Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Foster Father

The last thing I had to clear before returning to work was the lovely oversized (27 X 36cm) Prince Valiant hardcover I picked up from Gosh . The first in a series, this collection crisply reprints the first 98 Sunday strips of the Prince Valiant feature from 1937 in uncluttered black and white on a smooth glossy stock. Together with Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff, Hal Foster is lauded as one of the titans of newspaper strips but I've never really read any of his stuff as Tarzan and prince Valiant never really appealed to me much. However, when I stumbled across this collection of strips starting from the feature's first instalment, I decided to give it a shot as I was already looking for something different to read.

I'm glad I did as it's bloody amazing stuff. My only prior exposure to Prince Valiant was the cartoon series, the pull-your-eyes-out-to-relieve-the-boredom 50s movie (starring Robert Wagner in the title role) and Wally Wood's sole page after Foster retired from art duties on the strip after 33 years (he was nearly 80at the time!). I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible and easy the strip was to read but I was more impressed with the quality of the art, which MORE than stands up decades later. Foster clearly WAS a master artist and after reluctantly adapting Tarzan of the Apes into a Sunday strip (and thus creating the first "serious", non-humourous comic strip) in 1929, the comic medium opened up to new genres and Foster's art continued to inspire countless artists (Raymond, Mac Raboy and Joe Kubert are all clearly influenced by Foster's work). Foster therefore truly was the father of real sequential storytelling art and his sense of composition, attention to detail and innate talent make Prince Valiant a joy to read. I usually tend to try and get my hand on all of any given series that I'm following but with over 30 years of Valiant strips, I think I may just take the occasional sampling!

As a side note, I remembered a little-known fact when I saw Valiant disguise himself as a demon, which Jack Kirby ripped off for Etrigan over 30 years later! I've always wondered where Kirby came up with those polka dots for Thor's design and noticed a Hal Foster Viking wearing a finned helmet identical to the one Thor sported in his very first splash page from Journey Into Mystery, as well as a series of metal circles on his tunic--this could be a bit of a stretch but given that Kirby was not above dipping into Foster's work from this era as inspiration, Foster could arguably have inspired the design of Thor, a character whose roots would lie in a similar historical period...anyway, here's a look at Etrigan's first REAL appearance from 1937!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Festive Report

Well, other than Christmas Day itself, I've been spending my seven-day break alone and been having a great time. Deciding to take the opportunity to just kick back and unwind (as I've worked like a dog this year), I've done just that and had a pretty relaxing break.

Although I've watched no TV shows beyond Dr Who and Wallace & Gromit (loved all the film references), I've mainly been watching a ton of movies. I finally caught up with some DVDs that have been hanging around (some since last Xmas!), as well as a few new ones (have to say that the extras on The Dark Knight are some of the dullest I've ever seen as they're mostly technical stuff with no real insight into the shoot---and why the hell are they devoting literally half the extras, including repeating scenes from the main feature with no alteration or comparison, to Imax, a format you can't exactly appreciate at home? Other than the fact that Christian Bale really stood on the top of that Hong Kong building and that the hospital explosion was real not CG (which is why it looked so good), I learned next to nothing of interest...and watching the main feature, how does Batman bend the barrel of a gun like that? He's Bruce Wayne, not Superman!).

While the TV schedules initially looked quite crap, I've managed to catch quite a few gems. With Howl's Moving Castle on yesterday and the Cat Returns on E4 later, that'll make four Studio Ghibli films I've seen on TV this month (nothing can prepare you for a racoon transforming his bollocks into a ship and sailing away like Frodo Baggins!), I've caught three Hitchcocks, Dr Strangelove (overrated but certainly worth a look) and typically tepid Channel Five adaptations of Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Journey to the Centre of the Earth---they sure do like to talk in these Hallmark productions, don't they?

Also managed to clear my reading pile (except for two books to eventually read on my lunch breaks) in preparation for one of my New Year's resolutions: draw more sequential pages. I have three short strips I want to do initially, the second of which will be for Rol, before hopefully getting into the groove and preparing some samples for the next Birmingham show. Yesterday I stumbled across reference to an upcoming book online, quickly investigated further and immediately ordered a copy. The book? Al Williamson's Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision Of The Heroic. At 256 pages, this book collects all of Al Wiliamson's Flash Gordon material, from the 3-part adaptation of the 1980 movie and the three issue 90s Marvel mini (both of which I've only just obtained within the last year or so--oh well, at least they'll look clearer on superior stock and hopefully I can pass the issues on to some art-appreciating pal) to the Union Carbide promotional work and King Comics issues from the 60s, which I've never seen. Flask Gordon? Al Williamson? I'm there! Can't tell you how excited I am about this book, looking forward to it almost as much as the upcoming Dave Stevens book.

In fact, this inspired me to return to a Flash Gordon pic I'd drawn in clean line that I intended to finish off but never did due to a few compositional issues. Instead, I pencilled, inked, shaded and coloured a completely new version this morning (as above): it's not as great a figure drawing as the first one but I balanced the design better, resulting in a stronger piece overall despite a less confident pose for Flash.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Kellogg's Aldebaran

I've mentioned Cinebooks before, a publisher reprinting popular European comic strips in English editions reflecting the European album format rather than the US trade format. I get the impression that Cinebook started reprinting humour/kiddie fare (primarily as there are umpteen Lucky Luke collections already) and have only just started diversifying into the older market. I have zero interest in the humour stuff but have dabbled with their 12+ and 15+ ranges. Both Alpha and IR$ are solid espionage thrillers and I'll pick up the next volumes but definitely my favourite of the range by far is Aldebaran.

Created by the Brazilian artist Leo, each Cinebook collection contains two 48-page album. There are five albums set on Aldebaran and another five moving on to Betelgeuse, so Cinebook will collect these over five volumes before hopefully moving on to Antares, the first album of which was published last year.

