Saturday, June 30, 2007

No More Monkeying Around

I finished the monkey still life this afternoon. I am pretty happy with some of it. I was trying to be a little looser, though I still think it's a bit tight. I like the left arm on the monkey, it's always the fight in what to leave and what to put in, sometimes just a dab in the right place can save something--or ruin the shape. I was also very concious of tempature here. The good thing is I am warmed up, so when we go out painting tomorrow with some freinds from PAFA I should be ready to go. I hadn't painted anything in a while, and man, did I miss it.

Mess'n with Still Life part 2

Here is another step in the painting, this time I messed with it in photoshop. I'll finish it up and post the final probably later today. I was up till about 5am, I started around midnight last night, i took a couple of breaks, but it's great painting late.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mix It Up

Boy, this has been one of those mix-it-up weeks, Seems like everyday there is a place to go, somebody to meet for lunch, dinner etc. But I did get a chance to start a new still life painting and do a few sketches at starbucks with Echo today.

I imagine it will take me a few more days to pick at the still life, and I am planning to go out and do some landscape painting with some friends from PAFA on Sunday morning. I've been away so long it seems from doing my fine art or personal stuff. I need to get back to this seriously.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Work, Work, Work

It looks like DRAW! 14 will be off to the printers in the next day or so, this mean we hope, that it will be available for the San Diego Comicon and in shops either that week or the next. I'll give a definitive street update when it's nailed down. On other fronts I have begun the design process on two comic projects, one with my buddy Greg Thompson and one with my buddy Jamar Nicholas. I can't get into them much now, but I can say one is more of a classic hero fiction and the other is more of a fantasy/slightly manga angle. The Thing illo above is one of my experiments with drawing the entire image in photoshop on my wacom and messing with the art in the filters. I might actually do one of these projects mostly on the wacom tablet. I'm very interested in trying to do some new comics in a new way to see if this can speed up the process and give it a unique looks, a different look than my more traditional "meat world" comics. One of the things about doing comics for yourself, and then later hoping they sell well enough to make you any return, is that you have to produce the work pretty quick or the financial model doesn't work. Anyway, as I get farther into these projects and I have something to announce I'll post some art here.

On other fronts, as I finish my Esurence job I will also begin in earnest my figure drawing book on men that I will co-publish through twomorrows along with Bret Blevins figure drawing book on females. Right now our goal is to have these books out later this year, maybe for X-mas. There are plans for 2 DVD covering the subject by bret and myself as well, and we hope we can get those done early next year. These will be in the same vein as the "From Script to print" DVD I did 2 years ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Back to work

Well the traveling and cons are over, at least for a little while so I'm settling back into work mode here in the studio. It's still a bit of a mess from all the traveling and moving stuff around for the show, so I'll be spending a bit of time to neaten it back up.

I am working on the last article for Draw!! 14 which will go to press next week and should hit in time for San Diego Con. I'm also doing some work with the guys at ghostbot for an Esurence commercial which is fun. I'll also be putting up a bunch more art for sale on my Ebay Store sometime this week. I plan on doing a series of prints for sale as well. It seemed at Wizard World this last week a lot of artists were selling prints, and selling them quite briskly. So I think I'll start with 3-4, at least one featuring Darkhawk! I have had more and more people come up to me at shows and talk about DH, and how much they enjoyed my work on it.

lastly I think I might also do some t-shirts with original designs as well. I'd like to have these done in time for the baltimore show and of course they will also be available for sale on my Ebay store when they are done. And lastly I have to completely redesign all my websites, especially Action and
I need to make them current with what I'm doing and they are both so out of date. I have 3 comic projects also on the burners now, one an old faveorite character of mine and two new ideas with friends. Exactly where or how thye will be coming forth is in developement now but I'd like to see at least one of them going on by the end of this year, sort of a return to self-publishing, but one will probably be a web comic to start, not print.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wizard World Philly 2007 Wrap

Well another WWP Babyman Spectacular 2007 is in the books. It seems these shows wizz by so fast when you're busy, or kinda' drag, like yesterday when I wasn't busy at all. As a result I walked the floor a lot talking to fellow artists and snapping some pics. I don't know how Wizard will spin it but I'd give the attendence at about 12-15,000 tops, and I think I'm being gracious.

