Do you remember "A Spaceman Who Lived in Des Moines"? It's a children's picture book that we wrote and illustrated that came out last fall and it follows the adventures of a spaceman named Nitro Sock as he tries to figure out his place in the world while battling evil robots in beautiful downtown Des Moines. Doesn't ring a bell? What about this blog post we wrote that detailed how we made the book? Remember that?
Okay, WOW, guess not. Ahem, well, we've made another book called, "A Spaceman Who Saved Kansas City." Catchy title, huh? This time around Nitro Sock is just a spaceman trying to enjoy a beautiful day in Kansas City and a yummy sandwich from the Pigwich stand...when everything suddenly goes awry. Poor Nitro just can't catch a break! Luckily, he's resourceful enough to know what needs to be done. They don't let just anyone into spaceman school after all. In the end, good triumphs over evil and Nitro finally gets to finish his sandwich which was so rudely interrupted by those invaders from space. But how did he get there? How did he singlehandedly destroy a fleet of invaders and live to tell about it? You think it was because he had that rocket?! Heck no, it's because we wrote and drew it that way, silly!
From the start we knew we wanted to incorporate the rocket on top of the former TWA building in the Crossroads district at 18th and Baltimore (Conveniently located right next to our brand new Kansas City store!) into our story. It seemed like the perfect vehicle to get Nitro on his way and better yet, it was actually had something to do with outer space! We like to joke that the book wrote itself thanks to that little rocket. Lucky for us, the current occupants of the building, Barkley, were incredibly generous and gave us full access to building and rocket. From there, the story became about Nitro traveling around to different parts of KC looking at other modes of transportation so that he could get to space and stop the invaders, sort of a love letter to KC and all of it's great landmarks. So follow along below and observe how we took one of those landmarks and put it in the book. A little "behind the scenes" action never hurt anybody...
Below we have Mike's initial idea for an early scene that takes place on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins museum. Basically, Nitro approaches one of the shuttlecock statues hoping that it might be able to carry him to space. But alas, the shuttlecocks are pointed in the wrong direction. Rats!
So based on that, I make a rough sketch to see what it might look like. I'm just trying to establish the composition and figure out the placement of everything. You'll see the final version didn't stray too far from the sketch.
Next up we traveled to the site and took a few photos ourselves to help us with the sense of scale. The photos are also used to base the final art off of.
The final art! Using our house style of mostly straight lines and a minimal color palette, I illustrated everything in Photoshop on a Wacom tablet and formatted it for the book. All done!
So what do you think? Cool? Alright good. For a more in-depth look at what went in to the book's production, check out our "Making of...Des Moines" post. It's got more backstory on how Nitro was created and what really goes in to the art process.
That's it, everyone. Nitro will be showing up again soon, so keep your eyes peeled for a blue spaceman that doesn't talk very much! There's even a few rumors that he might appear in a graphic novel someday.