It’s a “con” job—

December 3, 2012

I’m working on my con sketches, this isn’t like those “cons” on the sidewalk where you guess what cup the ball is under, but money will (hopefully) still change hands. The thing is, at TampaCon I was sitting next to Cary Nord (Conan/X-O Man of War) and his sketches were kicking my arse. Now I’m trying to focus more on excitement than just a finished image. Cary was cranking these things out and they were gorgeous, loose, and full of energy; mine (to paraphrase the Christmas Story) laid there like a slug, it was their only defense. He recommended I do some prints to sell at my table because my sketchbooks weren’t moving. He had a great “Superman vs the Hulk” print (you can see it here on his blog), and I thought I’d give that theme a shot. His had the big two slugging it out in the air like a kung fu movie, so I kept mine on the ground just to switch it up a bit. The other thing I did was adjust their size, as I’ve never been a fan of Superman looking like a lineman from the Vikings. He’s described as “mild mannered”, but you’re not very mild at 6’4″/350 lbs. I like my Supes, leaner and less attention grabbing. The nice thing is, when you do that, you instantly have a David and Goliath scenario.

My first attempt needed more movement, granted there was something I liked about Supes, but not the Hulk. Plus, as a rule in comics, you gotta avoid any groin issues— here it almost looked like S was giving H a nice one with a knee. Not to mention the Hulk is just standing there, passive, dull, and lumbering like a zombie.

Then I thought I’d have Supes in a bear hug, being tossed about like a rag doll. Now you couldn’t see enough of them, especially the Hulk, and you have to see the “S” as far as I’m concerned, so this failed immediately.

Why not spread out the action? I decided to go widescreen, which I love doing in my pages. But I think con sketches should be the equivalent to a cover image, in that it would work as a cover too. Unless this was a wraparound, you couldn’t do widescreen, and even then I don’t know if it works. Also, I have a suspicion that more people would prefer a print set up in a vertical format. Can anyone tell me if vertical prints sell better than landscape? Anyone?

So I decided to go back to the vertical format with a few intentions— keeping the level of action in Superman, showing more of the Hulk, but also pushing the size differential more.

My first attempt was nice, but I wanted green boy to be more imposing, and about to strike. Right now he just looks like he’s trying to scare Superman, with no real intent. I also wanted Supes to look more like he was in the “pregnant moment” about to release the energy of his punch.

The other thing I’ve been playing with recently is my use of shadows. I’m trying to bring in more of the Alex Toth approach, something you can see influencing guys like Lark and Aja, and was kicked off (as a revival of sorts) by Mazzucchelli years ago on Batman:Year One. It’s really hard for me to let go of that feathering I grew so fond of, but it’s necessary for the style. Eh- it’s a work in progress.

Of course, the problem is, when you’re sitting at a table at a con, you don’t have five hours to do multiple versions of sketches, before settling on the final. That’s something I need to work on, but I think most of those obstacles are mental- as it always is with art. At least I’m getting a better sense of what I want, and the more focused I can be in those decisions, the faster I’ll get at these. So if Cary’s not around, come by the table, I’ll see if I can get you a sketch (in a reasonable amount of time) that lives up to his standard.