Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday... the Pure Genius of Noel Sickles!

Only time for a brief post today. I'm jammed on deadlines this week... inking El Diablo and writing Blood Red.

But, I do have time to post one of the more spectacular pieces from my collection, a great illustration by one of the true legends of modern illustration and comic art, Noel Sickles.

I've already discussed the fact that Sickles shared a studio with Milt Caniff during the great early period of Terry and the Pirates. At the same time, Sickles was doing amazing work on his own groundbreaking strip, Scorchy Smith. After a relatively short run (about three years) on Scorchy, Sickles left the funnies behind to become an illustrator. Jesus... did he ever.

The guy drew like a sonofabitch. His sense of design was bold and innovative. He could ink like a master, and he handled tones and color well. He was the absolute entire package. He was a hero to any number of other fantastic artists, including Alex Toth, who may have been his most vocal booster.

The piece I own is so incredibly rich. There is something going on in every square inch of this piece, but the eye lands on the focal points comfortably before drifting to other eye candy. The inking (or painting, if you like) technique separates the planes of the picture with great clarity. Look at the boldness of the foreground luggage, and then compare that to the crispness of the middle ground, or the casual handling of the background elements.

I also love the textures in this piece. Look at the train. The shine of the lamp contrasts so brilliantly with the smoke. It's all handled perfectly, and none of it looks labored.

I could stare at this piece all day, and never tire of it. It hangs in a spot in my studio where I can see it from both my drafting table and computer workstation. It is a constant source of inspiration.

Oh... and I'm not selling it to Howard Chaykin anytime real soon, no matter how nicely he asks. ;)

That's enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more Thursday!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday, Part Two... Some Convention Boldness

Just found this image as I was getting pictures off my cell phone, and I wanted to share it.

Phil Hester and I did this Captain America sketch back in the spring, at Kansas City's Planet Comicon. That day at the show, I took a look at what Phil had pencilled for me and grabbed a #5 sable brush. That is a much bigger brush than I usually use for inking. The brush I typically keep at my drafting table is a #3. With this fantastic sketch that Phil handed me, though, I saw an opportunity to get really bold. I wanted to channel some of that old-school comic book inking. What was really in my mind was Don Heck's inking over Jack Kirby on a gods portfolio. Someday, I'll post an example. For now, though, you're stuck with my efforts.

I loved the way this sketch came out. I got the effect I wanted... bold lines, with more attention paid to the overall impact of the piece than any ind of small details or rendering. As I recall, the only place I used any pen (small marker, probably) was on the face and costume details. I especially enjoyed rendering the chain mail texture with the brush.

Forgive the bad scan. Again, this is from a cell phone picture.

Okay... check it out for yourself. Have a cool weekend, and I'll see you back here Tuesday (if not sooner).


Marvel Comics owns Captain America.

Thursday... Blood Red, and the Incredibly Ridiculous Talent of a Young Neal Adams!

I've been working pretty hard on my Blood Red book this week. In case you've forgotten, it's a revenge story set on Mars. It is drawn by the Jesus-Serpico of comics, the hugely-talented Shawn Crystal. It'll be awhile until the book comes out, but it'll be worth waiting for, I think. I know this guy thinks so-

Blood Red is owned by Mr. Crystal and myself.

Today's art scan is a panel from a Ben Casey daily strip, drawn by Neal Adams... when he was all of twenty-two freaking years old. Holy Shit... just think about that for a second. This daily isn't the best strip work of it's day, by any stretch. It isn't as good as Neal would end up producing decade or so down the line. It is, however, pretty goddamn amazing for a kid just barely old enough to buy a drink.

As we've discussed here before, Neal comes from the school of realistic photo-reference typified by the likes of Stan Drake and Alex Kotzky. Neal would go on to revolutionize the comic book industry by bringing that sensibility to the world of stretchy pants. Judging by the pencil roughs I've seen, I think Neal became so good at his pseudo-realism that he eventually all but dropped his reliance on photos. At the time this Ben Casey was drawn, though, I assume he was still taking and using his own reference.

The drawing in this example is solid as hell, and Neal's inking, as always, really sells it. I have no idea where a kid of 22 got the balls to attack the page like this. It's really pretty mind-blowing. The inking on the clothing is incredibly lively. Look at the lines on the angry man's suit jacket. I don't quite buy the rendering on his right arm, but everything else is so sharp and perfect. Likewise for that man's hair.

The composition is also very nice, and something of a bold choice. I think most artists would have drawn this confrontation in profile, to fully show the angry man leaning into the doctor's space. The way Neal has drawn it, though, has a more subtle and impressive impact. The doctor (the strip's lead, Ben Casey) is cool and detached here, separated from the rage by the vast expanse of desk.

One technical note: this strip was drawn on a special paper called dou-shade, or benday board. The paper was manufactured with two tones built in. Those tones were invisible until the artist applied one of two special solutions that brought them out. Many artists used this paper to good effect. It was a simple way to add tones to black and white art without the hassle of cutting zip-a-tone screens. Neal uses the tones really well, combining them with his great, textural inking to create a very rich effect. There is one problem with using dou-shade board. You can't use whiteout on the page, because it would make applying the developer to the board directly impossible. Thus, there is little room for mistakes. I used dou-shade on a comic book mini-series once, and it was fun, but stressful. Neal didn't have much to worry about, I guess... there is no hint of whiteout on the daily I own.

