More Wonder Woman/Conan in Black and White

I’m not one to do rapid fire blogging but I seem to have a bit of flexibility in my schedule right now, which is affording me a few extra minutes to do this.  I also just received pages back from my inker, Matt Ryan, and I was blown away by his work over my pencils.  So I am super motivated to post them.

Let’s take a look at a few really nice pages from my current project, Wonder Woman/Conan.  Back in September I did post some of my favorite pages from issue #1, so it makes sense to me to start this blog with pages from issue #2!


This is page 5 and is the first shot of shirtless Conan.  It also offers a more casual moment with our heroes.  There is a lot of very nicely done cross-hatching on this page.


This is page 13 and one of my favorites from the issue (and not because Conan rocks Wonder Woman).  I love the way the figures and faces came out on this page.


I feel pretty confident you can figure out why I like this page!

Let’s take a look a some of my favorites from issue #3.


These are pages 5 and 6 and one of my favorite sequences from the series.  The story telling, the figures, the faces, the sharks and some tremendous brush work from Matt Ryan all work great together on these two pages.


Pg. 12.   When this is the second best splash page in the issue you know you have some good stuff to draw.  Matt’s handling of the background sky along with the rain is just terrific work.


This is page 13 and features a really creepy transformation panel of the sometimes lovely  and sometimes very disgusting Corvidae.


Page 15 is another favorite page of mine.  I really like the top panel.  Conan’s posture as he sits on the horse works nicely for me as well.


Page 17 has about everything you would want on a barbarian comic book page.  It also has more nice rain effects by Matt.

There’s nothing quite like the black and white art to get a real sense of the inking craftsmanship that is often lost in the printing process.  That’s all I have for now.  I will show more when issue #6 comes out in less than a month.  Cheers!

Future Quest Cover: The Herculoids!

I have been waiting over a month to post about this cover.  If you are my age or older you probably remember The Herucloids (if you don’t, YouTube it).  They were part of the Jonny Quest Universe that Hanna-Barbara introduced in the mid-sixties.  I didn’t actually first see them until they were re-running them in the early 70’s on Saturday morning.  Well, in case you are unaware, DC comics has re-introduced many of the characters from these cartoon shows into the DCU…..sort of.   They started with a limited series called Future Quest (featuring Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herucloids, Frankenstein Jr., Birdman, Mightor, etc.)  and then followed that with the current Future Quest Presents series. The former was one big story that contained all of the characters, the latter is a series featuring self-contained solo adventures. If you haven’t checked this out, you should.

Enough of the sales pitch.  Here is the cover to Future Quest Presents #9.  This book comes out in April and is the first of a 3-issue story arc featuring The Herculoids.  I am penciling the interiors with inks by Matt Ryan.   The covers, for better or for worse are all me.

I received an story outline breaking down the happenings in each of the three-issues.  Using this as a guide, I came up with my cover concepts for the first issue.  Here are the sketches I came up with.

HerculoidsCvr#1sketchA HerculoidsCvr#1sketchB HerculoidsCvr#1sketchC HerculoidsCvr#1sketchD

I produced 4 sketches for editorial to choose from.  They liked “A”, so that’s what we went with.  Now this story arc introduces a new villain so I had to do some character designs.  Since everything about this series is retro, I wanted the villain to have a retro feel as well.  I decided to pull out some Kirby influence and I came up with this design.

HerculoidsVillainFace HerculoidsVillainFull

It seemed to fit with the vibe of the comic, so it was an easy approval. With a definite look in my mind for the character, I started the cover.  I wanted the villain to have a more interesting and dynamic pose than I produced with the sketch and came up with this alteration in the pencil stage.


I went with more delicate cross-hatching than normal for me in order to get a different look.  I left the background blank because I knew it was going to be black with a star field on it.  No need to color all that area in with a pencil when you are going to do it in black ink anyway.


Staying true to my throwback training, I used a toothbrush dipped in Pro-White to splatter the star field onto the black background.

Unlike a lot of my covers, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with that nebula streak in the background.  Vibrant color!  However, I had no idea how I was going to handle the planet or the villain’s color scheme.  I was pretty sure I wanted to go with an orange or red face but wasn’t sure what that would mean for his costume color.


I tried to use a lot of the same colors in the background nebula that we would be seeing in the foreground characters to create a little harmony despite the wide array of colors.  I think it works pretty well.

After trying a variety of face and costume color combinations, I ultimately stayed with the orange-ish face for the villain.  Blue being the complimentary color to orange, made perfect sense as the costume color.  The trim color was hit and miss but I finally decided on the pale yellow as it worked well with the overall color scheme was not offensively bright or garish.

