In the past we've talked to Editor, Paul Kaminski, and Writer, Ian Flynn about both the on-going Mega Man and Sonic series that Archie Comics has been publishing, but we didn't dig deep into the art of the characters themselves. Enter Ben Bates, penciller for the Mega Man and Sonic comics, who gave us a look at his work on previous issues, as well as some insight into just what goes into drawing Capcom's blue bomber.
MTV Geek: Where's the best place to start? Is it the character himself, or does it depend on what's happening the panel?
Ben Bates: I think it really depends on the panel. Sometimes you can just throw characters in and build a background around them. But, quite often I want the characters to have a strong continuity in between panels, especially if there is some kind of interesting action and they'll be moving around within a specified environment. In those instances it's best if I start by giving myself a rough sketch inside the panel, showing the lay of the land and where I think I want the characters to be. That'll give me the general perspective of the shot I want to achieve and I can keep refining from there.
Yeah, I think so. The character himself is fairly simple. He's got a lot of big shapes like his gloves and boots and a big round head. You can throw those down pretty quickly and have the character read as Mega Man. His overall detail is pretty minimal.
What is his most difficult feature?
It's easily Mega Man's helmet. He's got almost no detail in the rest of him, and then all the most difficult stuff is jam-packed into his head. He's got a bunch of weird and unique things like the cylinder shapes on the side of his head, and a rounded square and rectangle on the top. The cut of his face area pops out and around his cheek and then you've got his face which needs the right eyes and a little nose or its not Mega Man. You've got to know all the little details for these areas and they need to be in the right area. His head is hard to draw well!
Much, much easier to draw without his helmet.
What has been the most difficult panel?
Out of the four issues I pencilled I know exactly which panel was the hardest! In issue 10 Mega Man battles Crash Man, and the most difficult panel was panel 01 on page 14. Actually, it's that whole page, but panel 01 was where it had to start. I needed to figure out how this building way up in the sky that had tons of pipes and platforms winding and wrapping all around would converge on this single point. And then I needed to blow it up and make it fall through the sky! Twice!
I kept stressing out about how I would draw all those pipes and make it look like the video game, and how any of it would make sense in a 3d space! In the end, I simplified the number of pipes and literally drew and completed one panel at a time to handle the stress. I felt pretty happy with the results.
In the end I didn't even need to stress out about any of it, because all my drawing got covered up by sound effects anyway!
Was it difficult to figure out what to model him after (early Mega Man games vs. more modern ones)?
My personal choice wasn't hard, I believe that Capcom has already set down the ideal model of modern Mega Man in the art for games 9 and 10. It's the perfect balance of the original Inafune design and proportions and then mixed with his refined body as the series progressed. It's old and new at once.
I believe that any classic Mega Man needs to pull heavily from Inafune's original work. One of my favorite aspects of Capcom was the different art styles that their main artists would have.
I think what was difficult for me was to fight off how I identify with Mega Man, and adhere to strictly to the style developed for the comic.
How influential have Capcom artists been to your version of Mega Man?
Ha, Capcom should be the only influence for how to draw Mega Man!
I wouldn't change a single element. Mega Man is a perfect character to me. I'm often very attracted to designs that do more with less.
Are the other characters in the series easier or harder to draw than Mega Man?
I think easier for the most part. The main character has to be perfect every time, or its really obvious it's wrong. I feel like I'm still learning to draw Mega Man and hope to get him right more often in the future. I feel like there's a lot more leeway with anyone else.
Check out multiple versions of Ben Bates' art below
Mega Man Issue 9 Page 7 Layouts By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 9 Page 7 Pencils By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 11 Page 1 Layouts By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 11 Page 1 Pencils By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 12 Page 3 Layouts By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 12 Page 3 Pencils By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 15 Cover Art By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 15 Cover Pencils By Ben Bates
Mega Man Issue 15 Cover Final By Ben Bates