Of course, being as good as Neal was as young as he was can be a mixed blessing. It must be tough to carry that incredibly promising start with you throughout your career. Neal has met that challenge with mixed results, but he's certainly one of the giants of comic book art.

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


Does someone own Ben Casey? Somebody has to, right? Anyway, if you wanna use the good doctor, do a search and figure it out before you get in trouble, okay?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday... Uncle Slam is STILL Coming, and a Great Sampling of Swan/Ordway

I'm back! I had a very exciting and busy weekend, spending time at the Mo-Kan Comics Conspiracy convention with the likes of Stan Sakai, Tom Luth, Sergio Aragones, and Mark Evanier. I heard a lot of good stories, and enjoyed a lot of fine company. But, of course, the time away put me behind the eight ball when it comes to deadlines. So, I'm cutting back to a few times a week for regular posts here, with the possibility of other rants from time to time.

Before I get to the art scan thing, I want to mention my UNCLE SLAM book again. It will hit the stores the first week of October, they tell me. Please look for it. The book is called UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK. It is fun, especially if you like Keith Olbermann.

Now, on to today's art scan. This is one of my favorite pieces from my collection. It's a pinup from DC's WHO'S WHO books, featuring Superman supporting characters Pete Ross and Lana Lang. It was drawn by one of the most legendary men to ever draw the folks of Super-world, Curt Swan. It was inked by my favorite Swan inker, Jerry Ordway.

We've spoken about the Swan/Ordway pairing before. I think it's the best Swan ever looked, which will be hard for Murphy Anderson fans to swallow. In my opinion, though, Ordway does everything Swan needs. He augments Swan's drawings, and he keeps the work spontaneous.

I love everything about this piece: the layout is simple and effective, the poses are natural, and the expressions are completely charming. What really takes my breath away, though, is the texture work by Ordway. Jerry really shows here what a master can do a few simple tools.

Ordway's method is pretty simple. I asked him about it many years ago, after almost wearing my eyes out studying a few originals, trying to figure out how he made those amazing lines with the tools I was holding in my own, apelike hand. Jerry is about as nice a guy as I've ever met in comics, and he was happy to share his wisdom with a dumb kid trying to learn the craft. Anyway, Jerry goes through the page with a crowquill pen first... a Hunt 102. With the pen, he inks the contours of the figures and major shapes. He does whatever detail work he needs the pen for, and generally inks the page, minus any especially bold lines or blacks. After the pen work is done, Jerry hits the page with a brush and that, in my humble opinion, is where much of the magic happens. Jerry doesn't use the brush to simply fill in his blacks. He uses it to lay in bold lines and throw texture all over the damn place.

In the pinup I'm sharing today, you can clearly see the magic of the pen and the brush, as wielded by Mr. Ordway. The pen work is masterful. Look at the car. There is incredible texture and depth there, all created with a simple tool and a pretty narrow range of line weights. Look at the casual line work in the trees. It is descriptive without becoming predictable.

Now, check out how Jerry incorporates his brush work into the pen framework. Something as simple as the car tires becomes rich here, as Ordway casually hits the spaces between the pen lines with his brush, again giving us a textural pattern without boredom or repetition. The clothing in this piece is really incredible. Jerry has laid in a strong framework with his pen, and given everything real substance with his brush.

The magic of Ordway's inking work is that his work reproduces incredibly clean, but he never makes a boring or predictable line. Of course, because he draws so well, he's also able to find and augment strengths in the drawings he tackles. And, most importantly, he always remembers his primary job as an inker... to tell the story.

Okay, that's enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more Thursday!


Changing the Schedule

Just wanted to pop in and let my faithful few readers who check in each day that I'm going to a twice a week schedule for awhile. I'm too jammed up on both inking and writing to commit to a solid piece every weekday right now.

So, art scans an commentary will be showing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But, if I have anything to say outside of that regular feature- something like, "I can't believe I sat through another horrible episode of TRUEBLOOD after swearing I was done with it!" I may just drop by and do that.

Art scan later today!


Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday... Something Nice from Big John Buscema and Li'l Bill Sienkiewicz!

Just a quick post today about something I only own a scan of. It's getaway day for me, as I'll be headed out for the MO-KAN COMICS CONSPIRACY later this afternoon, where I'll be hanging out with the likes of Mark Evanier, Segio Aragones, and Stan Sakai! If you're in the KC area this weekend, please come check it out.

Speaking of the convention this weekend, I just finished this UNCLE SLAM promo image. We'll be selling it as a convention exclusive this weekend.

Again, I don't own the piece I'm showing off today. I just saved a scan of it years ago, and just came across it again on my hard drive. Since I have scans of both pencils (layouts, actually) and inks, I thought it would be interesting to show it off here.

