Its Comic Con season and I know that a lot of you are getting excited to go. So to help get people even more excited, I wanted to let everyone know about Ben Balistreri’s new book "Seaweed and the Cure for Mildew". Even with his busy schedule at DreamWorks as a story artist, he had time to answer a few questions about his awesome book…
Ben when did you first think of the story for this book and how long did it take to create?
I was on vacation in
So what was the process you went through in creating your book?
I originally wrote an epic, that if completed, would have spanned seven books. It was a total mess. I showed that script to a few friends and most replied with dead silence or quickly changed the subject when I asked what they thought. I got some really great notes from my Dad (who has excellent story taste) as well as a good friend of mine, (and an amazing storyboard artist), David Prince. Their notes really centered on simplifying the story and making ideas clearer. I went through a few attempts to fix what was there but eventually threw the whole idea out and started over with a very simple idea of a pelican who was trying to find a cure for his crippled wings.
The second go-round I kept the script to a basic outline and figured I would "write" it with the drawings, as that felt more natural to me. I drew and hand-inked the pages and then did the color in Photoshop.
What's going to happen in the future; do you plan on doing more?
I planned on only publishing one book with one story but it's taken so long that I decided to split the story into two books. Luckily the halfway point made for a nice break which, though the story's not finished, there's no annoying cliffhanger.
The second book is fully written and drawn and now just needs to be inked and colored.
Do you have more stories you would like to tell with different characters?
Absolutely! Creating this comic has been so fun and rewarding that I can't imagine not doing more. Seaweed and Poisson's story will be done at the end of book two, "The Devil's Cookbook". After that's finished, I have plans for doing a story set in World War II.
Not only did you come up with the story, and pencil it, you also inked and colored the whole thing too. What were some of the difficulties and/or enjoyable experiences you had doing it by yourself?
I am really happy to hear you plan on printing your book 12" x 15", full – color and in hard cover with a cloth spine. Were you inspired by the European comics?
They were my MAIN Inspiration! In particular, I have some limited Tirage de luxe albums that are all oversized and the quality of the paper and the printing treats them as the breathtaking art that they are. People who have seen "Seaweed and the Cure for Mildew" are being blown away at just how big 12 x 15 inches really is. It makes the book stand out and I think provides a much more thrilling reading experience.
If you're looking for an English translation of a Franquin book, good luck! The only one I've seen is "Z is for Zorglub" published by Fantasy Flight Publishing back in 1995.
Creating this book seems like a perfect fit for you with your incredible ability to do storyboards and character design. Did your experience in the animation industry affect your designing process in how you laid out your pages and created the characters?
Well thank you very much! That's nice of you to say. I'm sure working in animation affected the look of Seaweed, but I spent a lot of time studying what works well for the comic book medium. There's a real beauty to reading a comic that can't happen in film. The positioning of panels and transitioning between pages can mean a lot to the story. Changing the size of the panels is a great way to add power to a particular image. You can't change the size of a TV monitor or movie screen to get the same effect.
It's got 40 pages of story and 24 pages of sketches, designs and development all printed on heavy paper stock. I am really pleased to know you will be adding those extra 24 pages of development to the book. What motivated you to add those pages in the book?
What steps should aspiring artists take to do what you do, to get themselves started in creating their own book?
I'm not sure I can offer any great wisdom on this issue as I'm so new to the publishing game that it seems silly for me to tell anyone else how to accomplish it. Ask me again when my second book is being sold and I may have figured out something.
The biggest question is when and where can we buy it?
Will you be selling any of the production art or any of the original pages from this book?
Ben thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, I am so happy your book is finished, and I can't wait to read it. I look forward to seeing what you do in the future.
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