Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday... Inking Machine!

I've had precious little time to write lately. For a number of reasons, El Diablo deadlines have gone from tight to "Holy Shit!" tight. Thus, I have been inking like a madman for the past several days. The good news is that I'm getting a lot done, and the work is looking lively and exciting. The bad news is that I have two comics I should be writing. Hopefully, once this inking deadline is over, I'll be able to focus on the writing more effectively.

A crunch like this drives home the odd place in which my career resides right now. I want to be a writer. I think I'm on the verge of being a good one, if I could only find the freaking time. It's hard, almost impossible, to get past the initially mediocre writing in little bursts of time. I need to get into the project- really let it roll around for a day or two, but the time is hard to come by.

Yeah- I know... "Whahh! My comics career is too damn busy! I can't find enough time to be brilliant!" Point taken. I shouldn't use this blog just to bitch about my own selfish time constraints.

So, I'll talk a bit about the best tv show I've seen recently, Mad Men. The show's second season was tough to take at times, but it was always brilliant. The finale was really spectacular. It is really getting hard to find anyone there to root for, but you just can't stop watching.

Mad Men has a harsh, semi-realistic vibe that reminds me of The Sopranos, but the setting changes the tone completely. The Sopranos existed in gangster-world, where things were grounded, but not real. When those people acted like monsters, it was kind of expected. On Mad Men, when the characters do reprehensible things, it's more in your face, because they exist in a setting that is easier to relate to. It is hard to take, but hard to turn away from. I'm already looking forward to next year.

I gotta get back to the board. See you here again soon.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday... I'm Drownin' Here!

Whew. I am in the shit this week, my friends. The book I'm inking is on double secret probation deadline, I'm trying to jam on two writing projects, and I've got last minute stuff to do in support of our school district's bond issue.

So, I won't be able to do the art post thing for awhile. I don't have the time or energy right now. I don't want to post an amazing piece and say, "Hey... isn't that amazing?!" I really want to be able to comment a little on what makes the work special to me.

Until I get a little more above water, I'm going to try to just check in from time to time and share whatever. The blog will be more conventional, but at least I'll be staying in touch.

First up on this streak of random posts is some musing about the great Tom Jones. I got (thanks again, Netflix) the first dvd of "This is Tom Jones", which was his variety show in the late '60s. The wife and I were checking it out the other day, and it's pretty great. In the first episode, Tom sings quite a bit, flirts with hot chicks, and hosts talents like Richard Pryor and Peter Sellers. Not bad.

Unfortunately, most of the singing on the show is lip-synced. At the end of the episode, though, you get Tom just cutting loose on a couple of numbers. Holy shit, is that dude fantastic. In the first episode, he sings "Goin' to Kansas City", and "Danny Boy". The latter wasn't too special, but he really tears up Kansas City. I've always said that Tom is one of the few singers who need almost nothing in the material to make you interested. Of course, Sinatra rules that court, but Tom holds his own. He can take a complete turd of a song and make it worth hearing. His phrasing, his tone, and his energy always shine through.

You know I adore Tom Jones. Only he and my kids get to smile down at me when I sit at my drafting table. I have a signed photo hanging right there, offering skeptical encouragement (courtesy, I believe, of my pal Jason Caskey).

That's all for now. I'm shot. I'll check in again with other random bullshit soon.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday- Just Saying "Hey!"

Hey gang,

Just back from my whirlwind trip to L.A., where I was jamming on the Ciudad story with my collaborators, the lovely and charming Joe and Anthony Russo. Good trip, with some very interesting moments. I made a new fiend or two, and learned that Heather Graham looks like a movie star in person.

I don't have time today to work up an entry with an art scan. So, I thought I'd do something a little more conventional. I've been pretty obsessed about the election cycle this year. I'm a huge Obama supporter, and I have a lot on the line in local elections, as well. I've been spending a lot of time online, staring at polling data and reading the opinions of various politicos.

Today, I want to plug Andrew Sullivan. If you don't know who that is, you can check out his wiki entry HERE. He is not a man I really should agree with much. He's a libertarian conservative, and I'm a pretty liberal Democrat. I respect Sullivan immensely, though. He is what I consider a true conservative, and he stands by his guns. He has no use for W or the modern McCain, and his analysis of this election cycle has been spot on.

Please check Andrew's blog out HERE.

See you back here soon!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday... It's Win Mortimer Day!

Sorry I wasn't able to post Thursday. It was a rough deadline week. Of course, I also continue to work on our school bond issue, and stress mightily about the presidential election. Overall, it's a rough life, man!

Anyway, I'll be away next week, too. I'll be off working on my Ciudad book. I'm excited about really getting into this thing again.

So, since it may be a week or so until I can post again, today's scan is a little special. You get not a single panel, but a whole daily strip by the great Win Mortimer. Even better, you get this amazing photo of the artist in his studio.