What we have here is a layout by the legendary John Buscema, and finishes by the super-talented Bill Siekiewicz. We're going first name from here on out, because typing Bill's last name wears me out.

I don't know if Bill finished this piece from the layout we have here, or if he got full pencils. Frankly, I think it would have been a waste of Big John's time for him to provide Bill with anything tighter than this. Bill is gonna do his own thing, whether you give him fully-rendered pencils or not. All he needs to go to town is a foundation, and no one ever provided better foundations that Big John.

John's layouts are all about the gesture and the composition. If you've ever seen "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" you know that John was almost incapable of producing a stiff gesture drawing. I own several of his sketch sheets and layouts, and they are just awesome to behold. His drawing is so casual and so strong. He really had few peers in the history of the medium when it comes to drawing natural and dynamic figures.

Of course, Bill is also one of the most talented artists to ever grace the comic book page. He's nowhere near the comic book storyteller that a guy like John is, but he can draw and paint like a bastard. He finishes this strong John layout with such authority and grace. The lines are fine, but the overall impact of John's drawing is completely intact.

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


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday... UNCLE SLAM and his pal Dick, and Behind the Scenes with Rick Stasi and Dick Giordano!

Well, it finally happened. I completely missed posting yesterday. Honestly, I was so busy that I didn't even realized I had missed a day until after midnight. Sorry about that, loyal readers. To make up for it, though, today's art scan is extra large!

But first, another word about UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK! It'll be out in about two weeks. It is funny stuff, unless you happen to be this man--

TM- Halliburton Corporation

Today's art scan offers a nice look under the hood of comic book production. This is a cover for a DC book that was never published. Kansas City artist Rick Stasi pencilled this cover, and then-DC editor (and always brilliant inker) Dick Giordano inked it. Well, most of it, anyway. Obviously, this piece was never completely finished or published. Dick, like many successful inkers, used background assistants extensively. What you see here is as much work as Dick was ever going to do on this cover. The rest would have been handled by Dick's background guy. If you live in an area where you can find local assistants, it's a nice system. The assistant gets good on the job training, the work gets done faster, and the main inker gets to take on more work. I've had help from buddies on jobs from time to time, but I've never used a background assistant on a regular basis, for two reasons. First, I don't have a local guy here in Kansas that would fit the bill, and shipping the pages around isn't very convenient. Second, I'm just too much of a control freak.

Anyway, there is a lot to be learned here. I left the scan extra large, so you can see (I hope) some of the pencil work under the inks. Rick did a solid job on this cover, but Dick improved it immensely, without any drastic re-drawing. Dick was so good that he could just casually tweak things as he inked. Look at the main figure's left pant leg. Dick streamlined that form, making it sharper and more descriptive of the leg underneath. Likewise with the cuff buttons on that character's sleeve. He also made the woman's dress flow better, using sharp brush strokes to define the forms without over-rendering.

Dick left out little things, too. I guess he thought the rendering on the lady's stockings was too much, so he just left it out in the inks.

In essence, Dick did everything a great inker does here. He left Rick's drawing intact. He left Rick's style intact. He also made things flow a little better. He made everything a little cleaner and sharper. He added his own voice without overwhelming the penciller.

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


Whoever these people are, I'm guessing they are still owned by DC Comics.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday... Uncle Slam is Coming, and Alex Kotzky was Awesome!

Checking in late today, but back to the "regular" format. First, a little reminder that UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK is coming up fast. It'll be in comic stores before you know it, probably the last week of September. It's fun, funny, and biting in a crazy liberal way. It is published, by the way, but Oni Press. Please check it out!

Now, on to today's art scan. When I was born, the heyday of the comic strip was at its tail end, but there was still plenty enough brilliance to go 'round. One of the brightest, and most enduring stars, was the amazing Alex Kotzky. Kotzky comes from the same school of photo-referencing as did Raymond and Drake (already discussed here). Kotzky's line was especially rich, and he used his reference to great effect, filling the many young women that occupied his landmark strip, Apartment 3-G, with amazing personality.

I will admit that Drake's work appeals to me more than Kotzky. I like Stan's sharper line. Still, I great admire Kotzky. He uses his photos much as Drake did, shooting his own reference and making the work fresh and lively in the inks. Kotzky used brush, though, while Drake preferred a pen. That difference makes Kotzky's work a little softer, perhaps a little more sensual.

Check out the panel I offer today. The lines are soft yet precise. You can get lost in the line work on the woman's skirt. In the drapery on that single figure, Kotzky does so many things that are fantastic... simple to the eye, but incredibly hard to master. He drops lines that are not needed. He turns complex folds into simple swipes of the brush. He perfectly delineates the figure under the clothing without making the clothing itself look like it is structured. Yeah, there was likely a photo used here, but Kotzky knows his forms well enough that he uses the photo as a tool, not a crutch.

The overall panel is very well designed. I love the round desk, which is not only stylish, but also leads us through the panel and into the next. The man's figure does the same... it guides us naturally, without seeming like a device. The setting is very rich. Kotzky fills the panel with objects that are more than just there. Everything contributes to the "modern" vibe, right down to the abstract painting on the far wall. That painting, by the way, is a great touch. Kotzky could have (and most artists would have) continued the pattern of the windows. By placing the painting behind the background figure, though, Kotzky not only keeps things more visually interesting- he also draws more attention to that figure.

