Saturday, 28 February 2009

Horse Girl Sketches

Had a particularly miserable week. Most of it spent relearning how to draw horses and attempting to design characters. None of the character designs were worth a damn so I've a pile of garbage instead of anything to show a client.
Anyway -- here's a few of the horse and rider sketches I did this week:
I might be able to use a couple of these for something. . .
Dunno -- I hope March is a better month for me

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Saurus from Pitt

I've been meaning to try out a colour scan on my Mustek. I've been told repeatedly that these cheap 11x17" scanners can't handle colour. I did luck out and get the second generation model with more features -- so from the pile of old work came this:

This was for the one and only Pitt trading card set. Painted in acrylics (gah!) and while I was a much crappier painter. I actually impressed myself at the time, which isn't saying much. This was, maybe 6 years out of college, I only had the one year of actual painting instruction that was worth a shit and I hadn't even started trying to teach myself any the stuff I suspected I didn't know.
I'm still trying to learn. Though, I think I have a better understanding of how much I don't know than when I was in my 20s.
Hmm -- this month has been rather hellish. All sorts of things have dropped of my schedule and one of my dogs dying is only partially to blame. I'm hoping March is better all 'round.

Friday, 20 February 2009

More Dead Things

Been a little strange this week. My dog Famké passed away last weekend. She was 14 and her hearing, eyesight and strength were starting to go and she was on two heavy strength pain relievers, but I was (and am) pretty crushed by her passing. Luckily my wife and son were away for the long weekend, so they didn't have to deal with any of it.
Anyway -- I've not done any drawing I can share so I've decided to did into that pile of hidden gems (?!) again.

This must be from some game art assignment that ended prematurely. I quite like this, actually -- given free time I might return to this and paint it.

From the same assignment -- the death knight (who looks like Bendis here) on some sort of vampiric horse.

I did a quick cover for a Robert E. Howard magazine some time ago -- the writing was quite excellent.

It would have been easy to draw some sword wielding barbarian, but cowboys and zombies has a Howard flavour to it, too.

Actually, Cowboys and Zombies would probably sell pretty well.

Hmmmm. . . .

Friday, 13 February 2009

Vampirella - Time Bleeds

More stuff from the pile of old work. Since it's Friday the 13th, I figure I can discuss some cursed horror projects.

In the early-to-mid 90s Vampirella made something of a comeback in regular comics. At a New York convention I met Harris Comics's editor in chief, Melony Crawford Chadwick and pitched her an off-the-top-of-my-head idea: cyborg vampires from the future vs Vampirella. There was more to it than that, but that was all just details. It was an immediately green lit and I started writing it and it became something I was really proud of; it was certainly smarter than I thought it would be and I made up some really weird bad ass shit that would have been an absolute blast to draw; I had one scene where one of those cyborg vampires was speeding down a busy NY street on a hoverbike against traffic smashing Vampi into the windshields of the cars as he passed by.

The decision was made that there should be some sort of "zero" issue to help promote it. I figured I could play with a time stream cop character I created for the mini, a shark-toothed, dread-locked alien I named Bleak. I had just finished my one issue of Malibu's Rune and had a lot of that character in my head and hands, which explains the similarity of a few superficial elements (big mouth & weird jewelry), but I really dug the boots I designed for him.

So, here's Bleak and his Cthulhoid dog monitoring "Shimmerspace" -- I concocted an alternate dimension cloudscape that somehow was a nexus for all timelines and could be used to track disturbances in those timelines.

Dunno why, but I felt that the dog wouldn't really like Shimmerspace and had it throwing up on the deck of Bleak's ship. The weird monocled face on the screen in the second panel was the new incarnation of The Rook -- a recently revamped character and a time-traveller of sorts in the Harris Comics line. The idea being that Bleak was tracking someone in the "present" of the comics universe.

The two reverse tornadoes rising up and converging on Bleak were to indicate two alternate time lines being messed with by the events about to transpire in the upcoming mini-series.

Sadly, while starting to draw the next two pages, a double spread, I got the call that Crawford Chadwick was fired and all unsolicited books were on hold, which really meant they were cancelled.
The genesis for the cyborg vampires from the future came from another dead project. I had pitched the idea to the then editor of Blade as a fill in; the future these vampires came from was a radioactive hell so they had to travel back in time to obtain the uncontaminated blood they needed to survive. I managed to write the script before the series was cancelled. The last issue was the one my story was schedule to run, so I understood when the editor chose to give it to the main creative team.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Throw that Speedball by ya. . . .

Wow -- another one from the vault. This was the intended cover for New Warriors #54. Fabian intended to tell a story revealing how Speedball was practically the most powerful character in the Marvel universe. I was looking forward to it, but Fabian decided it was time to wrap his run on NW and this story was replaced by two fill-ins by a Marvel editor who had long lobbied to take over the book. His first story, which I really feel was trivializing a then current event in Africa and how certain I was that I was, at best, a poor fit for the direction of the book. Once the writer was given the ongoing gig, that was my cue to leave.

