Ok, so I’m feeling kind of sick today and it seems like a great time to sit down and post about Mega Man comics. I’m currently working on Archie’s Sonic & Mega Man crossover (I finished the last page of part 11 yesterday) and it got me thinking about the ‘Return of Dr. Wily” I did back at the end of 2011. I guess I’ve been busy for a long time because I never got around to putting any pencils or anything of it up here.
But how about a little teaser image of the Sonic & Mega Man crossover first?
Ha ha! What do ya think of that?
Quick Man, from Mega Man 2. This guy has got something special going on, something that makes him stand out in Wily’s vast robot army. He’s the first robot master we see in the ‘Return of Dr. Wily’, popping up in the first five pages, and I think the only one with a real presence in the story.
Mega Man Issue 09-
Good times, a celebration of Mega Man. I thought it would be difficult at first to determine how I would draw Mega Man, what style to pick from, but I quickly discovered that I although I love Hideki’s take on the property and admired it for years, it didn’t feel right unless it was closer to Inafune’s designs and style. It was less about picking a style, and realizing it didn’t feel right, didn’t look right, unless it was like Inafune. I’m crazy about Inafune’s stuff and where as his technical skill may not be his strong point, his imagination is unrivaled. It’s like the guy still has a direct link to his childhood. So with Inafune as a grounding point, the next step was to look at Higurashi who captures all that spark but delivers it through technical skill.
I figured that was the best place to aim but never came close to any of those guy’s work!
So above, Page 01, those are the pencils I turned in to Gary Martin and what you should see printed. But initially I’ve always thought of Dr. Light as being a smaller man than he is depicted in the Archie comics, so I drew this-
It’ll be difficult to tell, but Roll and Mega Man are also a little smaller in this original drawing. It was interesting, I had been approaching the comic almost exclusively based on my interpretations of Capcom’s art and wasn’t considering any kind of uniformity based on Patrick Spaziante’s decisions in the first four issues. Comics are a kind of special opportunity in the creative world where typically an artists unique style, storytelling, or representation of a character are what often makes them successful. There is a bit of an overlap in this approach by Capcom, a videogame company, where a handful of artists could approach producing promotional art in their own style or take on the property. In the case of classic Mega Man, Inafune’s original work is interpreted by a variety of artists over the years, but two prime ones are Hideki Ishikawa and Ryuji Higurashi. I love the art both have produced and neither feels less Mega man than the other, but they’re definitely very different. This collection and willingness to showcase art was one of the major reasons I admired Capcom. I was totally in that mind set when I set down to pencil these four issues and my only aim was to create the best Mega Man as I personally knew it.
Obviously I’m not pioneering a brand new interpretation or style for Mega Man as my aim for titles like Sonic and Mega Man is to adhere and capture the “correct” visual. In this way, I consider myself trying to stay ‘on model’, even if my model is a mixture of artists sometimes across decades of production. My aim is to take all of it and find something specifically identifiable to anyone familiar with it as “the property”. Given how much I push myself to be on model, I found myself very surprised at how much I didn’t want to aim for Spaziante’s designs! It’s clear he’s jumping from Hideki Ishikawa’s work, but I just didn’t want to jump from that same springboard.
As I worked my way through these issues I pushed myself to deliver what I understood to be “Mega Man”, and to mix in what core elements Spaziante had set down when starting this comic off. In this case, characters are larger.
P.S. Auto is a pain to draw.
Page 03 insert-
Haha, its funny how excited I still am by this. The script called for two flashback inserts, one of a panel I knew Patrick Spaziante had drawn earlier and one that maybe Chad Thomas would be drawing in the ‘Time Keeps Slipping’ arc. I left them blank until the last moment when I was given the go ahead to draw Wily busting Oil Man out. Gary had already inked the page so I got to do inks myself! Ha ha, I loved it and was excited to prove myself after a disappointing show in the Short Circuits 5-8 (I penciled and inked myself). I was also crazy excited about this because I think Oil Man is pretty cool in ‘Mega Man Powered Up’.
The arrival of Quick Man! Here on page 04 I shifted my production approach. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to best produce a page of comic pencils and in the beginning I used to be crazy. I would draw the page in Photoshop, then print to an 11 x 17 piece of paper, and light box those pencils IN BLUE to the Archie board, THEN pencil with graphite my final lines on top. This is madness and I don’t know what I was thinking. I was drawing every page 3 times! The first thing to get cut was the middle section of light boxing in blue, but I was still drawing every page twice. Actually that’s not true. I was drawing it once and then tracing it. Any life the pencils had was lost in the trace. The faster I traced the worse the pencils became. I was sick of it.
Inker Gary Martin and I tried a new approach, that dropped all traditional drawing for me and speed my production time up. I penciled everything in Photoshop before printing my lines out in blue for Gary to ink over. No more light boxing!
Nowadays I’ve refined my process once more, and I’m at my happiest I think. It didnt’ take me long to figure out that I prefer drawing with pencil on paper, but I love the convenience and speed of digital. So now I quickly rough my pencils digitally, blocking things out for myself and doing all my exploratory drawing in the fastest way possible. I’ll print those roughs in blue for myself, then do final graphite on top. This allows me to draw the page ONCE, and have a finished lively piece of art. I’d include some visuals here to make my point clearer, but I just started this with Sonic and Mega Man crossover issues, I can’t spoil nothin. Anyone interested in this, I’ll follow up in a later post.
American comics is a frankenstein process and I think printing pencils in blue for an inker is a mistake, it can easily become too difficult to determine what the pencilers intent is. There were plenty of times after printing that I myself couldn’t clearly see what they heck I had drawn.
