A Good Start
2009 - Thursday
Amulet 2 debuts
at #2 on the NY Times Bestseller list for Paperback Graphic Novels!
Amulet 2 - reviews and interview
August 17, 2009
Here are some
early reviews for Amulet 2:
Asian Pacific American Program
And here's an
interview at Graphic Novel Reporter, where I discuss the making
of the book. Just a couple more weeks until the book hits the shelves.
It'll be nice
to know the book is finally out there. One of the more difficult
things about working on this series is the long wait until publication.
It's fantastic that Scholastic spends their time to carefully prepare
and market the books before publishing, but it's hard to shake the
uncertainty that comes with working on the next book before the
previous one reaches its intended audience. I'm getting used to
it, however, as I grow more confident.
I really hope
the readers enjoy the second book. We put a lot into this one, and
hopefully we can top it with what we have in store for Book 3.
Amulet 2 Proofs
March 25, 2009
I recently got
the Amulet 2 proofs in the mail. The orange on the cover proofs
is printed on an overlay to indicate where the spot UV varnish goes
(and is not the color of the actual titles). Since I haven't yet
posted the cover image on this blog, I guess this is the first preview
I have shown of the second book.
Along with the
color proofs for the pages and the covers, I was also sent a copy
of the book in black and white, printed on less expensive paper.
It was nice to see the project in book form for the first time.
This is a picture
of the color proofs for the interior pages. Sometimes I get a little
woozy thinking about the number of work hours this stack of papers
represents. This volume is nearly 20 percent larger than the first
book, and it clocks in at 225 full-color pages. I'm looking forward
to seeing what the readers think of it! Next month, I begin work
on the thumbnails for Amulet 3. I have the basic storyline in mind,
but now I'll have to spend some time designing the new characters
and sets. Should be fun! In the meantime, Flight 6 is nearly complete,
and so is the Copper book. Both books look like a lot of fun, and
I look forward to seeing them in a bound format as well.
Amulet 2 - complete
January 14, 2009 - Wednesday
A couple of days ago, I completed Amulet 2. Well, save for a few
minor edits to make before the book goes to the printer, it's pretty
much finished. As with the previous graphic novels (Daisy Kutter,
Amulet), the end of the production cycle was pretty anti-climactic,
with me going home at about 6 in the morning after sending the files
to upload. Anthony was sleeping on the studio couch, working late
as usual to finish his Battlestar Galactica comic for Tokyopop.
I woke him to let him know I was leaving for the night and the book
was done. He said "right on", gave me a fist bump and
went back to sleep. Amy was still up, waiting for me at home, and
then we went to sleep as our neighbors were starting their day.
Looking back at Amulet 2, I'm really proud of the work that was
done on it. It took only about half the amount of time Amulet 1
required, the level of detail in the artwork and story has increased
exponentially (the book is also more than 30 pages longer), and
I was able to pay all of my assistants with the royalties I received
from the first book. I was also able to find a couple of very talented
assistants who could paint pages to a near-final stage, and Amy
got a lot better at painting pages too. The best part is that we
were able to deliver the book without any massive delays, and I'm
already preparing to move on to Amulet 3 (whereas I felt completely
burnt out after finishing Amulet 1).
I decided to take it easy for the last couple of days, spending
time watching Lakers highlights and Halo 3 videos (I'm an avid Halo
3 player), but I'm already feeling guilty for not working. I have
to finish the new Copper comic now and deliver the Copper book in
a few weeks, and I have to complete my Flight story ASAP. So, as
I work to correct my daily schedule (trying to get back to my 8am
to 7pm work cycle), you should see the new Copper posted sometime
(UPDATE) Based on the emails I'm receiving, people seem to think
I haven't been sleeping! The fact is that I sleep 8 hours every
day and don't use an alarm. During crunch time, I might get a little
less sleep, but mostly my schedule just shifts to odd hours to allow
for more concentrated hours of work at night. Just FYI... Don't
lose your health over your art folks!
