Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Space Dweebs Vs. Space Santa Little Moldin' Book: Behind The Scenes

Now that my 2011 Space Dweebs Christmas Card/Book is finally finished, I thought I'd post a behind the scenes look at how I made it for anyone who may be interested in long-winded explanations of mildly interesting topics.

This was one of the few actual physical sketches I did for this year's book. Most of the sketches were done digitally, right on the screen. I didn't spend a lot of time on the sketches, as you can see– I just roughed out the bare minimum to get sizes and proportions down.

Obviously the cover here is based largely on Page 11. At first I thought I could just reuse the entire page, but the Page 11 Dweebs are looking sheepish and abashed, which wouldn't work. I redrew the Dweebs so they look more confident and arrogant, as if they're challenging Space Santa.

I was going to reuse the Page 11 Space Santa unchanged, but then I decided I didn't want his big reveal to be on the cover. So I reworked him to make him look more shadowy and mysterious. Yes, I really do put that much thought into these things. I started out thinking I was going to get away with reusing 100% of Page 11 for the cover, but ended up using about 1%. Typical.

As for the logo, I drew it in InDesign. It's based on the Burbank font, which is my current favorite. I typed out the title, then traced over the letters with InDesign's pen tool. I distorted the letters quite a bit, because I wanted it to look somewhat customized and not use an off-the-shelf font.

I went through a few titles before settling on this one. For a while it was going to be called The Space Dweebs vs. Space Xmas, but that didn't make any sense. They were butting heads with Space Santa, not the holiday.

Here's the title page. You can probably tell that's a digital sketch I did on the left.

And yes, Churd is really scratching his butt right there on the title page. The Dweebs don't have very good manners.

When I first drew the Dweebs last year I didn't think about names, which is something I had to address for the card. I wanted them to all have nerdy sounding names. I came up with the name Merkin first. Merkin is a real word; I was under the impression that it meant a chest hair wig worn by men who needed help in that area. That seemed suitably nerdy. Later on I found out that I was mistaken– it's really a pubic hair wig first worn by prostitutes in medieval times. Yikes! That knowledge kind of put me off of using the name in an Xmas card/book. I tried using "Mervin" for a while, but it just didn't have the same ring to it, so I thought what the heck and went back to Merkin. Probably 1% or less of the population knows the meaning of the name, and for those who are offended by it, I invite you to lighten up.

As for Churd, I wanted a name with a "ch" sound, since he has a chunky physique.

"Glaven" is one of those nonsense words that the early Jerry Lewis used to bleat out in his movies.

This is the establishing shot of the Dweeb's satellite clubhouse and the first page I worked on. Maybe I started with this one because it didn't contain any characters. I bet I redrew that stinkin' planet in the lower right corner about ten times. I just couldn't get it to look like the image in my head.

Originally the writing on the Satellite read "SD-1" (for Space Dweebs 1, natch). Later I decided it would be cool to use some kind of alien alphabet, so I changed it. It doesn't say anything, they're just random shapes. I didn't make up my own alien alphabet like Futurama did.

So how do the Dweebs afford a satellite in space? They just do. It's a kid's book.

Here's one of the earlier sketches I did of the clubhouse. Originally they were going to have a dish on the bottom, but I dropped that in the final drawing.

The rocket is sticking out of the top because in the first draft of the story, the Dweebs flew their rocket to Space Santa's Comet Fortress and stole HIS Giant Giftbot and went on a giving spree.

What's the deal with all the planet & city names, you're asking? Well, they're all Yiddish words. Cause Yiddish words sound funny, dontcha know. A Schmendrick means a fool or a jerk, Meshugah means crazy or insane, and Schlamazel means born loser.

Hey, don't go anywhere! There's lots more to see after the jump!

Obviously the Rec Room is a ripoff of homage to the classic TARDIS interior on Doctor Who.

Apparently iPads exist on Meshagah IV, as Merkin is waving one around.

