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christmas tara

Sample Pages: Roberta's Space Adventure!

Posted on 2008.10.22 at 13:01
I finally got permission to post these! Below are three pages from a project that kept me busy all last summer: a 40-page educational graphic novel about the Canadian Astronauts called Roberta's Space Adventure! It's part of the Grade 6 space book club unit Mission: Space in the Moving Up with Literacy Place program by Scholastic Education Canada.

There are no words because the bubbles and text were all added by Scholastic's in-house designers. (They discouraged my usual hand-lettering, because of worries that the text would need last-minute changes. Getting all the text just right is a big deal when you're doing something for a literacy program!) With the tight deadlines I was grateful not to have to worry about that, but it meant that the balloon shape and placement was out of my hands (though I made suggestions in the pencil stage), which can be a bit stressful when you're used to doing it all yourself!

In some ways it was easier to draw this stuff than Galaxion, because I had lots of reference photos to draw from. But that also meant I couldn't just fudge it the way I'm used to doing! That's Canada's first astronaut, Marc Garnaeu, in the last panel. (He's retired as an astronaut, but after the recent election is now an MP in Quebec! After having read all about his career, I would've voted for him, too.) This flight was pre-Challenger, which is why they're wearing the flimsy blue jumpers instead of the more safety-conscious bulky bright orange flight suits they now wear for launches and re-entries.

The ISS and Space Shuttle. It took me awhile to find a good reference photo of the shuttle docked to the station, I guess because most images we see are either taken from the shuttle or the ISS! Anyway, the Canadian astronaut featured on this page is Chris Hadfield.

Here the two main characters are playing around in a simulation of the Spacelab, which was a reusable laboratory carried in the cargo bay of the Shuttle. I'm trying not to worry too much about how much the colours will change from my computer screen to the final print (I worked in CMYK, so it shouldn't be a total disaster), but I can't help but notice that the colours on this shrunk-down page seem a bit off, to me...

According to my editor the pages have been shipped off to the printer, and we should be seeing the book sometime in the Winter. The website says January, so I guess I can hope for that. Now all I have to do is convince all the elementary schools in Canada that they need to order it, so the program will be a phenomenal success and Scholastic will ask me back to do more! So please spread the word!

EDIT: I just learned that some browsers have trouble with CMYK files. I've converted the images to RGB and reloaded them, and hopefully everyone can see them now! Oh, and as a side bonus, the colour weirdness that was going on in the last image is solved. Still worried about what will happen on the printed page, though. :-P


Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at 2008-10-22 17:47 (UTC) (Link)
Getting red X's.
Obscure Dragon
dragonluk at 2008-10-22 17:51 (UTC) (Link)
Ditto. I want to see!
ttallan at 2008-10-22 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
Well, drat. How come I can see them fine? Thanks for letting me know. I'll see what I can do...
dltallan at 2008-10-22 18:10 (UTC) (Link)
I can see them fine on my work computer. What's the URL associated with the red "x"? (You can usually find it by right clicking on it on a Windows machine or control-clicking on it on a Mac.)

The URLs for the graphics I am seeing are:
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at 2008-10-22 18:16 (UTC) (Link)
I get the following message, for instance: The image “http://www.galaxioncomics.com/RSA17-colour.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
dltallan at 2008-10-22 18:35 (UTC) (Link)
The problem appears to be CMYK jpgs. Some browsers can handle them; some can't. Tara is re-saving as RBG and uploading them, so they should work for everyone soon.
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at 2008-10-22 19:13 (UTC) (Link)
Zandarin's ancestor!
ttallan at 2008-10-22 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
And Fusella's? :-D
(Deleted comment)
ttallan at 2008-10-22 22:13 (UTC) (Link)
It won't even be available in the bookclubs, at least for the time being. It's being sold as part of a teaching unit for schools, of the sort where each kid in the class gets a copy to read. But the cool thing is, all eight books in the unit are graphic novels!
Maelie | Lynn
maelie at 2008-10-22 22:12 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, that's incredible, Tara! Congrats! And the pages look gorgeous!
ttallan at 2008-10-22 22:16 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! This was my first major effort with digital colouring, so it was kind of scary at times! ;-)
Maelie | Lynn
maelie at 2008-10-22 22:18 (UTC) (Link)
For a first, you certainly nailed it! :)
(Deleted comment)
ttallan at 2008-10-23 01:12 (UTC) (Link)
T'anks! This project was right up my alley, and I had a lot of fun with it. But it's also true that a nice paycheque is a great motivational force. ;-)

But, aheh, please feel free to mention the program to any principals or any grade 6 teachers you may know...!
pyrateanny at 2008-10-23 02:36 (UTC) (Link)
Looks great, Tara! What a productive summer you've had!

