Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Another AKIRA themed poster for Municipal Waste, this time with Brutal Truth! Also Phobia, and Cauldron. This time at The Grog Shop in scenic Cleveland Hts, Ohio.

This time I can do a short process piece:

I drew this one before the Testuo piece, and initially hadn't decided on using Yamagata as the character. I just wanted a dude with knuckle tattoos holding nunchucks, the rest just kind of came together.

I think this may have been inked with haste. I feel like I breezed through it to get it done, and it worked to the benefit of the overall piece. Sometimes there's an energy to inking quickly that actually appears in the final.

The background I definitely brushed out quickly. Again, I think it came out awesome that way. I wish I had scanned the pencil version of this, but I think it was totally loose and raw and the inks were just thrown onto that. I think I left a lot of the detail up to being able to use the brush. Even on the bike, I feel like I didn't even come close to fully rendering it before breaking out the ink. I never would have done that before. I like being confident enough to trust in my skills that I can just let go an start making moves. It's a good place to be. I think.

Okay, this is where things got thick and started to take time. I knew that I wanted to color the character with pretty straight forward flat colors with no real gradients. I don't know if I was trying to mimic any specific 80s anime coloring, but I definitely wanted the character to be distinct from the background. So with the background I kind of went crazy with the brushy painterly coloring style. I think I actually had to reign it in at one point. I didn't want any deep black to be in the background so the character would be very striking. I added the zip-a-tone to the background too, and colored that accordingly. That kind of adds a comic style feel, I think, but also just looks cool.

Okay, here's some more pages from the AKIRA books. These are from Volume 1. Aside from looking cool, and having a great design, I think Yamagata is one of the more tragic characters of the series. He's not really in the story much, but he comes off as a really rough dude, with a deep sense of honor and respect. This, of course, is not unlike many tragic characters from any given Samurai film. Anyway, here's a two page sequence where he's leading the biker gang against the rival Clown Gang now being lead by his old friend Tetsuo.

I think that's a pretty perfect double page spread. There's a strange upside-down/mirror image thing happening with those few quiet panels just focused on Yamgata waiting, staring off panel. It's not a fearful look, nor enthusiastic. At it's root, I think AKIRA is a story about friendship. It's about sharing time and space with people and growing together. It's about making friends and having adventures, in a world where everything is always at stake. I mean, it's also about biker gangs, government conspiracies, rebellions, psychic kids, and widespread collapse of civilization, but I think the root is in the importance of the inter-personal relationships between people that are all deeply involved in both outward and inward struggle, if that makes sense.

Actually, thinking about it now as I type this... I think the few AKIRA comics I had as a kid, and the film, had more of an impact on me than just the urge to be an illustrator and being inspired by Otomo on a graphic level. I think I got really into riding BMX probably in some small part because of goddamn AKIRA. Growing up in Lakewood on the early 90s, that's when sudden gangs of BMX Riders started showing up cruising down Detroit in wild packs. It was awesome, like a comic come to life, as far as I was concerned.

Here's some pages that were actually in the one issue I had that I reread a thousand times, AKIRA #3 from the Epic run:

I love the busted up bike on the far left in panel one, with the girls being rushed as the riders all go headlong into traffic. I love that. It's the details that make this shit so good, but also... I dunno, there's just a scope of it.

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