Aldebaran is a sci fi story set on the colonised world of Aldebaran, which was inhabited by man sometime in the 21st Century before contact with Earth was cut off a century later. Aldebaran is a marine world with the islands reflecting a contemporary society. There are no lasers, clones or other science fiction elements beyond native animals, transport is powered by either electric engines, sail power or the wind and the colony is ruled over by an almost fascistic religious ruling body. When a small fishing village is destroyed by a mysterious creature, the only survivors are 17 year old fisherman Mark Sorensen, a girl he fancies and her 13 year old sister Kim Kellar. As they attempt to move on to the nearest city to start a new life, they become slowly involved with a mystery involving the creature responsible for their home's destruction. This mystery slowly hints at intrigue concerning unusual abilities the creature can have on humans...

I can't really compare this to any other thing I've read as it's so unique. The art is gorgeous, reminiscent of an ultra-clean line Eric Shanower style with nice watercolour embellishment rather than computer colours. The dialogue occasionally hits an odd note (it is translated after all) but generally the story is scripted and constructed well enough and peopled with distinct individuals to draw readers in. There's annoyingly little information I can find regarding the series online (some untranslated pages are available to view by clicking on specific albums at http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.mondes-aldebaran.com/&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=1&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dleo%2Baldebaran%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG and a nice piece of CG animation at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sd2w4iOsM8 ) but I'd definitely recommend this to anybody looking to try something solid beyond the spandex genre.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Hey, Kids, Cartoonz!

While I've not done too much "proper" art recently, thought I'd post something a bit different. I've been asked to do quite a few pieces of non-comics art throughout the years, ranging from designing logos and characters for bands, a logo and iconic character for a local comic shop and art for a Norfolk menu to illustrations for a local self-publisher's book, corporate logos and an offer to draw caricatures at a county fair (I declined that offer as I'd feel extremely uncomfortable in those situations). While these projects have been fun occasional things that have come down throughout the years, I've been doing quite alot in my current job.
I've been roped into providing art for various locally produced leaflets (the above illo is from a pamphlet about housing rights in the event of relationship breakdown---I quite like this image as it gets a split across pretty well without assigning blame to either party) and events but have also been asked for caricatures from various workmates. Being able to draw is similar to being able to play an instrument in that it always creates interest from others. Inevitably they can be impressed with work that you consider to be crap so when asked to do caricatures of family members, it's actually an enjoyable experience. Although there's the pressure of pleasing the person you're doing the art for (and ultimately the subject too!), there's also the knowledge that it's cartoony so details don't have to be exact (beyond a reasonable likeness). This means you can just kick back and actually enjoy drawing for its own sake rather than worrying about the quality of the art too much.

I try to get a good likeness rather than bignose type caricatures and the results seem to be popular as I keep getting requests. I always refuse payment but have wound up with A3 pads, chocolates, booze and vouchers anyway. I had two to do this week so thought I'd post one: as girls are always sensitive about their appearance, I tend to make them less exaggerated but I still like the challenge of trying to incorporate some of their characteristics and interests. My favourite recent job was a pic of someone snowboarding that came out really dynamic---wish I could get that into my sequentials but I'd rather focus on clarity than impact!

Anyway, thought I'd post one for abit of variety...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Random Roundup Regeneris

Well, my time off work is nearly at an end and I decided to just unwind and relax a bit after so long working my arse off and getting artwork done or BICS. I've done the odd bit of drawing but it's not really gone to plan. I've been admiring Tone's Photoshop technique and have been struggling to achieve anything near his level so we agreed to collaborate on a pic for fun: I'd draw it and Tone would colour it, and we'd see how things work out.

The art had to be done in two stages to make things easier for the way Tone colours, so my first choice was Flash Gordon. I was struggling for a subject so looked over my bookcase and my Alex Raymond Flash Gordon collections caught my eye: I'd just been perusing Dave Sim's Glamourpuss issues which seemed to mainly be his thoughts on comic art history, following a line from Raymond through Williamson to himself (something I never saw before but can now see clear as day). I did the line art, scanned it in and was then about to shade it before rescanning when I lost interest: the rocks don't fit right (even though they ARE alien rocks!) and I didn't line up my compass right, ending up in a circle that should have bisected the pair of planets now touching their circumference and throwing the whole composition off.

I then returned to my bookshelf and flicked through my Steve Rude Commission books and after settled on Emma Frost as I'd never drawn her. I wasn't keen on the top half of Quietly's design and the Cassaday cloak line wasn't inspiring me either so I went back to the original corset design, but decided to soften it up a bit with lingerie more reminiscent of later 80s hellfire club stories.

Just as I was nearing completion of the pencil shading, it suddenly dawned on me that having a character mostly dressed in white isn't much use in a colouring exercise, so it was back to square one again (although I used this for an experiment with "colourholds" that proves I need further practice!).

Cracking open the Rude books again, I passed over characters such as Leeja from Magnus (too much solid black) and fell back on the boring choice of Supergirl. As uninspired as the choice was, the art came out OK (though the pose is a bit dull) but Tone's colouring makes it look pretty spiffy. I'm sure there'll be another collaboration soon now that we have a feel for what we're doing.

Talking of Alex Raymond, after getting drunk while playing Guinness World Records on the Wii (and I'm presuming either the game's really unpopular or we're pretty ace gamers as we were consistently scoring regional championships on our first attempts), I crashed over at my sister's then made a mad bomb up to London to meet up with some old pals--not everyone turned up and I had to leave early as I was knackered, the beer was shooting through me like a fart in a wind tunnel and there were signal problems causing delays on the underground--but it was great to meet up again. Now the pub's only 10 minutes walk from what I call Comic Shop Corner (four comic shops all within minutes of each other) so I had to pop in, didn't I? As orbital was out of my way, Forbidden Planet was kinda out of my way and Comicana's crap and I was in a rush, I only ventured into Gosh.

