Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 281

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THE VALIANT #1 PAGES 16-17. 2014.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board with digital color, 22 × 17″.

If you've followed my work over the past dozen years, you know how seriously I take composition and reference. Sound effects are as much a part of a successful image as lighting or anatomy — and I take them just as seriously. Aside from their patent use as visual representations of audible sensations, they have other benefits that are frequently ignored.

It's easy to tell when I'm concentrating.

I often joke that a good sound effect is one that covers up something that you don't want to draw. But the truth is, they can operate on many levels, providing guidance to the viewer as they navigate through a scene. Because effects read in a particular direction — even the more fanciful "words" — you can use them to counter the flow of what's going on behind them...

inks by my Pops, with digital holds and tone

... or in front. Sound effects are fantastic for playing with space — their abstract nature allows for far more experimentation with layering than with subject matter bounded by the laws of nature. Even comic book physics must obey certain rules to feel naturalistic.

cyan print of pencils

In this double-page spread, I've used the effects in 2 ways: first as a panel border, then as a motion trail of sorts. Having a physical object to interact with the figure was extremely helpful here, giving me the opportunity to manipulate the scene to get just the right angle.

digital layout


  1. Nice, is that the Silver Surfer? It catches the light and shadow nicely, also very pose-able.

    1. Yep! He's my go-to figure for all kinds of reference. He's got magnets in his feet (to attach to his board) which makes him very easy to pose on his own.

  2. Awesome and thanks for a great post. I've never really considered having sound effects interact with the character in a non comedic way before. Again great stuff and a useful trick.

    Also thanks so much for posting the process steps for this. Seeing your dad's inks make me both envious and brave because I'm always hesitate to just "black out" something such as Bloodshot's left arm. Instead of relying on dark colors and/or rendering I need to be bolder and just black it out.

    1. Glad it helped! As for inking, the real secret is experimentation. When I'm doing the initial sketch, I'm already thinking in terms of "spotting blacks." If the composition still reads even when it's small, you're good to go.

  3. I'm so glad to see you use an action figure for reference, since sometimes you need a model right at the moment instead of scheduling/begging friends. I have been using Sideshow Toy's Art S. Buck artist models. They aren't too bad but the poses still come off stiff so they are better for lighting reference. I had recommended to me using the Hot Toys nude blanks for an upgrade.

    1. Yeah, I've got a 1/6 scale figure too. It's great for clothing as well. It's not perfect for either, but it's enough to jog the memory.


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Design out of the FlyBird's Box.