Thursday, June 30, 2005

New Sketchbook!

I will be picking up my brand new sketchbook in a day or so, it's being printed now. I wanted to do something a bit different this year but time forced me to return to the format of the last few years, the 8.5 x 5.5 size. But it sports full color covers and will make it's debut at the San Diego Con.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I mentioned in my last post that I am getting back in the saddle of self-publishing again, though in a real sense I have not left since Draw! Magazine is essentially the same thing in many ways. One of the projects I want to get out there is Trax Rover,the story of a space canine-cop, a comic story that has laid unfininished in my flat file for over 20 years. I was 23 when I drew this story.

I stared drawing this story in the bowels of depression after attending the 1983 Chicago con and getting shotdown by all the big companies with my portflio of samples. I was really bummed and this comics was a way of licking my wounds in a way. I had taken some Batman/Demon samples around that year and nobody was bitting, I got the typical con response, "You're almost there, not quite yet, work on your anatomy, work on your storytelling , yadda, yadda". I got reviews from Jim Shooter, some guys at DC I forget, Howard Chaykin etc.

After driving back to Ann Arbor a bit angry and then a bit depressed and returning to my job at the Hudsons's resturant ( I had quit my lasy art gig, swearing the next art job I held would be comics or bust) one day I drew a few sketches of this character Trax who was based on my dog Sabastian, a Sheppard/Collie mix. I was way into animation then, as I am now and even toyed with trying to move to LA and try and get a staff job at Hanna-Barbera. Being in Michigan made that seem like a long shot and a very expensive undertaking. I had learned that Hanna-barbera was still hiring young guys and gals to train to work on the slew of crappy Saturday Morning cartoons they shit out in the 80's. So I got the phone number from information and called there early in 1983 but was discouraged by some old guy on the phone, saying they had stopped the trainee program. I didn't know how I'd have gotten to LA anyway, but I was studying animation a lot having bought my own VCR, Chuck jones and early Disney being faves. This was in the dark days before Little Mermaid lit the fires again at the box office. I liked doing animated or cartoonie art as much as I liked realistic art. I think the frustration I felt at being rejected for my realistic work manifested in me doing this story off the top of my head. I was going through a lot of changes then both personally and artistically. I started and stopped many different ideas that would peter out after a few pages, but Trax seemed to write himself and it's clear I cross polinated a lot of things I liked from Forbidden Planet, Wally Wood, that round Chuck Jones style, ( early road Runners)lady and the Tramp and my love of my dog Sabastion. It was the first time I really drew a whole comic just for myself for no other reason than I just wanted to do it. No trying to please anyone else but me.

All my friends I showed this too liked it a lot. That fall I met Bret Blevins when he moved out to NYC with his wife to start working at Marvel and through Bret started sending in more Marvel samples but the next summer at the 1984 Chicago con I showed Trax around and ended up getting a job assisting Judy Hunt on Robotech Defenders for DC comics and have been working in comics pretty steady since then.

From that summer when I moved to the Philly area to work on the Robotech book (where I have been ever since except for one year in northern PA sharing Al Williamson's studio) Trax has laid in my flat file, I'd dust him off every few years or so, wince at some of the bad drawing and admire some things I did too. I almost went with Trax before I did Monsterman for Action Planet when I started self publishing in 1995, but decide it wasn't what I wanted to lead off with. For some reason it feels like this is the time to dust Trax off and his robotic side-kick F.L.E.A. and finish the project. I'll have to do a bit of redrawing, re-jiggering as the paper/format isn't to comic specs and the paper is so-so for inking. I'd love to do this in color but I think this will be a real vanity thing, maybe only a few hundred copies and sold direct at shows and from my website as I can't see getting very big orders through Diamond and that 60% bite they take as distributos is too steep for a project like this. So enjoy an early preview of Trax Rover!