FP has a larger selection of merchandise as it's honking big but Gosh has a more interesting selection. I came across a reduced copy of The Art of Alex Raymond but while it had some nice work, it was more a biography with photos and text, not as much concentrated art as I would have liked so I passed it over. After looking at the Euro collections, in particular any Valerians--still can't believe I'm a Wikipedia fact now in relation to that!--I walked out with the first Thorgal collection and the first prince Valiant hardcover collection. Although he's a master, I've never really looked at any Hal Foster so I decided to pick up the first volume and lose myself in his sumptuous art. The strip's still going today and still looks pretty good, one of newspapers' last adventure strips.

In addition to those books, the final Wally Wood collection I was after also arrived from a special rare art (particularly comic, animation and illustration) book dealer in the States: it was more expensive than I would have liked but a damn sight less than the £111 asking price on Amazon! I managed to find another Wood book for £20-odd a few months ago, over £100 less than Amazon's price, so hopefully one day I'll find me a copy of the Rocketeer Adventure Magazine collection...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Rainbow Green

Well, it was only ever going to be one of two characters for green, wasn't it? (Although I ran across an obscure Golden Age hero called the Green Turtle that I was tempted to do as a laugh!). So here's Hal Jordan, the best Green Lantern---I may do silver, purple, scarlet or crimson as the final post as I think all the colours are as represented as they're gonna get.

I started these as an exercise in anatomy but haven't really learned anything as I'm pretty much drawing a pose and using ref to tighten details. I'm hoping to crack open my mini-pad and start some proper practice and learning now...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Rainbow Grey

Well, for the latest instalment of the rainbow thread I've done Jean Grey. OK, that might be a bit of a cheat but c'mon--who really wants to see the Grey Gargoyle? Sheesh! This isn't perfect but isn't too bad...I had originally intended to do a nice flamebird effect but time got away with me again (what with catching up on sleep, washing and ironing, etc) so I had to let it go.

Rolf Harris Night on BBC3 tonight so I'll watch most of that, though I'll flip over to watch Survivors...I don't recall the original but the premise is interesting so I'll give it a try. I've been watching DC Super Heroes on DVD recently, something of a strange collection.
Containing 18 6-minute episodes originally run as backup segments of the Superman/Aquaman Hour (if I recall my research on my still lingering book on comic movies and TV correctly), this DVD features 3 outings each for the Atom, Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman, who also join with Superman in 3 Justice League episodes: the original Teen Titans round out the disc. These were produced by Filmation, who produced such childhood cartoon favourites as Flash Gordon and Tarzan and are apparently notorious for reused footage. This is quickly evident in the animation itself but also the plots, which usually find the heroes fighting off alien invaders. Though primitive by today's standards, and burdened with a stereotypical superhero narration, the shows are not without charm but get hard going if viewed together.

The designs are fairly faithful with two notable exceptions. The Atom and Kid Flash have two of comics' greatest designs but the cartoons do away with the Atom's red pointed torso design and extend his blue mask and chest area down to his shorts, a pointless change that detracts from the visuals. While the Flash is given yellow gloves and a standard yellow belt, he is not as altered as his sidekick (who keeps calling his mentor "Flasher"!). Kid Flash basically has his colours reversed and is also given a pair of shorts: the only reason I can think they made this change was to make him look more like the Flash, except he looks almost identical to Johnny Quick instead.

While a friend laughed at a Frazetta DVD special feature showing Frazetta draw with his left hand (sounds amusing till you find out he had a stroke which means he can't use his right hand to draw so he learned to use his left hand instead--and he's still good!), this contains the most pointless DVD extra EVER: the end credits of the otherwise unrepresented Aquaman cartoon! It wouldn't be so bad if the sequence was interesting, but it's just a still shot of the domed city of Atlantis! WTF? Another thing that puzzles the hell out of me is the inclusion of Birdman on the DVD menu. Now I don't recall this character at all (currently revived as Harvey Birdman, Attorney on Cartoon Network), but not only does he not appear on the disc whatsoever, he was a Hanna-Barbera character and has no ties to Filmation's DC adaptations whatsoever.

These goofy facts are more interesting than the episodes and the DVD has convinced me not to try the Space Ghost DVD as I can't face anymore shoddy old animation---though Space Ghost could be gold in comparison...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mr Pjangless

I had a bookcase delivered today and hoped to get it built pretty quick and crack on with some practice drawing---there's a headshot I want to do and I went to the Works yesterday to pick up a cheap little A5 pad for some practice sketching (which I've not done for years). Needless to say, things didn't go to plan and I got waylaid again.

Building the unit was fine--a 2 person assembly job swiftly put together just by myself with great results. Trouble is, the idea was to get the bookcase to free up some storage space for my trades and whatnot. Inevitably, this led to me routing through my collection again, weeding out a few things and transferring stuff from box to box to shelf. Outside of a handful of favourite runs, most of my collection is filed in artist order and as most of it's boxed up, I don't know where most of it is but at least I was able to drag out my longbox of Adam Hughes stuff (and I have virtually every issue he'd provided art for from his earliest indie work up until Rose & Thorn, when I couldn't justify continuing to buy stuff for his glorious covers to find absolute crap inside--specifically Frankenstein Mobster, one of the worst comics I've ever been suckered into shelling out cash for).

Incidentally, was around my sister's last night and caught a bit of I'm A So-Called celebrity and rifling through my back issues today, I was struck how muck Alex Ross' Supreme looks like Robert Kilroy Silk...

...course, that show also features George Takei of Star Trek, and have to say, I'm quite impressed by the new Star Trek trailer. I'm still not sure if I can get past Shatner and Nimoy not in the lead roles, but it looks like a decent flick in its own right.

Talking of young faces from the future, check out the pic above of the Legion of Superheroes from Smallville. They were never going to be in full uniform but I like the incorporation of Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy's emblems on the jackets...looking forward to this (think the episode is also written by Geoff Johns, so they should remain in character!).

