the rubber meets the road. Thumbnails will provide a visual roadmap for the project, essentially telling me what I need to render, what will be in each scene and the overall flow of the story.

I hope to have this phase complete, or at least well underway by December so that I can focus on rendering the imagery.

If you have comments on the art or story, (here’s the links again:1. DeviantArt, 2. the CGSociety, 3. Ultra hi-res images are on DeviantArt which is set up for big files), please join the discussion.

Bookmark and Share

Graphic novel concept art unveiled

Phase 1 of my graphic novel project is now online. The book will be titled: LIGHTSTREAM The Graphic Novel: Moment of Truth.

Here is the synopsis.

The year is 2159. One major, global government — New Asia — has engulfed most of Europe and North America. The government maintains tight control of the Lightstream — the evolved Internet — as well as rights and freedoms. Science has made it possible to manufacture life-like bionic persons. Known as synthetics, these bionics are found in all walks of life and can be virtually indistinguishable from humans.

In the former America, the largest city is New Hong Kong (also known as HK2). Here, the celebrity-son of a high-ranking government official is brutally attacked and left for dead. Police investigator Keiji-T, the latest in synthetic technology is assigned to the case. Under pressure from above, Keiji is given 24 hours to find the truth or to pin the crime on “the usual suspects”.  Though confident that his highly advanced programming has prepared him for the task, Keiji suddenly encounters conflicting instructions from a mysterious data implant.

In the next 24 hours Keiji, together with his human and synthetic counterparts, must unravel what is true and false in a world where it is difficult to tell what is real.

There you have it. Concept art is being showcased in several places. 1. DeviantArt, 2. The CGSociety, 3. Ultra hi-res images are on DeviantArt which is set up for big files.

A few notes on design which you probably have gathered from my previous blog posts. I have another year of work on roughly 100 pages of CG but this is the look and feel that I will be working toward on every page. Since the entire graphic novel will be built in CG, that makes the scope of the project enormous. I have had to resort to starting with base stock models primarily for figures, clothing and and some background architecture. This is something I’ve wrestled with this for a long time but if I have to create everything myself the project will never be finished and most of these have been greatly customized and 90% of the environments, vehicles and props are all custom using Maya and Modo. The rendering is in Bryce. There is only minor retouching in Photoshop and the framing and typography are using Illustrator.

Comments welcome.

I’m taking Labor Day off. Hope you enjoy.

Bookmark and Share

Graphic Novel plan unveiled this Sunday

On schedule, the day has finally come to unveil the title, synopsis and character concept designs for my graphic novel. I’m really excited, but it’s also a little terrifying, and amazing to see how each of these milestones drives the project further down the road. There are so many decisions that have been required, even in character design, that affect the overall story. Clothing, technology, the scene and set design, are all telling a part of the story. Just writing the synopsis, that is, committing it to cyberspace, makes it seem somehow set in stone. While the story (in the form of a screenplay) has been written for several months, I have teetered back and forth on the name several times and the location (as you have read in previous posts), but sharing a synopsis to the world was a matter of how much and how little can I tell. I guess movie studios are ridden with that kind of angst all the time.

As I have stated, DeviantArt will be my main launching ground, along with lower res versions on my site and some thumbs here, but I have also decided to post to the CGSociety. This is probably the most daring part, since these are literally the gods of concept art, so far superior to me that I feel very intimidated making an appearance.

I’m secure in the style that I have selected (although I think the final book will take on a somewhat grittier feel), but this is no way intended to be some kind of overture of skill and so much more about an engaging, visually stimulating narrative. There is a huge chunk of story behind each character. It all gets woven together.

I had promised to unveil eight characters but decided on seven finalists, not because I couldn’t finish, but just because I want to hold out some of the minor characters to reveal along the way.

Since I will be absolutely amazed if this gets finished before another entire year passes, another question that will come up is, “What happens after this? How do we know you’re still on track and producing?” So, I’ve decided to continue to post important stills and concept art as I go, as well as some of the supporting cast.

So, just come back here on Sunday and I will give you all the links you need.

Bookmark and Share