Saturday, May 02, 2015

More Convergence

I thought I'd add a few more pages to show my process for the first issue of JLI Bloodmoon. his page was a lot of designing as I had to create a hanger for Blue Beetles ship which got pretty banged up in the opening pages. This was also a sequence where Martian Manhunter and Bettle got to talk about the  group and their issues. I tried to give Ron Mars plenty of room to fit in dialogue as well as create a moody scene.

Once they return to normal of course the costume is back to normal and wasn't blasted or burned away by their powers. Now Lee and Kirby explained that by Mr. Fantastic's creation of uniforms made of unstable molecules in the Fantastic Four. I don't know what the Justice League use or in  anyone of the League is the one who makes costumes for all the others. I inked most of these pages with a Hunt 102 and Pitt Markers with some brush.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Wow, its been a few moons since I have blogged about what's going down here in the studio. I haven't been this busy in many years with so much comic work. I just wrapped the second issue of the Convergence: Justice league International. The first issue in on the stands now and the second will be on the stands in two weeks.

The deadlines were crazy as I had a script hold up from Ron Mars on half of the second issue as they had to figure the converging out at DC. It seems they were shifting things up almost right to the end. My editor Marie Javins was such a great help in the whole process. She is certainly the best editor I have worked with since Mike Carlin back on Shazam in the late 90's, when I basically gave up monthly comics and moved into animation. The result of the bad deadlines was I had to give up inking most of the issue and had Joe Rubinstein as well as my buddy Bret Blevins jump in on inks. I did ink some pages towards the end of the second issue which felt good.

The hardest thing about doing something like this project was that I was never a fan of the Justice League books, or a regular reader; and just the fact multi-character books areal lot harder to draw in general. Hats off to artists like George Perez who love to do them, and do them well. So though I was familiar with the version that Giffen and McGuire did, I was not a fan in the fan in the way i am of the Buscema Avengers.

But that's always the way it goes on books when you are a hired gun, and I was always more a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Marie recommended that I take this book, though I now realize she did because it would have killed ten normal cartoonists! I don't know all the "ins and outs" of the DCU. I really have a better idea about the Marvel Universe as most of my favorite comic artist were mainly Marvel artists when I was a reader.

Maybe the hardest thing for me was all the costume reference, which pretty difficult in getting good shots of the characters from the specific era these books are supposed to pull from. The costumes seemed to change from issue to issue and the Kingdom Come characters were the toughest of all as there were sometimes only small and partial shots of them in the book.  Some like the KC Huntress I was almost left to ref like this as there was no full shot of her in the book.

Yep, this little gif is what I had to work with for the full figure.

It was also ironic then that the most complicated character I had to draw was the KC Blue Beetle on the killer deadline. I did Google him and had a few shots of the toys, of course never as clear as you want and never from the back. The thing that saved me was a youtube by a guy who had the toy figure and showed how the wings worked and came off, etc. That was a life saver!

Even the regular Blue Beetle had several slightly different alterations to his costume from artist to artist.  Unlike animation where there is a character sheet and everything is shown, in comics everybody does a slight spin on the ball.

But every job has its challenges and I did enjoy doing some super hero comics after doing the Judge Parker strip for the past six years. I never get to do any action or cut loose on JP like the superjocks. It was a real change-up going from the DC job right into the Judge, and then right back---often working on both in he same day! The last two weeks I worked 18 hour days, hitting the bed only when my drawing skills declined to the point I could no longer do a good drawing. 30 plus years of being a pro come in handy here, the training and really the conditioning to work so long and intensely--but it was easier to do at 30 that 53.

I was also working from a plot, not a full script here and that has pluses and minuses. The plus is more freedom as far as layouts but the minus is not having dialogue to "act to".

I do want to say that I was pretty happy with the coloring job by Sotocolor, who I requested when shown samples of the colorists available. A lot has changed color wise since I did regular comic work and the colorist have a bigger impact in many ways than the inker does now. I really thought a lot about how to slightly alter my inking style to allow for more color. that mean a bit less rendering ad a slightly slicker ink line.

I'll be posting some pencils and inks over the next few blogs from the first issue:

                                                             The spread from Issue 1

                                                                             Page 5

                                                                            Page 11

All of this comics work of course has meant that I haven't been painting at all, which is frustrating, but next month I'll be doing a lot of plein air painting in two painting competitions here in the Philly area. I'll also be attending the Philly Wizard show next month, may 7-10th in the convention center.

On top of all the comics I was also still teaching my Illustration Class in the After School Program at PAFA. Our last class was just this past Monday and it was a great group of young artists to teach. I saw a lot of growth this year and its also sad that a few of my regular long time students are graduating and going off to college--I'll miss them--but good luck!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Judge Parker Six Years and Going

This month start my sixth year working on Judge Parker for King Features. Over 1800 strips later I am still cranking away as the pile of strips in my art storage keeps growing and growing. JP is by far the longest steady gig I have ever had as a cartoonist and one in which I think has allowed me to constantly improve my craft.  The strip above is from an upcoming Sunday.

A lot of things have changed in my time on the strip, which came in a good time for me as I had just taken a huge hit when an project I was working on and the publisher went bust owing me thousands of dollars. I was in a big hole and still in my undergrad at the time and tuition was due for the next semester. The strip certainly helped climb out of that huge financial hole and helped with keeping the logs in the fire while in school, though at times I did have conflicts between its deadlines and those in school and teaching.

