Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Daily Strip Update

Y'know, even though I have no exact idea of what my eventual daily (for a month) project will be, I thought I'd dig out my Travis Charest "Spacegirl" collection to have a look at his one panel a page format. I'll never be as good as him (look at the examples above for some great artwork) but I think I might change my ideas to a panel a day. However, this means that there would only be 20 panels (3 and a bit "full" pages) over a month so I might still keep to my original idea. The single panel looks much nicer though...

In the mean time, here's something else I've done recently....

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The day after I post that sumptuous Frazetta art---here's some crappy scribbling from me. I'm still recovering from that nasty bug but felt well enough to start laying out a page of Lonely Boy (Rol's Pjang script), only I realised I hadn't actually designed any of the characters. Normally I could make this up as I went but the script features a bunch of 13 year olds. Drawing kids is always difficult and I have no real experience doing so and as I'll be using clean line for this 8-pager, I have to make every line count. That's another problem as every line made possibly adds age to a face, so I decided to take a while to quickly sketch out a few designs and (no Gary Glitter gags here) feel out the kids, trying to get them looking like kids and not adults.
The girls featured are just exercises in hairstyles so I'll probably end up using a variety of them and while the faces for the kids don't really look 13 (the lower three boys being deliberately thuggy looking oiks so not exactly innocent anyway!), I'm hoping I'll be able to pull off the look with the body sizes. I'll either get to work tomorrow or on Tuesday after this weekend in Brum.
I've also developed another little side-project, partly inspired by Beano artist and Gilbert & Sullivan-defamer Laura Howell's page-a-day cartoon idea on Facebook (Travis Charest's Spacegirl collection is also partly responsible too). I'm hoping to use my lunch breaks to facilitate this little notion (well, after I finish reading the current copy of Back Issue, which I only started today so don't expect anything for a while) but I'm not quite sure of the finer details. I've already drawn two four-panels strips that I'm gonna photocopy and was initially going to use to try and draw an episode of a longer story each day. I figured five (days a week) time four panels over four weeks comes to 80 panels, about 13 pages if using the 60s six panel a page ratio.
Then I realised that I only have about 45-50 minutes from each lunch break (after munching through lunching while quickly whizzing about online) and that occasionally I'll have to nip off for errands down the high street. Then I further realised that while this is intended to be an exercise in "pure" artwork (in that it will only be roughly laid out before inking so that most of the drawing will be done in the inks without the benefits of any reference to fine tune details--so don't go expecting any cars or bikes but don't be surprised to find a story set in space somewhere!), I don't actually know how fast I'll be able to get a tier done. Lettering would probably be done after the art when I do the erasing of any pencil at home before I scan them in and post them online.
I'll have to see what my work rate will be like before I finally settle on a definite course of action: I doubt I'll be able to do a strip a day with such a short window of time, so I'll see what I can do then probably build up a backlog before posting them one a day. We shall see...
In the mean time, I'll probably post more stuff here Monday...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Toilet Inspections

Well, no sooner do I post that I'm fairly resistant to bugs, do I come down with a real nasty bugger. My sister called me yesterday to see if I could go round to help with an iPod (so no artwork was started) but I had to stagger home as I was feeling rundown, exactly like if I'd been on the lash. Needless to say, I ended up visiting the toilet a lot and was in bed by 9.30. I couldn't even do my ironing or prepare my salad for work, but as I was extremely tired but bizarrely agitated(couldn't stay in one position for even a minute all night), I had to call in to work and say I couldn't make it today.
And then I visited the toilet in a reenactment of a scene from Team America. I sloped off to bed, but I got up about 11.00 and lay on the sofa...daytime TV's pretty awful but I managed to concentrate enough to watch the Christopher Reeve remake of Rear Window, which is actually not bad.
At the moment, I'm still achy and my eyes are sore but if I don't try and be a bit active, I still won't sleep tonight, hence a quick whizz around the net. I recently deleted about five posts from the blogs that had particularly bad art and I think I may have deleted some stuff about Frank Frazetta too. Flicking through the Dave Stevens book made me check something in the Frazetta book, and again I was completely seduced by his artwork, the strongest of which is his romance work. The compositions and anatomical knowledge are superb and the story just flows with effortless grace. I particularly like the first panel/page, the figure from the first panel and the last panel of page 3 and the third panel of page 4.
Right, I'm REALLY achy right now so I'm of to lie down again for a bit...

