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Jewish Comics: Pizza, Dreidel-Face, Jesters, Talking Sun & Giraffes

I just posted a slew of new comics for Jewish kids, from a series for Kid's Zone magazine we've now been doing for nearly five years. They feature: a pizza-eating contest... ...a super-sized, spinning, anthropomorphic dreidel... ...a mysterious, riddling jester... ...a spacey talking sun... ...a trip to the zoo, and giraffes that speak! View and read all the comics at Google+, Facebook or in our Prime Projects section of this site. Background details, info and insight into the creative process have been featured here on this blog previously. My wife, Mary and I just finished another which features Big Talking Fish! So I'll post that as soon as it drops.

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Jewish Comics: Mitzvah

I'm tardy in posting this strip we did last August for Kid's Zone magazine. This one focused on doing good deeds for those in need, so the star, Joey and his pals get together to raise money.

They get some good advice from someone who may look a tad familiar, though for the final art they had me add a top hat.

And here's a sneak peek at the layout for page 2 (of 3). At this point I still worked the old-fashioned way, scribbling with a marker with a board on my lap. My process has since changed, which I'll be sharing soon on this blog.

Read the whole comic (and those done previously) in our Prime Projects section, or at my Facebook page.

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Comics for Jewish Kids: Process

Work in progress for the latest strip for Kid's Zone, the magazine for Jewish kids worldwide!

Pencils in Photoshop...

...converted to blue line and printed on 11 x 17 smooth card stock...

...then inked traditionally with a brush, some markers.

We scan, LiveTrace in Adobe Illustrator - this page is all lettered and colored in that program. I'll post the story when it sees print.

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Lots More Comics for Jewish Kids

Since my last post on the Jewish Kids Comics series, we've done a few more installments, and I've now added them to the Blue Moon Studios Prime Projects section of the site (click link & scroll down), as well as in Photos at my Facebook page.

The series continues to be a challenge and delight, as we cover many aspects of Jewish life and culture, including the Hebrew alphabet, Jewish history, holidays and diet.

Every once in a while I get to throw in a little pun, like the Wild Lunch lunchbox, or my wife, Mary gets to color kids with different funny shades and colors.

The scripts and stories also deal with suggestions and reminders for kids on how and when to help others, and how to work together.

To read some or all of these stories in the entirety check either of the links above. We've already completed another installment, which I'll post as soon as I get the high sign.

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Jewish Robot Comics

The title of this post may seem an unlikely combination of words, but what's even more improbable is that in my work I've had cause to string them together more than once! The latest three-page comic strip for Tzivos Hashem's Kid's Zone magazine gave me a chance to design and draw a crazy robot to help our pal, Joey learn about Passover. It all starts when he's gotten a late start on his science project:

Next thing you know he's whipping up a super-robot in his garage who might be able to compete on Iron Chef:

Read the rest of the story, and Joey's other comics at our Prime Projects section of this site.

And click the link to see another image from our Gallery you might find in a google search for "Jewish Robot Comics."

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Comics for Jewish Kids: Chanukah

We're now into our third year of a comics series for Kid's Zone magazine which is becoming more and more fun as we do it. The scripts we're getting are even more inventive and refined than earlier stories, taking advantage of what can be done with comics. In this Chanukah story, I got to draw an old talking tree and a talking candle. Fun! Read the whole story (and the rest of the series) at our Prime Projects section of this site, and learn more details of the comics and creative process in previous posts.

All these comics I draw the old-fashioned way by hand, then they're scanned and colored digitally. The line art is converted into paths and shapes with Adobe Illustrator (rather than Photoshop) so Mary can color away. One she's done, I tweak the color here and there and do all the lettering and word balloons with a font based on my comics lettering style, which means it ends up looking just as if I did it all by hand. It also gives us more freedom and options in making changes to the art or dialogue. Even though we've streamlined the process to be quicker, cleaner and more effective, I'll soon be experimenting to simplify the process further, about which I'll write about here. Stay tuned!

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More Comics for Jewish Kids

We've completed another few installments of the comics stories we do for a Jewish kids magazine, a series which we've heard recently will continue for the foreseeable future, which is good news. Each story centers on certain Jewish holidays and the culture. One story focuses on the Four Sons of the Passover, which gave us a chance to go all super-heroic, thanks to the fun script by writer/editor Ella Broh. And another story features the star, Joey traveling the world for Shavuot to ask folks of other creeds and countries about the Torah. jcm_sample1.jpg It's funny, as I work on these comics, what gets me most jazzed is not always the large splash panels and big action, but the smalls ways in which I can employ storytelling strategies that work only in comics. For this quick series of three panels (above) a tiny superhero transports Joey from a magical time-travel land back to his grandparents' attic. Their return trip need to be treated differently than their way there, and while using as little space as possible. In a long horizontal strip and three tiny frames, I got Joey back where he belonged with simple, iconic images. It's also a treat to do these kids comics in the simple, bold fashion I prefer, rather than in a style that's over-rendered in ink or color. To compliment the line art and for a look easy-on-the-eye, Mary and I stick with essentially flat color in this case. For other comics stories, I may use another look and approach entirely. To read these latest editions, visit our Prime Projects section, open the Blue Moon Viewer, and click forward to "The Awesome Foursome!" Of course, you're welcome to read the earlier stories, if you haven't seen them before. Enjoy!  

