Thursday, August 28, 2008

Friday... El Diablo is Almost Out, and a Thrilling Image by Milton Caniff!

I'll keep it brief today. I'm jammed up on work, and too high on the Obama speech tonight to stay at this for too long.

I will take time, though, to mention again the EL DIABLO comes out next week. Jai Nitz writes, Phil Hester pencils, yours truly inks, and Guy Major colors. It's a damn good book. Please check it out. At the very least, take it from the shelf and just flip through the damn thing. I think you'll dig it.

Okay, onto today's art scan. I hope the ghost of ol' Milt Caniff will forgive me for giving him short shrift. This panel is clipped from the TERRY AND THE PIRATES strip that hangs directly over my computer workstation. It was published in 1937, as Caniff was really coming into his own, thanks in large part to his studio partnership with the amazing Noel Sickles. By the way, a Sickles hangs right next to the Caniff strip, much to the chagrin of Howard Chaykin, but that's a story for another day.

This is the first panel of the strip, and look at the action we have jumped into. Hard to believe it was cool back then to show a dude with his whole damn head on fire in a popular strip that kids were reading, but there it is. No worse than what was going on in Chester Gould's brilliant Dick Tracy strip at the same time, now that I think of it.

This panel is fascinating and exciting to me. The composition is pretty static, but the action is so thick that I think it works. We are certainly being led into the next panel efficiently.

One more technical note, thanks to Derek asking: Caniff used a blue wash on his original for a few years to denote where he wanted the syndicate (or the papers... not sure how that worked, actually) to apply a gray tone. He didn't do the work himself, I assume, because a consistent dot screen was the best way to ensure good results, and the printers could offer a better approximation of what would work than Caniff could. Or, maybe it was a time-saver for him, or maybe he couldn't get good zip-a-tone... I guess I can't say for sure. I do know that the blue wash adds a very nice depth to the originals.

I always say that a great work of art has to do one thing well... it has to make you FEEL something. This panel makes me feel something very intensely. It makes me feel exuberant. The crazy lettering, the incredibly bold inking, the action, even the fact that Caniff's pen snapped on him and he didn't bother to white out the little ink explosion (under the flaming guy's right arm)... it all speaks to Caniff's joy in creating his work.

When I look at this strip, I see Caniff and Sickles, pushing each other to creative places they could not have found alone. I see two young men rejoicing in what they can do with this medium that we love. After a long day at the drawing board, a long day sometimes spent feeling uninspired or under-talented, looking at this strip makes me feel like a kid again.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the genius! The blog and I will be taking Labor Day off. Have a great holiday weekend, and I'll see you back here Tuesday.


I wonder who owns publishing rights to Terry these days... Fantagraphics, perhaps? Anyway, someone does, so be good!

Thursday... Uncle Slam Fights Back is Coming, and- The Brilliance of Neal Adams' Godfather, Stan Drake!

First up today, I think it's time to mention UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK again. The book will be shipping in September, in time for all that delicious pre-election hoopla. The book is really fun, and full of my own left-wing craziness. Please check it out.

Here's a little peak from UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK artist, T. J. Kirsch.

Uncle Slam is owned by ME, so keep yer stinkin' mitts off!

Since we looked at the amazing work of Neal Adams yesterday, I thought it was appropriate to talk about Stan Drake today. While I'm not sure Neal very often (if ever) says as much, Drake is the seed from which Neal's sharp, illustrative style blossomed.

Drake's life story is really something. You can check out a great interview with him HERE. He was almost a movie star, he worked at one of the great ad agencies in New York when the Mad Men era was really thriving. He drew a long-lived strip called The Heart of Juliet Jones, and then went on to draw the legendary Blondie strip until his death. Along the way, he did tons of illustrations for Golf magazines, inked a lot of so-so comic books, drew the great Kelley Green graphic novels, and was sitting in the passenger seat of the sports car during the crash that killed Alex Raymond.

Drake was a master at using photo reference, combining the realism of his models with his incredibly lively and razor-sharp inking technique to produce work that never look dead or photo-stiff. I'll write another day about the varying levels of photo-ref and tracing in comics, and how many of today's artists are content to live their careers are nothing more than glorified Xerox machines. For today, I'll just present a wonderful illustration, produced by Drake when he was really at the top of his game, probably in the mid '50s.

Drake used photos here- photos he almost certainly took himself. He uses that reference as a basis for his illustration, but he doesn't let the photos dominate. The inking is so bold and lively that the work stays fresh. The textures aren't overwhelming. They inform the shapes and materials being represented, and they help pull the drawing away from the boring sheen of a photograph. The faces are a wonderful blend of realism and idealism.

