I thought that I would give some insight as to how I draw Bleach Happy To Serve You. HardcoreHunter made a post like this on how he WRITES it, so I thought I would do the same. Because most of the creative decisions are his, all the questions I get are left for him to answer since all I do is go by his script. So this article won't be an answer list to a Q&A and will instead be an in-depth look into my production process.
The goal is to make Bleach: Happy To Serve You look like the product of one person, and that is possible through my willingness to go by his script, our foundation from his funny skits and my character outfit designs posted on the Adult Swim message board (Bleach section) months prior to starting this comic, and our exchange of ideas for jokes and story points. However, our processes are very different. He takes an hour to write one chapter. I need roughly a month and a half to produce the 16-20 pages, plus the Desserts, cover, two pin-ups, and disclaimer page for only one chapter as he waits on the porch bench sipping a lemonade. He has no previous experience writing something beyond short skits. I been drawing my whole life, graduated with a Bachelor's degree from an art and design school, and have been working professionally in animation for 6 years. That REALLY helps, especially since my first full-time job in animation was for an anime-inspired TV series!
I wanted to work on a fan comic for an anime for sometime now. I am a fan of Bleach and this would be an opportunity to draw scenarios that you won't find in the manga. Given the complaints people have with Kubo, those wishful things weren't too hard to find, such as giving more ensemble darkhorses "screen time", having fun with popular and obscure ships, lampshading the questionable parts of the manga, focusing more on the slice-of-life elements taking place in and around Karakura Town which I find more relatable than shonen battles,..... and cheesecake. JUST cheesecake. Lotsn'lotsn'lotsa cheesecake. In a high school boy's bedroom with lotsa' cheesecake,... or for teenagers sharing comics in Study Hall with lotsa' cheesecake! ...... oh, and drawing pastries in the restaurant too! I admit I DID read some hentai in the past years, and broke the habit, but I still surf DA and fav anything that fancies my interests, or which I can use for reference or inspiration. This gives me an outlet to draw more raunchy stuff that my real life family and friends would never even guess I would do.
I discuss with Hardcore, on the Adult Swim board private messaging, what we want to happen in a certain chapter, building off from ideas we had fun joking about on the public boards. We're both inspired by situation comedy and some Family Guy. I let as many ideas come from him as possible. It's only until making the pages when I request something changed if I believe it will make it better, which does happen, but only rarely. I tend to........ think up ideas that are too raunchy even for this comic, and Hardcore ropes me back into the tamer ideas. From the beginning, we had a loose story arc in mind, but kept the narrative open, and meandering from character to character, to keep the pace upbeat, and even now, that arc is still developing. Hardcore has this inane memory for detail when writing from the actual manga, and he even remembers stuff I take for granted. In the scene where Kensei takes out a knife to end the Tsundere-Off between Nel and Hiyori, I didn't know he meant his ZANPAKTOU, which he didn't make clear in the script, so I had him take out a basic knife instead. I occasionally need to ask him about details to clarify what he means. He has since provided visual descriptions next to certain moment in the script. If he says "this panel in sparkly, shoujo style", I'd know exactly how it looks!
I start off by reading the script he gives me and, picturing the pages in my head, inserting page numbers between lines, which will help me decide how many pages the chapter will be. I need to notify him the moment I think the chapter will drag on too long, or will be too lengthy for me to allow in my schedule, or will force me to cram in too much into one page. Everything is drawn in Photoshop. From the script, I arrange the panels first, then copy and paste the lines from the script into the Photoshop file, proofreading and adjusting word balloons as I go. It's a difficult balancing act. I keep performance and impact in mind. Fanservice moments will usually be treated with a particularly large panel, so you can take in the eye candy, and the rest needs to work around that. Will this character be flustered and will stutter when saying this line, and if so, should I type it l-l-l-l-like th-th-th-this, which is not how it is in the script? Will it save page space if you draw the characters chibi, regular, or hyper-shaded? Which would be better for this particular moment? You need to have a vivid imagination, be familiar with comic/manga/anime principles, and consider what the character is thinking if you want good page layouts. All this needs to be considered before drawing anything.
Kubo's manga had an interesting evolution in the way he drew them. It started out looking cruder with more speech balloons, more panels, and less detail, which is good for comedy or dialogue-heavy scenes, but then evolved into quite the opposite ("THE HEART")! I personally like how it used to be when he started! Hardcore writes a LOT of dialogue, and again, I need to tell him when he writes too many lines to the point when you will never see the drawings clearly, or become too small, or need to spoil the layout.
