As part of an ongoing effort to make my website (www.markcrilley.com) livelier and more worthy of repeat visits, I've decided to start a blog for anyone and everyone interested in finding out more about what I'm up to on a daily basis. I figure if people far busier and more successful than I can find time to do a blog (like Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, and Scott McCloud), then surely I can at least give it a shot.
With this blog I want to create something that allows people to see what my work involves: What I really do on any given day--the nuts and bolts of the creative process--that eventually results in a published book. Unfortunately the project that I'm devoting most of my time to these days is something I can't discuss in detail quite yet: It's a series of graphic novels to be published by HarperCollins in May of 2007. Nevertheless, perhaps I can begin by speaking in general terms about what the project requires from me on a daily basis, then get on to specifics once I'm allowed to do so.
Here's where I am right now. The project is a single story comprised of four different books, each with at least 160 pages of comic book art. I have just recently--within the last week--completed the first book. The second book is still in rough sketch form. The third book is only half finished in even rough sketch form. The rest remains to be written.
So these days I am taking rough sketch pages from the second book and, one at a time, transforming them into finished comic book art. On a good day I can finished three such pages, but it's pretty tough. The technique I'm using is quite detailed, and involves extensive computer toning to give my comic book panels a fully rendered, cinematic feel whenever possible.
I don't think it's giving too much away to say that the project has involved teaching myself how to incorporate Japanese comic styles--a "manga" look--into my own approach to doing comics. The story takes place in Japan and features an all-Japanese cast of characters, so it seemed fitting to me to try to illustrate the story, to some extent, in the manner of a Japanese comic book illustrator.
I spent a great deal of time early on copying examples of manga, determing what elements I would borrow and what elements I wouldn't. I decided, for example, to limit the size of the characters' eyes, and to stay away, for the most part, from the drastic facial/body transformations one sees in many Japanese comics when characters are caught up in a particular emotion. I'm not attempting to trick anyone into thinking this is a real piece of manga from Japan.
Nevertheless, the way I am drawing the characters' faces in this comic is immediately recognizable as manga-like, and is dramatically different from anything I've done before. I'm sure for many people this will be seen as the project in which Crilley "went manga". (Whether I will continue to use this style for any other project beyond this one, though, remains to be seen.)
The aspect of Japanese comics that I have embraced most enthusiastically with this project is reflected in the page layouts. Gone are the series of pages with panel after rectangular panel (Something I stuck to in my Akiko comics quite tenaciously!). Instead one finds oddly shaped panels more often than not, characters breaking out of panels and stretching across the page, and, whenever possible, the elimination of panels altogether. It has become a fantastically liberating project for me in this sense. It's as if I have been able to completely reinvent myself as a comic book storyteller.
Well, that's enough for now. This first post involved an awful lot of generalities and talking about the "big picture" of this still-under-wraps project. I look forward to sharing things in greater detail (and hopefully discussing things other than my work!) in future posts.