I own this illustration, a comic book page or two, and a handful of Juliet Jones strips by Drake, and I never tire of his energy, or the snap of his line. Even while taking every shortcut he could muster to crank out a daily strip, the work is inspiring.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


Hey... I don't actually need a copyright notice here... nice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday... Me Drawing Batman, and Something Magical by the Best Guy Who Ever Drew Batman!

First up today isn't exactly promotional. Yeah, I will get back to pushing my wares as a writer and inker again soon. I just figured we could all use a li'l break. Besides, as I look around on my hard drive for art to share here, I keep finding stuff of my own that I'd like to offer.

So, not much commentary required here. Just a Batman Sketch I did a few years back. I draw Batman more than anyone else (aside from Green Arrow, I guess, if you count all the free GA head shots I've done over the years). He's always been my favorite superhero, and he's fun to draw. It's pretty rare, though, that I produce anything very memorable. Batman has been drawn by a lot of guys in a league that I can only aspire to. Still, I like this drawing because of its power and immediacy. The drawing is okay, but it's got a confidence and a power that I'm proud of.

I ink most of my paying work these days with a pen, but I do love to play around with a brush. This sketch was done with a flat watercolor brush.

I would certainly hope that, by now, we all know that BATMAN is owned by DC Comics.

I have to confess that I no longer own the piece I'm showing off today. I used to, though, and since I made the rules of this blog, I say that's good enough.

As soon as I saw Neal Adams' work, I was a huge fan. I think only Kirby connected with me as instantly and as powerfully as Adams did. I sought out everything I could get by Neal: comics, fanzines, posters, prints, and portfolios. Among the portfolios were three packages that reprinted Neal's fantastic Tarzan paperback cover paintings. These images really blew me away. They were dynamic, and the drawings were incredible. Neal's color sense isn't the most revolutionary, but he paints well enough to tell his single-image stories.

I also quickly became obsessed with the way Neal drew with a pencil. Some of the fanzines I had gotten my hands on reprinted pencil sketches, and they were just awesome. Neal used a pencil like no one else I had ever seen. Come to think of it, I still don't think Ive seen anyone wield a pencil like Neal did. There is so much there... so much beauty and grace, but always delivered with such vitality. Just amazing.

So, when I started collecting original artwork, Neal's work was at the top of my list. Many years later, I came across the drawing I'm sharing today. I jumped on it. While I don't know that this drawing was part of the process in developing one of the Tarzan covers, it certainly seems likely. Eventually, I would sell this piece off to help pay for an upgrade... two larger prelims for the same Tarzan cover. You'll see those another day.

For now, just soak up what Neal can do with a pencil. I have left the file size quite large on this one, because I want you to be able to really see each and every line. Remember that this drawing measures no more than 7 inches wide. Damn, what I wouldn't give to be able to draw like that. I have a theory that artists often end up admiring other artists who can do what they themselves struggle with. I'll revisit this point with examples at some point, but for now, you can consider me a prime example. I draw more like the gorilla on the left side of this picture than I do like Neal Adams. What he does just seems magical to me, which is probably why I never get tired of his work.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


Anyone know who owns Tarzan these days? At any rate, someone does, so don't be a pain in the ass about it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tuesday... Old Godness by Me and Hester, and Even More Old Goodness by Buckler and Janson!

First up today is something I just rediscovered while scouring my hard drive for art scans. About a decade ago, Phil Hester and I worked on a Vertigo book called BRAVE OLD WORLD. To be perfectly honest, I don't remember much about the book. I believe it was written by my old Wonder Woman collaborator, William Messner-Loebs. I also seem to recall that Guy Davis provided layouts (as much as I respect Guy, a silly role considering the storytelling prowess of my pal Hester).

Anyway, Phil and I produced one really memorable piece of work during the Brave Old World run. We're not really known for our detailed settings or fine rendering, but we manage it pretty well, I think, in this 2/3 tier of a two-page spread.

Sadly, the original art for this piece was lost somehow. The production folks at DC made a stat (copy) pasteup of this spread, which was returned. The original art, though, was never seen again by Phil or myself. I wonder what became of it? Anyway, the digital version is still alive and well... enjoy!

I assume this Brave Old World stuff is still owned by Vertigo/DC.