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Eyes

I got a new pair of glasses and sun glasses today. I've needed a pair of new glasses for a while as my regular glasses broke a while back forcing me to wear an very old pair which were pretty dam beat. So I went to Lenscrafters® and got my new set of eyes this afternoon and while I waited I hit the local Borders books for a coffee and browsing. I also did a bunch of thinking and ruminating, ploting and planning about the future, or my future projects. I think I will return to self-publishing in a limited way under my Action Planet imprint. There are a few shows like Baltimore comic-con and the SPXthat I plan to attend this fall and I think I'd like to have some new comics ready for then, one a comic I initially drew over 20 years ago and will now script and ink it up. I'll post some previews soon. I may do a short anthology comic which contians several short stories. I'd like to do more comics but find the bulk of material the majors pump out to just not be interesting to me, so been there done that.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


last night I hung out with the PCS (Philadelphia Cartoonist Society) crew in the Frankfurt section of old Philly. Many animals of tasty flesh died and were grilled and endless amounts of PBR were swilled in the hot Philly Northeast gathering of some of Philly's best cartooning and animation talent.

Fun was had by all, which resulted in this free-for-all mural

I contributed the Wookie doodle on the bottom right.
Thanks to Grand Poobah Jeff,host Patch and all the PCS crew!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Man in Hat

This is the last of the three quick figure studies I did last night in painting class.30-45 minutes each. The teacher wanted us to do four studies, but we ended up doing only three because time was short. It's harder than one thinks to paint fast. I draw fast, but drawing with a pencil isn't painting. I know the teacher picked this drill to push us past our comfort level. One can't be timid in this exercise. I can block the figure in quickly gesture wise, but then mixing the tones on the palette and balancing them against each other ( colors change when put next to each other) is hard. I ended up mixing a lot on the canvas, which worked better with the time constraints. This painting,my last attempt for the night was the best one for me. The first two were not as successful to me, though the teacher liked each one. Next week we get a figure model for one pose all class.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Darkhawk Redux

The Hawk rises again,
15 years on since I drew the first issue of Darkhawk. At the time I was looking for any book to do since buring out on Quasar, my first regular Marvel gig as a penciler, but a book I never really liked. Quasar was sort of a "weenie Captain Marvell crossed with Superman." But I wanted to be a guy drawing for Marvel, that was my goal since a teen and I took the opportunity and that was the book I was offered by the late Mark Gruenwald. I was never a big fan of DH either to be frank, I wasn't even the first artist offered the book, Pat Broderick was, but they were not happy with his take and Quasar editor Howard Mackie gave me a shot at DH. From the first I felt it was a bit too much like Spidey for my tastes and the last storyline featuring interstellar weapons manufacturers and aliens was much more to my liking. The suit after all was a weapon. Much like the updating of Batman's suit crossed with the Guyver. But Marvel was smart then, and the business was so different, you can't even compare then to now... lot more kids and young teens reading, this was pre-Image, and Marvel was launching several new books each year, essentially throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what stuck. DH was one of them.

I finally left with issue 25, and never looked back.I never looked at an issue after i left, so I never knew what happened to Chris Powelland DH. I never felt the book was popular and got no kudos at Marvel for working on it. This was at the time of the rise of guys like Liefeld and Mcfarland, Wolverine and the Punisher appearing in every book,and soon Image. What I felt I brought to the table, strong storytelling and drawing were just not in favor at the time. So it's funny to have so many people tell me in the last few years how much they enjoyed the book and my work on it. I get that at every show or con, and several e-mails, even folks who post here. Seems like the character is popping up more and more at Marvel too, I haven't seen any of the books though... Maybe it's time for me to try and pitch a new DH series? I don't know, as I have heard it guys 40+ are not welcome at Marvel...

Here is a link to a nice review of
While Googeling myself ( come on admit it, you do it too) I came across a link to this review of the character and first issue of DARKHAWK by Drew Clements. Enough time has passed that I don't feel bitter and burned out like I did when I left DH and Marvel soon after for DC and eventually Batman. And that friends is a story for another day.

