My Top 20 Favorite Covers part 2

Last time we visited my top 20 comic book covers (that I drew) numbers 16-20 plus a couple of honorable mentions.  So it seems only reasonable to address covers 11-15 in this the second part of my four part blog.  Why waste time with idle chit chat when we can jump right in.  This is me jumping right in!

NO. 15: Wonder Woman #26.  I have three Wonder Woman covers in my top 20 and this is the first entry.  It’s a simple but dramatic composition that tells the story of the comic.  I also like the color job.  (I’m pretty sure it’s Brad Anderson but don’t quote me on that if I’m wrong).

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NO. 14: Mystic #37.   The work I did on Mystic for CrossGen resurrected my flailing career and got me back in the good graces of Marvel and DC.  This is a cover that I elected to keep because my wife (she’s a math teacher) gave me all of the equations for the cover.  I also think it is a unique design that metaphorically references the villain she is facing in the issue.  Great inks by Matt Ryan and colors by Wil Quintana.

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NO. 13: Wonder Woman #23.  I love the composition and the super-hero power of this cover.  To me it feels like an old Marvel Comics cover.

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NO. 12: Marvel Adventures Avengers #2.  Man, did I love doing these covers ( I did the first 4 issues).  I got to draw the whole group on every cover but this was my favorite, probably because it was so difficult and it wasn’t your typical team shot.  Plus I got to draw the silver age Leader!  This is another one that I still have.

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NO.11:  Weird Worlds #6.  Most people are probably completely unaware of this comic. But it features my creator-owned monster comic, Garbage Man.  It was a 12-part serialized story that ran consecutively through two separate anthology mini-series ( first Weird Worlds and then My Greatest Adventure) I got a little criticism for it being too much like Swamp Thing…uh….duh!  That was the whole point.  Anyway, I only got to do one cover for the first 6- issue mini-series so I tried to knock it out of the park.  This is one of the first covers that I penciled, inked and colored.  See if you can find the storm trooper hidden in the garbage.

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Well, this completes the bottom 10.  Next time we’ll get to the bottom half of the top 10.

My Top 20 Favorite Covers Part 1

If at first it seems a bit self serving to list my top 20 favorite comic covers that I have drawn; just remember, this is my blog!  What’s remarkable to me about approaching this topic is I can’t believe I have drawn more than 20 covers in my career.  The truth is, I have drawn a lot more than that.  Shocking, I know,  but true none-the-less.

The real reason I am doing this, though, is because if you are going to have a blog, you have to have something to blog about.  In the absence of a viable topic I will always choose self-promotion.  It seems like a reasonable default.

So let’s take a look at the first two runners-up.  I know this is technically cheating but since they are not officially in the top 20, just consider it bonus coverage.

POWER CUBED #2:  There’s nothing clever about the layout and nothing original about a character montage but it has a dinosaur on it and I really like the inking and coloring I did on it.

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EXCALIBUR #8:  This is clearly a David Finch inspired layout but with the awesome inking of Tim Townsend, it had to get at least an honorable mention.  It is also the first cover I did for my Excalibur series at Marvel.

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Now on to the actual list!

NO. 20:  Rebels #27.  I like this one because I like the inking I did on it and I got to wreck the cover logo ala Walt Simonson’s classic Beta Ray Bill Thor cover (#337).  I also like the volume and 3-dimensional weight I was able to give the character.

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NO. 19: Wonder Woman Halloween Variant issue #35.  I like the vampires, the Dwight Frye-esque grave digger and the coffin of all things.  Really, in retrospect, Wonder Woman should be standing in an open coffin and there should be blood running down her chest where she pulled out the stake but nobody’s perfect.  Especially me.

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NO. 18: JLI #2.  My best cover of my very short cover run on JLI.  The cover job was taken from me and given to David Finch for reasons other than dissatisfaction with my work.  I’m still a little bitter about it, even though Finch did some terrific covers for my run on the book.  Anyway, I love the stark layout, the lighting and the dramatic impact of the piece.

