Friday, 29 February 2008

AH! Are they blind?!!

Adam Hughes just made one of his very infrequent posts on his Yahoo group, apologising for the way his new Serenity cover turned out despite his slaving away on it for ages. Apparently, a few folk on various boards have expressed their disatisfaction with it. Subjective taste aside, are they blind?

While I do miss Hughes' lush painted covers, I also feel he's probably the best artist creating computer-coloured covers and this one is pretty excellent. Look at Wash and Zoe, those likenesses are superb and the characters are not the bland cookie cutter figures often seen within licensed comics (original Buffy run and Angel, I'm looking at you here...).

I think it's a shame to have to apologise for such a superb piece of work...

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Drawing not drawing--KA-BLAM!!

What with the glacial pace of my moving home at the moment, things are a bit up in the air and I won't be drawing any sequential stuff for a bit, at least until after I'm settled into the new place. My book on comic films is done (less a rewrite that really SHOULD be done---but I'm fed up with constantly updating it now, I just want it out there and out of my system so I can move on to pastures new) and right now, before I complete The Jock #2 (only 6 pages left, folks!) and tweak #1, I'm preparing a gallery comic of around 60 pages to be printed by Ka-Blam.

The advantages of Ka-Blam are that there are no piddly PDF formatting problems, there are optional print tariffs depending on advertising and their product looks pretty good. I decided I'd like a nice easy-to-leaf-through sort of "Best Of" thing, featuring art of mine that I can bear to look at. Primarily stuff previously seen on my website, I'm just pulling together my favourite artwork, including a few comic pages, and hope to print off a handful of copies for myself and mates, no big commercial enterprise. Moving has thrown a spanner into the works of some further ideas I had for the moment, but we shall see what the future holds.

However, I have not been TOTALLY absent from the sketch pad as I was shanghai'ed into producing another piece of art for the local coubcil today. Anybody who has been unfortuante enough to listen to me list the stuff I hate to draw knows cars and buildings are at the top of the list of things I hate to draw (people being my fave thing to draw). I had to draw a three bedroom house, a removal van and a bungalow. Seriously--JOY. Drawing at A4 with office supplies instead of proper drawing equipment, it's miracle any of it came out looking---not quite terrible. The van actually came out ok considering I couldn't use reference but due to the limits of the page size, things got truncated (they'll eventually be blown up for placards!) and because of the wheels, the truck looks like a Dinky toy or something!

This isn't the first time I've provided art for the council---below are two covers I did for the homeless prevention unit. I have to say I actually quite like the relationship breakdown pic---given free reign, I think I came up with a simple illo that clearly portrays--or at least hints at--the subject matter. I quite like the clean line style I used too, especially on the bloke.

Less impressive was the support piece...I created the background cast to be fairly diverse (gay gay, geography teacher-type guy, hippie hick, black lady and Hindu man) but I didn't want to make the main black guy be too stereotypical ie no baggy sports gear, dreads or facial characteristics that could be construed as being offensive. The only comment I got when handing it in was "Can you black this guy up a bit?" I just darkened the hair a bit cos I felt he was as clearly black as I wanted to go without veering into caricature. I quite like the girl figure though, again happy with the clean line approach...

Quite weirdly, I find myself in the unusual position of having to draw a self-portrait! As someone who avoids mirrors like a vampire, maybe I should take their cue and draw myself in the dark...

This week down at the vet's...

After a meticulously laid out plan that saw me travelling back from sunny Bilston, across to glum Brum and back to the splendour of High Wycombe in order to make a doctor's appointment, I was pleasantly surprised when my appointment was actually ontime! (Plus, I made sure I was early back into town just in case and had a quick pint of Fosters at the local Wetherspoons---for only £1.59! Bargain!). Anyway, TOP thyroid and liver are fine and all my sugar and good 'n' bad cholesterol levels are not only at recommended levels, they're well under! Hoorah!!

I bought a bag of Tate & Lyle to eat as a reward.

