Sleep?

Okay so things are looking busy — between Orlando losing to LA and Hillary fracturing her elbow, I actually have a lotta stuff going on that I’m actually involved in. Whoodathunkit?  So I’m gonna keep this short so I can get back to work and my characteristic self-loathing.  But mostly work.  Schwing!

Quasi-religious Existentialist project with the ever-dashing William Prince just needs a couple more pages to wrap up my part in the pitch process.  Here are some concept sketches from that story.

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Steam punk Battle Chasers-esque Zuda proposal with the well-oiled machine Gabe White is about half way done.  Shouldn’t be long now.  Here’s a peek.

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Crime-horror saga 1888 with Wolfgang “People Pleaser” Parker is practically ready to pitch.  Just a coupla character sketches needed from the only slow guy on the team.  Oh wait… that’s me.

Justin “I know where you live” Jordan is juggling the pitches for OVERTHROW and JENNY STRANGE.  All appendages are crossed.  Do not activate webcam.

The yet unnamable period piece with lord and master Alexis Nolte went to pitch last week with some friends across the pond.  Initial reaction has been positive.

Just getting into the groove of what’s shaping up to be my first solo series after MASK of MANOLO.  I’ve somehow attracted the attention of the lovely Rod Hannah, with ties to cerealgeek.com, to illustrate a three-issue mini about wee super-heroine SOVENA RED.  Designs have been approved.  Scripts have been read.  Layouts have been… laid out.  More on that as the weeks go by.  Here’s a peek though.

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On the homefront, the online game Alex “You should really be drawing” Cipriano and I were hired to do is plodding along politely.  The worst is probably over, with all the human characters done and approved… now it’s just a buncha cool monsters and we’re home free.  After a fashion.

Speaking of monsters, my HORROR CLASSICS are on hold.  Personal projects… bah!  That werewolf sketch I showed off a month ago is here in Fort Bastard somewhere under a pile of Invincible back issues… I hope.

Just got back home from a… well… a “creative summit” with Jad “Why am I still with you?” Montenegro, at her end of the island chain.  HARBINGER WAR is currently in the conceptualization stage, and we’re giggly as fuck about it.  A lot.  Here’s a sketch from the trip.

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There’s that Comic Book Creation Seminar I got invited to speak at, for all the good that’ll do them. HEHAH! That’s set for next month still, but plans are solidifying.  Like a flan.  But creamier.  Maybe I can give out tax advice.

Should look into cloning myself.

More updates as they happen.

Don’t Call it a Collab

As I’m working on a handful of projects I’ve started a little something-something with my lady Jad Montenegro.  We’ll be taking turns talking about our progress:

asaSo John came to me with a proposal to do a comic together, aside from the  sheer audacity of a previously conceptualized “relationship strip” *John slaps hand to forehead*, he wanted to do another project entirely, one that wasn’t borne of a need to shamelessly indulge our egos, and when I heard his idea to wrap the storyline around one simple, beautiful concept, there was nothing I could do but to agree.

I mean, come on:

Cavemen versus Aliens.

.

Tell me how any self-respecting sci-fi lover could resist taking that and not going to TOWN with it, you know?

Drawing inspiration from the likes of sci-fi romance and tall-tale spinning Arthur C. Clarke to the classic iconoclasm (iconoclasstic?) of Isaac Asimov, to Frank Herbert’s Duneverse sagas and Bradbury’s moody, chronicling cynicism (to name just a few of the authors I grew up reading), I guess I’m pretty set for helping create this rippin’ yarn of a graphic novel. If anything, I’ve certainly got the enthusiasm covered.

I’ve never done this before, but that’s where John comes in: he’s good at showing me the ropes.

Huh.

I zoned out for a bit.

Anyway, that’s what me and the boy have got in the kitchen, and hopefully we’ll have something in the coming weeks for you folks to sink your teeth into.