The year after I moved to Philadelphia I went to my first big, East Coast comic book convention. Turns out, it was one of the biggest comic conventions ever, in a certain context. I believe the event was held in late 1991, shortly after the launch of Jim Lee's X-MEN comic, which sold something like 7 million copies... enough for each and every comic book reader in America to own about 20 copies each. These were the heady days of comic book speculation. Marvel had gone public, comics were being ordered by truckload by sports card store owners, and the gravy train was never going to stop rolling... right? Hell, the publishers were putting out so much crap that even a kid from Kansas who didn't really know what the hell he was doing could get inking work! Well, that was the hope, anyway.

At any rate, in that over-crowded hotel near Madison Square Garden, I spotted a pile of original artwork for sale on a dealer's table. The price tag for everything in this stack? How about four freaking bucks?! Well, I wasn't loaded, by any stretch, but I did have twenty dollars burning a hole in my pocket. I walked away with a Shogun Warriors page by Trimpe and Esposito, a Human Fly page by Lee Elias, a Superboy page by Brown and Giordano, a Rom page by Buscema (Sal) and Sinnott, and a Battlestar Galactica page by Buckler and Janson.

Presented today is a panel from the Rich Buckler/Klaus Janson page. It's not a stunning panel, but there is a valuable lesson here. That lesson is: There are valuable lessons to be learned even by careful study of seemingly pedestrian work. In this case, despite some odd storytelling choices here that may have been the writer's fault, the composition is clear and strong, the figures are solid and gestural, and the inking is ballsy as all hell. I won't go on and on (yeah... too late). Just look at it for a minute... study it. You can learn a lot by checking out how these two old pros got the job done.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the gen... okay, I can't really go with genius here. I don't think Rich or Klaus would mind if I say "Enjoy the deadline-driven solid workmanship!"


I have no idea who owns the publishing rights to this old, original Battlestar Galactica stuff. Let's just agree that it ain't you, okay?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monday... Something a little different- Me Inking Duncan Fregredo!

I'm mixing it up a bit today. While looking for an art scan for today's post, I came across something of my own that I had almost forgotten about. I think it's interesting enough to share.

About five years ago, just when my wife was about to give birth to our son, Henry, an editor I didn't know called me from Marvel. When a new editor calls, it's almost always good news. More often than not, it means new work, and getting new work is the best part of the job. In most cases, it's way better than actually doing the work.

In this case, the news wasn't quite that good. The editor, Nick Lowe, did like my work, and was interested in working with me. In fact, he was interested in having me ink an artist I adore, Duncan Fregredo. Unfortunately, I had to jump through some hoops first. Turns out they did like my work up at Marvel, but they liked a few other guys, too. So, they wanted some samples done... without pay, of course.

Normally, I would say no to such an offer right off the bat. I'm not arrogant about my skills or place in the business as an inker, but I do think I've been around enough to not have to do samples without pay. In this case, though, I REALLY wanted to ink Fregredo, and I doubted the opportunity would ever present itself again. He almost always inks his own work.

So, I agreed to do the samples. But, with the birth of my son imminent, I explained that I could only do two of the three pages they wanted. They agreed, under the circumstances.

For today's scan, I'm presenting the results of one of those sample pages. Even though the pencils were very intimidating, I'm happy with the results. I didn't get the gig (not that bad a deal, overall, based on what I heard from the guy that did, but that's another story), but I did prove to myself that I could ink a guy like Fregredo credibly.

The main challenge on this page was to preserve the subtlety of Fregredo's beautiful drawings. The faces here are lovely, but delicate. A heavy hand could easily lose an expression or turn an attractive face ugly. There were also a few things that were just hard to convert to line art. The hair in the last panel is probably the best example of something that works well in pencils, but is harder to pull off in ink.

Okay... enough outta me. Enjoy the, um... competence (on my part, at least), and come back for more tomorrow!


Characters are owned by Marvel Entertainment Group.

Friday... One more El Diablo Image. and THOR by RYAN and JANSON!

Who's tired of seeing promotion for my upcoming book, El Diablo?! No one, that's who!

Okay, you all know by now about EL DIABLO, shipping in two weeks from DC Comics. Demons, violence, and horses by Nitz, Hester, and myself. Please check it out. Here's the cover for #3:

I should mention here that El Diablo is owned by DC COMICS.

And, on to today's art scan. This half-splash from an issue of Thor about ten years back was drawn by a guy named Michael Ryan. To be honest, I don't know Michael Ryan's work at all, and he is not why I bought this page. I mean, it's a solid page and all. The composition is nice, and the drawing is solid. Ryan may be a huge talent for all I know, but I bought the page for the inks by the amazing Klaus Janson.