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Comics Panel: Ink to Color

Sometimes the look of a comics panel can change between the inking and coloring phase to aid and enhance clarity, mood, tone, character and storytelling. Many times it's planned, but in other cases as you go.In the case of this frame, I plotted out the color treatment from the get-go, which was indicated in my roughs. But there's no need, and in the digital age a waste of time to include all elements in the line art. In this panel, these four kids are making a transition from something of another world or reality back to their home turf and original state. I had limited space to make that transformation happen in a clear way. This story has to do with giraffes, so I used the spots pattern as a background element to convey movement and flow. On the left, the spots and background yellow are darker and saturated, both fading towards the right. The coloring on the kids is also then treated more surreal fashion on the left (as a darker violet knock-out) becoming more natural and representational as we flow to the right. The kids are topsy-turvy and in close up at first, then shown in full figure moving across, as they become less disoriented, two of the boys grounded to their surroundings with simple shadows. A small portion of a  fence (established earlier in the story) is shown in the lower right to indicate place. Yep, all that thought and planning for but one simple cartooned comics panel. Whoa! From a series I draw of comics for Jewish kids.

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Comics Panel Process: Smack the Fist

As I've written here recently, I streamlined and simplified my process for doing comics and the occasional illustration. Rather than doing a series of thumbnails, layouts and pencils, I jump right in and pencil digitally, which looks like this, drawn at print size...

That keeps my gestures and expressions loose, drawn with no reference at hand. From there, I convert the pencils to blue line...

...and usually just ink away. It's more fun than nailing down the pencils overmuch, 'cause it feels more like drawing in ink than the more technical process of embellishing or almost tracing something you've already drawn. But sometimes I don't feel I've gotten things quite right, so take photo reference to make sure of details, gesture, positioning and perspective.

I was surprised with this figure that I was more on the money than I'd thought. I tightened the drawing a bit lightly with a pencil over my blueline, focusing mostly Joey's cap and hands.

And I liked this photo well enough I made it my new Facebook profile pic. It was time for a change from my Bedbugs book author photo, anyway.

After inking, scanning and clean-up, my wife and I color in Adobe Illustrator for a clean, largely flat-color look. I added a few lines to accentuate the smack of the fist, and we're done! From a series I draw of comics for Jewish kids.

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Creation Story Comics

The latest three-page comics story for the Jewish children's magazine to which we regularly contribute is up and ready for reading at our Prime Projects section of this site. This story focused on the creation story, as our hero, Joey is guided to the beginning of time and space by a prickly little ladybug, of all things. The ladybug was fun to design and draw, in part because she was a little impatient and prone to throw the occasional tantrum! I also had a good time laying out their trip through the first seven days, which provided the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the full bleed off the edges of the pages, allowing the sequence open up and breathe. I don't like to use those bleeds just because I can, but rather for greatest impact when the story gives me the chance.

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Tzivos Hashem Kids Comics

I'm delighted that we're beginning our second year doing comics stories for the outstanding Tzivos Hashem Kids magazine. Over 300,000 copies of each issue (in English) are distributed world-wide, and tens of thousands more in a variety of additional languages are sold. This strip is one of our favorite regular projects. I'm so pleased that clients like Tzivos Hashem are choosing to use comics to communicate their important messages, in this case to interest kids (ages 8-13) in their Jewish heritage and religion, teach them about their background and where they come from, in a manner that is fun, informative and that will speak to them.

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Comics are an effective and entertaining medium. Not only do comics stand out and grab attention due to their visual nature, but because they combine words with pictures it's easier to convey sometimes complex actions and concepts to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Today I'm working on layouts for the next installment, and though I can't share those yet, I can show some art from a previous issue. I begin work on each issue with a rough layout, breaking down the plot or adapting the story into comic book pages. These breakdowns are a few inches tall, kept small so I don't focus on detail yet, but rather on panel and page composition and storytelling. It may be difficult to tell anything from my chicken-scratch, but trust me, I know what's going on there, which may become more clear to others when compared side-by-side with the completed page.

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I then proceed to larger layouts, working at print size. The  lower portion of the page was of particular interest to me, as I needed to show the hero, Joey, chasing a bunch of ice cream trucks through the city streets. Breaking these actions into a series of smaller panels, especially when followed by the larger title image, I found a fun and interesting juxtaposition. Instead of showing the whole city, which is suggested in snippets, we focus on the drama of Joey's chase.

