Monday, June 04, 2012

Bad Machinery Books

I'm very excited to be putting out Bad Machinery books through Oni Press, starting in 2013. At the moment I'm working on fixing up some of the artork, before adding new pages and making these books less a series of webcomics and more of a coherent piece. Wrestling with that dilemma has been an ongoing thing since 2009.

Looking at these old pages closely for the first time since they originally ran was interesting. They're pretty good, if sometimes a bit dense. There are only a few pages where I was obviously having an off day that need careful revision. It's usually a case of fixing the top of an eye or a head or a chin.

Where I do greater revision, I never know if people even notice. Why not play spot the difference with the page below. The hardest thing when redrawing figures is keeping them on-model - in the very first Bad Machinery story, the kids were all whippet-like little adventure sprats.


Kristian Duffy said...

You're completely right to be doing this for the books- but I love seeing your progression (a none-artsy type person might not appreciate it). Yes, compared to now, the characters were a bit off at the beginning, but don't you remember high school?

All the new first years would have weird shaped heads and dodgy bits that had grown faster than others on their faces, but they would come into their own eventually as the grew, which is exactly what happened to the Bad Machinery characters!

Anyway thanks for sharing, I love these insights into artist reflection.

John A said...

Kristian, yes! I have one specific memory of the start of the second year of big school. The new first years arrived and they looked like newly hatched chicks. All wrong!

Ivo said...

Somehow, I much prefer the original. I don't know if it's because it was the version I read first, but the change in the artwork isn't working for me since it seems to be clashing with the rest of the page. Plus, it's nothing like fixing a "chin" or the "top of an eye", but outright redrawing characters which seems a bit extreme. I know the temptation to "fix" older work is strong in most artists, but if I were you, I'd fight that impulse.

John A said...

I have no idea why I bother posting process things like this any more. They clash? How? Please elaborate, Unknown. I am fascinated to hear what you mean. The line widths are the same, the dimensions are the same.

There are three pages where I had to redraw whole figures because they were stiff, wrongly proportioned or poorly framed, out of 120 pages. The rest of the time was design slips.

Kristian Duffy said...

Unknown, I don't know what you're talking about. You can barely see the difference between the old panels and revised ones. The changes are subtle and undoubtedly improve the look.

I remember people who preferred VHS when DVDs came out- some folk just can't move on.

Kat Monday said...

I'm so pleased to hear this that I thought I ought to tell you so :)

I can see the differences, it's interesting seeing the progression although I'm more concerned with the fact that I recognise the comic and the basic dialogue despite not having read it since it was first published. My memory for uni work is no-where near that good. Woe.

Amonduul said...

I can see a few difference in some of panels if I do an A/B comparison, mostly in places were you redrew a whole body or part of a face of something. But I'll have to disagree with Unknown, they don't look out of place and while I'm not sure if they are better, they certainly don't look any worse. If I didn't have the old version to compare it to, I would know you changed anything.

Unknown said...

Dear John,

First, I'm excited that you'll be releasing Bad Machinery as books! Can't wait to see how these turn out.

Second, with regards to the artwork, I find it interesting to see the sorts of changes that you're making.
Overall, I'd say you've done a grand job (for instance, your bodies/poses are dead on) but seeing the two versions side by side does make me notice a couple of minor things:
1. Shauna's hair seems a bit tidy, in both versions, lacking some of the spikiness I had come to expect.
2. Charlotte has lost what I had taken as a quizzical tilt of the head (5th panel) in your revised version.
Now these are by no means faults, but I felt some constructive feedback couldn't hurt.

I remember reading a long time ago, in a piece about the art in various webcomics and how good it actually is, that your work was great, both for being suited to your stories and on its own merits, and could hardly be any better(or words to that effect).
I'm still a firm believer that this is the case, and I think it is great to see the way that you work.

So, best wishes!

gwangi said...

Congrats, John! I seem to recall that getting Bad Machinery published as real, physical books was part of the game plan for a long time, and Oni Press seems like a great home for them. I can't wait to see these on bookshelves across the world next year! Excellent news.

I love seeing the behind-the-scenes stuff like the comparison pages you posted! The original drawings were great, but I think your changes have brought a greater variety of the Lottie and Shauna's expressions. They seem to "act" more across the panels, and I think the result is a page with a bit more life to it.

