Step 1: Outline

I had an art teacher in high school that would draw a line on students projects if they were sitting at there desk waiting for inspiration to strike them and give them an idea of what to draw. Her rationale was that the first stroke was the hardest, so if you draw a stroke on your canvas, you know have a starting point and it is no longer a blank canvas.

This idea can be applied to anything that you are having problems starting. When writing a story just start writing out ideas to get the ball rolling. You can even write out several ideas and then choose which you want to work with.

In college I had an drawing instructor that really emphasized constantly refining your still life drawings. He’d start with some well placed primitives and refine until he had an amazing final piece.

This idea is how you take that initial idea and continue to work with it. When I first had the idea of the Cosmic Rage universe it started with a small cast of only five characters. The story was highly vague, at the time I was in high school and I wanted to create an action series with multiple fight scenes and memorable characters and that was it. However, little did I know I had inadvertently laid the ground work for my series.

Do you recall the basic story chart from English classes? The introduction that has rising action to a climax and then down the chart of a mountain with the story ending resolution. By plotting out a few key areas, such as how Zeth and Jani meet (see character gallery for reference), the final battle against the main villain, and how that battle is resolved, I had already fulfilled the basics of the story. By writing these out in a simple outline I can then start plugging in information as to how the characters get from one point to another. It’s this constant push and pull working with an outline that helped shape the story. At this point there is no need to focus on tiny details, the main point of the outline is to determine the fluidity of the story and how these events help shape the characters.

Project Scope

As I continue to work on the Cosmic Rage universe, I felt that it was important to inform you a little bit about the scope of the project. The Cosmic Rage universe is a vast one, with many characters with their own agenda. Currently the entire character roster contains almost 30 unique characters that will be introduced over the course of the series and each will play an important role in the progression of the story.

The first “issue” of the motion comic will provide an introduction to several characters. From a production standpoint, the first issue contains contains over 30 pages of storyboards which equals about 180 images with animation. Some of the artwork for the motion comic has been created already but I look froward to posting up some production artwork up as the process continues.

Also, character bios will be added to the character gallery as well. Make sure to check that out and get introduced to a new character, Jani.

Layering Artwork

As I work to inform everyone about the backstory of the motion comic; how it came to be, what problems I have encountered, where I am at now and some of the work that has already been created.

However, today I want to share one of the issues that I have encountered and my proposed plan to solve the problem. So, the basics of my current workflow goes something like the following. I draw out a frame that is planned out in our storyboard. (if you are unfamiliar with these terms I will explain them later on a bit more in depth). One of the main things I want to accomplish in this motion comic is to provide a sense of depth and space, and I want to accomplish that by using what is called a 2.5 or fake 3D effect. This effect works well by overlapping different image planes. So the frames when characters are talking and such, we only have to draw the image out and place it into our environment. Now the problem surfaced when I came to our first image of our first fight sequence.

The first time I encountered something similar to this problem, was when I was animating a shot where our main character (Zeth, his character sheet is up in the gallery) is tightening up his boot. When I originally solved this problem, I essentially drew both his feet and both of his hands and some extra. By that I mean that I drew his whole hand that is farthest from the camera so when I animated it, I had extra artwork to use and avoid a gap in artwork. The problem with this solution was that when I came to inking and layering the artwork, things got a little messy.

I learned from this shot that I needed a better solution and one had evaded me for a while until now. My new plan of attack is to utilize tracing paper for the foreground layer. I had thought of this earlier but was a little hesitant to use it because when I scan the art in, I will still have it as one image and will still have a little bit of a mess when trying to determine which line art goes with what character/ layer. I have now decided that I am going to use something I learned from After Effects and that is using a tracker.

On my paper and also the tracing paper I have created marks away from the characters. So I will have to scan in each piece of art separately but when I import them both into Photoshop for coloring, I can match up the tracking marks I made so the artwork will lay out the way I originally wanted. I will also be able to shut layers off to keep my files clean and easier to ink. I will keep you posted on how this process works.

*Reminder> (Be sure to check out Zeth in the character gallery)

Backstory Part 2 (Dragonball Z)

My initial interest in anime had lead me to purchase all of the available titles at the local On Cue (which at the time was about 8 or 9 titles on VHS). My thirst for these great stories needed to be quenched, I needed to see more. I felt like a caveman seeing fire for the first time, completely amazed.

At this time in my life I also was part of the collectible card game scene. In the early 2000’s there was no shortage of card games and all sorts of properties that were being converted into card games. During my time playing CCGs I met a friend that turned me onto a show called Dragonball Z (DBZ. The show opened my eyes to the first epic story I have seen.

By the time I started watching DBZ the Cell games story had just ended and the new season started with the World Games. The Trunks saga through the Cell games is regarded as the best story arc in the series, and I just missed the conclusion.

However, with some of the new villains being unveiled, I had to at least see what the hype was about. As I started getting more into the series, I started the long process of ordering back VHS tapes of previous episodes that I had missed.

Cartoon Network was also in the process of starting the show over from the start. I instantly started watching to gain the knowledge of the characters. Gohan (one of the main characters) started the show off as a small child. The episodes I was watching, Gohan was a teenager. This was my introduction to a character actually growing in physical appearance over the course of a show.

Over the course of my anime binge, I have been introduced to so many things that I haven’t seen in US film or animation. It was these shows that made me start questioning the role of animation. Why was animation seemingly only being used as a medium of comedy and kid movies? I was still in high school, but I was curious as to why adult themes or ideas couldn’t be expressed through animation. This is an area of question I would continue to have through college.

Backstory Part 1 (My intro to animation)

For those of you who don’t know me or the Cosmic Rage story, I want to fill you in a bit on how the whole story was started. I feel that when an artist reveals the foundation of their work, it helps the audience understand the piece a bit more.

Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed drawing comics and telling stories. Whether it was using characters that already existed (such as Garfield) or creating my own characters, I always enjoyed making these characters interact with one another and their environment. However, through the years I started drawing less and less until I almost didn’t draw at all. I found other hobbies and we moved to the city life and I now had many more people to do stuff with.

Around the time of high school I came home from work one night and watched the good ol’ Cartoon Network late night programming. A show called Outlaw Star was on and I immediately was intrigued. I had never known that animation existed in this way. The next day at school I talked to one of my good friends and he immediately knew what I was talking about. He referred me to the local On Cue store (On Cue was part of the Sam Goody branch of media stores).

The first anime I bought was Akira on VHS (Which I still have to this day). I was able to watch the first half of the movie before I went to work that night and was completely blown away by the opening bike sequence. That night I eagerly returned home and stayed up late and watched the rest of the movie. This film fueled my new found love for animation.

In the coming weeks I continued to get such films as; Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell and Princess Monoke. I have never seen animation used to tell such amazing stories. These stories had characters dying, suffering loss and themes that I haven’t seen before. These films would unleash my love for storytelling.

Welcome!

Welcome everyone to the official Cosmic Rage Motion Comic Blog. My name is Chris Biewer and I am the creator and animator of the motion comic. The purpose of this blog is to keep you informed on the overall progress of the motion comic, but to also provide you a behind the scenes perspective on the creative process; how things are made, workflow and any issues that should arise. So far the project has been underway for almost a year, however there has been a ton of work to get it off the ground. Look for more updates soon and thanks for checking us out!