All images © Shawn McManus and Todd Klein, all rights reserved. (Todd and Shawn at the San Diego Comicon, 2007.)
In 2010, after producing a number of signed prints, I began thinking of other ways to fill an 11 by 17-inch piece of paper, and came to the idea of a game board. I’d worked on one for THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, and it was a fun project, especially since I love games. After some thought I came up with the idea of leading players through the life of a comics artist, along the lines of The Game of Life, one I’d often played as a child. I worked on the script for a few weeks in August 2010 until I had what I thought would work. Next I needed to find an artist!
The problem with this idea was that, instead of one large picture, I had to convince an artist to draw lots of little ones; a great deal more work than one big picture. I approached my first choice, and he agreed to do it, but after reading over the script for few weeks, decided it wasn’t for him. Too much work! I certainly had to admit that it was.
I thought further, and came to Shawn McManus, an artist I’ve enjoyed working with since our collaboration on DC Comics’ THE OMEGA MEN in 1985. Shawn’s style is versatile, but always has an undercurrent of cartoony humor that I thought might be perfect for this project. I called Shawn, and he agreed, but I warned him that it would be time-consuming. I sent him the script and this rough layout of the game board as I envisioned it, and waited anxiously.
Sure enough, a few days later Shawn called with lots of complaints about the amount of work he’d have to do for this print, but he also said he loved the script, and told me he had the perfect style for it. That sounded good to me, and Shawn sent along some samples:
When I got them, I couldn’t believe how perfect the style was for this project! Shawn was going for a 1950′s Advertising Art style with big-headed characters, clean lines and lots of humor. I loved it, and told him so! Shawn promised to get started on the drawings as soon as he could. We were both scheduled to be working on Vertigo’s second CINDERELLA mini-series soon, so I was hoping Shawn might get to this project first.
A few weeks later Shawn sent me some rough sketches for about half the pictures needed to fill the squares of the game board, and he also talked me into cutting back on the number of game spaces so he’d have more room for the pictures. I agreed to this, removing one square from each section of the game (I think the layout above was scanned AFTER that editing). With that agreed upon, I began laying out the game board and lettering in pencil.
When this was done, I emailed it to Shawn at the drawn size (also the printed size) in small sections so he would have the exact dimensions for each image. At that point Shawn was beginning to draw CINDERELLA, and told me he’d try to work in one or two finished drawings a week as he went along. It sounded like a good idea, but as I was waiting for finished art pages of the comic to arrive for lettering, I could see Shawn wasn’t going to have time for much else. And, in fact, he ended up doing most of the work for the print after the entire mini-series was finished, earlier this year. About once a month Shawn would squeeze in one or two inked pictures for the print, but with fifty-eight to do, I knew it would take a while.
Meanwhile, I drew the board paths and did all the lettering, then spent a few weeks in my usual painstaking retouch process to get everything looking just as I wanted it. Since I was lettering at printed size I knew I’d need some work to make the lettering look good. For example, here’s a section of the untouched original lettering:
And here’s the same section after cleanup and conversion to a clean bitmap format:
Letters that were too uneven or too close together were adjusted, lines were made more even, and so on, until it all looked good to me. When I was finished I sent a scan of this to Shawn so he could place his pictures right into the game board as he went along. Later, Shawn would add gray tones for additional detail and depth.
Finally the mini-series was complete and Shawn got to work on the print art in earnest, finishing it up in late July. Here’s the final product, after a bit of tweaking on the gray tones by me and added copyright/printer information along the bottom:
(Sorry it’s so small here, but the landscape format is tough to get into this blog!) Shawn and I were both very happy with this, so I printed it on my large-format printer on Wausau Exact Vellum Bristol cardstock, choosing the Ivory color I’d used before on my C and E prints. I thought it gave the game board a slightly aged look that went well with the art, and it warmed up the gray tones, too.
My next job was to paint the spot colors on each of the 500 prints, another time-consuming process, but one I enjoy. I’d chosen a bright green to go in the open G and the six narrow “Paycheck” spaces. Here’s a closer look:
Between the warm gray tones and the green, the print gained a lot of life from the added color. I emailed a scan to Shawn, and he approved. But getting all the prints painted took much longer than usual.
First, it was August. I had to compete with warm summer weather, including occasional cat tail hazards, as above. Then we had our usual summer visitors, coming to enjoy the beach, and that took away much of my extra time. Finally, in late August we had a little hurricane you might have heard of, forcing us to evacuate our home for a few days; more time lost. Once all the prints were painted, I signed each one and packed them all up and sent them to Shawn for his signatures. By then it was mid-September, and Ellen’s and my long-planned two-week vacation was looming. I told Shawn to keep the prints and sign them while we were gone, and send them back in October when we returned. He did that, and now they’re finally ready!
Personally I’m extremely happy with the way they came out, and I hope you’ll enjoy them, too. If you’d like to read about the creation of my other prints, you can do that on my SIGNED PRINTS page. Ordering information is there, or on my BUY STUFF page. Shawn and I thank you for your interest and support!
For a larger image of the print, go HERE.