Next day it was my assessment at the head doc thingy. Turns out I have anger management issues. I denied that, called the doc an arse for suggesting it and beat her around the head with a piece of NHS office furniture. Oh, we LAUGHED.

Seriously though, I DID beat her up. Nah, only joking. Seems I have difficulty expressing or dealing with anger, inverting it instead and sending me a little loopy when too many things get on top of me because essentially I can't kick the crap out of everything or everyone who annoys me.

I have been prescribed a self-help book, may have to attend some anger management course and it's recommended I join two groups. If none of these work, it's one on one counselling. How much am I looking forward to group seminar things? About as much as Joan of Arc welcomed some flame around her feet. I could tell you about my one experience of a group therapy thing when I was a teen (which is actually quite amusing now) but right now, I can't face the thought of it. Put it this way, I ran away like Ned Ryerson (points if ya get that reference!) ((And don't Google or Wikipedia it!!))

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Doing A Changing Rooms

Well, viewed the flat offered to me today and really liked it. Kitchen's a bit pokey but the bedroom and living room are really spacious and there's tons of storage (seriously, one cupboard could be a bedroom for some sweatshop kid in the backwoods of Taiwan or somewhere), which is just as well as I have a ton of crap to house.

The flat is part of a complex still featuring aged tenants so the lettings are currently "sensitive lettings", ie hopefully no gits (but you can never tell, and there are still the general population around). I could have collected the keys today had I my ID and rent with me so instead tomorrow I will collect the keys ready for the slow process of moving in. I have just been accepted for an Argos card so can do the buy now, pay later thing, which is always a pain but easier than finding a grand all at once (especially with another NY sojourn in the offing).

Within the next few weeks, I shall hopefully be settled in and will pass on my new address to those who still use snailmail--think I might get my monthly ACE parcels delivered at my current residence as I'm not too sure about the new area yet. We shall see, but here's hoping...

The weirdest thing is, I'm writing my own tenancy agreement and setting my own rent!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Kung Poo! A Week In The Life...

Interesting, twisty turvy week...

TV-wise, watched Phoo Action, which was pretty insipid. Terry Phoo was great and there was the very occasional little moment that worked but most of it fell flat. A shame as I think it was execution rather than script that was at fault. Decided not to bother with Reaper anymore as it's fine but lightweight and should be screened at 6.30 in the Hollyoaks/numskull slot rather than primetime as it doesn't have enough substance to hold up for a more primetime slot. Still surprised to see I'm still watching Torchwood, which is so much better than last year. I think James Marsters' appearance kicked the new show into high gear and so far it hasn't really fumbled the ball.

Finished the Art of P Craig Russell. I honestly can't remember the first work of his I saw but it was fairly recently. I was aware of his name for years and saw his inks alot during the 80s but I think maybe it was his Ring of the Nibelung work that I first saw. The Art a huge coffee table retrospective book featuring loads of art and some fun anecdotes (like peeling all the lettering off his original art in the 70s and returning them to Marv Wolfman with a note saying "Here's your share of the art"--at the time, writers were entitled to some of the original art of the comics they wrote). Just as I finished, my comic parcel arrived, thankfully low on items as I still have a stack to get through. However, shall be looking foward to reading Modern Masters: Mark Schultz, another great artist whose work I love.

While not released until Feb 28th, I managed to get hold of the new animated feature, Justice League: The New Frontier this week. I've been looking forward to this for ages and wasn't disappointed. It's an adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's excellent series but the character designs sit somewhere inbetween Cooke's comic drawings and the animated Bruce Timm style. Visually, the film is great and the story is pretty true to the original. Kyle Maclachlan is not the obvious choice for Superman but works very well and David Boreanaz also surprises as Hal Jordan (as does Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen--there's some quality about Harris that I've always found offputting for some reason) but the real revelation is Jeremy Sisto as Batman. I've never heard of him before but bloody hell, his Batman is spot on and instantly challenges Kevin Conroy as my favourite Batman actor. Talking of the pointy eared one, one of the special features on the DVD is a preview of Batman: Gotham Knight, a new animated DVD that was originally intended as an extra on the Dark Knight DVD but has been awarded its own release. This is a series of 6 linked stories all animated by anime producers, each with a slightly different look. Could be interesting.

