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.

Design / Lettering

Happy Halloween

A few of us UK Indie Small Press comics people got together and made a free Halloween comic. The comic was available to download and we all shared the link amongst our individual fan bases in hope of advertising our creator-owned projects to a few more people. After a week the link was removed and the individuals were free to do what they want with their respective properties.

Contents:

  • Chop Chop Chop! by Peter Mason
  • Afterlife Inc. – The Black Room by Jon Lock and R.H. Stewart
  • Peg Powler by Samantha Holmlund
  • Descending Outlands – Halloween Special by Shaun Dobie and Paulo Oliveria
  • A Date with Death by David Hailwood, Tom Suleri, and Ken Reynolds
  • One More Family Secret by Luke Cooper
  • Bertie Bear – Prelude to Terror by Andy W. Clift
  • Think Yourself Dead by Stu Smith, David Hailwood, and Brett Burbridge
  • The Gee Bees – The October House by Steven D Quirke, Kel Winser, and myself
  • The Kill Screen – Out of Sync by Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell, and myself
  • The Witch of the West Wood by Giuseppa Barresi
  • Little Terrors – A Halloween Tale by Jon Scrivens and Patrick Cline
  • The Red Mask from Mars Vs the Halloweener by Vince Hunt and Shaun Dobie

Cover Design

I also had the honour of designing the cover for this little anthology, Mike Garley (who compiled the book did all the layouts, and co-ordinated all the creators and their stories) had suggested we wanted to feature as much of the artwork as possible so I used big chunky letters (adapted from a BlamBot font) and chose some artwork to fit inside them, I was given free reign to pick the art so that was fun. I went my instincts for the most part, tried not to dwell n what was being included and what wasn’t and I had fun cropping them together as the letters overlapped. I was really happy with the result.

Halloween Cover

Spoilers

The following is for showcasing my lettering and may include SPOILERS (many of these stories will appear as bonus material in collected editions I imagine).

Halloween Black

Created an un-cropped logotype version of the cover text for Mike Garley to use throughout the book.

The Gee Bees - The October House 1

I had a lot of fun doing the story title for The Gee Bees story and it also required thought bubbles which are uncommon nowadays so I tried something different with them.

The Gee Bees - The October House 2

The Gee Bees - The October House

The Kill Screen 1

The Kill Screen story required ‘syncing’ symbols throughout so I had fun slotting them in where required.

 

The Kill Screen 2

The Kill Screen 3

Comic Books / Design

The Gee Bees Collected Edition Cover

Steve asked me if I’d like to do the cover for the hardback collected edition and I duly accepted. My first impulses were to go for something very clean and possibly typographic but we talked about and I ended up doing some drawing, that’s right … DRAWING. I drew out some old cases we have at home and inked them before scanning the in and manipulating them slightly. Then I coloured them in Photoshop and added textures and stuff before heading into InDesign. There I laid out the front cover text, the titles and credits etc., and knocked together a back cover based on an old piece of college work which I was reminded of when lettering the penultimate issue (Gideon dons a Union Jack scarf to cover his face). I’m quite happy with the final thing, the text on the front is not my usual style as its tied into the design stuff Steve did on the rest of the book, I had more of licence to play on the back cover text though and I think it shows.

GBs Cover

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