The Home Stretch
December 16, 2008 - Tuesday
I just wrapped
up painting on the big climactic battle sequence of Amulet 2 (a
60-page action scene), so now we have only a small handful of pages
left to paint. After that, it's all adjustments and repainting panels
down the final stretch. Amy took a
few photos of us working at the studio during the final weeks
of production. Better scheduling and better production methods are
keeping us from having to pull a lot of all-nighters like the old
days. Hopefully, I won't have to revert to those methods for the
final few weeks.
interview I did with them at the Book Expo of America earlier
this year. You can also find some good interviews with other authors
like Jeff Smith and Shaun Tan, who are among my favorite artists.
August 21, 2008 - Thursday
The final months
of production on a graphic novel are the sort of months where you
wake up every morning and begin questioning whether or not this
line of work is a) worth it, or b) healthy (see also "sane").
It's that time now, and despite the stress, seeing the work as it
comes together is pretty darn exhilarating. I read the book as it
stands today, and I think it's working out. Not entirely sure yet,
but I think it might be good.
In order to
hit my deadline (which is looking nearly impossible at this point),
I'm having to sprint every day, and I'm looking at a distance of
two months to go. At this point, I'm only just finishing the thumbnails,
so I'm going to have to skip the penciling process and go straight
to the "inks" (in my case, it's cleaned up pencil work),
so it's a good thing I went extra tight on the thumbs. I'm hoping
this works out well, as this process will definitely save me time
on future projects. I guess this means my original penciled pages
will be smaller than index cards!
So, as I wind
down on the drawing side of production and begin ramping up for
the painting stage, I will need some volunteers! Anybody interested
in giving me a hand with the flatting (and perhaps painting) of
the pages? This year, I decided to find assistants online, to see
what the internets will yield. My lead assistant, Alan Beadle, will
still be joining me on this journey, as will Amy, Shadi, and Tim,
but we'll definitely need some more brave souls to join the party.
If you are interested, please send me an email at kazu(at)boltcity.com
and some examples of your work. From what people who worked on the
first book told me, they seemed to have a lot of fun and found it
to be a rewarding experience. I hope they were being honest! Anyway,
I'll be sure to post about this some more in the coming weeks.
Amulet for CAPS
August 03, 2008 - Sunday
I haven't done
too many Amulet drawings in ink, so it was fun dusting off the old
crow quill and ink bottle to do this cover image for a CAPS
newsletter. It was a CAPS-produced how-to-draw book that really
got me started towards being a professional cartoonist, so it's
nice to find myself amongst the people who put it together.
July 21, 2008 - Monday
It's 3:00 am
and I'm taking a short break to post this. Amulet 2 production continues
at a steady clip, but I'm realizing, as usual, that I'm not moving
fast enough to hit my deadlines. With Comic-Con already here, I'm
juggling convention booth preparations, hotel reservations, and
transportation for a big group of people, and I'm having to find
some time somewhere in there to do 6-10 pages of thumbnails a day.
If it didn't take so much thinking, I could be blazing along happily!
Heheh. Unfortunately, story writing is like intense brain gymnastics,
and this book is kicking my butt. It's also looking to clock in
at over 200 pages (while still feeling too compressed).
This week, we'll
be heading down to the San Diego Comic-Con, where Flight 5 will
debut. It will also be in stores one day ahead of the event. You
can also pre-order from Amazon. I shipped 600 copies of the book
to San Diego, so we'll have plenty on hand, and we'll have a giant
mob of Flight artists there to sign copies. At the booth, we'll
also have copies of Amulet, new Flight 5 posters, and a few new
books from other Flight artists, including Michel Gagné (who
will be signing at our booth at 1-3pm Saturday) and JP Ahonen (who
is flying in from Finland!). Gallery Nucleus and Out of Picture
will be joining us again this year in massive booth #1228.
Here's a preview
5. Okay, back to work...or sleep...
The Night Owl Returns
June 16, 2008 - Monday
It looks as
though I'm back on the nocturnal schedule again. After spending
a few days preparing for the Into the Woods show, I got into the
groove of working late into the night, college-style, and now it's
carried over into production for Amulet 2. A couple of days ago
I had a nightmare in which I realized that Amulet 2 had a terrible
story and it woke me up after only 3 hours of sleep. I was so stressed
that I actually just got out of bed, showered, and went back to
the office to work. Yep, it's that time again.
