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Comics artist Dean Trippe talks about his favorite books

Superhero comics aren't as limited as you might think. In this interview, Dean Trippe talks about superhero comics, including his online comic Butterfly about a crime fighter’s sidekick’s sidekick. Plus he gives some good reading tips.

To see Dean Trippe’s artwork, visit www.tencentticker.com.

READERSVOICE.COM: Firstly could you recommend a few of the latest comics around, whether anthologies or graphic novels or anything else?

DEAN TRIPPE: Sure. For fun indie comics, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series has been excellent from the beginning.

I also never miss a chance to recommend the excellent themed anthologies from AdHouse Books from the last few years, entitled Project: Telstar, Project: Superior, and Project: Romantic.

For big mainstream series, I’ve gotta say I’m a big fan of All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant. It’s a bit of a throwback to the Silver Age era of superhero comics, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, which were made to be fun and exciting through and through.

Also, Joss Whedon (of Buffy and Serenity fame) has been having an incredible arc on Astonishing X-Men with artist John Cassaday.

RV: Your comic Butterfly takes the superhero genre into new territory with its humor and charm. What other directions do you think superhero comics could go?

DT: Well, superhero comics are far less limited than most people think. Being the most successful genre within the American comics industry has not stopped its creators from taking it in various directions. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about mainstream comics, even when speaking specifically about one character.

Batman, for example, has been portrayed as a gun-toting vigilante, a tights-wearing parody of the genre, a grizzled political terrorist, and a caring patriarch of a superhero legacy, all with varying visual and literary styles.

And that’s just Batman. These heroic icons have been molded, and grown stronger and more enduring since their creation in the first half of the last century, thanks to the continuing efforts of literally thousands of story- tellers.

Superheroes are the culmination of the hero myths throughout human history, having gained more cultural relevance, emotional resonance, and stronger morality than their predecessors.

RV: Your web comic Butterfly has great technical skill. Could you walk through the steps to create your latest installment for Butterfly?

DT: Unlike some of my work, Butterfly is created in a process that is entirely digital. I have a comic strip template I’ve created that I can adjust for panel sizes depending on the story.

I usually start with just the gist of the strip, and get right into the ‘pencilling’ which I do in gray on a layer in Photoshop. On another layer I draw the final black lines more carefully, and then I add the lettering and grayscales on another layer. The whole process takes a few hours. I reduce the image to web-format and upload it to the Butterfly site.

RV: You’ve stressed the importance of lettering technique on your website. Can you talk a bit about how you letter your comics?

DT: Well, as I noted above, my process for lettering is digital. I do my lettering in Photoshop. I use a font created by my friend, a wonderful French comics artist, named Bannister. I’m fairly particular about the size and shape of word balloons, and I attempt to make the whole lettering bit look as hand-drawn as possible.

RV: What should people watch when inking?

DT: I ‘ink’ Butterfly using my Wacom tablet, but I’ve tried to match the settings so that I feel as though I’m using a brush, which is where I feel most comfortable when working on paper.

It’s hard to say precisely what to watch, I guess, but hesitation comes through in the work. I aim to make my lines look confident, if that makes any sense.

I’m only an intermediate inker at best, but I try to vary my line width in comfortable, quick, and controlled ways.

RV: What sorts of pictures are in your sketchbook? Do you go out and sketch people?

DT: Sometimes. Because I’m a freelancer, I’m typically in the middle of at least a dozen projects at any given time, though, so I tend to sketch little ideas or character studies for whichever one’s on my mind at the time. I draw as much as I can every day.

RV: How many hours a week would you spend drawing, either sketches or comics for the web or other projects?

DT: Well, I tend to draw between four and six hours a day depending on non-drawing projects or schoolwork or whatever else I’m supposed to get done that day, and since I don’t really take days off, it’s pretty much a full-time job.

RV: How did you start doing commissions for people and what sorts of illustrations do people commission you to do?

DT: I suppose I got started when someone emailed me and asked if I do commissions. Mostly people ask for simple shots of single superheroes, though lately I’ve been getting asked to do a lot of team shots, which are harder but really enjoyable.

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