Hero Business – Creating the Kinetic 2011 Comic Poster

For this year’s comic book poster for Kinetic Group Consulting, the client was looking a different type of comic book look than the last couple of posters (2010’s poster, and 2009’s). From the brief:

“Alternate Universe: we split the cover to show two possible futures…one where a business-person (haggard, dirty ragged) is enslaved by a villain (representing work or proposals or client demands), the other shows a much better future where Kinetic has defeated the villain while the business person looks successful, clean, etc.”

I rarely get a chance to put a pencil to paper for projects these days (writing HTML on paper doesn’t seem to work as well as doing it on the computer), so I really look forward to this part of the process. So I put together a quick thumbnail of the concept, where we’d have two versions of the future – one with Kinetic and one without, divided in the middle by Kinetic punching out the villian that led to the bad future, thus creating the better future on the right. The client approved the concept and from there I had to start designing.

Right off the bat I knew the villian had to be a robot – what better thing to dominate and enslave a population? From there I based the design on one of my favorites from childhood – a Sentinel from the X-Men comics.

I also designed a simple “Submit” poster for the Earth 1 (the bad earth) background. Submit, of course, being a key word in the bad future, and a reminder of what Kinetic helps their clients do (submit proposals).

After the robot design had been determined, next was creating the center section of the poster, with Kinetic knocking out the villian (in a heroic fashion of course) and creating the Earth 2 (happy) future.

Next was creating the side panels – the two versions of the future. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at drawing these poses from memory, I decided to use photo reference of myself looking exactly how I wanted for the poster. I always like using photo reference when possible – as long as you stylize it a little bit the characters don’t look stiff, as illustrations based on photo reference can tend to.

Earth 1 – Looking frazzled

Earth 2 – Looking good (although my hair still looks frazzled)

After scanning the pencil work in, I combined the three pieces together, adding pencils for the backgrounds of the two futures. Normally I’d start inking on a separate layer (using the trusty Wacom tablet) but I wanted to keep some of the pencil art quality of the drawings. So I added a couple of Levels layers to increase the contrast and then worked some of the messier bits out using the brush tool to create the fully inked black and white version.

After the linework has been finalized, I start creating color layers for different parts of the poster (e.g. one for Kinetic, one for the robot, one for the background, etc.) and start the process of painting the different colors. I go through and create the flat colors first, and then after I’m happy with all of that, I take the Burn and Dodge tools and add a little bit of subtle shading.

Once the basic colors were added, the last steps were adding shadow and effect layers and then adding the trade dress, which is comic book industry lingo for all of the text and graphics that go on top of the final illustration. Whenever I create an illustration I tend to like to create shadows by creating a new layer on top of all the artwork, setting its opacity to 20-40 percent, and then painting black to create additional shading and depth. Additionally, I created a “glow” effect for the lights on the robot.

Lastly, the word balloons (with copy provided by the client) and cover graphics were added to finish out the overall design and create the final poster, which the clients loved (“Wow!” “This is the best one yet!”).

I’m already looking forward to next year’s design!

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