Horror Classics: The Cursed King

I grew up watching Harryhausen films and Rankin Bass cartoons, so I really enjoy drawing classic monsters and otherwordly creatures. Discovering Frank Frazetta’s art in Mad Magazine (the Blecch parody ad) at an early age led me to hunt down his stuff wherever I could, and that only fed the monster jonesing. About a year ago, I decided to pay tribute to a cartoon I grew up on by drawing some of the key villains in very “Concept Artsy” styles. Here are those pieces:

Thundercats Legends got a good dose of positive feedback on my DeviantArt account and practically got me enough attention to start doing some commissions. I’m no Bleedman, but it was great to be able to receive the appreciation.

Anyway… now, just about a year after I started Thundercats Legends, I’m starting Horror Classics, which will showcase my take on the classic icons of horror. This’ll allow me to both quench my desire to pay some sort of tribute to the monster movies I grew up with and use the techniques I learned from doing the Legends set.

The line art for this piece took pretty quick. I was worried at first that all the bandages would be a lot of work, but once I noted the overlaps and the contours of the form, it went somewhat smoothly.

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of toning my line art as well, so I can take cues as I proceed with the actual coloring process. This stage of preparation gives me a sense of where I’m going and enables me to not lose sight of my goal with the piece. Also, it just looks nice.

The actual coloring of the character involved a layer of noise that was blurred just enough so it looked like the actual drawing was uniformly shaded with a pencil. I essentially peeled away at this layer to “sculpt” the form, then applied some color overlays to apply tones. Finishing touches were mainly just dodge and burn tools. Getting the mouth to be the main focus, and not the golden snake, was a bit of a doozy… but I think it came out well. The burn tool also allowed me to emphasize some dark areas around his mouth — as a result, it looks kinda like he’s smiling if you look at him from a distance.

I applied a paper-ish texture as the background, since I want this set to seem like it’s all wanted posters or, failing that, old-style illustrations on scrolls.

The Cursed King is but the first in a seven-piece set. It is available as a print on my DeviantArt store.

Donning the Mask of Manolo

Just posting some process screenshots of the little online poster I did for Alveraz Ricardez’s MASK of MANOLO. I’m incredibly unorganized when I work in Photoshop, which is probably why I don’t do it very often, but I’m happy with how this piece came out.

Anyone see what I was listening to on Winamp? Haha.

Heh.

Anyway, the final piece can be viewed (along with other Patchwork Comic covers) here.

Must… earn… KEEP!

September’s looking to be a busy month for me as I have four projects coming down the pipelines. I know that sounds like a heck of a lot of work for a guy who took a whole month to finish six Next Wave sample pages, but I had a day job when I was working on those. Which I’ve thankfully quit since. So… yeah. (That’s right, Johnny. Repeat it like a mantra. You might even end up convincing yourself.) But yeah, this is what I do now, and this is probably the best I’ve felt since I started taking commissions on my DA a whole year ago.

A new publisher called Patchwork Comics is gunning for a January 2009 release date for about four titles, and I got lucky enough to be chosen by the head honcho to take part in that. My own original story pitches — ICELANDER, WOLF PACK SESSIONS, and BEAST BOY JOE (all just working titles) — have been shelved for the moment, but Alveraz Ricardez was kind enough to throw me a bone in the form of one of his own original stories.  MASK of MANOLO will be about a Don Quixote-esque child-hero in a more or less fantasy setting. And the best part? I’ve been granted a window of three days to finish each page! Schwing!

Also on my plate starting next month is a pitch issue for a series entitled OVERTHROW!, with an exclamation point.  Writer Justin Jordan, whose webcomic Junk is up on Zuda this month,  picked me to illustrate the story of a villain who has already won and a hero who has to face a sort of moral dillema about taking him down. Justin’s first e-mail to me had the word kicksplode. That pretty much won me over from the get go. You can view his work log here.

