January 30, 2009

Thumbnails are useful, but they take the wind out of my sails. Once I see the page on paper, in any form, it’s finished in my eyes; but they can save a lot of time in the final art stage. Below is the thumbnail that goes with the script I posted a few days ago. This was my solution… is it the best, or only one? No, but it’s mine. Depicting action in comics can be problematic. Some writers break it down too much, and others cram too many things into one panel. Doug kept things smooth usually, but one panel on this page caused me fits. In panel four, Mack disarms one thug of his pistol, while hitting another one at the same time. The wife and I study Krav Maga, so gun defenses are something we’ve seen, but it requires a lot of effort to pull off. Granted Mack is a combat fighter, and able to do this, but drawing it in a panel is another thing. I decided to show the pinnacle moment for both actions, where Mack strikes one attacker, and has made the defensive move to secure the gun. Ideally, I might have added a panel or two, but there is a fine line between showing action and slowing down a page. You don’t want to slow the pace with multiple panels, as each person reads a page at their own rhythm. Unlike quick cuts in a movie, you can’t control how long the audience spends on each shot. There are tricks to shorten their time on a page, like deleting back ground details to focus only on the figures, but more panels still equal more time. 

The other problem was how to show that this was a story told by a mob guy who’s head is seen, but who was not physically part of the action. I tried to have my separation come from the different perspective angles on my subjects. When I showed Mack in an overhead shot, I drew the mob guy from a low angle. When Mack was in long shot, I placed the Mobster in a close-up. Does it work? I hope so. 

Come back in a few days to see the finished art for this page. We’ll see how things changed from thumbnail to final, and the different problems I had in executing the final art. 


Finally- some COMIC stuff

January 29, 2009


Recently a friend sent me an email chewing me out for a lack of art related postings, so this will be the first in a several attempts to remedy that. Most of you probably know already that I’m one of several artists producing books for IDW based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, and Dreamworks’ Monsters Vs. Aliens for Titan Publishing. Sadly, until the books hit the stands I can’t post any of the artwork. For now what I want to do is take some pages from previous works and talk about the process involved.   

The images below are from the series “The Executioner: Mack Bolan” that I drew for IDW. What follows is the script,and later I’ll post thumbnails based on that, and then the final pencils for the page. The book can be found in a trade paper back now, so for those of you truly interested you can purchase that online or thru your local comic shop.
The following is the script that Douglas P Wojtowicz, who is one of the official writers for the Don Pendelton estate, so he really knows these characters. Luckily, Doug made it quite easy for me to work on this, Doug had the nice habit of including descriptions of characters that made sense to me. He often referenced things that a comic fan would know; for example, he described one character by saying “… he looks like Walt Simonson’s Thor”. It was helpful for me because it put us on the same page, so to speak. I often ask writers to give me names of actors that they would cast, that can really help keep things clear. After all I don’t want to draw Nimoy when they wanted Shatner. 
Take a look at the script and try to picture it in your head. If you haven’t seen the book, then this will be a nice exercise. If you have, sorry, you’ve been tainted. Later on I’ll post my thumbnails and discuss why I made the decisions I did and what I was attempting to do. 
Five Panels
Panel One
Wide angle shot of BOLAN approaching the Thugs, still in the shadows.
1) Bolan: Pardon me, please.  I’m lost and late for an appointment. *
2) Thug #1: Esse, you shouldn’t be in this place.  This is what they call a bad neighborhood.*
3) Bolan: I’m sorry, but I’m really running late.*
4) Thug #2: You didn’t listen to mi hermano?  This is a bad place for white assholes.
5) Caption: * Translated from Spanish
Panel Two
Wide angle shot of BOLAN in closeup, frowning, but without anger.  It’s almost as if he’s sad about what he’s supposed to do next.  STRAKHOV is visible in ghostly inset over his shoulder, talking.
6) Strakhov: We need to put together what we know about this man.  The Executioner has had plastic surgery several times over the years, but there are certain unchanged details.
7) Strakhov: Jet black hair.  Height of six foot two to six foot three.  Blue eyes.
8 ) Bolan: I would just like to get to the shipment before it comes in.  No reason to be violent.
Panel Three
Wide angle shot as Thugs 1-4 draw weapons.  Thugs 1 and 4 draw knives, Thug #2 has a pistol, and Thug #3 has a lead pipe.  Thug 1 has a nervous look on his face, while the other three are a mixture of hostility and glee.
9) Thug #3: F— this chump up! 
10) Thug #2: Oh, you just made my night.
Panel Four
Wide angle shot of  BOLAN as he grabs the wrist of Thug #2, turning his gun to one side.  BOLAN’S other hand is a fist, smashing the teeth out of Thug #4’s face with a vicious backhand.  STRAKHOV continues to speak in ghostly image.  Thug #3 rushes in, poised to cave in BOLAN’S skull with his pipe.
11) Bolan: Only if you’re a massochist.
12) Strakhov: (narrating) Bolan is capable of appearing as fearsome or helpless as the situation warrants.  He is a master of role camouflage, able to fit into almost any social situation.
Panel Five
Wide angle shot of Bolan pushing Thug #2’s face into Thug #3’s, with a sickening crunch.  Thug #1 watches in horror, holding his knife like a crucifix to ward of a vampire.  STRAKHOV continues to speak in ghostly image.
13) Strakhov: (narrating) Even unarmed, he can be very dangerous.
Check in later to see the thumbnails!


January 26, 2009

Whenever we get to Nashvegas (as we call it), the wife and I always try to spend time with one of my oldest friends, Shawn. We love him to death, as we both think he’s one of the funniest guys we’ve ever known, and certainly one of the most thoughtful. His holiday care packages are nothing short of brilliant- but that’s another post- when I can give you pics and a proper example of what I mean.

Anyway, this past Christmas we saw Shawn, and he’s one of the few that can get me to shut up for a minute. That’s because he’s a storyteller, in the truest form of the Southern tradition, and man is he good at it. He’s always funny, never having to go back to repeat anything, or add forgotten details. It’s like a well rehearsed comedy routine, where the story flows out like a river that you get swept away in, and along the way you find gems. Some of those are the little embellishments he makes, metaphors that, not only clarify, but bring a smile and laugh with them.  This sort of practice has typically been a tradition in the south, but we just call them Shawn-isms. Here are a few we think are brilliant.

1) She’d be ugly in a bathtub full of diamonds

2) That place was so small you couldn’ cuss a cat without getting a mouth full of fur!

3) She was ugly enough to haunt a nine room house with two bathrooms!

4) She was all torn up- you know “wheels on the bus go round and round”, well she got tossed under it.

5) She was so ugly she’d make a train take a dirt road!

These were just a few, as it didn’t dawn on me to start writing these down until it was half way thru the visit with him. I don’t think enough of us use these colorful metaphors any more, so I say it’s time that we as Americans save this grand ole southern practice. Use these whenever possible on a daily basis. Make your own, share them with friends, but try, try, try.

We can’t wait until we get the chance to see Shawn again.