Klaus is one of the most interesting, original inkers in the history of comic books. He routinely does everything I want to do, and can never quite pull off. His work is bold, graphic, and always visually stimulating. Check out this panel... the line weights are so varied! Klaus isn't afraid to drop a hug outline around a figure, and then play up that line by using delicate linework right behind it. This variation of line is what makes stuff pop. When I see young inkers at conventions, their portfolios in hand, I can predict before seeing their work that they are not going to get this key point. I'm always telling guys to vary their line weights more, and I have never seen a young inker who pushed this point too far.

I could go on and on about the genius of Klaus, but I'll just stress one more point today. Klaus, as much as anyone in the business, understands what the job of an inker is. Believe it or not, there are many people working in comics who do not understand this point, and many of them are inkers! So, I'll say it simply and clearly right now...


There, I said it. We'll pause now, to let it soak in.

The real job of the comic book inker is not to make the prettiest lines, or be the most faithful to the pencils, or to make the coolest textures on the page, as important as all those skills are. The main obligation of the job is the same as everyone else who works on the books, to help tell the story being told as clearly as possible. Getting back to Klaus, he gets that... big time.

Okay... enough of my spouting. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more Monday!


Marvel Entertainment Group owns the superhero called THOR, and you don't.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday... that EL DIABLO dude again, and the Genius of JACK KIRBY and WALLY WOOD!

Okay... I know I mentioned EL DIABLO yesterday, but the damn thing is almost out, and I'm going to talk about it again! I can't stress enough how much fun this book is to work on. Not only am I inking my pal and favorite artist, Mr. Phil Hester, but I also get to work with my talented and lovely friend, Mr. Jai Nitz. That's not all, though... I also get to work with one of may favorite editors, the charming Nachie Castro. And, in an embarrassment of riches, EL DIABLO is being colored by my old friend and Green Arrow mate, Mr. Guy Major!

Phil got to design this new incarnation of EL DIABLO, and the character is really fun to play with. Here's another li'l peek:

I should mention here that El Diablo is owned by DC COMICS.

Now, on to today's art scan. As Barry Smith (screw his "Windsor") once said, failing to acknowledge that Jack Kirby dominates the comic book art form is about as foolish as failing to recognize how important Pablo Picasso was to 20th century fine art. I own a few nice Kirby pieces, including today's example, inked by another brilliant artist, Wally Wood.

Kirby and Wood worked together in the late '50s on a space/action strip called SKYMASTERS. Of course, over his fifty year career, Kirby was inked by a wide host of talented (most of the time) inkers. Standouts included Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer, and my personal favorite, Frank Giacoia. The paring of Kirby and Wood, though, is truly unique, and truly special.

I don't remember ever seeing copies of Kirby's Skymasters pencils, but I assume they were pretty loose. These days, most pencillers work as if their inkers are nothing more than glorified Xerox machines, nailing down every little detail as tightly as possible. Not so in the olden days of the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Back then, the pencillers worked fast and loose, confident that their inkers would have the skills to not only faithfully render the work, but also add depth, texture, and blacks as needed. On Skymasters, you can see the vitality of Kirby underneath, but it's all covered by that unique and lovely Wally Wood sheen.

In today's example, which was the final panel of the strip I own, Kirby has designed a great closing shot. The lead character is framed by his two friends, looking out at the reader, having just seen something the reader should desperately want to see. It's a great cliffhanger moment, composed perfectly by The King.

Wood adds his own stamp to this panel, applying his fantastic double lighting technique to the faces as only he can. The faces are still Kirby, but Wood has definitely prettied them up. The inking on the hair (something that really separates the inking men from the boys) is amazing. It's also cool that this panel includes some of the famous Wally Wood gadgetry in the background.

Take a good look at that gadgetry. When you see Wood's spaceship interiors in print, they look very tight and clean. When seen up close, though, these tech elements are really quite loosely rendered. I think there's a valuable lesson there. Templates, french curves and technical pens are no way to make exciting comic book art. Wood's approach of handling even clean, technical elements with a little spontaneity results in a much more visually interesting finished product.

Okay... enough of my spouting. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


I honestly don't know who owns Skymasters at this point. Do me a favor, though... check it out thoroughly before doing anything stupid!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday... Don't forget about EL DIABLO- and INKING, with Jerry Ordway!

First off, I need to remind everyone to check out my new comic with Jai Nitz and Phil Hester. El Diablo ships at the beginning of September, from DC. It reads great, looks great, and features a demon-dude on a horse. C'mon... you gonna pass that up?! Here's a li'l sample.

Now, on to today's art scan. I thought I'd talk about the job of inking today, and I have an great example of someone doing it really well. I may show off my own humble skills someday but, for now, I'm sticking with real talents. There are a few modern inkers who I will check out each and every time I see some of their work on the shelf: Klaus Janson, Kevin Nowlan, Jerry Ordway, Bill Reinhold, and Jesse Delperdang come to mind immediately. Today, I want to talk about Ordway.

