Questions about Kev Hopgood
Everything starts with the brief, whether it’s for a one off illustration or a comic strip. Formats for comic scripts vary, but they all share a lot of similarities with film scripts. The action on each page is divided into panels, usually between five or seven. The aim is to arrive at a page design that has a good balance between visual storytelling and dialogue. The action of a panel is described for the artist to work from followed by the dialogue that each character is saying. Once I’ve read and digested the script I draw small thumbnails that indicate the position of characters, the camera angles of the scene and an indication of the placement of word balloons. I then blow these
thumbnails up to A3 and work up a tighter pencil on layout paper. Once the client has approved the pencils I scan the pencils into my computer and work up the final high resolution artwork. The linework is drawn on a Wacom tablet using a program called Clip Studio Paint and colour rendering is added using Photoshop. Finally word balloons and sound effects are added using Illustrator.
The advent of the internet has simplified the creation process considerably. When I was drawing Iron Man for Marvel Comics we were relying on Fed-Ex for everything. We first had to get the pencil pages I drew across the Atlantic to the inking artist so they could create the linework. Then the artwork had to go to the lettering artist who’d place the word balloons. Next the artwork went to the colouring artist who’d mark up the colour plates. Then it’d go back to the editor for final checks and finally to the printers. All this was done on a twenty two pages a month schedule. I sometimes wonder how we did it, yet we did. Nowadays artwork can be sent to the printer with a
click of a button.
It’s a real buzz to have something I had a hand in creating appear on the big screen. Marvel were kind enough to fly me and my wife to LA for the Avengers 2 premier which was a blast. War Machine was only supposed to be appearing in the comic for a couple of issues, so it’s gratifying that he’s still around.
It varies depending on the complexity of the artwork. When I was pencilling a regular monthly book for Marvel I’d aim to get between five or seven pencilled pages off on a Fed-Ex delivery a week
When I was drawing Iron Man the writer Len Kaminski employed what is sometimes called “The Marvel Method.” It’s somewhat loser than the full script method I described earlier. I might get a description saying “Iron Man battles the Hulk over three pages in a nuclear power station. It ends when Iron Man is knocked through a wall and into the reactor core.” The benefit of this method is it gives the artist space to really go to town on the storytelling. Len would work on the dialogue after seeing my pencils which often helped the action and the dialogue mesh together seamlessly.
Like a lot of artists I’ve tried my hand at writing. I’ve written two novels “Dead in the Water” and “Murder Con”, both currently available on Amazon!
After leaving art school in Leeds I had a good ten year run where I got to draw almost exclusively for the comic book market. There was a huge boom in comics sales in the Nineties which coincided with my time on Iron Man. Perhaps inevitably the boom was followed by a bust. I saw it coming and decided I needed to diversify and moved sideways into book publishing, working up a version of my style that was suitable for a younger audience. I’m finding that when I’m asked to draw graphic novels these days the commission is just as likely to come from a book publisher as a traditional comic book publisher.
I’m best known for my work on Iron Man, so that has to be up there. I really liked the science fiction elements on the book that I could really get my teeth into. Another less well known favourite is the Darkblade strip I drew for Games Workshop written by Dan Abnett. Prior to getting the gig I’d worked on a Warhammer computer game and really relished the opportunity to explore the fantasy world further.