Shapes

Remember that X-Files episode “Shapes”? If it was a FRIENDS episode, it’d be called “The One with the American-Indian Werewolf.” No, really.

Yeah. Anyway…

So I have a couple of pages of my Thor set done. Asgard was a bitch, but I think I pulled it off… after a fashion. Posting those when page three is in the can. Here’s the thing though: I get about half way through the loose pencils of page three when I start feeling like my art style is becoming contrived. Choked even. I prop it up on my desk, take a step back, and I swear I feel like killing something. Then I flash back to what a friend said about the faces of the characters in my Next Wave set. Apparently I have this bad habit of, maybe not changing characters’ faces, but changing the styles with which those faces are drawn from different angles. D’ya get me? And she was right!

I start to remember that in the nineties, as I was just starting to get serious about my sequential art, I needed to really have a solid foundation in drawing the face from different angles. But instead! Me being the total hack that I am, I looked at so many of my favorite artists for reference that I subconsciously incorporated too much of their face styles into mine. Madureira’s distinctive side views. Hughes’s front shots. You get the picture. Along the way, not only did I become some sort of clone — WORSE! I became a mishmash of different styles that were in constant flux and conflict with each other. I became some stylistic ersatz Frankenstein.

I can draw, sure. But it’s not me drawing.

So I tear my third page into bite-size bits (It takes a while, it’s 11×17 after all) and spend three days finding it—finding the convergence of everything i have ever absorbed from every artist I have ever admired. Fine, it probably didn’t all happen in the past three days… they might have simply been the culmination of this, for lack of a better way of putting it, artistic digestion. And it’s still happening to me.

I craft a sort of mission statement for my style, realizing that since my influences are mainly of the cartoony sort (Madureira, Campbell, Pearson, Drucker, Frezzato, Ramos, Immonen, and Adams), it makes no sense to contrive it with the “serious” sensibilities. All this time, I’ve been trying to do a Jim Lee piece with Campbell’s hand, know what I mean? Yes, I know I’m no J. Scott Campbell, but come on. It’s a metaphor.

I remember some concept art videos I saw. Some cool Gnomon shit. And I remember the importance of creating strong, defined, and unique silhouettes. And then I wake up and see that my strengths have always been in shapes. Spheres. Cubes. Cylinders. The whole shaboodle. And I’m focusing these insights into a conscious effort to create a style that is more cartoony than my past work, but not overboard. Coz the way I figure it, the only real way my stuff is gonna look consistent from page to page, panel to panel, is if it’s really my stuff. It’s high time I ditch my crutches and grew some sea legs. So there, as far as figure and face work goes… I’m going with this more rubbery, animated feel. The serious sensibilities will be maintained only in the other details. Shadowplay (Mignola), camera placement (Hitch), figure dynamics (Frazetta), that kinda stuff.

That said, here’s some of the stuff I just did. And I love ’em.

Peter Parker

Thor (current style)

Thor (Shitty older version)

Logan

And lastly.. Logan and Emma

I am happy now.

On with page three.

Steam and Feedback

Just received feedback from C.B. Cebulski of Marvel and artist Sean Murphy (Batman/Scarecrow: Year One, Hellblazer) on my Next Wave pages. I guess my storytelling is relatively solid since neither of them brought it up. Sean mentions though that my backgrounds need a bit more of a three-dimensional feel. Looking back now, I do agree with him. I use gray tones a bit too much and probably ended up somewhat reliant on them to create depth. Grays are good, sure, but I once read in a Wizard article that it’s vital for your illustrations, if you’re drawing for comics, to be able to stand up on their own without depending too much on Photoshop effects. I think it was a Greg Capullo tutorial. Hehe. Notches.

C.B. says I need to work on my female expressions. I do notice that I tend to make my male characters more expressive than my female ones. Perhaps I have a subconscious fear of making my female characters ugly? So I try to keep their faces as generically pretty as possible? I don’t know… something to look into, I guess.

Somewhere along the chat, I mention to C.B. that I generally work slightly larger than actual print size. He informs me that a lot of current artists actually do this, but these same guys also tend to ink their own work. Makes sense — if you wanna work small, don’t drag an inker into your pencilled eyestrain-o-rama. I’m a horrible inker though, so I have the dilemma of either learning to ink my own stuff at this current size (which is pretty cramped if I need to ink my own stuff, believe you me) or starting to draw at professional standard size… 11×17. Derrick Fish, who’s got some Atomic Robo stuff due out soon, taught me a lot of cool tricks and stuff over a chat once — blue pencils, drawing roughs at print size then drawing tight pencils on blown-up versions — I might give those a try sometime; but as of now, the plan is to do some THOR pages on 11×17.