Monday, June 20, 2005

San Diego gravity well

This is the bussiest time of the year for me, the weeks before the annual SDCC are mad busy! Draw! 11 is off to the printers tonight, and I'm told still stands a chance of making it for the fingers are crossed. Prep-work has already begun on issue 12 due out in October. I'm also trying to put together another sketchbook for the show as well. I'm thinking to do just an all girls sketchbook as this is what most of the babymen want. Girls, girls girls. I feel that showing what else I can do just doesn't appeal to the non-artist fan. The fans of my work who are artists like the other works I do as well as the sexy gal. Walk the con floor and it's all about girls, girls comics featuring sexy babes, games, TV, animation and especially animae and manga and even the women seem to dig this material, especially manga.

I also am planning to try and do more of my own comics. What form they will take is still up in the air at the moment. I know humor doesn't sell in the babyman market,comic geeks hate humor or anything that seems to mock their cherished superheroes. But I do love to do funny stuff, or even all ages material, mixed in with more adult themes. i don't see why you have to only do one thing or another, like an actor you should stretch yourself, do different generes. So some things may be print, some may be web obly for now. I may shop for publishers in SD and see who nibbles at the material. I'd like to do a sort of norish/detective thing (like everyone else) and maybe some alternative-shoe gazer stuff as well. I plan on attending bothe the SPX shows as well as Baltimore con in September. I haven't decided yet on Wizard Chicago, I may go, may does get expensive doing all of these shows.

Stay tuned to the blog to see the process as it developes.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Still Life

Here are a few snaps of the still life I worked on this week in class. I missed the last two weeks of class because of cons and finishing up DRAW! 11, which is off to press any day now. Because I missed last weeks class I missed the first week of this still life, so what you see here is a little over two hours of work. I toned the canvas in class, and should have done it earlier so it wouldn't have been wet, adding another little degree of difficulty. But even though I knew I couldn't hope to finish this piece i went ahead anyway for the practice and fun. I was approaching it based on the color harmony vs painting it by value.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kyle Baker Interview in DRAW! Magazine 12

This is the cover for the October issue of DRAW! Magazine by Kyle Baker who is the feature interview. I'll also be doing an article and interview on the Venture Brothers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Batman Begins..A No Spoiler review

I saw the film last nite at an IMAX sneak preview thanks to Scott Neely who scored free tickets from his magazine gig. There were guys dressed up as newsboys passing out fake newspapers.

Is it a good film? Yes. Is it a melt your teeth film

Certainly Nolan has made the best Batman film done to date, but upon reflection I think the Katie Holms part could have been better. I hate it when smart characters are suddenly dumb later in the film because they need to be in danger or get hurt so the hero can do his thing.

I think without spoiling anything the beginning of the film showing Bruce's training is better than the rest of the film for me. The play between Neelson and Bale is solid here, it feels 'human". Once the Cowl is donned a bit of that is lost I think, maybe because it's hard to act in all that batsuit. Though there are cool "angry batman shots" the deal with hanging baddies upside down by the foot is soooo overdone.

You never get a super clear shot of Bats and maybe that is for the good as it still makes him a bit mysterious. The beginning of the film feels big, the rest of the films feels smaller and a bit set laden. The use of CGI was OK...but how many trucking city shots can one take? Nice effects on the hallucinations scenes and some other visual POV scenes with Bruce in Asia, yet I didn't feel Gotham had a real distinct look. It felt more like Metropolis. Gone are the overdone sets of Anton Furst and the soundtrack by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer is very different, more tribal "Pirates of the carribiean" setting the tone far far away from Danny Elfman musicbox land . But once again I have to disagree with a lot of the muddled poorly staged action scenes, here Nolan fails for me as a clear visual storyteller, I get frustrated, I want to see Batman fight but again and again the set-up, the shots are too close, too much of a jumble, quick-cut mush. Why can't directors fucking set this stuff up well? It's so annoying.

Bale is good as bats/Bruce, and Oldman as Gordon, and Kane as Alfred. Cillian Murphy is ok, yet not quirky enough to me but Neelson is solid, even Rutger does a solid it's well acted overall, but I was a bit disappointed in the villain the Scare Crow. He just wasn't was more like the Mask.

