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The Making of The Waking Dead - by: Charlie Adlard

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The Making of The Walking Dead
by: Charlie Adlard

OK - let me first say that my approach to The Walking Dead is SO simplistic I've included some other projects to show the diversity of ways I can approach a page.

The Walking Dead Charlie Adlard

The main reason The Walking Dead is so simple in it's approach from concept to finished page is based mainly on the fact that it's a monthly. I need to get 22 pages plus a cover penciled and inked every month. So it's a big work load. Consequentially I've devised certain ways to speed up the process and get it done.

One thing to note is - as from 36 - I started drawing The Walking Dead at almost the same size as the comic. Before - and with most other side projects still - I drew in the standard A3 size. Again, it was to do with speed, but, as we'll discover, it all works in the comic's favour in the end.

The example I've chosen to show is a page from issue 56 - a fairly typical page. There's one notable exception - in that, I've changed a panel, which is rare for me in the pencil to ink stage. Normally - I tend to find I'm quite natural and fluid in my initial page designs - so much so, that I don't need to do thumbnails for The Walking Dead - the first idea is nearly always the best... and if the design of the page doesn't come into my head in the first minute or so after reading a script - it's going to be a struggle!

So - this is a rare occasion where I've penciled a panel - seen I can do it "better" - and re-drawn it for the inks.

The Walking Dead

Anyway - once I've read the script - I layout the page as illustrated. The pencils are pretty loose - I'm inking it myself so I don't need to see where the blacks go etc. It takes roughly half an hour to 45 minutes to do each page, and if Robert's sent me the script to a whole issue then it takes roughly 3 days to do the whole thing. I like to get the layouts done in a chunk like that - I don't do one page, finish it, and go onto the next one. So, it's all quick rough and ready... and then we go onto the next stage, my favourite bit, the inks [or finishes].

The reason I like inking more than penciling is because I draw a lot in the inks. I find my creative juices really flowing then. Penciling is a bit of a chore to me - it's the working out, the placing of all the elements correctly to read as well as possible... it just doesn't feel as, well, creative... I have more fun with the finishes - I can really let rip! It takes me about 2-3 hours to ink a page, depending on the complexity. And then, that's it, it's done.

The Walking Dead

Working small - I've discovered - has had a positive effect in the printing stage. Because, with The Walking Dead, everything is the same size - I never lose any of the inked line work and the line weight is thicker too, which I prefer. Before, when I was working A3, I noticed quite a few lines [the thinner ones] getting lost in the printing and reduction stage - so it was quite frustrating. Now that process is much better for me.

I'm not one for using the computer with the actual drawing - everything is done "live" and by the hand, straight down onto the paper... there are no electronic tweaks at all. I've never really seen the need to do drawing via a graphics tablet... even though I own one! I don't shun the computer totally though - everything is scanned in and electronically sent - as I'm sure most artists do nowadays... and there are a few other little things I use it for as detailed in my next paragraph...

As I said in my introduction - let me talk about these other pages here. I've included these to show sometimes I don't just rely on the The Walking Dead approach - sometimes things can get a bit more complicated! First we have the "Breath Of The Wendigo" pages.

Breath of the Wendigo

Breath Of The Wendigo is my first European graphic album [it should be out before Christmas and is published by French publisher Soleil]. French [since that comprises the "bulk" of the Euro industry] comics tend to be much more detailed and more panel heavy. Consequentially I decided to do detailed thumbnails - to work out the panel arrangement and to place the speech balloons. It's the first time I've hand drawn the speech balloons directly onto the art board - so I needed to get it right. I also used them instead of pencils to get page approval from Soleil - they were detailed enough. So it's interesting to compare and contrast the very open and loose thumbnails with the obviously much tighter finished art... and, even though the finished page is better, there's something about the thumbnails - a kind of naturalness - that I really like about them and I can never capture in the end result.

Breath of the Wendigo

The other example here is a page from Codeflesh. Image are collecting the original run in colour and Joe Casey and myself decided to do an extra 12 pages to make it a bit more special. I started printing out certain backgrounds [photographs, screen grabs etc] in blue line directly onto the art board with Breath Of The Wendigo - just to give it that extra element of realism and I thought I'd continue it with Codeflesh, since it's another heavily realistic book which requires heavy reference. This blue line page from Codeflesh [as of writing, I haven't even inked it yet] is an extreme example of this. I don't normally have so many elements on one page like this - it was just the way it worked out - but, I thought it'd be interesting to see the beginnings of this type of page and how eventually the inks will change all the initial blue line printouts.


I hope my ramblings have provided an insight into how I work. Sometimes I find it hard to talk about this type of thing because it all comes quite naturally to me - it's very intuitive - as I think it would be to most artists in this field. Plus the fact that I've been doing it professionally for 15 years must count for something!

Anyway - if anyone is interested in seeing more of my work beyond The Walking Dead - please pop by my website - - where you can feast your eyes on a lot of my professional output [The Walking Dead included] plus a lot of interesting "other" stuff.

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