Thursday, June 30, 2011

Captain America

Here are a few penciled illustrations that I did for Disney for a Captain America storybook retelling his origin. The illustration above is from Steve Rogers being rejected as 4F in the recruiting office and meeting the doctor who will introduce him to Project rebirth.

I did the drawing and then Disney hired someone else to digitally paint the book, which I hear is out in stores now, but I haven't seen yet. Stylistically the job went through many changes as it went through both Disney and marvel and many hands. its started out as being more of a retro-feel, then they wanted a Ron Garney feel, then---who knows. one of the gig issues you deal with at times on licensing jobs like this, which all storybooks or any art featuring any character for kids books, bed sheets or toys, etc., is that you often deal with people who are in charge of making decisions on stylistic choices who have no real understanding of the characters, their history or what makes then cool in the first place.

This was a fun job overall, really the big issue on this was doing a lot of research on locations and historical reference as this also covered a lot about immigration, Ellis island and NYC history, it just wasn't Cap punching Nazi's. In fact that had to be played down. I have great fondness for this character and the work Jack Kirby did along with a lot of work by Colan, Romita and Buscema, so I had that to keep the flames high despite a few bumps in the road on the editorial end.
This is the scene after the saboteur blew up the lab fatally wounding the Doctor who invented the super soldier serum.
I loved doing this one and drawing all the Kirby machines, some of the illustrations like this one were based on panels from old issue of Cap, but I had to do a lot redrawing and changes to a accommodate the script, book layout and some of these illustrations had a dozen or more layers as every figure and every foreground or background element had to be done on a separate layer so the painters could split the work up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Batman Brave and the Bold Character Design

here are a bunch of batman designs i did for an episode that had a spoof on comic con and the cosplay crowd.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Lobo Layouts

Here are two more pages from the Lobo job I laid out and you can see Jerry Ordway's awesome finished inks over them. Its always interesting for me to see what the final blend of our collaboration looks like. Jerry is one of the greatest finishers and inkers ever!
One of the harder things for me is where to stop the drawing, in other words to not go so far as to do full pencils. Artists like Gil Kane and especially John Buscema really had that down to a science. It took me a while to figure out what I was comfortable with, but doing storyboards for years did help that a bit. By doing the heavy lifting on the storytelling it gave Jerry a heads up and pick up on the deadline. No two artists think alike or always agree but Jerry never really change a ton of what I did, and if he did since his name was going on the book I didn't mind, anything he changed would still be to the good and the work looks great to my eye.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lobo Layouts

I'm posting a few layouts I did in helping Jerry Ordway on a recent lobo project. I laud the jobs out to help with the tight deadline and Jerry did the finishes.

Jerry would print these out and light-box them and make whatever changes he wanted and then go to inks.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Judge Parker

Meanwhile back at Spencer Farms Abbey and Sophie keep up with the unfolding New York drama on-line...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Judge Parker Process

I thought I would post some of my pencils and then the inks to show the process on the Judge Parker newspaper strip. I pencil as tight as I need and really focus in on the expressions and acting of the characters based on Woody Wilson's script. I also rough in very lightly the lettering and balloons and put them in using Photoshop later. But I have to plan then out to make everything fit in and the eye-flow of the balloons to work correctly. One of the bigger issues for me is that the print version of the strips which run in the paper are really small,ny dad clips and send me copies from the Detroit Free press so I see what the strip actually looks like in the paper.

Strips are run smaller than ever to cram as many on a page in the average paper, this means that everything is smaller from the lettering to the rendering, however the strip also runs on-line on the dailyink website as well as in a lot of newspapers who have an on-line comic section in their on-line version of the newspaper. There the reproduction is a lot better, bigger and in color. What this chiefly means is I have to draw the faces big enough so you can see the expressions well. I don't want to draw a big-head or talking head strip so its always an issue I have to think about as I lay the strips out as I want some environments as well, they are as important as the characters sometimes. The idea I usually work with is to have a good set-up panel that shows everything in a medium establishing shot--and then I can cut in. We need to see Sofie's room and bed and computer at least well once in the strip in a few days worth of continuity.

Most anyone can read strips they missed on-line now, but I don't count on that to cheat set-ups. The other thing I consider very important is choosing the angles of the face to show the expressions clearly, variety of head size adds some visual dynamics as far as layout, make sure the shapes and overlaps are good and to make the female's faces and hair beautiful, appealing and attractive.

The inking is the easy part of the job for me and always has been. I've been working on making the hair more "Dallas" as in the TV show. I started thinking a while back that JP is kind of like one of those 8o's soap dramas like a "Dallas" so I should try and make the women more glamorous in that vein. I also worked on making the hairstyles work more for me. I could never deal with Abby's hairdo. I couldn't get with how it was done, it seemed a weird holdover from the 50's with a 70's twist. So I started looking at real actresses with similar hairstyles to really work it out.

I'm also looking at the great strip artists I admire like Raymond, Drake Williamson and Starr, all of those artists made everyone great looking and had a lot of great textures in the inking. I'm mainly using a Hunt 108 nib, a NO 4 brush and Pigmas markers NO 2, 5, 8, for all the inking, and do any corrections in Photoshop. I use the blacks as simple patterns to focus or hold the eye or lead the eye here. I'm also keeping the set-up in Sofie's room lighter than the much more dramatic lighting going on with the Judge and the suicide jumper in NYC.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Judge Parker

Judge Parker enters the Twitter age!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Remembering Al Williamson

A boy and his hero.