I actually remembered this being better than it is -- possibly because the office's feedback was so positive. I really made a mess of the anatomy and terribly over-rendered the figure. I still like the idea and composition, but that's about it.
I'm tempted to redo it as Penance, Speedball's current incarnation. . . .

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Another oldie -- I did this as a piece for the Pitt one-shot I wrote and drew back in 199X. Dale liked it so much he redid it as the cover, which was flattering as hell!
I drew this oversized so the sides are missing from the photocopy I've scanned. I've no idea if I sold it or misplaced it in my studio somewhere.

Monday, 9 February 2009

February Zuda Reviews

Reading this month’s Zuda reviews wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. The art and storytelling ranges from professional to downright incompetent, but the overall writing was really poor. Two strips are only kinda interesting while the rest are either actually unimaginative to poorly executed or some combination of both.. It’s the first time I’m left not really caring which entry wins as I’m unlikely to follow any strip that maintains the writing level demonstrated. Granted, once free of the 8-page entry structure the winner might turn into a fine weekly strip, but I can only judge based on what’s shown.

Just a note: I make a point of avoiding the synopsis and talkbacks until after I read the strips: if the strip creator needs to explain so the reader understands what is happening then they really aren’t up to the job.

Ninjas From Ibiza: Clubbin’ To Death Current rank 1
This strip has a Brendan McCarthy/Paul Pope vibe to me, which means the colour, sometimes less-than-clear storytelling and weird anatomy is a part of the deal. Essentially an 8-page fight scene I don’t get a sense of how Francesco Biagini will craft his story from here. Weird powers and bizarre fight techniques are cool n’ all, but there has to be some meat otherwise it’s just fight porn. I recognize that there’s an audience for that, but I’m not in it. Right now this strip looks like Naruto on ecstacy. The weird translation issues do give the strip a 70’s Heavy Metal touch, “D’ya still believe’s a good business wastin’ yo’ time for a lifelong training in killin’ people?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? 2/5

The Hammer Current rank 2
It’s Sin City, but Marv is played by a large – scratch that, thing’s ten feet tall – gargantuan, trench coat-wearing, chain-smoking pink rabbit with a hammer. Dave Sim’s Cerebus started as a Conan parody, TMNT was a truly affectionate riff on Frank Miller’s Daredevil and the X-Men comics of the time, so this isn’t new ground by any means. So it’s a pretty tired gag and requires top notch execution to make any more than the first eight pages worthwhile. Sin City already read like a parody of pulpy crime fiction, so stealing Miller’s voice here is pretty cheap comedy. The drawing is terribly inconsistent; the bunny growing and shrinking between panels, which would make sense of all the rubbery anatomy. Some of the colouring is particularly nice, though. This strip would be a fine one-off eight pager in some late eighties anthro anthology, but I have no confidence that this will do anything other than mine the same joke for 52 weeks. 1/5

Azz’s Inferno Current rank 3
This is a very stylish strip and the best and most densely written this month. While I have some problems with how much backstory is included, the backstory is well told. Since Azz talking to another devil I’m guessing it’s some newly fallen, a devilspawn born post fall or a narrative fuck up having a character telling known information to another character to slam in the exposition. As far as murder mysteries go I would have preferred to be introduced to more characters and get a greater sense of how the story will develop from the first eight pages and have the history doled out later. The decision to black out all the devils’ faces is an interesting one, but will create some issues with character recognition later on unless creator Thane Benson is really careful. The shadow cast by the anonymous devil on the first page has the same horn pattern as Lucifer, which makes me think it’s either him or one of his children. I get that red and yellow read as fire and Hell is supposed to be burning, but I would like to see a wider range of colour and some use of warm/cool interplay because I think this scheme could get pretty tedious fast. 3/5

Splitting Atoms Current rank 4
It’s a super-hero family tale, like The Incredibles or The Umbrella Academy, but without the originality or skill. Starting off with three pages of tedious and poorly written origin material –

Hang on; I have to go on a bit of a rant here. I am so sick and tired of people thinking they have to start telling their stories with origins or histories. If your strip is exciting and engaging it’ll be exciting and engaging if you don’t start with the boring expository narrative. If your story doesn’t work without half of your first eight pages being an info dump tell a different story. If you can’t make the reader care about your world and characters by having them center stage for the full eight pages, then your world and characters aren’t worth anyone’s time.