Characters are drawn in loose sketches first to get the posing down, and then inked over that. I have 3 main styles: regular anime style often seen in the anime, chibi to either make a scene funnier or save page space, and ultra-shaded artwork with thinner lines mostly used for the fanservice panels. Outfits are up to me except for select cases. The looks for Bunny Chappy, the Boobies uniforms and the different ways the characters accessorize, Urahara's work outfit, everyone's casual clothing, and Teen Yachiru were up to me. We both discussed that the Boobies color would be blue, to offset the orange color that Hooters is known for, which was the basis for the restaurant. Teen Nel was the only character Hardcore had a distinct vision for, and he had detailed ideas of what her outfit should be. I gather several screenshots or manga pages from the net and save them to my desktop as references when drawing characters, but after a while, I draw them so much that I don't need the references all the time. By that point, they're only to remind myself of details. I also...... "research"....... pics of hot babes and a few handsome men in case I need to draw a particularly complex body position. Several characters have had wardrobe/hair changes in the course of Bleach, and there really is no rhyme or reason to which ones I decide to use. Orihime has her second hairdo in this fan comic, yet Misato and Keigo still have their older hairdo? Rangiku has her mole on the wrong side of her face?? Whatever. I have been trying to include more backgrounds than Kubo ever bothers to, but often times the characters still need to perform without them. The Boobies logo was created in a separate Photoshop file I can reuse anywhere, but for the Boobies T-shirts, I simply rewrite it again and again.
It's fun playing around with jokes and consistency. Early in Chapter 4, Chizuru steals Orihime's and Tatsuki's bra right from under their noses, and so, even though it never said so in the script, they STAY that way for the rest of the subsequent scenes! Through the chapter, Orihime tries buttoning her shirt again but after a while leaves her cleavage hanging because the strain to do it was too much, and Tatsuki hides her chest behind a book. The chart that appears next to Urahara when talking about rising up the ranks of restaurants was my idea. I never rephrase a line without telling Hardcore, but so far only one instance came up: Yachiru has her new student introduction and in the script it read "where I come from is none of your business." I changed it to "I come from the Nonya business prefecture", which was too funny not to do. Often a character gesture from the script will come up that I feel isn't needed depending on the way the panels are arranged and where the focus should be. It's great when you have a client who allows creative freedom. I need to be able to laugh out loud to really know a visual joke works before drawing it!
I find opportunities to insert Adobe-Flash-animated, Actionscript-coded animation into a page. The Internet allows pages to come alive in ways books or PDFs cannot, and I try to take advantage of that at least once every chapter. Because DA has a separate section for animation, a good way to tell if a page is interactive or not is to pay attention to what category it is uploaded to, and if you can increase or decrease the viewer size of a deviation on their page. For PDFs, I need to create a mirror page that does not have animation.
Only until the body of the chapter is done do I move on to the extras. Pin-ups are the most fun. Unlike the main pages, these are completely "written" by me and I get to use full color! All we discuss about these beforehand is who would be featured in the pin-ups THIS chapter...... and that's it. We try not to reuse characters who already had a pin-up beforehand, for variety. I usually include two pin-ups per chapter, and that's so far been consistent. After coloring the inked drawings, I select each color and put shading, lighting and texture effects onto them. Backgrounds are created on a separate layer than the characters and often do not have outlines, where effort is made to make them look more realistic. Covers are produced in much the same way. The logo for the comic was entirely my development and is also saved in a separate Photoshop file to be reused over again.
We talk about what each Desserts will be of, and Hardcore usually writes those in a separate sitting than the main storyline. Sometimes they are made up for the chapter, and other times they're recycled from the skits he wrote on the boards months earlier before the comic started. I draw these in a sketchier style to save time. Kon appears in the logo leaping toward something with an elated expression, possibly onto Rangiku's bosom, so he won't be entirely absent from the comic. It's like those omakes that appear at the end of the anime episodes, where Kon whips across the screen.
Nothing's really changed since we started except for the look. You can see in the first part of Chapter 1, I was still trying to find a fixed way I draw this comic. The first page in particular has barely any gray and is all black and white, the forms aren't solidified, I don't use the Fill Tool that often and instead paint the colored areas, and the font is bigger. I now make sure Hardcore doesn't write too much for any one page. We haven't been working on this for even a year so far, so nothing's had a lot of time to evolve.
This comic so far hasn't intruded with my life, although I will go on to create more work for myself eventually. I do have full-time day job and I only work on this when I decide to. I never try to overwork, even though I have been called a machine by co-workers in several past jobs, which I consider a huge compliment. Whenever this ends, I will be proud that we will have contributed something a bit new to the online Bleach community that may be in demand. Who WOULDN'T want to see the Bleach girls in sexy restaurant attire?? As always, though, story is what matters more, and stay tuned for what other surprises await! I hope this answered some questions you had. Until next time, stay gold.
Bleach (C) Tite Kubo, Shueisha, VIZ Media