Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

March 8, 2010

The Making Of SPY GUY #1 Page 7

Filed under: Nostalgia,Photos,Sketches,Spy Guy,Video — M Kitchen @ 9:41 am

Here is a “behind the scenes” look at the making of SPY GUY #1 Page 7.  This one is interesting not only because it is the “hook” for issue 1, but it also contains the very first gag ever created for Spy Guy.

Back around 2004 I got to thinking that every comic book should have a “hook”.  A page that while you’re flipping through it in the comic book shop, it catches your eye, and you go “whoa!”, and in that moment you are given enough information to get a gist of what the book is about, and are enticed to learn more.  It would most likely contain a splash page image, and should contain a joke or one-liner that can be absorbed in an instant.  When I began brainstorming what the issue #1 hook should be, this gag came to mind.  It is one of the earliest Spy Guy drawings ever done, circa 1988, and is what I consider to be an iconic image for Spy Guy.  What better place to use it than in the very first issue of the Unlimited Series.

Pretty good gag. But for the comic it had to be more dynamic. That became very apparent while I was putting together the mock-up copy that I use to pace out the comic with.

Once I started the full sized roughs of the new dynamic pose, I realized that I wasn’t getting the drawing right at all. Once you tilt it at a bit of an angle, you start getting some perspective and the way the trench coat falls gets more complicated. I needed photo reference.

In doing video reference for animation, I discovered how much superior using video reference is compared to using photo reference, because you can capture thousands of frames to chose from, and you get better action because you don’t get stiff as you hold still for the camera.

You can even see in the video above that I’m delivering the line of dialog in case that effects the pose in anyway.  Below is the image I screen grabbed to use as reference for the actual panel.

From there I did some pencil sketches in front of the computer on 11 x 17 paper.  Here is the 11 x 17 rough I created.  The sharpie work was done on the bus on route to the GO Train back when I had a daily commute and was featured in a blog journal post a while back.  I find the sharpie is useful for really blocking in some forms to base the final pencils around.

From there I took the sharpie rough, and did a tracing paper pencil over it to tighten the drawing before transferring it over to the S-172 Bainbridge illustration board.

For the final pencils and inks, I pulled out the gun reference that I keep beside the drawing board at all times.

And this is what it looks like in the final page.  You can read it in context right here.

The page has gotten quite a few comments, so I can only assume that it accomplished what I set out to do with it. Now there you have it;  the making of SPY GUY #1 Page 7.

March 29, 2007

PEANUTS and ANDY CAPP – Archeology Project pt.3

Filed under: Essays,Inspiration,Nostalgia — M Kitchen @ 9:28 am

In 1966 my grandfather bought a piece of land up north on Lake Simcoe and built a cottage. It is the place where my father and two uncles would spend the better part of their summers. Over the years, on the wooden shelf across from the original bathroom, a collection of books accumulated. There were fiction novels, readers digest books, and paperbacks reprinting newspaper daily strips. It was those paperbacks, to my knowledge, that were my first exposure to comics. This would have been around the year 1981. I would read, and re-read these books all summer. And I didn’t realize how much these books effected me, until looking back at them for this Archeology Project. It hit me how much of those books I took with me. The earliest influence in, what I perceive as a cartoon, can be directly linked to these books.

PEANUTS: For many people this remains the ultimate comic strip, and is the first one I remember. Cute cartoons locked in neurotic behaviour and deep philosophical debate. There is a naivety coupled with a cynical, pessimistic overtone throughout the strips, which is something I have always found comforting, and as a matter of fact, drawn to. I didn’t give too much thought to any of this at the time. All I knew is over the summer, I’d eat this stuff up. Looking back at them now, I see all the building blocks that, in my mind, are a prerequisite to making a great comic.

ANDY CAPP: I remember my 7 year old brain grappling with the English slang in this comic. Looking at it now, Reginald Smythe probably influence my “cartoony” art style more than I realized. If you put Andy Capp in a trench coat and oversized sneakers, you would pretty much have Spy Guy. Also, for the longest time, I would draw the police officers in the Spy Guy Universe with their caps pulled over their eyes. Ever since Bootleg, I wondered why I have the need to do this. It was a question I could never answer myself. But looking at these books, I think I have figured out why. Something in my psyche continues to tell me this is the way it’s supposed to be done.

