Volume 2 Chapter 4 notes

Page 1
Panel 4

This was literally one of the first panels I ever thought of for Zeros – the idea of a character saying they’re bored while there’s all this superhuman activity behind them.
Among the people you can see flying behind Mo are a Bat guy, a Monk guy, a couple of Lady Gagas, a couple of Tori Amos’s (a mermaid from Silent All These Years and Pele from Boys for Pele), Doctor Manhattan from the Watchmen, and a couple of characters from my friend Grant Springford’s comic the East End Sentinels.
Adding the two captions at the bottom was a last minute thing, so that readers knew exactly what was going on.

When I’m drawing, I often pop the page’s dialogue on the page so I can easily refer to what’s happening (see below).

Page 2
Panel 7
– for panels like this I tend to work on them over the course of a few months, just adding a bit at a time – pencils for a character, inks and then colours – otherwise I’d probably go mad if I drew it all in a day!

Page 3
The bottom two panels refer to an event from volume 1 – the revelation about the water.

For set-ups like this, where the characters are sitting in a certain order, I usually get a pic of the Zeros cast onto the drawing page, as it reminds me of who I’m writing about (12 characters is a lot to remember!), and for this I kept a key of where they were sitting – although it still includes ‘Hat’ the new character who was left on the cutting room floor.

Page 4
I was drawing this chapter when I was watching Normal People – a really good BBC romantic drama. It’s such a relatively simple story but it’s so powerful and effective. There are so many intense moments in it and I wanted to capture that in the way Sara and Ray look at each other – they have a complex history that is yet to be explored.

Page 5
Panel 6
It’s practically impossible to see, but Mo’s banknote shows who the current queen now is.

For no reason whatsoever, I decided to make the staff in this chemists look like Dr Bunsen and Meep from the Muppet Show (I love that show lol). 

Page 6
This really is what I want Zeros to be all about. It will have epic moments but I also want some interesting character moments, like Mo dyeing her hair here to make herself feel powerful again.

Volume 2 chapter 3 notes

I had a lot of fun with this chapter. I liked how organically it came together. I knew I needed chapter 2 to finish with Mo leaving the party early, but I didn’t know why she was leaving. initially, she just got overwhelmed and left. And then I was like, well I need to go to Courtney next, so there was my answer. Sometimes I can get stuck writing a story and it forces me to think about how to move the story on – and it can be really annoying – but the solution is usually pretty obvious and satisfying.

Courtney is a lot of fun to draw with the big eyes and weird hair, and it was fun to come up with a more grown-up version of her for volume 2.

Page 1, panel 2 and Page 2, panel 6
What’s Courtney eating in panel 2? Hmm, remember her Nana Biscuits in Volume 1?

Page 5, panel 3
Remember those guys that came down from the sky in the Vol 1 epilogue? 

Page 6, panel 2
Psimon was seen in the Mind Class in Volume 1.

Here’s a full pic of Nana Biscuits and Courtney – you can see it in the background a little bit, behind the door. (I flipped it so you can actually see Nana).

Nana Biscuits was inspired by, well, every good nan really. My nans always had biscuits or chocolates in a tin when I’d go and visit them when I was tiny. I thought it would be a really fun power for Courtney’s nan to have the power to actually create biscuits.

Here are this chapter’s thumbnails.

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Zeros volume 2, chapter 2 notes

Page 1
This first page – the coma timeline page – was something I toyed with for a while and it could have appeared at the start of chapter 1, really.
I eventually realised that it slotted in well here. 
In panels 1 and 8, you can see how Josh/Toon stuck by Mo’s side; in panel 4, you can see Bubble, Speck and Sunshine checking in on her; in panel 5 you can see Mo’s parents and her little sisters; In panel 6 you can see the World War that happened, and in the following panel you can se the city being rebuilt.
You can’t see the full 10-year coma here – I left a couple of years out so it all fit on the page!
This page took ages to draw – I just drew a little bit each day over a few months.
Oh finally, look carefully in panel 1 – there’s an extra little detail there. Think about what happened at the end of Volume 1.  😉

