Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Tue, 20 Oct 2015
Subject: Plok comic strip
Yesterday's Plok comic strip contained a secret 'easter egg', a close up map of Grandpappy's Lair matching the one that Xöb finds hanging in a frame on the wall. You have to click on the comic strip itself to see the giant image, but I suspect most of you worked that out for yourselves (or read it in the comments).
If you haven't seen it yet, go and take a look!
I thought I'd do a blog post about the drawing itself because it took me bloomin' ages to draw. I usually post pictures of the layout sketches and pencils and inks for each strip on Patreon as I'm doing them, or the odd instagram of finished panels, so I regularly get a bit of feedback on each drawing as I complete it, but this drawing was supposed to be a secret 'reveal', which meant I couldn't post pictures of it as I was working on it without spoiling the surprise.
The whole point of the Plok comic was to do something with a quick turnaournd and instant feedback, as an antidote to working on video games for the rest of the time which take so long to complete. It was annoying therefore to be working on a complicated drawing that I couldn't talk about.
And it was very complicated. I gave myself a day to draw it, but I laughably underestimated how long it was going to take. In the end it was probably about three days of pencilling and a couple more days inking. And then I shudder to think how long it took to colour, but at least as long again. All this, apart from the first day, was done in little chunks over evenings and weekends, in between the rest of my work.
We even had to delay the comic a few times, and rewrite some scripts, as the drawing wasn't ready in time for the strip it was going to appear in.
(I did post a little image of it on Twitter when I got into a mess with the spiral staircase, and did it wrong. Twitter came to my rescue and helped me work out how to fix my impossible staircase and I patched it up in Photoshop once it was scanned in.)
The original idea was that I'd use the drawing as the background for four different panels of Captain Skint wandering in the lair, and you'd click the comic to see the full drawing. So the drawing was going to be the bulk of the work of one of the actual episodes. That was what became episode #95, but in the end it felt better to draw that comic strip from scratch, with more interesting angles, rather than use the flat side-on drawing (which I still hadn't finished colouring at this point).
The drawing was a deliberate attempt to evoke the feeling of diagrams I remember from the back pages of 1970s comics, like the plan of the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building, a Dan Dare spaceship, or Tharg's Kings Reach Tower from 2000ad.
I always wondered how those pages got made. Did the script writer of the comic write a page of script detailing the layout of the building? Or maybe the editor came up with the ideas ? Or was the artist left to his own devices for a page like this? They didn't really fit in with the regular production of the comics, so how did the artist and writer find the extra time to do them?
"With great difficulty" I guess is the answer, from my own experience with this drawing.
I've got a tiny but bulky, home-made A3 lightbox, which I made use of for this drawing. I taped a sheet of A3 graph paper onto the lightbox, then a sheet of A3 bristol board over the top. Once the light was on I could faintly see the grid lines of the graph paper through the bristol board, and that was enough to give me a permanent grid as a guide when designing the lair. This meant I didn't need to rule lines everywhere - I could just draw and design areas free-hand, while keeping it all square and neat. I didn't draw it straight onto computer as I felt I needed an overview of the whole image at the same time as seeing the close up details (which isn't easy on computer) as I was designing the layout as I was drawing it. I still find actually designing things easier on paper than on screen.
I'm really pleased with the final result. I hope you all like it.
We might make a few A3 prints of the finished coloured drawing, with the whole cast of the comic strip added stood around Plok's house at the top. Let us know in the comments if you'd be interested in buying such a signed print - if there's enough interest we'll get some made up and put them on the BigCartel shop.
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