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The X-Files Official Collectors’ Edition #1

Years before becoming the co-creator of the graphic novel Argent Starr, Altemus was the designer and Design Director of the official magazines for over twenty sci-fi & fantasy movies and TV shows produced throughout the ’80s and ’90s. These were official studio licensed products, and the X-Files magazine was published by Topps.

The magazine featured; great studio photography along with tons of behind-the-scenes info, exclusive reproductions of pre-production art, on the set photography, cast & crew interviews and profiles. The publication also featured the launch of the X-Files comics, which Topps would continue to produce for 41 issues through 1998.
This 1996 magazine was one of the last Altemus would create before moving on to design for the internet and interactive projects.
For the premiere issue #1, Altemus comissioned two pieces of moody cover art, one by Omaha Perez, creator of the graphic novels SUPER TERRE.R and THE DRUDE, and the second by illustrator and comics artist Miran Kim , who’s produced work for everything from ANIMANIACS to the PREDITOR.

Both pieces were excellent in setting the tone for this new publication, and Altemus recently discovered that he still had the original Kim illustration stashed away in his flat files, which features excellent brushwork especially on the David Duchovny portrait. To see more of this iconic piece of artwork, which is currently for sale at COMICLINK.com  in their big Spring Featured Auction, click this link.


 

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Digital Drawing Process

All artwork is created digitally,  using a Wacom Cintiq tablet with a  600 dpi Photoshop  file. Most line work is done using a press sensitive hard brush, occasionally for long smooth organic lines we will use a bezier path and stroke it for smooth monoline. We also occasionally use a brush that creates the short multiple strokes that are used to transition from white to black. In general my pencils are fairly rough and I do a lot of refinement in the inking stage. Here, we are posting a few “speed-draw” videos to demonstrate that inking process on a drawing of Mrs. Thorne in chapter 8.



 



 



 



 

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Blade Runner Magazine Production, 1982 Style

MAGAZINE PRODUCTION TROVE

A variety of materials used in the production of the official Blade Runner Magazine. The publication started development almost a year before the release of the film. At the time Altemus kept these materials as class aids for teaching and lecturing.



FIRST THUMBNAILS FOR THE LAYOUT

After reviewing the shooting script, availabe images, editorial plans for additional interviews and behind-the-scenes info, a rough layout is proposed.



FINAL MECHANICAL THUMBNAILS

Once the magazine’s flow and layout is set, a more mechanical layout is created to yield precise placement and the sizes of the images. All color images were then sent out for random color separation before being incorporated into the final page layouts and mechanicals.



COLOR IMAGE INVENTORY

This is 1982, way before computers got into the process, a myriad of details had to be addressed and tracked to sucessfully produce the magazine on schedule and on budget, and for release within a week of the film’s premiere. This is a hand-drawn production grid, detailing each image to be color separated, its content, size, page and status.



TYPICAL FX SHOT CHROME

The envelope and final FX shot of the Tyrell building. This shot was contact printed directly from a 70mm frame clipped from a late-stage work print of the film. The magazine was produced while the film was still in production, and shots like this came through very late in the process since they depended on post-production and CGI compositing.



HAND LETTERED FONT

In addition to designing the magazine and illustrating its center spread poster, Altemus also hand-drew an entire “Blade Runner” font based on only the existing logo for the film. Today you can easily find this font, but in 1982, prior to the film’s release, it did not exist. Altemus wanted to use the distinctive font for the large display type used in major headlines,  on the cover and for the “sector” openers. 1.] The actual film logo is used on the cover and is what inspired Altemus’ 2.] version which was used throughout the magazine’s interior, such as this example on the contents page. 3.] A sample sheet of some of the other hand lettering Altemus did back in 1980s.



TYRELL SPREAD MECHANICAL

The marked-up mechanical board, with cut and positioned repro type for the color spread of the Tyrell building, the first big color image in the magazine. All text type setting for the magazine was done using an outside typesetter. Typically a manuscript would be marked-up and sent out via messenger, then three days later a proof would arrive. This process would continue for every change and correction.



REJECTED COLOR PROOF

The challenge of these movie magazines was that you had to try to predict the final mood of the film, working from dailies, stills, script revisions and production props, while it was still being shot and edited. This was a very important image in the film and the magazine. But this first proof was rejected, the whole image had become muddy, and if we went with this separation, by the time it would be printed the pages would be a dark blobby mass with little detail.



CONTENTS SPREAD PROOF

This is the top sheet from a progressive color proof, before black text is composited. The final page start info and wording were still being fine-tuned by the Editor. Altemus was so taken with the look of Deckard that in the year leading up to the film’s release he adapted his personal style to emulate the Blade Runner’s look, complete with small checked shirts and skinny ties.



CONTENTS PAGE MECHANICAL

Typical “mechanical” or past-up, this one for the contents page. Color proofs are pasted down and marked as being “for position only.” Repro stats of set type are cut apart and hand positioned. The whole page is then extensively “marked up” with specific instructions for the printer.



CHROMLYN COLOR PROOF

These laminated plastic proofs were made from contacting and exposing sheets of plastic carying color dyes to repro film stock. These color proofs were usually used for a second pass, after the progressive proofs had been marked-up and corrected.

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Argent Starr — Chapter 6 Highlights

With the release of chapter 6, Let’s Dance, our story continues in high gear. It was a lot of fun working on these images, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites here.

Mrs. Thorne has had enough of Zyten’s agressive pursuit, and has just the right plan to end it.