Page 2
Originally, there was a brand new main character in this panel. I had decided that after Courtney left Class O in volume 1, she was replaced by a lad called ‘Hat’ who had teleportation powers. He’s not a new character – he appeared in Volume 1 as part of the Misc Class. Hat was going to be a big part of Chapter 11 too – but that’s a story for later. But the new character was bugging me and didn’t feel right – and I was struggling with his part of the story, for some reason. And then I thought “okay, how would this work if he wasn’t a main character?” It was a big realisation that I didn’t need him, and a relief too, as he was cluttering things up a bit. It completely opened things up for some of the other characters – Yuki, Rex and Invisigirl – who I was struggling to come up with stories for. By losing Hat as a main character, it made it easier to make the other characters work better.
I do feel guilty though, as Hat is based on a good friend of mine!
Here’s a rough original version of this page featuring Hat – for a long time, this was the final version. You can see how in the original Hat version, the other characters look a bit smaller/younger – I realised I had to make them look older/bigger.

Page 6
Originally, Will was going to be mute – you’ll get to know him more as the chapters progress and you’ll get to know what he’s been through. He was going to communicate with sign language and the other characters – especially Sara – would communicate with him that way too. I eventually decided that it wouldn’t work very well visually so I went with a different idea for him instead – hopefully it’ll become more evident soon.

Here are the layouts for these pages. I often paste a guide onto a page I’m working on so I don’t forget to add a character in and I can get the colours right.
I can’t find the layout for page 3. 😀

As a bonus, I’ve added a cover rough too – the full pic of the chapter two opener, which I used as the cover for the digital issue collection.

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Volume 2, Chapter 1 notes

Starting work on Volume 2
Following a break after finishing Volume 1, I started volume 2 back in November 2019 and worked on it almost every day throughout 2020. From March 2020, I was working from home because of the pandemic, so that gave me a little bit of extra time each day to draw (ie, no commuting and no going out!). Most days, I just spend an hour in the evening (after work) on Zeros and I just tend to draw some elements for a couple of the pages of some of the chapters. It’s just a slow, steady progress rather than like drawing whole pages in an evening. Parts of this chapter were drawn in the Philippines (I went there for a couple of weeks in late Jan/early Feb 2020), and also Bognor Regis and Bournemouth (when the lockdown was eased off slightly in the Summer, so I managed to escape!).

Starting Chapter 1
I literally had no idea how to start Chapter 1 so that slowed me down quite a lot! You’re faced with the dilemma of how much to put into the intro chapter – whether to keep it relatively simple or put a load of info in there.
At some point along the way, I decided to model it on an ingenious Daniel Clowes story called ‘The Walk’ (for adults) where someone just literally walks around a few streets (it’s very well written). I’ve always, always wanted to do a story like that, so this is my take.
I wanted to keep Mo’s identity a secret until the end of the chapter and I wanted to keep elements of the superhuman world hidden – but hinted at – until the splash page. I went back and forth for a while on Mo’s current status – whether she was blind or in a wheelchair – but the eventual conclusion was pretty obvious (and having an unpowered person in a world where everyone has powers was something I’d thought about for a story a very long time ago). (Plus, drawing a wheelchair is hard!)
Drawing the cast in one of the final panels was difficult at first – I kept drawing them almost like kids and I struggled to decide how an 18 year old would be drawn. In the end, I realised that they should just look like my other O Men and Spandex characters but look fresher with less wrinkles!

Some more specific notes:

Page 1
Panel 1 – hmm, do you remember what word volume 1 started with?
Panel 2 – note that the kids have no powers here in the photo, back when they really were ‘Zeros’.
Panels 5 and 6 – I wanted to keep it a secret as long as possible that the whole world was populated by superhumans (in case you were new to the series or had forgotten), so I hid Mo’s parents’ superhair in the photo and when the mum appears in panel 6.

Page 2
I still haven’t revealed that the world is a superhuman one, but you can see hints of it in panels 4 and 5, plus Josh does look like his cartoon self.

Page 3
A lot of the characters here appeared in the first splash page of Volume 1. The street is semi-based on a street in Thornton Heath, a place not far from where I live.

Page 4 
Panel 2 – Marinder Kaur is a character from my O Men comic. She had healing powers and was codenamed Shine.
Some people who look like the original X-Men are flying next to the hospital.

Page 6
This was the first page I drew of Volume 2!

Layouts:
Here’s a batch of thumbnails for this chapter (I usually have about 2 or 3 attempts at this).
The original plan was to kick off the series with Mr Kit on the TV – but I thought that would set the tone for the series in an odd way.
You can see some mini sketches of different ideas for Josh’s hair-style.