CONAN cover for Dark Horse Presents

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately but here I am writing my 3rd blog in 4 days.  I guess it’s either feast or famine so let’s enjoy the feast!  Last year around the end of May I wrote and penciled an 8-page Conan story for Dark Horse Comics here in Portland (Matt Banning handled the inking chores).   It will finally see print this month, almost a full year after I started and finished it.  Although I can’t show you any of the pages just yet, I can show you the cover and my steps in putting it together.

This was my first and only (so far) Conan story of my career and I wanted to make sure I put together a memorable cover.  I came up with a few cover sketches where I tried to incorporate an iconic shot of Conan and at the same time be true to the content of the story.  Here is what I submitted for editorial consideration.

ConanCvrAConanCvrCConanCvrB

I can’t say for certain which is my favorite.  I know “B” has the most action but Conan is also the smallest in it.  I might have leaned more toward “C” but was really happy to do any of them.

“B” was chosen and I took it to a finished pencil.

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I inked it with my new regular approach of using a brush along with some pen work.  I once asked Mike Ploog what he inked with and he said he used whatever was within reach.  At the time I found that answer incredulous but now I get it.  What matters is what it looks like when you’re done, not what tools you use to get there.

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After finishing up the rather detailed inking chores, I scanned it and colored it in photoshop.  I used my fall back basic orange/blue complimentary color scheme.  I had my wife help me flat the colors and then finished it up with my usual abundance of color layering.

I need to point out the background trees and vines were more modeled and rendered but the editors felt it wasn’t dark enough and that the characters didn’t separate enough from the background so I darkened it with a color fade which covered up most of the modeling work I did.  If I had to do it over again, I would go in and put some more detail into the background but then again, you’re supposed to be looking at the characters not the background.

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How long until my next blog you may ask?  I have no idea.   Until then….

Herculoids Cover

I’m not sure how many of today’s comic readers have any memories of Hanna-Barbara’s super hero cartoon universe.  So I may only be showing my age by creating this particular blog but I don’t think it is any secret that I have been around awhile so let’s boldly move forward.  I was ecstatic when I heard that DC Comics was finally doing something with the old Hanna-Barbara super-hero characters that I fondly remember from my Saturday morning youth.  Dan Didio and I have been discussing this for years, specifically the Herculoids, and when DC announced its new comic series, Future Quest, Dan through me a bone in the form of an alternate Herucloids cover for the first issue.

Let’s take a look at how this cover came together.   As always I did several cover sketches, mainly because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the characters.

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I thought maybe an action shot might be more interesting but the iconic team shot was selected so that’s the one I did.

Shockingly, I started by penciling the cover; but not without making a couple of changes.  I swapped Igoo and Zok so I could make the stone ape bigger.  (just between you and me, he’s my favorite).  I also decided to draw in a more “open” style to try and capture more of the original flavor of the animated show.

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I then inked it with a brush, mostly.  There is probably a little pen in there but nothing significant.

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I scanned this image at 1500dpi bitmap or line and then colored it in photoshop.  I didn’t go nuts on the color rendering because like the drawing approach, I wanted to keep the flavor of the animated series.

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I think the final product is my style but effectively filtered through the lens of the animated series.  Alex Toth (the legendary grumpy designer of the characters) would more than likely find fault with my take on his characters but I was only trying to impress myself….and my mom.

 

Remembering Paul Ryan

On Monday March 7, I found out that I had lost a dear friend in artist Paul Ryan.  I was shocked and hadn’t felt such grief since my father passed away 5 years ago.  Today, Friday March 11, he was laid to rest in his hometown of Hudson, MA.  Unfortunately I was unable to travel cross country in the allotted time to attend his service.  So on the day that his family chose to remember his life, it seems appropriate for me to do the same.

My wife Shelley and I first met Paul and Linda Ryan at a comic show in Seattle, Washington in the spring of 1992.  In fact Shelley and I were not even married at the time as we had just recently become engaged.    I was a terrible artist, a new-comer trying to break into full time comics.  Paul was already an established name in the industry with work on Iron Man and The Fantastic Four.  I had a few prints of Looney Tunes characters that caught Linda’s eye.  She sent Paul over to buy a couple of them.  We immediately hit if off and they invited us to join them for dinner.

We hung out the entire weekend of the show and at the end, Paul suggested we trade artwork.  I was stunned.  What could I have that he could want?  I know he was just being nice to the new kid on the block and I took advantage of it with only a little guilt.  I ended up doing a new piece of art for him since I didn’t have anything even close to decent to trade him.  He got the short end of the stick on the deal but with Paul, that didn’t matter a bit.  I walked away with two great pages and a friend for life.

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Later that same year we met up again in New York City and appeared at Fred Greenberg’s Comic Convention.  Our friendship continued to grow as we sat next to each other in artist’s alley doing our best to entertain each other and the jam packed crowd in the Javitz Center.  My clearest memory is Linda frequently helping my then pregnant wife make it through the pressing crowd to the bathroom.

We next hooked up in my home town of Portland, OR at Richard Finn’s Portland Comic Book Show in June of 1993.  As part of the festivities associated with the show we went white water rafting together as well as a brunch cruise.  After the show itself, Paul, Linda, Shelley and I went to a restaurant in Portland called the Brassiere where the tables were covered with white butcher paper and the patrons supplied with crayons.  We each drew crayon portraits of our wives and then Paul drew Captain America and I drew The Thing, and those we exchanged.  Later that night at our apartment/condo we were renting, Paul drew me a picture of SLUDGE (the character I was working on for Malibu’s Ultaverse comic line) holding a rubber raft.   I managed to squeeze an Iron Man sketch out of him as well.  Once again taking advantage of his kind nature to get free art.

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Later we met up in Philadelphia to do a convention and were victimized by a rogue taxi driver and a possessed hotel elevator.   One year Shelley and I flew into Boston, stayed with the Ryans with the objective of driving down to New York to do what turned out to be Fred Greenberg’s final New York show.  Unexpectedly the east coast was hit by a massive snow storm and we were unable to make the con.  The trip was memorable for two reasons.  The first was watching my wife eagerly shovel the snow out of Paul and Linda’s driveway as Paul and I watched from the warm confines of his kitchen.  Secondly, Paul got the grand idea of dropping in on a small, local, one-day comic show unannounced.  When we showed up the guy running the show flipped out to have Paul Ryan, Fantastic Four artist, at his show.  He gave us a table and we signed and chatted with many surprised fans all day.

Over the years we went to New Orleans, San Diego, Boston and many stops in between just using the cons as a reason to get together and laugh. Along the way, Paul kept giving me art. He even guest lectured for my comic art class in the early 90’s.  He and Linda came out to visit us and do the Portland show again and I talked him into surprising my class with some of his wisdom.  He happily obliged and gave the class a real thrill.

If you never met Paul, you missed out.  If you did, then you know what a great, friendly, generous man he was.  Paul will be greatly missed by all of us and I am just thankful that I had the opportunity to be apart of his life and be the proud owner of so many fantastic memories.