Reeno has filally found something they can use.


Dr. Cardona has exactly what BoB Sixtwo needs.


Argent has to put all his skills to the test, and summon all his strength to try to overcome his situation.


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Lyn T. Byrd, with the Comateens live at the Peppermint Lounge

Argent Starr co-creator Lyn T. Byrd was a core member of the unique ’80s synth-pop band the Comateens, along with the very talented brothers Nic and Oliver North. This New York new wave band melded sometimes dark melodies and tight funk basslines with energetic popcorn guitar riffs, and beautiful harmonies, that build these memorable ’80s dance grooves.

In this rare, recently surfaced video, shot at a sound check at NYC’s iconic the Pepermint Lounge by the BACO Canal, Spanish TV crew, the Comateens turn in an almost flawless four-song set. This performance is done in pure ‘Teens style, with no breaks between numbers, and includes three of their original tunes; Get off my case, Crime time and The late mistake as well as a great cover of the Crystals’ 1962 hit Uptown.

The core of the group was the band’s leader Nic North on bass, Lyn T. Byrd on keyboards, Oliver North on guitar, and Rolly — a Roland CR-8000 CompuRhythm drum machine. For those who were not fortunate enough to see the Virgin France recording artists back in the day, this is a great intro to their music and style.

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Argent Starr — Chapter 5 Highlights

With the release of chapter 5, Silhouettes & Shadows, our story continues in high gear. It was a lot of fun working on these images, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites here.

Argent must win all the one-of-a-kind almost mythical stakes at the Deca-Game to recover the stolen Cardinal Stone.


Reeno is rightfully concerned about Rey Zytens increasingly impulsive and dangerous  actions in Midtown NYC.


Zyten gets increasingly more brazen in his pursuit of Argent Starr and his team.


Who knows what shape shifter, super grifter Rey Zyten’s up to.


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The Goonies — Official Magazine

Years before becoming the co-creator of the graphic novel Argent Starr, Altemus was the designer and Design Director of the official magazines for nearly twenty sci-fi and fantasy movies produced throughout the ’80s and ’90s. These were official studio licensed products, published by Ira Friedman Inc.

Though these magazines were largely visually driven, they included excerpts from exclusive interviews of the cast and crew by IF’s excellent writer-editor Bob Woods. With direct and full access to the studio, these publications featured top-notch editorial that told the film’s story as well as the inside story of the film’s making.

Great action and studio photography was packaged along with; tons of behind-the-scenes info, exclusive reproductions of pre-production art, on the set photography and actual props sent to be shot. 1985 was a big year, with the team producing four of these iconic magazines for the films; Back To The Future, Mad Max — Beyond Thunderdome, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes.


 

[Above] Magazine flip-through video.

SAMPLE MAGAZINE SPREADS

[Left] spread featuring the film’s crew and the magazine’s staff, Goonies map and coin spread, Goonies treasure key spread. These movie magazines would start production about one year prior to the film’s release.

During the process, the movie studio would send production art as well as original props such as the Goonies skull key, treasure map and a Doubloon, all sent to the magazine to be photographed.


 

OFFICIAL MOVIE MAGAZINES PRODUCED BY IRA FRIEDMAN PUBLISHING

Blade Runner 1982
Gremlins 1984
The Goonies 1985
Back To The Future 1985
Mad Max 1985
Young Sherlock Holmes 1985
Karate Kid II 1986
Howard The Duck Poster Magazine 1986
Dragnet 1987
License To Drive Poster Magazine 1988
Batman 1989
Batman Returns 1992
Jurassic Park 1993
Batman Forever 1995
Batman Forever Poster Magazines (Batman, Robin, Two-Face, Riddler) 1995
Batman & Robin 1997
The Lost World Jurassic Park 1997
Star Wars Heroes: 20th Anniversary Poster Magazine 1997
Star Wars Villains: 20th Anniversary Poster Magazine 1997


 

RARE GOONIES COLLECTIBLE

[Below] Detail photos of the iconic 1 lb. 1 1/2 oz.  Goonies key that was the same one displayed in the official 1985 magazine, and that Altemus still holds today.

This was one of the original prototype’s for the key movie prop. It was one of four or five that were struck by the production company, with this one sent to use in the magazine, along with a dibloon and a map.

This key varies from the on-screen one, in that the bottom corner holes are not punched through to accept a lanyard (this is why when it was used in the magazine its bottom bled off the page), also there is no design etched into the back.


MAGAZINE FLIP-THROUGH

[Bottom] To virtually flip through the pages of The Goonies magazine with more detail, check out the entire publication below (from a posting at issuu.com).

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Alto Bomra & Argent Starr


Video Premiere at the Opening of Alto Bomra

A new Argent Starr video short, a 13 minute guided viewing of chapter 1, premiered on the evening of December 9th at the opening of Sâo Paulo’s hot new post-industrial rooftop, arts and event space, the massive Alto Bomra!

It was a great afternoon and evening, 800 people, many of them fresh from the SP Comic Con, came to check out the unveiling of Alto Bomra, and ended up staying throughout the afternoon of music, past the twilight, and into the nighttime of videos and DJs.

Krel Komix is grateful for the opportunity to premiere our newest Argent Starr video to an enthusiastic audience of well over 350. The crowd even demanded a second screening, and the video also ran as a DJ backdrop throughout the rest of the evening. With this exclusive premiere showing, Krel Komix is sure to build its Sâo Paulo fan base.