In addition to the comic strip collections on the wooden shelf across from the bathroom, there was another stash of comics. They were in a cardboard box, that smelt of must and mildew and newsprint.

That was the place where the comicbooks were.

December 20, 2006

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – Archeology Project pt.2

Filed under: Essays,Inspiration,Nostalgia — M Kitchen @ 4:38 pm

The second part of the Star Wars double header was it’s sequel: The Empire Strikes Back. The film premiered on May 21, 1980. Lucas financed the film himself through loans and the earnings he had made from the box-office success of Star Wars.

Lucas offered the role of director to Irvin Kershner, who had been one of his professors at the USC School of Cinema-Television. As well as handing off the director’s chair, Lucas also hired Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett to write the film’s screenplay based on his own original story treatment.

The success of Empire builds on the previous installment of Star Wars.
It is the first we see of the force ability to levitate objects. The first we see the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The first we see of the two masters of the force, both Yoda and the Emperor. The Star Destroyer is one up’ed by the Super Star Destroyer.

It takes the foundation, and builds on it. Takes the drama to new, more extreme levels.

And the AT-AT Walkers…
The AT-AT, more than anything else, is the thing that got my interest in animation. I remember telling my parents that I wanted an AT-AT Walker from Kenner. They told me to save my money. So that’s exactly what I did. Together with my brother, we pooled our resources into a little tupperware container that was to become our AT-AT fund. In what seemed like years later (in 7 year old time) we eventually had enough for the big purchase. And it was worth every penny.

Robert McKee accurately writes in his script writing book STORY: When Darth Vader reveals that he’s Luke’s father, we rush back to the scenes in which Ben Kenobi and Yoda are greatly troubled over Luke’s command of the Force, fearing, we presume, for the young man’s safety. We now realize that Luke’s mentors were actually concerned for his soul, dreading that his father would seduce him to the “dark side”…
When Darth Vader reveals himself to Luke, this pays off multiple setups strung back through two films. In an instant, however, this also becomes the setup for Luke’s next action. What will the young hero do?

Which brings us to another childhood memory. Riding along in our family’s blue station wagen, we got into a heavy philosophical debate with my father on why Darth Vader couldn’t be Luke’s father. My arguement was “Obi-Wan wouldn’t lie to Luke”.

It was the ending of Empire Strikes Back that completely blew my mind. Where the good guys predictably win in the first film, it is the bad guys unpredictably deliver a serious ass kicking here. This was revolutionary. The good guys lose. Something about this clicked with my cynical young mind.

And yet, Empire also had the potential in becoming a train-wreck.
Originally, Lucas had written an exchange between Han Solo and Princess Leia to read as Leia saying to Han “I love you.” with Han replying “I love you too.” Harrison Ford felt that the character was not being taken advantage of, Kershner agreed. After many different takes with several different versions, Kershner shouted to have the cameras begin filming and telling Ford to improvise. Solo’s line was, in this moment, changed to “I know.”

During production, great secrecy surrounded the fact that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. Like the rest of the crew, David Prowse, who spoke all of Vader’s lines during filming, was given a false page that contained dialogue which differed from what is heard in the film. The famous line had been changed to “Obi-Wan killed your father”. Until the film premiered, only George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones knew what would really be said.

[I DO have film clips of these segments. I will post them here as soon as I am able. Check back soon]

While Return Of The Jedi was a romp of a wild ride, it never did impact me the way Star Wars, and Empire Strikes Back did. The epic scope of the space battles, and Jabba’s Palace and Speeder chase captivated me. The Luke and Leia thing seemed to come out of nowhere. Harrison Ford suggested to Lucas that Solo should die in this film, which would have given it the emotional threat the movie was otherwise lacking. In hindsight there are elements there that show the beginning of the decline of the Star Wars legacy. Don’t even get me started on the prequels.

This post is another work in progress, and I’ll continue to muck with is as inspiration hits.

