The Making Of The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay by Erik Evensen

The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay is a 2013 graphic novel about a couple of academics who get swept up on a sasquatch hunt. I don’t want to reveal too much more about the plot, but it’s very character driven, and it’s more playful and tongue-in-cheek than it is scary. Kind of like one of the funny episodes of the X-Files. You can find out more at www.wolfesbay.com. I used a new production process with this book that I haven’t really utilized before.

I’m going to talk about this process as if I’ve been doing it forever, but I only recently made the decision to work this way. Until this book, I drew everything pretty traditionally, on 11×17 Bristol board, inked in brush and pen. This time, I was a lot looser with how I developed each page. It seemed to work out for me this time, so I’ll probably continue for a while. But first, some concept sketches!

CONCEPT SKETCHES: BRIAN WEGMAN
These were the first concept sketches drawn of Brian Wegman. In my sketchbook, I was still calling him “Brian Rogers,” after my mother’s maiden name. I hadn’t yet developed his character to be much beyond this sketch. I was attempting to draw a grad student in his off-time, but I remembered grad students are poor and their off-time clothes are mostly the same as their “work” clothes. So Brian got dressed in a mix of sneakers, blazers, and flannel at first, and his wardrobe didn’t evolve all that much from there.

Brian evolved a little bit as time went by, but not a lot. His hair got a little shaggier (he’s a poor grad student, after all). His clothes got a little less plaid. And I gave him a cool bag to carry around, like Indiana Jones. Or, more accurately, like a put-upon grad student. I tried giving him cargo pants, but decided against it. I liked his haircut here, but it was less “shaggy” and more deliberately long, and I figured it looked a bit too stylish and not quite rumpled enough.

These were about where I ended up with Brian’s character design.

Various headshots and concept sketches of Brian, as I tried to work out his facial characteristics and other stuff. Also included on this page are a bunch of thumbnails of scenes and settings from the book. In the book’s climax, Brian gets a lot more disheveled to represent that he’s been deconstructed and is looking at the world through new eyes. One of the headshots has a scar down his cheek to help represent this. I ultimately decided this would be a little too extreme for his look in the book’s climax, but he did lose his glasses.

CONCEPT SKETCHES: WINIFRED ROTH
On the left is the very first concept sketch of Winifred. At the time, she was neither named Winifred, nor Roth. I believe her working name was Sarah McLaughlin, which was going to yield a large number of hilarious jokes about the similarly-named Canadian singer/songwriter. After watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager where the Voyager crew disappears into the Beowulf poem (on the holodeck, of course) and meets up with Freawaru (Hrothgar’s daughter), I decided that Sarah should become Sheriff Roth’s daughter. I kept her curly hair and those cats-eye glasses, but I needed to make her look less severe. Changing her name to Winifred seemed to fit. Since it worked out so well, I continued to binge-watch most of the myriad Star Trek series for the duration of this project. However, it did not yield any more creative breakthroughs. It was just fun.

Various headshots and concept sketches of Winifred, as I attempted to work out her facial characteristics, and more importantly, her hairstyle. I settled on the ponytail, because she is not a woman of glamour, and the ponytail would help her go about her daily life. She also has a head full of unruly, curly hair, which the ponytail would help tame. I also sketched Odin, because sometimes I do that.

After a lot of sketching, I was able to find a “look” for Winifred that fit with the personality I wanted to give her: that of an excitable young professor, barely out of grad school herself.

CONCEPT SKETCHES: MISCELLANEOUS
Working out the deputies. I figured them out kind of quickly. Humphries is in a different uniform because he’s a forensics guy. I really didn’t need to put a ton of work into their character design. They both seemed to emerge fully formed.

I love drawing Sasquatches, Yetis, and other cryptid hominids. But what if I designed one for my book, and then we discovered one, and it didn’t look like what I had designed? These are the issues I struggled with when working on this project. That’s why I always show my ‘squatches hidden under heavy shadow.

PAGE LAYOUT PROCESS:
This is where I really departed from tradition in many ways. A friend had loaned me Freddie Williams’ book, “The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.” I wasn’t totally prepared to give up my brushes and pens, but I certainly took a lot from this book, especially the idea of digital pasteup.

Sadly, I didn’t save any images of my pencils. Below is an image from the first panel of the book — a campus scene, with some academic buildings. Architecture is a real pain to draw properly, so thanks to a bit of photo reference, I was able to get a pretty solid perspective drawing of Winifred’s academic building. I drew windows and other repeatable forms once, and monkeyed around in Photoshop until I assembled them using the proper perspective.

Below you can see what it looks like after I’ve messed with it. I pasted in a treeline that I recycled all over the book, as well as some shrubbery. The sign is also placed at a proper angle.

After all of this, I just color the image, which I do pretty normally. For this project, I enlisted the help of a flatter, Jeff Fugelsang, also a very capable colorist in his own right. However, I had too much of myself invested in this project to just hand it over to someone else, so I just had him do flats. He was a huge help, and I’d recommend him to anyone in need of a flatter. In addition to normal digital painting, I use a lot of found textures and stuff to help capture the grit and other effects throughout the book.

After I had put this establishing shot together, I kind of realized how barren and empty it was! So I drew a bunch of students to be milling around the campuses in the book.

This is what it looks like when I start putting it all together on a page. I drew each panel separately and assembled it on a master page file. Sometimes, like in the case of panel 2, I composited the panel out of a couple of different drawings.

Then I color all of it, again, using Jeff’s help on the flats.

If you like what you see you should totally check out www.wolfesbay.com for more information, and for ordering info! It’s listed in April Previews (page 350), so you can order it through your friendly neighborhood comic shop. It will arrive in stores in June, and is also available on amazon.com.

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Rob Caprilozzi
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Rob Caprilozzi created Comic Monsters in 2004 and eventually expanded the site in 2009 to Horror News Network. Born out his love for all aspects of horror, Rob still remains hardcore comic fan. You can keep up with him on Twitter @RobCaprilozzi.
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