Throughout the event, in addition to the Argent Starr video, there was a screening of the Underwater Dance video, music performances by Barbara EugÉnia + Tatç Aeroplano, Jucyara, Gal Costa, and DJs Trepanado, Trusty, and Issy Studio — a DJ’S collective, spun sounds until the 1am closing. The food for the evening was curated by Checho Gonzçlez, a pioneer in street food, who is famous for introducing Cheviche to SP.

With this showing, Krel Komix is proud to be supporting our Brazilian animation production partners Irmåos De Criacáo and want to congratulate Marcus Fernandes on this exciting new venture.

About Alto Bomra

ALTO BOMRA started as a dream, an idea that a disused post-industrial rooftop could come to life as an outdoor studio and a unique space for concerts and events. The idea being that, Alto Bomra will be a living magazine, where each event, each show or production is a new page that tells part of the contemporary Sâo Paulo story.

ALTO BOMRA occupies the rooftop of a former garment manufacturing building, that now houses the Lombroso Fashion Mall, and Alto Bomra would not be possible without the support and cooperation of LFM-with whom they share an urban vision for the future of this neighborhood.

The space includes well over 7,000 square feet of space, half outdoors, half covered, all situated high above the center of Sâo Paulo. This new venue wants to become a hub for urban pop culture; fashion, music, cinema, technology and good food.

ALTO BOMRA is directed by three distinct curators, working in partnership or separately, to create and implement projects: Jeezn Rosenthal, Carlos flour and Marcos Fernandes, each developing projects according to their dreams and aspirations.

In addition, ALTO BOMRA is also an open space ready to host events and receive creative proposals that will help expand and reinvent the city. Its an open and innovative platform (for real!) and they want to toast the city with a wide range of cultural initiatives.

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Argent Starr — Chapter 4 Highlights

With the release of chapter 4, Station to Station, our story kicks into high gear. It was a lot of fun working on these images, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites here.

Its never a good idea for Specter to chew on olive pits, besides being dangerous, they get her high! And that’s not the best time for her to be alone watching an old Mexican horror film.


Especially when Argent is out gathering intel in the Soho Dome.


And Mrs. Thorne is out making friends at the Scorpion bar.


Who knows what shape shifter, super grifter Rey Zyten’s up to.


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Blade Runner 1982 — Official Magazine

In 1982, Altemus, the co-creator of the graphic novel Argent Starr, designed and art-directed the official souvenir magazine of the movie, Blade Runner.

Altemus art directed a magazine for CBS as his day job, and taught a college course on magazine design and production, so this magazine was a freelance gig. After it was finished, he held onto some materials from the Blade Runner project to illustrate how a magazine is produced from start to finish, (that is, as of 1982). All the materials shared here come from that package, squirreled away in a flat file, for thirty-five years.



THE BLADE RUNNER MAGAZINE TROVE

The envelope and contents from the 1982 Blade Runner magazine’s production.



SAMPLE SPREADS

The two opening spreads from the official licensed magazine, produced by independent publisher Ira Friedman, and designed by Altemus.



PUBLISHING SCHEDULE

Corrected publishing schedule, detailing how the magazine was to be produced, concurrent with the last 9 months of the film’s production and post-production, with release of the final magazine just days prior to the movie’s premiere.

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CONCEPT THUMBNAILS

After the magazine was outlined and materials collected, the first layout and visual flow of the magazine was plotted using thumbnails.

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THUMBNAILS TO FINAL

Here is an example of how the concept thumbnails relate to the finished printed pages.

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TYPESETTING MARKUP

This is a page from the script that would be included in the magazine. In 1982, every page of manuscript would have to be marked up by hand,  with code to inform the typesetters of the styles to be used. After markup it would be sent out to a type shop, and only three days later, the first “type “galleys” would arrive. A couple more passes of corrections or alterations and the final galleys would be cut up with an X-Acto knife and glued down to mechanical boards.

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COVER MECHANICAL

The mechanical for the front cover, with set type, position stats, color markup on overlays, and color swatches. Today this process has almost entirely gone away, since it’s all done on computers.

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More on old-school production techniques.



BRADBURY BUILDING SCOUTING SHOTS & MECHANICAL

Six black & white location scouting snapshots of the Victorian Bradbury Building, that Altemus collaged together to produce an overall view. Also shown here, the pasteup or mechanical used for pages 52-53 of the magazine (shown below).

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More on this location from Gizmodo



COLOR PROGRESSIVES

These are the “progressive” proofs for the color separation of one spread in the magazine, as well an image of a police Spinner taking off. Each of the printing inks used (Yellow, Magenta, Cyan and Black) are proofed individually and in various combinations, so color can be more accurately corrected for printing. At left are the proofs for full color and the yellow magenta combination. More on color proofing

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MATCHPRINT PROOFS

A full size chromalin, matchprint color proof, of a spread featuring a memorable street scene and a shot of of Deckard and Gaff at the noodle bar, used to check final color separations. Another matchprint of Deckard and Rachael kissing, along with random images from the project. A final proof of the replicant Roy with Sebastian in Tyrell’s private elevator.

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Blade Runner 1982 — Centerfold Poster


In 1982, Altemus, the co-creator of the graphic novel Argent Starr, was working as a freelance illustrator and designer. One of his favorite projects was a centerfold poster for the official souvenir magazine of Blade Runner.

He was also working on designing that magazine, and had access to the script, great stills and production art to use as reference, all months before the film’s release. Altemus was so taken with the look of Harrison Ford’s character Deckard, that he adopted the small pattered shirt with the skinny checked tie as his personal look at the time.