You should really check out the link I provided above. That site is a great resource, and the material on Kotzky is especially good. There is a quote about Kotzky from his son... a quote that makes me marvel at Kotzky's work ethic, it also makes me sad. In effect, Kotzky's son says that his father worked ALL the time. There was no time off, no family vacations, no relaxing in the evening... it was all work. Well, I like the work, but spare me the lifestyle, please. I'll take a well-rounded life and a career of, well... of something less than what Kotzky left us.

And, that is more than enough outta me. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more tomorrow!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday... a couple of repeats- True Blood and Jess Marsh!

Okay, first off, I am done with TRUE BLOOD. I just watched the second episode, and it is just silly. I really can't think of any better, or more illuminating word for it. I don't give a rat's ass about any of these people. Maybe Alan Ball is trying something grand here... maybe it's all a metaphor for being gay or different. I don't know. I also don't care. Too bad. I could certainly watch more of the hot waitress chick. Anyway, life's too short.

By the way, Mad Men continues to be excellent. This week offered one of my new favorite lines, "I was right. There's only one book about Moby Dick."

And, while I don't have anything especially new to offer as an art scan today, I do want to share a new Jesse Marsh image a pal sent me. Holy shit, was Marsh amazing! Look at the composition, the negative spaces, the bold drybush. It's a fantastic image. Of course, Tarzan saying something totally cool doesn't hurt, either.

That's all for today. I'm too upset about my poor, pitiful Chiefs to write more. I'll regroup and get back to normal tomorrow.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday... something different, and a li'l Frank Robbins!

I'm gonna write a bit today about something besides comics. I watched a few tv shows in the past week, and I figured I'd spout off about them today, because each left me with strong feelings.

The first show I'll talk about is HBO's new things, TRUE BLOOD. I'm not a vampire nut. I've never seen an episode of Buffy. But, this show was created by Alan Ball, whose work (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) I've really enjoyed, so I figured I'd check it out. All in all, it was pretty dreadful. Heavy-handed character development, clumsy direction, a silly premise, and generally not so good. Really kind of shocking after the overall brilliance of Six Feet Under.

And, that said, I'll probably keep watching, at least for another week or two. I dunno why, for sure. Hell, I continue to watch Entourage, and I think it's pretty vapid. Call it a guilty pleasure. In the case of True Blood, I guess Ball outsmarted me, to some extent. There was enough melodrama there for me to want to come back. I'll probably be still watching, and still bitching, three years from now.

If that does prove to be the case, maybe I'll be rewarded, as I have been with the other show I'd like to discuss, MAD MEN. I watched the show all last season, and I came to it with high expectations. I love the era, the creator, and the premise, but I thought the highly-touted pilot was clunky. You could cut the clever with a knife, right down to the obviously-conflicted-gay dude in the office. It was, alternating, brilliant and plodding. Again, I stuck with it because of the stuff I liked. The acting is great, I love the sets and fashions, and there was some very smart writing.

This season, Mad Men has started strong. I like the leap of over a year between seasons. The performances continue to be really strong, and the show seems to be really finding its feet now. The last episode to air, "The Gold Violin", was amazing. The gay character I used to cringe at has come into his own, and Don Draper (the lead) is becoming as interesting in his disgusting way as was Tony Soprano (well, almost).

If you haven't seen either show, you should check them out. Mad Men is becoming a real work of genius. True Blood is anything but genius, but it will probably keep you entertained in a fun, shallow way.

And, just to keep the theme of this blog intact- here, without comment, is a scan from my art collection. More pure Frank Robbins genius!

Enjoy, and see you next week.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday... A quick hit- Silvestri and Baker!

I have to make this quick today and, for the first time, I may actually have to miss a day tomorrow. My schedule as a school board member has been really heavy this week. We're trying to pass a vital bond issue here in lovely Baldwin City, KS, and there is a lot of work to be done. Of course, that's on top of the usual inking, writing, and trying to enjoy my family a little bit! So, dry your eyes and bear with me if I need to take a wee break, please.

I do have time to offer an art scan today, and comment briefly. This is a panel from a Spider-Man book from the late '80s, pencilled by Mark Silvestri and inked by Kyle Baker.

I've always enjoyed Silvestri's work, and Kyle Baker is a huge hero of mine. Artistically, and as a writer, Baker is one of those guy that both inspires and depresses me. It ain't fair that the damn guy is so freaking talented!

Anyway, back when he was first starting to make a living in comics, Baker used to crank out a page or two of comic book inking before going off to work at an ad agency. Baker is a fine artist and a brilliant cartoonist, but he didn't quite fit the mold as a Marvel superhero inker. That's fine by me. His work was different... probably not entirely to the liking of his editors or the guys he penciller, but I find it fascinating.