The Bat tank is cool and there are plenty of good images and nice nightmarish moments but like most movies, the 2nd act is the weakest, some stuff just doesn't make sense and seems to be staged so a person can be where a person needs to be plot wise, always the sign of bad writing, it feels contrived and forced and I feel the end is a bit predictable and sort of a letdown in a way, but I went expecting CRAP, total fucking Bat guano and left wanting more. It's not the Batman film I'd make but still far from the gay-house ass-chamber of the last Bat Fiasco...So I give Batman Begins 3.5 out of 5.

MoCCA Harvey Part 3 The Reckoning

Here is the final postdown of the weekend MoCCA fest. You can read more about the winners and loosers and more in-the-know reporting on Heidi's The Beat

After the quick dinner of berber chicken I hopped a cab back to the Puck Building and headed up to the 7th floor sharring the elevator ride with Chip Kidd to meet Ande for the Harvey Awards. There was a mixer before the ceremony where many of this years nominees and some of comics most elite did the H'orderve dance and bellied up to the bar for free booze! They had a group of musicians playing something that sounded like a cross between chamber music an Phillip Glass...there weren't any cartooon soundtracks to be heard the entire nite. High Class boys and girls! Many of us cartoonists didn't seem to know each other by site, I mean after all, most of us don't look like their creations. I would say I knew maybe 12 people there. We needed name tags..."Oh, you're Mike Manley! How'd you get in here?"

The ceremony also awarded us great views of the NYC skyline, which was exciting to me anyway...

While the cartoonists, writers, editors and publishers swilled down the free booze and eats last minute preperations were going on for the awards ceremony

But it's a shame they can't seem to ever spell Ande's name right. Come on--this is like the Accademy Awards...A.N.D.E. Sheesh!

Finally all the awards and names had been matched! Showtime!

Ande never seemd to be nervous..he just kept swilling that free white wine...
What quite thoughts raced through his mind we'll never know...Steady on mate!

Jeff Smith was the keynote speaker and as a result we all got free Bone toys!

Smith went on a bit long with all the pictures and explaining...which was entertaining and it was like preaching to the converted,afterwhich the bar was re-opened and more drinking ensued to steady the nervous cartoonists! Hell, I drank 6 beers and 3 mimosa's and I wasn't even nominated! But in the end Ande didn't win the Harvey for best inker, he lost to a guy who isn't even an inker. Now the funny thing to me is it seems Fantagraphics wins plenty of awards here at the Harvies, yet not one person from the company was there to accept an award, but they were at the show selling books earlier in the day...? A bit odd to me. Maybe it's isn't cool now to go to things you are nominated for? Anyway the award ceremony went quick and most everybody left to the after parties, which I had no idea of where they were happening, and frankly I didn't want to go anyway after the busy sweaty day. Ande and I went to a bar across the street from the Puck but it was soooo loud and busy we bagged it...

One of the best things for me was that I got to hang out and talk with Kyle Baker, who I'm interviewing for the next issue of Draw! They started shutting the place down so we headed out, Ande back to his hotel and me to Scott's place in queens, the city was still abuzz with plenty of nite life though, but I was cooked like a lobster-man from the day's steamy heat.

Next morning I had breakfeast in Queens with Scott and his roomie Ryan and then headed back to Philly.

Yes, I did MoCCa and lived to tell about it kids! What happens at MoCCA stays at MoCCa, except for the comics which I brought back. Were hands washed before serving? Was there an intentional snub by a certain publisher? Why do people who are not employed as inkers by trade get nominated for inking? Can colorists be nominated for lettering? I mean sometimes they do color lettering? Guess we'll have to wait till Harvey 2006 to find out!

Monday, June 13, 2005

MoCCA & Harvey Part 2

Here is my MoCCA haul of comic treasure! There was so much too see and buy and so little $$ in my wallet, if they took credit cards I would have been in trouble.