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Lazy Day

Well, as touched on before, work at the minute is not just a bitch, it's the Alien Queen of bitches. Luckily (and touch wood), I'm fairly resistant to a lot of bugs that seem to go round but a warning sign that I'm getting rundown is when my throat starts playing up and I began losing my voice at work yesterday. Work's always an ordeal but I'm fortunate that as soon as I get out of the building, I can forget about it almost instantly but this year has been an absolute melonfarmer so far.
As well as lots of upcoming changes and uncertainty whether we will retain our jobs (not a good time to become "workless"--that's the new PC word that replaces unemployed and I can't see why) (and with environmental disasters, economic crises and various other factors coinciding with various world religions' forecasted impending apocalypse scenarios, I'd have to wonder if we aren't all heading off to see Old Scratch if there was no other point in history where similar events also occurred....), other departments are practically just not doing their work, resulting in pointless time-consuming tasks for us and the added kick in the arse for having to sort the crap out because nobody's been doing it before handing it back to us to finish off.
As a result, I had to have a few beers last night to recover because I was a wreck by mid-afternoon. After waking up with a slight croak, my throat is ok for the moment but I thought I'd take an easy day for once. I laid out an 8-page script while listening to Jonathan Ross (good to have him back on Radio 2) and then caught up with some reading. Te last thing from my monthly parcel to read was the surprisingly readable fantastic Four: World's Greatest hardcover that collects the first eight Millar & Hitch issues. The art was the main attraction for me and it's a great looking chunk but the script was also both interesting and venom-free. Millar has a habit of injecting a mean spirit into his work but this was pretty positive stuff.
The last few days have also seen a bounty of reading material plonking through my letterbox: I forgot to order a copy of Back Issue so ordered it from the States and it arrived the same day as the last Nexus issue I was after, a Wally Wood reprint comic (graced with a Dave Stevens cover, thus giving me the excuse to post some of his art above), and four Power Pack issues drawn by Colleen Doran (which are rather ruined by Terry Austin's inking unfortunately). A Flash Gordon collection (non-Raymond daily strips that I bought on eBay while going on my retro kick recently) also turned up after I'd completely forgotten about it (bit annoyed the Al Williamson Flash Gordon collection's been delayed) and I also unearthed four manga books I had stored away.
Somebody picked them ("Pretty Face") up for me a few months back in a sale from one the book chains and I started reading it to find out it was a semi-tranny (non-porno) series (gender swapping being a fairly common theme in manga, apparently). I gave up half way through the first volume not because of the subject matter but because of the same problem I always have with manga, in that it's so decompressed and shallow, it makes it hard to empathise with the characters and thus a pointless read. I'll keep them to one side and keep them for a bored afternoon. Still got the Dave Stevens book to read too.
Talking of him, I cribbed a ton of his art off the net the other day so spent some time renaming and filing them away on my PC (I love gallery sites as it's possible to find great work without having to shell out £2.50 or whatever just for a cover), plus I was going to digitally doctor some photographs for a gag but the resolution was so poor, doubt I'll get that done anytime soon.
Tomorrow, I'll possibly start the 8-page strip. Following the layouts above, I'll then draw the panel borders before proceeding to pencil the actual art (experience and the layouts mean I can usually judge the size of the panels I need without having to draw the art first). I'm hoping to do this in clean line so hopefully the inking won't take long but keeping to a simple clean line is surprisingly difficult and involves some problem-solving before the final line is laid.
Oh, and after a fairly positive reaction online to the legion episode of Smallville, Zatanna will be dropping by too, as played by the actress below...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Random Roundup Reasons

When i first started this blog, I didn't want it to become "just" a comics-related blog, but by and large that's what it's become. The reason for this is that I first avoided doing a blog as I never thought I'd have anything to say but slowly reading and posting on mates' blogs insidiously placed the notion in my head. After starting the blog, I slowly realised my first instincts were correct and that the blog became comics (and movie/pop-culture) based. Even though this has got me identified by name as a source on Wikipedia, I still don't blog about much else because, well, who's really interested in the minutiae of a fairly bog standard life?

I could write about my job, which has been an absolute bitch this year--despite being a lot more confident then I was a year ago as a medical problem has been addressed and I'm far more alert now, I know people have been sacked for bitching about their jobs online and I usually websurf during my lunch break and have to be careful what I do due to Big Brother (or Little Bureaucrat, to be honest) -- but there's not much humour to be wrung from the experiences so who'd be interested in a long whinge?

Or, I could write about my ordeals on the buses, which have seen me changing bus trips to avoid a specific bunch of gobby schoolgirls first thing in the morning when I'm still half asleep ("Fucking hell, yeah, I told her she was bloody shit, yeah, 'cos she was talking out of her fucking arse, innit?") and an overfilled trip home---I have issues with personal space and even though the trip is only ten minutes or so, I'm quite panicky by the end as I've been boxed in by a mass of strangers. I could go into my neuroses regarding people around me, but while it may be cathartic, would it be entertaining to read?

I was going to ask if everybody's keeping to their New Year resolutions but as I find I'm sticking to mine (well, quite often if not actually the 100% I should be!) by keeping them to myself (keeping them quiet gives an added sense of fun as it's kinda like a secret only I know--or care, to be honest--about), I can't really discuss mine (except my main resolution is to get more art done this year, so far doing well with that one!).

