Ian in Communism Land

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Making a Comic

This is a short behind the scenes look at the creative process behind each issue of "Ian in Communism Land." Let's take a look at the May installment.


Because the comic is only done in monthly installments over the course of a year, I am restricted to telling the entire story in twelve issues. For this reason, everything is worked out before I ever begin drawing the actual strip.

Panel idea

When I have an idea, I'll sketch it out. Here we see an idea I had for the introduction of Stalin. At this point, I didn't know what in the strip would lead up to this final panel, but in early January I still had plenty of time to work that out. What month this would fit into at the time was still uncertain as well.

Note that Ian's reaction "Aw, dang," was written into the March strip instead.

Strip concept sketch

Each comic goes through at least one (very) rough sketch, which I have a tendancy of doing in my little notebook. You can see the roughness of the sketch, with the alien being a stick figure and all. Here I worked that idea from January into the end of this strip, breaking it up into two panels for added drama.

This also allows me to consider the strip for some time prior to drawing it out. You can see little notes for which hand should hold the Commie Stick and an idea for Ian to remain looking ahead while smacking the remaining alien. This fine-tuning lets me provide the most definitive strip I can.


Pencil sketch, part 1
Pencil sketch, part 2

When I finally have the previsialization complete and the strip just the way I like it, I can begin drawing. I do this on a piece of 65 pound cardstock using a number 3 pencil. Number 3 pencils are light enough to erase easily without a trace, unlike those pesky and dark number 2's. I begin by tracing a template of three panels (you can see the corner crossmarks). Once I have the panel borders roughed out, I can begin drawing their interiors. As you can see from the above scan, because number 3 pencils are so light they make scanning a pain.

By this time the fact that Ian losses his Commie Stick in April's alien pileup was known, so he's not holding it, unlike the depiction in the above concepts. For the record, every concept sketch for the April comic (of which there were many) depict the Commie Stick in the alien explosion in the last panel. It wasn't until I was drawing it did I realize it would be better if he didn't have the Stick.

Pencil & ink sketch, part 1 => Pencil & ink sketch, part 1

Next comes inking. I tend to favor a Sakura Pigma Micron 03, which is equal to a .35 mm line width. These are nice drawing pens, though writing with them doesn't fare so well. For long passages of text I'll often turn to my handy Uniball Mico.

The two above images show the inking of panel 3. Note that I usually have a tendancy of only using my pencil lines as a guide while I redraw. Many of the pen lines don't exactly follow the pencil lines.


Finished comic, part 1
Finished comic, part 2

Once the comic is inked, the pencil lines are erased and it's scanned into the computer. Photoshop is used to clean it up a bit, mostly removing the various debris that gets scanned: hairs, dust, eraser crumbs. Things the eye doesn't see, but the scanner picks up like no one's business. I also neaten up the panel corners while I'm at it. The comics are dropped into a template with the title on it and then put online.

Total time:
Previsualization: Bits and pieces over five months.
Actual drawing time: Around four hours.
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Updated 18 November 2004.
Engaged 18 November 2004.