Continuing my report on the MoCCa-Harvey happening I have to say the other thing that really stands out about this show is the huge amount of women both in front and behind the tables. I think this is great because for the field to ever have a realy chance of growing out of the "Walled city of the Babymen", know as your local comics emporium, we need women to come in and help clean this business up a bit and charge it with their vision and imaginations as well. One look at the success and growth of Manga and Animae clearly show this.

Was she a cartoonist?
I think the favorite thing I bought at the show was this really cool mini-comic A Case In Tokyo by Damion Jay.

Jay produced this comic as a silk screened limited edition of 50. It's beautiful. Jay is part of A.W.P. Artists With Problems a consortium of cartoonists and artists. I also bought this cool comic The Many Strange Desires of Mreh by Karen Sneider. Another beautiful little comic, Sneider has somehow glued on some sort of orange felt to the cover.

I don't know why these artists have problems, but if these comics are anything to judge them by I hope A.W.P. keeps that monkey on their collective backs. This is the type of work in comics that really excites me today. Sure I still enjoy a Superhero yarn if done well, but mostly that stuff is a stale retread today compared to these little gems. I would have boughty a T-shirt from these guys but they didn't have any in my size...they ran out! Come on, don't you know most he-man cartoonoists are at least XXL...BLLAARRGGH! Hey you skinny cartoonists stop buy'n the plus sized shirt you pencil necks!

Another cool comic I got was this demented little paper festival called BLACK SHEEP.

it's published by the fine folks at POST APOCALYPTIC FUNHOUSE, ALTGEEK.NET I also picked up a book called Shpilkes , all filed with cool demented art by Frederick Noland. Like I said there were so many great comics and mini-comics there at the show, cool T-shirts, bags, all kinds of great graphics. It made me want to rush home and draw some comics! I'll certainly be back next year, but this time I'll also be set up at the show.

After I had nearly drained my wallet Scott and I headed out to grad a bite to eat and Ande went back to his hotel to finish up more pages on his capote graphic novel. Scott and I met some friends of his and ate at this cool resturant nearby where I had the Berber Chicken and Humus. I lovvve me some humus!

But I had to gobble and rush to get back to meet Ande at the Harvey Awards show in the Puck Building.

More soon...


I rolled back into Philly this evening from a whirlwind weekend in what certainly was the hottest and most humid weekend I have ever spent in NYC! In the picture below you can see the thick humid air cling to the city like a sweat soaked shirt on the back of a migrant farm worker in July...and it's only June!

I was tagging along with my buddies Ande Parks and Scott Cohn as we did the MOCCa Festival and the Harvey Awards.

I went along as Ande's guest to the Harvey awards as he was nominated in the Best Inker catagory. Dispite the heavy heat the city was bustling with people having weekend fun, including the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Of course I like it when it's hot because the pretty girls are forced to wear skimpier, cooler clothes.The MOCCA Festival is held in the Puck Building, a historic Romanesque Revival structure near the trendy neigborhoods of SOHO and Greenwich Village. The building is listed on the National Historic Register. The building was named after the famous Puck Magazine which was publisher there from 1887 until 1916 when it was canceled.

Here is a pic of Ande outside, right before we went in to the festival.

The show was packed despite the oppressive heat. The festival was basically broken down into 3 rooms, the first which you see above

seperated by a passageway

and the big room you see here which was the only room with air conditioning. The third smaller room in the back was sweltering! I already felt like Frosty, melting away with each step, so I didn't stay long in that room at all...drippity, drip, drip, look at Mikey melt! But the atmosphere was up and positive, everyone seemed to be having a good time and selling plenty of comics despite the heat. It's a really completely different, more intimate atmosphere than Wizard Philly or San Siego. Lots of smiling faces and artists seeming to feel at home here. Emo kids , punks, slackers, retro hipsters, R-teests, and Lisa Lobe glasses unite!

But despite the heat I saw a lot of great comics! I bumped into a lot of old friends and some new ones too.

Alberto Ruiz and his daughter Megan draw for some fans

Philly Cartoonist Society Represent!
I have to say there was way more good stuff than I thought there would be and I tapped out my wallet early! I'll scan and post some of what I bought tomorrow.