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I’ve probably written about this somewhere else before – but for those interested here’s the way one of these comics comes to life…

I love telling stories. I love video games. So at some point it seemed obvious that the two should meet.

I also love Zoo Tycoon – the game is still fantastic after all these years. I got into it by accident and while I was hunting for downloadable content one day I stumbled on Zookeeper’s Lounge. I got heavily involved in the fan community and eventually found myself doing rotation fixing on user created objects for the game. There’s stuff out there on people’s computers that I helped to create. At some point I became a site Admin at ZKL and I still wander in from time to time to see how the old place is doing.

I decide one day that I wanted to do a comic based on stuff from the game. It was going to be a one (or two) shot deal. But once I started scribbling ideas I found myself producing a strip every week. The original series ran for a year before I stalled and felt I’d told all the stories I could. But the process of bringing a story to life was quite interesting.

The writing is done on any random bit of paper that’s nearby at the time. It’s usually one or two lines and I visualize the story as I go. I start with a ruler and pencil and lay out the panels on the page. Then I figure out where any captions or word balloons need to be included and allow for that as I start drawing.

The original illustration is on A4 cartridge paper using a Staedler Norris HB pencil – the classic yellow and black ones that you see in UK schools. Inks are with Edding profiliners (0.5, 0.3, 0.1) and erasing is done with an eraser (either a Staedler or a Banner). Then it gets scanned (Packard Bell Diamond 2000+) and flipped and straightened using a photo program.

This changed when my scanner died and I was forced to go completely digital for a while. I used Alias Sketchbook for the illustration – it gives the closest approximation to drawing on paper. Line shading is added to the cleaned up inks to give them more detail.

Pencils using Alias Sketchbook

The colour correction and colouring is done using a Trust graphics tablet (or a mouse!) and the latest version of Gimp (which I love). I build duplicate layers and colour between them in a similar way to which traditional animation is produced.

Coloured in Gimp

Originally all backgrounds were drawn on the paper but near the end I was producing them digitally and compositing them into the panels where they were needed.

Finally the page composition and lettering (Letraset One Stroke Script) are done in Serif Draw or Gimp (it depends what mood I’m in.

final composite

The logo’s are all created in a similar way and run horizontally or vertically depending on the layout of that particular strip. Then they’re uploaded to the trusty old internet for hosting.

The panel shown here is from Photogenic Frenzy – which will be appearing later this year. There are very few original pencils for the strip because I inked the original art. I still produce the occasional Lounge Tale when I get an idea and a few new ones will appear at the end of this run. It’s odd to think that the stories which originally appeared in 2005 are still being read today – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them.