Sunday, November 06, 2016


October has come and gone and that means that the Inktober event has come and gone till next year, however my ink drawings or Wind Downs will continue.  I was only able to get 14 Inktobers done this year due to drawing both strips, but quality over quantity--right? My fave was this one above of the Swamp Thing and a bunch of mermaids. I'm such a big fans of Bernie Wrightson ans well and Franklin Booth and Nestor Redondo, so I got to blend my love for those artists into this piece.

 One of my last commissions on the list so my commissions list will be opening back up in a week or so.
 One of the Inktobers that jumped into my head while I was working on another one. Funny how doing one drawing can suddenly generate another image that bubbles up from the depths and seems to just erupt forth and demand to be drawn.  I'd actually like to do a painting of this idea.
 And while all of the Inktobers were going on I finished my first Phantom Story and have started the next The Phantom Stamp. This is the first one where the writer Tony was writing for me instead of the late Paul Ryan. I'm still on my learning curve with the strip as I'm not only drawing new characters but old previously established ones as well. The Phantom is a very intense strip research wise. luckily I have help from Tony, Terry Beatty, KFS and even some fans.
 I gathered up a pile of some of the sketchbooks I have kicking around in the studio. Some almost full, some with dregs, some really decades old. They are much more important to me now than when I was younger. they are really me, raw and unchecked and so much essential to my process now as an artist. I've always had them though back in the late 80's and 90's I didn't sketch as much nor in the vital way I do now and i sometimes regret that. I was working so hard back then and not taking as much time for personal development. Something that serious started when I went back to art school.
 My biggest regret is that this fall I haven't painted like I wanted. But then making $$$$$ is very important when roofs have to be fixed, furnaces need work and taxes need to be paid. I did sneak out with my buddy the other day to do a quick rush little plien air about an hour before the sun set. It felt so good!!

                                              Darby Creek 9 x 12 Oil on Arches Oil Paper
                            Meanwhile my cat Cornwell judges a week of the Judge in progress

And this Sunday we jump months ahead on the Judge Parker strip as Francesco really starts his tenure going forward after sort of wrapping up or bundling things from Woody Wilson's long, long, long story of Neddy's factory. I gave Ces some ideas of what I'd like to do tone wise with the strip. I'm for a little more adventure, a little more like the old old Judge where Sam was more like Jim Rockford.
 Some others are being writtenn out or even perhaps dying off. Like real soap operas you have to keep the churn. I hope to never seen some characters again, or for a long time like Rocky and Godiva and the biggest change is in being able to draw seasons, like this Sunday's strip.

This is something both Terry Beatty and I really desired when Wilson was writing both strips but never got to do. But Terry has been doing that on Rex Morgan and I'm getting to finally do it on the Judge. I'm sure judging by the Snarkers they will hate this as much as the last writer's stuff as they just have to hate with their small lives and babymen-Trump-like hands---but oh well. The 10 million viewers and readers on the Comics Kingdom portal seem to like what we are doing and I've been getting some positive feedback. But you can never ever write to or for fans, thats a noose around the neck. You have to write for yourself first, entertain yourself first to do a good job. Soon Sofie's fate will be revealed, but we can torture our readers in a good way a little longer. I don't go often to the CK board, but its funny to see just how wrong the trolls are about plots, and motivations and their ideas are a bit amusing when not rotten. Readers are too impatient still and this strip will move faster now that it has, but it will still never be a Marvel Comic or a movie. I'm sure if we ramped up the strip like that the longer time readers would not like that pace either.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Inktober 2016

I am participating in the annual Inktober daily drawing challenge that was started by Jake Parker. I did some  drawings last year as well, but hope to be able to do a lot more this year as I do them anyway as you can see by my previous post. Here are the first two drawings for this year and my third drawing is done and my fourth one doodled out.

For me playing around in ink is great fun and very relaxing as ink was my first serious medium as a teen wanting to be a cartoonist.

