Spotlight on Ben Bates and Sonic the Hedgehog

Since the age of 9, Ben Bates has wanted to draw Sonic the Hedgehog. That dream’s come true as he’s just finished illustrating a two-issue story. It starts in Sonic the Hedgehog #217, published by Archie Comics.

Ben couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the job. It’s allowed him not only to fulfill his childhood dream, but to discover and refine his process of creating a monthly comic.

Let’s take a look at his drawing process with the first five pages of #217.

The first stage is creating rough layouts and thumbnails.

Here, you’ll see that the paper provided by Archie Comics has lines marked “Live”, “Crop”, and “Bleed”. Vital info like lettering, or any important action should be within the confines of the “Live” box.

At the “Crop” area, the printer will actually cut the paper for the final product, but the artist will nonetheless draw it all the way to the “Bleed” area.

At the top of page 1, the first two panels are drawn lower then the “Live” image area in order to make room for the opening text. In this case, the text will be an intro to bring new readers up to speed.

In this spread, the spaces between the characters were originally drawn very close together. However in the final version, Ben added some space between them so they wouldn’t get lost in the area where the comic is stapled.

You’ll see here in that word balloons have been sketched in. This might not be the letterer’s final placement, but Ben wants to ensure that there’s a workable flow to the page and that there’s room for all the dialogue.

Ben draws small “thumbnail” sketches then resizes them in Photoshop and prints them out onto the heavier sheets of paper he pencils on. Panel 2 was originally a large body shot of the character Bunnie hovering, but he decided to change it because it slowed the action down. The round inset panel feels more dynamic.

(Credit where it’s due: this tweak was suggested by Periscope’s Dustin Weaver, currently the artist of Marvel’s “SHIELD”.)

The conclusion to Ben’s story will run in issue #218. Be sure to grab a copy!
Ben Bates’s website.