How cool is that?! I love everything about this picture: the studio space, the window, the finished dailies spread out on the table, the great old chair, Mortimer's attire, the lovely wife... it's all perfect.

I've spoken about Win Mortimer here before, so I'll keep it brief. He's a vastly underrated artist, a guy known best for his Superman work, which was pretty pedestrian. As a strip artist, he is a rare talent. His characters are so full of personality... they just jump from the page. You can really feel the acting here. I can't get enough of Mortimer's work.

Okay... I gotta run! Enjoy the genius, and come back for more next Tuesday!



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday... A Little Rambling, and a Whole Lot of Scott McDaniel

Hard to find time to post these days. I have writing to do, and I've taken on an extra inking assignment to help pay the bills. On top of that, my school board is taking a lot of time these days. On top of the stress about Obama v. McCain and some friends of mine who are running for state office, our district is trying to pass a bond issue November 4th. Thus, I have a lot of meetings going on right now, and a lot of stress. I suppose a wiser, more centered man would just assume that his country, his state, and his town will do the right thing. It ain't that easy for yours truly.

Enough whining. We're all busy, right? In other words, shut the hell up, cartoon-boy, and show us some pretty art. Okay... I get it.

So, on to today's scan. But first- a story!

A few years back, I received a package I didn't expect from my editor. The package contained a half issue of pencils waiting to be inked. Nothing unusual there, right? Well... wrong. These pencils were not by the artist I was inking for that editor at the time. It was not an artist I had ever inked, or a job I had discussed with my editor. Puzzling.

To further complicate the issue, the package arrived a few days before Thanksgiving. So, the editor was not available to answer questions from a confounded inker. Was this a job I was supposed to go ahead and start on? Based on the quality of the pencils, I was kinda hoping so. But, alas, such was not the case.

I did enough detective work on my own to figure out that this job was intended to be inked by someone else. I tracked down that person and sent the pages along. Too bad, as I would have loved to tackle the job. Sucks sometimes... being an honorable man.

So, this mystery job had been drawn by an artist I really admire. Scott McDaniel is a rare beast in comics. He's a relatively unique combination- a guy who is really reliable, but also visually exciting.

Scott's work is incredibly tight, but his style is so interesting that it never seems boring. Basically, when I look at his work I think, "Damn it looks fun to draw like that."

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


Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday... Uncle Slam's Cover, and Some Pure Kevin Nowlan!

Remember, folks... UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK shipped to comic book stores this week. If you haven't yet sought out a copy, do so now!!! Here... now you know what to look for:

Uncle Slam is owned by ME!

Today's art scan is a little different. It's a whole page thumbnail by the great Kevin Nowlan. This is page one from a Jack B. Quick story, by Kevin and Alan Moore.

I'm not going to go on and on about this page. Really, Kevin is, in my opinion, one of those guys that it's kind of hard to learn from. Why? Because the first step is always going to be, "Get as talented as Kevin Nowlan."

Now, I confess that I have spent a lot of time studying Kevin's inking techniques. He is on the short list of guys I routinely turn to when I don't feel like I know what the hell I'm doing as an inker. Looking at his work always inspires me. I can't really ink like Kevin, but looking at his work helps me think about drawing while I ink, about texture, and about being clean without looking labored or dull.

As a penciller or, in this case, a layout artist, though... I'm just struck by what a unique talent Kevin is. The drawings are so completely charming. The layouts are so clear and clean. The lettering is so perfect. He just does everything well, and he does it as only he can.

Still, there are certainly lessons here. This layout measures about 8 inches tall. I don't know if Kevin started off with an even smaller thumbnail, but I doubt it. Nailing down compositions, including how the lettering fits, at this size is essential, but something that a lot of young artists ignore. Kevin is really doing all the hard work at this size. After this step, he knows where things go, and how the storytelling flows, including the lettering. All that's left is the drawing. If your name is Kevin Nowlan, that part is easy!

I should close by adding that Kevin, in addition to being a fantastic talent, is a fellow Kansan, and a very sweet guy. I wished he lived a little closer to yours truly. He probably doesn't share that wish... as I'd be bugging him all the time if he did.

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


I assume that Jack B. Quick is owned by Alan Moore and Kevin Nowlan.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday... Uncle Slam Hits Tomorrow, and Gene Colan and Johnny Freaking Craig!

Whew... been working like a bastard the past several days. The good news, for me, is that I've been doing some writing. Writing is harder for me than inking these days, but also more rewarding. I'm enjoying getting back on some projects I've been neglecting for too long.

More about those projects later. For now, I should mention that UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK should hit stores tomorrow! Please, please, please, check it out! It's got fun, corn dogs, and robots!