People always ask where ideas come from and they just roll out of my head. I can think of a zillion things to draw all the time. My brain is an image machine, its always on. So taking a pencil I just swoosh around on a page till I get something I like. Its total freedom, art without any demands from a client or a deadline---the best kind of drawing!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wind Downs

In the evenings after toiling a long day at the drawing board on the comic strips I will ease up or wind down sometimes by--more drawing. I know, for some relaxing might be taking a long walk (which I also do) but I find doing these "Wind Down" drawings like un-clenching a fist, letting my imagination run free unshackled by any continuity demands. I never know what I will draw as I doodle away, sometimes I keep what I put down, sometimes I don't. If I like it, I ink it up. I post these on my Facebook and Instagram and people really seem to love them. I do to and plan on publishing a book of these drawing in 2017. I love the great pen and ink artists of the past century, Booth, Gibson, Joseph Clement Coll, Kley and Stoops to name just a few.

Why Mermaids and Astronauts? Why not!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Death In The Family

ArtistaCon This Weekend

I'll be participating at the Artistacon this weekend in the Lyceum in Burlington NJ along with many, many other top pros. Artistacon will be held Saturday, September 17 (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Sunday, September 18 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) I'll be there both days and doing a demo with the Phantom as well as doing portfolio reviews and critiques. 

Drawing & Inking The Phantom Demonstration
Mike Manley

  • Saturday, September 17, 2016
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm
  • Location: Seminar Room
You can see the full guest list here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life follows Art

Today while driving out to Media, the county seat to pay my real estate taxes I came across Sam Driver's yellow Corvette parked in front of his lawyers office. I wonder if the real life lawyer here is a Judge Parker Fan?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Baltimore and More

Last weekend I attended the annual Baltimore Comic Con and had a blast! First I got to see my best buddy Bret Blevins for the first time in the flesh since 2010! Last year he was going to come but broke his collar bone-but luckily no bones were broken to stop this meeting.
                                               Bret, Jamar and myself at a power breakfast

I also just like this show because Marc Nathan and crew do it right, there are plenty of pros and just a few TV/Movie types so the focus is on comics and so we get lots of people who are readers and not like the Wizard shows which is mostly a bunch of people looking for prints, autographs, etc., and who are not readers. I also love this show because I get to see many pros I like and admire like Tom Palmer, Garcia Lopez, The Simnsons and more. Up early for breakfast and you can talk to guys like Neal Adams or Howard Chaykin and dinners are great too. Its so great to talk to Tom and hear about the good old days at Marvel and his experiences there and in advertising as well.

                                                   The amazing and gracious Tom Plamer

I checked into the hotel on Thursday but worked till about 3PM on Friday as I had to deliver my week's worth of strips, which I had inked but had to letter and color. I knew Friday would be the slower day and deadlines are deadlines. I saw plenty of regulars at the show, fans and pros I see every year and did some nice sketches. I was so glad to get to meet and spend time with fellow Strip artist June Brigman and got to meet the great Joe Giella who retired from comics after 70 years! June and her hubby Roy have taken over Mary Worth from Giella and now belong to the trifecta of Marty Worth, Rex Morgan and Judge Parker.

Bret, June Brigman and me
The great Joe Giella and me

Unlike some cons, NYCC or Sandy Egoes this con you can stop and chat with people. I met a nice family from Belgium I did sketches for and another artist from France as well as Phantom and Judge Parker fans. I even brought along strips to show to a few who sat behind the table as we talked for a while. I rubbed Skull Rings with Alex Saviuk and long time pals Thom Zhaler and Steve Conely and hung with my other best bud Jamar Nicholas. My friends Will and Alina came down to share my room two nights so the could do the show.

I didn't attend any bar-nights or the Harvey Awards, but instead either had a nice dinner with friends or caught up on some sleep. I am not into awards at all but I heard Dean Haspiel gave a nice speech. I did reflect back on seeing the late Darwyn Cooke at the show last year and he came up and gave me a big hug--then a few months later he was gone--it does make you think about how precious time is as it flies along.
                              Man, what do I spy with my little eye looking up from a sketch...