Seeing as I've not done anything artistic--not even colouring the next colour character--today, I've put up my cover for Pjang #2 (check the link at the left to Rol's site for more info). I wasn't going to post it until it was printed as unveiling it was Rol's prerogative but he's already unveiled the lettered version (and some back stage discussions!), so it's no spoiler now. I was considering a second version that would try to closely emulate Adam Hughes' style but Rol said he liked the first version while I was still pencilling the second version. I was already going wrong so I gave up but would still like to do a Hughesish piece sometime.

Maybe tomorrow I'll get around to pencil pushing again...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Rainbow Yellow

Y'know, this colour thing's not as fun as I first thought as although there are tons of black and red characters, the choices thin out as you move through the colour range. The next pic's already scanned in but I'm really not looking forward to considering an Orange Lantern!

Anyway, here is a pic of Yellowjacket---I've done two pics of him before so thought I'd vary things by streamlining his costume a bit (the yellow stripes on his gloves and boots meant to be reminiscent of wasps). I didn't think till after that I'm not overly fond of the earlier pics so should have done the standard version anyway. Instead, we have something...different...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

One Elle Of A Disappointment

A few months ago, I had three characters I wanted to draw: Nico was OK but not as good as I hope, Rogue turned out quite nice and I was hoping Elle from Heroes would turn out nice. No such luck: one out of three's a pretty poor hit rate.

While the likeness is terrible (to the point of bearing NO resemblance!), I was fairly happy with the lineart version, the pencil shading was ok but it all went really wrong in the colouring stage. The lightning was the final topper that threw this into the crap pile...I'd drawn in the bolts and intended to wipe them out in photoshop. However, that proved to be really time-consuming and dull so I just went over the bolts with the airbrush tool. I'd already added a soft haze to the bolts but these were eaten up during this final process.

As I hate this pic, I've also attached the earlier stages, which are much more successful. I'll probably still try to get a decent likeness for Elle out of bloody-mindedness but time to leave this one behind...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Askewed Perspective

Left work early yesterday to make it to the new local cinema to watch Zack and Miri Make A Porno, surprisingly only the second Kevin Smith film (after Dogma) I've been able to catch at the cinema. (The ticket was also thankfully alot less than the £8 I had to shell out the last time I went to this cinema!).

So, any good? Well, Smith has matured as a visual storyteller as this looks the best of all his movies and has some interesting shots and camera moves. Seth Rogen is amiable enough and Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant in the Spidey films) is not exactly hard to look at but after a promising start, the film soon had me wondering and having watched the whole thing, I'll have to say my fears were confirmed and it's not much of a repeat viewer.

I loved the dialogue in Smith's previous films but here some of the characters spout some Smith characteristics: not so much what the characters say or talk about, but the phrases they use. That become disconcerting because the dialogue flowed in a familiar way but didn't have too many laughs to back it up. There are some funny bits and it ends up being quite a sweet film but overall, it just didn't have me chuckling as much as the Clerks instalments in particular, but any of the previous View Askew films in general (except for Jersey Girl, which was quite good for a chick flick). I hope the film does well but I fear I'll only pick up the DVD (as the features are bound to be great) cheap in the sales and then mostly out of complete ism for my collection of Smith films.

Funnily enough though, A Threevening With Kevin Smith turned up today on DVD, and I'm looking forward to that as I really enjoyed the previous ones. This one was filmed in Red Bank, as the DVD cover shows the theatre, which I passed on the way to the Secret Stash store. For those interested, it's near Carlos O'Connor's, the only Irish-Mexican restaurant I've ever seen!

Arriving with that DVD was DC Super Heroes, a DVD featuring all the supporting short cartoons from the 1960s Superman cartoon series produced by Filmation. It's always a bad thing to revisit childhood shows and these look decidedly ropey from clips I've seen on Youtube. However, watching early adventures of Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, the Atom, the Justice League and the original Teen Titans. Mainly picked up for the curiosity factor, this also serves two further purposes: seeing if I can stand this old animation may let me know if I can possibly contemplate the 60s Space Ghost DVD and also gives me something to watch in lieu of Family Guy.

I hardly watch any TV but used to enjoy BBC3's Family Guy double bills each night after I'd finished pottering about but it's been reduced to only a night or two each week. However, my TV viewing's suddenly shot up this week: always watch Heroes of course (which is a bit directionless but far better than last season and back on track now, despite sloughing viewers in the States) but Smallville's also back. I actually quite liked the first two episodes after the hacky seventh season. There feels like real character progression for the first time in ages. I find I don't miss Lex much as he'd been fairly marginalised over the past two seasons and while I'd prefer him back, Tess Mercer (get the ref?) is a decent character---undecided about Doomsday though. No Lana is also a bonus, as is more Lois. Joe Aherne's Apparitions (starring Martin Shaw as an exorcist) was surprisingly not bad so I'll keep tuning in for the moment and Clone on BBC3 will earn a look if I remember, although I have to say that I don't hold out much hope for this one. Still, Lead Balloon's also back and I love this show...loved the dialogue with Jack Dee's grumpy Rick Spleen character moaning to his wife about having their miserable Polish home help Magda staying with them for a few days...

"She used to live next to a power station, a little Calor gas isn't gonna hurt her..."
"It's carbon monoxide---it's potentially fatal..."
"...She could open a window..."

In addition, a ton of new reading material arrived this week: two new books from Cinebooks turned up today surprisingly quickly (and they have other interesting-looking books coming out over the next few months too) and my monthly parcel contained the new Azzarello/Bermejo Joker GN, the latest collections of Ex Machina and Empowered (a guilty pleasure, but I like Adam Warren's art) and Spidey: With Great Power. Lots of my time being eaten up again, I fear...

Rainbow Black

Well, to mirror the last post, here's the White Tiger's inspiration, the Black Panther. I was torn between drawing the panther or Black Bolt, both favourites as a child, but went with T'Challa as I pencilled a Black Bolt that just didn't work. Like Daredevil, the Panther's stuck with a fairly bland mono-coloured outfit but it works and he looks pretty cool. I always liked John Buscema's incarnation back in the late 60s Avengers issues.