Oh, and it looks
like I found a new technique for creating rough sequences that shaves
some time and allows me to work non-linearly, so I'll be sure to
add it to the Amulet tutorial when I have a chance. Recently, I
received several emails asking about when a new Copper comic will
appear. I'll try and squeeze some time away from Amulet and Comic-Con
preparations to do a comic. I actually have three of them sketched
out, and I've been wanting to get to them. Thanks for being patient!
May 14, 2008 - Wednesday
and I went to Our Lady of Lourdes School in Montclair, California
to talk to their students about Amulet. It was the first time I
really got to interact with a large audience of kids that have read
the book, and man, they love it! It was great to field more questions
about the story than the craft of making the books, and when I showed
them a preview of Amulet 2, they were so excited, especially when
they got to see the Elf King. One of biggest goals with Amulet was
to create the book that I would have been looking forward to picking
up at the Book Fair when I was their age, so to see the excitement
among them is incredibly gratifying. Now I have to hurry and finish
book two to keep them all from waiting! A big thank you to the school's
librarian, Sofia Brenner, for putting this event together.
been doing "research" by reading and watching One Piece
and Naruto. It's really no surprise that the young readers are more
into this stuff than anything we produce here in the States. By
the way, the Naruto: Rise of a Ninja game for the Xbox 360 is fantastic.
I haven't read and seen much Naruto, but this game seems to follow
the story so closely (even utilizing animated segments of the show
for the cut scenes) that it feels like a Cliff's Notes version of
the original material, and it's super fun. Anyway, I highly recommend
the game, and I hope the influences from both One Piece and Naruto
come through in Amulet 2.
Stand and Deliver
May 04, 2008
Amy took a picture
of me while I was thumbnailing pages of Amulet 2. One of the weird
habits I picked up while working on Daisy Kutter was that I began
to draw and write thumbnail pages while standing. It seemed to keep
me awake more, and really pushed me to get pages done (so I could
eventually sit down and rest). Now, I notice that this technique
helps me on action scenes, so when I know I have to go through a
long stretch of action, I stand up and do my work on a tall piece
of furniture. That's my random fact for the day.
Cal State Sacramento was a lot of fun, and I have to thank Mario
Estioko for setting that up. The audience was awesome. I also had
a lot of fun signing books at the LA Times Festival of Books. Thanks
to the folks at Whale of a Tale for having me at their booth. I
was glad to see that they sold through all their copies of Amulet!
One kid came back to our booth about twenty minutes after having
picked up Amulet earlier and his dad said he just read the book
and loved it. Two years of work in twenty minutes! Sheesh. Heheh.
I'll try and make Amulet 2 a little slower so you guys can enjoy
it a little bit longer...
March 14, 2008 - Friday
Well, it appears
out of the bag. Amulet is going to be turned into a live-action
movie, with Jaden and Willow Smith (the children of Will and Jada
Pinkett Smith) as the leads. I never imagined we would be moving
so quickly on the film side of things. I better get the next few
books done a little faster! Anyway, I'm really looking forward to
meeting the Smiths. I've been a huge fan ever since the early Fresh
Prince days, and seeing the kind of work they've been doing lately,
I can see that we'll be on the same wavelength on this project.
This is going to be cool.
Flatting an Amulet Page
March 06, 2008 - Thursday
Seeing as how
I haven't posted much on the website the past few weeks, I decided
I better dust it off and start posting new material. So here
is the first entry in an ongoing series of tutorials on how I work
on Amulet (I'll be posting them slightly out of order). This will
show you how to flat an Amulet page. The process of "flatting"
is very helpful for a colorist, since all of the major shapes are
masked and ready to be digitally painted. This step-by-step shows
you how we did this on Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper. For most
of you, I imagine this will be dry reading, but for those who like
the technical details, this post's for you!