Yes, I’ve decided.

Also, the size will allow me to do some heavier details, and I’ll have no excuse not to do decent backgrounds. Thanks, Sean.

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The Chaz and I got together to do a little ditty recently. There was this Steampunk Fairytale thing running on DeviantArt, so we decided to play along. Our concept was of Captain Hook, but as a steamboat captain. Yeah, yeah, not very mindbending… sue us.

Initial draft pretty much captures what we want off the bat. Nothing too fancy. Big figure so we don’t need to do too much detail. Heh. Chaz’s request, not mine. Ssssshhhh….

Final pencils get a wider canvas coz the steamboat in the back was actually an afterthought. I know. Stupid. I ended up killing the virtual frame that his arm was subliminally creating, so I added some rocks in the background to make up for the fucked-up compo.

His colors save the day by focusing our attention with some warm directional light.

We chatted quite a bit throughout the process, he probably hates me now for being such a pain in the ass about the way the light radiated up at his face. You can view more of the Chaz’s art here.

Nextwave Sequentials (Part 2)

Finally got around to finishing the second half of the set. In case you missed the first set, here are pages one, two, and three. These were all done on paper slightly larger than actual print size. Roughly 7.5 x 11.5 inches, give or take a cm. Here’s the plot if anyone wants to use it:

Page 4
——

Panel 1
Tabby starts to rant about why she should be team leader on account of how many X-teams she’s been in. Cap just gives her a “Psshh” expression. Aaron is still checking out Elsa.

Panel 2
Tabby yells at Monica, “And excuse me! ‘CAPTAIN MARVEL’?!? Aren’t the Avengers pissed you named yourself after a downed comrade? Hellooooooo…”

Panel 3
Close up of Mon: “Well, we’re cool now…”

Panel 4
Shot of Mon in bed with Starfox. Awwwwkwaaaaard…

Panel 5
Nearly identical to panel 3, but she has a kind of sheepish expression.

“We’re cool.”

Page 5
——

Panel 1
Monica’s POV. Tabby and Cap are just staring at her. Half pissed, half unimpressed. no dialogue in this panel, so win it with the facial expressions. Maybe Tabby’s got a huge bubble goin’, but her eyes are hella bored.

Panel 2
Same POV, but now Cap shrugs and says he thinks he should be team leader. Ignoring him, Aaron and Monica have turned their attention to Elsa, who’s looking at a screen and is gesturing for everyong to check out what she’s seeing.

Panel 3
They all crowd around the monitor. POV is from the monitor itself. Think Maguire JLA cover, but tighter and lower. They all look as if they’re in awe, except for Cap who’s a bit pissed that he’s not being listened to, but he’s also intrigued at what the team’s looking at.

Page 6
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Panel 1 (Splash)
Exterior shot of the Shockwave Rider. We are trailing behind it as it flies toward a gigantic Cthulhu-esque creature.

“So uhhh… you still wanna lead the team?”

end

This page, I admit is a little in-jokey. Just FYI, Starfox was one of the Avengers against Monica using the codename Captain Marvel. Heck, he didn’t even want her on the team. I decided not to do what I planned in the thumbnails for panel 4 because Starfox without his uniform on, well… he looks like Wolverine. And I knew the panel couldn’t be very big, so I couldn’t really draw him differently enough to make him read as not Wolverine. So I opted to just show their uniforms on the floor. Doesn’t leave too much to the imagination, and the letterer can have his fun.

Did panel 2 differently so I could show people approaching Elsa rather than just feet walking toward her from behind. Third panel is my first attempt at something a la JLA demigod Kevin Maguire. See roughs.

Anyone who’s been following me on Twitter (JohnAmor) knows how much fun I had drawing Cthulhu. I did studies and all that junk. Whoodathunk I’d enjoy it that much? I had to change the camera’s position though because he just didn’t feel threatening enough when seen from above. Rule: Cthulhu does not ever look up at something. He just doesn’t do it. I wanted to do an up-shot instead, but that woulda made the squad’s ship too tiny.

So that’s the end of that. Sending these off to some editors and fellow artists for some feedback, then I’ll check on some awesome people I’m lucky enough to be doing collaborations with. Why they agreed, I still don’t know. Kicking the idea of doing Thor sequentials around in my head.

