Post written by Lead Artist and Zebrafish SPF 40 illustrator Renee Kurilla. The summer-y sequel to FableVision's first graphic novel, Zebrafish, hit bookshelves one June 4, 2013. It's called SPF 40! I'm particularly excited about this one because in the eight or so months I worked on it, I grew so much as an artist and had way too much fun doing it. In this blog post, I want to share a little bit of my process with you and give you a sneak peek into the world of SPF 40.

To celebrate SPF 40's release, we're doing something awesome: a giveaway! Starting this week, retweet any link to this blog post from FableVision Studios' Twitter account @FVStudioBoston, and be sure you're following us! Do those two things and you'll be entered to win a free copy of Zebrafish SPF 40 that's signed by FableVision founder Peter H. Reynolds and myself, with an original doodle inside the cover just for you! The contest ends June 21st, so don't miss out.

A portion of the book's proceeds will go to the Boston Children's Hospital. Both Zebrafish books include one of the main characters dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up with a disease, whether it be Leukemia, Asthma, or Diabetes. The Darwin quote on page one of SPF 40 hints at that:

"In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too), those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Writer, Sharon Emerson, brilliantly compares the group of kids to a flock of just-hatched sea turtles on the sand, sliding towards the ocean. They are strong, determined, and pretty great role models, too! In the first book, we introduced you to the main characters: Plinko, Jay, Tanya, Walt, Vita, and Gwen. In SPF 40, we follow the same characters, plus two: Scott Otto and Coley Greenling (both age 11). And it's the best time to be a kid: SUMMERTIME! Tanya and Plinko venture to Camp Stickleback to be camp counselors, while Vita, Jay, and Walt stay home and revive a Book Mobile. (Spolier Alert!) To wanna-be-rock-star Vita, that seems like a complete waste of time, but of course something happens to make her rethink her negative thoughts. To prepare for all things Summer Camp, I re-watched and listened to episodes of Salute Your Shorts (a la 1990's Nickelodeon). The final character of Scott Otto is actually based on "Sponge" from the show! Here are a few character iterations I went through before deciding what they would look like:

As someone who never went to this type of summer camp, watching Salute Your Shorts was an ideal way for me to visualize how Camp Stickleback would be laid out. Here are a few concept sketches I drew of the camp that never made it into the book:

Here are a few more progress images: Sketch, Ink, Color.

I couldn't have done it all by myself. Lots of the inking and coloring was helped along by FableVision's Lead Animator, Didi Hatcher (who also animated the Zebrafish Webisodes back in 2008). Animator, Hannah O'Neal and many of our summer interns in 2011 were colorists as well. Lead Artist, Keith Zulawnik, added some lighting flare to the important pages and once again acted as Walt Burbot for the Caduceus scenes. Ellen Crenshaw, also lended some of her top-notch comics knowledge to storyboards for a few chapters. Here's a brief look at some of the interior pages:

Before we settled on a cover, Designer, Sonia Chaghatzbanian (from Simon & Schuster) and I went through about a million iterations!

After all of the planning and sketching, SPF 40 is out in the wild. You can find it at your local bookstore and I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed drawing it!

Remember, be sure to follow and retweet any link from the @FVStudioBoston Twitter account to this blog post for a chance to win a signed and doodled copy of Zebrafish SPF 40! Contest ends June 21st.