In other news,
a Copper book is now definitely underway. I just signed a book deal
with a major publisher for a paperback version of the book, and
Gallery Nucleus will
be creating a limited edition run of 2,000 oversized hardcovers.
This also means I will be creating a new set of strips to add to
the collection and they will be posted for viewing in the months
ahead. For readers of Copper, thanks for being so patient. Speaking
of Nucleus, be sure to check out their new Frank
and Frank book. It's skinny and awesome.
Flight 5 is
also nearly wrapped up, and this collection looks to be the best
one in the series. We even have several stories that are about 40
pages in length. Epic! My hope is that this segues into the advancement
of more professional graphic novelists in the field. We need more
talented folks to keep this going! For those of you gearing up to
try and do this thing, I have more tutorials on the way...
Back in the States
February 11, 2008 - Monday
I just returned
from the first leg of the Amulet book tour in Toronto and the greater
Detroit area. Amy was happy to know that I finally experienced a
real Northeastern American winter, as a big snowstorm swept through
Toronto. It was great to see snow falling in the city, something
I never really experienced.
Thanks to Denise,
Nikole, Michele, Chris, Peter, Ab, Kean and everyone who helped
make the trip a fun and eventful time. I was glad to finally be
able to talk to kids who read the book, and now I'm pumped to get
more books out on the shelf for them. Also, here's an interview
I did for the National Post in Canada, and here's one over at Publisher's
Jellaby and Amulet
February 05, 2008 - Tuesday
Hey all! I'm
in Toronto right now on the first leg of the Amulet book tour. It's
pretty neat to see snow on city streets. Being from Southern California,
I don't get to see much of this type of stuff. Strangely enough,
despite it being technically colder here, I felt it was colder back
at home. It must be the dry weather in Los Angeles.
Today, my friend
Kean Soo and I will be speaking at the Keep Toronto Reading event
at the North York Central Library. You can read an article about
us in the Toronto Star by clicking here. And here's the event info
on Facebook. By the way, Kean Soo's Jellaby comes out today, so
be sure to look for it on store shelves!
Kean and I will also be signing books at The Beguiling from 5 to
7pm. Click here for more info at their site, and here for info on
Chris Butcher's blog. I love that store.
For those of
you in the states that hold their Presidental primaries today, please
be sure to head to the polls and vote. I already put in my ballot
(by mail), and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to vote for a
future President that I will admire and be proud of.
Preview at NY Magazine and Newsarama Interview
January 09, 2008
New York Magazine
has a nice preview of the book up at their website. I love the layout
of the piece. Check it out here.
I also just
realized that a recent Amulet-related
interview went up at Newsarama. More preview pages in the link.
2007 - Saturday
I just received
hardcover in the mail and it looks and feels great! The weight
and heft of the hardcover makes the book feel just right, and the
satin finish feels good to hold. I've been told they are already
moving into the second printing of the book (after a 41,000 copy
first printing of the paperback and a 5,000 copy first printing
of the hardcover), so the logo color and design will be switched
back to my original design very soon. If you have a gold-colored
logo, it means you have a first printing! Thanks to all the people
who sent kind words of support for the book. It sounds like the
kids are really enjoying the story and characters, and that's the
most important thing.
1st , 2007
Here's a desktop
image made from one of the panels in Amulet. You can download it
at either 1024 or
I got word from my editor that they're already moving into a second
printing of the paperback edition before the release date (likely
due to heavy Book Fair pre-orders). This means we'll have a revised
edition, with the proper logo and text colors available on the release
date. The copies with the unapproved yellow logo and text will thankfully
be the only ones in existence, but I guess that makes them collector's
I just received
paperback edition in the mail yesterday. The print quality overall
is very nice, especially considering its ten dollar price point.
I'm not a fan of Scholastic's decision to change the logo color
to yellow, but hopefully we can get that fixed in subsequent printings.
I'll be receiving the hardcover edition soon, and I'll be sure to
post some photos of it. By the way, my editor tells me the books
will be sneaking into stores in December, though the official release
date is January.
Here's a look
at some of the interior pages...