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NO.17:  Power Cubed #1.  Luckily my creator-owned book sports one of my best covers. I really like the story-telling and the layout of the piece.  Your eye is directed right at the cube and you get a clear sense of the villains and protagonists and how important the cube is to all of them.

Power3headshot

NO.16: Future Quest #1 Herculoids variant.

This is probably a favorite of mine based more on the subject matter than the execution.  Pretty simple design but it still manages to create a little energy.  I kept the line work simple along with the color scheme to better reflect the characters’ Saturday morning origins.

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Since it is well past mid-night and I want to go to bed (old age….sigh), I am going to break this blog topic into 4 parts.  This then would officially be the #’s 16-20 portion of the list.  It stands to reason that part 2 will feature #’s 11-15 and so on.  It makes for easier reading and easier posting.  Really a win win.

See you soon!

Harley Quinn Variant Cover

I was recently asked to create an exclusive Variant Cover for Harley Quinn #1 for a comic shop in Virginia called Painted Visions and Comics.  This is only the second time in my career that I have been asked to create a specific cover for a specific comic dealer (the other was my DK3 cover) so obviously I jumped at the chance.  The book will be out the first of August 2016 and if you want to get one you will have to talk to the store.  But right now, let’s take a closer look at how this cover came to be.

As always we begin with the cover sketches.

HarleyQuinnAHarleyQuinnBHarleyQuinnC

Since I have fallen in love with the Joker ever since I saw Brian Bolland’s rendition in the Killing Joke, I had to include him on the cover.  “A” was the best concept but “C” perhaps the most desirable because of the inclusion of Catwoman and Poison Ivy.  “A” was chosen with the retailer requesting the dolls be super villains and the pictures on display include Batman and Robin.  Both were great calls and I incorporated that into the final.

Here is what the original pencil drawing looked like. You can clearly see the blue line underdrawing that is very common on my originals.

HarleyCvrPencil

 

As you can see the requested changes were incorporated into the piece.  However, I did add a French Bulldog down on the pillows.  They are probably my favorite breed and they are so goofy looking I thought it would be a perfect match for Harley.  I was quickly informed that Harley actually has a dachsund, so my frenchy was removed and replaced with a wiener dog.  I also added the “angry” remarks written on the poster since Harley no longer is in love with the Joker.  I almost added a drawn on moustache but I’m glad I didn’t since I was asked to remove the lettering from the final file.

When all of the changes were incorporated, I took it to inks.  I used mostly brush on this with some micron for the straight line work.  As you can see the lettering has been removed from the poster.  It is still on the original inked version of the work but not here on this scan.

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I then took the piece to the final stage; coloring.  This I did in photoshop.  This is how it first looked when I turned it in.

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At this point I was asked to change the pink background and remove the lettering from the poster.  I removed the lettering but was not agreeable to changing the pink background.  But at first, I did it because I am a very easy to work with compliant artist.

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I turned it in with a changed to blue background and the lettering removed.  Truthfully I just couldn’t stand it.  I thought the irreverent irony of Harley having a pink room was perfect.  I also felt that the pink would draw attention to the cover as it sat on the rack.  A long discussion ensued and finally we all agreed that the pink was the best option.  I solicited my friend and fellow artist Terry Dodson’s opinion and he agreed with the Pink choice.  I used this in my arguments with DC and it may well have helped swing the tide.

So here is the final version of the cover to be released this August.

HarleyQuinnPinkCvrFinal

All in all, I am very pleased.  In fact, this may be one of my best covers all-time.  For some reason I just think it works on just about every level.  I guess I can retire now.

 

 

Kit Carter…..Finally!

Yes, it’s that time again.  Time for me to start another creator owned book.  I am committed to getting as many of my creator owned concepts out in the marketplace as I can over the next decade. (Actually, the next 8 years but if you go back 2 that’s when I started Power Cubed, so moving forward this is still part of my decade of creator owned projects).  I figure in 8 more years my desire to work on two projects at once will be long gone, so I need to do it while I still have the energy and desire.