December 8, 2006

STAR WARS – Archeology Project pt.1

Filed under: Essays,Inspiration,Nostalgia — M Kitchen @ 5:53 pm

On May 25, 1977 20th Century Fox released a film by director George Lucas called Star Wars. At 2 and a half years of age I wasn’t old enough to remember this event. It was 3 years later when I watched the film in the theater during a double header. Star Wars is one of my earliest memories, and easily my first obsession. It became a foundation of my intenal psyche and the corner stone of my imagination.

Vividly I remember sitting in that theater. Watching the opening fanfare and text scroll, followed by the emense Star Destroyer. The act climaxed in a wave of both shock-and-awe, and terror, when Darth Vader boarded the Corriliean Corvette through the smoke and carnage with his squadron of Stormtroopers.

The paradox of past and future, sci-fi and fantasy.
“a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

The reason the first movie resonated was because the issues were timeless. They are real.
A used future. An evil empire. A young farm boy answering the hero’s call and becoming jedi like his father before him. The force. The dark side. This film contained everything to captivate a young mind.

Han Solo became the archtype of cool.
Obi-Wan of wisdom.
Luke of hero.
R2-D2 and C-3P0 of comedy.
Leia as heroin.
Vader of capital “V” Villain.

Star Wars became a common reference point for an entire generation. I still use the three act structure of the Star Wars films as a reference point to Real Life. The hero’s journey.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster by your side kid” – Han Solo.

Cool … only to find out those words aren’t quite true. Like real life. I have more to type here, but have to find the right words…
Kenner Products obtained the rights to produce action figures and playsets for the Star Wars trilogy from 1977-1984.

Again, one of my earliest memories is waking up Christmas morning in 1980 to find a Millenium Falcon under my stocking. (A Death Star playset under my brothers).

Star Wars facinated me, and digging deeper into the “behind the scenes” treasure trove of information regarding the making of Star Wars. The incredible art of Ralph McQuarrie, spacecrafts built from old model kits, starfields superimposed over bluescreens, overexposure mattes to create the blade of the lightsabers, makeup and prosthetics to create robots and aliens. This, more than anything, convinced me that building universes is something I wanted to do.

The special effects in Star Wars is what inspired me to do effects for feature films.

In later years, I was fascinated to learn how close this film came to becoming a total train wreck. The movie was saved by the Academy Award winning editting of Paul Hirsch, Richard Chew and Marcia Lucas. George Lucas suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion. ILM blew half of its total budget on only four shots. In the original script Darth Vader wasn’t even supposed to have a helmet, something that was added because McQuarrie thought Vader was going to be in space, he’d need a helmet to breath.
And yet, everything came together to become one of the greatest feats in filmaking.

This generation has had to suffer the butchery called the “Special Edition”.

Though purists can check out OCPmovies release of the “Classic Edition” – This is the theatrical release of Star Wars, remastered and digitally enhanced for DVD. This is Star Wars the way we remembered it.

This post is a work in progress and subject to change…

September 16, 2006

Space Agent A.C.E.

Filed under: Doodles,Nostalgia,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 10:28 am

My brother Blair has started a new feature over at Possum Press called Captain Smith and Broccoli Boy. You should check it out. Anyway, reading those strips got me thinking about a character I created back in high school. It was sort of like the futuristic counterpoint to Spy Guy. In my sketchbook I would alternate pages, so that it would be one page Spy Guy, next page Space A.C.E. Oh, and as for the name… I found out years later that an Animator named Don Bluth had created a video game in 1983 called Space Ace. That was like 5 years before I created my character. So in my own mind, to try and avoid any sort of trademark infringement, I would keep messing around with new names I could call the character. The closest thing I could come up with was Space Agents – with the lead character being called A.C.E. If I ever decide to do something with the character, we’ll see if I get sued.

The point of all this type… after reading the latest installment of Captain Smith and Broccoli Boy I pulled out a sketch pad at work, and doodled this drawing.

There you have him; Space Agent A.C.E. Sort of my answer to Mega Man, Astro Boy, Han Solo and Captain Kirk. His sidekick is the equivalent to a robot swiss army knife. Maybe they will appear if future doodles, perhaps even as future back up features in the Spy Guy comics. That is, assuming I don’t get sued.

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