I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! In the spirit of this gift-giving season, I'd like to share with you today a little behind-the-scenes look at my recent poster comic featuring a pair of brand new characters I created, Jacob & Joaquin.
Promotional image for the Jacob & Joaquin poster comic.
I had recently gotten the idea to create a one-page comic, to be printed up as an 11" x 17" poster comic. First step, obviously, was that I needed an idea. For a moment I thought about using one of my existing characters, but then decided that I wanted to feature characters that somewhat tied into the spirit of the holiday season.
For some time now, the names 'The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy' had been floating around in my mind. (In my EL MUERTO comic book series, Diego de La Muerte, aka El Muerto, has a best friend, Isaac Silver, played in the film by Wilmer Valderrama and Joel David Moore of AVATAR fame. I'd long since given the comic book characters the nicknames of 'The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy', just as a personal in-joke for myself. But those names always suggested to me an idea for a monster hunting duo, a pair of demonologists/exorcist types.
So when it came time to flesh them out, I fashioned them along the line of the old-school Batman and Robin archetype, with Jacob being the older of the two, and Catholic Boy the younger, brasher member. I dressed up Wandering Jew to evoke the look of a Rabbi, with a slight WWII-era look to his wardrobe. For Joaquin I went with a modified Catholic schoolboy look, the idea being to make both characters instantly recognizable as to their identities. I tend to create my characters in that mode, so their names, appearances and purposes all reflect one another.
For the story, I figured a quick hunt-and-destroy mission would work for what I wanted to accomplish. With a one-page story, you have to instantly introduce the characters (especially if they've never been seen before) and show them doing what they do best. My plot was simple: Jacob and Joaquin get called by the LAPD's monster investigation unit to assist on a case, but soon realize their spiritual-based powers won't work on this particular menace. A quick improvisational maneuver saves the day, and we've got a story!
In creating the comic, I decided to draw the original panels larger than their finished size. So instead of drawing the whole story on an 11" x 17" sheet of paper, I broke up the panels into three sections, drawing each section on a horizontal 11" x 17" sheet, using 3 sheets in total. I then scanned each page and shrank them down and put them together in Photoshop, ending up with an 11" x 17" single page.
The story was set in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a shared Jewish/Mexican heritage. Not only was Boyle Heights a thematic reflection of the two heroes, but back in 2005 we had filmed a week of the EL MUERTO movie at the Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory, located in the same area. I actually filmed my cameo with star Wilmer Valderrama at the very front gates shown in the first panel of the story.
It was quite fun setting a story at the same place we filmed the EL MUERTO movie, as the experience of making the film (some of it in East Los Angeles, where I was born) are among the most memorable moments I've had. Other than that though, the cemetery was a perfect location for my story.
Before starting the story, I took a look at the work of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a comic book artist whose created the majority of his work
for DC Comics since the 1970s. Garcia-Lopez always had strong, vibrant pages, drawing figures overlapping into other panels, adding an extra dimension to the flow of the panels. I thought a technique like the one he uses would help me maximize the limited amount of panels I would have to tell my story. To the right is a page from Jose's SUPERMAN VS WONDER WOMAN comic book (1978).
Another element I wanted to experiment with was the coloring of the comic. In the late 50s/early 60s, Marvel Comics published numerous comics featuring monsters and sci-fi stories. What really impressed me was the coloring on many of those stories, often depicting a very expressionistic use of color. I love the bold patch of colors used, such as a yellow or blue background, with the characters painted in a monochromatic color, seemingly random in nature. It creates an unforgettable page, one where the rules of coloring flow with the story. Since I was doing the comic as a poster, it had to function as a story, but also I wanted it to stand on it's own as a whole, complete image, with a vibrant color scheme dancing across the panels.
"The Man Who Captured Death" from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #9 (1962), written by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko.
My plot for the one-page comic came fairly quick, the challenge was pacing out the action over the limited number of panels I had. Like with any comic, regardless of length, the initial storytelling goal for me is determining each composition for each panel, and finding the best combination of narrative action from one panel to the next. And because I was conscious of how I wanted to approach the eventual coloring of the piece, I composed each panel with a possible color scheme in mind, such as leaving empty space in the background where I wanted to try a large, bright color.
Once I patched the 3 separate pages together into one 11" x 17" document, I spent time doing various touch-ups to the artwork. Then I was able to start playing with my color palette. This was actually the first comic book that I was coloring. Sure, I had colored some previous stories of mine in gray-tones, and I've had plenty of experience coloring single-piece illustrations, but this was my first full color comic to be colored from start to finish.
As you can see by the colored page in the right, for the background I tried to use colors that appeared elsewhere in the strip, such as the magenta from Catholic Boy's mask, or the orange from the monster. That was done to tie the panels together, as I wanted the viewer's eye to move around the whole page in various directions when taking in the complete poster image. From a story point of view, I need the reader to start at the first panel and proceed to the next, but as a single image, I wanted the colors to bounce across the page.
There's definitely more stories to tell with Jacob & Joaquin, as well as Inspector Claye and the LAPD's 'Gravedigger' squad. I've thought up a rough idea for the origin of The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy, but for now we leave them to their first comic book appearance, HAUNTED HOLIDAYS. You can read the comic here (click the image to enlarge it) and if you want to order a printed, signed copy, visit my earlier blog post when I first debuted the poster comic.