Anyway, the first three pages of this strip are almost text book on how not to do exposition. If the father’s wife was so special to him why is her death only mentioned as an aside to her corpse being harvested for genetic material? The one highlight of the strip is “bitchslap” being used as a sound effect. The art looks a little too amateurish; the fingerprints of too many artist influences all over the pages, the storytelling goes from dull and mediocre to just bad. The creator has potential, once he improves his drawing, gains a better understanding of storytelling and reads something other than comics he might make something worth reading. Splitting Atoms isn’t, though. 1/5

Part-Time Magic Current rank 5
On this side of the planet people read comics left-to-right-and-down. The creator of this strip doesn’t really seem to understand this, nor does he get that the reader needs more visual information to extract understanding from seemingly unconnected images. There are a number of great books on storytelling out there; this creator needs to read them. 0/5

Indie Current rank 6
Zuda entrants only have 8 screens to impress an audience enough to vote for their project. Jericho Vilar takes the really gutsy move and tries to do it in 8 full-page panels. It’s an absolute failure, even if it’s an audacious one. It’s really two pages of content, at best, spread over eight screens of traced and screened photos from the indie club scene. It really doesn’t seem like the creator cared enough about this to put forth an effort, which made this a thankfully short read. 0/5

Fire and Water Current rank 7
The best looking strip this week is hampered by a few things: three full page panels that have no visual impact due to how few panels overall and some rather vague writing that leaves this reader wondering what the point is. I have no doubt that Frederica Manfredi is going to be a star with art like this, but she needs to work with a writer who understands how to make a full page image pay off. Here’s the panel density per page, 3, 4, 1, 4, 1, 3, 1 and 1. Eighteen panels over eight pages is certainly better content-wise than Indie, but, if this is the pace we could expect the strip to keep on a weekly basis she might actually get out of her building on the 25th page.

A free tidbit for the aspiring comics artists out there, be aware of visual contrast, a splash page has impact in direct proportion to the density of panels surrounding it. A full-page image has less impact after a sequence of three-to-four panel pages than following a sequence of five-to-six panel pages. Also, the larger image has to have larger story importance as you’re dealing with the economy of narrative vs. pages the more space you devote to something the more important it becomes to the story. 2.5/5

Doctor Immortalus Current rank 8
Yet another action hero of science vs. Nazis . . . sometimes reading Zuda is like an LSD flashback to every bad new comic I was asked to draw over the last 20 years. Now, there may only be a few dozen iterations of this in recent years, but I’ve actually sat in on at least six comics or movie pitch sessions where this is what the writers or producers had to offer. It was a fresh idea back when there were Nazis, but that was over 50 years ago. Nazis are really B material at best today, so opening with a moon base filled with them being your best shot – not buying it. I will say that the writer does make an effort with his spurious jargon, although it actually detracts from the story as well. Another odd bit is the art. It’s obviously watercolour or gouache tinkered with in Photoshop, but the degree of tinkering is just enough to make me wish he either did everything by hand or really worked over everything. The art is often muddy, so the bright whites dropped in and the weirdly oversized panel borders stick out almost as badly as the 3D logo on page one. 1/5

Gravedust Current rank 9
This is a lovely looking strip, but the writing is a dreadful annoyance. The jokes aren’t even groan-worthy as they just lay there, hoping you find a lisping bat inherently funny. Partner this guy up with the right writer and have him delve into some Edward Gorey style material and I think you’d have gold. 2/5

Operation: Nazi U Current rank 10
More Nazis, though it’s set in the appropriate era and Tom Cruise is nowhere to be seen so it’s not a complete waste. I never really liked late-era Kirby, but I understand how it reverberates with some people and I do appreciate the Kirby I see peeping out between the lines in drawings by Simonson, Mignola, Romita Jr. and Armstrong, I will never understand the guys who ape his work to this degree. If Kirby style art was still commercially viable we’d still have mainstream books produced by Kirby clones. This strip doesn’t seem to have any other point than in being a love letter to Kirby, bad WWII SF and giant robots. In that, however, it’s a love letter lacking an envelope. Why go to such lengths copying the King of Four Color Comics and not have equally retro colour? It’s dead-easy to make things look like retro comics – now even easier than back when Alan Moore and his cronies were doing their 1963 project. 1/5

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Supreme and Awesome

Found another old piece I thought I'd share.

Years ago Rob Liefeld managed to get Alan Moore writing a few of his books, one of them being Supreme, Rob's Superman clone. I found myself saying nice things to Rob and Jeph Loeb at their Awesome Comics booth (it was the name of their company, their booth was actually pretty average) and they found themselves asking me to draw a pin-up. It was a blast to draw, and they paid really quickly (despite what I was told to expect by some other freelancers). The three characters in the pic with Supreme were (left to right) CaterKiller, TNTnA, and Demon Alisa. The boots flying out of the panel don't really qualify as a character

De-Mona-Lisa, get it? Yeah, they were lame, but fun.

A while later I was asked to write a mini-series for them, which would have also been a blast, but I was also working for someone they were being sued by at the time so it didn't work out.

My career is a little strange in that I've had some negative experiences with some people with great reputations and some great experiences with people less than popular.

Anyway - -the new drawing exercise will be a little late this week, I'm playing catch-up after a week of bad health. Probably Tuesday.