Batman getting a sketch of himself.
This show was better than the last Philly show, but far off the mark from the previous years. Much smaller retailer presence, mostly guys selling toys it seems, and less guys selling comics...I think they were burned last year and chose either to not come or to do Heroes Con.

I can safely say I think this is a one day show. If you could do just one day, then do Saturday. Sunday and Friday are dead really, at least in artist alley. Also I'd say you'd do good as an artist tom sell prints as both Scotts (Neely and Cohn) sold a bunch of prints. I always thought people would rather have a sketch, but I think at $75 for a weekend pass, not including parking or food, the standard $40 a sketch is maybe just too much for the average fan. Also I think with both Heroes and Philly being on the same day and it also being Father's day Weekend this show was definitely effected. Why do comics people insist on splitting the ticket?
Hey, a Darkhawk Hero Click--I gotta get one!

I think what we need in this hobby is co-operation, not con promoters gunning for each other, trying to put the other guy out of biz. I think you can clearly see that this doesn't work. I'm sure people remember the battles Fred Greenberg had with that other con promoter back in the 90's, and where are they now....

There were several deatlers selling a lot of asian doll, fans, swords etc.
I also noticed the busiest areas were the gaming areas, not the booths for Marvel, DC, etc, or certainly Artist Alley. Kids are more into the games, the fast greying fanbase is what we have left and I know many of the deeper pocket art buyers were obviously in Charolette this weekend.

A guy drawing a big FF mural.

Two of my favorite people, Louise and Walt Simonson.

The always stylish Jim Steranko.

The eternal Joe Kubert!

Who knows if Wizard will keep this show going past what I hear was the booked date of next year. I'd set this show up very different and I would really try promoting on local radio shows like WXPN's Kid's Corner, run ads on cartoon network, Nic, etc. Take a page from successful retailers like Blue Hen's Joe Murry success with free Comic book day in his store. Get familes involved, find a way to make it like going to a theme park. They cleaned out the porn chicks from the show which is a great move. I have nothing against porn, but porn and comics just is a bad mix.

Camera shy Burt Ward.

Star Wars was big, lots of Jedi's walking around, in fact when we entered the show Sunday Scott and i were flanked by two rows of Storm troopers, funny. It's clear Geroge Lucas will never starve with this type of dedicated fanbase.

There were really serious people here practicing with their light sabers, holding mock Jedi training events. i think things like this are great because they are for a lack of a better word, "wholesome'. I have felt for a long time the hobby of comics was taken down the drak path, the grim, gritty, catwoman is a whore/stripper slut path. There was probably less of that at this show that I've seen in a long time. If i was a parent i would have been happier at this show because of this alone. No worries about taking my kids past Aria Giovani's fisting DVD's booth.

However the fact is that you need great numbers of people which Wizard has been very poor at getting for the show. Much was made about them firing the old staff and hiring new people to run the shows. I didn't see any difference. I don't think the running of the show for me was ever an issue. The staff is always great, the show is easy to load into and out of. The issue is getting people in the Tri-Stae Area to know about the con and come. If you are a mainstream guy drawing a mainstrean book, you might do ok, but the fact is the heat is gone for this show, and frankly I don't think they can get it back based on what I've seen. Maybe in the overall sceme of things it won't matter, Wizard will leave Philly and maybe another local guy will step up to run a slighlty smaller, just regional show. This will certainly drop costs for tables etc. The bottom line as a business man is $$$. If I don't make $$$ I don't want to come back.

Clearly Captain America is not dead.

DC's booth

A Dr. Strange Sketch I did.

As always I had fun hanging with my comic buddies and meeting soke new artists. I chatted with Steranko a bit, Mike Carlin, Bob Wayne and a few others. We ate our annual last night dinner at Sang Kee Duckhouse in China town. Overall I had a good time, wish I made more $$. but I did OK. much bettervthan the last Philly show. if next year the heroes con and Philly are two seperate dates I'll probably do both as Philly is so easy to do.

A Guy Gardner sketch I drew for a fan.

The guys from Imagination studios had a nice booth and brisk sales. I'll be covering them in an upcoming issue of DRAW!

Scott and the Iron Avenger.

Starbuck AKA Dirk Benedict.

Jamar on the move...

