Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Card 2013: Dr. Killdeath & Count Gothula's Veomous Christmas

At long, long, long last, my 2013 Christmas card slash book is finished! This is the reason I haven't posted any artwork on my blog since sometime in August-- I've been working on this thing like crazy!

Like every year, it was touch and go there for a while and I honestly wasn't sure it would be done in time for Christmas. Christmas 2013, that is. Every page took way longer to draw than I expected, my annual computer problems cropped up, and even the weather threatened to shut down the project.  

The Good News: It's finally finished, with a few days to spare before the Holiday! The Bad News: This is the last of these cards I'll be doing. I know I say that every year, but this time I mean it. So enjoy the last ever Christmas card slash book!

As I do every year, right after I finished the 2012 card slash book I started thinking about what I was going to do for 2013. 

I'd drawn both Dr. Killdeath and Count Gothula way back in 2009 and even made a fake Little Golden Book cover starring the Doctor back then. I'd always wanted to do something with the characters and decided this was the proper venue for them.

I quickly came up with an idea where the two would battle it out with deadly Christmas gifts. For the past three years these cards slash books have been sixteen pages. This year was going to be a whopping twenty eight! Almost twice as long! I knew the extra page count would take longer to draw, so I started working on it much earlier than I usually start these things, in late August.

Thank Thor I did. Despite the fact that I started so early, it came right down to the wire again. Although this book only has two main characters, each page was incredibly complicated and took a long time to draw. Then I had my annual spate of computer problems, as my graphic tablet started unexpectedly losing its pressure sensitivity. If you've never used a graphic tablet before, trust me, that's a bad thing. 

Even the weather conspired against the project! In early December we got a huge ice storm. The last time that happened the ice downed power lines all over the city and my electricity was out for a whopping five days! Five! I sat nervously at my computer during the storm, fully expecting the power to go out any second. Fortunately that didn't happen, but it was a harrowing night.

I finally finished the thing on December 14! If I'd have started it in October or November like I usually do, I'd still be working on it at Valentine's Day!

Because of the amount of pages I had to draw, I took advantage of Photoshop and reused elements whenever possible. For some reason I have a lot of trouble drawing brains. All those fiddly little folds are really tough for me to get right. So once I drew Dr. Killdeath's brain once, I reused it on every page in which he appears. Yep, every time you see his brain, it's the same piece of art.

The same goes for the Doctor's little robotic minion. I drew him once, then started to draw him again on the next page and thought, "Why am I reinventing the wheel here?" He was basically a ball and appeared pretty much the same from any angle, so I reused him on every page as well.

Is this cheating? I like to think of it as working smarter, not harder.

Like last year, I didn't draw the pages in order. This was intentional, as it's normal for you to get better at drawing your characters as time goes by. I didn't want the later pages to look better than the early ones, so by jumping around they all have a uniform mediocrity (heh).

Drawing the pages out of order meant I had to keep track of all kinds of little details. I drew the page where Count Gothula opens the gift containing the Man Eating Tornado before he received it, so I had to remember that the gift box should be red with gold ribbon in both.

Working out of order came back to haunt me at least once though. The first time I drew the Count's castle was in a closeup on the page in which he receives the first gift. Much, much later I drew the establishing shot of the castle, and then found that it didn't match the closeup at all. So... I had to go back and redraw the closeup. Whoops!

In all we see eight deadly Christmas gifts. There were originally a lot more, but even with the expanded page count I couldn't include them all. I did manage to at least mention the rest of  them on the Soul Sucker page though.

In past years I've always written out the story first before illustrating it, so I'd know how much space I'd have for the drawing. This year I wrote out the story last, after everything had been drawn. A dangerous way to work, I know. Some pages had way too much text and I had to shrink the artwork a bit just to get it all in.

Hopefully there aren't too many typos in the text. A few always creep in, no matter how many times I proofread it.

As I said before, this will unfortunately be the last of these card slash books that I do. I enjoy working on them, but they're a lot of work. A lot. I worked on this thing virtually every day for four months! Four! And not just a few minutes a day for four months, I'm talking hours, every day, for 120 days. That's a big chunk out of my year. It's just too much work for too little reward. 

I'll probably still do some kind of Christmas thing next year, but it'll be something simpler that doesn't take up a fourth of my year. 

You can check out my earlier card slash books here:


  1. Awesome, as usual. Thanks for sharing those. I would love to see any of your preliminary sketches you might care to show.

  2. Thanks!

    I usually do a "behind the scenes" post about these cards each year, so stay tuned!

  3. Magnificent, Bob! My wife and I look forward to these each year... we have the whole collection prominently displayed beside our Nativity set, as God intended. I'm sorry to hear that this is the final one, but I suppose that will give you the extra time you need to adapt each Little Moldin' Book into 3-D stop-motion extravaganzas. I anxiously await their theatrical release. Merry Christmas to you from Alan, Ruth and Simon!

  4. This is my favorite one yet. Sad this is the last. (or IS it ?) That Santa on page 22 is as close to a 3D image you can get in a 2D medium, great job it's a real WOW image. Perhaps you could start a new x-mas series... Remember those plastic bath-tub books from the 80's ? They were like, 8 pages in length !

  5. Great job! (And the best one yet!) I'm looking forward to the sequel! (I suggest you start in February.)


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