Spent most of the rest of the day colouring another pic, which is nowhere near as good as I'd hoped. I think the black and white version is better but once I eradicate some black lines from the completed version tomorrow (cos I've had enough today!), I'll post it up here---maybe with another recent aborted drawing, the start of a second version of the cover to Pjang #2 (which I'll probably post after it's printed up).

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Rainbow White

Don't gimme that "white isn't a colour as it isn't in the spectrum of light" excuse, it's not a smell, sound or monkey, is it?

In a pose similar to the discarded -and soon to be shredded- version, here's Hector Ayala, the White Tiger. This still isn't great but it's way better than the other version! I always liked the character, even if it's one of the simplest costumes ever. Still, there's no excusing those terrible ballet shoes (WTF were they thinking?!), so I've gone for a more traditional martial arts-style wrapping affair instead. Not sure which colour (or character) to pick next yet...

On a different topic---is anybody else wondering what the hell's going on with the public baying of blood for BBC staff lately? First there was the Ross/Brand affair, which snowballed to the point where more people complained about the show than actually heard it (and while I'm not defending their antics, phone pranks have been a radio and TV feature for ages, hence Fonejacker and those US radio characters, summat Boys), then there was an oversensitive retaliation against Clarkson's remarks on Top Gear. While I have no time for the merkin-headed gimpster, he's said worse and I fear there's a sense of blood in the air after the Rossbrand debacle. Now a regional reporter from Bristol has been sacked for unacceptable behaviour.

Her misdemeanour? Asking for a non-Asian taxi driver to drive her teenage daughter. Was this racist? Well, it 's assuming Asians are more likely to rape women than other races so it's bigoted at the least but the reporter also apologised for asking for a non-Asia but also asked for a female driver as well, as simply put she was worried about her daughter's safety. Now, again it's implying any male taxi driver will jump on her daughter like Gary Glitter on a copy of Mother and Baby so it's a little extreme--but surely it's understandable for a mother to be concerned about her daughter? These comments were made in a private capacity and were not explicitly racist (no derogatory terms were used) so while I won't defend her opinions, I think sacking her for them is a bit extreme. I suspect things will only snowball from here...

Monday, 10 November 2008

Rainbow Red

Next up in the Rainbow thread is the Red Guardian, a fun design I always liked as a kid. I've done the next colour but for some reason that and this Red Guardian piece are coming off not much better (or bigger) than the A-Z pics. This isn't TOO bad but the next colour's definitely not getting posted, I need to spend a bit longer than the 10-20 minutes the first two took.

I'm more happy with the other pic I'm working on. It's a lot worse than I envisioned--the face is OK but is a poor likeness and the pose is fairly uninspired. However, it dawned on me that the the original pose I had in mind was pretty similar to an Adam Hughes Wonder Woman cover. I could have still kept the pose exciting but chose to go for a fairly straight on "iconic" shot instead. I drew this at A3, reduced it to A4 and am now pencil shading it before scanning it in for colouring---even though it's not great, I'm taking my time as so far it's not that terrible.

In other news, my reading pile is now reduced to one coffee table book and two Euro graphic novels. I found I really liked the first Immortal Iron Fist (which explored the Iron Fist mythos in a new way that opens up the premise much as James Robinson's Starman did) and am quite looking forward to the second one (must look for Vol 2 later this month). However the book that really impressed me recently was Locke and Key.

There's been a bit of a buzz around Joe Hill lately and I may have to check out his novel, Heart Shaped Box, which sounds pretty cool. I'd heard good things about his IDW comic series Locke and Key so decided to pick up the first collection. The art was a bit cartoony for my tastes but I'm always complaining I can never find anything new and interesting so decide to give it a chance anyway. The story essentially follows three siblings returning to their ancestral home after the death of their father. Once they return, the house slowly reveals mysterious secrets as a worldly threat follows them home.

Within a few pages, Hill showed a better grasp of storytelling than most other writers and his characterisation and pacing are impressively strong. The art soon grew on me as, though slightly cartoony, there's solid and crisp drawing that proves to be very engaging. What's better, this collection is formatted in a way that I haven't seen for ages in a collection but is one I always wanted to see return. There's one artist throughout and no dead filler pages to allow for double-page spreads or covers interrupting the story. Instead there's one continuous uninterrupted block of 6 issues' worth of story with only the chapter headings to give any indication of issue breaks. As these are incorporated, Heroes-like, into the underlying art and don't feature numerous credits, this makes the collection feel more like a book than a collection and feels so much better for it.

This is the most satisfying comic I've read for a while and a most recommended suggestion for anybody's read pile.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Rainbow Blue

Well, here's the first in a new strand of posts following the A-Z vibe, characters with colours in their names! I intend to start toning up on my anatomy drawing a bit so decided to create a theme to make these practice drawings more interesting. First up is the Blue Falcon, who I have kept fairly rendering free as he's an animated character so the slicker look seems appropriate.

Eventually, he'll be joined by other colourful characters, though I think I'll give Cerise, Magenta and Agent Orange a miss. I know who I'm doing for red, beyond that I'm open to suggestions.

