"The best thing I can do as the writer, is listen," said M. Zachary Sherman. "Most of the story ideas come from the Soldier’s themselves, so many of the situations we have in the comic are based on some semblance of a real event. There’s a lot more hair-raising action and adventure out there than most people realize."
Once the idea has been approved by the Army, Sherman goes to the script portion of the writing and lays out the blueprint for the entire story. Here, plot, characters and dialog are created to move the story forward. The Army team has active Soldiers (Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs) who ensure that every detail is authentic from the units the Soldiers are attached to and their command structure, to weapons and technology, to Army vocabulary and procedure. Sherman writes in a "script style". This means he actually breaks down the action on the page for the artist panel-by-panel (the individual pictures that combine to tell the story), and explains the action and events that take place within each panel. Once this has been approved by the SME and Army team, the script is sent to the Penciler for layouts to begin.
"Zack has a very visual and cinematic quality to his writing," said Scott R. Brooks. "He and I discuss the pages in-depth before we start laying pencil to paper and really try to capture the drama and emotion, as well as the action, of a scene."
Scott will do a series of rough sketches called a layout to let the Army editorial staff know exactly what camera angles and panel placement he's going to use to best convey the story. All of the kinks in the story flow are solved here, since it’s easy and quick to re-sketch a layout due to their low level detail. Everything from camera placement for the most extreme visual to placement of characters in the room are worked out here, and once that is approved, he will take the art process to the next step - Pencils.
After the layouts have been approved, Scott moves onto the pencils for the page, fleshing out details for environments, weapons and equipment, and character likenesses. This is where Scott is able to bring the page to life.
"We do everything we can to get the tech and gear correct, by referencing images and sometimes doing photo shoots of guys in their equipment just so Scott can get everything right," said Sherman. "It's at this stage that the SMEs go through the art to make sure everything is visually authentic. We take into consideration every single detail like correct uniforms, their tactical movements, the vehicles and equipment, and even hand placement when holding an M4. We want it to be as close to reality as any comic has ever been." Every technical detail is scrutinized and once the Pencils are final, they move over to the Colorist.
The color stage is where J. Brown brings the characters and environments to life by his proficient use of light, shadow and color. Here the environments are lit for time of day, weather, and indoor or outdoor conditions. External light sources are given their glow, and hues and colors are adjusted for intensity. Jim considers if the light source is direct or reflected causing it to pick up the color of the reflecting surface. Important items or actions in a panel are accentuated with pattern and color to bring the reader’s attention to them. From adding muzzle flashes, glows to explosions, and even the camouflage pattern on each of the Soldier's uniforms, the color stage adds a level of detail that further enhances the finished artwork. As a final touch, a bit of color desaturation is added to the page, where we mute the overall color, to give it more of a realistic "used" and gritty military look.
Finally, the word balloons are added and the text is laid. The balloon placement is key, and like the art, it must allow the reader's eye to seamlessly flow from one part of the story to the next. Marshall Dillon is a master at that process. From creating the regular dialog balloons to explosions and radio bursts, Marshall draws the balloon to indicate the types of speech patterns each line of dialog or effect needs. This is also the stage where the sound effects the writer had so much fun typing are inserted into the artwork.
An accomplished writer, M. Zachary Sherman has penned comic scripts for Marvel, Radical, Image, and Dark Horse. He is currently working on the America’s Army comic series and video game as well as a novel based on the Hawken universe for Meteor Entertainment.
Sherman attributes his visual writing style to having worked as a Digital Effects Artist for over a decade at such companies as Industrial Light and Magic on films like the new Star Wars trilogy, the Pirates of the Caribbean films and The Chronicles of Narnia. Besides comics, Sherman’s work has encompassed multiple platforms and genres, ranging from scripts for video games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown for 2K Games, Rogue Warrior and SAW for Zombie Studios, to feature films and commercial projects for many major motion picture producers and studios.
For America’s Army, Sherman calls upon his military background as a United States Marine to put a level of realism into the mix of operational mystery and combat action.
Air Force brat, life-long comic book reader and collector, and graduate of the University of Georgia's graphics program, Scott R. Brooks is a professional graphic designer and illustrator. Most of his professional career has been spent doing design, illustration and storyboard work for a variety of publishers, design firms and advertising agencies. His client list includes Arby's, Bennett Kuhn Varner, Coca-Cola, Equifax, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Highlights for Children, McGraw-Hill, and Round 2 Corp.
A relative newcomer to the professional world of comics, Brooks worked on Moonstone Comics' Captain Action and Phantom: Generations titles before joining the America's Army team as an illustrator.
He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and two children.
In his pre-comics life, Jim has been a restaurant cook, adolescent counselor and a graphic designer. In the early 90's, he took his life-long love of comics and decided to pursue a career in the business, focusing on coloring.
Since 1993, he’s colored for companies such as Dark Horse, Harris, Valiant, Milestone/DC, Motown, Defiant, Disney, Image, Marvel, IDW and other numerous independent publishers. Jim’s credits include Weapon X: First Class, Secret Invasion, Thunderbolts and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes for Marvel, as well as Transformers, Star Trek and Cobra Command for IDW. In addition to America’s Army, Jim is currently coloring GI Joe: A Real American Hero for IDW Publishing.
Working in the comic industry since 1994, Marshall Dillon has served as Managing Editor for Devil's Due Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Speakeasy Comics, Ice Kunion, and Udon Comics. Since 2006 he has served as letterer for many comics and manga from a variety of publishers and has worked with telecom and videogame companies to create comics to promote their products and services.