I have to say I saw more female butt cheeks those 3 days than at any other show due to all the Harley's walking about---though seeing the little girls dressed up like that with their hiney exposed as well was actually disturbing. I'm no prude, but seeing girls under the tween age like that is kinda' wrong, if I had a daughter she'd have to dress as the regular Harley till she's of age---sorry!

I didn't shop for anything as I still have way too much crap here but I did score a fantastic pencil page by Garcia-Lopez---my hero!

Then it was all over except for a nice breakfast--then it was back up the road to Philly and back in the drawing chair to get the next week's Phantom in and onto more Judge P which I am finishing now,

I did try and do a digital plien air painting from my hotel window after the con as the sun set before we had dinner.

                   A Swamp Thing sketch that the buyer requested be in my "wind down style"

Francesco's first month on the strip and the ongoing "death of Sophie" story line continues to spin out with great response from readers--even some snarkers. It seems killing characters off gets peoples attention on a often sleepy strip like the Judge. But sleepy time is no more!! But all outstanding story lines are going to be wrapped up and by November we will be in a new age on the strip.
                                                                 A Ninjack Sketch
                                     One fan even had a 23 year old Azbats sketch I did--Yikes!

One thing that always seems to remain consistent is many readers impatience for things to happen in the strip and they don't get the difference between comic strips and other media like movies, TV etc. Comics moves at a different pace, the one of your own CPU and its not a "push media" like TV. Its true the strip was slow, often too slow for my own tastes but a week can be only ten minutes in strip time, or a month depending on how it's written.

A Phantom week and Judge Parker week in production

Abbey and Sam drive to the accident scene which I imagine was maybe 60-90 minutes away, say from Philly to north Jersey. Thus it could be raining at my house and not across the Ben Franklin Bridge or even downtown Philly. I have seen it rain across the street out west, while my side was dry. I think when fans take things too literally they kind of ruin their own enjoyment and the fantasy.

We've never ever seen anyone go to the bathroom, nor hardly ever shower--but we assume they do. Wilson had a pace he inherited from LeDoux and Ces and I will work our own pace out as we go along, but I definitely want some characters to die off, some literally and fade out for a long while to give the strip more fire and drama. By my count there were 26 separate plots or sub plots that Wilson had laid out, most were dropped and moved  from or never resolved, so we are wrapping all of them up in a nice body bag. Its been great to get such nice private feedback from fans about the current story that I think I'll pitch another to Ces next year. Alien abduction perhaps...

I was even thinking of having some kind of contest for real JP fans where I'd give away a few originals as prizes. I'll have to put my thinking cap on in the next few weeks to work that out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grind On Con ON

This weekend I'll be attending the annual Baltimore Comicon and be set up in booth right next to my buddy Bret Blevins who missed last year due to his broken collar bone. I love the BCC as its just the right size and full of comic books fans who are the real fans, the readers, though you still have plenty of Cosplay and a few Celebrities. I look forward a a few days away from the board at home to sit at another board in the con drawing away, doing sketches. I also enjoy seeing a few fellow pros as I exit my art cave for a brief stint in the sun.

The current story line of the Judge has been a bit hit-literally. Seems the fans have really gotten into the whole "Death of Sophie" story line that came out of the plot I pitched to the previous writer,Woody Wilson. The story has taken a turn of the dramatic in the last week with what might be a fatal car crash for Sophie and the band. I just turned in my 9-19 week and the story continues to turn in what I hope is an unexpected and entertaining direction for the readers. Some long answered questions about the characters and locations will be revealed. So far feeling are mixed, some want Sophie DEAD, or paralyzed, some have written to say please let her live. Some say some pretty disgusting things too. However I agree with Hitchcock-
"Always make the audience suffer as much as possible."
I think he also said he thought realism was boring. Some readers really go through hoops trying to figure out things, which of course are wrong--but that means they are interested--and that's what its all about.
When Francesco took over I wrote out an A-Z outline that laid out the past nearly 7 years of plots and sub-plots Wilson weaved on the strip. This way Ces would have an idea of where things are, are not and could be. It was sort of shocked myself at all of the things that had happened--or not. One of the things I really wanted to return to is the change of seasons in the strip, holidays, etc. Otherwise things just go on in a very weird "other world" where time does not ever really pass. This current story line with the factory and Rocky and Godiva will wrap I think by November and then we can reset for the future, maybe with the regular cast of characters, or maybe not, some things for sure will never be the same.Then Ces and I can start our run fresh from the previous story lines.
Here is the final inked strip--sans word balloons of course.