As well as the Blue Falcon pic, I drew the logo for Pjang #2 this morning and finished up assembling the cover and started two headshots of Kristen Bell in preparation for a drawing of Elle from Heroes. I abandoned the first pic fairly early as it was going all kinds of wrong but the second one is quite nice as a drawing but crap as a likeness. Hopefully third time will be the charm for this one. That may be some time off as I need to finish off the Magneto article and basically tidy up my PC a bit as it's starting to get a big clogged...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Rogue 'n' Josh --AMENDED

Well, things plans have changed a bit around here as a long anticipated holiday trip to Slovenia has just fallen through as my two pals had a serious falling out on Friday night. While I'm sad I won't be flying off and visiting Slovenia, where I'd hoped to hop over various international borders on quick daytrips, and further trips to New York now seem a distant pipe dream (I LOVED my two prior trips with these two mates), I'm most saddened by the breaking of their friendship with each other. Hopefully bridges can be rebuilt, but we'll have to see.
The one upside from this is that my pocket's a little less battered so I cheered myself up with ordering something I'd had my eye on for a while (hint, they're blue and gold!). The first stab at a cover for Rol's upcoming Pjang #2 seemed to be what he was after and I've just struck off the second of three characters I wanted to draw by colouring the above pic of Rogue. I drew it at A3 to practise larger figures and intended to add backgrounds but as with an earlier Power Girl pic, I ended up loving the uncluttered figure. I've been trying to follow Tony's excellent Photoshop colouring tips but I think I'm always going to have trouble with layers. I need to practise with colour burns and have yet to seriously attempt another of Tone's methods (his current technique works great but I think may be too complicated for me to ever get my head around), so this was coloured just using the simple multiply layer.
Next up will be the colouring of Pjang #2, then Elle from Heroes and the start of a new mini-thread...
Update: just added shading to the face and hand, quick five minute touch-up (ooer, missus!)

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Random Roundup -- Reborn!!

Man, I'm gonna run out of those alliterative "R"s pretty soon...

Above is a dilution of a plot thread in Wally Wood's Cannon strip that is so bad it's kinda funny. Running a page at a time in an army magazine, Cannon was a gung-ho American version of 007 and the above is a page composed of panels from a few weeks of continuity. For those interested, Cannon is "saved" when Elena is blown up at the alter on their wedding day. Dubious material but lovely art, which is why I want to track down the Sally Forth collection by Wood but it's a bit pricey (and even more nudey!)

Tone's recent post about Halo Jones piqued my interest as I've always wanted to read this but the art--the ART!! Ohmigod, the goofy weird Ian Gibson art throws me right out, although it improves by the end of the collection. Still, Tone offered to lend my his spiffy hardcover so I don't have to shell out for a collection that each time I've picked up, has made me put it straight back down because of the visuals. Even though I'm trying to clear my reading pile, I'm looking forward to this. Also on my reading pile is Locke & Key, another collection with art not to my taste but it's supposed to be good, written by the increasingly popular Joe Hill. The first issue of House of M was a giveaway at BICS this year and I quite enjoyed it, so I also picked up the House of M tpb, so my pile swells yet again.

Slowly getting into drawing again, having just completed a Rogue figure: I want to do a backdrop and have some practice with layers in Photoshop--NOT going well at the moment. I also want to do an Elle from Heroes pic but am most looking forward to the cover of Pjang #2, Rol's idea being simple but enjoyable so hopefully I'll pull it off. After those, some practice with drawing anatomy and on to new pages. Feeling a bit down on my art again at the minute so need to get back to it pretty soon.

That won't be until the New Year probably as there's an upcoming holiday to sort out and then Christmas too, plus a few social gatherings in December probably.

Dead Set started and was OK but not as satirical as I expected and not as involving as the cast are a bit vague. Maybe tonight will improve empathy for the characters. Watched Burn After Reading at the weekend, which is great fun and the arrival of Iron man and Hulk on DVD

sees my range of comic movies spread even further.

My Christmas list:

* A new bookshelf

* An electronic picture frame

* Frames to fit the US-dimensioned prints picked up from BICS this year.

* Blue Beetle and Booster Gold figures

As you were...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Drawn Out

Well, most of my backlog of reading material is cleared (outside of three books and the Cinebook collections) so I'm slowly gearing up for proper drawing again. I've managed to get two things done this weekend, both things I've been wanting to get around to for some time. It's good to tick them off my list and get closer to some real stuff again.

Monkey's pretty crap but I just wanted him out of the way. I was fairly happy with Nico (other than the top of the staff, which I had to squeeze in as I had no room on the paper!) until I inked it and noticed the legs were too long. A quick use of the transform tool enabled me to simply shift and adjust the boots further up and hey presto, job saved. I'm fairly happy with this one now, although I wish I could have been bothered to shade the skirt better. I tried to use the colour burn effect Tone uses but despite him showing me in person, me making notes and also using his tutorials, I still couldn't figure out how the bloody layering works so this is bog standard flat colour ring instead.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Star Trek The Next Regeneration

Well, the first new Star Trek pics are starting the rounds and I'm---indifferent. I like the bridge but it's lost the compressed feeling of the original that added such tension. The uniforms just look odd now, especially after the more interesting ones from the movies and Next generation shows.

I'm looking forward to the film but can't escape the feeling that the cast just won't be able to shake the ghosts of the original cast, except for maybe Simon Pegg---dunno why but his pic here looks more authentic than Doohan (who of course was not an authentic Scot).

Still needs Shatner...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hey, Kids--Comics!!

Following Rol's 13 question comic meme, here are my additions to the thread...

Favourite Current Title

I'm not actually buying anything regularly, the closest being occasional titles like Hellboy and Castle Waiting (which is kind of pissing me off right now as it's blatantly being just hacked out) or trades like Fable and Walking Dead. I'd have to say that Ex Machina is probably the trade I look forward to the most. Tone's Outcastes is the closest I have to enjoying a title on a regular basis.

Comicbook Character Only Recently Discovered or Started Reading

I'm always on the lookout for something new but rarely find anything so took a chance with some stuff from Eurocomic publisher, Cinebook so I'd have to list Alpha, IR$ and Aldebaran.

Which one character would you write or draw?

Well, it's the obvious thing to say your favourite character so even though he's tied into the X-line so much, I'd still say Cyclops as there's enough there to go into new directions.

Are You A Fan Of Big Multi-Issue Crossover Extravaganzas?

