Behind "The Nightly News"

While it does feature a wholly enthralling and clever tale of panic, paranoia, political intrigue and more social commentary than its thirty-two pages can barely contain, Jonathan Hickman's"The Nightly News" is one of those comics you could buy just for the art. Hickman's artwork could be the offspring of a strange, filthy love between the art of Chris Ware and Howard Chaykin, gene-spliced with untold numbers of commercials, 24-hour news channel reports and street flyers. On each page of the Image Comics mini-series, line art, typography, color, design, light and shade layer together to create an esquisite graphic feast for the eyes.

CBR News spoke with Jonathan Hickman back in September about "The Nightly News," and we're very pleased to present now this in-depth look at the process of creating the series' dynamic artwork.

Step 1:

This is pretty straightforward stuff. I'm working with photo reference on The Nightly News (Something I thought the project needed to achieve the gritty realism I wanted, but probably won't be doing too often in the future – way too much extra work for, what seems to me, little pop). I'll use a light box, projector or just side-by-side reference to pencil it out. Inking, I mainly use a brush and a nib, but sometimes I'll use a micron/copic pen for some fine line work and a copic brush marker if I want the kind of line that makes. From here I scan the art in at either 300 or 600 dpi depending on the size/detail of the drawing.

By the way, I draw each picture individually on 8.5x11 100lb Bristol. So, yes, that's a lot of paper per issue.

After scanning, I convert all my artwork to vector. I still use the legacy program Adobe Streamline instead of Livetrace in Illustrator CS2 because there are some differences in how the later converts the image. Now, there is a loss of quality here, so you have to go back in and add some of the detail you lost with the pencil tool. So, if there is a loss of quality and you have to do repetitive work, why do it? Two reasons.

Reason one: It's easy to export color line art. Doing color holds in the normal fashion is just a pain. So I don't.




Reason two: This is real reason why you go through the pain of all that Illustrator stuff: A final image that is completely scalable and resolution independent. (And since I put all my pages together after the fact, this is pretty much a necessity)


Step 5:

I then export everything out of Illustrator as a .PSD (300 dpi, maintain layers, anti-alias)




In Photoshop, I color all of my backgrounds with custom brushes (Some I made, some I downloaded, I'm sure I stole some from somewhere – I honestly have way too many too remember). The thing to remember here, use pure CMY colors – no black.


Step 7:

Then I add in some "designy" junk. Sorry, I don't have any other way to describe it.




I wait until last to render the characters. For the Nightly News, I went with kind of a "cut" style of coloring. This is the kind of thing that Adam Hughes or Dave McCaig does a lot and I thought it went well with everything else I was doing in the book.


That's it except for a couple of things I haven't mentioned yet. Even though I don't have the text on the page in this example. I letter the book first. That dictates where some stuff does or doesn't go, and where all that "designy" stuff is placed. All of which controls how a reader's eye flows through the page.

And one last thing: I really don't know what I'm doing… at this point it's still just a lot of experimentation and effort. That's one of the reasons why I'm showing everyone this: I know my stuff won't look anything like this in a year and, hey, I'm a giver.

In the end, my hope is that somewhere down the road I can look at my work and feel like I've pulled off something special.

Okay, that's it. Cheers.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics Forum.

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