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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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
——

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.

Noise

It’s always there. Waiting. Mountain lion to your biker. Housefly to your warm apple pie. Mousetrap to your… mouse. I’m talking about distractions. They seem to be in cahoots with Murphy’s Law as to the absolute right time to strike and cripple my progress train.

I won’t be able to do the last page of my Next Wave sequentials quite yet coz I got assigned a bunch of tasks by this company I’ve been working hard to get into. I used to tell my college professors I’d get by just drawing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, that was before I had bills to pay. It’s not a comic-related job, this, but it’s the most promising illustration gig in town I could find. Managed not to make too big of an ass of myself at today’s meeting. Hope they bite. Also, if all goes well, I may be able to land an arrangement that will allow me to work from home a few days out of a week. Fuck-Win-Yay if that pushes through.

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I drink milk from a Bud Light glass.

Hardcore.

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I’m wondering if the 11×17-inch standard working size for comic pages is really mandatory. I’ve drawn on 8×11.5 (half the size above) since I started drawing sequentials seriously at the age of twelve, and it (to me anyway) comes out looking fine. I like to think I do details well enough. I don’t go all David Finch or Platt anyway, I tend to do simple bold lines a la Immonen or Ringo (bless you)… so maybe I can get away with working on paper slightly larger than actual print size. Should remember to ask an editor about that.

Anyway, yeah. I have to take a quick break from the NextWave stuff for dayjob reasons for a bit.  But I already have some studies for the monster who will appear in the last page. And i’m quite happy with how that turned out. Chaz is busy coloring a piece I drew for some Steampunk fairytale contest thing we’re participating in purely for shits and giggles. Santini’s drawn his half of our collaborative piece. Viking Vemp and I are still planning our joint drawing. More on these and the final NextWave page in a couple of days.

Hopefully. Hope hope hope.

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.