Anyway, the JL DVD led to a few last minute tweaks to Comics On Film and Television, the book I've been threatening for ages. It's basically ready to be formatted into a pdf now so once done, I can then print off a handful of copies (after I've done the cover too). On a similar note, I've been scanning in art this week as I want to do a one-off US comic-format gallery of artwork, a few bits people have already seen but what I consider my best stuff. Again this will need a new cover. I've even managed to complete another page and a half of Jock inks this weekend, although the crappy pens I'm using are still causing me problems. Really I should have cracked open the new pens when I needed them but I wanted to try and keep this sequence a bit consistent before I use the new ones on the next sequence. I think this was a mistake as I could have worked faster and better with the new pens. Oh, well, another learning curve...

This week I had to turn down an offer of doing an illo for a horror mag for a number of reasons but also had to edit down my Captain Britain piece for Back Issue! magazine. Editor Michael Eury liked it but at over 7000 words, it clocked in at over the maximum wordcount of 6000. He was good enough to offer me the chance to cut it before he would have to, so I easily trimmed it back to around 5800 words. The ideal wordcount is around 5000 so it may need cutting further, which will get difficult for me as I think what remains is mostly pertinent information. I could probably cut some sentences here or there but we shall see.

I swore aloud in surprise when I received an e-mail from old comrade-in-Fell, Andrew Pack. I've tried occasionally to find him online over the years with no success but it was good to hear from him again at last. Turns out he also lives in Brum now and knows our watering hole there well so may be coming to see us all---apparently he's already met Dave again, who he didn't recognise. Dunno why that would be as Dave's look is always slightly different depending on how much facial lawnage he cares to sport but essentially looks just like he did when I first met him--pissed. (Nyuk nyuk).

What has really thrown me a curveball is the offer of a flat. Even working within the housing department, I know what the waiting list for affordable housing is in this area (with local houses selling for £44000 more than the county south east average) so wasn't expecting anything for a good while. Where I've been offered is the edges of Chavtown but wherever you go, you can't avoid arseholes unfortunately. I'm viewing the property this Tuesday and could have the tenancy in my name this weekend (which is a bugger as I'm away this weekend) and I'm sure the property will be fine, it'll just mean a few adjustments to my routines. I'll be a bit removed from family (my nearest friend, Martin, lives about 10 miles away so otherwise it doesn't affect me socially) and conveniences like the cinema and affordable shopping but I can deal with that. My main problem now will be outgoings will be shooting up and while I could probably get by each month, my monthly sojourn up to the borough of Brum can cost me up to £150 when you consider trains, trams, taxis (local buses are too unreliable to budget travel time) and beer. I'm lucky I don't smoke and only drink socially but that's a heft of money I need to keep an eye on as they're good weekends I don't want to lose. The other money problem will be setting up the new home as I'll need essentially everything from curtains, carpet, washing machine, tumble drier, cooker and sofas (for visitors) to simple items like light bulbs, baking trays, tea towels and a toaster.

As such, I don't expect much time for drawing over the next few weeks and not much cash, but I'm sure I can cope---although having said that, I have to make an appointment with the psychologist this week! :)

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Comic Book Resources shockers!

Steve Gerber RIP --bloody hell!

Comic creator in gay porn snog!

Dave Sim's back!

So's Phil Hall!

Read all about it over there!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Timm Timmery TimmTimm, TimmTimm Teroo

I can see this being another lost week, artwise. Already tonight was lost due to poor service on the buses, that David Attenborough froggie thing in half an hour and discussing an inspection of my home from an inspector in my department. It's weird enough having your home scrutinised, let alone by someone you work with all day everyday! What does this inspection mean? Hmmm, could be a slight hiccup in my plans for a bit if my suspicions are correct...