And no event in Philly is done without a good cheese steak! And Rick's in The Reading Terminal across from the convention ceter fits the bill.

Scott Neely does some Scooby Business.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


A Thing Sketch done for a fan

Yesterdaay was the big day of the 3 day show and I have to say it was much smaller than the last Saturday of the con I attended. I think the show has really been hit hard by a variety of things, other cons, and maybe just the natural flow and ebb of things.

Even at it's bussiest it was 1/3 of the best show, the first WWP 5 years or so back. Artist Alley had business, but often there were dead spells and of course lots of lookie-lous kick'n tires. A few families, but not a lot. The Marvel and DC booths had traffic, but when I went by, nothing like previous years, where lines would stretch. I would call it a small regional show now, like Pittsburgh. I've done OK, not great. made my costs back and depending on business today, amybe some extra cake, but not a lot. I know some artists in artist alley had probably almost no business. At no point was it ever hard to walk the isles.

I never go to any of the panels, in fact I never liked panels much, even as a teen, and realy sort of find them boring. I hear from some fans they had less of them this year and overall the show has a calmness to it, not a lot of energy. A few customers told me they thought they'd try this show as a change from other regional shows like the NYC shows, but let's face it...there are too many goddam comic book cons now.

This is a fact nobody can deny and I think as a result we are seeing people now really have to pick and choose. There is literally a can a week it seems or every other week and most fans are aging fans, many with families and since there is virtually no new blood coming in people have to start making choices. There isn't a lot of money now in comics, publishing, artistically and as a business. people have to cut corners and miond the budget. You can clearly see the results at a show like this.

An Aquaman sketch

There was plenty of room in artist alley so there was no where near a sell out. I have to say I admire the moxy of some of my fellow comic creators , especially the small press guys who buy tables each year, many loosing money it seems as they do almost no business. I even saw Marv Wolfman with nobody at his table. Maybe artist alley wasn't the place for him. Wizard does little to promote or help this end of the con which has to contribute a fairly significant dollar amount to their bottom line at $300 a pop. I think they could continue to announce to the crowd to visit some of the people in artist alley, hell , even call out booths. I think many people still don't know about artist alley, and certainly who's there.

I think it's a shame in a way this show has suffered. Philly is easy and very cheap compared to most major venues and cities, easy to get around and get to with bus and regional rail. I think its clearly poor marketing on Wizards part coupled with the crazy amount of shows every month. Wizard does have a great show staff though i give them AAA for that, nice, friendly helpful people all around. San Diego could learn a few things about being nicer, the security there is like WWII germany at times.

But I am having a good time. I got to meet a lot of nice fans, do some fun sketches and drawings and chat with comic pals which I always enjoy the most. We ate great Vietnamese food last nite and hung at the marriott in the bar, the annual bar hang of the con, but there wasn't much of a crowd or any peeps we knew so we booked early. So off to the last day of the show....

Friday, June 15, 2007

Wizard World Friday

Friday is usually the slow day at most shows, and it was a slow day today at WWP. I did a few commissions like the one posted here. i had plenty of time to walk about a bit. Artist alley is in the back of the show again this year, moved from the side it was last year. once again tables don't have any drapping, so if you don't bring any yourself your art junk is clearly visible under the table.

The show also seems smaller this year as well. Not many publishers here, Marvel and DC have small booths as does Top cow and there seems like a few less dealers as well. Some I know personally choose Heroes over Wizard this year. Attendence was a few thousand I bet and traffic was never heavy. But if saturday is big, I guess I'll do OK. One of the strangest things is walking artist alley and not knowing who a great portion of the artists are and seeing many spaces empty. I guess many feel now it's only worth doing one day, Saturday. I'll have a more in-depth report tomorrow including some pics.

Wizzzarrrddd Wwoorrrllldddd

This is s shot I took yesterday at the Philly Convention center as the WWP show was being set up. Echo and I picked up our badges early as yesterday Echo swore the oath along with about 750 others to become American citizens in the next big hall in the same place. So she's 100% American now!

Stop and see us at Booth 1411 in Artist Alley. Now I'm gonna go load the Jeep and head out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wizard World Philly

Friends, aquintences and fellow comic mavens it's countdown time here at Casa Manley to the annual Philly Wizard World con held just about this time every year at the Phila. Convention center located in the heart of center city. I hate to say it, but I say it every year, I have pretty mixed feelings about this show. Partly because I have mixed feelings about many things Philly related, but also because after a fine debut this has been a piss-poor show, execept in the men's room where it could be dubbed a piss floor show 20 minutes after the show is open.

