Saturday, May 22, 2010

Deja View

With Todd taking a hiatus from blogging, Occasional Superheroine shut down and a lot of my other usual sites updating more and more infrequently, I was starting to feel a little unplugged. So I wasn't about to take that crap from Christian. Brother hadn't posted diddly in TWO MONTHS! I knew I needed to post another sketch soon, preferably of a female C-lister, so I decided to kill two birds with one tennis racquet. I challenged Christian to a "sketch-off." I gave him, as the one challenged, the choice of character. He deferred back to me so I hit him with Hellcat. (After Jack of Hearts, I wanted something simple.) I managed to knock mine out pretty quickly and held onto it because Christian is apparently going all out and doing something pretty cool. But my schedule is turning to s*** with a quickness. As a matter of fact, I'm starting to feel a lot like this guy every Friday:

Anyway, I decided to post mine while I have the chance. I hope you like it. I did. I liked it so much I started to feel like I'd seen it before. And I was right. Remember this?

Mike's been gone for nearly three years now and I'm still copying my big brother. I guess if you're going to steal, steal from the best. That drawing, for some reason, was always one of my favorite of his sketches.

Remember to keep checking back at Christian's blog. He should have his Hellcat rebuttal up soon. Hopefully, he's having fun with the challenge. I sure did. Maybe we can make it a regular thing.


The last several sketches, I've noticed that I've been having trouble focusing my eyes. When I do my thumbnails and layouts, everything is fine. But when I start inking, I can't quite tell where to lay the pen nib. It was getting fairly alarming because the same thing was happening when I tried to read at night. My eyes couldn't focus on the words on the page. One night, when I was inking, I took off my glasses to try rubbing my eyes, thinking that would help. And, boom. Everything clicked into focus. Now when I ink, I have to take my glasses off and stick my face about eight inches from the page.

I need friggin' bifocals!

It seems old age keeps tapping me on the shoulder to remind me he's catching up.

Funny thing, though. I was admiring a Spider-Man commission by John Byrne on his website and in the thread he mentioned that he had just started having the same issue! He'd also figured out the same solution (taking off his glasses to ink.) As he's about ten or fifteen years older than me, I feel a little cheated. Lucky bastard!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Got Any Jacks?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be drawing women. Not to mention the piece for Christian and Angie’s daughter, Lilah. But on Friday, I had a quiet evening waiting for Suzanne to get off work and I was clicking through my 40 YEARS OF IRON MAN DVD set (in preparation for seeing the new IM movie) and saw the great cover to IRON MAN #105 by the inestimable Dave Cockrum. There, staring back at me, was Jack of Hearts, the most visually frustrating character in comics. As sometimes happens to me when confronted with very beautiful women or very ugly men, the words “!” instantly popped into my head.

I don’t know who first designed the character (Was it George Tuska?) but, whoever it was, they were either a sadist or a masochist. Maybe both. He’s a great character but hasn’t been used much. There’s a reason for that. Nobody wants to draw the noodly-costumed sonofab****!!! Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great costume with an inspired design. But no other character in comics, not even Galactus, has so much...stuff to figure out. My hat goes off to George Freeman, the guy who drew that terrific JOH miniseries back in the ‘80s. I can’t imagine having to draw four issues starring this dude. While I was looking for reference online — the shots of him in the IRON MAN books weren’t static enough to get a full view of his suit — I stumbled across a couple of less inspiring versions of Jack’s togs here and here. I had to laugh. There would only be one reason to redesign the suit. Because you were too lazy to draw Tuska’s version.

I wanted to do something a little more dynamic this go-round. My sketches lately have been looking like the drawings in the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. Very static. And dull. So I decided to do something with lots of foreshortening and bending and crackling energy. The drawing itself went very quickly. It wasn’t until I started filling in all the costume details that things slowed to a crawl. But, dang, I had fun doing this one. Even if I did give Jack the hands of an NBA player. I hope you like it.


Speaking of Iron Man, Suzanne and I managed to catch a matinee of the second film this weekend. I wasn’t expecting much because the trailer made it look like a BATMAN FOREVER-style train wreck with too many characters and too much going on. And people were complaining that it wasn’t as good as the first one. Now that I’ve seen it, I have to wonder...what the hell do people want? This movie was as good or better than the first, sharply written and directed, with plenty of action and humor and even features Scarlett Johannsen in a skin-tight catsuit. All the performances were top-notch and the change from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle was a good call. I thought it would be troublesome but this movie featured War Machine and they really needed an actor who could go toe-to-toe with Robert Downy Jr. Let me tell you, Don Cheadle can go toe-to-toe with anybody. Micky Roarke was his usual great self. Remember that “OH NO!” moment when you saw Whiplash’s “costume” for the first time? Forget about it. The scene in Monte Carlo is brilliantly done, including the nod to the fans when Tony dons his armor from a briefcase. I had to restrain myself from standing up and cheering. There were several scenes that had us laughing out loud and I looked over during one of the action scenes to see Suzanne grinning broadly from ear to ear. I loved DARK KNIGHT but the Iron Man movies have that one element that’s been missing from the DC-based films for years now (and, in point of fact, the comics from both companies)...FUN. As the comic companies bend over backwards to emulate the movies based on their own properties, they would do well to remember what made them so appealing to Hollywood in the first place and get over all the brooding self pity that makes their books so unreadable these days.

