Now that we’ve got this two page spread penciled (see pencil post:, it’s time to go to the inking.

I have a concern before inking every page and it’s that the page will come off all chopped up with separate bits of black all over the place that don’t make the page look good as a whole. My way to address that is by spotting blacks. What is spotting blacks? It’s blasting in large chunks of black ink to hold the page down. I’ll look for any large section I can make black. Shadows are your friend when spotting blacks. They hold the character or object down on the paper and make it look solid.

Here’s my tools… a bunch of cheap, junky, Japanese horse-hair brushes:

Here’s the page after I finished spotting my blacks. I blotched in a bunch of trees, then hit the left side of every mountain, building and tree. This automatically sets the light source to the upper right so the volume of every shape will subconsciously register with the viewer:

This is a detail that shows how much fun I’m having with those horse hair brushes. Every artist is tempted to go straight in to detail, and that can be a bad tactic. But when people see the page, they’ll wonder how you were so bold with your inks. This is where the drama on the page comes from. Drama doesn’t come from the amazing detail, that’s where the finesse and secondary reads come into play.

More detail. You’ll notice a lot of trees and buildings are not hit with a shadow. If I treat every object with an equal shadow, it may be more accurate, but it’s bad for creating a focal point. Not all objects are equal in the arts. Some things aren’t useful to draw the eye across the page so to punch them up is a disservice to story telling. By treating things unequally, the reader will naturally read them unequally. It makes the story easier to read with clarity.

I could go into these buildings a put a HUGE core shadow down the left side of the entire structure. That might even be accurate. I mean, there are huge mountains here that I just outlined with a single line. I blasted in those big core shadows on GEAR and it starts to make a cartoon, light, fun world look like a heavy, dark, film noir atmosphere. This is where genre starts to dictate how you might render one story over another. Stories by Frank Miller or Mike Mignola are darker and justify heavy shadows, but a lighter fairy tale like Bone or Chicken Hare wouldn’t have these heavy noir shadows in a scene full of daylight.

My next post will go into the detailing of this two page spread. Until next time, spot those blacks!

There are really only two of my projects that could apply to start up video game designers or graphic novelists and that’s Earthworm Jim and GEAR. One is my first original video game, and the other is my first original graphic novel… both were the exact kinds of things that don’t get made by other content creators every day.

I recall writing and drawing Gear where I had no idea where the story was going, and I was changing paper stock, inks, even page dimensions as I learned along the way. It’s hard to tell if this is good advice to give, or if it’s just the way I did it, but I always do something before I’m really good enough at doing it. This isn’t something I learned in the art department, it’s something I learned from life.

I didn’t learn to be a father before I had kids. I didn’t become an expert at marriage before I got married and I didn’t get good at graphic novels and video games before attempting to make them. Our desire to do the thing comes long before we’re good enough to do that thing. I fell down 15 times learning to waterski before being able to do it. So why do so many gamers and comic book artists wait to make something before some magic moment happens?

This is your excuse to get in the game. I’m not trying to fill you up with empty promises and poofy dreams, your game will likely be bad, as will your graphic novel. I think my own characters weren’t polished masterpieces; they were clunky, energetic, creations of a young mind that didn’t know he couldn’t do it.

Lest you think I make it look easy, you probably don’t know that I cut a record in the late 90s in a band called TRUCK. Horrible music, but I made a record. I know of musicians and bands that are still talking about recording music one day, and I’m terrible at making music yet I’ve recorded more than them. I ran a marathon before I was any kind of serious runner.

So let’s make it! Go-go-goooo! Have that child, write that book, make a play, build that boat! It’s better to make than not to.

Doug TenNapel – EWJ

November 12, 2012

If you love Earthworm Jim, then you’re probably older than 22 and younger than whatever. But part of my experience in creating a mass media character has been in watching the audience mature and develop.

One thing I could never have anticipated was how when a 5-9 year old consumes a character, that it deeply effects their person because it’s in their formative years. When people at conventions or online tell about their EWJ memories, I can see their eyes drift back to being a 7 year old, and it just hits them in a very deep spot that perhaps they haven’t accessed in months or years.

It’s a great honor to get to entertain children, and now adults, and the children of adults! Part of my job is to be a responsible cartoonist that cares about the audience I draw. Thanks again for your support… even after all of these years. You make me feel like a 27 year old kid again!