Anyway, I got home tonight to find the last two Batman: The Animated Series DVD boxsets waiting for me at long last. I used to love this show and followed the "Timmverse" established here through to the excellent Justice League cartoon, probably my favourite cartoon ever. I bought all of those episodes and loved the crisp, clean digital animation so much I had to pick up the first two Batman boxsets when I saw them, surprised to find them over here as I thought they were only available on Region 1.

After a night's drawing or whatever, I usually watch two or three episodes from those sets, currently up to the second disc on the second 2-disc set. I have to say that after watching these episodes, I can understand why they created the current anime-styled The Batman (which won't be as anime as the actual anime Batman tying in to The Dark knight). While the sense of design is still great, the cast is exceptional and the writing superb, some of the actual animation is very dated.

Bruce Timm and co acknowledge this in their commentary, revealing how rubbery BTAS looks compared to the Justice League. This is true, and unfortuantely the DVD format picks up alot of cel dirt in some episodes (was ALL old animation like that?). The animation quality is a bit passe so I can see the need for a new version.

However, my favourite will always be the Timm version. Starting the shared continuity of Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League (which also ties into Teen Titans, which is so stylistically different as to not count as an official Timmverse series for me), the softer original Batman design was replaced by a harder, more angular look after the Superman show was launched and new Batman episodes were commissioned to run alongside it. This Batman was again slightly tweaked (different ears and blue highlights replacing the grey of The New Adventures Of Batman and Robin, as the revamped show was called) for the Justice League, where Kevin Conroy marked over 200 episodes as the Batman (including the three spinoff features, the Batman Beyond episodes and guest appearances in Superman and Static Shock, based on the old Milestone comic of all titles!).

Currently I'm really admiring the spangly packaging of the last two DVD sets, which are only available on Region 1. I used to watch What's Up Doc? (where I distinctly remember Andy Crane saying that us Brits were getting the first Batman episode even before the US) on Saturday mornings before the show was switching to children's ITV in the afternoon without my knowledge, meaning I missed a whole bunch of them. Currently I'm still recalling the occasional episode (released on DVD in production order rather than airdate, I believe) but I'm REALLY looking forward to the fourth set featuring the angular redesign. I've never seen any of these and if they're as good as the Justice League, I just may have to connsider the second and third Superman sets...

Just when you thought it was safe....

Only a day after the BAFTAs, featuring the traditional montage of those cinematic people who have died in the past year (Brad Renfro, when did THAT happen?), comes the sad news that Roy Scheider has died from cancer. While I can't say I'm aware of much of his work, and most of what I am were ropey projects (Blue Thunder, SeaQuest DSV, etc), the man was superb as Chief Martin Brody in the first two Jaws films.

Despite that rubbery dopey shark (one of the few times I think CG touchups would not be entirely unreasonable), Jaws still stands as one of the best movies ever made. It has a reality to it that is rarely seen in cinema today and stands as one of those flicks that works for me under my own classification of Movie (ie, fun entertainment) and Film (well produced intelligent fare). Scheider's portrayal of Brody is one of the greatest everyman performances on the big screen: flawed and heroic in equal measures.
So long, Mr Scheider...

Quack quack!

Went to the doc's today.

Boo!! Gotta have a routine blood test on Wednesday. It's not the test itself that bothers me, it's the milling around in the waiting room that gets to me (plus the inexplicable urge to make "You may feel a little prick"-related self-esteem/gay play on word jokes...)

Yay!! My doctor read my notes and told me I had problems with my boyfriend---hmmm, apparently I went in with blood sugar probs and came out with a different orientation. That doctor was actually struck off for being a perv (e.g. wanting to perform an internal examination on a woman who had gone in complaining of an earache) so my doc today actually confirmed that the first one had misread my notes and I was not in fact gay. I wouldn't mind but I've just spent a fortune on Abba CDs and leather chaps...

Yay!! I'm not depressive and not bipolar but have been referred to the psychologist to see if they can determine why I react like I do to things. It seems I fall into a pattern of behaviour rather than having an underlying condition so the shrink might be able to crack my code and make me not want to avoid or smash everything that gets on my nerves...which, let's face it, is pretty much everything. As a certain Mr Graves once said, "I hate everyone and think everything's stupid". Well, there are (many) exceptions to both statements---but I kinda agree.