Jerry is, of course, a fantastic all-around artist. He also happens to be one of the very best when it comes to inking someone else's work. Today's sample pairs Jerry with a great, underrated artist, Curt Swan. I know I may be in the vast minority, but Jerry is my favorite finisher over Swan's work. I think he infuses Swan's work with a freshness that no one else manages. I have tons of respect for Murphy Anderson, but Jerry's work over Swan seems more alive to my eye.

I met Swan back in the late '80s, at a small show in Kansas City. At the time, I was collecting Batman sketches, so I commissioned one from Curt (who was, by the way, one of the more gracious gentlemen I've ever met in this business). Yeah, I know... one of the most famous Superman artists of all time, and I get a Batman sketch. What Can I say? I was young! At least I didn't blow it as badly as the guy in front of me. He commissioned a sketch of the Starship Enterprise.

So, Curt did a very nice drawing of Batman for me. It's a stock pose, and probably not particularly inspired, but it's nice, and it captures that innocent superhero spirit like only Curt could. Curt drew this piece on some kind of heavy vellum, and over the years the drawing got a little smudged and dirty. Finally, I decided that it would be nice to have an inked version of the piece... something more permanent that I could display without fear of harming the original. Thankfully, I had sense enough not to ink it myself. Instead, I went to Ordway, who I had gotten to know a little by this time. Jerry kindly agreed, and the results are below.

So, back to the job of inking. I won't go into too much depth here and now. I've rambled too much already. What I really want to say today is that a great inker does just what Jerry has done here. He enriches the piece, adds a little of his own voice, but retains the vision of the penciller. Jerry certainly changes this drawing... adds to it, but he does not overwhelm it. Curt Swan is still there. Jerry has simply polished him up a bit.

Oh, I should also mention that Jerry was kind enough to ink this piece over a copy of the pencils on a lightbox. Thus, I now own both the untouched Swan pencils and the Ordway inks. Perfection!

Okay... enough of my spouting. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


BATMAN is owned by DC Comics and/or Warner Brothers. You know that by now, right?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tuesday- very little me, and a good deal of WIN MORTIMER!

I'm fighting the clock tonight and tomorrow, with the start of the school year and such. So, I will have to cut today's post short. The good news is that, while I may skimp on my promotional rambling, I will still deliver the usual helping of art scan and commentary!

I have long known about a competent, somewhat dull Superman artist named Win Mortimer. When I discovered Mortimer's work as a strip artist about six years ago, though, it was a revelation. Winslow Mortimer, free to draw and ink his own material, shines in this format. His work is fresh, lively, and completely representative of a bygone era of comics strip art.

I have pulled this panel from a two panel strip from 1958. The strip was called David Crane, and I don't know much about its storylines. I gather the strip was centered around the drama of life in a small, rural American town, but I don't know much more.

The staging in this panel is just remarkable. Mortimer fills the panel without compromising the storytelling. He uses blacks and tones (the tone on the suit on the right side of the panel is drawn by hand, while the suits on the left are zip-a-tone screens*). Also, look at how the spotted blacks in the middle of the crowd draw your eye to the cameraman. This is good stuff, people! Put down the latest over-rendered, magazine photo-referenced, ultra-shiny Adventures of Shinyman and soak this shit up! Look at how Win knows that he doesn't have to render every detail on the camera... that leaving something up to the eye of the reader is more satisfying.

The character acting here is superb, as well. There are no cookie cutter faces here. Every character has his or her own look, and every face tells a story.

I look forward to showing more Mortimer in the future. The guy is a big freaking find... a largely forgotten master.


* If you don't know what the hell zip-a-tone is, keep checking in. I'll cover it in depth at some point.

David Crane is owned by the Hall Syndicate.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Monday- My Next Appearance... and DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI!

I thought I'd mention that I'll be appearing at the MO-KAN COMICS CONSPIRACY September 20-21. It's a good show, where you can really spend quality time with the guests... and they have some great guests this time around. Please check out the site, and come by and say "Hi!"

And now, the incredible genius of David Mazzucchelli. I was lucky enough, a few years back, to have the chance to purchase a page from the last issue of Miller and Mazzucchelli's DAREDEVIL:BORN AGAIN. Not only did I get A page. I got, in my opinion, THE page of that issue. I'm going to tease you today by not showing the panel that really kills me from this page. Instead, I offer the first panel, which features my favorite Marvel character, Captain America.

