This is most likely the final full-page redraw that I’ll do on Steamroller Man Issue One. I’ve made some minor tweaks on almost every page between this one and Page Four (see my previous blog post, above). The changes were not large enough on those pages that I thought they deserved a blog post (mostly lettering corrections and a few minor art changes), but if anyone is interested, please leave a request in the comments for this post, and I’ll be happy to show them.
This page is now the first time the reader will see Tough Cookie, the Gingerbread Golem, in his true form. Revealing this to the audience in a more dramatic way was one of the main things I wanted to accomplish with this redrawing project. To this end, I knew I had to overhaul the composition of this page to make it more dynamic and dramatic.
The original composition was too staid; I remember being very concerned, back in 2018, with making sure the reader understood what was going on. Looking at it recently, I felt I had sacrificed dynamism for the sake of clarity. I experimented with entirely new compositions, first lowering, then raising the horizon line, but wasn’t happy with either direction. I finally decided to tilt the horizon so that the orientation of the whole piece was less vertical and more diagonal. To me, this gives the feeling that the viewer is being thrown off-balance by the action.
The original pose of the Golem was very stiff, and a prime example of what is called “twinning” in animation - a pose that looks very symmetrical, were an imaginary line to be drawn down the center of the body. This has the effect of making the drawing look flat and unnatural. So, armed with a few years experience at drawing the character, I attempted to make the new pose less symmetrical by having both arms and legs posed differently, and the figure’s line of action more diagonally oriented rather than upright. I drew him bigger than the original, for emphasis, and posed him as though stepping forward towards the reader. I decided to have his front foot cut off by the bottom of the frame - I think this enhances the feeling of action, and also creates a better sense of depth in the composition.
Overall I think this new image is a much more dramatic and exciting debut for the character, and I hope you do, too!
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” - Voltaire
I really struggled with my perfectionist streak as I redrew this page. The original was definitely one of my least favorite pages from the first issue, and I was surprised at how hard it was to let go of the new version and say it was finished. I kept feeling that it wasn’t quite right, no matter what I tried. I still don’t feel like it came out exactly how I imagined it would, but eventually I had to just tell myself to stop tweaking it and move on. I don’t often descend this deep into perfectionism, and I started to worry whether this whole redraw project was not such a good idea after all. This is the second-last full page redraw I’m going to do, so I think I’ll just have to exercise some more mental discipline as I go on.
Here are some details of what went into making this new page:I was trying to get the feel of a religious painting, to go with the quasi-religious, mystical nature of the scene in panel one, and so to represent this visually, I used a one-point perspective composition with the vanishing point right behind Sugar Daddy’s face. I was thinking specifically about how Leonardo Da Vinci did this in his painting, The Last Supper.
I don’t normally like one-point perspective symmetry but it felt like the right way to go here. I even had a bit of background machinery forming a faux halo behind Sugar Daddy’s head. I used photo reference for the background, first making a photo collage from five or six different photographs of abandoned factories, and then creating the drawing based on the collage. Early on, I was even thinking of just using the photo collage AS the background, which is a technique that Jack Kirby and other artists used in the early days of Marvel comics. Here's an example:
Once again, I’ve made some minor changes to the dialogue on this page, for reasons of story consistency. I didn’t actually know what the plot was going to be the first time around, since I was making the plot up as I drew each page. At that time, I thought a generic revenge plot was good enough to get the story going, and I would work the details out later. Now I know what the whole story will be, and Sugar Daddy’s motivation is not really one of revenge.
Sugar Daddy’s real name was going to be revealed in the upcoming Issue Three, but I thought it might work better to drop that in here, when the reader is first introduced to him. Of course, my penchant for pun names is on full display here with Manny Cavatese!
The only part of the original page that I was really happy with was the final panel, and I had planned to keep the artwork from that panel unchanged, but once again my perfectionist streak got the better of me, and I ended up redrawing that too. I do think it’s an improvement.