Definitely not. You should be able to read the core title without following the satellite titles, which is becoming increasingly impossible. Read Civil War as a collection and it jumps all over the place. The only crossover that has really ever worked was Crisis On Infinite Earths, which is currently being reversed as much as possible, resulting in confusing, dull, ill-judged projects such as Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis--three issues since May and nobody's clamouring for the next issue!

Last Comic You Dropped And Why?

Peter David's X-Factor--too many artists (although I liked Sook and Raimondi) led to an inconsistent look but this was just terribly DULL!! Nothing ever happened, tedious beyond belief and my like for the characters was not enough to keep my interested in a series going nowhere...

Favourite Character?

Cyclops, still an archetypal superhero for me..

Are You A DC or Marvel Fan?

I try not to fall into this divide and just pick up the titles I like, but historically I'm way more of a Marvel reader than DC: although at times the pendulum has swung in DC's favour, the vast majority of my stuff has been Marvel.

Do you remember your first comic/series?

Well, I remember comics always being around for as far as I can recall and always had Mighty World of Marvel as a kid before even being able to read (even then I loved to draw and loved the art)...I distinctly recall this issue shown as I was learning to read and could make out "HU" but got stuck with "LK". However, probably my first real memory was an issue of JLA that I remember my dad buying for me when I was off school ill. All I distinctly remember is the banner with all the heroes' heads going along the top of the cover and a scene where the Atom falls from the sky and the Elongated Man catches him in his hand. Dunno which issue that was, but it was from 1976 or so, around the time of the above issue...

Is Watchmen The Movie Going To Be As Good As The Comic?

Of course not. It's very rare for an adaptation to improve the source material and it's always a bad thing to read the source before seeing the adaptation as you are always comparing it against your own ideas. Having said that, I love the darker look of the Watchmen movie to the primary-coloured comics so I am looking forward to the film...

Favourite Comic Book Movie?

Well, the first Superman movie is flawless until the introduction of Otis sends it all goofy and I loved X-Men 2---but Spider-Man 2 was a more emotionally satisfying film than X2 and stronger overall than Superman.

Worst Comic Book Movie?

Catwoman was terrible but at least it was entertainingly bad. For absolute dross, check out Steel--I was never a fan of the character but this made me hate him even more. Shocking.

Character You'd Like To See In A Movie?

Well, Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America are all in development so I'll suggest Iron Fist: great back story, great potential action sequences, that bloody great dragon and all the mystical stuff and a cool visual design. Iron Fist'd be cool...

Series That You'd Like To See On TV?

Well, Preacher has halted again but I was always really disappointed that Starman never made it to the screen after a significant development period. I'd still love to see James Robinson's Jack Knight Starman take to the TV channels...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Post Convention Observations

The ghost of this weekend's convention is finally starting to move on, leaving behind a number of thoughts...

What is it with cosplayers? What compels people to dress up like fictional characters (in public, I mean)? It'd be a surreal trip to work one week when Batman or Sonic the Hedgehog sit next to you on the bus. Saw some fine costumes this weekend (Green Arrow was great) but nobody really looks the part. Only Lara Croft looked the part this weekend, winning many a gaze I'm sure...

The goody bags are appreciated but usually full of crap. Last year saw the updated Slings and Arrows book, which I really like, but generally it's tat all the way. Mind you, I quite enjoyed the inclusion of House of M #1 this year...despite not previously caring about the mini, I quite liked the first issue so will definitely be looking out for the tpb next month...

Most people are fine at cons---but there are some tits. Genuine snippet of conversation from some oik to a girl he'd never met before as we waited for folio reviews: "And there was a goblin...and I killed it...and then I was on a spaceship...and I escaped...and then.." Twat.

But the real joy of conventions is just milling about with your mates, taking in something that you enjoy, bitching about minor problems but really appreciating the opportunity to just muck about for however long you are in attendance...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Brumcon!! Part The Second

Well, I rocked up with the intention of getting feedback on my work (taking four sequences and some pinup stuff) to basically find out if it's worth me pursuing this whole comic art thing as a profession or if I should be doing it as a hobby. There was some momentary panic as I only found out recently that you needed to register for portfolio reviews, something only indicated recently. Still, apart from missing out on the chance to speak to Garry Leach again and Mark Chiarello (DC's art director effectively), I managed to get what I came for.

First up, I had a portfolio review with Harry Markos, MD of Markosia, an independent British publisher with the licence for properties such as King Kong and Starship Trooper. After a flick through and a chat about the industry and how Markosia works, he gave me his card and asked me to drop him a line and we'll discuss things. Excellent! It's not definite work, but it's at least an indicator that I'm not completely rubbish.

Next up, I approached Mike Collins and asked if he'd be able to give some tips. He was very helpful, pointing out examples of things he was discussing by using his own pages and thumbnails. He said there's very little wrong with the basic with the basic drawing but that I should watch my storytelling. That was something that I'd always worked on, trying to ease panels into each other but he said that pages should be a series of jumpcuts as the reader will fill in the gaps. He advised the use of thumbnails (as the skrull and MaryJane I drew sequences were devised entirely on the pages, while the Spidey pages were only loosely laid out) and showed me the differences between Marvel and DC art styles. He also pointed out a few compositional tips that were really useful so overall this was one of the best reviews as it actually pointed out a few quick things that are simple but effective tools.

I then got to talking to the reprint editor at Panini when this guy came up to us and asked if he could show his samples. Not only were they good, they were REALLY good, imagine a slightly less cluttered David Finch. The editor pointed out that he doesn't really solicit much material but that he would forward the guy's details to editors that may do, although he advised the artist to skew his work to a slightly younger audience. I took the opportunity to show my stuff and was also given the editor's card, who added that occasionally he gets the chance to solicit new covers and that if I sent him some stuff he would pass them on to the relevant editors as well as possibly keeping me in mind for cover work. No promises there and to be honest, it's unlikely but I'm gonna work up a Captain Britain cover to accompany the samples I send off. (Good news: the next Cap Britain reprint volume will start the Black Knight reprints, with the next volume composed entirely of the remainder of the Black Knight strip).