There is also an adjustment on my working with Ces' rhythm and flow as a writer and I know its hard trying to come in and tie up all the straggling plot lines. About you can see my rough layout for the coming Sunday and it was really packed too tight with copy so I sent my rough to Ces and he rewrote it to knock down the amount of copy. The Sunday strip is also very restrictive as far as format with the top two tiers fixed, only the bottom do I have freedom of panel size. I still had to drop the type a font size to make it all fit and not seem cramped.
Here is a whole week of the Phantom which was just run, sans balloons so you can see the art. I loved doing this week as I got to do some action. This story line has been great for e a honestly a break from the Judge as its adventure and I can stretch my legs. It is a lot of research on China and Tibet, old military uniforms, monks, Tibetan people, animals, temples, etc. Fantasy has to work by being based on enough reality so you can stretch it. I think some fans can be too literal minded and then anything like the Phantom falls apart right away. You want to suspend your beliefs without suspending all logic, but also you don't want to look behind the curtain.

In other news I will be a guest of honor at the Artisacon next month in New Jersey. Its a weekend show in Burlington Lyceum where many to pros and local artists like myself will conduct demos, do portfolios reviews and more. A great opportunity for those looking to get one-on-one tips from industry pros like myself. I'll have more of an update soon about my appearance.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Heat

Summer has pretty much cooked off here in the studio, literally so in the past few days with temperatures with a heat index of 108-112 degrees. It has been so hot I was forced to put in my second air conditioner up stairs to try and make it workable for me. Having my arm stick to the paper and the paper act like a damp cloth is something that makes deadlines even less bearable and inking suck. As a result I have been taking the afternoons off in the peak of the heat and working later in the night when the temps drop. I look forward to the crispness of fall, but honestly dread the idea of winter and snow. I can't see myself living in snow the older I get, and the idea of a sunnier climate appeals to me more and more. Another hottest year on record they say and I can believe it!

Working away and feeling a bit of strain these weeks to be honest I came to realize it has been six years since my last real vacation, and that I won't have one this year--again. I'm certain many cartoonist, or strip cartoonists feel this pain. Trying to build more time into doing the strips is a constant battle. I remember hearing a quote from the late, great Leonard Starr that one day he looked up from his drawing table and 35 years had passed. Well I am close to that very number now myself as a pro cartoonist but almost 40 since I started working in art at 15.

There are days you feel the Burn, the energy is not quick to come and those are the hard days to be sure where its habit and practice that server as much as anything else to get the job done---though I have to say this Phantom story is fun, and a lot of research.

                                                      Two more pages from the DC job

Things will be very different this fall for the first time in 15 years as I will not be teaching any classes. I some ways I will miss it and in someways I will not, it was sometimes a big deadline crunch for me on teaching days, but mainly I am just so busy now with two strips. Things have certainly changed a lot school wise and price wise in that time, some places literally doubling in price, or more. I feel for any kid with a dream, but I am less and less about the colleges and art schools and more about the ateliers these days where you can get the skills without the BS and expense. I just interviewed Jeff Watts about his Watt Atelier near San Diego for the next issue of Draw!

