by Dwayne Ferguson
The iPad has become a tremendous treasure trove of comic books and interactive books for children. It has become a great equalizer, bringing name brands such as Dr. Seuss, Marvel, DC, classic titles from days of old, and new publishers to a new audience.
I've been in the publishing industry since the early 1980's and the iPad is the dream device I've been waiting for. Steve Jobs said 'it's magical' and I totally agree. So it was with great joy that I went to work, bringing my previously published works, as well as new characters, to the iPad.
I'd like to share how I brought two of my iPad books from concept to finished product. I'll start with the cute one first, then the super spy one. "Dash & Everest: a Very Kitten Christmas" was brought to life using old-fashioned sketches, 3D software, and the Corona SDK.
When I first started this project, the idea was to draw the art, scan the pages into my Mac and then color everything in either Photoshop or Illustrator. But I typically will also experiment with other ideas and built a 3D model of Everest (my actual cat, and yes, I also really have a cat named Dash too!) in Lightwave 3D. The model really brought a big smile to my face and I knew which way to go. I'd do the entire book in 3D.
Fortunately I've had the pleasure of working on many children's books over the years, from Ghostbusters to California Raisins, to Power Rangers, so I was able to apply those sensibilities to the character designs for Dash, Everest and their environment. Instead of focusing on hyperrealism, I decided to go the cute and cuddly route. I applied this art direction to the color schemes and texturing as well. Simple, colorful and fun.
The story was fun to write and I made sure to tell a delightful tale, while not talking down to children. This is something I learned when I worked at Marvel comics. Never be afraid to write for children; realize that they are smarter than we all think.
Now that the artwork was done, it was time to think about how I'd get it onto the iPad. I dabbled in trying to teach myself Objective-C and, after many migraines and crying, I searched for another solution. In the past, I used to develop interactive games in both Flash and Director, but Action Script created massive app files and crashed my iPad whenever I tested the them.
I searched many game development forums, learned about ePub and how to make those, but it wasn't until I discovered the development platform called Corona that I knew I found the answer I had been searching for. Corona runs code lightning fast on my iPad and it's desktop simulator makes rapid development intuitive.
Another thing that came in handy is being able to combine my own programming with the huge library of code on the Corona website. You don't have to know every single piece of code and by doing a search, can find that one line that helps you finish your project.
Now I'll switch gears and discuss my comic book, Black Zero: Mercenary Ant. Unlike Dash & Everest, Black Zero is a secret agent, who travels the globe to do what spies do. Instead of bright and cheery, this series is more James Bond, starring an ant who wakes on the the wrong side of the bed every morning.
After drawing several sketches I settled on one with Zero armed to the teeth. I typically like to go too far, and then scale back. I also took some quality time to design weapons, gadgets, set locations, etc. I used the experience learned from art directing the animated television series Mutant League and applied it to the comic book: dark, moody, but still fun.
I modeled the characters in Lightwave and built shaders that would make everything look like they were hand drawn in the anime style. This technique, called cel shading, is very popular and lends itself very well toward digital comics.
The distinct advantage to using 3D models for comics is simple: you never need to draw that character or building again. You just need to p