My final feedback came from DC editor Michael Wright, who remembered me from last year. He said I need to work on my anatomy a bit (there are some wonky shots so that's good advice) but that my layouts were exciting and dynamic and everything he'd want to see in layouts. He said he thinks I'm certainly good enough to approach 2000Ad (I'm doubtful there, if only because I don't really have the craggy style usually associated with them) or some of the indies but if I want to work for the majors, I still have some way to go as you don't just have to be good, you have to be better than artists they already employ. He didn't like my inking (I've always hated inking so I'm not cut up about that, although it's something I'm looking to improve on) but advising to keep my hand in it as it gives you another set of eyes to draw through. He left me with the words "I'll be back here next year, so I want you to come back and dazzle me".

So where has this left me? Well, enthused for one: there's always a buzz after a con. I'm a bit intimidated by the quality of some of the other art I saw from aspiring artists but all you can do is focus on your own work and try to make it as good as you can. I think after getting back into the swing of drawing over the last 18 months and locking up recently over what to draw, now I just want to loosen up, knuckle down and try and get some killer art done over the upcoming months to show in my samples.

Brumcon!! Part The First

Well, recovering from the Birmingham show now and I went for a few basic reasons:

1. To get some feedback on my artwork.
2. To get a few sketches (primarily a John Cassaday Cyclops)
3. Maybe get a few things signed
4. Find Nexus God Con #2 (the last Steve Rude issue I need)
5. The social aspect

So how'd it go?

Well, it started on Friday night at Bennetts, a bar converted from an old bank so it looks quite impressive. Nice pub and it was packed as it was booked solely for the con launch but the music became a bit of an issue. Hunt Emerson's band started off with a selection of classic rock/blues tracks (Elvis, John Lee Hooker, etc) and they were pretty good but so loud any conversation was all but impossible. Next up was DC editor Michael Wright's band, a more comfortable guitar rock sound followed by Liam Sharp and Charlie Adlard's punky group whacking up the decibels again. If you wanted to hear music, it was great, if you wanted to chill with mates, less so. Joining myself and Tone were Beano and DFC cartoonist Laura Howell, her partner Tim and Jason Dennis, one of our mates currently supplying layouts for John MaCrea on the 99.

We took it easy that night as we knew we'd have to be up early for the next morning. We knew from last year that the queue was unholy so we arrived around 9.30 for a 10.30 opening. With only a few people in front of us, Tone and I were straight through as we had pre-booked while it took pals Mark and Lisa another twenty minutes or so to get through, by which time, Tone and I had separated, I'd got two things signed by Michael Golden after a complete circuit of the two event halls and reunited with everyone else. It was a bit heartbreaking watching Golden with barely a soul at his stand all weekend as he rarely does cons and came all this way. However, he was taking commissions for £90 and was busy all weekend (I'd have loved one except I'm planning a trip away in December so couldn't really afford it). Things looked up for him when his panel talk was so rammed with people, we couldn't even get in the door!

I became smitten with a Power Girl print by Golden, which I picked up to join the Alex Ross JLA and Adam Hughes Wonder Woman and Black Canary prints. They looked quite classy framed and my walls are currently unadorned so this was a nice opportunity to decorate them with something a little less basic than basic posters. I was unable to find the Nexus issue (small press stalls far exceeding traders, who mainly carried Marvel and DC with very few additional publishers) but picked up the second Dark Tower hardcover cheap (like the Stand, I'm switching to hardcovers instead of individual issues) and three European graphic novels from Cinebooks. I'm always on the lookout for something new and gambled a chance on three. The Cinebook rep was really great and very enthusiastic and evangelical about his product, all of which have sold a minimum of a million copies across seven territories across the world. I asked about the chances of reprinting Valerian (Tone's a big fan) and he said that they often listen to reader suggestion and enquiries at the Bristol con had led to them acquiring the rights to the series, which will start an estimated 10-year publishing schedule from 2010. I then asked about Don Lawrence's esteemed Storm series but he had not heard of it, so he asked me to drop him a line and he'd look into it (which I did earlier).

In terms of sketches, I walked away with the sketches above: the desired Cyclops head sketch by John Cassaday (who is halfway through the final Planetary issue before taking a break from comics for a while), Astrid from Suburban Glamour by Jamie McKelvie (I really love his graphic style so really like this headshot, one of my favourite con sketches), Shade by Duncan Fegredo (Mark, Lisa and I had a great 40 minutes or so chatting with him about tons of stuff as he worked on sketches for us--later I saw him finishing off a £20 Hellboy sketch, which was STUNNING!!) and Fin Fang Foom by Roger Langridge. I don't really like cartoony art but I've always liked Roger's art (even though it's a genre I'd never usually read) and I love his Fin Fang Foom--I'm actually really looking forward to the impending collection of his FFF strips as how cool is this sketch? Again, another favourite from my collection now.

The weekend involved the usual wandering around, chatting, bemusement (primarily at cosplayers), perusing and sweltering (this event really suffers from the lack of a decent alcohol, drink and munchery venue) and we were also graced with the surprise appearance of Mr Thomas Lennon. He was going to join us for a post-con drink until he realised it was miles away and would involve much trudging back through the rain to his car. At least he was willing, unlike a certain Mr A who wouldn't even come and say hello at the pub as he wanted to stay away from "comics people". Still, Dave pulled himself out of his deathbed and made it on the Sunday, grabbing a sketch of some woman from Criminal by Sean Phillips and an almost identical Fegredo Shade to mine (leading to a playful argument about which was the best--I still say the inclusion of a fish means mine won!). Jason apparently had a near heart attack when Mark Chiarello asked him to provide a Flash stock cover to be use in a "Not actual cover" capacity in Previews. If Jason plays his cards right, I'm assuming this could lead to good things for him!

So what about my artistic endeavours, I hear you. Hold your horses, that's all in Part 2, coming right atcha as this would be too humongous a post in one go.