Baker is doing here what we have spoken about so may times before. He's helping to tell the story. He has stripped Silvestri's very solid work down to its very essence. No pretty lines, no delicate rendering... just action and clarity, stripped down to just what has to be there. I love the high contrast approach. As I recall, this issue came out at a time when Marvel was playing with a new printing process, and a lot of fine lines were dropping out. That was somewhat disastrous for guys like Baker, who were using really extreme line weight variations. Still, the work was exciting and inspiring to me.

Balloons and sound effects fell off this page, hence the stains and empty spaces here.

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


Spider-Man is owned by MARVEL!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday... Uncle Slam, and the Amazing Work of John Prentice!

More UNCLE SLAM promotion today! The book will hit the stands in a few weeks. While we were a little too late to comment on the lipsticked person who wants to be our illustrious VP, we do have plenty of McCain, Cheney, and other party animals.

Check it out! This dude really wants you to!

Uncle Slam is owned by ME!

Today's art scan comes from one of my favorite comic strips, RIP KIRBY. The strip, which featured a dashing bachelor P.I., was created by the legendary Alex Raymond (best known for his seminal work on FLASH GORDON). While I prefer Foster's Prince Valiant to Raymond's work on Flash Gordon, I like Rip Kirby better than both of those more famous features. Raymond's work on Rip Kirby speaks more to my love of sharp, modern, illustration. Rip Kirby was photo-reffed without being stiff, as Raymond inked the strip like the true master he was. The line is so bright and spontaneous, and always informed by Raymond's incredible draftsmanship.

Unfortunately, Alex Raymond died at the peak of his powers, killed in a car crash that also injured Stan Drake, who we've discussed here previously. In the silver lining department, the syndicate found a very capable replacement in John Prentice. Prentice would go on to draw Rip Kirby from the time of Raymond's death in 1956 to his death in 1999! By the end of the run, the work was getting pretty shaky. In Prentice's heyday, though, he was a very worthy successor to Raymond's legacy.

Prentice wasn't quite the draftsman Raymond had been, which is no insult... who aside from Foster could claim that they were? Prentice's inking isn't quite as lively as Raymond's and he couldn't morph into different styles as readily as master, but he was a phenomenal talent. As you can see here, the work is a perfect mixture of great drawing and fresh, lively finishing. The foundation is rock solid, and the inking makes it fun and exciting. Check out how free Prentice is with the background elements. Nothing is ruled or drawn with a dead, technical line. It's all so carefree. I also love the inking of the foreground character's jacket. Prentice has laid down a framework with his pend, and then he just attacks the forms with his brush, inking only what is needed to define the forms.

This strip was drawn within the first year of Prentice's tenure on the strip, so he's really still in his Raymond mode. He was probably still feeling like it was Alex's strip at this point. After a decade or so, Prentice would feel more free to make the work his own.

One technical note. You can see the missing word in the first balloon here. Old school artists worked on such good, heavy paper that, when called for, they could simply razor out mistakes without cutting all the way through the board. As I often tell people showing work at conventions, using quality materials is a vital part of making good work. There's nothing like working on a really well-made piece of paper. It just opens up new possibilities.

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


Someone probably owns the rights to Rip Kirby, so don't be a pain in the ass about it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday... Uncle Slam is Coming Soon, and the Weighty Brilliance of John Buscema and Kevin Nowlan!

More UNCLE SLAM promotion today! The valiant troops at Oni were putting the book together all through the night, tweaking the lettering and such. If you don't check out this book, you are spitting on their efforts! These people have feelings, folks! Please, unless you're a raging Republican with no sense of humor, ask your retailer to score you a copy!

Uncle Slam is owned by ME!

Today's art scan represents the blog's first repeat performance, as John Buscema becomes the first artist represented twice. That's appropriate enough for one of the true giants of the field. Today, we have John inked by another brilliant inker, albeit one with little in common with the first Buscema finisher I talked about, Tony Dezuniga. Today's panel was inked by the amazing Kevin Nowlan. Kevin is, of course, a unique talent... a wonderful, visionary penciller, one of the finest inkers ever, and a good painter, to boot. He also happens to be a fellow Kansan, which is a nice bonus for yours truly!

A little detour now about inking:
While I will often sing the praises here of the type of inker who can be versatile, bending themselves to suit a wide range of pencillers, while always letting the nature of whoever they're working with shine through, many of the guys I respect do not fit that mold. Jerry Ordway, Klaus Janson, Kevin Nowlan... all these guys come close to overwhelming whoever they ink with their own artistic personality. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's what I love about their work. They bring a lot of themselves to the party, and they have a lot of skill to bring. It's not what I do... it's not what I'm capable of, and maybe that's why I so enjoy what these guys can do. I am not draftsman enough... I don't have the built in artistic vision, to do what those guys do, so it seems magical to me. I would imagine that a few pencillers have pulled their hair out upon seeing what Ordway, Janson, and Nowlan have doen to their precious pencils, but I never get tired of looking at their work, and I feel they almost always leave the work better than they found it.

