Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reference Imagery

In today's post, I'd like to discuss the importance of reference photography. It has always been a major part of my production process and I would go as far to say that it's what separates the amateurs from the professionals in the comic industry.

A common misconception is that comic artists just draw whatever comes to mind. If we need to draw an airplane, we just wave our magic pencil and within minutes create a perfect Boeing 747 without looking at ANYTHING. The truth is, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Illustrators are often very diligent when it comes to practicing their craft, carrying sketchbooks or participating in modeling sessions to flex their creative recall, so to speak. They focus on drawing the world around them from varying perspectives and techniques so that they better understand their subject matter. Any artist who draws Spider-man or Batman, must have a command of the human anatomy, no matter how many muscles they layer on their heroes. So they spend hours studying muscles and human anatomy, almost to the point of rivaling medical students. This gives them a better ability to accurately depict their characters correctly. If they simply relied on mental recall all the time, and drew what they perceived an athletic hero should look like, we could end up with characters that even a 5 year old would raise an eyebrow at. 

Likewise, the creative writer, who spends time developing novels set in a fantasy land with wizards and elves and dwarves, pour over all the resources of medieval Europe, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and historical documentation of the 12th century to make sure that their worlds are as believable as King Arthur's Camelot or Henry the Eighth's Court. 

When delving into something historically driven (especially something of a very specific niche) you have even less wiggle room. An author/artist has to spend hours researching everything from the architecture of the time, to the fashion to even the hairstyles. On the off-shot that you have a historical buff (which is probably 90% of A Land Remembered's fans) is reading and critiquing the historical accuracy. You don't want something to instantly take you out of the story and break the illusion you've set up for your reader. 

Let me give you an example, study this page below from Marvel's Treasure Island, from creative team Roy Thomas and Mario Gully. First, let me start by saying that I'm not criticizing Gully's artistic talents, I enjoyed his work overall and felt it was fitting for this story. However, take a look at the gentleman in the foreground of panels 3, 4 and 10. Notice anything unusual?

You are probably asking yourself: "why does that pirate look like he'd fit in as an overweight, overworked detective of some NYC Police precinct?" Your second thought, if you think like I do, is that he must be some time traveler, but I promise you that Robert Louis Stevenson did not write any such character into his 19th century novel. You won't find any blue boxes or Deloreans in this period piece.

This is not the only visual hiccup in Gully's adaptation. If you pick the book up at your local library or book store, you'll find that there are several instances throughout the book where characters are distinctively dressed in what appears to be modern attire. When you're illustrating a swashbuckling tale for pirate enthusiasts, you can't have your pirates wearing neck ties with a Windsor knot...

So that brings us back to reference imagery. Using reference images, such as historical photos, classic illustrations or wood cuttings from the time period and self-photographed location shots can help give a novel set in the 1860's the right amount of flavor to appease even the most critical historian. 

When I was working on my second book, Lost Souls of Savannah, I poured over several photo books of 1930's Savannah, Georgia to make sure that I got the look of the city down right, and that the buildings I used as backdrops were meticulously period accurate. I remember in one scene, I set the characters in the backdrop of Bonaventure Cemetery, iconic for it's part in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I wanted to use the Bird Girl statue to make the setting more obvious, until I realized that the statue wasn't set in the cemetery until a decade later in my I left it out. 

Facts are EVERYTHING...

So to start the research process off right. I drove out to my local historic preservation, Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville,  and armed with my wife and her camera, proceeded to snap photos of the mid-19th century farm house that sits on the preserved property. 

A Land Remembered begins with Tobias and Zech tromping about their farm in search of hogs, and the scene is set somewhere in the North Florida area, close to Paynes Praire, so honestly, I couldn't image a more ideal location for us to shoot. The trees, flora, house style and wares are all true to that particular period.

Of course, this won't be enough to build a convincing 19th century pioneer home alone, but it'll be the building blocks to my library of photo and illustration references that I'll use throughout production to assure that we create a convincing hammock for the MacIvey Family to thrive in. 