Back to page 04, I had a blast beating Mega Man up and conveying speed with static images. I learned some new tricks here that I’ve since brought to Sonic.
I really like that top panel, I’m pleased with Roll’s pose. I haven’t looked at this stuff in nearly two years. This page I recall being the best example of how easily an artist can either misinterpret or simply have a different interpretation of the mood for a scene. Here’s my layout for this page-
You’ll see that in panel 03 I’ve got Mega Man smiling and my panel direction is “Mega man hooks a thumb to his chest, confident”. Despite the danger and the attack just moments before on his family, my personal interpretation of Mega Man is of a guy quick to smile and a little naive. Panel 04 is Dr. Light helping Mega Man to understand the danger he is so willing to throw himself into. I don’t know, maybe its a little weird. Mega Man is a “kid” and I suppose I was thinking of him not taking it seriously enough. The editor Paul Kaminski jumped in to let me know we were aiming for a different mood in the scene and Mega Man becomes determined, the scene streamlined, and the dialog more cohesive. A good call.
Or wait, hold up. Here, panel 01 Mega Man gets serious. It’s been a long time since I looked at these and I’m underestimating the importance of sequential storytelling! Here’s my layout-
A couple quick things you’ll notice, my initial idea for panel 01 was that it was more important to see the effect Mega Man’s words had on Light proving that he does in fact understand the situation, before realizing the power is also conveyed through his face as seen in the pencils. In both the final pencils and the layout you’ll see that Mega Man goes right back to smiling after the serious moment though. He’s a good natured guy and his smile is meant to reassure his family as he heads off to war. My idea was that Mega Man is seemingly a little naive, Dr. Light brings him down and builds our worry as readers, BAM page turn and Mega Man is laying it all out for us. Mega Man is on top of this and then back to nice guy. Alright, hey I take it back. The final result of page 07 with determined Mega Man if perfectly fine, I’m totally cool with it and if thats the mood Ian and Paul want, thats the correct choice. But in my own head, I think the story I was telling in the layouts is just as powerful.
Oh, something that drives me bananas on this page, and throughout all the comics, is messing with Mega Man’s nose! It goes back to adhering to the style guide, and my issues with it. I love the tiny, tiny noses and stylized profile used throughout most of the Mega man property. Giving him a larger nose drives me crazy! Throughout my pencils you’ll see I often use a tiny line, or dot to indicate the nose. Rarely do I define the shape.
This page, with its cool introduction to Wood Man is, all due to editor Paul Kaminski pushing for a grander entrance. I’m fairly certain he suggested a tree throne. You can check out my original uninspired layout-
I think Wood Man is pretty cool and I love his sprite in Mega Man 8. I tried to balance that sprite with Inafune’s original design.
Oh yeah, his Leaf Shield! I was so torn up on how to depict it, because the 2d way makes no sense. In the end I did both! Hahaha! The story I’m implying is that he starts off with a lot of leaves, and as the count changes so does the shield formation. Until panel 03 when he’s used up all his leaves, leaving him open to attack! Thats good problem solving if I do say so myself!
Also, I’m pretty sure in panel 02 there that’s a recreation of one of his sprites.
And then pow! Head shattering robot violence! Actually jumping back to panel 04, if you’ve got your comic, that lighting colorist Matt Herms is doing from the buster is great. If I have time I give color notes, but I didn’t give any for this stuff. Jumping all the way back to panel 02, you get to see under Mega Man’s chin and I was really worried whether or not Matt knew how that worked, but he did! A round of applause for Matt Herms making our Mega Man comic that much better!
Speaking of robot violence, check out panel 02. I actually like that the cover it up in the comic with word balloons, implying that there really is something to hide!
Taking a look at Mega Man’s helmet and stuff, this is the start of his damage which turned into a real pain. I tried to be conscious of depicting each type of damage (leaf cuts, acid burns, fire burns, etc.) as different visuals and keep them in the same spots. Eventually I created a damage guide because it was getting so out of hand. I didn’t strictly hold myself to it so long as it was close, but I was chatting with inker Gary Martin about it and he said he put the extra effort in. So if its 100% thats actually him.
This page is pretty cool, I’m super fond of panel 01 and 02 building the location and atmosphere. This is helped a lot by colorist Matt Herm’s work, with hazy white indicating mist and small details like color holding the lines of the platforms and the hydroelectric plant. Speaking of the plant, the Mega Man artbook published by Udon was indispensable in drawing these comics. I’m lucky enough to flip through and stumble across those designs, often just in the nick of time!
Panel 03 is always a big deal and get’s a lot of compliments. That’s all Ian’s idea and was scripted out, making me look good.
My favorite page! Certainly out of this issue, but I think it might be favorite out of all four! I’m really pleased with this whole thing and it makes me feel good every time I see it. The wobbly background, the bubble effects and action, I really felt like I kicked into some sweet spot that I almost never hit.
Crazy, I wasn’t even going to post this page until I saw how much changed in the color stage. In particular the background for panel 04. The darkness is cool so it’s not a big deal to lose that information.
Quick Man just can’t wait!
This idea of a more aggressive, and threatening Quick Man is another of editor Paul Kaminski’s. My original layout had a more collected Quick Man-
Before starting this job I picked up Ariga’s Megamix vol. 1 and had a great time, undoubtedly his Quick Man had an influence on my take here. (Not long after I was riding the train and gave that book to a homeless girl who said it was her birthday and that she liked Mega Man.)
(Later I saw her eating the pages.)