My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is the scene in which Tony Stark does a drunken two-step in the armor. I thought to myself, “Who wrote this scene? Chuck Austen?” But even that scene was pivotal to the plot and, taken in context, was forgivable.

Go see IRON MAN 2. And prepare to have fun.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Because You Demanded It!

I’ve always wanted to be able to say that.

Unfortunately the “you” in that title refers to just two people and the “it” refers to my drawing the Daughters of the Dragon, two characters I had no idea how to approach. While researching the definitive look of these characters, I dug out my ESSENTIAL IRON FIST trade and took a trip down memory lane. I pretty much knew what I was going to do with Misty Knight because I remembered her vividly from her appearance in MARVEL TEAM-UP. That skin-tight black outfit, shoulder harness and badass afro were hard to forget. But Colleen Wing just never had an iconic look. Thumbing through the collection, it became apparent that Ms. Wing changed her outfits (and hairstyle) more often than Janet Van Dyne. John Byrne came up with some interesting looks for her but nothing I could nail down. So I just cobbled this outfit together out of a couple pieces Byrne had her wearing. The bell bottoms were a last minute decision and I’m glad it happened. I dig ‘em.

I really wasn’t happy with where the drawing was going when I sketched it out. There’s still something about it that bothers me. I think it’s Colleen’s face and hair. The drawing style doesn’t match or something. I struggled mightily with the drawing because of my aforementioned lack of experience drawing women and was falling back on my crutch of imitating Timm and Cooke. As a result, her face came out a little more cartoony than I’d intended and doesn’t match my natural drawing style. It’s a shame because I think I saved the drawing, more or less, in the inks. Not that I think it’s really any good. I wasn’t going to post it at all but I’m on a quest to become better at drawing women so I figured I’d put it out there, warts and all, to force me to keep trying and redeem myself.

Misty’s guns (another shortcoming of mine) gave me fits too. I couldn’t find any reference from the proper angles and so I just faked the funk. I apologize to any gun enthusiasts out there who are cringing at everything I got wrong. I just sort of made the guns up. And lets hope Misty refrains from discharging the one in her right hand because Colleen’s hearing will never be the same.

I hope you like it, even if I don’t. Have a great weekend.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Chris Samnee, Sherlock Holmes and Atomic Comics

Schedule, unrelenting back pain and a wicked cold have conspired to prevent much drawing this past week but I’m not letting that get me down. The weather has been simply glorious and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend with my parents and finally got to hang out with Christian at Legend after a month of trying. A false alarm at work early this morning did give me the chance to nail down a layout for the drawing I’m doing for my Cromdaughter, Lilah so, work permitting, I may be able to post something later this week.

While looking for reference for the character, I came across the blog of one of my new favorite artists, Chris Samnee. I first noticed his work when he took over drawing THE MIGHTY from Peter Snejbjerg who has a similar style. I love guys who draw with bold lines and have a gestural, almost cartoony quality to their work. My love for Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm is well documented. There’s also Cameron Stewart, Javier Pulido, Cliff Chiang and Marcos Martin. These guys all seem to come from the Alex Toth school of comic art and I’m torn between absolutely loving them and being driven insane with envy at their talent. Chris Samnee in particular drives me nuts. I stumbled across a Rom sketch of his a few months back that made me just cry. Like Darwyn Cooke, his drawing style makes it look like he just throws the ink on the page in a frenzy. But it always ends up so perfect. And he combines that with an awesome design sense and a Frank Miller-esque grasp of positive/negative space, not feeling the need to draw a solid line around his figures. Check out his blog HERE. I’m sure you’ll dig it.

Every once in a while, the cover of a comic will catch my eye and I’ll just have to buy it. Unfortunately, that rarely happens with first issues. This usually results in a frantic search for back issues. Sometimes, that search is fruitless (as was the case with NORTH 40 recently) and I end up waiting for the trade. Last week, after about two weeks of searching, my friends at Nostalgia Plus hooked me up with the complete run of VICTORIAN UNDEAD, the Wildstorm series billed as “Sherlock Holmes versus zombies.” I confess to not being a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and only recall reading the story about the Redheaded League or some such in high school and I enjoyed the Peter Cushing version of HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. That’s about the extent of my experience with the character. But the series was about zombies, after all, and the art was really nice, including some enticing cover work. So I gave it a shot. Sometimes, it seems, you can judge a book by its cover. VICTORIAN UNDEAD was a real hoot. It’s well-written and the writers seem to have done their Holmes-work (heh), as there are quite a few references to Holmes canon. I didn’t realize it was a miniseries until I got to the end and was very saddened to see the story end. It’s left me with a taste for Sherlock Holmes stories and I think I’ll seek out one of the ubiquitous hardcover collections at Barnes and Noble. If you haven’t read the series, I highly recommend you try it. (Rod Hannah, this seems to be particularly up your alley.)