The sci-noir world depicted in Argent Starr, like many other books and films, certainly was influenced by the look of  Ridley Scott‘s 1982 production of Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick‘s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

In honor of the new Blade Runner 2049 film’s release, we are posting a variety of images and info on the Argent Starr blog, of materials retained from the 1982 Blade Runner project.

This is a tight detail of Harrison Ford as Deckard, from the Blade Runner magazine centerfold poster, illustrated by Altemus. The artist managed to work himself into the background on the left side, in appropriate costume.

Blade Runner Official Trailer (1982)

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A tight detail from the background of the poster, depicting one of the many memorable street scenes, with a police Skinner rising up, and Deckard’s fellow Blade Runner, Gaff (Edward James Olmos).

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Another tight detail from the background of the poster, depicting the film’s grimy retro-futuristic sets, post punk populace, and Deckard’s iconic gun, which was based on a design by visionary industrial designer Syd Mead.

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A tight detail from the the poster, depicting a snapshot of Sean Young as the lovely replicant Rachael.

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A detail of a central group image, featuring the rogue replicants Priss (Daryl Hannah), Zohra (Joanna Cassidy), Roy (Rutger Hauer) and Leon (Brion James).

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A tight detail of the posters central image, of Deckard brandishing his iconic firearm.

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The final, full 11″ x 17″ montage poster, as it appeared in the 1982 centerfold of the magazine.

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Blade Runner 1982 — Artifacts


Years before becoming the co-creator of the graphic novel Argent Starr, Altemus was the designer and Art Director of the official magazines for seventeen sci-fi and fantasy movies produced throughout the ’80s and ’90s. These were licensed products, published by Ira Friedman Inc. The first one of those Altemus and Ira ever did was for Blade Runner.

Production on the Blade Runner magazine started in late 1981, with an on-sale date only ten days prior to the film’s release in June. The publisher Ira Friedman insisted on making a quality product, with solid editorial, good printing and color separations and a lot of creative freedom. These magazines were great projects, usually 64 pages of behind-the-scenes and making-of info, coupled with a basic telling of the story. Durring this magazine’s making, information at times was sketchy, and as various script changes came through, Altemus who minored in film in College, felt it was a bit like trying mind-read the final edit from the raw materials. The publications had no ads, lots of color, great images, access to props, scripts, dailies, production materials and a good Editor with access to the entire top level cast and crew for interviews. For instance, the Philip K. Dick interview done for the magazine is the last one he gave, before passing away.

At the time they were working on the project, Altemus was also teaching a college course on magazine design and production, and held onto some materials that would normally be destroyed or distributed, to illustrate how a magazine is produced from start to finish, (that is, as of 1982). All the materials shared here come from that package, squirreled away in a flat file, for thirty-five years.

More on the magazine



THE BLADE RUNNER MAGAZINE TROVE

The envelope and contents from the 1982 Blade Runner magazine’s production.



SCIFI & FANTASY MOVIE MAGAZINES DESIGNED BY ALTEMUS

Over the next two decades Ira Friedman and Altemus would collaborate on many more official movie magazines for iconic films such as; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Back To The Future, Goonies, Gremlins, Howard The Duck, Jurassic Park, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, and Star Wars.

In addition to the items listed here, the collection includes layout thumbnails, an artwork inventory, publishing schedule, a magazine production check list, color proofs, progressive color separation press-proofs, as well as page and cover mechanicals.

Altemus, also an illustrator at the time, created the magazine’s 11” x 17” centerfold movie poster, featuring the main cast and sets from the film. We will be posting some images of that piece in a separate post.

The look of the film was a definite influence on the visuals in the sci-noir universe depicted in Argent Starr. In pulling out his old files on this magazine he found a trove of material that should interest fans of the film.

In honor of the release of the new Blade Runner 2049, we will be posting images and info from this magazine.

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BLADE RUNNER SOUVENIR MAGAZINE FLIP-THROUGH

A flip of the Blade Runner movie’s magazine, designed and Art Directed by Altemus. Copies for sale on Amazon

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TYRELL BUILDING FX SHOT

This short video shows an image of a 4×5 chrome, taken directly from a 70mm workprint film frame and preserved by Altemus, from the 1982 film Blade Runner. It’s an FX shot of the prominently featured Tyrell building, and has the image code “FX47D” handwritten in the margin. This frame was lifted directly from a work print by the film’s production team and sent for inclusion in the official Blade Runner souvenir magazine being designed by Altemus.  More on the Tyrell building

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DECKARD’S BLASTER CONCEPT SKETCH

This is an original signed production drawing, dated 1980. This pencil sketch on vellum, is an early version of Deckard’s pistol designed by the film’s assistant art director Stephen Dane, and based on a compact .357 magnum. The drawing was sent by the production team for inclusion in the official Blade Runner souvenir magazine. The final version of Deckard’s gun used in the film, was actually based on a design created by Syd Mead. This sketch is very similar to ones included in the Blade Runner Sketchbook (1982), originally published on Oct 27, 2011 and currently out of print.

