Mark Crilley's Blog

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blog Pic #1

Thought I'd try something a little different and do a quick cartoon self-portrait. This little picture is a simple snap shot of what I'm doing right now: listening to music (by way of a podcast on my iMac), eating dinner (a lovely curry-like dish Miki made for me called "Hayashi Rice"), and sitting--in my own strange way--cross legged on my beat-up old office chair. I want to try to make this blog more of a window into my life, and what better way than to throw in a little cartoon like this whenever I can?

Miki has taken Matthew out to a friend's birthday party and Mio has kindly decided to take a nap, leaving me with a spare hour or two on a Saturday evening. Really I should be using this time to get work done, but I couldn't resist adding a bit to the blog.

I certainly hope everyone out there reading this has had a better September/October, weatherwise, than we've had here in southeast Michigan. I can't remember such an unending succession of rainy and overcast days. We've even had a bit of snow on more than one occasion. Here's hoping for a nice clear night for Halloween. Matthew is going to be Mario (of Super Mario Bros. fame) and I am very proud to say we created the costume ourselves, the old fashioned way. (Actually I'm pretty sure we had no choice, since I doubt there is a mass-produced Mario costume out there for kids; believe me, I searched the internet for one!) If we get a good photo of Matthew in costume I'll try to put it here on the blog.

All right, enough. I've got to get back to work!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Art Teacher for a Day

Yesterday I was invited to St. Fabian school, an excellent elementary school just a few miles from my home, to do a day of drawing/cartooning lessons for all the students. It was a lot of fun, and I sure saw some terrific drawings being made. Normally I'm invited to schools to focus on reading and writing, so it was an interesting change of pace to turn my attention to drawing instead.

My favorite part was teaching kids how to draw facial expressions on cartoon characters. I did one lesson in which I showed a guy with a bored expression, then showed the same guy with an extremely shocked expression (bugged out eyes and all), then finally showed him with an angry expression (steam shooting out of his ears and all). It really is amazing what a difference a few scribbly little lines can make in changing the emotion of a cartoon character.

Now it's back to work on my new graphic novel series. Right now I'm in the middle of a sequence that takes place inside a small Japanese "mom and pop" grocery store. I've tried very hard to convey what it feels like to be in such a store on a hot summer's day, with the interior quite dark and shadowy and blinding white light pouring in through the doorway. One way in which my comic will stand out (I hope) from other manga-style comics is in the use of atmospheric lighting. There are points where I devote hours and hours to a single page--even a single panel--just trying to put the reader in the scene, using light and shadows to create a cinematic effect. I'm really looking forward to unveiling some of this work. I'm sitting on top of almost 200 pages of finished comic book pages right now, and I'm dying to show them to someone other than my publisher!

All right, time to sign off and get back to those pages...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Photo of Mio

Just wanted to try a quick second post to teach myself about adding photos. Here's one of my favorite photos of our newborn daughter, Mio:

This was actually taken quite some time ago, so she's a bit bigger now. Still just as adorable though! :')

First Post

As part of an ongoing effort to make my website ( 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.