That was the question. Misfit Supers wasn’t always intended to be a picture book, and it could someday be much more. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at this “dazzling”, “fun & quirky”, “appropriate for all ages” creation.
I first had the idea for the book when I was working on Alvin & The Chipmunks 3. I wrote the idea down followed by a sketch. It came into my head as an animated series, then a short film, then finally an innovative picture book. Here is the success story, my sources of inspiration, and a resource for your own innovations. Feel Free to skim through, explore the sections that interest you, and even purchase a copy of my book to see the results of this exciting journey.
Why not a short film?
I could list many reasons : limited time, limited resources (the story would take at least half hour do do it properly!), other projects I want to do, etc. But number one reason was my desire to maximize quality+profitability. I’ve seen too many great artists create too many great pieces without hardly receiving monetary compensation.
I’m not the first who set out to create a profitable project like Misfit Supers. There are innovators like Jason Brubaker who created his reMIND books while working at Dreamworks, Lora Innes and her successful Dreamer comic, my former mentor (director) Mike Gasaway who create Little Mikey the Vampire Monkey and other books on his path to directing a movie, and William Joyce who led the Moonbot artists to create the wildly successful Morris Lessmore App (which doubled as an academy award winning short). And speaking of William Joyce, take a look as his creative impact on both illustration and film. You’ll see why I was inspired to choose this direction. Oh, and I can’t forget Ryan Woodward’s Bottom of the Ninth – first animated graphic novel ever – with the success of Misfit Supers I hope to explore projects like Ryan’s in the future.
Even though end project would not be a short film (yet), my approach was much the same. Animation pre-production greats like Brittney Lee, Chris Oatley, and Pascal Campion produce artwork endued with all the qualities of great animation (posing, weight, balance, etc). Considering my background as an animator, I hoped to reach the same caliber of story driven art. So I filmed extensive reference footage for every possible action in the story and sketched many options per idea. I treated every composition as a scene from a film and every layout as a group of storyboards. As a result, many people have commented on its “cinematic” appeal and I even recently had a rep from an animation studio chase me down, wondering where she could get a copy to show their director.
Storyboards or Picture Books or Graphic Novels?
I’m not the first animator with interest in picture books, nor am I the first to create a picture book with comic elements. David Weisner’s award winning books are heavily influenced by graphic novels. The Paper Wings Podcast has created a supportive community of illustrators and writers who also cross these borders. They led me the great comic theory books by Scott McLoud which led me to David Chelea’s Perspective! comic. To better understand visual story and film language, I purchased the amazing Storyboard Secrets course by the personable Sherm Cohen – to discover that he began his successful career as comic artist. The more I learn about comics, illustration, and film, the more I realize see the power of understanding them all together – the animation genius Hayao Myazaki is ultimate proof of this realization.
I like to let my imagination run wild and free as much as the next creator. But unless we can, as Brian McDonald says, “see the footprints in the grass” our stories loose their power. In fact, I used Brian McDonald’s books Invizible Ink and Golden Theme (the most empowering story books out there) to workshop my story. His books are among my favorite screenwriting books, which also include Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! (for marketablibilty) and Robert McKee’s Story (for in depth story philosophy). I believe these books, Brian’s especially could provide a necessary foundation for any storyteller. I will soon be “running” another story marathon using their techniques to create successful stories for future projects.
I hoped the use of poetry would not only raise the appeal for youngest audiences, but delight seasoned readers as well. It also hearkened back the days when I was creating my bachelors in English, Art & Communication at Weber State University. Those were some of the greatest days of my life (met my wife there!) and I believe the work I did there prepared me just as much as my work in animation. It lit my fiery passion for learning and collaboration – two of the most beautiful words in the English language.
Drawing or Painting?
To quote my great friend Chris Oatley, “Great paintings happen before the paint.” For that reason, solid drawing and character design was second only to story structure. With the aid on Tom Bancroft‘s unparalleled character design books, Mark Simon‘s facial expressions books (I’ve sketched about 1.2 books so far), and even my latest discovery of the stellar drawing videos at Proko.com, I pushed my drawings further than ever before. Building on those drawings, I gathered extensive research images and studied the techniques in James Gurney’s painting books to bring the characters to full-color life! Look at the image of the first time I sketched the characters compared to a final image … it took a TON of drawings to discover to the qualities I was searching for:
Creative or Business?
Sometimes creatives and business people seem to repel each other, but in my experience it is possible to be the best of friends. My friend Zach Smith – entrepreneurial genius and co owner of StartDoingBusiness.com – was actually the reason I started this project. He loved my idea, showed me how it can make a profit, and has blown my expectations away – every step of the way. Another business friend, Chef Shaun Bucher, guided me through the publishing process. And finally, my pharmaceutical/business friend Nate Stout, who’s been with me since the beginning of my animation journey, has been my constant sounding board. While simultaneously creating this book, I’ve also enjoyed helping to create his skin-care business, Apotheterra.
Quit or Continue?
To tell the cold, hard truth, this project felt too ambitious at times and there were several moments where I felt like just going back to animating. But having all these amazing inspirations I’ve listed above, and support from my family, my friend David Wilson, Sam Kirkman, Lee Wiley, and others from the aforementioned Paper Wings Community, the choice to continue was easy! On October 15th 2012, we kicked a year of unemployment by sending this book to the digital publisher. In the following weeks, I’ve received hearty praise from private reviewers And in the months to come, with your help, I believe we can make Misfit Supers a huge success.
Wait? Was this a behind-the-scenes-article, a promotional piece, or just a huge thank you letter? It was all of the above, I couldn’t have reached this level of success without standing on the shoulder of giants. And I won’t be able to continue successfully without YOUR HELP. What can you do? You can buy the book, share the news with your friends, leave questions and positive reviews in the comments below, or all of the above. Thank you for you support and here’s to the future!