Here's the cover
image for Amulet Book One. It is now available for very early pre-ordering
on Amazon in either hardcover
formats. I've begun thumbnailing Amulet Book 2 and I'm excited about
this series. Now that most of the heavy lifting- establishing the
characters, the world, and the themes - is done, it's time to really
fine-tune everything and amplify all the good stuff. This is my
favorite part. More Amulet-related news and other goodies (desktops,
etc.) are on the way.
Amulet Book One - Complete
29th , 2007
I was beginning
to think that production on this book would go on forever, but Amulet
Book One: The Stonekeeper is finally finished. Many thanks
go out to Alan Beadle
(pictured above with Amy and me), Erik
Martin, Shadi Muklashy,
Chris Appelhans, Dawn
Fujioka, and Dave Au
for helping out during the final week of production. For the long
final stretch, however, it was just Amy and me, painting pages at
a breakneck pace. If she wasn't here by my side, the book would
never have been completed.
be back on this blog a little more often now. Thanks for sticking
around despite the lack of updates. Now, it's time for some sleep...
A Little Help From My Friends
20th , 2007
I'm just about
finished with the inking of Amulet. Well, there is no actual ink
involved (since the finals are done in pencil), but it's essentially
the same process. Recently, I decided that I needed to get help
on the color production of the book, and so I enlisted the aid of
a team of assistants. I don't know how I would be able to finish
this book without these guys, many of whom were referred to me by
legendary drawing instructor Kevin Chen. The in-house team includes
my lead assistant Alan
Beadle (who has been with me for quite a few months now), Dawn
Fujioka, Katy Wu,
Arree Chung, Erik
Martin, Sho Katayama,
Shadi Muklashy, and of
course, my always supportive Amy.
I have also been receiving help from friends outside the studio.
Kean Soo, Matthew
Armstrong, and Sarah
Mensinga have been flatting some of the pages.
For two years,
production on Amulet was an exhausting and oftentimes torturous
process when working by myself. With a team, however, I look forward
to coming to the studio every day. Now, work gets done at a steady
clip and we still have time to just chat, hang out and play Settlers
of Catan at the end of a hard day's work. I'm very fortunate. Life
is good. And I have my friends to thank for it.
Oh, and since
deciding to treat the book like a team production, I gave myself
enough time to work out the story without stressing out, and now
it all reads very well. It's a much, much stronger book, and also
about 40 pages shorter! I can't wait to share Amulet with the readers.
Simplify & Amplify
on Amulet at a brisk pace. I've been producing between six to ten
pages of pencils or inks a day, staying up till 6 or 7 in the morning.
Still redrafting material to clear up backstory information and
to make it read better overall, and this is what takes the most
time. My current mantra is "simplify and amplify". I'm
aiming for the simplest way to get the story information across
while heightening the emotions as much as possible.
One thing I didn't realize
is how difficult fantasy world-building could be. In Daisy Kutter,
I just let the fantasy setting sit in the background, the ways of
the world in which Daisy and Tom lived being secondary to the emotional
conflicts. Now, with a comic that is about much more than just the
emotional conflicts of the characters, I'm finding the world-building
to be quite a challenge. When working with child protagonists it's
very difficult to imbue them with emotional weight and baggage,
since they're at a stage of their lives where they are still observing
and making their earliest decisions rather than living with the
weight of their past. This makes the world they travel through all
the more important, itself becoming a major character in the play.
Being a writer that hates
exposition, I've been having a difficult time getting the world-building
information in there without compromising the natural flow of the
story. I'm not sure I'm doing the best job of it, but this has been
a very good experience that I'll take with me onto Book Two, which
will hopefully be a little less laborious on the story front.
In other news,
I picked up the new Shazam: Monster Society of Evil
comic by Jeff Smith (with colors by Steve Hamaker). It's just a
great, fun all-ages comic book in the vein of old-fashioned serialized
adventures. And the artwork is stunningly beautiful. Steve's colors
do a fantastic job of complementing the storytelling and it makes
re-reading the comic a joy. Speaking of Jeff Smith, he also designed
Pogo collection coming out through Fantagraphics Books. I've
been waiting for this for years!