The other problem I had to solve was coloring the planet.  I found some shots of earth from space on line and tried to mimic the coloring of the continents that I saw.  A warm tan for desert and green for jungle or forested areas.  I used a brush with a splatter texture to blend the colored areas on the continents.  I did a color hold or fill on the holding lines on the continents and then added clouds using that same brush.

When I was done, the planet was too bright and was drawing the eye to it and past Dorno (the kid) in the forefront.  Although the planet looked really bright and had great volume to it, Dorno and the Herculoids should be the focus, not a background planet.  So I dropped a 15-20% grayish blue over the planet to knock it back a bit.  It worked and now the focus of the piece is where it should be.  Here are the two cover versions side by side so you can see the difference knocking the back the planet makes.

FQP#9CvrBrightPlanet HerculoidsFQPCvr

It is really the brightness of the clouds that causes the issue. I really do like the whiter clouds better and if I did a cover where the focus was the planet itself, I would go with the brighter version. But as previously stated, I felt it was too distracting and needed to be knocked back.

And that folks, is that.  Thanks for continuing to tune in.  Next up will be the cover to Wonder Woman/Conan #6.  I cover with another set of unique problems that I got to solve.  See you soon!


Wonder Woman/Conan #5 Cover Thoughts

Like I always say, “A new year deserves a new post” (actually this is the first time I’ve ever said that but now I will make it a tradition).  Today (or this evening as it were), let’s take a closer look at how I put together the cover for Wonder Woman/Conan #5.   Due to a deadline problem, I actually got to do the regular cover for this issue as opposed to the alternate cover which I have normally been doing.  I’m not sure that really makes any difference in the big scheme of things but it could be the answer to a trivia question some day.

I got a late start of this cover because I was informed just a few days before it was due that I would need to step in and do the regular cover for this issue.  I still managed to do a few cover sketches, however.

WW:Conan#5cvrsketchA WW:Conan#5cvrsketchB WW:Conan#5cvrsketchC

I could have easily gone with any of the three but “A” was chosen.  It’s interesting in that I had just finished the cover art to #3 when I had to jump on to this.  I didn’t really know what was happening in the issue other than a brief description.  As it turns out, this cover ended up being a not very accurate depiction of the contents of the issue.

Interestingly enough, my alternate covers are much more accurate to the content of their given issues because they are not due 3 months prior to their release date like the regular covers (because of the solicitations catalogue).  So I always have had the script in hand before drawing the alternate covers.

Side bar complete, let’s move on…

Here is the finished pencil art for the cover.

WW:Conan#5cvrrough copy

I knew the bird creatures would be covered in feathers, so I didn’t waste my time drawing them in.  I just put them in during the inking process.


I felt (after the fact) that Conan’s nose was little to thick (or big) so I went in with a little white out to the right of the bridge to thin it.  I also moved his right eye over just slightly in photoshop.  It’s always interesting the things you “suddenly” see after you have scanned a piece and are looking at it close up on screen.

As usual, I had no clue what I was going to do with the background.  It seems faster or easier sometimes to leave out the background but then that becomes a problem that has to be solved in the coloring stage.

I create masks in photoshop channels for almost every shape.  That way if I want to change the color of Conan’s skin, I just go to the mask channel with the “magic wand”, activate the shape, go back into the CMYK channels and change the color.  It is much easier than going in and re-lassoing a shape you want to color change.

For the background, I have discovered it is much easier to lay a color over the entire piece of artwork and then go in and lasso the foreground characters or elements (separately, of course) to establish their individual colors.  Once all of the foreground (and mid-ground) elements have been colored, what is left is basically a background color mask.  This background template has been created by process of elimination.  Now, the background color can be easily changed and/or adjusted by “magic wanding” that remaining “template”.  If I skip this step, I have to go in a “re-lasso” areas I have already lassoed (parts of the foreground elements) to create a background mask.  Which is not very efficient.

Talk about a massive sidebar…

Back to this cover-  I wanted to make the background seem like maybe a portal had opened up or a dimensional rift to allow the bird creatures in.

So I used a circular fade going from a very pale yellow to an aqua blue.  I then used one of the brushes (at a very large size) to created the wavy cloud effect coming in with the bird creatures.  I used the same color from the bird creature’s feathers in the cloud effects to establish some color harmony between the two.  The pale yellow from the circular fade also shows up in the creatures’ flesh tones as well as the highlights on Wonder Woman and Conan’s skin.


For a cover that had to be turned around relatively quickly, I am pretty please with the results.

As always, thanks for checking out my blog.  See you soon.