I was going to nick a thread from Newsarama or somewhere about posting embarrassing comic-based facts about yourself but outside of buying Liefeld comics in the past and the multitude of comic-related books and DVDs I own (which may still surface a s a post someday), I couldn't think of many more items to fill a list.

Hence, the random roundups...little nuggets that occur to me that are interesting but wouldn't necessarily support a whole post get bunched together as a single post instead. I have another post ready to go up probably the first week of February but there's things that need to happen first.

In the meantime, I'll be reading 500 Manga Heroes and Villains (only picked up as it was dirt cheap from the Works) before going on to either the Hawkman Companion or that Dave Stevens book that arrived this month---normally I let these deluxe items sit in their polywrap for ages until I get round to reading them (I find the pristine product oddly non-sexually sensual, and quite often I'll run my hand over the paper as I'm reading as I enjoy the tactile contact) but after that faux leather slipcase with the gold stamped art deco-style Rocketeer headshot staring at me all evening, I folded like a junkie on crack and ripped the bugger open to have a preliminary perusal through the actual book. Despite a rather bland dust jacket, the book within is crammed with great art so I'm looking forward to this tribute to a sadly missed artist.

Right now though, it's back to the mill for me as housing allocations beckon my way...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Random Roundup RIP: Number Six Feet Under

Well, jumped online to find the news that Patrick McGoohan has sadly pegged it at the age of 80 (not a bad innings by any means, but still...). Notoriously cranky, McGoohan's independent streak and support of the individual, as most evidently laid out in The Prisoner, still stands as a noble ideal. And at least he won't be there to suffer the new incarnation of the Prisoner...

Found some cool pics of the Smallville's Legion and have to say I'm pretty happy with them visually (minor quibble that Lightning Lad was always the slightly bad one not Cosmic Boy). Subtle inclusion of their insignias but then look how close to the comic the Persuader is! Looks pretty damn cool to me (oh, if only they had the budget for Tharokk or Validus!). The Persuader art is slickly inked by underrated inker Karl Kesel over lovely pencils from Terry Shoemaker, who went on to bother alot of X-fans with his art. Look at his early Legion art and you'll find some lovely clean artwork, almost Steve Rude-like...

Talking of cool old comic art, posted above (a bit so the detail can be seen) is probably the best page of comic art ever (rediscovered while perusing an Al Williamson collection recently). There are many notable comic images but this page is iconic due to the reverence in which it is held by artists and fans alike. On the special features of an EC documentary I have on DVD, Al Williamson lays all the credit for the piece on collaborator Roy Krenkel, who denied his input and said it wasn't right until Williamson added a few alien critters scurrying about. Still an awesome piece whatever the creative balance.

Finally, the final pen and pencil drawing I've worked on over the past three nights. Fairly happy with the quality of art, though obviously it'll be of personal significance to the person who requested it more than of interest to anybody else. She was happy with it and asked for a larger version! The amount of work that would involve (and repetition) aside, I had to explain that working from a smaller pic to a larger size could result in odd proportions and loss of likeness---the art would generally be OK but it may look less like the subjects (and the original was not entirely accurate enough for my tastes as it was). I don't like charging or taking stuff, but the hours involved in doing a larger version may require some incentive to drag me away from other art I'm trying to work on.
Labour MP Graham Stringer has said dyslexia does not exist and is a myth---what a tunc! He spoke after realising that alot of criminals are dyslexic and said that this is just an easy excuse and it doesn't exist. Well, naturally not being able to read is going to limit your opportunities (Lance Henriksson didn't learn to read until his thirties!) and create any number of complexes and self-esteem issues that could easily result in aggressive or desperate behaviour. Just today , a warden called into work to say that somebody she was showing a property refused to complete a required risk assessment form and left in a fury. Only later did we check her file and realise she was unable to write, not because she's dyslexic but because she was a traveller and had not been educated, so the results are the same. As somebody who struggled with numbers and maths for years before being diagnosed as dyscalculic (a term not even widely known now---I first read it in an X-Men comic as I was always referred to as being figure dyslexic!), I can say that this definitely does exist. I'm sure some people do cop out using that excuse but even though I have a mild form of dyscalculia, I still have trouble retaining memory of numbers for more than a few seconds (yet weirdly can recall back issue number details!). If I'm writing a phone number down with similar digits...something like 0878785443 or something would really throw me and I'd have to go painfully slow and check each digit before proceeding to the next. I won't even go near the old dyslexic insomniac agnostic gag...Dog! It's dog!!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Random Roundup Renewed

Well, the second year of 2009's nearly finished so I thought I'd best post as I haven't done so in a while. The main reason for that is it's been too bloody cold! Even with the heating on, I've had to resort to huddling up under a duvet for warmth. Typically, there's nothing on TV again (although I caught another Studio Ghibli film today and will hopefully catch most of another tomorrow) so I've been catching up on my DVD viewing...In Bruges was quite fun (Ralph Fiennes was a revelation while Colin Farrell had fun plying Father Dougal), Mirrors was dull and the special features on the Dark Knight were extremely disappointing---what's the point of featurettes on how impressive IMAX is before showing the six IMAX sequences (already in the main film) AGAIN when it's in a home video format that you'll NEVER be able to appreciate IMAX in? To counter this though, the Hellboy II special features are superb and tonight I'll be watching 30 Days of Night, which I got for my birthday a few months ago but have not yet watched.

