Sunday, July 03, 2016

Catching the Digital Wave

 This week was the first all digital Sunday strip I produced for Judge Parker and the direction I plan to head with that strip, though I will continue to produce The Phantom "old school" with traditional tools. Nothing beats pencil, pens, brush and ink! I never loose anything, paper doesn't crash or have to be migrated to another format, tech, but I can't keep putting it off either. I'm hopping on the digital wave.

It was a bit tricky to draw this as I was using my Wacom tablet and have yet to purchase my Cintiq, which will probably happen this week. That means I was not drawing on the screen but looking at the screen as I drew which made it a bit slower and having to redo things a few times to get the line right. Here is where the 30 Plus years of muscle memory come in. I know how to make the strokes from memory, practice, its just a bit of finagling to get them in the right spot using the Wacom, the Cintiq will solve that.

After nearly 7 years on the Judge I have a huge stack of art and I need to save space as I go forward doing two strips, essentially doubling my output, and there is not much of a market for the art on the soap strips, though there is a big demand for the Phantom art, I have already been getting inquiries for dailies.

I also hope to be able to speed the art up by going digital--or that is the theory that all my fellow artists who have gone digital say will happen. Terry Beatty produces both his Phantom and Rex Morgan strips digital and he says its faster. I think doing backgrounds with programs like Manga Studio is faster as I can go over my swipe without having to draw it out then ink it. I used to do this in a way back when I used my projector and I could project the swipe/photo and ink it directly under the projector. Its also the way things are going commercially and I have to adapt to the needs of the jobs.

A year back I had to produce a Star Wars kids book and they need the art all inked digital so Disney could re-purpose any of the art later. I also want to produce some digital paintings and concept work for myself. If I continue to teach in the future, something I am sort of on the fence with at the moment, I will want to be proficient with the digital tools--besides I think it will be fun!

                                              The most recent week of the strip in process

I just turned in my 12th week on the Phantom and I think its my best week so far and Tony DePaul's scripts are a joy to draw, especially when he gives me room to stretch out like this week. The Phantom is a fun job but a hard one as any long running legacy strip is full reference issues. So far I have received love and also a bit of hate from the Phans. I knew coming on some folks are not gonna like it, they hate change just like when I came on The Judge, but it's mostly love, and some are great folks, welcoming me in and following my work over the years and some are whack jobs, going over every single line and are quite insulting. To those types well, they can take a long walk off a short pier. They are the type you can never appease and I know from many Parker Snarkers they are the type to just always say negative things no matter what.

I have a lot more Phantom reference now and that helps a lot, and its still a job I feel I'm growing into and will for a long time. I haven't even draw The Phantom himself more than a few times in the purple costume, I've drawn him in his civilian guise the most. Studying Sy Barry's work on the strip I can see his evolution on it as he grew with each story, and the different pencilers he had draw the strip also evolved and change his style. He started the strip the year I was born, funny to think 54 years later I'm doing the strip.
                              Below is the most recent week of the strips which ran in the paper.

Here is another Judge Parker week drawn by me and guest inked digitally by my best buddy Bret Blevins. Bret has been doing a lot of digital work for several years now and I think he really knows how to use the programs and give it that "old School" juice!

I have also been on a bit of a buying binge with all the great books coming out now on comics and strips. This is the haul from the last few weeks, the IDW Artists Editions are really fantastic! So great to see the Adams one and the Wrightson as well. I think Thrill Kill might be Adams best drawn story and the Muck Monster leads us right to Wrightson's never topped Frankenstein adaption. These guys were huge heroes to me as a teen and still are a big influence on my work today as well as Toth and the great DC War Gods of Kubert and Russ Heath. For up and coming artists we live in a golden age of great repro of great work to study, love and learn from.

 I have also had a chance to get out and do some painting which you can read about over on my Philadelphia Plein Air Painters Blog!

I have also been really going through a huge cleaning and purge of the studio which will go on for a while. I recently got rid of my stereo in the studio as I listen to all my music over my computer now, and which loading the equipment out I came across this old tape of the voice track from working as a storyboard artist on the Batman cartoon. I have many of these tapes and eventually the switched to CD's and then MP3's. I'm sure in another 20 years I'll have a similar pic of some old and no longer used platform or tech.


HojO said...

Some of your b/w strips look even better than their colored counter-part(as we get from kfs). As here in India these Phantom & Mandrake strips are appearing colored,I am collecting these strips(by cutting from newspaper) since beginning of 2014 so i will get these in colored version for sure in my hard-copy sets but probably will look for their b/w repro in frew etc.

Keep these coming..

HojO said...

And the thing I forgot to mention is that please keep this old-feel in Phantom strips as long possible,because this is what made these strips,not only Phantom but many other vintage ones, way ahead than the current digital art. Saying this knowing the recent trend of go-digital.

Mike P said...

Hey, congrats, Mike! I've been using a Wacom since the turn of the century but still enjoy the old brush and ink from time to time, and still use a pencil for all my layouts and roughs.

Glad to see your carrying on the great tradition on the Phantom--my first exposure was from my JKS instructor, Jose Delbo (it was one of our assignments. When he saw my horse, he said, "What do you feed that horse--Alpo?")

Wishing you much continued success with it and all your other projects. Hope to finally get that Colan article I sent published in DRAW one of these days too! All the best!

--Mike Pascale

sladepointbiker said...

You are doing very well on the Phantom strip Mike. I've been squinting at the pictures of completed strips and also some roughs to whet my appetite for Kit Jr's continuing story. I particularly like the single panel daily strip of Kit Jr gazing for the first time on the monastery (inspired by the Potala Palace in Lhasa?) while surrounded by a few of the highly un-prepossessing locals. Your efforts with the faces of transient characters are outstanding.

-Best regards.

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