We never had educational materials that were this much fun when I was in grade 6!

Cheers, Jan (that pirate-obsessed dancer you know)
ttallan at 2008-10-23 14:13 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's pretty amazing to see the teachers and librarians start to get on board with comics and graphic novels over the past decade. Makes me feel that maybe getting into comics wasn't so crazy after all!

So can I call you Pyrate Anny from now on? ;-D
(Deleted comment)
ttallan at 2008-10-23 14:17 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I now have a deep, deep respect for the webcartoonists out there who colour all their pages, several times a week. Ugh.
vonandmoggy at 2008-10-23 14:05 (UTC) (Link)
That's looking nice and sharp. Your work takes colour very well. :)

ttallan at 2008-10-23 14:27 (UTC) (Link)
I think I inked a little differently than I normally would, knowing I'd have to colour it. Not as many spot blacks, for example, since I knew I'd get a lot of the depth out of the colour. I tried leaving out some of those spot blacks in early pages of Galaxion, thinking that one day it might get coloured, but I eventually gave up and started blacking in things like the stripes on the uniforms. I can't see myself ever colouring Galaxion (unless someone waves a lot of money at me!).
vonandmoggy at 2008-10-23 14:52 (UTC) (Link)
I meant to ask you earlier if that colouring tip sheet every helped out. No worries, of course, if it was useless. I was just more curious than anything else! :)

I actually like how colour works with spot blacks (say Mac Raboy's Captain Marvel Jr.). I find things are richer and deeper with strong blacks and colour working together. One of the things I really hate about what's happened to colouring in comics over the past 10 or 15 years is the disappearance of the art of inking and how colouring has become it's replacement (All-Star Superman being an excellent example of what I'm talking about). It makes me cranky.

I've just finished adding all kinds of spot blacks to the road to god knows... to help make it stronger (plus a full re-lettering - wee! It's been a fun fall).

ttallan at 2008-10-23 15:00 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah! I should've thanked you, but I was too caught up in all-night colouring. :-P I remember the tip about giving each wall in a room a different tone was something that I found useful. It wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise, and it makes a big difference!
Sean Willard
lignamorren at 2008-10-28 15:39 (UTC) (Link)
Awesome! I wonder if there will be some way for us non-Canadian non-educational types to order a copy?

Couple geeky questions: I wonder about those helmets with the flimsy blue jumpsuits. It makes sense with the big orange suits because they're really pressure suits; but I suspect that with the blue jumpers they would have just worn something like the lightweight cloth "Snoopy cap" rather than what looks like a full pressure helmet. Also, the Spacelab simulation scene confuses me. It looks like they're in zero G. Is it a mockup being flown in the Vomit Comet or something? And those are very civilian clothes to be wearing even in a simulator. (But I'll happily chalk that one up to artistic license -- they are cool clothes.)
ttallan at 2008-10-28 16:06 (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, I don't know how I might be able to get copies to casual readers, since (I think) because it isn't for retail sale, I won't be able to sell it, either. I'll try to work something out for people who are interested. :-)

Here is one of the reference photos, from NASA's collection, that I used for the helmets that went with the blue jumpers. I didn't really capture the helmet accurately, but more or less.

The third page is a little confusing, out of context! The framework of the story is a science fiction adventure, with two Canadian kids from the future learning about astronauts of the past. The simulation they're in, on that page, is more like a holodeck simulation, where everything around them floats like it would in microgravity, but the kids don't. It makes more sense when you read the whole story! ;-)
Sean Willard
lignamorren at 2008-10-28 16:55 (UTC) (Link)
I see! It all makes sense. It looks a lot like a motorcycle helmet; possibly more for impact protection than anything else. ... Wikipedia's "flight suit" page calls it an "altitude helmet".

Oh, here's a great reference! Scroll down about 3/4 to the end, or search for "NASA LEH helmet".

And I like the holodeck explanation :) I had actually wondered why the kids weren't really using the footstraps but weren't floating around; but I've been watching a lot of Gundam lately, where people on spacecraft stand erect on the deck but float around when it suits them. Magnetic shoes, presumably, and ignorance of the effort it takes to stretch out straight when balancing against gravity isn't making it necessary.
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