Now that I am well out of school by almost a year one would think the deadlines would improve, but alas not. I see why many old timers had many assistants for various parts of the job, but its a one-man operation here. This is a job that most cartoonists are not cut out for, really, its hard endless work. The biggest thing I learned was to have a good pace and always keep the ball rolling.

At times the grind does wear on me and the strips is never as exciting as superheroes and much harder to draw. I know that has made me a better cartoonist. I think fans assume everything is easy but superheroes allow me to stretch and cheat in ways I can't on the Judge. They are real people, eating walking sitting and doing a lot more real life and every day things. Those are harder an a lot less easy to fudge than the Bat Cave. Having just finished the first issue of Convergence for DC and doing JP at the same time was a real switch back and forth between worlds.

I am often asked how I work and I am still all traditional except the lettering which I do in Photoshop. I wish I had the time to do the lettering or the budget to pay somebody to do it, but I don't. So while man things fade away the strip keeps going and I have been told over 10,000 people read it every day on the web alone, which means more people probably read my work on JP than anything else.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Judicial Convergence

 The good thing about being so busy is that I am not missing being outside in this frigid winter we are having and that everybody is talking about. I am still juggling the Convergence and Judge Parker assignments. I am nearing the finish of inking my first issue of the JLI Bloodmoon and will soon be penciling away on issue NO. 2. Above you can see edges of pages from the book which I really can't show you guys yet and the pencils for an upcoming Judge Parker Sunday and the inks below.

I can't wait till warm weather to get back out to plein air paint, I am feeling a bit of cabin fever these last few weeks. Soon the current Godiva/Rocky storyline will be coming to an end and the stranded vacationers will be on their way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Convergence Interview

Seems like the last few weeks I've been getting interviewed a lot. HERE is another little interview up with Ron Mars and me about the Convergence Justice laegue International two-parter I am working on.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Radio Interview on WHYY

I was interviewed by Kimberly Hass for the Newsworks tonight segment on Philly's WHYY FM this evening. Its a short interview but it was fun to do. You can listen to the interview from the link

Friday, January 23, 2015

I am not #Hashtag

The new year, only three weeks old has proven to be a crazy year so far, fraught with a lot of terrible goings on world wide. If not shocking, not surprising in a way, still a bad beginning. I expect that any hour I can read some terrorist assholes blew up something, killed a lot of people--anywhere--even here.

In the cartooning community and on Facebook especially people started putting up pics of themselves holding drawing tools with the slogan/hastag "Je suis Charlie" or "I am Charlie".

I can understand the feeling, but I didn't do it and wouldn't do it because I am not Charlie. While I completely support free speech/ free press including making fun of anyone or any god, I didn't feel my emotions were going down that road. I have no problem with those who did it post the slogan---I suppose you feel like you want to do something, say something--or even more likely, kill the bad guys--and they were. But that only stamps out that fire, not the inferno...

But I think slogans are a very iffy thing. They can easily become a false flag. They can also work against you as they just become a knee jerk #hashtag and loose the original meaning as people just repeat, retweet and pile on. The media gets it, runs with it makes $$ from it and co-ops the thing into a theme song and graphic. Its already gone now, washed over by the next #hashtag, whatever trending topic that might be. I think I'd have to really think about how I would want to react to these situations and how I would want to respond in social media and artistically. That isn't something I would hashtag, or tweet. the issues we face require deep and long thinking and not slogans. I don't hate on those who did like some on FB, calling people out like Marshall Dillon. That is redick! Also you never win arguments of FB, so why even waste the time? Go make something positive, make a song, art, volunteer, whatever works for you.

What this shit does for me is make me focus on, life, now,  my life, my goals, what am I doing, where am I going, etc. You realize that shit can and will go down any minute, YOU can go down, but what can you do? Stop your life? No, you have to stay focused and move forward. You have to do whatever you need to to keep your energy up, your light glowing and hope that effects the others around your circle of influence.

So the energy of 2015 is a strange kinda twisted energy, a real weird mix. Had a great show opening, and good feedback, and article on outdoorpainter, and my commercial work is going solid for DC right now. I'm finishing the pencils for the first issue of my Convergence book, the last pages will be done by early next week, I have them broken down, I just have to transfer my layouts to the board and tighten them up. I wish I could show the pages to you but DC says, NO! But since they already ran the finished promo for this page I'll show the pencils.

So you'll have to wait till April and May to see the rest of the work....

                                                         Manayunk Sunday 9 x 12 Oil

I have managed to get out and paint once in the past few weeks for an afternoon with the PAPP in Manayunk---Brrrrr! After 3-4 hours standing on frozen concrete my poor feet were numb and I had to stop. I wasn't crazy about the painting, but if felt good to get out of the house/studio. The weather has been just off enough to mess with my schedule so the time I am free its raining and freezing. I know that in  amonth the weather will really start improving a lot so I'll have more time to get back outside.

I have also started on a new body of figurative paintings. When my DC gig is done I will be able to move further and faster. But I have started sketches and studies from a model. I have even done some from paintings I saw that I made in a few dreams. That is actually very hard to get that feeling you have in a dream down on paper as the act is like catching smoke to a degree. It more of trying to draw a feeling than a thing. And we all need good dreams these days!