Friday, 27 February 2009

Building To An Anticlimax

Well, following on from the last post, I completed the Supergirl pic this morning, completing the final building whilst the gas men installed something somewhere in my kitchen (actually, I realise I don't even know what! And I've missed the paper recycling collection, d'oh!!). As expected, I hate the backdrop (I should have done a much closer shot of the buildings) so I'm abandoning plans to pencil shade and then colour this piece--although I will still shade and colour the Supergirl pic as I quite like that.

Also above is a complete Lonely Boy page, the weakest of the three completed so far I think. I'm gonna hopefully rectify two problem panels this afternoon and then proceed to return to this throughout next week. I think I've also cracked the problems of another piece I abandoned a while back, so will possibly return to that soon (and it'll possibly turn into a Ms Marvel piece unless I can think of more suitable candidates). With Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire reunited on a monthly basis, Watchmen and Wolverine around the corner at the cinema and the third Aldebaran collection now only three months away, plenty for me to do and look forward to at the minute!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Certify! Watchmen's an 18?!

My head of service (my boss' boss' boss) came up to me today and sad "I notice from the ads on TV that Watchmen's an 18!". I'd only seen TBC notices but found it it is actually an 18 but I couldn't really think why. A 15 maybe but an 18? Other than a pair of giant blue knackers (which remain intact, so I definitely won't be watching this in Imax!) I could only think of the dog's split skull that lurks in Rorshach's memory but supposed there may be some nasty stuff in Vietnam (I don't even think the GN's labelled for mature readers is it? Mind you, that was another bone of contention between Moore and DC...). A little digging finds that the high rating is due mainly to sustained graphic violence, namely repeated blows to the head with a meat cleaver and a knife shoved through somebody's viewing (prison riot scene and Mr Rorshach, I'm looking your way).

Despite a two and a half hour running time, early reviews are positive so I'm finding I'm actually now pretty looking forward to this. I passed on the Rorshach figure last month but may pick it up this weekend. Rorshach was always my favourite Watchmen character by far...which may say some worrying things about me...

Anyway, thought I'd better get on with things and try and get some drawing done. I wasn't sure I was ready for sequentials (plus there are two problem panels in the next page of pencils that are wrong but can't seem to fix--lightboxing should hopefully help me move some figures up and resolve one panel though) but as things turned out, I soon wished I had done so. Not only was I surprised at how easy it was to actually draw at the minute, I soon started drawing myself up the wall as what had I chosen to draw? The background of the Supergirl piece, which is mainly buildings...which I hate only less than vehicles. Drawing little buildings isn't too bad but ruling line after line on these buggers drove me up the wall to the point where I had to give up before starting the final building. I was canny and photocopied a pic of the unadorned Supergirl in case I cock up the background, which I think I may have done. I'm off work on Friday while I wait for two gas men to come round so I'll probably try to complete the final building in this piece tomorrow and then get some inking or pencilling done on Friday.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Random Roundup Recovery

Well, even though I'm back a work, I still feel too grotty to hunch over and get any art done. The office exacerbates my congested nose mightily, which isn't half so bad outside of those walls. I've been lucky not to have a runny nose as all the congestion has stuck in my nose and all the elephantine blowing I've been doing has made my ears pop considerably and also damaged a sinus. After very slight occasional traces of blood when I blow my nose, my left cheek right under my eye is pretty tender, presumably due to some sinus problem. Even coughing hurts, not in my throat but under my eye!

So, while I should have finished Rol's strip by now, here's the last panel I completed, one of the Tippex rescue jobs. I'm eager to get cracking on with this but that probably won't be for a while.

Also above is Zatanna from Smallville, looking pretty accurate. New episodes resume next week, with my long-awaited Legion episode two weeks later, hoorah!!

Heroes was also back last night and started off fairly strong, with Nathan Petrelli playing Civil War-era Tony Stark. Peter's powers are slightly altered so when Hiro inevitably regains his powers, hopefully he won't have to push one out to activate them. Pushing Dairzee's Bryan Fuller has indeed rejoined the show, replacing Jeph Loeb who's still involved in the current episodes. A running mystery is bound to be "Who is Rebel?" and apparently the producers have said that there are 9 obvious choices. I just hope it's not bloody Micah, whose main trick is communicating with machinery so he could quite easily be Rebel.