Anyway... back to Nowlan over Buscema. I believe this may have been the last full job Big John Buscema did. I have not seen the pencils, but I would assume that there was a lot of innate greatness in the work, but it was probably not as tight and inspired as John would have been at the peak of his powers. Hiring Nowlan to ink this job was a brilliant choice. He maintains the weight, power and grace of Buscema's work, but he also tightens the work, pulling it together with his incredible line and drawing ability. There is a lot of Nowlan here, but Buscema also shines.

I mentioned the weight of Buscema's figures, and you can really see that here. I don't think the man was capable of drawing an insubstantial human figure. While there's not a lot of action here, the figures are full of tension. You can feel the weight of each guard shifting. The composition is interesting. This is the kind of "pull back and show us where the hell everybody is" shot that too many artists today are clueless about. Buscema does it without boring us. That's a special skill.

I love what Kevin has done with texture here. The shiny helmets, the fabric, the stone floor... all of it is handled convincingly and efficiently. The figures are so well crafted. Kevin doesn't render as Buscema would have (or, certainly, as Dezuniga did), but his line is completely appropriate- attractive but rustic. Jesus... I'm resorting to fashion show language now.

My favorite thing about Nowlan's work on this page is the stuff he doesn't ink... the little elements that are shaped by negative spaces. Look at Superconan's leggings, or the chains, or (most impressively) the crowd in the background. Kevin has simplified the crowd with such skill! I could stare at the choices he made there for hours. It's so brilliant to render the first row or two completely and simply, and then to drop into nothing but bold shadows as you move further back. He's doing what we've talked about before... he's using his skills as an inker to help tell the story!

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


Superconan, or whatever might be going on here, was published by DC Comics, and they own it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday... Uncle Slam is Coming, and Some Good, Old-Fashioned Goodness by Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott

With El Diablo #1 on the stands, you're going to be hearing a lot about my next upcoming book, UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK. It will ship at the end of September, and it features a lot of hilarity surrounding the presidential election. McCain, Cheney, Schwarzer- Szhwarzeneck-- shit, I dunno... that movie star who runs California now, they're all there in Uncle Slam Fights Back.

Check it out! This man really wants you to!

Uncle Slam is owned by ME!

Today's art scan is a little glimpse into old-school Marvel superhero comics. This time, it's an issue of ROM from the late '70's (I think). The art is by two of the most solid craftsmen you could imagine, Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott. When I need to pull the name of a penciller out of my brain to typify a solid craftsman... a guy who will always get the job done, and will rarely take your breath away, Sal is usually the guy. He's a solid draftsman, a very solid storyteller, and his work is always clear, concise, and accessible. Sinnott, through his association with Kirby on their long run on Fantastic Four, some of the best superhero comics ever done, is more highly regarded than Sal. His work, though, typifies the same kind of ethic. Joe's work is similarly solid, predictable (and I do not mean that in a negative way), and accessible.

Together, these guys make a comic that is everything a kid could ask for in a fun, well-crafted superhero book. When I was a kid, I loved ROM for a couple of reasons. First, I was there when #1 hit the stands, and that was a big deal for me. It was exciting to know that I could get each and every issue of a book, no matter the quality. Second, ROM was cool looking! When I saw that first cover, of a shiny robot with a glowing eye, I was sold!

This panel comes from that batch of pages I bought at the show in New York for four bucks each. Not bad, huh? This flashback panel has so much going on! It's a great example of how to pack a panel with information and depth without making anything confusing. Sal knows how to put the information out there so clearly, so efficiently. He makes it look easy and, believe me, it is not.

As for the inks, well... I will admit that Joe isn't really among my favorites. I tend to prefer guy whose line is more spontaneous- more lively. Don't get me wrong, Joes line isn't boring by any stretch... but it is a bit more monotonous than guys like Giordano, Drake, and Robbins. Still, I greatly admire Sinnott's work. There are a number of things that make it successful, even if it doesn't specifically fit my tastes:
1- Solid drawing ability underlines everything Sinnott does. For me, this is not always a good thing. I wish, for instance, that he had left Kirby a little more raw. But, he knows his stuff, and he makes sure that everything his brush touches is well-formed and attractive.
2- Textures! Joe is a master at using texture to create depth and a sense of comics shorthand realism. This is a tiny panel, but we see it here. Check out Power Man's hair, inked with such boldness and precision, even though Joe is just dotting at the page with a splayed out brush.
3- Confidence! This is a crucial part of any successful inker. Each line Sinnott makes looks as if he KNEW it was the right line. He sells each and every mark he makes.

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


All characters owned by Marvel!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Well, since starting this blog, this is the closest I have come to missing my goal of posting each and every weekday (holidays aside). But, here I am, before midnight my time. Later than usual, but here I am!

So, first up today, a little bragging, I guess. I've spoken here before about the South American thing I'm writing, and now I guess I can talk about it openly. After all, it was announce in Variety yesterday. I mean, the article is mainly about my collaborators, the Fabulous Russo Brothers, but I'm in there, too! Go... check it out now!

'Dupree' duo sets sights on 'Ciudad'

I won't say too much about today's scan. As I mentioned, it's late, and it's been a long day. Hell, after the Ciudad news hit the trades, I didn't stop drinking tequila 'til dawn!

