Michael Stock

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VS Comics Interview – Part 2

Originally published in VS Comics #3 – March 2013

Mike Stock // Digital Editor & Letterer // Interview

Can you talk us through your process, and any tools you use?

I could, but then I’d have to kill you … nah, all the dialogue, balloons etc. are created in Illustrator. I created my own blank templates in the software that are the US and UK page sizes and have bleed, trim and live area guides. I have separate layers for artwork, balloons, text, and SFX.

Lettering page template

Lettering page template

This set-up means I can drop in the artwork and scale it down to the page size so I am always lettering over the same size canvas. This also means I can just drop in updated art files as amendments come in – often I’ll start lettering over pencils and then the inks and colours come gradually as they are signed off. I like to involve the SFX in the artwork as much possible so they are made in Illustrator but then imported into Photoshop where I can manipulate them and the original image to blend them in in whatever way suits the style. The style is different for each story; it is dependent on that of the writing and the artwork. Sometimes it is quite simple but occasionally there is a bit more work involved like in Swan Song, for instance.

In Swan Song there is an immediate pace change to, say, ‘Eponymous’ and ‘Day and Night’, which are both full of action and are often very dark. Instead we are set in a geriatric ward of a robot-run hospital so the pace is quite thoughtful and the colour palette is very clean. There are several characters straight from the off: three humans, one of whom speaks solely through video screen; two robots, both with their own personalities; and a sort of mainframe computer who calls the shots. After reading the script and looking at the art I set about creating a sort of style guide, which outlined the dialogue for each of these characters.

Style guide - Swan Song

Style guide – Swan Song

The humans have normal white balloons, which I tweak slightly for the video character, and I chose a dialogue font that I felt had lots of personality. For Sadie and Stevie I gave their balloons’ corners and a pattern to emphasise their robotic-ness and a casual sans serif font (like what this is written in now) that contrasts the font used for the human dialogue. I coloured the pattern in relation to the speaker to help distinguish the dialogue and personalise it further. For the computer I squared up the balloons further and took the kink/bend out of the tails, sort of removing as much personality as I could. In cases where I make a style guide like this I’ll include it on a new layer in the Illustrator file and keep it locked and hidden so it is always close to hand, should I need it.

Logos and titles will often follow the same process as SFX but usually involve a lot more sketchbook (random scrap paper) work, I usually find it much easier to adapt and rework a typeface by hand. Photoshop gives me a lot more flexibility to have the element interact with the artwork should I need it to. Quite often I will also be entrusted with the production of the finished comic, either in a print-ready PDF or a digital format. For compiling these files I use InDesign; it links all the artwork files which means the original art is amended or changed and then I can just refresh the InDesign file and hey presto.

What are you working on outside of VS – Tell us about it.

Jon Lock has just got Afterlife Inc. #3 successfully ‘Kickstarted’ so I can look forward to that over the coming year, lots more Dead Roots too as that’s released quarterly. Also in the works: The Six should have popped up on your radars during LSCC (2013); Destiny’s Fate #3 is well on its way and has been really good fun; The GeeBees is shaping up fantastically and is due out this spring; I’ve just finished one issue of The Pride and there already 6 more in the pipeline; and something really funky called Raygun Roads with Owen Michael Johnson.

Urbanality - logo and credits

Urbanality – logo and credits

What inspires you?

Creativity; it sounds like a cop-out but, creativity is contagious. If I’m having one of those days where I’m not feeling creative I go hunting for other people’s. I collect images that make me think, make me laugh, or feel sad, happy, confused; anything, basically, that makes me stop and look at it again. I don’t leave them on my computer or share them on Pinterest or something weird, I print them out and stick them in a big ol’ scrapbook; which I can flick through.

SFX - Afterlife Inc.

SFX – Afterlife Inc.

Where do you see yourself in five/ten years time?

Well I’m new to comics as far as I’m concerned but I look forward to burrowing further and further in. I’ve not really been lettering for that long either so I’ll keep learning for now. Maybe in 5 years time I can be living off of comics … I think I’d like that.

www.michaelstock.co.uk
@sheriffstocky

And there you have it. It was really fun to read through this again and, retrospectively, see where it has taken me; particularly the bit about what I was working on at the time. Jon Lock’s Afterlife Inc. rolled straight off of the success of #3 and into a MASSIVE collected edition called the ‘Book of Life’ which was also a huge Kickstarter success! The Six preview (available for download still) went down very well too. Destiny’s Fate led to an awesome anthology by it’s writer Devin L. Michaels called ‘Capitalism and Other Stories‘ which I lettered and did a lot of design work for. We finished all 6 issues of The Gee Bees which now exist in a hardback collected edition. I drew the cover art for that, a bit out of my normal comfort zone but I enjoyed it none-the-less. The Pride is going strong, we just released #4 of the main series and #2 of The Pride Adventures which are made up of shorter stories following the same team, filling out some of history of the Pride’s universe. And finally Raygun Roads was just nominated for ‘Best Comic’ at the British Comic Awards we lost out to Image’s The Wicked and the Divine but it was an honour to be recognised for what is a strong, and truly unique, comic book.