With very little in the schedules to entertain me when I was vegging out in front of the TV, I ended up watching the Wes Craven werewolf movie cursed. I recall the trailer being some angsty Twilight-looking thing but it's actually an enjoyable piece off fluff, notable for a bewigged Michael Rosenbaum and a bequiffed (and closeted) Milo Ventitagliatelli off Heroes.

I also managed to get through the lush Dave Stevens book, which is obviously gorgeous to look at but also quite bittersweet by the end as the editors continue the book after his death. Lots of fun info though: how'd have believed that Darren McGavin was set to reprise his famous role in a Kolchak: the Night stalker cartoon?

Finally, Cinebook are one of the companies hit by Diamond's new policies and they're also receiving some flack for retouching some of the art to remove nudity and wotnot. I'd rather see the original art but as long as it's done well, I don't care. I'm still chomping at the bit for the third Aldebaran collection, as well as upcoming books like Alpha and Orbital. Let's hope Diamond doesn't end up wiping out half the industry again as it nearly did in the 90s during the ludicrous distributor wars.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Livin' La Vida Las Locos: Love and Rockets

While I breezed through the latest Walking Dead collection in no time (probably in part due to the proliferation of wordless pages and double page spreads---feels like Kirkman's doing a Bendis on this one), it's taken me quite some time to get through the first Jaime Hernandez Love and Rockets collection, and I'm still undecided about it.

The art is variable to start with as Hernandez finds his way, with some stuff being very clean and others having a lot of hatching but it's always great. I can clearly see the Ditko influence at times but generally the clean lines are really effective and it's amazing how he can get so much achieved with so few lines (his women are gorgeous as they are delineated with such graceful lines). However, the lettering in particular is a give away about when a strip may have been originally produced: as these first ran in the anthology Love and Rockets title, I'm assuming any number of strips could run concurrently but have been collected here chronologically. This makes the series much better as a reading experience but the erratic artwork (which is presumably frequently flicking back and forth between times of creation) is a bit disconcerting.

Hernandez' panel compositions are superb and I love the look of this but I also found myself scratching my head at the concept behind the series. It starts off with rocket ships, robots, superheroes, dinosaurs and luchadors but frequently flicks back to the realistic tales of series stars Maggie and Hopey in their Hispanic Californian suburb. At first I couldn't make out if the fantasy stuff was real (I think it was), a fantasy, a dream or what but by the end of the first collection, it has largely settled down to focus on the character-based stuff instead of the fantasy stuff.

I have the next two collections to get through yet and they look more promising: the art is more confident and the direction of the series is more confident so I'm hoping these will engage me more. If I enjoy these, I may track down the Penny Century spin off but doubt I'll go near the female wrestling mini Whoa, Nelly as that's a premise that doesn't appeal to me whatsoever.

While reading this, the art reminded me of Terry Wiley's work on Sleaze Castle and I wondered if Hernandez was a significant influence or it's a coincidental similarity? Anyway, I'll sign off by posting a Hernandez pic of the Legion of Super Heroes' Phantom Girl, from the original Who's Who maxi series. It's rare for Hernandez to go near the mainstream so this is an indication of how attractive his art would be on such a series (as well as how similar it is to Steve Rude's comic figure work).

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Got The Lurgy

Isn't it amazing how most illnesses slowly creep up on you but you can literally the progression of a nasty cold as it infiltrates and spreads throughout your body? One such nasty bug hit me so I'm off work recuperating with plenty of Halls' lozenges and cough medicine. I actually feel alot better today but still burst into hacking coughs when I try to speak (when I sound like a robot anyway).

Normally I'd jump at a legitimate chance for time off work but now is rather inconvenient as there are job losses and major internal restructurings happening, we're bogged under as it is and yet as well as an important team meeting about further impending changes that I'll now miss tomorrow, I've also been selected as a member of an audit commission focus group next week.

