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Poser, Photoshop, Action!

When I was first asked to write an article for Comixpedia, I was a bit surprised. While I have been working on Just Call Me Freedom for a number of years, it had never achieved more then a small cult following. Regardless of that, I decided to take this opportunity to introduce new readers to my work while also giving current readers a glimpse into the history and creation of the series.

In the Beginning…

Years ago I decided to start work on a site that would offer a variety of webcomics and short stories. From the get go, I knew that the Gimblians (another series I work on) would be an ongoing cartoon series on the site. To contrast the Gimblians, I started fiddling around with ideas and techniques that would target a more mature, comic book driven audience.

Before I choose a style, I decided to work on the concept of the new series. The biggest influence on the creation of Just Call Me Freedom came from Logan’s Run. For those of you not familiar with the movie, it’s set in a time where people are hunted down and killed after they reach a certain age. Using this as a starting point, I choose to take the story in a different direction by making the youth the target of persecution (or imprisonment in the case of Just Call Me Freedom).

One major obstacle to deal with was the issue of death. Obviously killing young people was not an option, otherwise there would be no adults. Instead I choose to have the children taken from their parents at an early age and placed in camps. There they would be trained in the ways of being good, hard working citizens until they reached adulthood, at which point they would be released back into society. As for the parents, they were led to believe their children where happy in their new lives and had no reason to question how things were.

Once that aspect of the story was established, I looked at real life for political and social elements. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to anyone that Big Business has a great deal of influence on the Government. Taking this a step further, I established the fact that a number of large corporations stepped in to help the United States after a major disaster. After rebuilding the country’s economic and social structure, the corporations were left weak. The only way for them to survive was to merge under the leadership of one man.

Revitalized by the strength of a unified front, the Corporation began initiatives designed to create a "better" future. Among these initiatives was the idea that young people were the cause of the country’s woes. By painting children and teens as the enemy, the Corporation was able gain enough support to approve laws segregating children into camps throughout the country.

With these various elements laid out, I had enough to start building a series. The next step was to find the right style. Originally I was going to do small animated shorts that would depict the story from the point of view of the hero. After a few tests, I bailed on the animated route and began fiddling with filters and techniques in Photoshop. Following numerous tests (all of which were hideous I might add) I came across a style I liked that involved inverting the colors and adding various filter and layering effects to it. Not only did it create a bizarre new look, but it also allowed for some rather interesting color schemes.

Next I started work on the characters. Essentially there are 3 main characters in the series: Freedom, Kim and Seta. When it came to creating Freedom, I wanted someone who was nearing adulthood and very aware of the world around him. By placing him in his late teens, I could do more mature stories while still keeping him connected to the current situation involving the camps.

Kim’s creation was altogether different. His two major influences were a boss I had at the time (who I hated) and Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab. Ahab’s influence is most evident when it comes to Kim’s obsession with stopping Freedom. In fact, so much of his time is dedicated to this that he even created a digital assistant to help him.

Rounding out the last of the core characters is Seta, Kim’s personal assistant. From the get go, I knew that I wanted to have an assistant for Kim but I was not sure what direction go in. After fiddling around with some techniques in Poser, I came across a wire frame setting that I absolutely loved. With her look established, I started fleshing out her personality. The most important aspect of Seta’s personality is the fact that she is extremely dependent on Kim. Without him, she has no purpose and she knows this. Because of this fact, she has often sabotaged his plans for capturing Freedom just to remain needed.

From Filler to Feature…

Now that I had all the elements were in place, it was time to get to work on the First issue. Strangely enough, Just Call Me Freedom was originally designed as a filler for my site. My intention was to concentrate on the Gimblians while creating additional material to fill the site. When Freedom started, it would run as a completed issue every few months. Unfortunately my schedule was often erratic, causing me to go long periods of time without an issue. Nonetheless, the series received positive feedback.

In the fall of last year I decided that I was tired of having the series suffer from long periods of silence. I enjoyed working on Just Call Me Freedom and wanted to start building its audience. To do so, I started running it on a regular schedule, publishing new artwork every week. If all goes well, 2005 will be a great year for Just Call Me Freedom.

Now that you have a better understanding of Just Call Me Freedom, lets move on the fun part… creating a page!

Start to Finish…

To show you all how I work on Just Call Me Freedom, I’ll be using the cover of the latest issue, entitled "America’s Most Wanted".

Since the book has gone to a regular schedule, its covers have become more uniform looking. In this case, I’ve imported the logo and side bar into a blank page (Image 1).

When I work on a page for the book, I generally work from the background up. I know, it’s a strange way to do it, but it seems to work for me. Since the issue deals with the lead character becoming the most wanted man alive, I thought it would be nice to go with a wanted poster a la the old westerns. With that, I needed a wall or door background which I made (Image 2).

From there, I set to work on the wanted sign itself. Being that it’s the future, it seemed appropriate to make it look like a data pad. What I normal do in a case like this is work on the image with traditional shading until I have the basics laid out. Once that’s done, I generally use a level 8 cutout filter from Photoshop. At this point (Image 3) you can start to see the cover coming together.

After laying out the background, its time to work on the figure. For the most part, all the figure work for Just Call Me Freedom, is done in Poser. Image 4 depicts the early phase of the figure work on the cover, showing its original Poser rendering and color.

It takes a number of filters and techniques before the Poser image starts to look like Freedom. This usually involves inverting elements of the color and changing the layering options before using the cutout filter on it. This creates the trippy, bizarre color scheme readers are used to. As you can see in image 5, not only has the figure been altered but some final touches have been added in such as the glare on the screen.

Image 6 not only brings us to the end of process but to this article as well. With the title in place, the cover is ready to be posted on the web.

I hope this article has given long time readers a glimpse of the inner workings of Just Call Me Freedom, while also giving people unfamiliar with the book a little taste of what its all about. Thanks for taking the time to read this article and hopefully checking out the series.

See you on the net!

Matt Gasser also works on a number of other webcomics including the Gimblians and the Misfits of Fandom. You can also check out vortexxpress.com for his portfolio and complete list of works.