It's time to let this page go and put it out into the world! Thanks for reading and subscribing! Until next time, stay safe, everyone!
Redrawing Page Three
Here’s another side-by-side comparison of the same page, separated by three years. When I first decided to redraw some of my early pages, I was going to skip over this one. I thought the original still worked pretty well, and the tightly-cropped compositions meant that the original artwork wouldn’t look too bad compared to the newer pages that would eventually be on either side of it.
However, one thing that always bothered me about this opening sequence was the fact that I never showed Sugar Daddy actually putting the heart on the Gingerbread Golem’s chest. My prime motivation for redrawing this page was rectifying that.
As with my earlier redraws, I tried to make the new page more dynamic and interesting by varying the panel compositions: changing the size of the character in each panel, changing the camera angles, and adding background details to give more of a sense of place. The original page was pretty simple, a continuous action in one place. On the new page I wanted it to feel a bit more like a film montage, with the action jumping forward a bit more, from panel to panel. I was able to reuse some of the original artwork for panel two, and I think it blends well with the more varied angles of the new panels around it.
You may notice that once more, I have made slight changes to the dialogue in this new version. I broke up the original speech into phrases that seemed to suggest separate visual ideas, such as showing Sugar Daddy actually placing the heart on the Golem’s chest as he says “atop your chest”. I think that’s one advantage that redrawing the page gives me: this time, I already have the dialogue and I can more specifically tailor the images to it. When I created the original pages, I was only working from a plot, coming up with panels that told the story’s events, and writing the dialogue after the artwork was done. In professional comics, the plot-only method has been known as the “Marvel method” because in the early 1960s Stan Lee would come up with a short plot description for his artists to create a 22 page story from. Even though I am both artist and writer here, it’s been interesting to work in both “plot first” and “dialogue first” methods.
I was never really happy with how this sequence played out in the original version, but I was making it up as I went along, with no plan at all. In the original 2018 version, I showed what the Gingerbread Golem looked like from the start, and never really gave the reader much indication of how Sugar Daddy created him. In hindsight, I realize I was actually trying to cheat as much of that out as I could - it was the beginning of my story and I just wanted to jump in, without the prep work of designing Sugar Daddy's laboratory. At the time I worried about the logic of it all - "how would someone find an oven big enough to bake a 9-foot-tall gingerbread man?" Three years later, I've learned that logic is often the enemy of creativity, and certainly the enemy of comedy. So, leaning in to the fantastical nature of my story, I created a "Giant Gingerbread Man Oven" (complete with a Batman '66-style sign saying as much). Also, while re-examining the early pages of the story, I felt it might be better to try to delay the reveal of the Golem's final form, so that the first time you see what he really looks like is on this later page. So all you see of the Golem in the new version is his doughy, un-baked form.
Since finishing the latest Steamroller Man chapter, I've been going back to some of my earliest pages and overhauling them - "re-mastering" if you will - in preparation for print. The first one I tackled was the cover to the previous chapter. For the new version, I referenced the exact dimensions and measurements of the classic 1970s Marvel cover treatment. I replaced the downloaded title font with a logo of my own design and rearranged the lettering and word balloons so that it conveys the same information but (hopefully) has more visual impact. Three years experience of drawing these characters really shows - the 2018 cover was actually the first time I had really drawn Sugar Daddy and Tough Cookie, the Gingerbread Golem.
You'll notice that the issue numbers are different on each one. The reason behind this is somewhat complicated, but people keep asking about it, so I'll explain:
I started the comic with a 12-page, self-contained story which I numbered "issue one" when I first posted it online. The next chapter was 38 pages long, and the first part of what will end up being a four-part story. While I called it "issue two" at the time, it seems like a much better choice to be the official "Issue One" in print. So the 12-part story has been renamed, and will go to print as the "Ashcan Zine Edition". I hope that wasn't too confusing!