Creating the first Antegods comic book
Antegods is a competitive arena game in which two teams each control customizable ‘stonepunk’ mechs to hunt for energy to activate enormous titan battle stations that will rain down explosive mayhem upon the enemy team!
We launched the game’s crowdfunding campaign on Fig last week, and the awesome Antegods comic book is one of the rewards you get as a backer, in digital or printed form. Or even in printed & signed form!
In this blog post, the book’s writer, Niels ’t Hooft, and artist, Robin Keijzer, talk about their experience working on the first volume.
Niels: “We thought of Antegods as a ‘story universe’ from pretty early on, meaning it wouldn’t only be a game, but a world in which other media could take place too. So one of the first things I did when working on the Antegods project was create a very rough outline of a comic book trilogy. It followed a group of Mayan adolescents during the Spanish conquest of America, who fled into outer space and discovered the Antegods tournament. There were no characters at this point, there was just a sense of ‘the team members all reacting differently to the circumstances’. Then last year I started looking for a good artist to bring it all to life. This turned out to be Robin!“
Robin: “When I first heard about Antegods, I was immediately interested. I especially loved the concept of ‘stone spaceships’ fighting in huge destructible temple environments. Why? Well, it might sound a bit odd, but I happen to love drawing stone objects like old ruins, robust fortresses, stone giants… So the stonepunk setting was completely up my alley and very appealing to me as an artist.”
Niels: “When I briefed Robin, we only had the game prototype, and the rough trilogy outline. We tried to determine what still had to be done before he could get to work: I’d have to turn the first part into a full-blown script, and the characters and setting, especially the base at the center of the universe, which we ended up calling The Navel, would have to be developed further.”
Robin: “A comic in general requires good planning, and my approach is basically the same every time. Before all else, there needs to be a detailed script, because that determines what I will need to draw and design. Of course the art team at Codeglue already fleshed out most of the world design, however the game is viewed from a great distance. Buildings the size of spaceships have the size of a stamp on screen. But the comic is seen from a human point of view. So a design phase was required, including the main characters, as they don’t appear in the game at this point.”
Niels: “Over the summer of 2016, I wrote a draft of the first comic book volume. At this point, we had five main characters, as Antegods was still going to be a 5-vs-5 game. The idea was making an epic concept like huge stone titan battles more relatable by taking that human point of view… But in reality this was quite a challenge. The Antegods tournament is so big and strange, it’s almost unfathomable. It helps that the characters form a group, they kind of go into denial about the whole thing together. As a reader, you’ll simply have to follow along.”
Laia, Baio, Akna and Gabor
Robin: “My character designs started with Niels’ descriptions, setting up the personalities and looks. My job was to turn these into recognizable characters, for which I made use of stereotypes. For example, I’d give a kind character a rounder face, while a more serious character would get a more angular face. Next, I made sure the characters wouldn’t look too much alike, to avoid confusion in the comic. This meant they’d get different hairstyles and heights, for example.”
Niels: “Another story challenge was the sheer amount of exposure. We have a strange world with very particular rules, and a game tournament on top of that. The first part of the comic comes pretty natural: it’s relatable characters being thrown into a dramatic situation. But as soon as they reach The Navel, the exposure threatens to slow the whole thing to a crawl. So I tried to come up with ways to go about this. For example, the book starts with a dream sequence… which we tried to make less cliché by turning it into a vision in the flames of a campfire.”
Robin: “When the general character design is done, I ‘dress’ the characters. In this case I researched Maya clothing styles, which I translated into simplified clothing designs. Remember, I have to redraw those designs over and over, so I can’t add all the amazing details of the actual historical clothing. Finally I made sure the clothing per character has different colors, which fit into a previously determined color scheme. This would help me later on to create the right focus in the comic panels.”
Whittling Down the Second Draft
Niels: “Right around the time Robin was wrapping up the design phase, I rewrote the comic book draft quite drastically, especially the second half. I’d collected feedback from the Antegods team, as well as some people from the outside, which I used to my advantage. Because of space constraints, the fight at the end of the book was scrapped, which simultaneously created an interesting cliffhanger. You’re juggling so many things: character, tone, world, action, the limited amount of panels. In broad strokes, this second draft is what you see in the book.”
Robin: “Just before I designed the characters, one of the group was scrapped. The development team decided the game would be 4-vs-4 after all, and for the comic this freed up some much-needed space. The scrapped team member’s characteristics were basically spread over the rest… Other than this, the characters stayed pretty much the same. I mostly just expanded on the initial designs, which only showed a few angles of the character and a single facial expression. In this case, the characters also got a second set of costumes, as they (spoiler!) change from their traditional clothes into intergalactic Maya suits on the last page.”
Niels: “Now everything was ready to be drawn. Robin presented us with a very tight schedule that required Codeglue and me to provide feedback at set moments. We took this very seriously and the process went smoothly. Robin started turning in the sketches of the pages first, then the line drawings and finally the colored pages, amazing us all with his fantastic pace and quality.”
Robin: “I work on PC, and make my rough layout sketches in Photoshop CS2, as I’m not a fan of the newer versions. Then I print those in blue color on smooth A3-sized paper. I use a 0.7 mechanical pencil to fill in most details and ink the pages with a 0.3 mechanical ink pen. Pretty basic tools! The paper approach gives a more balanced and lively feeling to the linework, and it’s much quicker to do, compared to doing this phase in Photoshop. When I’m done, I scan the pages back in. The blue lines disappear and the black ink remains. Then I start coloring it in Photoshop again, in this case Maroussia Jansen did the basic colors. And when all is done I do some final test prints and tweaks before I convert the individual pages to a printable PDF file.”
Niels: “The final step in the process for me was interesting, as I was asked to do the lettering. This was a first for me, but a lot of fun, as it didn’t only teach me a new trick but also forced me to polish my own dialog text. I made it a bit of a personal challenge to scrap as much as possible, as I think comics are a visual medium in their essence. So the fewer words, the better.“
Robin: “For me, the cover was the last step. In my opinion, a good cover tells the story in a nutshell. So I focused on the heroes, drawing them in the front. Behind them is the stone spaceship that they discover in this issue. The flames not only helped me frame the characters better, but it’s also appropriate because of the campfire visions in the comic. I tried to leave some space at the top, so the logo comes out well. And I added an Inca temple in the background, to show where fantasy roots in history, which is probably the core element of the comic and game lore.”
Get the Comic as a Reward!
The Antegods comic introduces the stonepunk story universe through the eyes of four adolescent pilots who flee earth to join an intergalactic tournament. Check out Robin’s blog and Instagram account for more sketches and drawings. Want to know more about the idea of Antegods as a story universe? Then check out Neil’s earlier story blog post.
Most of all, be sure to back our crowdfunding campaign on Fig, as the comic is available as a reward in digital, printed, and signed & printed format.
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Antegods is supported by the Dutch Cultural Media Fund, Cultural Industries Fund NL and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.
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