And now, a word from our sponsor…

Well, lookie here! It’s Marge’s old pal, Charlie Hustle, and he’s selling something. What a surprise!

When I’m not slaving away over a hot drawing board working on the Zombie Marge strip, you will find me tinkering with my other favorite project, SHAM Comics. I’ve posted some here before. Briefly, I take public domain Golden Age stories and advertising, scanned from old comic books, erase the original text and rewrite them in ridiculous new ways. Because the original printing was often so bad, they are pretty easy to touch up without making them look worse. The trick is to write a story that fits the original illustrations and tell a story that is both funny and coherent. Often I like to add a bit of social commentary as well.

Dale Trush, who serves as the official proofreader for all things Zombie Marge, brought this ad to me. He’s a fan of 70s comics and pointed out several potentially hilarious ads, like OJ selling running shoes. Thanks, Dale.

Episode 11


It's been an interesting week charting the progress of the strip. Hope you've had fun. And here is the final version with all the little details added. Marge puts Father Nozebest in his place (for now) and goes out for some entertainment. But her choices are rather limited. If I had to pick from those films, I'd choose the same one she did. Join us in two weeks for "Zombie Marge Goes To the Movies." Let's see if she can riff her way through Night of the Living Dead like a pro.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 6)

The last step is equally the most fun and the most work. What time I save with the simple backgrounds, is spent rendering all the figures. Above, I’ve applied flat colors to the characters. As I’m still working in Adobe Illustrator, that means getting the pen tool and creating paths around the areas, then choosing the color fill for that path. For smaller areas, I use the blob brush to outline the areas, which are then filled in.

Remember, the artwork is on a transparent layer on the top, so I can see the color shapes underneath as I draw the path. With a complicated drawing, it can be very time consuming and tedious, but the results are very satisfying. The colors are sharp and vivid. The file is easily editable and smaller in size than the same page rendered in Photoshop.

Most comic how-to books treat Photoshop as the only program for coloring comics. As an experiment I colored an older story using Photoshop. It looked good, though a bit airbrushed. But the process took more than twice the time to complete it and the files are huge.

Now there are only a few details left to finish this strip. I will add some light and shadow to make the figures look rounded. I'll finish the brick wall in Photoshop and add it to the last panel and make room for the title logo. That first panel is on a separate layer that can be turned off. It will only be used in a later version when I rearrange the page to fit a comic book format.

Tomorrow the finished strip will go up. If you’ve stuck with me through all this, I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. It has been fun writing about my working method.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 5)

When coloring the strip, I work from background to foreground, each one getting a separate layer. By starting with the background, I can set the color mood. Since Marge is hanging out in the basement of the old church, I’ve been working in lots of blues and grays. The last panel of the strip changes the location, so I move to warmer colors, with a little hint of the same blue to tie it together. For now the orange-brown will hold the place for a brick wall to be rendered later in Photoshop.

The flat gradient backgrounds are too clean for this strip, so I add textures from an Illustrator library of spatters I’ve built. It adds visual interest, but saves me the task of rendering complex background detail in every frame. The grungy look suits the locals of the story and doesn’t detract for the figures.

Tomorrow I will begin to color the figures.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 4)

Let’s do some lettering! With the line art all locked down on it’s own layer in Adobe Illustrator, I create another layer on top for the text and word balloons. I like that all my layers stay editable so that I can continue making changes until it’s just right.

I break up the text into small groups and fit them around the pictures. Many times that means rewriting bits of copy to make it fit better. Space is always limited. No one gives long speeches here. I try to strike a balance between the words and pictures, keeping in mind that this is a visual medium. With the words, less is always better. Sometimes a bit of dialogue has to go in and disrupt the art. In this case, I had to remove the severed head in panel 3 for Father Nozebest’s impassioned plea for Marge to put on some clothes.

Here’s some background on the type. Nate Piekos of designed most of the fonts in the strip. He offers a wide range of comic related fonts, including sound effects and titles. Many are free while others are very reasonably priced. Check him out. And while you’re there, take a look at Nate’s excellent webcomic, “Atland.” He been doing it for the last several years and has over 300 pages available to read. It’s one of my favorites.

Since both Marge and Grubworth always talk within the same panel, to avoid confusion as to who is speaking, I chose to give them distinctly different lettering. The spooky font looks like Marge’s raspy voice might sound. I render their word balloons differently too, so when two are pointing at her head, the reader can tell who says what.

With the lettering all in place, tomorrow I can start coloring the strip.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 3)

It’s time to ink the drawings. I tape the blue pencil page to the back of a 12 x18” sheet of Finch Fine 80 lb. cover and put it on the light box. For speed, I ink the Marge strips with a series of Micron archival pens and fill in the solid blacks with a Pentel brush pen.

This is the easiest part of the job. Inking only takes about an hour to complete. Now, it’s on to the computer. I scan the page as line art on a large format scanner, open it in Photoshop and do any clean up to the lines. The Photoshop file is next placed in an Illustrator format for layout, and work back and forth from Illustrator to Photoshop tinkering with the art until I’m satisfied with the fit and all the elements are in the proper place. I can change the size of individual panels if needed, move elements around or eliminate details altogether. In this case, I may delete the cat in the last panel. He can always come back in a later strip.

Tomorrow, it’s time to work on the lettering.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 2)

With yesterday’s rough sketches and various notes in hand, today’s job is to organize them into a coherent narrative. While working with the drawings, I’m also writing more dialogue to make sense of the pictures. Now it’s time to pencil the page.

Why blue pencil, you ask? It’s an old trick from way back in the day when I would shoot my inked drawings on a stat camera that would make the non-photographic blue-green lines disappear. Now that’s not necessary, but old habits are hard to break.

I traced the roughs onto a pre-printed grid set-up just for this strip. The panels are sized so that they can be cut apart later and restacked into three rows for a standard comic book page. I’m thinking ahead here to the Zombie Marge comic I plan to put out at the end of the year. But for the blog, I like the two rows of panels that resemble Sunday comic strips.

I may pencil the page a couple of times to refine the placement of elements, or I may just make notes to move things when I ink the strip. The above version is the one I’m happy with, so now it’s time to get out the pens.

Will I mess it all up tomorrow? Come back and see.

Zombie Marge, Step-by-step (Day 1)

Let’s do something different this time out, shall we? The next episode of Marge’s adventure is scheduled to post a week from today. And I’m drawing it as fast as I can. As I work this week, I’m going to do like my friend Jerry Dowling does on his blog and post my progress daily. I’ll show the development of the next strip step by step and write about my method of creating it.

To those who will find this boring and self indulgent, read another blog this week and check back in next Sunday for the completed episode. To everyone else, here we go!

Episode 11 is to be the wrap-up for the exterminator story and a transition to the next series of strips, called “Zombie Marge Goes to the Movies.” The first thing I do in developing a gag is to go to the official Zombie Marge notebook that I carry with me at all times. Here, I jot down ideas, sketches and bits of dialogue that come to me as I do my button-down day job. In this case the germ of an idea was the sketch of Marge looking at the Night of the Living Dead movie poster. That will be the last panel punch line to the episode. From there I start sketching other scenes. I have to tie up loose ends from the hot tub sequence and bridge to Marge’s night out. For me, the story is not over until Father Nozebest gets his comeuppance for calling in the exterminators. So in the first few panels, Marge gets to unload on him. She may be a zombie, but it’s very hard to get the jump on her. Father Nozebest finds he is hopelessly out matched and in for a tongue lashing.

Above are some of the quick sketches for this episode. Next, I will get them organized and start writing the dialogue. Tune in tomorrow.

Episode 10


What can I say? The strip speaks for itself!