I like the convenience of the show since it's a hometown show, but I think the continued maarginalizing of most of the talent that's not the same stale Top 10 guys Wizard hails in it's mags is an issue. I'm no fan of the mag itself, I haven't read an issue in years, but the thing that gets me is the fact the arrangement/placement of Artist Alley has also not been great. I didn't attend last year as I went to heroes in NC to support Sheldon's show when Wizard tried to go against him by scheduling the same weekend, but this year I couldn't swing it with just coming back from China, plus that show has also gotten very expensive.

The 05 Philly Wizard show was the worst con I had been to in years. I didn't even break even $$ wise and that's saying something. I realize I no longer draw monthly comics and I am not the demo of Wizard Magazine, but the fact is without stirring the local population into attending nobody will have a good show based just on babymen traffic. How many more copies of Aspen of Sin City trades to 40-year-olds need anyway?

I see they are running a pretty crappy looking ad on the Sci-fi channel, so who knows. Better if they also run it on Nic and Cartoon Network. If this is another bad year this will be my last show as an attendee, even if it's the home town show. I imagine it may also be their last show too. I'll start packing up the jeep later with the stuff, boxes of Draw!, display, signs, and I'll be bringing along some art to sell and I always do sketches. I'll be at table 1411 with Echo surrounded by fellow bros in arms Scott Cohn, Scott Neely and Jamar (Poobah) Nicholas. Stop by and get a sketch, buy somne art, get a great caricature by Echo and eat a Cheese Steak!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chinese Comics part 2

I finally have a bit of time to blog the 2nd part of my Chinese Comics experience. Like I said in the first post I didn't see any American comics my whole time in China. I guess you could call the Disney comics I saw in the kiosks and newstands American, but since I never opened the bagged issues I saw I am not sure where the material originated. Disney does have studios around the world that produce comics so perhaps that work was merely reprints. That's what I imagine anyway. I saw no Civil War, 52, Hellboy, Sin City, Batman or even Spidey comics in either shop I visited nor on the newstands I saw. For that matter I didn't see any indy comics and no Euro comics like Tin Tin. I don't think American comics exist in China for the most part. I did see ads for DVD's of the Batman/Superman cartoons and Tom and Jerry that Warners releasing in the big bookstore I shopped at in Kunming.

There appears to be no direct market in China, I think most of the comic shops import products from Japan, go through regular books store distribution, or buy from the distributors of publishers who reprint the unliscensed versions of the comics, translating them into mandarin, the official state language. Pirating of many items in China is a huge issue,not just comics, but any product you can imagine, copyrights are a big issue the Chinese have to learn to abide by and deal with in the long run. The super popular Deathnote albums in China are bootlegs. The Chinese publisher evidently did not obtain the printing rights to the material before reprinting the books in China. This came to light when the goverment cracked down on the book and DVD removing copies from store shelves. The Chinese publisher (or bootlegger)said they would fight this along with help from Shueisha the original publisher of Death Note. Shueisha however said it wasn't lending a hand and wanted nothing to do with the situation as the copies were bootlegs.

A store devoted to Snoopy I saw in Kunming. I saw a few more, one devoted to Betty Boop. I wonder how much of this stuff is bootlegged? Is that TM symbol on the sign for real, irony, or to throw off the lawyers hunting for bootlegs?

I wonder if a lot of this is bootlegged as well?

I did buy some art supplies in the comic shop in Beijing. I was always on the hunt for art supplies of any kind on the trip, and while I came cross many places selling sumi brushes I never found a legit, full size art supplies store. They still make what we used to call Zip-A-Tone in Japan. I think the managa market in Japan is bigger than the comics market here in the US, so there are several companies which make art supplies specifically for comic artists. This includes ink, pens, and various screen patterns as well the amazing amount of markers you can find today.