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BRADBURY BUILDING SCOUTING SHOTS

Six black & white location scouting snapshots of the Victorian-era Bradbury building, which Altemus collaged together to produce an overall view, were used on page 53 of the magazine. This distinctive local has been called the most famous building in science fiction, and has been used in a number of TV shows and movies over the years, including The Outer Limits, Wolf, Quantum Leap, The Night Strangler, Star Trek and many more. More on this location from Gizmodo

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RARE SCRIPT EXCERPT

The last page page of the script, marked-up in pencil and red pencil for typesetting. We received all scripts and script changes, as a resource for producing the magazine. During the publication’s production, no less than five endings to the film were floated. Since these pages are marked-up for typesetting, this version, written in 1981 by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, must have been still viable fairly late in the film’s production cycle. These pages are noteworthy in that the final shot differs significantly from the released film. It insinuates that Deckard is a replicant and that Gaff is in hot pursuit! More on the script at brmovie.com

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Panel Artwork Development

Many of our larger panels or full pages are developed like animation cells, where the character or characters (Cast), are created separately from the backgrounds (Sets). This allows maximum flexibilality for composing panels to accommodate word balloons, and in some instances, allows for background sets to be reused in later panels. It’s also facilitates bringing elements into Aftereffects for animation.

Backgrounds are always an issue in the comic panel format. Since word balloons cover key bits of real estate, the tendancy is to make backgrounds simple and have the barest sense of local, or have no background at all. Backgrounds can add a lot to the atmosphere and also help the reader keep track of the action. The decision to leave them out or not, gets down to a production decision many times. It’s a balancing act. Below are a few animations that show the development of indivual panels.

1.]

[Above] The art development process for a panel featuring Mrs. Thorne on recon, taken from our June release of Chapter 4. The animation shows line art with gray tones that sets the desired lighting for the shot.

2.]

[Above] The development of the character drawing, composited over a background set that is mostly finished and that already has its final color applied. Also shown; character line art in development, the application of flat color, and then the final paint, which in this case includes a hue adjustment ramp applied to the whole page for a more monochromatic look. Lyn Byrd also tweepsthe likenesses of the main characters at the final stage, and makes every one look their best with ”hair and makeup”.

3.]

[Above] Art process for a panel featuring Mrs. Thorne on recon, taken from chapter 3. Shown in an animated gif; poser reference, line art with gray tones that set the lighting, and then final color and paint.

4.]

[Above] Art process for a panel featuring Argent Starr, taken from our June release of chapter 4. Shown in an animated gif; first concept, rough sketch, and final paint.

#argentstar #scifi #comicbooks #comics #webcomics #makingcomics

5.]

[Above] Art process for a panel featuring BoB Sixtwo, taken from our August release of chapter 5. Shown in an animation, line art, flat color, and final paint.

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The Art Process


[Left] Inked spread from chapter 2.

Technically our artwork for Argent Starr: Tales From The Archives would be constructed more like animation cells than a regular flat comic page. On the larger panels, backgrounds, foregrounds, individual or groups of characters, are all on separate layer sets in Photoshop. This allows for easy modifications to the pages, and makes producing assets for multiplane animations very easy.

The line art style evolved over time and the project has always been envisioned as combining drawing with photographic elements and images derived or based on 3D models. To get the detail I wanted, everything is produced at 600 DPI. With 100 layers plus this lead to files that approach 2 Gigabytes in size, requiring powerful computers to manipulate them.

[Left] Inked spread, including the “lighting”.

Our work-flow is not quite traditional either. In addition to the layout and line work, I do what I call ‘lighting’. I drop in about five gray tones per drawing which builds the mood, then Lyn colors the pages restricting her colors so that they match the values I have created. We arrived at a color palette we thought worked with the Sci-noir look we were going for after some experimentation. Lyn also does her paint-work, shading, and what I call hair and make-up, which end up making the females gorgeous, and all of my work look that much better.


[Below Left] Final colored spread, including painting as well as the “hair and makeup” work.

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The Art Style

Both Lyn Byrd and I are life-long artists, and can draw and paint, neither of us however had done very much of that recently, being more involved in designing and developing Websites and print materials. I’d made my living primarily as an illustrator and hand letterer in the ’70s and early ’80s doing movie and broadway posters, editorial and advertising illustration. I had a number of looks, including a stylized realistic color technique.

Then one day in the mid ’80s my hands went dead on me, like a writers cramp that wouldn’t go away. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, ended my illustration career and switched to art direction and design, which fortunately I had been doing along with the illustration anyway.

At the time I had surgery on my left hand (I’m a righty) but was never happy with the results. Finally in 2007 I had enough, and surgery techniques had progressed to the point where I decided I could get my right hand done. It was a total success. I’ve spent the last few years ‘getting my hand back’ and learning how to work on my Wacom 21UX tablet. Argent Starr: Tales From The Archives is the result.

[Above Left] Altemus business card from the ’80s.
[Right] Painting by Lyn Byrd of Comateens band mate Nic North.

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Animating the Argent Starr Trailer

To promote our graphic novel, we wanted to create something resembling a movie trailer, which meant panning and scanning or minimally animating our artwork, in the “motion comic” vein. We decided to do a bit of both.

To produce our graphic novel’s artwork we work with 600 dpi Photoshop files. Once color is added these files can contain up to 100 layers, so 1- to 2-gig files are not uncommon. Our artwork is constructed more like animation cells, where the characters or groups of characters are separate from the background and mid-ground. This makes the process of animating fairly easy to do by isolating elements and reducing the resolution down to 72 dpi. Since we start out with the kind of high resolution used for print, this allows us to zoom all the way into the artwork on a panel-by-panel level and get elements for a shot.


This single multiplane shot used in our trailer for a few seconds duration is actual composed of ten nested animations. Those sub-set animations are explained and and displayed in the following component clips.