During my parents’ visit this weekend, we got on the subject of cities with really bad traffic. New York and Los Angeles came up, of course, but when Virginia Beach was mentioned, it sparked some comic-related memories. I lived in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area briefly after college when an old school friend of mine invited me down to help him start a video production company under the umbrella of his father’s market research firm.

The whole thing ended up being a disaster but I do have some pleasant recollections. I was completely unfamiliar with the area but managed to find a tiny (and I mean tiny) apartment just off the ODU campus. It was my first time living by myself so, through the friend of my aunt, I adopted Toonces, my now-19-year-old little buddy. Sometimes Suzanne would come down from Richmond and visit us and spend the weekend. (Those weekends were the only times I could really be said to eat well.) The job paid less than peanuts so my disposable income was almost non-existent. I did manage to get back into buying a few comics, though, after having to give them up almost completely during college. During our school years, I would go with Mike (who was much wiser with his money) to Nostalgia Plus but only occasionally would I be able to actually buy anything.

Now that I was working for a living, my priority in my new home — after locating the nearest grocery store and laundromat — was finding a comic shop. I got out the Yellow Pages and found one called Atomic Comics that seemed to be somewhere nearby. I didn’t have a map so I ventured out in my car on one of the rare Saturdays I didn’t have to work and drove all around the neighborhood, trying to find the place. No luck. Disappointed, I went home, figuring the place had closed down. I’ve found, whenever I move to a new location, it’s easier to get a feel for a place on foot, rather than behind the wheel of a car when you have to worry about running stoplights or hitting a parked car. So, one evening, when I got home before sundown, I set off on foot to walk the area, not particularly worrying about Atomic Comics. Astonishingly, without really intending to, I stumbled onto the place...about two blocks from my apartment!

It’s hard for me to express the elation I felt. For me, at that point, getting to a comic shop had always been dependent on Mike. There were no decent shops in Lynchburg so, once the comics industry went direct sales only, I relied on Mike to drive us to Roanoke, fifty miles away, once a week, for our fix. In college, though I wasn’t buying much, I’d ride with Mike on his trips just to keep up with what was coming out. Now, here was a shop I could walk to, maybe a hundred yards from where I slept. I was giddy. Thinking back, it wasn’t much of a shop. About the size of a small barber shop. But it had all the new releases and a few boxes of back issues. And the proprietor, a young guy about my age, was pretty friendly. I don’t remember exactly what I bought. This was 1991, so I was probably buying THE FLASH by William Messner-Loebs and Greg Laroque and I was pretty into the SUPERMAN books. But I do remember buying THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN which was being drawn by Sal Buscema. Until college, I’d had a complete run of the title and it was particularly painful when I had to stop reading it. Now I had the chance to catch up. I think the shop had a few months worth of issues and I picked them up cheap.

I took my haul back to my apartment. The luster had started to wear off my new job and I was starting to feel a little depressed, away from home and far away from Suzanne and my family. But something so simple as having an armload of new comics really boosted my spirits. It sounds ridiculous but it was true. It was something to cling to. I curled up on the couch in my tiny living room and savored those books, reading well into the evening. I’ve rarely enjoyed reading comics as much as I did that weekend.

The next week, I got paid and decided to head on out Saturday morning to see if I could scrounge a few more back issues of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. Arriving at the store, I was shocked to see the place locked up tight, a “GONE OUT OF BUSINESS” sign taped to the inside of the glass on the door. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe my new comic shop was gone...after one week! The empty-handed walk back to my apartment seemed much, much longer this time than it had a week prior. However, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in JURASSIC PARK, comic readers will find a way. I eventually located a new shop a few blocks down from where I worked but the walk from the office was along-side a freeway and a little treacherous. Driving was an unpleasant option because crossing the traffic was difficult unless you wanted to pay tolls (which I didn’t.) It was a much nicer shop than Atomic Comics, large, well-stocked and, I don’t know...shiny...but the same thrill just wasn’t there.

It was all moot, anyway. After only three months or so, it had become apparent that my friend’s dad had no intention of following through with starting the video production company and I’d ended up doing low-end focus group videos and designing brochures for the marketing research firm. Not bad work but the hours-to-salary ratio was unacceptable and, frankly, I didn’t care much for my friend’s father. So Tooncie and I packed our bags and back home we went.

My little affair with Atomic Comics only lasted one visit but it made one hell of an impression and it remains one of my more vivid comic book memories.