I thought I'd be able to use the time off work to catch up on some art (should have done two pages last week but gone done due to various interruptions) but I found I could barely move yesterday. I wanted to veg out under a duvet in front of the TV but found it's so atrocious (if I was paranoid, I'd suggest that this was a deliberate effort by The Powers That Be to drive people out of the house and out to be more constructive), I ended up reading the latest Back Issue (interesting articles on the creation of Who's Who and the Marvel Universe Handbooks) and Walking Dead collection instead.

I actually feel a bit better today so tried to ink the half-panel left from a page started this week. I did manage to do so, thus completing the page, but only after a few disasters: with no warning, a drop or two of completely clear liquid dropped from my nose onto the page. The main artwork remained intact thankfully as the Pilots I use must have water-resistant ink but unfortunately the cheap Berols and Pen Tels I've been using to rule lines have no such quality of ink, resulting in a few nasty blots. Thanks to the miracle of Tippex I've managed to save the art somewhat so that copies should be mostly ok but some parts of the original like like the lunar surface!

After Blithe Spirit finishes on Film Four shortly, I shall then settle down with a tube of bog roll and a hot drink to start the first Love and Rockets collection...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Rol's Request: It's So EC...

Well, I bunged the whole EC strip ("homage" sounds so poncey but it was done as a deliberate tribute to their style without actively being 100% reliant on actually aping the look) on Facebook for Rol to read but the resolution is too low to make it legible. Here then are the concluding four pages for Rol---the script is deliberately trying to capture the 50s feel so it's deliberately hokey but hopefully the pay off works...

Pencilled very little of Lonely Boy yesterday (got invited out) but inked two thirds of a page tonight so work continues apace!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saturday Catchup

Well, this week has seen my plans interrupted and delayed considerably so I've only managed to ink about two and a bit panels so today (despite problems with ASDA's home delivery service again cutting into my time) I knuckled down, completed the page and pencilled another one, and I'll hopefully have another pencilled tomorrow. I try to pencil at the weekend and ink through the week, as that's the relatively easy stage. I can pencil illos and figures fine but after a day's work - especially at the moment with all the upheaval - I don't always have the energy to sit and create a page from scratch. If the pencils are already done, inking is a far easier task to do in the evening as I don't have to work as hard as getting the drawing right in the pencilling stage (even though I end up tightening things up in the inks anyway).
I started doing my "strip a day" project on one of my lunch breaks and found I could quite easily complete a tier within that time scale but I really hated the results. I tried using a clean line for speed (somewhat influenced by Jaime Hernandez's work, although I still haven't started reading any of it!) but I think the fact that I was using a Berol (which is great for ruling lines, my new favoured tool for that) on A4 photocopy paper that left me very little space to draw anything interesting (I can see now why all the original newspaper strip art I saw in an exhibition in the States was so surprisingly large) annoyed me to the extent that I gave up the idea for now.

My reading pile has shot up again so I decided to return to reading on my lunch breaks (currently reading the Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore) but once I've cleared some stuff, I'll hopefully ink some illos in my lunch break. I'm halfway (ish) through the current project so by the time I finish the books, I'll have some pencilled illos to ink up---I want to experiment with a Mucha style for one...

Tone's helped me out big time by superbly lettering up my EC sci-fi homage, which looks alot better with the lettering as it uses the actual EC font so the pages look more authentic. I kept the script as ECish as I could and I'm quite happy with this short six-pager, despite the usual niggling art problems. Tone also took a crack at inking some of my clean line stuff with his brush technique. I'd have thought those pages would be fairly easy to ink as they're pretty open but by all accounts, they were a bugger! Hence, the whole sequence won't be inked but click on the above to marvel at Tone's lush inks (so much nicer looking than my technical pen look).
Finally, I've also posted the inked version of that Supergirl...I quite like how this has come out actually. I think I'll put in some buildings (yes, I know I hate drawing buildings but it's good to stretch yourself sometimes---I even drew voluntarily two cars today!) but I'm not sure whether to pencil shade it full size or on a reduced photocopy, before scanning it in to be coloured on the PC...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Weather With You

Bloody buses--all the snow and ice has gone except for a few patches on the pavements and the buses STILL didn't run this morning! i had to walk two miles into work (which wasn't too bad) but the sporadic bus service during the day meant I had to wait 45 minutes in the freezing blowing rain instead of a quick 10 minutes, thus robbing me of all focus on inking either of the Pjang pages ready to go.