Frank Miller is probably at the top of my list as far as comic book writer influences go. As I told Frank himself when I met him, I have a lot of bookshelves in my studio, but only two small ones right next to my drawing table. Frank's work dominates those two shelves, and it is what I turn to first when I feel lost as a creator.

Frank has hooked up with a number of phenomenal artists over the years, none more so than Mazzucchelli. David takes what Frank gives him and runs full speed. In this panel, as Captain America enters the General's office, he tells us everything we need to know about the setting and the characters.

Cap himself stands near the middle of the panel, stock straight and rigid. His posture tells us that he stands at attention out of respect for the General's rank, but it also tells us something about Steve Rogers (for those non-geeks, that's Captain America... well, used to be, anyway). In the foreground the General dominates the composition forcefully. His more casual, stooped posture tells us what kind of man he might be instantly. Mazzucchelli has told us what was going on before we got here without showing us much at all. We can sense the General sitting at the desk with his feet up, scrambling when Cap bursts into the room. In the background we have the humble soldier, looking puny and intimidated next to America's Hero.

The setting is also perfectly and efficiently presented. We get just enough to define the space without overwhelming the characters or the story. Take note, young artists, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DRAW EVERY FUCKING THING! I know that won't change anyone's method... that weak artists will always draw everything in every panel to the same level of boring sheen and perfection, but it felt good to say it anyway. Anyway, I love how Mazz uses the ceiling here to make the characters seem bigger than life.

Of course, the drawing here is superb, and the inking is (are we noticing a pattern in what I like from inkers?) wonderful... confiedent and casual. The textures are great (I really dig the folds on the General's uniform), and the spotting of blacks is... uh, spot on. Squint at this panel, and it reads well. The blacks in the foreground grab you, the blacks along with bottom lead you along, and the blacks on the left side of the panel frame Cap, so the primary colors in his costume will be free to pop him out of the center of the composition.

Okay... that's enough of my spouting for today. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


Captain America and the publishing rights to this page belong to those pesky Marvel folks again. Let's not run out and make our own prints of this image, or do anything else illegal, okay?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday... my writing projects- and RINGO

I'll keep it short today. Busy weekend ahead, and too much to do.

I thought I'd recap my various writing activities at the moment. I know you all are on pins and needles about when my new stuff will be hitting shelves. Least I could do is make things nice and clear.

UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK- 40 page one-shot from Oni, ships in September
The script it done, the art is nearly so, and it should be off to the printer in the next few weeks. Look for it!

BLOOD RED- 100 (or so) page OGN from Oni Press, ships next year, I think
We're only 25 pages into this thing, but we're making headway again. Grim, violent, and fantastically-designed by Shawn Crystal. This is gonna be very fun. Lots of updates to come.

SOUTH AMERICAN THING- OGN from Oni Press, ships sometime next year, I hope
Can't say much yet, but I'm done with research, we have a plot we all like, and a little chunk of script is done. I hope we're about to land a great artist, and away we will go! I hope to be able to come back and say more about this project here very soon.

That's it in a nutshell. I have another thing or two in development, but I can't say much more at this time. I have enough on the plate for now, anyway.

And now, on to the art scan for today:

I'm doing something a little different today. I do not own this artwork... I only have scans. We lost Mike Wieringo a year ago last week, which is still hard to believe. Mike and I came up at DC at about the same time. Thanks to the fucking up of the worst editor of all time (oh... how I want to name the little prick), we never got to work together, but we always wanted to... said we would.

Mike made his job look easy, and he made comics that were full of fun and wonder. I miss him and his work, and we're all poorer for his passing. Rest in peace, Mike.


Hey... The Fantastic Four are owned by Marvel. Is your name Marvel? I didn't think so, so don't be stupid, ya moron.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thusday- A little Uncle Slam, and a lot of FRANK ROBBINS!

Art scan coming up, but first, please check out this promotional blather:

Just a few words about UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK today. I've been going through the finished art, tweaking the dialogue and doing balloon placements. It's a really exciting process, as it's the first time I get a good feel for the finished product. I think it's gonna be a fun and funny book, and my friend T.J. Kirsch is doing a killer job on the art. Here's a tiny sample; a nice shot of America's favorite robotic canine, Fire Dog!

And now, today's art scan- a panel from a daily strip called Johnny Hazard by one of my very favorite artists, the immortal Frank Robbins! Talking about Robbins is a little tough for me, because when I see how he draws a comic strip, it just looks like how it should be done, and I'm at something of a loss to explain it. Like Jack Kirby created the best way to draw superhero comic books, I feel like Robbins found the best way to draw an adventure strip.