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Between this layout stage, through the pencils and the final art stage, I changed the last panel to show better Joey's reaction, as well as the the men beginning to unload the boxes from the trucks. This also builds suspense, as one has to turn the page to discover their destination.

jcm3c.jpg

The final pencils and inks are done at an enlarged size (124-140% depending on the project). Sometimes we have to finish these comics quickly on a tight deadline, and I'm feeding finished inked pages or sections to Mary, so she can scan and prepare them digitally to get started on coloring, while I pencil and ink more. Read all of the comics we've done so far for the magazine, and we'll let you know here when the one on which I'm working now is available.

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Building a Robot

On this blog in April I posted about Jewish Robot Comics. For that installment, I needed to design a robot, the Sedertron 2000, who would be built by and interact with the star of the recurring strip, Joey. Sometimes I have a good idea of a design of character in my head before I begin to draw. Other times I'll work it out at the old drawing board in the studio. But on most occasions faced with that fun challenge, I like to just doodle and play on the page while watching TV or sitting outside, to let the sketching take me places, especially when I'm not sure where I'm going or have just a vague, Will-o'-the-Wisp idea of a character design. For this robot, I wanted him to be fun but formidable. My first stabs...

...were not on the right track. These looked not personable enough, or too scary. His head was looking like a toaster or insect or a Stormtrooper. Had to change gears:

Better in some ways, but too silly, clowny and simple. Then I began to hone in:

Yeah, that's more like it! Now to just complete the design for his full figure:

I also needed to come up with an old professor/teacher, who was quick and easy. He came out right away on paper exactly the way I saw him in my mind's eye.

More details of the robot were refined as I worked on the layouts and pencils. My wife and I ended up coloring him differently than I'd originally intended, which was probably mostly red and grey. I like him better this way:

To read the full story check out our Prime Projects section, which also features other Jewish comics, and other assorted projects. And you can find more Fricke robots on this blog.

January 31, 2013 Posted by bluemoonpaul

Clients

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Anatomy of a Comic

We recently completed our 20th comic for Tzivos Hashem's Kid's Zone, a magazine for Jewish kids, so we can finally show off the previous one since it's now seen print. Aquatic Adventures starts off with a SPLASH! as Joey and his pals are pulled into the river while fishing off a dock...

...where they come face-to-face with a huge talking fish! It was fun to have room to blow out this panel to a sizable semi-splash at the bottom of the first page. Now underwater, little bubbles/circles begin to appear, which I used throughout the three pages as a design element, in the panels and gutters, leading the reader's eye. We carried this through to the word balloons of the fish, which we also gave a different font, more open and round than the comics font we usually use (one based on my own hand-lettering). Mary approached coloring the fish differently than I probably would've, weaving warm and cool colors together, and shading various blues and greens. A nice touch, adding depth and color to the fish, helping to pop the Big Guy from the watery backgrounds.

On page one (below, left), I established the scene, the boys fishing off the dock on the river, the city in the distance. We used cool and warm colors to distinguish one panel from another, and to break things up. I prepared a diagram (below, right)  to show shapes and flow of the page. The orange line shows a couple main shapes. The blue line tracks the flow of the text/word balloons and sound effects. The red line shows further the composition of the page, how I used the fishing poles and line to direct the reader's eye so the action flows naturally from panel to panel.

I wish I had even more room one page 2 to show the magical underwater world in which the crew finds themselves, but somehow was able to pack a lot of stuff into this panel (shown larger here than in the printed comic). For all the underwater scenes we considered and could have cast everything in darker hues, but decided to bring it to life, keeping things colorful and magical.

Pages 2 & 3 (below) appear in the mag side-by-side, bleeding together a bit. The red line I drew for page 2 shows the general flow for the page and panels. We kept the background for the masthead white to pop the title, utilizing the bubbles as I mentioned earlier. On panel 2 I used a series of arcs (as suggested by the sunken ship), carrying them through the whole panel and to direct the eye to the proper following panel. I bled out all the background for page 3 to establish an underwater backdrop for the talking fish and Joey, using panel borders for cutaway shots and an inset. Because this page is therefore more free-flowing and open, I overlapped word balloons over panels to make sure the reader followed along in the right order.

Here's a close-up which shows how we bounce and balanced warm against cool colors. Notice again the difference between the fish font and boy's speech.

I've written and posted more about how we've created this comics series, which we've now been doing for five years. Read all the comics at Google+,  or Facebook. It's already been a good run...with more to come!

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Underwater

A frame from the three-page comic I'm finishing today... I like this panel - turned almost exactly as I'd planned, which doesn't always happen... From a series I draw of comics for Jewish kids.