Still, the day wasn't all bad as a mag turned up featuring a feature on Adam Hughes. This is the first AH! stuff I've bought since the Rose and the Thorn series and was pleased to see his work was featured on the cover. I haven't read the interview yet but doesn't look like there's the tips and techniques that I'd hoped, just lots of nice art.

As I still want to keep drawing regularly, I actually manged to rough out a decent A3 size figure after a few aborted attempts. I had to go through several versions of the hands, arms and legs to get it to work but it hangs together OK for me. I think the crappy eagle detracts so I'll cut that and will probably work on a more expressive, happier face.

I also drew a new set of panels for the daily strip idea I have percolating and went into WHSmiths to try and find some new pens for ruling lines--I picked up black Berol handwriting pens and Pentel energel pens and both seem pretty good. I also invested in a flexible curve (you never know when you'll need one!) and in a minute I'll be off to sketch a few quick models for the daily strip idea while I cook me dinner and watch a black and white war film...hopefully tomorrow will find me back inking again...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Snow Business Like No Business: Special Edition

Just a quick post as I'm just whacking up the last stuff for a while probably as I knuckle down to do Rol's 8-pager. It's not as smooth looking as those MJ pages but so far is still pretty clean line and going not too bad, with the first page inked and me pencilling a page and a bit today. I could have completed the second page but I was unhappy with the first as the panels aren't as good as I would have liked so I gave up rather than work while something was bugging me. I'll leave the first page and then return to it and hopefully whatever is screaming out to me will become apparent.

Anyway, posted above are the coloured versions of Kristen Bell and the Golden Eagle, the inked version of the Pjang panel and pencils for something else I abandoned recently. I wanted to practice working "full size" (A3) and draw a larger figure. This kind of turned into Power Girl but I doubt I'll ever finish it..the head, arms and chest are fine, but I just can't crack the rest of the figure to make it flow correctly.

Seeing as Saturday night TV is so crap, it's either a DVD or IR$ Volume 2 tonight...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow Business Like No Business

Well, woke up this morning to find a good six inches of snow had fallen overnight but on Monday buses were running so I diligently toddled off to the bus stop, only to see that ours must be one of the councils to run out of grit as they hadn't gritted the major hill where I catch the bus from. I could see from the snow tracks that nobody had got off the bus and when a work colleague who lives opposite the stop passed me, she said she'd heard no buses all morning. I then returned home to check the state of the bus service (Rachel had to carry on to work as she works at another depot within walking distance!).

I called in to work at 7.45 and said I'm not going to be able to get in until the bus runs but I gave it til 11.00 before realising the snow's not likely to be shifting anytime soon and I gave up for the day. I found no updates online and couldn't see the point of traipsing to the bus stop and back and sitting in the freezing cold if the bus still wasn't running.

(The offices closed early on Monday as a result of the weather and with 50 hours of flexi time accrued since last March--I'd have loved to have taken time earlier but have not had the cover to do so--, I think this is a good opportunity to burn off some of that time.)

I could walk into work, it's about a two mile walk---but I live on the top of a valley with numerous slopes and dips so trudging up and down that much snow and ice wasn't really an appealing option.

Still, after deciding to give up the ghost for the day, I decided to take the opportunity to get some art done. I pencilled (well, as complete as my pencils get when I'll be inking myself--although I've been told this is still fairly tight, this would barely be breakdowns for a big publisher, and how loose were John Buscema's full pencils anyway?) the first page of Rol's strip, though I'm not sure exactly how the inking will go. It's not as sleek as Jaime Hernandez or Garen Ewing's lines but it'll be fairly rendering free and may involve some heavy blacks to add some balance, although that's a design choice that really needs to be made during the pencil/layout stage. I'm also not happy with part of the final panel so that might change and while I could have just made it up, I was annoyed to discover how hard it is to find accurate refs for the original Star Wars figures.

