SUPER TOMAGO #4: Concept Art

SUPER TOMAGO #4: Concept Art
Rudy Way mean mugging in the Lancer.

Welcome back everyone!

Last week I crossed a major milestone for "Lancer" (still gonna refer to the comic as that for now) and completed an outline for the series as well as a plot breakdown for the first story arc. This isn't the final outline but it gives me a pretty strong foundation to build the story on.

Now, finally I can move on to the fun stuff... concept art!

I've never drawn Sci-Fi.

Unfortunately, I don't actually know how to draw the stuff I want to draw. I'm sure doodled space ships and robots in the past, but I've never approached them in an educated or intentional way.  

Unlike in animation and video games which has a development period built into it's production schedule, in comics you tend to have to hit the ground running. There usually isn't a budget for pre-production stuff like concept art and script development, just for the actual production of the comic (ie. pages written and drawn). A lot of things have to figured out and designed on the page while you're drawing the comic.    

This is about the best I could come up with in the beginning.

There's pros and cons to both methods of working. I've been on projects that languished for years (yes... years) in pre-production hell due to overly vague or shifting art direction and have had to sit through endless meetings as every minor detail was combed over. (One time, I had a twenty minute meeting with a director over how thick the sleeve of a coffee cup should be.)

But I digress.

The point is that I needed draw some cool looking mech/armored suits and I didn't know how to. Thankfully, since I had such a long gestational period where I was sorting out the story, I had plenty of time to cram my brain with all sorts of cool stuff.  

Buying a lot of toys.

If I was going to draw mechs, I needed to immerse myself in them to not just understand how they function mechanically but also understand and be able to articulate why I found some designs more appealing than others. I was also concerned about coming up with designs that would be suitable for the comic page because I'll need to be drawing them over and over again.

Luckily, it turns out there's a hobby store just down the street from my house and for the last several months, I've been using alot of my spare time building models from Gundam, Evangelion, and some other shows I haven't even heard of.

It's quite a time consuming process building each model but that's sort of the point of the excercise.  While it's possible to just buy a toy version of these mechs that are just as detailed and perhaps even studier, I would rob myself of the time I spent handling each tiny part needed to assemble it.  Because it takes days (or weeks) to build each model, I got a chance to turn it around, look at it, set it down and come back to it later.

The process in designing a cool looking mech is the same as the process in designing anything else.  It all boils down to understanding your subject matter, be able to abstract it down its core traits, and then remix those elements to express it in your own voice.

Ultimately, I think this is how one can build a large visual library in their mind without constantly needing to reference everything they draw (not that using reference is a bad thing).

Designing to the needs of the story.

So I should probably clarify this whole "mech" business.

I'm not sure if there's an official definition of what a "mech" is but in my mind, it's a large humanoid vehicle that a person pilots from within a cockpit and this was what I had in mind when creating "Lancer".

However, as I was writing, it became clear to me that the Lancer was probably not a mech but more of a suit.  This was a necessary distinction for the story because our main character, Rudy Way, is not a pilot with a military background.  Instead, she's a gifted combat sports athlete that stumbles on the Lancer.

It's crucial to the story that she is both a natural fit for the Lancer while simultaneously being absolutely unqualified to be its pilot.  Having her sit in a chest cockpit and pilot it like a vehicle is a cool visual but didn't match what I needed her to do in the story.  

I knew i wanted the Lancer to be small, agile, and lethal to match Rudy's personality but I didn't want it to be human sized. The Lancer is small in comparison to the large lumbering mechs and spaceships it battles but it should still tower over any human. I'm imagining its about 8 feet tall or so.

There's also some practical considerations when it comes to the design. Rudy spends considerable time in the suit so she will need to be be able to emote and interact with her environment and other characters. I want her to be able to do rather mundane things in the suit and play around with the differing sense of scale. Although small on the battlefield, the Lancer would be a real nuissance when everybody is trying to watch TV or sit around the dinner table.

In accordance to the theme of the story, the Lancer should look really cool when its fully suited up but Rudy should look a little awkward and ridiculous when she removes her helmet.

While I'm still super early in the design process, I'm pretty happy with the direction it's travelling in. I hope you're enjoying this look at the development of "Lancer"!

One last bit of house keeping:

When I first started this newsletter, I set a naively grandiose goal of writing one of these each week. So far I've been able to stick to that schedule but I also underestimated how much time it takes to write something worth reading.  Ironically, writing about making comics is taking away significant time from me actually making the comic. Womp womp.

Starting from next week I'm going to shift to a bi-weekly schedule, which should give me some time to actually make more meaningful content for me to show you. Hope that doesn't bum anybody out!

Oh and one last thing.  Thanks to everyone who subscribed! So far, I've made all my posts free on , so I definitely appreciate everyone that's signed up to the premium tier regardless. You're the best!

That's it for now! See you in two weeks!