Book of Darkness

Book of Darkness
Maybe it would be fun to read this comic, like any ghost story, at night. Under the covers with a flashlight. I love ghost stories, especially on crisp October nights.

This comic came about as a submission for Illustration Friday‘s topic of the week, “book.” Nick Marsh wrote a very enjoyable, spooky bonus story for backers of the fundraiser to print “The Express Diaries,” called, “The Ausperg Affair.” The story mentions a poor man whose love for his dead wife sends him into the occult and madness. Nick’s good Cthuluery inspired this comic.

(Oh, I’m dropping down to M-W-F comics. Going to use the extra time to improve the drawings and work on a larger project.)

Read more if you’d like to see some behind the scenes sketches and videos for “Book of Darkness.”

Behind the scenes

Here’s a bit more about the process I used to make this comic.



  • 2H and HB pencils, Lead holder with HB lead
  • Kneaded and plastic erasers
  • Sketch pad

First, I wrote it with a rough drawing in my sketchbook. I knew how I wanted it to end, so I started with the 4th panel … well, let’s watch, shall we?

You can see from all the erasing and smudging that several of the drawings were a struggle. The drawing changed quite a bit from what you see in the video, too, especially panel 3. Here’s the final rough sketch:

Book of Darkness - Rough



  • Hunt 101 Nib and nib holder
  • Higgins black magic india ink
  • Fluid Easy-block watercolor paper

I lightly redrew the comic on a watercolor block in 2H pencil. (See “Painting” below.) This gave me a chance to correct some of the drawing, especially the acting going on in panel 3.

Then, I redrew the comic in ink, choosing to use a nib pen instead of my trusty Lamy Safari fountain pen. I like the accidental lines I got, but I made a mistake thinking I could letter the comic with a nib pen. I ended up redoing the word balloons on bristol board with the Lamy and cutting them out and pasting them on. Live and learn.



  • Winsor Newton permanent masking medium
  • WN Cottman ultramarine blue and burnt umber watercolor
  • Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes, nos. 1 & 2
  • Painter’s blue masking tape

I’ve been making my comics in my sketchbook for the past month. I like the idea of having them all in one place, and in the beginning, the low quality of the paper didn’t matter because I wasn’t painting as much. I’ve been enjoying the watercolor phase, though, and this old sketchbook paper doesn’t hold up too well. The paper buckles and I usually leave the sketchbook under a pile of heavy books all day to try to flatten it out.

I recently bought a Fluid watercolor paper block, not too expensive and does the trick. Blocks are like pads of paper but are glued on the edges. This way you don’t have to stretch or wet the paper and it keeps the paper from buckling.

Here’s a look at painting the 2nd panel in octuple time.


Panel 1: A man sits at his desk, reading a large book. A woman sits on a couch behind him. “At last, I have acquired the medieval tome, Libre Tenebrae,” he says.

Panel 2: “I believe it can tell me the secret to making you well again. However …” The woman walks by him.

Panel 3: The man studies the book. “Curious. A riveted brazen head … baptized in burning blood … Deep things. Deep friends.”

Panel 4: The man looks up from his study. “You’re quiet tonight, my darling. Is anything the matter?” He’s talking to the corpse of his wife.


  1. Reply October 1, 2012

    Great illustration and wonderful post! I love the behind the scenes portion!

    • Reply
      Eric M Smith October 1, 2012

      Thanks so much, Hannah. I always like seeing people’s processes so I was itching to share some of my own. I’m glad you stopped by.

  2. Reply
    Ronin Densho October 1, 2012

    Very cool.

  3. Reply
    Robb October 1, 2012

    Eric, that is a creepy little cartoon. Makes me think of the end of the Psycho movie. I love your art work!


    Sent from my iPad

    • Reply
      Eric M Smith October 1, 2012

      Excellent! That’s high praise, Barb. I can totally see the similarities.

  4. Reply
    Dan October 1, 2012

    Good grief this is good stuff! By all the elder ones tentacled and bloated souls…I seem to have lost my bottom jaw as it dropped out from the sight of such work! I seriously would buy a print of this piece. Would love to hang it on the wall. Have you considered this? Or would you much rather donate such a piece or print to a worthy cause, say, the “I have a friend who likes my artwork and has an empty space on his office wall that this artwork would look good on” charitable fund? Don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I can put you in contact with the admins there. Just a thought. ;)

  5. Reply
    Eric M Smith October 2, 2012

    Dan, thanks so much for the encouraging comment, and in Lovecraftian prose, no less! I have thought a little bit about prints, but I don’t really know what comics people would want in that form. Maybe this one will do, I don’t know. I certainly would donate to your very worthy cause, but you don’t want this original piece. It’s a big carved up mess with horrible lettering and it smells like pickled ocra. :) Thanks again, old friend.

  6. Reply
    S. D. Browne October 2, 2012

    Wow, your work is amazing! I’m going to devour your site now!! Keep it up!

    • Reply
      Eric M Smith October 3, 2012

      Thanks very much! Please take all you want, (but eat all you take.)

  7. Reply

    […] Check out this spooky ghost story here:¬† […]

  8. Reply
    matt duncan September 17, 2013


    Caught this post looking for watercolour technique. I laughed actually, because i did the same thing, trying to letter with a dip pen, and i’m going to have to do the same thing – cover it up with other letters, basically. I like the art of this story, but don’t quite understand what’s going on. Do you think you could do some longer stories like this. I think they’d be cool. Have you seen Bestiare Amoreux by Joann Sfar? Probably up your street, artistically. Keep up the good work. More process posts, please.

    Matt, UK

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