Two Days in My Pants

Posting some pics taken via my shitty pantsphone. Pardon the quality. Hung out with Alex and Leandro for a drink and draw session over the weekend. Pimptastic Fizzy and the Chaz showed up a bit later, but I was either busy drinking or drawing boobs at that point.

We argue about using blue pencils for construction, the convo never goes anywhere. Everyone forgets how to get rid of the construction lines in Photoshop. And I find the paper too waxy by the time I start inking. We suck at all that artsy fartsy shit, so we feast on chopped and spiced up pig face. No really. Then we dick around the second level of our new dive. I personally like the balcony, in this place ironically called, in this week of capsizing superferries, PIER ONE. All this while Frank/Fengshen rages across the upper parts of the country… and a little bit outside our drinking area. Sea Legs by The Shins plays on my pod.

Frank blows.

This Guy and This Guy.

Also today, I finally got that tattoo design out of the way. I ended up leaning toward something very Alfonso Mucha, but there’s not much you can do Nouveau with an anchor for a subject. Excuses excuses. (Ssshh….)

All is well today….

But what really made it all worthwhile was this pic I automagically acquired over the weekend. See, we live in Cebu. And all the artists know each other. And there’s quite a few of us. So what’s the point of knowing all these talents if we can’t poke fun at each other every now and then? That said…

Bleedman vs Gravity.

I Spoke to the Goblin and He Said “Tattooo…”

Closing in on the homestretch of my Next Wave sequentials. Can’t wait to send those over to the people who need to see it — partially coz I wanna hear what they have to say and what I fucked up, mostly because I just want it out of the way already. Plus there’s a monster splash in the last page I wanna get to, but some studies are in order before I get there. Wouldn’t wanna offend his cult (hint hint).

Already thinking about what set of sequentials I should do next. Any ideas? Or maybe a tribute piece in-between. I was playing with the idea of a quick Next Wave vs Thunderbolts piece, but we’ll see.

Speaking of Thunderbolts, I love Ellis’s run. Gargan’s a man-eating bastard, Swordsman’s an incestuous freak, and Penance is just a total wreck. But I went nuts over 120 — where Norman’s screws come loose again. Deodato can do no wrong in that book. Norman Osborne’s awesomeness is so firmly engraved in my mind that I just had to do this intersketch as I was wrapping up a panel with all five agents of H.A.T.E. in a Kevin Maguire-esque down shot.

Left pencils pretty loose coz i knew I was taking it all the way to inks myself anyway. If someone else was going to ink it, I would have made my pencils a lot tighter.

Decided on an upwards light source with a shitload of hatching. I needed the shading exercise, also it just looked cool. Heh. Then I decided to murder it with some toning.

I’ve got a tattoo commission to work on today. It’s gotta have a fairy…person sitting on a beat-up old anchor. Still tossing the idea of making the sprite Bisley or Mucha. Hardcore or Nouveau. We’ll see.

Add me up on Twitter: JohnAmor

Laters.

Intersketching

I recently woke up to the fact that I get bored waaay too easily when I’m working on only one piece at a time. ADD much? I tried to remedy it by skipping from panel to panel within a page. Failing that because the linear…ness of the plot made it feel like I was still doing the same thing, I tried skipping from page to page. I’d work on the fight sequence on page fifteen and, when it got tedious, I’d skip back to the establishment and build-up on page seven.

Bad idea.

This broke story momentum more often than not. So yeah, taking breaks from a page by skipping to other pages within the same book is a bad idea. It kills the flow. So what I did yesterday, I took breaks between panels by sketching something totally unrelated to what I was working on, on a clean new sheet of paper. Well maybe not totally unrelated, but it had enough of a thematic separation to keep things interesting and fresh for me. As a result, I didn’t feel the fatigue, and the monotony didn’t step in. The logic behind it all was that I was taking a breather from a sequential page by drawing a pin-up. And I was taking a break from the pin-up by doing the sequential. In essence, my afternoon was a productive series of interspersed breaks. And I got. Shit. Done.

The fourth Next Wave page is in the can, and here’s the Impulse piece I finished while doing so. It’s not the best comp I’ve ever done, but at least it’s something to work on.

And since I knew this wasn’t the main piece, Ta-DAAAH, I inked again. Clumsy, I know… but it kept me occupied.