 

By way of illustration, I have exported all the individual compositions used to create the shot above, and am displaying them on this page, below. This is a scene where Rey Zyten gazes out onto the chaotic Cyg City night from his penthouse balcony on the 304th floor.

This is one of the more complex shots. In the background; signs blink and swipe, a monorail zooms by, a line of flying cars moves along, flying creatures swoop, and a flying alien police car zooms towards us. In the mid-ground the buildings at each edge move together slightly for a multi-plane animation that gives the illusion of depth. In the foreground Rey Zyten moves back slightly from the balcony’s edge.

For animating, everything is output from Photoshop as 72dpi, as PNGs if transparency is needed, or as uncompressed JPGs for clean sharp backgrounds. Those assets are all condensed in width by about 10% to compensate for the difference between pixel ratios. Videos use rectangular pixels and computer displays use square pixels.

Because these ratios are different the image can look unnaturally stretched or squashed in either the horizontal or vertical direction. As an example, a circle generated for a computer display with square pixels looks like a vertical ellipse on a standard-definition US television that uses vertical rectangular pixels. This issue is more evident on wide-screen TVs. Once the artwork is modified and corrected it’s imported into Adobe After Effects and animated.

For complex animations with multi-plane depth and a number of animated elements we’re required to produce nested animations, called “compositions” in After Effects. If the camera is pulling back and tilting and something is also moving through the shot many times they have to be animated separately and combined. This scene is comprised of at least 10 distinct compositions that have been layered to make the final shot, many of them with multiple animated elements within.



[Above] Animation background, Cyg City cityscape with flashing sign.




[Above] In this clip, several skywings sail through the atmosphere, and one flips it’s tail as it banks.


[Above] Blue sign animation, some of the compositions are larger than they need to be, but it seemed simpler for registration to make them the same size as the background.



[Above] Police car with flashing light; the zooming you see in the finished shot is done by moving this composition along a Bezier path while adjusting it’s scale, rotation, and position.



[Above] The monorail emerges from a tunnel and zooms through at about 6 seconds into this clip.



[Above] The front line of traffic maves and loops; I have the traffic moving through the scan lines of a floating screen of light (Cyg City’s traffic control and monitoring). The single line of vehicles had to be masked and split on a diagonal to create the illusion of the cars “passing through” the scan lines.


 



[Above] The rear line of traffic is masked and moves and loops.



[Above] Midground sequence, the buildings at each side move towards the center slightly, part of the illusion of depth.



[Above] The character, Rey Zyten moves back from the edge of the balcony.



[Above] The whole scene composed and un-cropped for video with all animation excluding camera movement.



[Above] The final shot cropped to 16:9 proportion with camera pull back and tilt.

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Krel Komix at NYCC

Altemus & helper Blaze at the KK booth.

We had a really good first outing in the Small Press area of NYCC, which in large part was due to our fabulous and endlessly enthusiastic crew. We couldn’t have done this without the help of our friends Leann Murphy, Susan Bridge, Blaze Gonzalez, and Robert Schaad – it’s difficult to find the words to express our gratitude for the many kindnesses they showed us. The time and energy they put into our project helped sustain us day to day, both in preparation and throughout the Con.

Lyn Byrd with Argent Starr fan Doris.

 

We were encouraged by NYCC attendees’ reaction to our property and we got to see first-hand what interested people and what they connected with. We got to meet and put our property in front of a lot of people and hopefully we will have made some of them into new Argent Starr fans.

It was good to see a number of people who have aided in the development and production of Argent Starr — Tales From The Archives at our booth including; our favorite alien Rino Lupetin, music master Lucio Menegon and PR maven Elysabeth Galati.

We also want to thank all members of the press that stopped by, and it was good to finally meet one of our favorite Comic Bastards, Dustin Cabeal.

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Costs & Info for Exhibiting at NYCC

This was our first Con, and since I had to scour the internet prior to the event to find any sort of “nuts and bolts” info for small exhibitors, I thought I’d share our experience with everyone in perhaps too much detail. Keep in mind that this info is specific to the Javits Center and NYCC so your Con may be different.

Obviously, to keep costs down we used stuff we had on hand and we got a number of things from our fantastic neighbors who lent us stuff like hand carts, a folding chair, milk crates for transport and more. There are a lot of small details to work out in the set-up of you booth’s display and I’ll go over many of them here.

STAFFING
First, you’ll need help, one or two additional people each day. The Con goes for 7-9 hours per day, bathroom breaks alone can easily take 20 minutes, and it’s good to have a “point” person out in the aisle whenever possible.

RESERVING A BOOTH AND SERVICES
We reserved corner booth in the Small Press section in early July, at a cost of $1,273. The regular booths were going for about $950. In addition, we needed electricity ($150), and we thought we needed Wi-fi ($40) to use the Square reader on an iPad since we didn’t have a smart phone. Because it was a corner booth we also rented a second table ($78) so we could arrange the tables in an ‘L-shape’. (We could buy one slightly cheaper but didn’t want to haul it or store it).

If your looking for something less expensive, there is Artists Alley; it’s little more than a table and chair but it costs around $500 and can even be shared.

OUR PLAN
Against our booth’s 8′ x 8′ black curtain backdrop we wanted to have a video monitor playing our animations, and also to display eight of our 11′ x 17″ posters that we planned to use as incentives. In addition, we needed to deploy our 30″ wide x 8′ tall retractable banner sign as well as display the Krel Komix logo. Later on we decided to add another 2′ tall x 8′ wide banner that could be mounted above the backdrop.