Now, on to the art scan of the day. This panel isn't really spectacular, and it doesn't come from a spectacular page, but I do love it for a number of reasons. First, it comes from the final issue of one of my favorite Silver Age comics, Tales of Suspense. I discovered Tales of Suspense back issues when I was first getting back into comics, when I was in Junior High. I'm not sure which came fist- my discovery of Takes of Suspense, or my love of the book's two leads, Captain America and Iron Man. Either way, it's a book made for me... aside from the fact that I didn't discover it until long after its demise.

This image also showcases two of my favorite artists, Gene Colan and Johnny Craig. Craig we have spoken about here before. He is a true artist's artist, and an underrated genius. I have not spoken about Colan on these pages before, but he is a unique talent that I also have a ton of respect for.

This issue, Tales of Suspense #99, came out just as Colan was really hitting his peak, in my opinion. His work from this era is amazingly inventive, but still solid as hell. He would become more cinematic... more experimental later in his career, but the structure would sometimes suffer. At times, I love his later work. At other times, not quite so much.

Ironically, some people feel just the same way about Johnny Craig's work at Marvel, and I disagree. I guess I have to concede that his EC work is stronger, but I really love a lot of what he did for Marvel, particularly on jobs like this one, where he was inking another strong artist.

I know this is a panel without a ton of stuff going on, but I think there are things to learn here. Colan was not an easy guy to ink. There were a lot of grays in his pencils, and that can send a weak inker to the madhouse. Tom Palmer was probably the best at converting Gene's grays into line art. He did it brilliantly for many years. I think Craig does a very credible job here, though. He has created the effect of speed here with amazing facility and efficiency. I love the way the bold, brushy shapes of the car blend into the speed lines.

We also have a lot of depth in this simple panel, which is due, in large part, to how Craig handled his line weights. The car in the foreground pops nicely, even though it's barely in the composition. The car in the background recedes nicely, thanks to Craig's delicate work there.

I'll show off more of this page soon. That's enough outta me for now, though. Enjoy the genius, and come back for more Thursday!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Saturday... El Diablo, and a Whole Damn Page of Adams and Giordano!

I'm back! I was jamming on El Diablo last week, which is why I was unable to post. So, I thought I should share some of the goods. Here is a cropped portion of issue three's two page spread, by Mr. Hester and me.

El Diablo is owned by the fine people at DC Comics.

Since I shorted you all for a few days, I thought I'd share something extra special today. Many years ago, I got a fantastic gift from my friend Phil Hester (yeah... the same dude who draws El Diablo). Phil had managed to purchase a page from a convention retailer for a pretty ridiculous sum. The page was under-priced, even if it had been drawn by an average artist. It wasn't drawn by an average artist, though, it was drawn by Neal Adams and inked by Dick Giordano. As such, it was a freaking steal. Phil, knowing that I was a fat bigger Adams fanatic than he was, was kind enough to pass the page on to me. It hangs in a special spot in my studio, both as a token of my friend's generosity, and as a nice piece of work from Neal Adams' career.

Neal did this issue of The Brave and the Bold very early in his DC career... sometime, I believe, toward the end of his run on the Deadman series. This job also marks one of the first Adams/Giordano pairings. In my opinion, it's a moderately successful pairing at this stage. Frankly, while Dick would go on to do some great work over Neal, he would never ink him as well as Neal could have himself. In this early effort, you can really see Dick fighting to come to grips with Neal's fine, expressive pencils. The inking is still a little ham-fisted, as Dick tries to convert Neal's grays to black and white.

Still, the inks are solid, and they reproduced well. Dick understood the printing limitations of his art form better than almost anyone, and always worked accordingly. Yeah... I wish I had a page from this era that Neal had inked himself, but the art is only slightly diminished by the slightly insensitive inking.

I would not have posted this page in sections, as is my usual policy here. Neal's page layout is too complex- the panels too inter-dependent- to chop up. So, since I wanted to do something a little special today, I thought this whole page was appropriate. Again, this is early Neal... he would get a lot better. But, there is a lot to admire here.

The layout is pretty spectacular. It doesn't flow as naturally as possible, or even as naturally as Neal would do just a few years later. It does flow, though, and it works in getting the reader into the battle between Batman and The Creeper. I particularly like the first panel. The design accomplishes a number of facts very efficiently. The height of the rooftop, Batman's vulnerable position, and the Creeper's agility are all set up, seemingly with little effort. I also like panel two, with the money shot of Batman, and the flipping prowess of The Creeper. I still think it all works pretty well here. Things get a little less clear from here on out, but I don't mind. What the young Neal sometime lacked in clarity, he more than made up for in sheer excitement. I particularly like the laughter sound effect, and the sweeping motion of the girder in the final two panels.

As with a lot of the pieces from my collection, I love this piece for its exuberance. You can sense Neal at play here... a young man having a blast with the toolbox of a new medium.

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


Both Batman and The Creeper are owned by DC.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday... I got nothin'

Sorry, faithful readers. I am too slammed to post right now.

Just wanted to pop in and tell you I'll be back with a real post in the next day or so.