Blog

BCA Best Comic Nomination

It’s a real pleasure to say that Raygun Roads, a comic that I worked on with Owen Johnson, Indio!, and Andy Bloor, has been shortlisted for ‘Best Comic’ at this years British Comic Awards. The winner is to be announced at Thought Bubble in Leeds later this month.

BCA-Nominee-600pxw-300x300

The ‘Best Comic’ nominees are:

  • Dangeritis: A Fistful of Danger – Robert M Ball and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell (Great Beast)
  • In The Frame – Tom Humberstone (New Statesman)
  • Raygun Roads – Owen Michael Johnson, Indio!, Mike Stock and Andy Bloor (Self published)
  • Tall Tales & Outrageous Adventures #1: The Snow Queen & Other Stories – Isabel Greenberg (Great Beast)
  • The Wicked + The Divine #1 – Kieron Gillen, Jaime McKelvie, Matt Wilson and Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)

We are amongst some hard competition though in so it will be tough but, frankly, just being nominated is Exciting enough. Also to be in that list as the only self-published title, I think, is an amazing effort when you consider the readership that something like ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ has through a publisher like Image.

As if all of that isn’t exciting enough the team of judges includes the likes of Jonathon Ross, Jessica Hynes (Spaced) and Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf). Incredible.

The 3rd Annual British Comic Awards Ceremony will take place at 6pm on Saturday 15th November in the Royal Armouries Bury Theatre in Leeds as part of the Thought Bubble Festival.

Comic Books / Lettering

The Kill Screen

The Kill Screen Logos

A title change and a logo re-design later and Mike Garley announced our upcoming comic series with Josh Sherwell, The Kill Screen.

The Kill Screen - Cover New

There is more information about this awesome story over on Mike’s website, including a 10-page preview. I designed the logo and will take on lettering responsibilities for this exciting new journey in which I look forward to reuniting with a long-time collaborator in Mike and getting to know Josh (with whom me and Mike worked with in VS Comics) better!

Lettering

Horror Stories with Jack Davies

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jack on a Dead Roots story and was very happy to oblige when he approached me to letter a one-page horror comic written and drawn by him.

Comic - Standard

I was really happy with the results and I get the impression Jack is too, you can more of his work on his website.

Lettering

The Pride Adventures #2

Wrapped lettering and production on the second of my The Pride Adventures books. The TPA series tends to feature guest artists as opposed to the main The Pride series, and this issue holds a few beauties including Dani Abram, Denis Medri, and Chris Wildgoose.

TPA2 PvP

TPA2 ADC

TPA2 MF

TPA2 LN

Spoilers

The following is for showcasing my lettering and may include SPOILERS.

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.34.12 Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.35.21

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.37.48

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.38.09

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.35.59

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.36.37

Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.37.06 Screenshot 2014-11-27 14.37.29

You can follow the The Pride and The Pride Adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Lettering

Stiffs #3

Wrapped lettering on the next issue of the Welsh zombie apocalypse series ‘Stiffs’ today. It’s always a really fun series to work on, good looking, witty, bloody. It’s got the whole package!

Stiffs 3 Sneak

You can keep up with Stiffs over on Facebook and you can follow their weed-smoking, hard-drinking monkey over on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing. And why wouldn’t you be?

Spoilers

The following is for showcasing my lettering and may include SPOILERS.

Stiffs 3 1 Stiffs 3 2 Stiffs 3 3 Stiffs 3 4

Lettering

The Pride #3

Finished lettering the third installment of The Pride. This issue also contains the origin stories for Bear and Fabman.

TP3 Bear

TP3 Fab

You can follow the The Pride and The Pride Adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Spoilers

The following is for showcasing my lettering and may include SPOILERS.

TP3 1

TP3 2

TP3 3

Lettering

Pride Origins – Bear & Fabman

Started lettering the third issue of The Pride yesterday, the first of which were the 2 origin stories that are included in each issue.  This time around it was the Bear and Fabman’s turn, some beautiful art, and well thought out short stories to help inform the larger universe they are creating.  Favourite part for me was coming up with the logos! The Pride is available from their online store.

 

Comic Books / Lettering

Eponymous #6

Finished lettering the ever stunningly good looking Eponymous. I’m don’t want to give too much away so I’ll just give you the eyes.

Eponymous #6

Eponymous will be released in VS Comics #7 and you can pick up a printed copy of stories #0-5 by catching the team on tour, visit the Facebook page for details.