One More Time
The newest rough
draft of Amulet is complete, but I think I'll have to go back in
there and do a little more tweaking before heading back into full
production mode. The new version of the story is a little over 200
pages long, and about 65 percent of it is entirely new material
(created since the previous draft). Going back and retelling the
story with a calm confidence has done wonders for it. Now that the
story has a definite shape and feel, it's all about sculpting it
into its final form. This is my favorite part of the process.
process, Stephen Timothy McCranie
sent in this nice illustration inspired by my rant about creating
graphic novels. Heheh. Thanks Stephen!
The End of the Tunnel is the Beginning of
The thumbnailed pages of the new draft of Amulet
are nearly complete. I still have to draw the thumbnails for the
final few pages, smooth out 3 or 4 transition scenes, and I'll be
back on production full time. The new draft is going to make the
book about 224 pages long. It's going to be a long haul to the finish
Working Round the Clock
For the longest
time, the book looked like a big pile of shattered glass after I
decided to scrap more than half of the pages I had drawn. Now, I
am happy to say it has some semblance of cohesiveness, and the brutal
beating I gave it seems to have done the story some good. I still
have to rescript and thumbnail the final sequences to see if it
all works. Knock on wood...
above is of me digitally painting the new cover for the Flight Volume
The Slowest Typewriter
As a reader
of graphic novels, it always bugs me that most long form comics
read like they are the first draft of the material, when in fact
they often are. And for good reason. As a creator of graphic
novels, I am exhausted by my selfish reader tendencies by having
to redraw page after page to smooth out the reading experience.
I can see why, over the years, creators often compromised their
stories under the pressures of deadlines and satiating the public's
thirst for the material. For the large amounts of time and energy
a creator must spend to create the work, the reader only gets a
small handful of information to chew on. Sometimes, working out
the details are not an option.
This is the pickle that
the readers and creators of comics seem to always find themselves
in. Readers are very forgiving of the story elements in a comic
book. This is unlike other media, like films or novels, where audiences
often criticize stories with sharpened talons, and only the very
best and most appealing works make their way through the gauntlet.
Is it because comics readers understand how difficult the process
is and are simply happy to have reading material? Or is it simply
that we have low expectations of the medium, as opposed to extremely
high ones for films and novels?
Amulet has been an experiment
in treating the graphic novel with the standards of filmwatching
and novel reading in mind, and I have to admit that it's been an
incredibly exhausting project. I'm currently in the middle of redrafting
and redrawing nearly half the book to bring it up to snuff. The
book already reads well, but I think Scholastic's incredibly high
expectations and my own (possibly foolish) ambitions want the book
to work like a very well-oiled machine.
I've actually burnt myself
out several times now, and I just took a much needed break from
the extreme deadline pressures to refocus the narrative and build
up enough energy to go back at it. I've already drawn well over
300 pages (penciled, some inked) to produce a book that will be
about 200 pages in length, and I'm about to draw at least 70 more.
One thing that I am realizing is that I am not naturally a good
writer. I have to work hard at it. But I do know good writing when
I see it, so I just have to keep throwing stuff at the wall and
hope I see something that sticks.
For those of
you aspiring graphic novelists out there that are likewise not naturally
gifted, I highly recommend scheduling enough time to do about twice
the amount of work you would need for the final product (something
I should have already learned from working on films), otherwise
it's likely that you can end up with a case of first-draftitis
or a stream-of-consciousness project , neither of which are necessarily
bad things. In any case, we'll have to figure out how we can get
the comics medium, a vessel akin to a ridiculously slow typewriter,
to sing at the level of the brightest media available to the public.
Much of the
problem can be solved with more disciplined work methods, but with
more structured systems comes heavy pros and cons, something I'll
talk about in a later entry. Back to work for now...
Welcome to the
new Amulet section of the website. This is where I'll post
less frequent updates related to the upcoming books. Since Amulet
takes up nearly all of my time and energy these days, I figured
the project deserved a spiffy section all to itself.
back for more updates, or watch the Bolt
City front page for even more news related to all of my projects.
Thanks for reading!