— Jad

Strip for Me…

Someone smart once said, “Part of knowing what you’re good at is knowing how many permutations you can stretch and skew yourself to and safely get away with, without too much bloodshed.” And then I put it in a journal entry and cheapened it.

It was the middle 2005, and the local scene had shriveled up and died, so no one in his right mind was doing independent comics anymore, much less looking to fund any.

dead-whaleIt’s a metaphor

Fresh out of college and taking baby steps into law school, I sought a creative outlet and found it in the local newspaper — though when I say I sought, I don’t mean I needed a challenge or something to do in my free time.  Coz believe me, school plus work was tough enough; and free time was a luxury I devoted to sleep.  Luckily, the summer before shit got real, I had made the right calls and talked to the right people and sent the right hookers to the right addresses, and at twenty years old I got my first regularly paying gig with my weekly serial comic strip, ALTERED EGOS.

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Click.  Big.

The people at the paper had seen my previous comic stuff, and when I first spoke to my editor to pitch another, more action-oriented strip, I realized that I had gotten spoiled from working with friends on SUKOL and POPCORN for so long.  I had grown accustomed to communicating my act structures and story arcs in chirps and grunts.  Had I known how to whistle, it might have helped.  But no, the pre-prod was a mess, and it slowly became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to pull off a series that only worked linear, at least not the way I’d want to.  So I went with comedy and the gag-a-week format.

amor-ae-014ALTERED EGOS was an exploration of the superhero lifestyle minus all the glitz and glamour.  Marvel Team-up meets Seinfeld, written by Bart Simpson.  And it acted like a sort of psychic anchor in a pretty lousy time in my life, which was right around the same time I discovered the bottle.  These characters meant a lot to me and still do, which is why I’m sharing them here.

amor-ae-019Incidentally (and conveniently, transition-wise), I will be starting a brand new comic strip pretty soon with my girlfriend.  Drawing much inspiration from the blunt truths of XKCD and the dry humor of Butternutsquash, Jad and I have put together a… (wait for it)… relationship strip.

.   .   .

And THAT was the sound of the last cries of my mojo whimpering out of existence.

FOR the LOVE OF… (or FTLO) is planned to be a weekly strip, depending on our schedules, and is pretty much being stylistically inspired by Adam Warren’s approach to Empowered over at Dark Horse.  Rough… but not.

It’s five in the morning, kids.

Anyway check back here for the first strip of FTLO soon, as well as updates on a few other projects I have gaining some steam.  Meantime, don’t just thank it.  Spank it.

Outside the Box

Heard Millar talk about his method for story structure on a podcast the other day, praising Seinfeld for apparently informing his approach to putting together a comic book. Yeah, no, I don’t see it either. But yes, because I am not beneath comparing myself to one of the biggest names in comics today, I lean back against my douche throne and ask myself… Outside of comics, what prominent works could have put creases in my brain deep enough to directly influence my own work (and I use the term work very loosely)? Too many people fall into the trap of learning to make comics just by collecting shiny things from the comics they’ve already read, and that’s okay if you don’t plan on bringing anything new to the table, but I always figure that the biggest hindrance to being able to think outside the box is when you yourself become the box, Daniel-san. Thanks, Mr. Miyagi.

Everything I know about facial expression, I learned from watching Chuck Jones cartoons as a kid — Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, The motherfucking Grinch, I’ll yell it loud and proud, sir.

For gesture and body language, I drew from the TV sitcom Friends — nothing beats the visual comedy of contrasting personalities, especially in the first few seasons… when everyone was overacting, I thought (sorry, Perry).

I learned pacing from Spielberg movies — when I saw Sam Neil shakily take his shades off and stand up in the theme park jeep, I think I might’ve clenched in anticipation so hard I later crapped a diamond.