It's hard to really judge without seeing the dialogue, of course, since that's what puts their expressions into context, but I think the changes are an improvment.

On another note, the most recent Bad Machinery strips have been just lovely to look at. The colours, the composition, the characters' expressions ... I feel like you've hit a real stride recently.

Plus, I'm glad that no one was drowned.

Bori said...

I am super looking forward to Bad Machinery books, YAY.

And I think the changes work very well.

Ivo said...

John, I'm the first Unknown on top. Hopefully my name will show up this time.

When I mean clash, well, let's be a bit blunt. The earlier strips showcased a slicker look, more stylish so to say. Later strips are fairly different and comparing these revised strips with the original ones make it the more obvious. Lottie and Shauna look way more "thin" and less sketchy in those earlier strips. The lines feel stronger and crispier, too. In constrast, later strips make the characters seem slightly chubbier and far more sketchier. It works because everything else around them is following the same setup, but making those same changes in the earlier strips is causing a clash in my opinion.

This is art, of course, so it's all subjective. I assumed you wanted your readers opinions, which is why I wrote mine. I didn't want to upset you. In fact, I did not expect to upset you with an opinion.

John A said...

Ivo, my apologies for seeming grumpy. I am only human and when I have worked hard on something all morning, someone telling me they don't like it is never welcome. It's like if I turned up at your place of business and did the same. We are strangers after all. But I'm sorry for my tone.

Your take on my artwork is fascinating to me. I have never thought of my current linework as "sketchy" - it's actually a lot tighter than these old comics and underpinned by a lot more practice technique - something which has probably made me looser as an artist. That's not to say that you aren't right from an aesthetic standpoint. I did stop compulsively filling every square inch with detail.

This is only the first revision of what will be an ongoing process to get these stories turned into proper books rather than collections of strips. The original webcomic will always be up there unaltered. But not every one of those pages was drawn under ideal conditions - some days I am sick, or tired, or sick and tired of drawing, and it is natural to want to fix things. Most of those things are very tiny.

Unknown said...

Ivo, opinions are like you-know-whats, amiright? Why be all subjective baloney about it? The old drawings were good and the new drawings are good.

So exciting about Oni! I think that is a great home for your books, and you do belong on the shelves, not just the internet. Yay!

Michael said...

I think what I find most interesting about this isn't how your approach to drawing the characters has changed, but how you've altered their attitudes in the scene. Shauna in panel 2 went from a sort of scheming gleefulness to just being straight up SUPER psyched about whatever happened (i don't remember this scene too well, and the site layout makes it kind of hard to go searching through stories grr). Charlotte in panel 5 went from looking somewhat confused and pensive to more of a 'I am talking with myself in a Charlotte-y sort of way', if that makes sense.

I'm not saying this is bad, mind you, it's just what I noticed. Since I can't remember the dialogue, the new faces might be more appropriate to the scene.

Yay BM books!

DC said...

Wonderful news, and Bad Machinery's just desserts for sure. No dopes those Oni chaps.

Although this post is specifically about drawing let's not forget about writing while we're hurling praise; because it's in the writing, in my subjective baloney opinion, that the real sea change has happened. I would go so far as to say that Bad Machinery is inching up to Achewood as the best written web comic (now print-comic) out there. Kids are lucky to have you telling them stories, John!

H.M. said...

I agree with Ivo, actually. I just feel that the changes described by Sebastian, and how this seems to change their attitudes as Michael has pointed out, may cause a sense of unease to myself, kind of like the clash Ivo has mentioned.

Maybe it's me being one of those people who just need time to get used to change. Or maybe, it was because I had the fortune to have the original to compare the new version with. Would readers have noticed if the original wasn't posted up with it?

Still a fan of Bad Machinery, either way! All the best with the books.

BradyDale said...

It's the faces in the two middle panels! There may be more, but I see those. But... as long as you are striving for excellence folks see the difference even if they don't "see" the difference.
So way to go setting a great example. Anders Nilsen did all kinds of revisions as he was finalizing BIG QUESTIONS, but I think he very similarly felt they were tiny and non-noticeable. The whole book, tho, is truly amazing. Very noticeable.
Eat the Babies!

Unknown said...

I can see minor differences between the two but I don't think that one is better than the other. Mostly what I notice is in the shades of color and hair. I'm not an artist, though, and I think the originals online already look really good.