Thursday, May 14, 2015

Justice League International Convergence 2 and Philly Wizard

The last few weeks were mad busy here at Studio Manley between finishing up the second issue of the JLI: Convergence and attending last week's Philly Wizard World and staying up with the strip.

The deadline on the second issue of the JLI was pushed right up to the last day it could ship to the printer or miss shipping. I delay in getting the second half of the script by Ron Mars because of DC needing to coordinate the zillions of books gave me little time to finish the art. I think Ron did a good job giving the fans what they want with the two versions of the Beetle working together. It was harder for me as it was working from a plot which gives me some more room layout wise, but I was pretty unfamiliar with the characters as I never read a JLI book.

 It was all hands on deck, so Joe Rubinstein chipped in on inking as well as Bret Blevins.  After penciling the last pages I hopped on the inking for the last few pages myself. I have to say the Marie Javins my editor was fantastic this whole project.

She's not only a great person but a really great editor, the kind you really don't find anymore. The last few comic projects I did for DC never went as smoothly despite having better deadlines---though in reality doing monthly comics is always a four alarm fire at some point.

Chris Sotomayor and his team at Sotocolor also did a great job coloring the two issue, maybe my favorite coloring job in comics---also with having only a few days to do the bulk of the book. So while disappointed I couldn't do the whole job myself I am pretty happy with the results of the books, and it was fun to draw some superhero action after drawing the slower soap opera of Judge Parker, now in it's 51st week on the current storyline.

One of the things about doing this big cross-over event for DC was getting asked for these mini interviews for various wed site promotions. So I'd get a lits of questions along with the writer, Ron Mars. Questions like what are your favorite JLI moments, covers, characters, etc.

I really didn't know how to answer most of those questions as I never read a JLI book. I was aware of the Giffen and Maguire run, but i don't know if I ever bought or read that run, maybe I got some in my DC bundle of books I got every month for a while. I am a fan of artists and never read books because of the writing or characters. I know that makes me very different from the average comic fan, who buys issues of Spider-man because they love the character. I only have issue where I like the art. So I have no fave moments of these characters--they are new to me. the only character I was really familiar with was Martian Manhunter--and he was the most fun to draw.

                                                                           My layout

                                                                     My inked final

I imagine since he's a shape shifter he must have to concentrate to maintain his form, thus maybe he's always slightly changing his appearance. Like a clenched muscle he must at some point get tired, Slightly changing shapes especially when angry-etc.

There is all of this back story on the JLI I was unaware of or only slightly aware of so it was a challenge from that standpoint as well as a reference nightmare. the issues I was sent for ref were so poorly drawn in the kinda' 90's Image style and the costumes were never drawn clearly or well. The Kingdom Come characters were also hard as some were never really drawn much or very small, one or two shots here or there. So that was the biggest hassle for me---but now it's on the shelf and history. I'll be announcing a new series for a new publisher that I'll be working on soon!

Thanks to my biddy Danny Fingeroth I attended the Philly Wizard World con last week. I skipped Thursday to finish the Judge and knew it would be low attendance and did Friday to Sunday. I did some sketches and a panel on the Joker with Danny. I can see how taking any art to sell isn't worth it now, this con is really about the celebrities and fans in cosplay.

 Comics is just a side show more and more. I think if i go back I'd just have prints--which it seemed everybody from Neal Adams to Micheal Golden had. Both had isle long booth filled with a zillion prints as did 99% of the other artists.

Walking Dead, Dr. Who, you name it, so man prints of these characters. I wonder how anyone makes money and the legal side of producing these unlicensed drawings and prints seems like a big issue as well.

 I also don't know if I want to go around toting a zillion prints--so this is something I have to think about as the nature of fandom continues to shift at the shows. Shows like the Baltimore Con are more my speed as they are not about the Hollywood stuff and more about comics themselves. I don't mind the cosplay but know those folks have no interest in me or my work.

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