                                            Pencils from an upcoming Judge Parker Sunday

 Jeff has a great school and one I did consider before PAFA, but at the time I didn't want to move and like Nelson Shanks school, Incamminati, didn't offer a degree ( Incamminati does now through a local college)-- at the time I wanted the degree as I was teaching, and something you need to teach on a college level now. But I wonder sometimes how different things could have been if I did go to either of those other places or move to California 10 years ago.

So, I will be putting my energies more into focusing on new projects like getting a collection of Comic Art Bootcamp from Draw! ready to print for 2017 and another book or two including a new version of From Script to Print with Danny Fingeroth, the first version is now out of print and going for over a hundred bucks I have been told. I also will be focusing more on some personal painting or art projects I have been too busy to do. Teaching is just one spinning plate I have to let drop for now.

                                                Another week of the Phantom in progress

I have painted the least this summer and this year of any since I started school and graduated, though I am thinking about painting all of the time and want to get back to it in a big way by next year. My mind has been changing about maybe what I had originally intended to do as a painter and the fact that I am not/and will not be a full time painter and that its a real probability I will never be one.

I would have to sell an awful lot of paintings to equal my commercial income and I don't see that as a current possibility. When I was in school I thought that maybe I'd transition over, but the the financial collapse happened and the debt from school piled up too. But Art is long, so I hope I can paint into  my 70-even 80's if I live that long, and my eyes stay good, so I took that pressure off the table. I will also need to market my art maybe in a different way and the traditional galleries seem to be suffering, at least in Philly. So many things to think over and study while working away on the guy in the purple underwear.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Phantom The Bat and Supes

Here are a few more pages from the Tomb job for DD Digital. Here are my layouts and my pencils. I drew my layouts at print size, scanned them in, blew them up and worked over them on my lightbox for speed.

                                      And here is the last week's worth of the Phantom.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Phantom, The Bat, The Kryptonian And The Minivan

This was one of the heaviest lifting weeks in the studio for a long time. On top of the two strips which keep me plenty busy, I also got a rush 10 page penciling job for DC Digital books, written by old buddy Phil Hester and inked by Comics god, Tom Palmer. I think it will show up on Comixology.

Tom and I last worked together over 20 years ago on Spirits of Vengeance.

you can see more of Tom's great work on his website

Its Supes and Bats vs Darkseid and DeSaad. It was a fun romp, better for an annual than a 10 pager as it was very dense and I had to get used to the DC Digital format which breaks things into two tiers for the cellphones and tablets.

The rough for page 1 on the left and the finished pencils on the right.

Still I was happy old Marvel buddy Steve Buccellato asked me to do it.  I got to draw the new costumes on Supes and Bats which made me miss the old ones--well at least on Superman.

This weeks was also a hard drawing week on The Phantom as week get Kit to his new school hidden away in the far off Himalayas. Great vistas and people, new character and street scenes, so it was a fun lush week written by Tony that called on all my drawing muscles!

 And here is last week's worth of The Phantom strips.

The band's trip back from Morrisville/Morristown continues in the Judge. This is from a plot I pitched to Woody back at the beginning of the year. Woody is scripting and adding his own flair of course. The band is on the way back and there looks to be some back seat hijinks. Oh, Oh, drama!

It was also a cleaning out week, out with more old and unwanted  comics and books into the recycle--I have acquired so much of everything it seems---so my rule is if I haven't looked at it in 5 years--it goes in the "out pile". Some stuff I will keep, but frankly its so easy to keep things you think you will look at again--then never do!! I brought crap home from my studio in school that I thought I'd want or would go through two years ago that I am just going through now--and most of the stuff I am tossing.

I think all mid career artists have to do this, out with as much as you can so what you have is good and easily found. One of the museum conservators at PAFA told me that when they get in an artist studio, all their material, sometimes after they pass, it's so daunting the family goes ,"Here you guys can have this stuff".

Then they have to go through a huge amount of junk that is basically mostly just junk to sort out the envelope with a doodle  that was some link in the artists work or process that is important, from the real junk mail. She told me to toss away as much stuff as I can along the way to avoid the huge pile of art debris she was going through. It was sound advice I should have listened too!