One on my New Year resolutions was to get more art done, something easier said than done when this cold snap makes it so hard to even hold pens or pencils. I'd have more chance drawing in my bedroom really as the draught from the window vents (which can't be shut to avoid condensation and mildew problems) cuts right through the living room. I have to try and race to get anything done before I lose sensation in my fingers! To add further complications, I should have cracked open new pens for what I'm working on and so I'm stuck with dodgy pens on this job. New pens will be opened for my next project, a Pjang script, before I start on some samples again.

Just finished reading The Flash Companion, giving me a nice lull before starting the last outstanding book on my shelf that I intend to use to catch up on some letters. I also have another art job for somebody at work which isn't as quick and easy as the caricatures I'm usually tapped to draw but could be more rewarding.

I've also been expanding my comic art history a bit by taking a chance on sampling some work by Milton Caniff, whose work has never really appealed to me but the huge enjoyment I got from discovering Hal Foster's work urged me to try. I found a cheap copy online of the first Steve Canyon collection (originally printed in 1947 following Caniff's departure from Terry and the Pirates to own his own work) so gave it a shot. Rather than hoping my tastes would have allowed me to appreciate it, I should have stuck to my instincts as I'm really struggling with the collection and I've not even finished the second of the four stories! Despite a bold use of black with lush brushwork, the art doesn't wow me like Foster's or Alex Raymond's.
I can see Caniff's influence on a multitude of other artists, most noticeably Frank Robbins, John Romita's 50s work and particularly Jim Aparo (look at the Steve Canyon faces above and tell me that isn't the spitting image of Aparo's Aquaman) but while his characters are varied and distinct, they are usually stuck with the same bored expression. He also gave women unusually Frankensteinian cuboid skulls for some reason.The strip also suffers from the ventriloquism effect of most shots of the characters blabbing incessantly with their mouths shuts and from constantly recapping the plot and using the bizarre habit of calling characters by their full name in conversation, resulting in dialogue like "But, Copper Calhoun, you invited Steve here".

However, I think the format of the Steve Canyon collection does it no favour: in a change from the lovely hardcover landscape-format collections of Flash Gordon, the comic-format Steve Canyon collections cram four daily strips per page but also include the Sunday pages which are sometimes run complete but just as often spread across two pages as dictated by the running of the dailies. The Sundays are much more comfortable to read as they are larger than the daily reprints, which are legible but perhaps too tense to comfortably enjoy.

I tried reading some of the Canyon strips and decided that--as nothing was on TV--to stick the Flash Gordon movie on in the background. I think I made it to the scene where Flash kicks off in Ming's throne room before getting too absorbed in the film and putting the Steve Canyon book down. Derided by many, I make no apologies for my love of the Flash Gordon film--the casting alone (outside of bland choices for Flash and Dale--although both looked great) would give any remake real challenges to top and the plot is a perfect condensation of the most integral elements of the opening years of the Flash Gordon strip. The film's title sequence, using much of Alex Raymond's artwork, made me peruse my collections again and I noticed a swipe!

One panel from 1939 served as the basis for the first appearance of the Golden Age Green Lantern (as above). Raymond's art improved dramatically throughout his work on the strip, going from a fairly grainy style to the clean, elegant style of the panel above that influenced Mac Raboy's 20-year run on the character. Raymond drew Flash for less than half of that but rather than just focus on one successful strip throughout his career would also create other long-running features such as Jungle Jim, Rip Kirby (lasting 53 years) and Secret Agent X9 (co-created by Dashiel Hammett and running for 62 years!).

I've also been poring over the sci-fi art of Wally Wood again and have found a UK dealer that has a cheap copy of an 80s reprint of some of his work, as well as the very last Steve Rude Nexus issue I need...however, there's a minimum order of £10 and these two items are just shy of £4 and I can't think of anything else I'm after! I'm gonna have to rack my brains to see if I can think of any other item...I'd like to search for some Euro comics but would need to see any before I ordered them...

Anyway, a belated Happy new Year and let's hope that February brings the end to all these fitness DVD and begging ads, whatever happened to the holiday and sofa ads, eh?