Them Plans

So I haven’t updated in a while. Heck, I haven’t touched a pencil in pretty much a month. I know, I know. That sucks. But it’s cool now. Things are finally getting back on track after the May vacation. The hiatus… from… stuff. Co-genius Matt and I are fast-tracking INSTRUMENTS — a series I can best describe (without giving too much away) as… well… Shonen. Look it up. Shonen, but not. I don’t know. Pray it gets Larsen’s thumbs-up, I guess — which has basically been in production for close to three years now. I can feel the Image pitch engraved in my bones. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll figure something out.

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My sister and I are putting together a screenplay, and the concept of it is pretty much what holds it all together, so I can’t delve into specifics. I’m not quite sure if it’s an art film though. Kafka meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Silence of the Lambs meets Donnie Darko… I don’t know. I haven’t seen my sis since Christmas. She lives up North, in Manila, where the story’s supposedly gonna be set. So I might have to go up there sometime within the next few months to get a feel for the place. I already hate it there though. Research on the screenplay per se starts this week.

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EAST WEST, the pub which me, Viking, Leandro, Fizzy, Flimflam, and all the other Viceroys have been patrons of for about four or five years, has closed. End of an era and all that shit. Gotta find us a new haunt, and soon.

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Things are happening. Nice things. To me. Yay! But I need to decide between the job I know I’ll like and the job I know I’ll learn something from. Something I can use for this thing I’m working on. Which brings me to…

This thing the Viceroys and I have been talking about. It’s pretty much us saying fuck it and starting up our own business. You can only paint other people’s houses for so long before you start wanting to build a house of your own, yeah?

Let’s talk NEXT WAVE, Marvel, and my work worm tomorrow…

But hey look, pencilled this today… my excuse for it being a bit of a mess is, again, the fact that I haven’t drawn in a month. Anyway, yeah…

Nextwave Sequentials (Part 1)

Saw Iron Man a few days ago. And as weird as it was to see him strike that ballerina pose everytime he got ready to take off, the film is fucking brilliant. It delivers on so many levels, some of which I wasn’t even expecting, that I literally left the theatre an Iron Man fan. I honestly wasn’t one when I walked in, but Downey’s one of my faves, so yeah. Now I’m psyched for Fraction’s run. Good watch, good watch.

And as promised, I’m now posting the Nextwave pages I said I was working on as samples. Cebulski says to keep sending him updates on whatever I’m working on, so fair enough and sure enough, here I am. I came up with a six-page plot to use. I’m afraid to use the word script, since this is more of a sequence of events than an actual story or whatnot. Though, ironically, it serves the purpose of showing off storytelling skills. Heh-hah. I happen to think that conveying conversations interestingly is one of my strengths, and I honestly enjoy those more than slugfests. I’m weird. So hey look…

Page 1
——

Panel 1 (Big Panel)

It’s about high noon. The Shockwave Rider skims across ocean surface at high speed. In the distance, we see an oil rig. Just as a point of interest in the background. It won’t have anything to do with the plot. Note, the ship is more or less flying toward us.

Panel 2
Interior establishing shot of the ship. Monica and Aaron are piloting the ship, heavy concentration apparent in Monica’s face. Aaron’s just being Aaron. Elsa, Tabby, and Cap are just chillin’ in the background.

Monica: “Look alive, people.”

Page 2
——

Panel 1
Shot of Monica putting the ship on autopilot as she gets up from her seat. Leave a lot of space open for her monologue as she is briefing the team at the same time.

Panel 2
Aaron quips like the asshole he is.

Panel 3
Aaron is looking back at the team from his seat (slowly getting off his seat as well), explaining the nuances of the mission further and questioning monica’s leadership. Aaron explains the mission a bit more and just how serious the threat is. Based on what he adds to the brief, it sounds like this could be their last mission ever… and it scares the shit out of Cap and Tabby.

Panel 4
In the background, we see Cap and Tabby having church giggles; while in the foreground, Monica’s got an “Excuse me?!?” expression, but still calm and in control.

Page 3
——

Panel 1
Big shot of Elsa in a hero pose, Aaron is just coming into the panel (from the cockpit) and making like he’s endorsing her as the deserving team leader— which he thinks makes sense coz most of the dangers they face are monsters.

Panel 2
Shot of Aaron whispering something flirtatious to Elsa.
Something along the lines of “I have very many useful robot parts…” from issue 2.

Panel 3
Elsa pretty much telling Aaron to fuck off.
Also, Cap is agreeing with what Aaron just said, but…

Panel 4
Elsa tells Cap to fuck off too.