It has been a year since I received the news that my fiend and one time mentor Al Williamson passed away, just a month after his long time friend Frank Frazetta also passed on, shifted into another reality.

I can never think of men like these artists, men, as nothing less than immortal, their art, their visions linked in a great chain still lives on in me and a zillion other people who were touched and inspired by their work. Their work still can inspire me at any second and it lives in me, literally is a part of my art existence, deep down in my art engine. The flesh may pass but what both of these men gave the world will be eternal. How lucky we all are that their art is still here as alive and vital.

It has taken me a while to process my feelings and thoughts on these two great artists and towering figures in the world of comics and the larger one of fantastic art. I never knew or met Frazetta, but I worshipped at his alter like just about any artist I know who was into comics and animation, fantasy art, etc. How could you escape him, he so influenced the art world that you would still get influenced by him through other artists who were influenced by him even if somehow you never knew his art.

That culture, what was then called sci-fi, or even geek culture is really now mainstream culture, and I grew up and into it in the 70's, from being a fan and aspiring artist into a professional in the 80's. Frazetta was a pillar for me, a giant, like Jack Kirby, always the top of the mountain and always there to inspire--his vision shaped my vision of the world like gravity bends light.

While I never met Frazetta in person and never got around to seeing the museum of his art, much now to my loss as its gone as the family appears to be auctioning off his work, I did get to met and know Al Williamson, and I am the better for it.

Al was a great friend and mentor to me in my late 20's, a figure who loomed large artistically to me and was a bridge to many great artists of the past as mentors or teachers can often be. He so gracious, kind and helpful too me in the stage of my growth as a young pro was the dream of what a big-time cartoonist should be. He had the life anyone could want as a professional cartoonist --success, great talent, family, home, studio--you name it--and for me he was a living, direct link or portal back to the classic era of comics, comic strips, illustration, American cinema and pulp/fantasy fiction of the last 100 years. He was also maybe the last hero I will ever have. AS you get older its so much rarer to have any heroes at all, life just produces less and less and it seems at times more heroes with feet of clay than anything else.
A pic of me in Al's studio.

Through my friend Bret Blevins I got to meet Al after Bret moved up to Honesdale, PA to share Al's studio. I would often truck up the North East extension taking the three-hour drive from Philly to hang out with both of them in Al's studio, a converted carriage house behind his home on Park Street.

It was like the Mecca of comic art for me, like a Camelot of sorts and Al was such a great guy; he was very charismatic, open and down to earth. He also had the greatest collection of comic and comic strip art ever. Foster, Raymond, Salinas, Robbins, Wood, he had it all, and collections and old newspaper strips clipped, it was like a treasure trove of art! He owned maybe the most important piece of comic strip art, The Bridge Sunday featuring Prince Valiant fighting the Vikings. Just look at Frazetta's EC cover and you can see the direct link to Foster for both men.

In the evenings I would stay late literally gorging my brain on the art in Al's collection, trying to learn the techniques and secrets of the masters of comic art. You can learn so much by looking at the original art and I did. I would drive out 17 miles to the little cabin I was renting on Duck harbor, my head so stuffed with art I couldn't take anymore--Drunk with art.

I think I learned more in the brief time, grew more in that time I shared with Al than any other as a cartoonist. I continued to grow obviously, but that was a hyper time for me and Al was also instrumental in getting me back in at Marvel Comics. He kept a Steve Ditko job on Daredevil that Ditko had done as a fill-in, but since it was breakdowns, loose, loose pencils, basically like those rough figures you see in a “how-to” book. Al didn’t feel comfortable working on such loose work, but I said if he kept it I’d tighten up the pencils for him. He did, talking it over with the editor, Carl Potts. Then I proceded to pull out my Ditko and Wally Wood comics and tighten up the pencils and then Al and I both inked the job. When he sent in the story carl raved over it and Al gave most of the credit to me, and that got me in at marvel working for Potts as a regular inker which lead to my regular work penciling and inking at Marvel. That’s the kind of guy Al was.

You could never meet a bigger art geek for the classic strips than AL. And the great thing was Al would be there showing you this stuff he had collected and he was right there with you, geeking out over it too! Many a day I would drive off and come back with Donomite Donuts and coffee and then Bret, Al and I would sit in a circle in his studio just going over art and talking...those are some of my most cherished memories. "Foster was the greatest" was often heard and repeated, along with a tape of classic films cores featuring Korngold, Max Steiner, Newman and more. I don't know how many times the scores for Captain Blood or Sea Hawk playing over and over and over. We'd all laugh and get a big joke out of it. I tried to introduce Al to new stuff, and he liked some, but he still loved his old scores.

Here is a pic of Al and me taken by Bret, Al is sitting with his coffee and looking at probably some Hal Foster or Alex Raymond or something else from his library.
Al might have been in a tie with Fory Ackerman for being the original fanboy, for Al was such a huge fanboy deep down still 12-years-old, and I think that is part of what made him a success and so good, he really loved the great stuff and he could just link up to it and go, and did for a career that last 50 years. Who is so lucky to do what they truly love for that long?

I miss those days and I miss Al with his big laugh, but looking at any of his work brings it all back, and in that way maybe we artists are a bit luckier than most—our art makes us immortal. So here’s to Al and Frank—the immortals who I hope never fade as long as anyone enjoys great art, fantasy and adventure.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011