Still, I also completed two other pieces today: I'd pencilled a Black Bolt piece for my rainbow characters thread a while back and quite liked the upper half but hated the bottom, and the position of the arms didn't really work well for the underarm wings, so I've been considering inking it as another character but couldn't think who for ages. Today I just took out my Legion and Teen Titans Companions and flicked through until a character caught my eye and I eventually stopped at Golden Eagle. This C-list character was barely a footnote in DC history (later to be retconned as Hawkman's protege) but I liked the character design when I saw him in the Titans Hunt story so I decided to draw him as he's an unusual choice.

Before inking that up, I also FINALLY pencilled a pic of Heroes' Kristen Bell to my satisfaction. It's not perfect but I think it's a recognisable likeness and I'll soon be colouring this and the Golden Eagle.

Right now, I've been avoiding putting the heating on all day but it's too cold (I can no longer feel my feet) so I'm off to warm up in front of a DVD...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Gwen Will I See You Again?

Well, I'm blogging a bit now as over the next few days, I'll be heading back into my comic-drawing habits again so will have less time to blog (unless I get distracted). Anyway, my copy of Love and Rockets: Maggie the Mechanic arrived today after a meeting at work that makes me feel slightly less like I'm about to be shown the door, although there's never any guarantee, so I celebrated by making a real chili instead of the usual meat-free packet version I usually knock together.

As mentioned in a previous entry, I found I quite liked Dave Sim's Glamourpuss as it's not actually a comic but an illustrated essay on art techniques. There are sequential panels but they're random selections used to illustrate Sim's points. He also covers Alex Raymond and Al Williamson's work, which I also love, and I quite like Sim's pinup art. Yes, it's traced so a bit of a cheat but as he's demonstrating inking techniques, I can forgive this as it's no real hardship looking at pretty women, is it? (Reading a few pages of the model's spook inner monologue however, IS). Look, there's a pic: probably of less interest to writers, this is till worth a look for any artist types.

I've been scripting a bit today, writing the text for four of the five pages to be scripted from the SF strip. I missed one page as I've got to cover the philosophical issues in one page and may need to tweak some of the dialogue leading up to it (I drew the pages with only a rough idea of what people were supposed to be rabbiting about!) Mr McGee's kindly agreed to letter these few pages and has also been inking some of my Mary Jane samples. I sent him fullsize scans, which he printed on blueline and started inking before my pencils drove him buggy after a few panels. Still, I've always wanted to see my stuff brush-inked and Tone's done a nice job. Above is a shot of Gwen Stacy, a lot softer looking than if I'd inked it myself and all the better for it...

Monday, 2 February 2009

Ark The Herald Angel Sings

Well, I said I'd post some stuff up here, so here's the next few pages of the EC-flavoured, Wally Wood homage strip I've just finished. I didn't realise until the second page that my pens were on their way out and I couldn't get the details and control/accuracy I wanted because I didn't want to crack open a new round of pens. Not because I'm tight, as I'm sitting on a slight stock of them, but I didn't want to start using new pens for a short strip that was practically halfway through, but wanted to use them on the next strip. The nibs started flattening out to the point where there was no way I'd be able to ink some of the stuff on page 5 with them, so I cracked open new pens just for two or three panels over the 6 pages. Ultimately, I'm fairly happy with the storytelling but not the inking, which is mostly serviceable but there are some odd bits that are weird as I had to change things to cover some errors or things that didn't work.
When the whole six pages are lettered, I 'll post them up somewhere.

I'll probably get around to doing stuff this weekend again using a clean line style. I picked up Teen Titans: Year One and a Brian Stelfreeze issue this weekend to study some cleanline art as that's the style I'll be using for my next strip. Then Tone showed me some Jaime Hernandez Love & Rockets stuff that just blew me away with it's clarity. I'd only had a passing awareness of the strip and was aware Adam Hughes cited Hernandez as an early influence, which I can definitely see. I've ordered the first Jaime Love & Rockets collection off Amazon now and if I enjoy it (it looks great, but will I be able to get into the stories?), I'll buy the next two--the third one is more cartoony but has a more confident line. It's not just the clearline but also the postures and characterisation that he uses that makes Hernandez's work so good---though I can't bear Gilbert Hernandez's art!

After Rol's script, on to samples and maybe my own proper project...