I picked up some ink, both black and white ink, a few packs of drawing paper and some screens. The paper was manufatured by a company called Mantain and came in 2 sizes, 8 x 1/2 x 11 and 10 x 14 1/2 and is called Comic Manuscript Paper. The bigger pack sold for $25 RMB which is a about $8 US and the smaller for $15 RMB which is about $2 US, each pack has 36 sheets. The weight is similar to 1 ply bristol, maybe a bit lighter.

I bought 2 pen sets, one a Memory Comic pen set that had two holders and four nibs for $15RMB (2 bucks) and another from xxxxxx for xxxxxxxx. I haven't tried the inks yet or the pens but I will.

After doing a kinda crappy drawing of Superman while leaning over a small shelf for the manager of the Cool Comic store in Beijing he gave us the address and phone number for the sister store in Kunming. We said we'd look it up when we got there. Echo was really looking forward to replacing some of the series she used to have years ago which were lost or given away.

A few days later after we arrieved in Kunming we went for a walk and decided to try and find the comic shop, but along the way we cam across a bookstore in the main shopping area downtown. It was big,three floors, like the Chinese version of Borders or Barnes and Noble. I asked for and found the art section and was kinda' flooored. It was pretty big, but that's not what got me. What got me was the huge amount of drawing books and painting books available, most really good, much better than most drawing books you see here in the US. Many were on cast drawing, still life drawing and drawing portraits, people etc.

I bought a huge batch, including 2 copies of one of Zhaoming Wu's sketchbooks I have been unable to get here in the states. I'll go into detail later on these books, but the art section did also include books on cartooning which were almost all pretty bad. Again, I think the domestic market for cartooning in China is rather poor. It's hard to imagine this, with over a billion people, that there is really not a great demand for cartooning from the home grown markets, but this seems to be the case.

Again Echo seemed to back up this thinking. Without a real market, a real demand, the Chinese publishers are not turning out their version of Spider-man or The Monkey King. Without a direct market you don't get amature comic artists self-publishing books as there is really no effective way to reach the audience, besides I think anything that was probably too violent, cutting edge, weird or cool would soon bring the ire and might of the Chinese goverment down on the artist and publisher. With this situation in place I don't see there being a ready-made solution to growing a domestic Chinese market, though it is clear there is a huge fanbase and obiously fans who love to draw. As a result the Chinese comic fan is by default I think left no choice but the mostly Japanese products and little outlet besides the fan art I saw displayed in both comic shops.

One thing I noticed about the store in Kunming, besides it being 2 floors, with the entire second floor designated as a reading and video watching area complete with a really large collection of manga to read and snack bar, was the fact that the store was full of girls and managed by one who looked like she was about 16.

The reading library.

The few boys were crowded around the TV watching some samurai animae type DVD.

In the back were lots of photos of kids dressed up in cosplay, some looked pretty good. The shop also sold pre-made costumes as well. In this shop I did find two weird American superheroe figures that were super deformed, a Batman and Capatin America.

As I scaned the store again I noticed basically the same type of manga and anime material I see in shops and cons here. Narruto, One Piece and the boy-on-boy comics too. The store also had plenty of Nightmare before Christmas as well as Miyazaki inspired product too.

Echo was happy as she was able to buy the complete set of 3 Eye by Tezuka she'd been looking for.
Several girls crowded around as Echo chatted briefly with the manager and then we left.

But as we walked out I noticed that almost right next door to cool Comics was another comic reading room called Comics World. Here you could sit, order food and read, like a comics cafe. I know these are common in Japan but it seems they have become popular to at least some degree in China as well. Though I suspect from what I've read the local authorities do police and keep an eye on some of these businesses and the material they display. We didn't stay as the huge package of art books I bought was starting to get realllly heavy, so he hailed a cab and went back to our hotel.

I think the Chinese market is ripe for some good home grown Chinese comics, If they could develope some cool concepts and characters and stay free of the Chinese goverment's censorship who knows, 10-20 years down the road the next huge comic/animation property could be Chinese, not Japanese.

One thing was clear from my trip, China is goiing through a huge revolution, bigger than the old cultural one, as it is trying to leave the 3rd world and the boarders are open to a lot of culture from around the world in a way they never were before. Just like the comics and animation hugely influcend the Japanese artists like Tezuka after WWII I think the same is going to happen or is already happening in China now. Somewhere in China there is a teenager scratching away with a fevered imagination, ink and some blank paper dreaming of being the next big world wide comic star.