As you may have heard here before, my own beloved Uncle Slam returns to the comics world in a few weeks, with UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK! I only caught a glimpse of McCain's big speech last night, but I saw enough to crack a smile. You'll know why once you read our book, as our own version of McCain delivers a real cracker of a speech in those pages.

And, all this leads me to today's art scan. I met Bruce Timm for the first time about 15 years ago, at WonderCon. He crashed at the Action Planet table for awhile, doing sketches and hanging out. It was a pretty astonishing thing to observe. Every time I would look over at his work, a little gasp would escape from my lips. It was like, "Oh... that's the best Daredevil drawing I've ever-- Oh... that's the best Conan drawing I've-- Oh... that's the best Iron Man--", and so on.

Bruce is a fantastic cartoonist for a number of reasons. He draws well, his work is incredibly accessible, he knows how to tell a story and, most essential in my eyes, he knows how to distill the very essence of every character he touches into each and every amazing drawing.

You can imagine how annoying it was to ask Bruce for an Uncle Slam sketch, and then watch as he captured the essence of what Phil Hester and I had been trying to do with Slam in his very first attempt. This drawing nails the attitude of Slam. And, of course, it's a fantastic drawing.

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


Uncle Slam is owned by... ME!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday... It's El Diablo Day at Elite Comics, and the Magic of Jack Kirby's THOR!

EL DIABLO HITS STORES TODAY!!! That's right... this is the one and only day you can run out and buy this book the very first day it's available. And, if you happen to be within driving distance of Overland Park, KS, you can meet the creators in person! That's right, Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and I will be appearing all afternoon and evening at ELITE COMICS! Buy the book, meet the guys that made it... do it all, baby!

Meanwhile, here's the line art for issue #1's cover:

El Diablo is owned by DC Comics.

Today's art scan is something that's really special for me to talk about. It was a panel from a Jack Kirby issue of Thor that first inspired me to really get into comics, and Kirby's run on Journey Into Mystery and Thor is still one of my very favorite things. I won almost every issue... it's one of the few comics I have sought out like a rabid collector over the years. So, for at least fifteen years, from the time I first started buying original art, I really wanted a Kirby Thor page.

Unfortunately, while there are hundreds of such pages out there, I was somewhat picky. While I accept the the issues inked by the great hack Vincent Colletta are the way they are and there's nothing that can be done about it and I love those books just as they are... I didn't really want that hackery hanging on my wall, staring at me each day. There's quite enough hackery going on in my studio already, thank you very much. Over the years, I saw a lot of Colletta pages from Thor for sale at conventions. I would spy the page from across the room and think, "Wow... that really looks nice. Maybe Vinnie really tried on that one." When I got close to the page, though, it was always the same... blech!

So, I decided to seek out a page by another inker. Several other guys inked issues of Thor here and there, including the great Bill Everett. Only one issue, though, was inked by my favorite Jack Kirby inker, Frank Giacoia.

Giacoia was one of those incredibly talented old-school inkers. Of course, he was a solid artist in his own rights, but his inking is really what made him special. He was always bold, but lively. He strengthened everyone he inked (aside from maybe Neal Adams, on whom Giacoia was a little lost) but, at the same time, he let the penciller shine through. That's what I love about his work over Kirby. The work is more that just pretty tracing (Royer), and he doesn't pretty the stuff up too much, either (Sinnott). Now, don't get me wrong... Royer was great, and Sinnott was perfect for The Fantastic Four. That work isn't as directly Kirby, though, as what Giacoia does. Giacoia is the perfect inker for Kirby (whose work was so strong that it's all but bad inker-proof), in my opinion.

To complicate my art-buying mission, Giacoia only inked one issue of Kirby's Thor. It is actually an issue of Journey Into Mystery... issue #115, to be precise. Still, I was patient, and a page from that issue eventually fell into my hands. Oh, around the same time, about thirteen hundred bucks fell out of my pocket, but that's another story. Not only is this Kirby and Giacoia on Thor, but it also features the first appearance of one of my favorite villains, The Absorbing Man. Nice!

Today I'm posting one of the less exciting panels from the page I own, but I wanted to share this one because it's so rich... so lush. The composition by Kirby is at once complex and clear. The arranging of figures gives the image such depth, and Giacoia is a master at adding to that depth through line weights and textures. Giacoia spots blacks perfectly, but he's also not afraid to hash it up a little, no doubt following the lead of Kirby's pencils.

This is rich, solid work by two of the best ever, and it hangs right behind my chair while I work. It stares down at me, reminding me each and every day how I'm nowhere near as good as... okay, let's not go there. This is a fantastic image. I love that little Thor figure, flying down to lend a hand to these poor little humans.

And... no Matt Fraction, we are not cutting this page up and smoking it. I don't care how many times you ask.

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


The comic book version of THOR is owned by Marvel Ent. Group. The god version is owned by history!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday... El Diablo, and the Amazing work of Jesse Marsh!