The blue snacks are kind of a shout out to 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the end when astronaut Dave is being held in the apartment, all the food in the refrigerator is blue. Cause blue food is spacey and futuristic, dontcha know.

That's a pretty primitive video game Churd and Glaven are playing there; almost Atari level graphics. That was on purpose. I was afraid if I made it look photorealistic like current games, it might look like they were watching TV instead. So I made it look a bit cruder to sell the idea that they're playing a game. Also I had to flop the game screen, because once I got everything laid out there was a cartoon video game explosion right over Churd's crotch! Ouch!

I think this was the second page I worked on. Nothing much to say about it, other than it was fun figuring out how to draw the gift hologram. Originally the hologram was green. I changed it to blue at the last minute. The blue just looked better and more high tech to me.

That kind of thing happened a lot with this card. Last year's was meticulously planned out to the letter. I did a lot of improvisation this year, changing things on the fly as I went along and thought of something better. I'm not sure yet whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

When I first drew the Dweebs last year I didn't think about their personalities at all. I had to flesh them out for the book though. Merkin became the know-it-all leader. The obvious route to go with Churd would have been to make him lazy and lethargic, to match his physique. So I turned that on its head and made him industrious and excitable. Glaven became the sullen slacker.

In addition to a distinct personality, each of your characters should have a different "voice." You should be able to tell who's talking even without writing "said Merkin." To that end I had Merkin speak in a verbose, know-it-all manner, complete with lots of big words. Churd spoke a little less formally, closer to how a normal person would speak. But what about Glaven? What "voice" could I give him?

In the end I decided to solve the problem by avoiding it, so to speak. Glaven talks in a series of mumbles that are incomprehensible to the reader, but perfectly understandable by the other characters. The only downside to that is that whenever he speaks, you have to have another character repeat what he says in normal speech so the reader can understand what he said.

Another fun page. This was one of the last ones I did. As you might have guessed by now, I didn't draw the pages in order. I hopped around from page to page because I was afraid if I did them in order, the beginning pages would look less polished than the later pages as I got used to drawing the characters. By skipping around, all the pages would have an even, overall mediocrity! So even though this is the first appearance of the Giftbot, it was one the last times I drew it. I had fun "deconstructing" it, imagining what was inside it and under its red plating.

Churd's using another iPad. The boxes behind him and Merkin are there for no other reason than to help fill up space, so I didn't have to draw so much of the background (yep, I'm basically lazy). The stuff in the far background is miscellaneous junk in the Dweebs' workshop. Looks like they even have a TARDIS at the far right.

This is final sketch I did of the Giant Giftbot. I used it a lot to help me keep the look and proportions the same on each page.

This was a VERY difficult page to draw. I had the image of it crystal clear in my mind, but it was tough to get it to conform to the available space that I had to work with.

Originally the Giftbot had both arms at its side, but that seemed a bit dull, so I redrew it so one arm was in a Superman pose. Then I thought the whole page looked kind of meh. Something just wasn't right. I finally decided it was the Giftbot. It was drawn pretty much straight on, with no perspective whatsoever. So I redrew it so the top was larger and wider than the feet. That helped the page a lot, and gave it some much needed energy.

Another very difficult page to draw. I knew it would be, so I saved it for last. For some reason anytime I have to draw cityscapes it's really tough for me. The Giftbot wasn't hard to draw, but getting it, the foreground people, and the city all in the same shot was tough.

Also, I wasn't sure how many foreground aliens there should be, how much detail to give them, and on and on. It turned out better than I thought it would, but I'm still not 100% satisfied with it.

I also just noticed that it's supposed to be nighttime and I forgot to draw stars in the sky. Whoops! Oh well. If that's the only error I made, I can live with it.

This was a fun page to draw. Originally I had Merkin just waving his hands in the air, but thought it would be funnier if he was doing a little dance, so I redrew him.

It took a while to figure out how to draw a ring of lit buttons in perspective, but I finally figured it out. I wanted the buttons to look like they were glowing more, like the gift hologram on page 4, but they came out way too dark.

