Sunrise: Three Years!

Well, it’s been another year. Sunrise officially began on February 12th, 2008, when this horrible-looking page was posted to the then-very-rough website I’d set up at the time. (The cover of Issue 1 appears to have been posted the day before, but was actually posted somewhat later, with the date adjusted to ensure correct position in the archive.) Now, some 230 pages later, it seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned from this little experiment.

The Zeppelin Bros.

As I may or may not have mentioned once before, the origins of Sunrise lie with a short run of comics I did for a Vacation Bible School in summer 2007.   It was called The Zeppelin Brothers and Their Cousin Clara, and followed the titular characters as they flew around the world in their nameless airship, reinforcing the daily scripture lessons. (Depicted: Wednesday.)

For some reason this comic maintained a certain intrigue for me, or at least the idea of a comic set on an airship did. Late that year, around December or so, I began work on a new comic. My central idea was to take the formatting of Star Trek and set it in the past (ironic since the original Star Trek concept was a frontier show set in the future), and place the characters on an airship.

In preparation for writing this essay I went through my old Sunrise design documents. I can’t actually remember what the first thing I did for Sunrise was, but these are at least fairly close. This is the sheet where I wrote down the basic core concept of the series (in addition to some concepts for the captain’s uniform), and on the back was a list of brief character sketches:

Early concepts, frontEarly concepts, back

As you can see, the whole concept was still based around the premise of the ship being so incredibly controversial that no one wanted to work on it. That idea faded away pretty quickly. It was hard to come up with something controversial enough and Astor’s antagonism became a better reason for the undesirable crew. (Admittedly the undesirable crew aspect has faded away a lot at this point, too.)

While we’re on the subject of the characters, let’s look at that early character sheet. We have “Captain” (Robinson), “Financer” (Kindler), “Pilot/Helmsman” (Neil), “Airship Designer” (Blanchard), and “Poet” (Lila). Wait, Lila was supposed to be a poet? I didn’t even remember that. And she was the most intelligent of the cast? Huh, usually she just seems to be the most easily-angered. It’s tough having an unappreciated superhuman intellect I guess. I find it odd that Lila at the time seemed more important than, say, a chief engineer, but I was really just stumbling around in the dark at that point. In any case, you can see here the character designs that would still be pretty prevalent throughout Issue 1 (after which they took on a different flavor than that implied here).

Regarding Issue 1 I don’t have all that much to say, as I have no real recollection of how it was conceived. I wrote down a paragraph of exposition detailing its events and just winged it from there.

Let’s take a look at the original art:

Sunrise, first page roughs

(Compare to inked version)

At the time I started work on Sunrise I hadn’t yet taken any figure drawing classes, and boy does it ever show. Jeez but these people are weird-looking. Other aspects of the craft were also wanting, for example the fact that I wasn’t using any rulers, which sometimes  caused problems when drawing the panel boundaries in later.

Let’s just ignore the deficiencies of the early art for now. I’ve complained about that a million times before. Instead let’s take a quick look at the history of the artwork in Sunrise:

After Issue 3 the art stayed pretty much the  same for a while. Due to my fascination with Jeff Smith’s complete lack of shading, I tried to reduce the amount of grays until there were none left in Issue 7 (which was also the first issue I attempted to ink non-digitally, although that only lasted a few pages). As it turned out I’m not Jeff Smith and the unshaded pages look pretty flat. ( Der-Shing Helmer convinced me to go back to shading after I asked her for criticism.)

This brings us back to Issue 8, which is the first issue which I’ve inked and lettered in real life. I’ve been using some really terrible paper (cardstock from Staples) for no better reason than because it’s cheaper than bristol board.  Despite that foolishness, the art is overall better than previous digitally-inked issues, and for the first time I can look back without cringing (most of the time).

As far as writing goes, I think it’s gotten stronger too, with the exception of the dismal Issue 7. The even-numbered issues have typically been better than the odd-numbered ones so far (just like the Star Trek movies!). A quick run-down:

Sunrise is, first and foremost, a learning experience for me. Attempting to list everything I’ve learned from it would be futile, but let’s see if I can’t hit at least a few good points:

That’s all for now, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Sunrise these past few years, and look forward to seeing you around for future issues and whatever new things may come.

Posted on February 12th, 2011. Filed under Artwork, Comics, Fiction, Process, Sunrise, Writing. Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Sunrise: Three Years!”

  1. [...] reading on the main blog, because posting images doesn’t work on here for some reason! └ Tags: anniversary, [...]

  2. Juliana says:

    I've always liked that first page… Though it's great to see how far and how much Sunrise has developed, in every way possible (characters, stories, art itself… and your website if you want to count that too, though it's separate from Sunrise).

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