However, anyone reading this is automatically one of life's superior examples of the human condition and is in my Book Of Things I Like---except for Scientologists: there's just no excuse...

A Distant Me

If anybody would care to take a look, my old Dark Tower pic (which I still like, despite a few niggles) is currently up at . I was expecting this to be posted under my username so was a bit embarrassed to see my name splashed everywhere, but it's still cool nevertheless. As mentioned before, it's a cool blog well worth a look and the only one outside of friends' that I check on a regular basis...

Thursday, 7 February 2008


To illustrate how dismal the local bus service is, I finished an hour and a quarter early today, saw a film at the cinema, walked home and STILL got in 15 minutes earlier than I normally do!

Anyway, after a few good trailers (Hellboy 2 and Jumper)--and one bad (Rambo)--I watched Cloverfield. Still don't know what the title means, unless its a connection to Central Park (unfortunately, I saw no hulking great monsters on my visits there). Anyway, I actually quite enjoyed the movie, after initially bristling against the camcorder device as pioneered by the tedious and atrocious Blair Witch Project.

After a jarring start (visually similar actors confused me a bit to begin with--although the two main actresses were both very cute!), the film becomes quite gripping, focussing on a small group of friends amidst the chaos rather than the traditional heroes vs monster. The monster itself is sparingly but effectively deployed.

As a result of getting home so early, I still managed to get some artwork done but after realising my nibs were flattening out and not giving the results I wanted, so I switched to inking some of the figures for Rol's PJANG cover. Using a larger point nib, I'm trying the clean line approach here (at least for the figures) and so far I'm happy with this illo at least. I can see a nice Steve Rude similarity in the face of the git on the left and this work in progress reminds me of spot illos I did for various zines back in the 90s, so hopefully I can learn to think that way in my drawing again...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

List three: Favourite Comic Artists!

Well, I threatened it earlier and despite not wanting this to be a comics only blog (I count two or three of my posts as being about art not comics per se, even though it is comic art--make any sense?), here's another post about comics. So, listed in alphabetical order is my list of favourite, FAVOURITE artists (bubbling under are other favourite artists like Art Adams, Frank Cho, Alan Davis, Tony Harris, JG Jones, Greg Land, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Alex Ross, Eric Shanower and Mike Wieringo--Tellos loses him points big time).

1. John Cassaday. I think I first saw his art on Desperadoes and have been following him ever since. He's slow but is one of the best visual storytellers around at the moment and helps make Planetary and Astonishing X-Men live up to their great scripts. FUN FACT: I have a Cassaday Elijah Snow sketch!

2. Colleen Doran. I loved her work when I first saw it in X-factor #55 (IIRC) but subsequent issues I bought for her work were butchered by the inker. Dave got me back into her stuff when he introduced me to A Distant Soil and I fell in love again with her clean crisp work. Her blog is also great reading and is one of the best sources of comic industry business info available. FUN FACT: Colleen Doran drew a head sketch of Liana in my ADS trade at the last UKCAC!

3. Adam Hughes. Ah, you see, Rol, he's number three! See what I did there, I went against expectations, I'm a rebel me! Yeah, I loved Hughes' work when I first saw it in Justice League and when I was close to quitting comics in the mid-90s when they went all rubbish, seeking out Hughes back issues was what kept me interested so thank/blame him accordingly. As a result, I got into the weird habit of buying anything just because he worked on it but gave up this practice a few years ago after wading through some interminable garbage just for a cover or pinup he may have done. Still, his upcoming All Star Wonder Woman (which he is writing, drawing and colouring) will be SO great to read! FUN FACT: No, I don't have any Hughes art but was credited as a source of info in the Comic Book Artist issue devoted to him!

4. Kevin Maguire. The first Justice League artist and still one who can get me to pick up most things he draws. Best expression artist in the industry!