This was the first in which I drew the Giftbot-- and it's got a giant hole in its chest. Weird, I know, but that's just the way it worked out.

When I first started this card I was worried about the size of the Dweebs. For a good part of the story they're sitting inside the head of a giant robot. I was afraid my main characters would look like tiny, barely visible dots. They ended up being much more larger and more visible than I thought they would though, and it worked out pretty well. I kind of cheated their size on some pages too, making them larger so they'd be more visible. Hey, if they can do it in the original King Kong, so can I.

This was another difficult page. I had a lot of trouble figuring out the perspective of the giant gun and getting it, Space Santa and the city below to all fit. The gun is based somewhat on the pulse rifles from ALIENS. Not an exact copy, but definitely inspired by them. Even though I drew the gun in proper perspective it kept looking like something was off. I finally had to cheat the perspective a little in order to make it look right. Just like the Parthenon! I added the vertical yellow stripes to the gun at the last minute too– they helped fix the perspective somewhat.

This page is the first big reveal of Space Santa. As you've probably figured out, his facial tentacles are supposed to look like a beard. A pale, writhing, squirming beard. As for his coat, why blue? More improvisation on my part. Originally it was going to be red, but I thought an alien Santa should have a different colored coat, so I changed it to green. It was green for a long time until the very last minute when I changed it to blue (mainly because it went better with the background). Also in some countries their version of Santa wears blue, so I figured why not?

It's tough to tell from the sketch, but originally Space Santa was wearing some kind of jetpack to hold him aloft. There was a flame coming out of the bottom of the pack to indicate this. Unfortunately because of the angle you couldn't see the jetpack and it looked like the flame was coming out of his butt. Ouch! I tried cheating and moving the jet pack over so it was more visible and even tried adding TWO jetpacks, one on either side, but nothing looked right. In the end I just said forget it– Space Santa can fly under his own power.

As for the Jetsons-like cityscape in the background, originally it was perfectly horizontal. I thought that looked a little dull, so I angled it to give the page a little more visual interest.

On the left is one of the very first sketches I did of Space Santa. Not a very impressive specimen, is he? And he's got four arms! Argh! I'm glad I did some more sketches and didn't go with this first version. That would have been awful.

I kept at it and came up with the idea of Space Santa's tentacle beard and more imposing build.

I tried to make Space Santa as large and intimidating as possible here, while making the Dweebs look small and vulnerable.

As I said, I originally thought I could reuse this entire page for the cover, but it didn't quite work out that way.

Here's another sketch page with some early concepts. You can see here the beginnings of Space Santa's tentacle beard and more massive body. He still had the four arms there for a while, until I wisely nixed that idea.

The round objects at the middle right side of the page are a couple of very early designs for the Dweebs' satellite. And it looks like Churd was almost named "Chlud!"

At the top of the page are some rough sketches of Space Santa's very spiky Comet Fortress. In the first draft of the story, the Dweebs infiltrate the Comet Fortress and steal Space Santa's Giant Giftbot. They then go on a joyride in it and hand out gifts to the planet below, until Space Santa catches them. That storyline made the Dweebs seem more like delinquents instead of nerd geniuses so I dumped it.

I wanted this page to be a mirror of page 2, so they'd be sort of like bookends. Thankfully I was able to reuse all of the background and most of the objects like the videogame screen and snack bowl. The Dweebs and Space Santa's offspring are all new drawings though.

I wanted to have more than just two slugs bursting out of each Dweeb body, but that was too busy and complicated, so I settled on just two each. I restrained myself on the exit wounds. Trust me, I could have gone a lot bloodier!

Just for the heck of it, here's the outline of the book I typed up to help me keep track of everything. The larger bold text describes the visuals, while the smaller plain text is the actual story. I followed this outline pretty closely, but made a few changes as I went along; mostly to the text.

1 comment:

  1. Your "Space Santa" is great.

    If he needs a soundtrack you might try some of the songs here:


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