Next week, I'll share with you thumbnails, and no, I'm not talking about the kind on your fingers. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


To begin, I had to share this hysterical/wonderful alternate book cover. Anyone who didn't know anything about the book would assume Patrick Smith was a romance novelist. I actually wish I had this as a huge poster to put in my studio to pull some inspiration from, but I suppose this blog will do for now.

Speaking of covers, above is the cover of the young reader's adaptation. When I first spoke with Pineapple Press about the graphic novel adaptation we discussed the possibility of adapting from this version, which cuts out a lot of the more adult material (chief among them, the love triangle between Zech, Glenda and Tawanda). In the end, I felt going straight to the original source material was the best choice. I definitely want to make it available for younger fans, but I also wanted to draw in the interest of the older fans. 

And below, you'll see an image of how the finished illustration looks and how it is constructed from the script above. 

The first step in creating a graphic novel is to work on a script. Comics are written in a format that enables the artist to visualize the story through separating dialogue from action, so that the imagery of the panels can be discerned separately. Above is a snapshot of a portion of the script for The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet. As you'll see, it's set up similar to a movie script. When I wrote The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet, I developed it straight into this format, so what you're seeing is the infant stage of the graphic novel. 

In the case of A Land Remembered, Patrick Smith saved us the trouble of having to develop a script. Instead, we'll take it straight from the book. The only difference this time around, all I needed to do was cipher through the novel and find the key elements and scenes that would best translate into a comic. I re-organized the story into an outline that would allow me to break each chapter down. Above is the first few chapters (there are 24 in far). 

Next week, I'll discuss reference photos and imagery, and how important it is to know your history BEFORE drawing an image of a person, place or thing in a comic. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Greetings Travelers,

Welcome to the blog, dedicated to my latest graphic novel project, A Land Remembered: The Graphic Novel. It is truly a great honor to be given the reigns to adapt Patrick Smith's novel for the graphic genre and tell the MacIvey family story in a whole new and exciting way.

For those of you not familiar with me and my credentials, my name is Andre R. Frattino, the author and artist behind the Florida-focused paranormal graphic novels, The Reaper of St. George Street, Lost Souls of Savannah and The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet, all available through Pineapple Press. I have spent the last 5 years dedicated to developing these comics which feature the history and folklore of the state of Florida. I am a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (Sequential Art, 2009) and the University of Florida (Art Education, 2013) where I worked as a contributing cartoonist for the famed Independent Alligator newspaper. I also had the distinct honor of illustrating the promotional art for the 75th Anniversary of The Yearling, on behalf of the 
Marjorie Rawling Foundation.

As a fan of Patrick Smith's novel (as well as a proud Floridian myself), I admire the way he captivated the flavor and beauty of the Sunshine State through his attention to detail. Historical fiction can be a tricky genre to master as an author (and an artist). If even the slightest detail is off it can take a reader out of the story. Fortunately, Smith was able to carve out a world that is vivid and exciting, giving us a glimpse into a land that many Floridians today can't even imagine.

That's the challenge I seek to take on. Presenting this story to a generation that has forgotten what the state of Florida once was, and could still be today. Many young readers rely on and enjoy graphic novels and comics, it's the latest generation's major outlet for literature. There are graphic novels on nearly every subject you can imagine, from adaptations of the Bible, to classic literature like Moby Dick, to graphic novels focusing on the events of the Civil Rights Movement. In this day and age, graphic novels and comics are far more than just stories of men and women in masks and capes. And for a book founded on generational evolution, the next inevitable step is for it to cross over into the sequential medium.

Over the course of the next year and a half, I will be working tirelessly to complete this novel, and will document the development every step of the way, granting you a glimpse into the graphic novelist's process. From reference photography, to thumbnails, to finished illustrated pages. I hope you enjoy the process and as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comment sections below.

So without further adieu, let us travel backwards in time and pioneer across swamps and prairies alongside Tobias, Emma and Zech as they journey across parts unknown in search of a land to remember.

Andre R. Frattino