In short, Frank just does it all right: composition, spotting blacks, texture, economy of line, and sheer exuberance. God bless him! I'm lucky enough to own a whole week of Hazard dailies from the '70s. It's not my absolute favorite Robbins era, but it's still fantastic stuff. I love everything about this panel I've pulled from one of my week's worth. In particular, I think it's so cool that there is a whole story going on in this single image.

Since I mentioned pulling a single image from a daily strip, it might be time to address the premise of this blog. When I finally decided it was time to start blogging, and that I would be showing off art from my collection, I immediately made the decision to share single shots at a time. That decision was based on two concerns. First, I wanted to be able to stretch my collection out for a long time, so I can be sure that I have enough material to do this form some time to come without going broke buying new stuff. There was a loftier goal as well, though. While it is certainly true that the comic book page is designed to function as a whole storytelling unit (within the overall story, which is another entire unit, hopefully), I wanted to focus attention on the fact that each panel is also a standalone illustration.

I think we often take the extraordinary amount of work that goes into a comic book page for granted. While the goals of comic book storytelling and conventional illustration are very different, I think it's interesting to view each individual comic book image on its own, almost as if it were an illustration. I know that, in doing so, I may be doing something of a disservice to the whole page. But, as I referenced elsewhere, if I was to show pages at a time, you could say the same about the whole job. In other words, this is the way I'm doing it. You want it done differently, please send me a link to the blog where you are doing so.

Enough of my spouting! Enjoy the genius, and come back for something different tomorrow!


I don't know who owns Johnny Hazard, but I'm pretty sure it ain't you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wednesday... BLOOD RED, and the Brilliance of Gil Kane and Tom Palmer!

Art scan coming up, but first, please check out this promotional blather:

I have one writing project already in progress that I have yet to speak about here. BLOOD RED is a revenge story, set on Mars in the future. I've been getting back to it recently, after a good deal of time away, and I'm really excited about it. The story is solid as hell, in my own, humble opinion. More important, though, is the artwork by my good friend Shawn Crystal. Here's a sample page.

And now, today's art scan- a wonderfully rich panel from a mystery job by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer. Solid composition and drawing by Kane, but it's Palmer's work that really makes this panel. This page, from the '70s (I believe, although I have to confess I didn't double-check) captures Palmer's skill at their peak, and few guys have ever been better. Tom's line is so lush! Look at the sparse background elements. Everything is clear and clean, but it's also lively and casual. The drapery is also first-rate... lush but spontaneous.

Not to diminish Kane's contribution to this image, but I want to touch on a few more of Palmer's touches here. First, the spotting of blacks. From what I've read and seen of Kane's pencils, Gil didn't do a lot of black-spotting in his pencils, as he held onto the old school belief that this was the inker's job. Palmer uses shadows as well as anyone, and he uses them here to direct the eye, and to push element's forward in the composition. Another thing Tom does that I really admire is leaving out lines that really aren't required. He doesn't use a line to define the side of the foreground character's forehead, because that shape is defined without that line. Ditto that same character's right shoulder.

Spotting blacks effectively and letting the reader's eye finish the art are two skills that all the old greats knew almost instinctively. Unfortunately, they are skills that are far too rare in today's "make the prettiest line" mindset.

Enough of my spouting! Enjoy the genius, and come back for something different tomorrow!


I have no ideas who these characters are, but I assume the publishing rights to this page belong to Marvel Ent. Group!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tuesday- El Diablo, and the Great Tony Salmons!

Art scan coming up, but first, please check out this promotional blather:

I thought I'd mix it up a bit today and mention something I'm inking, as opposed to a writing project. As usual, I am lucky enough to be inking my pal Phil hester as my day job. Right now, we're doing a six issue series for DC, titled EL DIABLO. Our buddy Jai Nitz is writing, and it's a really cool book. I'm aiming for a somewhat organic, clean look with the inks... kind of a compromise between the super clean look of Ant-Man and the brushy, looser feel of our Superman: Confidential work. Here's a peak:

And now, today's art scan- stunning pinup by another artist's artist, Tony Salmons. Tony has not produced as much work as I would have liked over the years, but what is out there almost always takes my breath away. As I've said many times to Salmons skeptics (there are a few out there, and you know who you are!), even if Tony doesn't always succeed, his failures are just about as thrilling as most guy's successes. When I look at Tony's work, I have to step back and think, "Jesus! I've never seen anyone do it like that before." That is worth something, my friends. To me, it's worth a lot.