And the final comic project I was lucky enough to get chosen for is another pitch deal with Jared Koon. It’s a yet-untitled Sword and Sorcery story that I’m not allowed to really talk about just yet, so I’ll leave it at that for now

:::: :::: :::: ::::

So yeah. Whew.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

On the local front, co-genius Matt is slaving away, wrapping up the script for the first twelve-issue arc of our comic INSTRUMENTS, which we will be pitching to Image and whoever else when it’s all tight and shiny. Been talking to Derrick Fish a lot about exactly how this is done, but I’ll probably learn a lot from my current collaborators as well.

So I guess those Thor pages will have to wait. They were exciting as fuck, and I got goosebumps when I saw Asgard smoking in Secret Invasion: Thor #1, but I gotta pay the bills first. Still in contact with Cebulski though, which never hurts.

Anyway, a few random and recent sketches I did to warm up in the mornings:

About a year ago I did a fan-art series of portraits entitled Thundercats Legends. It was pretty much a labor of love in that they weren’t commissioned or anything, and I couldn’t sell them coz they were copyrighted. In the same vein as those pieces though, I’m working on a series tentatively titled Horror Classics, and you can pretty much guess what it’s gonna be about. I’ll be doing my takes on the classic monsters. ( Dracula, the Wolfman, etc., Thank you, Wikipedia, for your list of public domain characters. Heh. ) So I’m looking forward to those as breaks between the comic pages I’ll doubtless be swamped with. Here’s a preview of some studies though. Click big.

That’s it for now, guys. Wish me luck.

EDIT: Whoops! I almost forgot. I haz a new computarrr!

Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.53 GHz; 2 Gb of RAM. I am yet to get a new hard drive and maybe a new video card for… stuff… but this is the best PC I’ve ever had the privilege to use. Hands down. My buddy since frickin’ elementary school Andy Tan helped me get the individual parts from three different stores. Thanks, bud!

That blue light is uhmm… my biggest fan. No, really.

Oh, You Bitch!

Either I’ve actually managed to get some attention with some sequentials, or I’ve been enough of a loudmouth on the internet that some people just decided to give me some projects to shut me the hell up. Either way, I win.

But I fail, because my desktop has somehow detected my slight change in fortune and has so sonuvabitchingly decided to pay a little tribute to Murphy’s Law by developing narcolepsy. I shit you not. It’s not quite as bad as the blue screen of death, but it’s pretty damn close — my PC just shuts down without warning. No trigger. No detectable pattern to the instances. She’s just that big of a bitch.

So as great as it is having scripts on the way, having no way of actually working sucks. I’m on my brother’s laptop right now. Fine, I guess I could get some drawings down… but I’d get palpitations without music, and considering I got an ulcer last time I tried it… it’s probably not a very good idea now that people are actually paying me to do it. It’s my one quirk, okay? Shut up. I need music to work, and all my music is… you guessed it… in my computer. Which! Dies! At! Random!

I’ll probably do some sketches though, and tell you guys more about the writer(s) and project(s) in the coming days. But I will say that it’s not quite Marvel or DC just yet. But It’s a start, right? Oh also, I gotta ask how much I’m allowed to talk about here on Border Break. Gotta play these things close to our chests, yeah?

::: ::: :::

My brother just started his own work journal. It’s still pretty much a skeleton right now (and he’s using the same theme as me, the bastard), but pay him a visit and say hi —> clicky

For the Kingdom

Letting my big brother, Roby, have a bit of the spotlight today. Here’s a huge tribute piece he did a while back, which has elements from covers one thru three of Waid and Ross’s Kingdom Come series under DC’s Elseworlds imprint. My teeth would probably melt if I tried something like this, so props to the man.

