Main Course- choke on it

March 15, 2010

After moving to a new city and job, I had a lot more time on my hands to sketch and focus on my work. I started visiting museums, painting, and even hitting figure drawing classes held at local art centers. As I spoke before, I was running through samples scripts and I decided to start drawing what I wanted to, and not worrying about it so much. Around this time the Authority comic series caught my attention. For once, I didn’t feel guilty for my love of detail. Adam Hughes was always a huge influence, but I could never minimize the line work in my own to the level of simplicity and elegance that he has in his.

I decided to “go with it”, and allow myself to fill the page as much as I wanted. The recent Birds of Prey TV series had pulled my attention back to the books and I tried my hand at a series that I loved when Jackson Guice was on it.

Showing the ladies a little love

I really enjoyed doing that set of samples, and I took it even further with my Aquaman samples. I loved the old Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon as a kid, and at the time they had recently been released on DVD, so those inspired this sample set. I wanted to take the excitement I had for the old series, but amp up the cinematic nature of it. This was something that everyone was talking about when discussing Bryan Hitch’s work on the Ultimates. I loved the whole concept of it, and although not wanting to mimic his style, I enjoyed the approach of not holding back on details.

No more playing nice.

At this point I had decided, no, this is too much. I wanted to pull back a bit. Everyone looking at those pages said they couldn’t focus on anything, that there was too much going on, so I wanted to bring it down a notch. Again I was out of scripts, but I didn’t want to bother coming up with anything. I turned to a set of books that I had finally gotten into, Harry Potter. There were rumors that Rowan Atkinson was being considered for the role of Voldemort in the movie, which I thought would be fantastic considering the sadistic nature he showed in Black Adder. That didn’t happen, but my Potter samples did.


My friend Micah had said that he thought my work would fit in well on JSA, so it was then I did some pages with Black Adam and Solomon Grundy. I had always loved Shazam on TV as a kid, and those characters appealed to me. The idea of carrying on with the Challenge of the Super Friends theme still interested me, and I thought why not have the super villains get back to the basics by just stealing stuff? With a recent trip to the National Gallery fresh in my head, that’s what I decided to have them do. For fun, I snuck in one of my favorite  paintings from the gallery.

If we can't have it, no one can!

This set of pages must have done something right, for it was from these that Mark Paniccia at Marvel called. He had been my editor on my Malibu work, and from that I ended up doing a fill in issue of Death’s Head 3.0 on the Amazing Fantasy relaunch. After that he asked me to do some samples for a kids line version of the Fantastic Four he was editing.

Clobberin TIme!

These didn’t seem to work for him, so I did another set of sample pages with the Avengers. These must have been more appealing as I got a four issue stint on Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.

Yes, I'm Iron Man.

I only had the chance of doing those four issues, for there were some stressful points on that series. Not only did I have some disagreements with the inker, but my wife and I were in the process of buying a house, and I had recently switched day jobs. It was obvious before the end of it that I wouldn’t be working on any more Marvel books with Mark, so I started looking around a bit. I saw an ad on Newsarama for Titan books in the UK who was planning on doing a Shrek comic, so did a couple of samples pages for them. Lucky for me as this was right when my Marvel work dried up. This was really the first cartoon styled work I had done in comic pages for a while, so it was a challenge at first. What I did was go back to the approach I had with the Wallace & Gromit pages and not treat it as a flat comic strip, as adaptations often do. The cartoon themselves have tons of detail in the backgrounds, and the lighting style has even approached classic film noir at times. I wanted to capture that in my Shrek samples by treating the characters as they are in the movies, by giving them the same mass and amount of details.

Not my gum drops!

It was during this that the Marvel work really evaporated, so to replace it I started checking out other companies. Since the Shrek opportunity had worked out so well, I looked into who else was adapting CGI animated films to comics. IDW had recently announced that they were putting together a comic of the film Igor, so I sent them my Shrek pages. They replied with a stronger interest in my Marvel work and after sending them  samples from my run on those books they offered me the Executioner starring the character Mack Bolan. This was great challenger, but a good experience for me. The mix of heroics with normal people really capitalized on my ability to draw realistic figures and situations.

Luckily for me, I’m starting to get to a point where all editors want are sketches to see how I would interpret the characters. This is how I got work on the Titan Books version of BBC’s Torchwood based on the Doctor Who spin-off, and from IDW on their GI Joe title.

How I managed to get into comics still eludes me. I can’t say one thing helped above all others, but it really seems to come down to just showing pages when you can and always having something new in your hands to display. Ultimately it comes down to a lot of things, your work, being in the right place at the right time, people recommending you, persistence, and a bit of luck. For those still trying, I wish you the best of luck, but there’s never an end point. There are guys who worked for years and suddenly aren’t getting any, why? I don’t honestly know. For some it might be that they didn’t turn in work on time. Others, it’s simply because their style goes out of fashion, but you have to keep pushing and sending stuff off. I’m lucky right now, I know that, and I hope it keeps up. For now, I just want to enjoy waking up, and doing what I love.

One Response to “Main Course- choke on it”

  1. Antwone said

    Cool drawings, Shannon.

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