On the table tops we wanted to use a POP display to hold 3 single issues in a row and another one to hold the trade paperback we were going to premier at the Con. The displays would be emblazoned with our tagline “Is the fate of Earth really in the hands of a half-alien tech wizard, a Latina sniper, and a talking cat?” and they would also promote our ‘Show Special’ discounts.

Copies of our four books would sit directly on the tables for browsing, along with a display of our limited edition trading-card set, a display of the 1″ buttons we had for sale, a pricelist, a sign featuring some of our review quotes, and stacks of free postcards and pinups. Our booth was admittedly going to be slicker and more complex than most in the Small Press area, but we are multi-discipline designers and just can’t help it.

THE BOOTH
NYCC Small Press booths are 8′ wide and 6′ deep. They are surrounded by 8′ x 8′ black drapes supported by a framework of joined pipe. The booth only comes with one table and one chair, and while the main aisles are carpeted the booths are not.

The pipe for the backdrop is 1″ diameter aluminum. The horizontal top pipe is hung with 5 black curtain panels that can be slid along the pipe to create gaps every foot and a half or so if necessary. Sliding the curtains around were important to us because we were using professional pipe hanging clamps to secure our monitor and needed bare pipe to attach them. If you want to hang anything that has some weight, like the TV monitor that we used, you’ll need a good method of hanging it that the union guys in charge will approve. They recommend no more than 40 pounds of hanging stuff and that weight is split between your booth and the one you back up to.

THE SIGNAGE AND DISPLAYS
In addition to some writing and the drawing and inking of Argent Starr, I’m also a professional designer with many years experience, and know how to make my own signage and pop-up displays, which was a big help and kept additional costs down.

All signage and displays were made out of color printouts glued to black Foam Core. To keep things flat for transport I put together Velcro attachment points so I could quickly flatten the stand-up displays and re-construct them on site. I produced one to show three issues of our book and a narrow one for our 104-page trade. We also had non-standing displays for our trading card set and the 8 posters.

We found out that we were allowed to have signage as high up as 10′ even though the backdrop ended at 8′, so we added a 2′ high x 8′ wide Foam Core banner above our booth. Very few exhibitors use this space above, but this full-color banner looked terrific and was visible from way across the show floor!
To hold the top banner I used two professional telescoping light stands which I chocked up on top of two sturdy one-foot-tall cardboard tubes and then lashed everything to the backdrop’s upright pipes with duct tape. The banner itself was in two sections which were assembled with Foam Core strips and Velcro. More Velcro was used to strap the banner to the light stands.

THE TECH
The monitor was a 32″ flat screen and under 12lbs. It was hung from pipe clamps using “S” hooks and doubled-up mid-weight black chain usually used for hanging lamps. I did see the monitor swing a couple of times so it was good that we were careful in it’s deployment. Remember that your backdrop is attached to all the others in the row so you have to allow random shaking now and again.

We also had a Mac Mini to run everything and a set of Bose desktop speakers to play our hot new video’s soundtrack. Don’t forget all the little things, cables, a good powerstrip and adaptors.

We had a 22HD Wacom there on the table top, and the idea had been that occasionally I would do some inking on the tablet and mirror the desktop up on the 32″ monitor. This worked well and drew people to the booth, but it didn’t seem like the right environment, a bit too slow, and the down side of using the tablet to ink on site is that I had my face buried and was not interacting with potential customers. When we were not using the Wacom for drawing it was turned to face the aisles and functioned as a second video monitor.

SETTING UP THE BOOTH
These booths only get 3 exhibitor badges so the logistics of getting your stuff into and out of the center should not be overlooked. The day before the Con we got a friend with an SUV to ferry us to the Javits Center. With careful planning everything fit on three hand carts and in numerous canvas shoulder tote bags we carried. The actual setup time once we were there was about 4 hours, but our booth display was more complicated than most in this area.

A number of vendors just deploy one of those retractable banners and plop down their box of books and are ready in a snap — everyone is different.[portfolio_slideshow align=”left” speed=400 timeout=4000 id=3853]

WI-FI AND TECH
The Wi-fi was real wonky, the one I paid for which was supposed to be the new and improved faster flavor, choked entirely under the weight of tens of thousands of attendees and all the exhibitors. It was down entirely for most of the first day. Eventually I got a password to a higher bandwidth connection from one of the techs who was tired of dealing with the poor service.

If I had stuck with the Wi-fi I was supposed to use it is doubtful that it would have worked for me. The cell service was also spotty, depending on the time, phone model and location, not to mention it’s as noisy as hell’s own pinball arcade in there.

Our electric went out a couple of times, the cables were a little temperamental. An on-site electrician came by and fixed it each time, but that meant we were without our video for an hour or so, a couple of times.

SQUARE READER & SHOPPING CART
As it turned out we only used the Square reader a few times each day, most of the attendees had cash. And if you use the Square checkout shopping cart system, to be legal you will have to collect sales tax. To do that you need to apply to your State’s tax authority for permission to do so and then file at least one monthly report of the sales and the taxes collected.

GETTING SALES
The Con this year had 180,00 attendees, that’s 180,000 people who are NOT there to see your unknown or relatively unknown property, even if it IS the next big thing. Most people passing by are just cutting through the Small Press aisle because it isn’t as over-crowded. If you don’t try to engage them almost no one will actually stop at your booth.

