Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Corn Dog story

This is page two from "No Good Deed" in Gen 13 #36.  I'm not showing you the final pencils or inks but if you compare the scans you can see how I worked out some of the background elements and clarified what I was going to do with the shadows.  I'm making a mental note to attempt a blog entry on problem solving one of these days.  The how-to books always seem to overlook that subject even though it's a huge, recurring part of the penciller/inker/cartoonist's job.  This story didn't have any big problems to solve.  The script was clear as Waterford and if we hit any snags, I don't remember them.  

Picture one shows the pencils after all the obvious stuff is resolved.  I wasn't sure about the corn dog vendor in panel one or the background in panel four.  I knew I wanted some shadows in the last panel since our point of view is inside the trailer and we have bright sunlight coming in the window but I was having trouble imagining what the panel would look like if I made more than half of it solid black.

So I made a copy of the pencils and started doing some sketching on it.  First with a pencil, then with a fat marker.  Picture two shows were that got me.  A black background for panel two. fading into a crosshatch pattern and maybe a shadow cutting diagonally across the vendor's head.  

Panel four: The trailer on the left, carnival tent and maybe a ferris wheel on the right.  Everything should be far enough away from our main character so that we focus on him and his posture.  He's bummed out because the fryer's broken and he can't get a corn dog.  By the way, the kerosene lamp in the next panel is a nice touch.  I wish it was my idea but it was in the script so either Jerry Prosser or John Arcudi thought of it. 

Seeing the final panel with all those roughed in shadows put my mind at ease.  Piece of cake.  

Next I returned to the board and started working out those details in pencil and inking the areas that I was sure about.  That previous step might've seemed like a waste of time but it helped me to see where I was going so I think it was worth it because it made the rest of the pencilling go a little faster.

I ruled some light perspective guide lines in the first, fourth and final panels.  These can help suggest details as well as giving you a guide for freehand drawing.  I moved the ketchup and mustard containers so our vendor is peaking over them. 

Then I finished the pencils on our disgruntled hero as he walks away in panel four.  I inked him next so that I wouldn't have to worry about smearing his lines if I did a lot of erasing and redrawing on the carnival buildings behind him.

A little detail on the sliding window helps us keep our bearings and maybe a little cross hatching in the open space so that we get the sense that there's other stuff back there, it's just out of focus.

I also decided not to put the shadow across the vendor's forehead in panel two.  I'm not sure why because I think it would have worked fine, but I just chickened out.  Or maybe I just forgot.

I'll wrap this up by mentioning the research that I did before I started drawing.  Today I'd probably just do a quick web search but back in 1997 I was frustrated as I tried to figure out how corn dogs were supposed to be deep fried.  In baskets, like french fries?  Hung from a custom apparatus?  I didn't have a clue.  So I did what we used to do back in the dark ages; I asked around.  My brother hooked me up with a friend of his who owns the Pronto Pup concession at our local State Fair.  He opened up one of his stands on a cold winter day and very enthusiastically showed me how it all works.  I never showed him the story because it paints his product in a slightly negative light but I really appreciated his help.  The vendor in the story was not based on him.  Not even a little bit. 


  1. I am a super fan of the Brazilian designs. thank you for beautiful work and the valuable and beautiful step by step, master. Congratulations.

  2. Thanks, but I'm not sure I know what you mean by Brazilian designs.

    It's nice to get so many comments from outside the US here. For a guy who gets ribbed about not leaving the house it's particularly ironic.

  3. Great post really informative, I love stuff like this. the inking on the face in the third panel is amazing!

  4. Holy crap! What a great dissection of a page. Even if you jump through the section about working out the problems, just what you were thinking as you went through each panel was a joy to read. On the last panel, I'm curious when you did the spotted blacks in the second scan, you had the opening "taller" so you could see more of his head but when the final version came out, you have the top of his head in entire shadow. Was this somehting you decided in final rendering that it was stronger that way? I do think it works well since he is under the edge of the trailer and no shad should hit his forehead.

    And funny story about, of all things, a corn dog!

  5. I just thought it'd work better to have the window cropping the top of his head a little. A little more claustrophobic, maybe.

  6. Makes sense. Totally in favor of the final version like I said, no shade should hit his forehead anyways. Guess the claustrophobic idea works well too. Puts more focus on the character as well.

  7. Two things come to mind when reading through this post:

    Your work is just gorgeous in black and white and we really do need that "how to" book someday! :)

  8. Did the Pronto Pup fella know he was assisting in creating art for a comic? Or did he think you were just a corn dog enthusiast?

  9. I don't think he asked me any questions, he was just very happy to show me how the operation worked. He was very enthusiastic and couldn't have been more helpful.