Hello, all. I did this piece ten years ago, a couple of months after KC came out. A real big fan of Alex Ross, I loved the way he did the covers for the first three books of his classic series. The way he decided to pose all major characters in one shot, as if done in a studio, added even more depth to already incredible artwork. It’s as if they all decided to take time out from their busy “superhero” lives just to pose for one iconic photo op. It made the whole piece come alive.    – Roby

Comic Creator Dream Teams

Took a break from my desk today to get myself some comfort food — hot wings over at the pizza place. Had to walk too, coz they’re building this flyover/skyway thing. A cab woulda taken forever coz of all the detours. My iPod bailed, so I got bored just sitting there and waiting. I didn’t feel like drawing, coz this was supposed to be a break after all, so instead of whipping out my little notepad to sketch… I wrote a list of creators I’d put on certain books if I had the power of the beyonder. A coupla my favorite artists are slow as all shit, heck some of them don’t even do interiors anymore! Guess that’s why it’s called a dream team, ey? Aaaahhh… clever ~_~

1.) Swamp Thing – Grant Morrisson and Frank Quitely
2.) Next Wave – Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire
3.) Fantastic Four – Mark Waid and J. Scott Campbell
4.) Teen Titans – Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen
5.) Superman – Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
6.) Batman – Warren Ellis and Steve McNiven
7.) X-men – Paul Jenkins and Adam Hughes
8.) Spider-man – Matt Fraction and Joe Madureira
9.) Avengers – Rick Remender and Olivier Coipel
10.) Lobo – Garth Ennis and Leinil Yu

Do not shit on my dreams.

Thor Sequentials (Part 1)

I didn’t bother writing a plot for this, since it’s pretty much going to be an action sequence anyway. Sorta. Not much going on in this first half, but I wanted to stretch some camera-placement muscles. I was listening to comic podcasts a lot while I was making these, and I forget who said it — either Hitch or Quitely —  but someone said it’s a good idea to do one difficult or new thing with every new page. It can be a camera angle, a blur effect, a shading style, a background element, whatever. As long as you try one thing new each time. S’great advice.

That’s it from me for now. As always, comments and criticisms are wildly welcome. (Oh but also, I added a Twitter feed on the right sidebar, waaaay under all the standard links and stuff. Check it out and add me up if you’re on there. Laters.)

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.

Worky Smirky

“I’m going to clap when this movie ends,” comic-buddy Alex says. I just nod to him. “Hell yeah,” I whisper. The Dark Knight ends, and the credits roll. As the lights fire up, Alex applauds the film’s awesomeness out of sheer fanboy glee. My hands meet three times, and I stop when I look around at the people obviously not as enthused as we were. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!? It was an awesome film that challenged its audience intellectually. It was a grown-up comic book movie. Apparently too grown up for some. And I fucking loved it! And I hate myself for not clapping. Last movie that made me feel that good about being a comic geek was V for Vendetta, so screw you guys who gave me dirty looks when I woohooed at this film.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

I’ve finally been making some headway on my Thor pages. I have about two pages done (again, out of six), and I plan to clean up the second and hopefully start the third this weekend. Finally working on 11×17, and I gotta say I’m enjoying it way more than I thought I would. I was initially approaching it with a healthy dose of trepidation, worried that my layouts would get fucked, my faces would distort, and my rendering would get offset… but I’m doing it by the book and sticking to my thumbnails.

So far so good.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

I spotted a coupla comic guys in DA a coupla weeks back. Honcho of the bunch says he’s looking to put together a team for a pitch to Red5 and whoever else may be in range. I link ’em to my Next Wave stuff, and they think I’m decent. I’m on board for this project, which is funny… coz they need me on 11×17. So I guess it’s coincidental that I just happen to have started working on that size already.

Tan-tan-taaaaaaaaaaaan!!!

:::: :::: :::: ::::

And speaking of funny stories. The marketing company I’ve been doing freelance gigs for, for a while now has hired me as their creative head. I’m now quite literally the go-to guy for all the artists of the Philippine branch. I’d be lying if I said the title isn’t intimidating, but I’d also be lying if I said this didn’t rock so fucking much. No idea why they chose me though, makes me question their mental health sometimes. Was it my “meh” cap that screamed professionalism? Probably.

:::: :::: :::: ::::

I’m scheduled to watch Dark Knight yet again. The Doomsville Crew, co-genius Matt, ChampionMan, Spanish girls and all, have demanded my presence tonight.

I will clap.

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.

:::: :::: ::::

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.