To be effective you need one or two people out in the aisle trying to give out handouts and deliver your short pitch line. The best way to “hook” people is to engage them, comment on something of theirs, their costume, maybe they are wearing a T-shirt for a character…”I see you’re a fan of Dr. Who” or “Are you enjoying the Con?” and so on. Then they will take your handout and start examining it or asking questions.

If an attendee gets interested they can be passed off to someone behind the table who can deliver more info and explain any special deals, and hopefully close a sale.

I had different people on different days and not all of them were completely indoctrinated into the universe of Argent Starr so I made cheat sheets that spelled out our offer and specifically how we wanted to talk about our property.

MAKING SALES
You really need a “call to action” that’s a special offer to clinch a sale at the Con, some percentage off your prices, and/or something free, or even better, both. A number of booths had random free stuff, like lollypops, stick-on mustaches, etc. with a sign “FREE” — those seemed to draw people in.

We had a 10% discount, a free poster (they could choose from 8 designs), and a full set of our limited edition trading cards. This worked very well and we had a high success rate once we got to deliver our pitch lines and explain the Show Special offer.

HANDOUTS
We had postcards, b/w line art pin-ups of the main characters, and info sheets that we handed out for free. I think we gave out about 1,000 postcards, but you’d have to be aggressive to do that. The line art pin-ups looked like coloring book pages so they were popular on kids day. We have a PG-13 book so we decided to let the kids pick up the artwork and monitor what they saw and quietly inform parents.

ECONOMICS
I think it would be very hard to actually turn a profit in these circumstances, we looked at it as a marketing effort, to build audience, get some press coverage and make professional contacts. I think from that perspective it was a successful Con for us, but it’s quite exhausting. NYCC is 4 days, plus set-up day and breakdown. I think part of the reason why it’s tiring is that all the constant visual and auditory input kinda fries your brain.

Another booth near us was selling copies of a print book, it was an established property and a best seller on Amazon. They wanted to sell about 80 books to break even on the direct costs. They did that, but I think not much more. They had no electric or Wi-fi and had 3-4 people at all times so I think personnel cost was not included in their cost calculations.

We did OK on sales for a debut, most info I have found is that you’d be lucky to sell 50 books at the Con.

I hope this info will help any of you out there who are thinking of exhibiting at a Con.

NY COMICON

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Argent Starr Trailer —Theme Music

Lucio AKA Reverend Screaming Fingers

I’d composed an electronic soundtrack for an earlier version of our trailer that didn’t have some of the newer scenes we wanted to show, and Lyn Byrd, having been in a successful band for 14 years, wanted the re-edit to feature a new soundtrack with live musicians. She was hoping to take the track up a notch and couldn’t decide what to do until she saw a performance by Lucio Menegon, a New York area musician performing under the name Reverend Screaming Fingers. Lyn was enchanted and felt he might be a good fit for our property.

We went to see him again and approached him with the project. We wanted a hooky underlying instrumental, with a sci-fi, spy-show sort of feel utilizing certain touchstones those genres are known for, including Theremin and bongos! He liked the project and once his summer tour was done he gathered his collaborators, Rob Price and Chris Cawthray, for a recording session (video left).

In addition to being a terrific musician, Lucio is also a superb audio engineer and produced a professional mix-down with finished files that would suit delivery via streaming.

He used a version of the new trailer to compose against, and as he tightened up the arrangements I tweaked the trailer’s editing so that it synced up as well as possible. After only a couple of passes it was done.

We couldn’t be happier with the results, which some listeners described as The Munsters meets Peter Gunn.

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The Series Concept

Lyn Byrd and myself started developing Argent Starr — Tales From The Archives a few years ago, working on it for a few weeks here and there, in between client projects at our design business Krel Studios.

We’re both avid Si-fi fans and active comics readers. Lyn had several fat folders filled with draft chapters of various book projects and I had a massive collection of un-used production designs. We felt we were well-equiped with all the tools to create something in the genre, especially in the adult category. Lyn wanted to do a snappy three-book comedy arc, I on the other hand wanted to tackle a longer more richly developed universe, so blame me.

Lyn is an excellent writer, lyricist and poet and has been published in a number of magazines over the years, my published writing tended to be in the form of articles for trade publications or marketing copy. I’d worked at major magazines as an Art Director for many years and had the good fortune to work closely with a lot of talented editors, writing more headlines and sub-heads for stories than I can count.

It started out with a basic concept of doing a story that explored the relationship between magic and technology as embodied by a ‘Teklok’, the character of Argent Starr. We wanted it to have humor without relinquishing darkness, and be filled with action but not plot holes.

Lyn created and developed a number of uniquely interesting characters; BoB Sixtwo, Reeno (the Lupetin), Rey Zyten, Queen Soodoh, and Lazarus Stern along with their basic character design. There are more great characters that show up in later parts of the story as well.

The story of The Quest For The Cardinal Stone, evolved over an extended period and has continually grown and morphed. I created an in-depth back story for Argent and a rich time-line for the the underlying universe in which our story takes place. We wrote the core of the story in a narrative form which I then converted into script format.

We started writing new scenes, dialog and gags that either Lyn or I would come up with and integrated them into the script. Many of these ultimately get removed or put aside as part of future stories or spin-offs. As things developed I took the lead on story structure and pacing, and we continued until we had a massive script, enough to support a multi-year run of a monthly comic book.

I started serializing the story, while we continue to develop all aspects of Argent Starr’s universe and story.