My Secret Universe is Living in a File Cabinet

I used to teach a class on comic book art at the local Pacific Northwest College of Art (one of my former “students” is a top animator at Pixar, so there) and a regular comment from my students was that they had ideas for a comic character or series but they were afraid to submit it to any publishers because they didn’t want their ideas to get stolen.  I used to laugh and say, most publishers would just as soon hire you to do your series as steal it and then hire someone else to do it.  Besides the alternative is keeping your ideas hidden in a file cabinet and never sharing it with anyone and that’s not a very productive or lucrative way to express your creativity.  However, I have come to learn that you can always sue someone for stealing your idea but it is the person or company that has the most money that wins the lawsuit not the person or company in the right.  That being said, I still think that getting your ideas out there is the only way you can have even the remote possibility of success with it and it’s certainly worth the risk of getting plagiarized.

I myself have a ton of fully developed ideas sitting in folders in a file cabinet out in my garage.  (I like to write out my ideas on paper before typing them up on a computer screen.  It’s just a more natural way for me to get my ideas down… and a lot of my ideas were created…ahem…before the mass advent of computer technology)  I’m digressing.  One might say, I have my own “universe” of characters hidden in my file cabinet.

As I have moved along in life and am now in all likely-hood closer to death than birth, I have realized that I am running out of time to get my ideas out there and published.  What have I been waiting for?  Maybe fear of failure, It’s hard to say but I do know that working to pay bills and taking care of your family becomes such a priority that doing “your own thing” often times takes a back seat or just gets plain forgotten.

I took the first step over 6 years ago when I came to DC from Marvel.  I requested an opportunity to do some writing/drawing and Dan Didio accommodated me.  In an attempt to fill a need in the DCU I created Garbage Man.  (if you haven’t heard of it or read it yet, dig up the two DC mini-series Weird Worlds #1-6 and My Greatest Adventure #1-6 and hopefully a trade paperback before the end of time)  So my first creator owned project was out there and published and part of the DCU!  And they didn’t steal it from me!

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About a year ago I started to realize that at some point the comic industry would be finished with me and I would have nothing to show for it except 30-40 years of work for hire and maybe a small pittance of cash in my bank account. I needed to get properties out in the market place that I owned.  So finally I decided to crack open my file cabinet.  The first idea out was Atomic Toybox.  I felt compelled to pursue publishling this series idea first because way back in 1999 I did publish one issue through Image Comics but sales were too low on issue #2 to continue it.  So the great people that actually bought that comic have been left hanging for 15 years and I have felt guilty the whole time.

So earlier this year I reached an agreement with Dark Horse Comics to publish Atomic Toybox as a mini-series!  So the “box” will be back in 2014.  I just completed writing the 4-issue mini-series and have plans to begin drawing it before Christmas.  I will warn you I have changed the title of the book to more accurately reflect the content of the story.  I now call it….JOHN CARTER!   But seriously folks, it does have a new name which I will release once I get the logo designed and copyright protected (we don’t want any unscrupulous publishers stealing it).

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All images from Atomic Toybox are copyright 2013 Aaron A. Lopresti, all rights reserved.

What does it all mean?  The Lopresti-verse will continue to expand in coming months and years as I simultaneously continue to pay my bills working for DC and others.

After the re-named Atomic Toybox?  Probably Kit Carter Galactic Ranger or possibly some other idea I created while in middle school.  Time will tell but I do know that time is running out!

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Why I Hate Double Page Spreads!

This may sound like sacrilege coming from a comic book artist but I really do dread drawing double page spreads.  I know what you are thinking, “it’s just hyperbole to create a topic for discussion” (at least I think that’s what you’re thinking) but it’s really a true statement.  It has taken years to form this opinion and it boils down to one word, PRESSURE!

I didn’t always feel this way.  I remember a time very early in my career where I was sitting in the bullpen at Marvel Comics working on a page from “What The..?!”(remember that book?)  I was in New York slumming for work and my deadline was fast approaching so I grabbed one of the free drafting tables and started working on my last page to that particular Forbush Man adventure.  Sitting one table down and across a very narrow aisle was a young Tom Raney (he’s probably still younger than me) working on an X-men double page spread.  Editor after assistant editor after intern after janitor walked by and commented on how cool his piece was and then walked by me and said nothing.  I thought to myself how cool it would be to be working on X-men and get to draw a double page spread!  Wrong!  (well, working on X-men is always very cool)

Here is what I have discovered in the years since.  There is a ton of work that goes into a double page spread.  Extra planning, extra layouts and extra pressure.  It makes it even worse if a writer gives you an image that isn’t necessarily inherently dynamic or deserving of a double page spread.  But even when an artist is given a fight scene with a lot of characters it is still not an easy task to put together a “knock your socks off” piece of art.

What angle is most dynamic?  Which character is most visually interesting?  How do you favor more than one character?  I think over the years I have done some pretty successful double page spreads and I have certainly had some misses that I would love to have back.

The bottom line is I rarely feel good about a double page spread when I finish it.  It’s only after I can step away and look back over time that I can accurately judge its success or failure.

Since this is an art blog, let’s look a couple of my more successful attempts (failure’s are so hard to look at).

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Dan Jurgens really set me up on this one from JLI #2.  How can you go wrong with this imagery?  When a bunch of superheroes are falling from a giant robot the right angle (low) is a no-brainer.   I put Batman in the foreground because he’s the coolest.

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Again, another big thanks to Dan Jurgens for providing a winning formula.  Anytime you can fill up half of a double page spread with an image of Batman, you can hardly go wrong.  Throw in a graveyard in the background and it really doesn’t matter that you have a non-descript “who is that guy” kind of villain in it.

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All right I caved.  Here is one that I don’t think is as successful as it should have been.  Judd Winnick gave me good material to work (JLI Generation Lost #24) with but i think the angle I chose was a little too pedestrian.  A lower angle would have made this much more dynamic.  I can’t remember my thought process behind finally choosing this shot but after getting it finished I know I had serious doubts and some regret.  A really strong image of Wonder Woman does help this, though.

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This is pretty successful considering it is Catwoman (issue #25) not dressed as Catwoman. (You can clearly notice the similarities to the JLI Batman spread.  I’m such a hack)  I could have had Selina laid out and diving to perhaps fill up the page better and give it more over the top superhero energy.  This is unusual for me because I actually liked it better after it was inked an colored than I did when I turned it in.

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This spread from Wonder Woman #23 is a good example of finding a way to feature both characters.  You surely don’t want to see Wonder Woman from behind here and you have to have the demon monster coming at the reader as well.  It does look a little “posey” but I think it is still a strong piece.

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I really like this one from Wonder Woman #36.  It’s dynamic, full of action and the background was easy!  It wasn’t a cake walk, however, as I spent a great deal of time on the figures because quite frankly, they are all that matter in this shot.

Just my opinions on my own work, you are certainly welcome to your own!  See you next time!