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> Smallville
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING PANEL
The creative minds behind ‘Smallville’s’ animated shorts talk about kicking their comics-honed talents into high gear

By Brian Warmoth

Posted April 24, 2007  11:00 AM

A fair number of kryptonite-spawned faces have invaded Clark Kent’s hometown in its six seasons of primetime television. Typical guest stars get super-strength, bug-like powers or other annoying party tricks. However, writer Stephan Nilson invaded “Smallville” last week with something completely different.

“Smallville” gazers who left their sofas for snacks during the mid-show commercial break Thursday night missed the first in a five-part series of animated shorts titled “Smallville Legends: Justice & Doom,” which the show commissioned to supplement the adventures of its burgeoning Justice Leaguers.

“Mark Warshaw, who is one of the producers for ‘Smallville,’ came up with the plot for it, and from there I was writing the scripts for all five episodes,” Nilson said. “It’s following what the Justice League characters [Green Arrow, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg] are doing outside of Smallville and Metropolis.”
 
Nilson, who is currently writing issues of Justice League Unlimited and Batman Strikes, stepped on to script the story with a team of artists including Steve Scott (Mystic Arcana: Magik, Marvel Adventures: Avengers). Both learned a few new creative moves to get their episodes together. The pace of the television schedule meant a few overnight deadlines, and the animated comic artwork meant both needed to latch onto new storytelling mindsets.

“It was weird because they were giving me the plots as they were filming and writing the story,” Nilson stated, pointing out the advantages of having the story already outlined. “I got to add the dialogue and my own flavor to the characters,” he explained.

Scott concurred. “There was a lot of crunch time,” he admitted. But the process opened his eyes to a whole new visual storytelling process. “A group called Motherland out of New York did the actual animation,” Scott outlined. “They sent me the script, and I would first draw it like you would a comic book. I did initial roughs and storyboards. From there the group at Motherland would pinpoint or highlight areas and say, ‘Draw this guy on a separate overlay and draw the background behind it.’”

 
Formats and space considerations for word balloons—important aspects of planning out paper comic panels—were still necessary to consider, but allowing multiple animated frames of motion for the characters gave Scott a new array of options. “You get to look at it and think in terms of those multiple images in the same frame,” the artist explained. “A lot of times we have to do a supplemental panel to do something like that in regular comics, but in this you can move things around as you see fit.

“It brought the artwork to life and was really cool. I’d never done anything like that before,” he said. “On wrap number five I got to draw all of the cool characters that are in ‘Smallville,’ including this new cast of the JLA—Cyborg and Green Arrow and such.”

Scott said the animated shorts are currently tagged to be included on Season 6’s DVD release. Getting his name on the show’s credits was just an added bonus.

“You’re drawing it, and even though you’re exhausted from all the other work you’re doing, you’re thinking in terms of, ‘Wow, there are going to be more people that see this than normally see my work, so I better be on my game,’” he said.

 
The above artwork comes from the first episode of "Smallville Legends: Justice & Doom" by artist Craig Rousseau.
 
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