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Fairly easy to name the cinematic influences, but it takes me a while to figure out what single biggest thing feeds into my shot design and camera placement, aside from the occasional Wally Wood flowchart or Frazetta piece. I laugh when I realize that it’s probably my gaming. Now Alex “Awesome” Cipriano (he made me do it) will cackle like an oversexed harpy and slap me with a dead horse’s cock and say that I’m not even a real gamer, and he’d be right — give me a Playstation controller and I’ll throw it back at you thinking it’s a batarang. Thing is, as I was getting serious about my comic art years ago, I saturated myself with a shitload of first-person shooters every time I needed to unwind, and the immersive experience cut such a deep groove into my mindpeach that it got to a point where I’d run around de_dust maps in my fucking sleep. I can still describe building ruins in COD’s Carentan map, and I sometimes still replay insane Quake III rocket launcher frags when I drink my coffee.

A little sad, I know… but I draw comics, what’d you expect? Existentialist discourse?

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All things considered though, it’s true up to a point when people say you can actually learn to make comics just from reading them, but a big part of me likes to believe that it’s the outside influences that add the real flavor to the stew that eventually eventually becomes your style. It’s a little tragic though that because I’ve simply been too busy lately, I’ve had to uninstall what little games I did play just to avoid temptation.

Counter-Strike…

Call of Duty…

Sexy Beach 3…

…what.

That HD Modern Warfare trailer looked hella sweet too.

Fuck.

Thumbnails

Can’t quite recall if it was Sears or Capullo who said it, but I’m pretty sure I gleaned it off one of those How to Draw Comics features in an issue of Wizard (yeah, yeah) — someone who knew what he was talking about said the true function of the thumbnail is to let you take in the entirety of a page in one quick look.  Sure it sounds sensible enough, but it didn’t really make sense to me until I actually pulled my head outta my ass and started doing thumbnails myself for the first time, which was in high school.

See, when I drew comics as a kid I would just jump right into the page without any regard for panel flow and whatnot.  It wasn’t until I read that all-powerful Kubert School Cliffnote (heh) that I actually understood the importance of — wait for it — Planning.  So fine, my kiddy shit was awful, but it helped me realize that the layout process is simply too sensitive to do on the actual page (read: when Johnny’s already working on whatever Johnny’s working on), and the comic page being as big as it is, the occasional loss of perspective just doesn’t help.

And so I make sure I take the time to whip out the straightedge and actually put down some mock pages and play with page designs and fuck around with layouts and experiment with self-assuredly clever paneling and yeah, maybe even Read The Scripts from time to time, because that’s usually a good idea.
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I work on thumbnails about one-eighth the size of an 11×17 sheet.  Don’t ask about specific dimensions because numbers choke up my brain veins and when I write I like to… not die.  One-eighth.  Half of a quarter.  Ouch.  Anyway some friends tell me them numbers dance a bit on the big side for “thumbnails,” but my headspace being the slut that it is, I like things being clear.  Thumbnails are mental notes for me, so I make sure everything reads as clearly as possible lest I forget.  As a comic fan myself, I have me as my first audience to please.

I find that having solid and thought-out thumbnails pays you back three-fold.  Firstly, writer and editor get to work out story kinks with you in this phase, so if you do this well enough, an email with the subject “Revision Needed, Asshole, Eat My Fuck” will be unlikely.  Second, you get to flex your artsy fartsy mojo and tackle composition without having to worry about style just yet.  Feel like dropping a Ringo grid? Do it.  A Madureira splash?  Fuckin’ A, bring that shit.  This is your story still raw and malleable, play when you can.  And third, you can take comfort in the fact that most of the hard work is done.  You literally already have the comic drawn… now it’s just a matter of making it look good enough to print.

On the whole, the layout process will eat up its own precious chunk of time, but it’s indispensable if anyone wants the finished product to be halfway decent.  When it gets tedious, I remind myself that Mignola said in a Two Morrows interview that it was his favorite part of the comic creating process.  So I say be like Mike.  Eat your greens.  Do your thumbnails.