Toronto Star: Heartstopper, a true crime graphic novel

Hearstopper, Paul Watson

One of the fun things of being a web designer/developer in a big newsroom is the occasional change to experiment. Case in point, my colleague and general supporter, JP Fozo, tasked me with the challenge of illustrating a choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel for a special section in The Toronto Star.

Called Heartstopper, the graphic novel was written by true crime author, Howard Shrier. To match the tone and make it unmistakably set in downtown Toronto, the suggested approach was a sort of comic book style drawn over real photographs of the city.

Heartstopper, Paul Watson

The result was a marathon of illustration that required almost as much effort composing backgrounds in photoshop (the car above was not present in the parking garage where I took the photo, for instance) as it did drawing on my Surface Pro.

The digital illustration approach was a bit of a novelty to the powers that be, but the test sketch below, done in a meeting on my tablet, was enough to get the ball rolling.

True crime test illustration, Paul Watson

In the end, one of the main illustrations made it into the print newspaper, where they threw to the overall project.

Heartstopper in the Toronto Star, Paul Watson