5. Kevin Nowlan. Another artist who never produces enough but provides gold when he does, Nowlan is one of my top fave artists. FUN FACT: Kevin signed a buch of issues and drew a cool Dr Strange headshot for me!

6. Steve Rude. I don't know when I first began picking up Rude's stuff but I've always liked it, even the Kirby style stuff. I've been getting back into his work alot lately and feel that his style may lead me to some interesting artitic experiments of my own. FUN FACT: No original Rude art in my collection--although I do have some signed commission books and prints!

7. P Craig Russell. Another artist who I discovered as an adult but can't recall where, Russell's art is mesmerising to me, beautifully realistic and graphic at the same time. The recent Art of PCR is the next book waiting for me to read.

8. Chris Sprouse. Another artist of the clean line variety, what Sprouse can produce without the benfit of heavy rendering is stunning. See his New Men issues for some look at pencilled pages but his Tom Strong issues for his range as an artist.

9. Dave Stevens. Good god, can Stevens draw. No more to be said. FUN FACT: I have a signed copy of Rocketeer Adventure Magazine!

10. Adam Warren. I don't usually like manga and like Amerimanga even less but Warren sideswiped me when I read his three-issue run on Gen 13 Bootleg. His sense of humour has alot to do with his appeal but his art is also great, an unsung artist who deserves more exposure.

11. JH Williams III. Only his art could make me wade faithfully through Promethea each issue. Williams has yet to have a real breakout hit, which is a shame as he's one of comics' best current illustrators.

12. Technically two artists, Al Williamson and Wally Wood's work for EC's sci-fi stories are just great to look at. Both produced fine work elsewhere (Williamson on Flash Gordon, Wood on The Spirit) but for me are intertwined (since rediscovering the EC issues at Brum con last year) as comics' greatest SF artists.

FUN FACT: The end!

Productive weekend

Well, after spending the last week working on various odd jobs (see the projects post below, if you need help sleeping...), I decided to play catch up and trudged on through with some artwork and while not producing Jack Kirby-like amounts (well, Jack Kirby-like amounts NOW), I managed to get a few things done.

I managed to produce two pencilled pages of The Jock ready for inking, pencils for a cover for Rol and cracked two panels on two unfinished earlier pages. Comic pages are rarely easy to draw as each panel involves multiple variables but the challenge can be quite rewarding when a page is finally completed, even at just the pencilling stage.

Now the Jock pages I'm currently drawing are a bit tough: it's three people in a bandstand in a park at night. Surprisingly, the park proved quite hard: how do you make grass, trees, benches and lamposts interesting? Well, you don't but you can at least make them believable but do you think I could crack one wideshot? I'm still not satified with it but I managed to find my ref for the bandstand. Taking onboard advice from the Brum con, I'm still struggling to juggle the panel shots without resorting to a bunch of headshots, which I love drawing but are no fun for the reader. I'm still a bit rusty and the layouts are a few years old so I'm reworking things out in my head before setting pencil to page. Case in point, I had a headshot of Jagher, which I changed to a shot of him with a hand extended towards the reader and loosele sketched it in. I then reread the sketch and saw that Jagher was not supposed to react so I ultimately reverted to the headshot, presumably chosen just for that reason when I did the layouts years ago. However, on that same page, I again rethought a panel completely and it came out so easily it was unbelievable (detail here).

I'm still struggling with other panels though. I should have easily been able to start, if not complete, a third page of pencils but the number of times I've redrawn figures or panels this weekend because they were wrong was stupid. I still have a shot of Baby I need to work on and after unsuccessfully trying to find another answer to a problem I couldn't solve, I've just realised that I'm gonna have to admit defeat and redraw a Suzy head. I love her expression but I had to squeeze her arms into the panel and her head (always my starting point) is subsequently a little oversized. I'm hoping I'll be able to recapture the expression but typically, I bet I won't be able to.

On the flipside, I had to draw a shot of Johnny for another page and just could not get it right. Finally, I manged to nail it on my fourth complete attempt (as opposed to just correcting a specificc portion or element). It may not be perfect but it felt like bliss just getting it to the level of acceptable!