Tony has done a lot of commissions for collectors over the years. I bought this secondhand, at least. It measures 11x17, and man... does Tony fill that space! I have to confess that I owned this piece for a few weeks before I realized that The Silver Surfer was present up top. The composition is bold and fresh, the inking is ballsy, and the whole thing just sings, right down to the coffee stain in the upper left corner.

Enough of my spouting! Enjoy the genius! Come back for something different tomorrow!


Thor and such are copyright Marvel Ent. Group

My South American Project... and JOHNNY CRAIG!

Monday's post... a day early (because I'm trying to figure out coding this blogspot page!)!

Art scan coming up, but first, please check out this promotional blather:

Along with the previously mentioned UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK!, I'm working on a couple of more serious Original Graphic Novels (OGNs) for Oni Press. Today, I'll mention my South American Kidnapping Book. It's in the early stages, still, but it's a really exciting project. Unlike UNCLE SLAM, there will be nothing light or satirical about this project. It's a grim, street-level book set in a very dark place. Not always as much fun as SLAM, but rewarding in its own ways. I can't name anyone yet, but the folks I'm working with on this book are really amazing. Details soon, I hope.

And now, today's art scan- a classic panel by a real artist's artist, Johnny Craig. I've heard a number of guys I admire express their admiration for Craig, from Frank Miller to Jerry Ordway. Still, Craig is not often listed as one of the field's true greats... and that's a shame. Even among the EC class, he doesn't get as much respect as he deserves. I put his EC work right up there with Wood and Davis. He also did some amazing stuff in the early days of Marvel comics, particularly on Tales of Suspense and Iron Man.

I am lucky enough to own two consecutive pages from a Craig story that was published in the latter-day EC title, EXTRA. This is panel one of the second page, which is also the last page of this story. As I recall, Craig got to write some spy stories himself toward the end of EC's non-Mad output. This story isn't especially memorable, but it's solid enough, and the artwork is spectacular. Craig was such a bold artist... everything he did exuded confidence. I love his compositions, and the way he spots blacks. I think the limb under the foreground guy's arm here is brilliant... it crowds that character's enviroment simply and effectively. Almost no one in comics today can draw guys in suits like Craig could. God, I wish I could ink hair like that.

This page is twice up, as are all the EC originals I have seen. You can make out the blue lettering guides, which were printed right on the boards. I don't know, off the top of my head, who lettered the EC stuff (that which was hand lettered), but the lettering here is fantastic.

Enough of my spouting! Enjoy the genius! I'm sure we'll see more Craig down the line someday.


This just in... my buddy Todd Klein says this job was lettered by the great Ben Oda!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Uncle Slam- and John Buscema/Tony Dezuniga Conan

Art scan coming up, but first, please check out this promotional blather:

The first character I ever created for publication is coming back next month, as Oni Press publishes UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK! It's a fun book, loaded with left-leaning political satire, including John McCain as a reanimated, mechanical candidate. T.J. Kirsch is doing a great job with the art. Please check it out, shipping in September.

And now, today's art scan- a fantastic panel from the first page of original art I ever purchased. Few guys ever drew comics with more draftsmanship or authority than the great John Buscema. I think Big John's enthusiasm for the material waned as time wore on, but his passion for Conan almost always shone through. I"m guessing that John liked the opportunity to draw real men, minus the spandex, doing heroic stuff in wild environs.

Buscema was inked by a large host of decent craftsmen on his Conan material, but none was more suited to the task than Tony Dezuniga. Dezuniga does everything an inker should do... he makes the work sing, adds his own stamp, but always lets the personality of the penciller shine through. Look at the depth in this panel... the textural richness, and the just flat out balls in every brush stroke. Masterful.

A couple of notes about this panel: this work was intended for publication in Marvel's black and white Savage Sword of Conan magazine. Thus, Dezuniga relied heavily on zip-a-tone screens to add gray tones, ensuring that the printed page would look as lush as possible. In this era of production in Marvel's bullpen, lettering was pasted on for some reason, and many of the balloons on this page have fallen off, hence the "holes" in the artwork.

Enough of my spouting! Enjoy the genius! More on Monday!


Friday, August 8, 2008

My First Effort!

I'm gonna try this Blog thing the kids are into... see if it sticks. My goal is to do something a little more interesting that simply promoting whatever crap I'm up to. I will do that, of course, but I don't wanna just do that.

So, my plan is to scan a single image from my personal art collection each weekday, and comment about why I think the piece is noteworthy. It may be a simple panel from a Frank Robbins daily. It may be a sketch by John Buscema. It may even be something modern... although I doubt it. If you don't know who Frank Robbins is, this is a blog you desperately need, my friend.

So, come back soon, and we'll get this damn thing revved up.