A week ago here at CBR we ran a black and white preview of "X-Men: Evolution," the new comic based on the WB Network animated series of the same name. If you looked at the credits for the book you may have noticed the artwork was complted by something called Udon. Udon? As in the tasty noodles? Nope, this is an entirely different type of Udon.
Udon is an artists collective quickly making a name for themselves in the comic industry. The recently formed group of artists brought their particular talents together as a group to handle pretty much every aspect of comic creation, from writing to penciling to inking and coloring. This fact, and their obvious forward-looking style, has proven appealing to both comic companies and readers.
Erik Ko is the Chief of Operations for Udon, although that might not be the title he's most compfortable with.
"To quote a friend, I am pretty much the Supreme Underling." Ko told CBR News.
As Chief of Operations Ko brings leadership to the group, taking care of the stuff most artists and writers would like to avoid.
"What I do is make sure that everything is in order so that my fellow partners can concentrate on what they do best - producing quality art! When the schedule is tight, I might help out on other stuff like coloring. But my main task is to do all the legwork so that everyone else can rest easy. Although it is a pretty hectic workload, I do enjoy it a lot. It is team effort that we are stressing here at UDON and I have my place to do my job, while others will do theirs."
Other collectives of this sort have been formed in the past, but usually they all work in the same city, in the same studio. With Udon that isn't the case as their members can be found in Toronto Canada, California and Washington DC. Whereas in the past the wide expanse of land inbetween members may have been a difficult hurdle to manage, in today's Internet age it really isn't an issue.
"With the advance in technology of computers and the Internet, we do not feel that there is too much of a problem on collaborating with jobs even if we do not live in the same place," said Ko. We have been keeping closely in touch everyday by phone, e-mail and messaging. And because of that, it does not limit us in just working with people locally, but talents everywhere!"
For a group like Udon working with editors at major comic companies is simplified since they have Ko as the point man to both work with various editors and to manage the group and make sure everyone is on the same page.Page 4
One of the higher profile books Udon is involved with is the afore mentioned "X-Men: Evolution." Marvel turned to Udon to provide the artwork for the book, which is headed by studio member Long Vo who is also a member of Studio XD. In tackling the art chores on "X-Men: Evolution" Vo had some very specific ideas in mind.
"The main goal in terms of the visual look of the comic was to have something that held true to the TV show, but at the same time had some merits of its own," Vo told CBR News. "When drawing the book, we always keep the original TV show character sheets on hand to get the main characters right. The colors of the show were also referenced from the TV show as well. We do take some liberties here and there, as certain colors may appear bright on screen they would look a little dull when in print form. Therefore, we adjust colors to make them appear more colorful and brighten up shades and values here and there.
"One of the most important things to keep in mind is that this book is meant not only to be a nice comic on its own right, but to act as sort of a supplement to the TV show," continued Vo. "In this regard, we have a lot of creative license to make up things that don't appear in the show or pre-exist the show. However, whenever we can, we like to keep all the props and locales consistent to what appears in the TV show. It just adds so much more to the believability of the universe and is pretty cool when you can read your comic along with the TV show and say, 'Hey! That's the same Danger Room that appears in the TV show!'"
The relatioinship between Marvel, Devin and Udon so far has been a good one and they hope to be on the book for a good long time. They've completed the first two issues and are hard at work on issue number three. The production process for Udon members is pretty much the same as with any other book, but they bring their own character and sense of style to each issue.
"Like any other book, we pencil and ink the book, and then color it," said Vo. "The biggest challenge for us was to try and keep the feel of the book consistent with the show. A lot of this pays off in the coloring process. We up the ante in terms of character coloring in the book because this isn't the TV show where you have tons of animation frames. Therefore, we generally add at least 2 to 3 more tones on the characters than that seen on TV. Another thing we do is adding special FX to the art. Things like Cyclops' optic blast, to the Magnetic Sphere that Magneto generates around him, to motion blurs when cars collide into trees. All of these things add to making the comic feel more like stills from an animated movie."
For fans of Udon's work on "X-Men: Evolution" they've got plenty of other books you could be checking out as well.
"Look for 'Last Shot,' the creator owned title from Studio XD published bi-monthly through Image," said Eric Ko. "Also, be sure to check out 'Avengers Assemble,' (written by Ken Siu-chong, art by Arnold Tsang, Alvin Lee, Omar Dogan, & Shane Law) part of the exciting Mangaverse Event from Marvel in Jan 2002 (See it in Previews now!). Other projects include an 8 page back up story in 'Fantastic Four #50,' featuring story by Ken Siu-chong with Art by Alvin Lee, Omar Dogan & Angelo Tsang; and a few illustrations in the 'Marvel Millennial Visions' books by Jo Chen, Arnold Tsang, Alvin Lee & Omar Dogan. There are a few more things cooking at Marvel that we will be announcing soon. So I guess stay tuned! More to come!"
Click the images below for a look at more from Udon.
story, page 1
Last Shot #2