And these are the thumbnails I did before I jumped into the pages. They were done on 2×3 inch post-its, as that’s kindasorta the same proportion as a standard comicbook page. Obviously, they’re pretty rough. In all honesty, these are some of the cleanest thumbnails I’ve ever done. My roughest ones are usually decipherable only by me. Heee. I usually do the panel borders in ink, so that they don’t smudge over and lose definition as time passes. The interiors are always in pencils, because I rely on the blocked shapes within rather than the details, so whether it smudges or not, it’s all good.


And now pages 1-3 (Click thumbnails for larger views)

And here’s a list of differences between the thumbnails and the finished pencils as well as the reasons behind ’em:

Page 1, panel 2: I decided not to show Monica’s hands on the console anymore, because I wanted to establish that Aaron was the one driving. Him being a robot and all, it only makes sense that he has that chore, yeah? Just like Bishop did. Lance Henriksen. Not the X-man.

Page 2, panel 2: Opted to do a simple profile shot of Aaron as he speaks so that it feels like after panel one, the camera doesn’t change position but just zooms in to him, as he’s sitting right to the left of where Monica is getting up from.

Page 2, panel 3: Kept The Captain seated so that our view of Monica doesn’t get obstructed. I also moved everyone more to the right to create more space on the left for what Aaron is saying.


Page 3, panel 1: I decided not to put Elsa in a hero pose, coz it just didn’t make a lot of sense that she would strike one. In a ship. So I just changed it to a semi-hero pose in which she’s, like, checking her gear and stuff. To me, it still looks like she’s posing, but nothing too flashy. I also minimized our view of the Captain, coz I wanted him to sort of disappear, so that when he butts in again in panel 3, it feels more surprising.

Page 3, panel 3: Pulled a tighter shot on Elsa so that it doesn’t look too similar to how she’s positioned in panel 1.

That’s that for the first half of this sequential set. I hate the fact that I’m going so slow on these, but work’s been a bitch lately. Gotta pay the bills after all. Also, when I do begin page 4-6, I should also prep for that little caricature project I plan to show Ellis. Ssshhh…

Trades vs Monthlies

Am slightly stricken by the fact that there’s an actual discussion about trade paperbacks replacing monthlies. What’s even more disturbing is that some people think that the trades actually are a better way to go. Been visiting www.pulpsecret.com a lot lately, coz their live reviews and the fact that it always takes about five minutes to make a point is always amusing.

Pete LePage is a leader of men.

But anyway.

The argument is that trades would be better because it will increase the chances of only good stories coming out, as opposed to monthlies, which are a primarily deadline-driven medium. I admit that’s a fair point, but it sucks coz it decreases the chances of new creators getting the attention they need to grow. Someone even asked, if I remember correctly, “Do you think DC would have let the team that started this new volume of Blue Beetle get straight into TPBs?” Of course not.

One thing I feel was overlooked is the role of the 30-day waiting period that comes with comic book fandom. The cliffhanger syndrome. Anyone will tell you that half the fun (if you can call it that) is reading an awesome last page and wanting the next issue so bad. An only-trades market would totally destroy that, because everything will be done in one. An admittedly LONG done in one, but you know what I mean.
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I’m not working as fast as I want to on these Nextwave pages that I mentioned I’d do as samples… mainly due to obligations on other sites… and there’s work, of course; but I already am piping down to page 3. I’d say I’m rolling along nicely. Not as nicely as I’d initially hoped speed-wise, but I’m definitely happy with the look of the pages so far.
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The gang doesn’t get to hang in the usual pub Sunday. The place apparently ran fresh out of potatoes the day before, and a brew session with the boys just doesn’t work without our mojos. Okay, that didn’t sound right. I sign copies of Wonderlost 2 for a couple of friends. My signature is an indecisive rooster’s tap dance after he’s stepped in a bottle of India ink.

Speaking of ink, I got some new pens and crap for my day job today. Decided to break them in with a return to inking. I quite literally have not inked a piece in years, since I’ve made a conscious decision to focus on my pencils and try to bring it to a certain level I’ll be happy with. Videos of Jim Lee’s gelatometti Iron Chef challenges replay in my head as I think about what he said about inks being the best quick sketch tools. Ironic, I know. But it tends to lend a look of… I don’t know… completeness… I’m tempted to say “weight”…to a five-minute piece.

These were obviously touched up a bit with Photoshop. Heh.

But yeah… I’m definitely a pencils guy.