EL DIABLO HITS STORES TOMORROW!!! I mean, c'mon people! You should probably be lined up outside a comic book store, and not wasting time reading this damn blog! Okay... you can read this post, but then you really should start making plans to get El Diablo #1 into your hands as soon as possible.

Here's another li'l sneak peek, from Mister Hester and myself:

El Diablo is owned by DC Comics.

I have to confess up front that this is a touch day for me to keep this post streak rolling. I'm tired from working too late last night. I have too many things to do, and I have an appointment soon that I have to run out for. Yeah, I know... who gives a shit. You're right! Just wanted to explain up front why this post may be brief. Ah... who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll get on a roll and ramble on and on, like always.

So, today we're going to talk about one of the truly great, overlooked comic artists, Jesse Marsh (look, usually I offer these links without comment, but you really should check this one out... it's fantastic). As his wiki article points out, Jesse is best known for his work on Tarzan, and he was the first artist to ever draw original comic book Tarzan stories. Jesse was an incredibly consistent and prolific artist. Off the top of my head, I would put him behind only Kirby in that category. He produced twenty straight years of Tarzan comics, and I'm talking pencils, inks, and letters!

Marsh is a hero of mine, because he makes incredibly effective comics without great draftsmanship. I'm not sure how the fact that I love that combination speaks to my own skills as a draftsman (okay, that's a lie... I am sure), but it doesn't matter. Marsh's work is magical to me. I love how he throws around black spaces on the page, thinking far more about how to direct the reader's eye than any realistic concern. I love the inking, particularly on panels like this, where he just attacks the page with his brush.

Look at the jungle that surrounds (and perfectly frames) the characters. Marsh's way of rendering that jungle is wild, crazy, and completely effective, particularly given the printing and coloring of the day. The figures are solidly built, but not pretty. There is no prettiness here to distract you from the telling of the story, and I like that. For the record, so did Alex Toth. He was a huge fan of Jesse Marsh.

I also love the lettering, the square balloons, the open panel borders. It's all part of the unique universe that Marsh created for Tarzan, and it all works for me!

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


I looked into it a little bit, and it's unclear to me who owns the publishing rights to Tarzan in the states. It's either public domain or owned by the Burroughs estate. Do me a favor, huh? If you wanna makes a Tarzan comic, go look into it your own damn self.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesday... A Smidge of El Diablo, and a big Slice of Garcia Lopez and Giordano!

Look, it's two days now until EL DIABLO comes out, so you will listen to a little more hype about it, and that is that! Hell, I won't even say anything today. I'll just offer this tantalizing peek from Hester and myself.

El Diablo is owned by DC Comics.

Today's art scan is a piece of original art from the legendary DC Style Guide. I don't know how many years of his career the great Jose Louis Garcia Lopez has spent on this kind of material, but it's a big number. What is the DC Style Guide? Well, if you've ever purchased a lunchbox, notebook, or pair of underwear with DC heroes on them, the art on that item probably came from some incarnation of the style guide.

I believe the first big Style Guide book was printed by DC in 1982. I know the definitive early guide came out that year, but I guess I don't know if that was the first one. I also don't know if Dick Giordano inked the entire guide, but he definitely inked the piece I own... this amazingly iconic Aquaman drawing.

I could write all day about Garcia Lopez. He draws as well as almost anyone who has ever drawn comics. His figures are dynamic. They have weight, but they're always graceful. He composes pictures brilliantly. He just does everything exceptionally well. In the world of superhero comic art, he is the ultimate artist's artist. You will be hard pressed to find an artist who isn't a huge fan of Garcia Lopez. While it isn't usually my job here to talk about the personal qualities of the artists I discuss, he is also a humble and gracious gentleman.

Dick Giordano was my first inking hero. His work was so sharp and clean, and he was the most versatile inker I had ever studied. No matter who he worked over, the penciller was still there, but the work had that signature Giordano snap. He is the guy I modeled my career after. I wanted to be like Dick... able to ink almost any kind of artist and preserve what made them special, while adding just a touch of my own personality.

So, here we have this perfect picture of Aquaman. Remember what these images were being created for. These were to be iconic drawings of DC heroes doing what they do, so that anyone could see these images on any product and instantly recognize the brand. You have all that and more in this piece. Aquaman is heroic in every way here, and he's doing what he does as a hero! To make it even better, you get not only Aquaman swimming, but you also get a gorgeous close-up, drawn as only these two guys could do it.

Look at what makes the inking so special here. Giordano is such a master at mixing up his line weights. Check out the contour of the close-up's jaw, and then look at the same contour along the eye socket. Look at how, in the swimming pose, the underside of the legs has a heavier line, which indicates a light source, but also adds depth. Mixing line weights like this is what makes a drawing pop. We spoke about Klaus Janson in an earlier post. He mixes line weights as well as anyone, and he learned it from Giordano. The inking on the hair is also fantastic. It is organic and free, but still retains the shape beautifully.

This is a great drawing... one that conjures up everything clean and pure about the genre of superheroes. I'm so thrilled to own this piece. And, to top it off, this image fills only the bottom half of a page. There's another awesome drawing on the top half!

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


DC Comics owns Aquaman.