Kit Carter is my next personal project.  I have been producing prints and sketchbook material of the character for years, so the ground work has been laid out.  Now it’s time to move forward with it as a comic project.  I’m going to treat this differently than Power Cubed.  Kit Carter: Galactic Ranger lends itself to self-contained adventures more so than something like Power Cubed, therefore that is what I am going to do.  Single issue adventures.  Rather than killing myself trying to write, pencil, ink and color a mini-series in my spare time, I will do this project as a series of one-shot adventures, thus enabling me to get it out in the marketplace in a timely fashion.

I already have semi-finished pencils for two pages.  I am motivated and rolling along with it now and after I get burned out after one issue, I’ll be done!   It’s a masterful plan if you think about it (pats self on back).  Realistically, I think I can get this done by the end of 2016 and have it in comic shops in the spring of 2017.  I haven’t put together a publishing deal yet, so I can’t say who this will be released through.  Hopefully soon, though.

Just to prove I’m telling the truth, here is a couple of panels from page one featuring Kit and her partner, Rand Frontier. Is it a patnership made in heaven or one destined to quickly flame out?  No spoiler’s here.  You’ll have to pick up the comic to find out!

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That’s all you get for now.  Be on the look out for a Kit Carter Primer sketchbook.  If all goes well I hope to have it put together for Comic Con in San Diego.

 

Here’s hoping….

Indiana Comic Con Creations

I did it!  I finally did it!  I remembered to take pictures of every commission I did at the Indiana Comic Con this past weekend.  I’m not posting every single one but here are a good many of them.  These are all done with Copic markers.  Warm, Neutral and Cool Grays. (of course there is red in there where needed)

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There are a couple pieces I did in sketchbooks and I know some people like to keep their sketchbook stuff private so I won’t show those.  Anyway, this is a nice sampling and I am so proud of myself for remembering to take photos!  Until next time!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legends of Tomorrow #1 Cover

When you sit and think about it, writing and drawing a comic series and promoting one’s self on social media is at least a two person job.  Unfortunately there is only me, so something usually gets left out.  In this case, it’s the blog on my own website!  I just realized I hadn’t blogged anything in a month and only twice in the last two months.  If I was paying myself I would fire myself.

Oh well, good help is hard to find, so I will give myself at least one more chance.  So here we go.  Let’s take a look at the cover I did (with some help from my friends) for the premiere issue of DC’s new anthology book, Legends of Tomorrow.

After drawing the first two covers to  Metamorpho, I was informed that it was being absorbed into a giant anthology book.  Marie Javins (anthology editor) was kind enough to throw the cover of the first issue to me.

Anthologies are hard to design covers for.  You have multiple characters or stories in the book and no knowledge of the particular stories.  So you have to do something generic that still looks cool and sellable.  Firestorm is in the book and deemed the most popular and well known of the characters appearing in the anthology so he had to be prominently featured on the cover.  As usual I came up with several design sketches for the cover.

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The second one got picked and I was off to the races. Not literally, I actually just started drawing.  The finished pencil looked something like this (well, exactly like this).

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You’ll notice that I left room at the top for the logo.  Now normally I would ink this myself but being the kind generous soul that I am, I let Matt Banning ink it because he was inking me on the Metamorpho interiors and I wanted to show him some appreciation for the excellent work he was doing.  So he inked it and it looked fantastic as you can see.

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Of course at this stage I would start coloring but instead a gave it off to Chris Sotomayor, who was coloring Metamorpho for me.  He used his striking rich colors that he is known for and came up with this finished product.

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So here you have a nice collaboration between three people that produced a quality piece of art.  It is always exciting to work with good people because you get something different than what you would produce on your own.  Whenever I work with inkers and colorists I always tell them, “I don’t care what you do as long as it looks good when you’re done”.  That’s not always the case but here it worked out well.

Until I have something to say that I can’t hold in….Cheers!

Creating Warrior Nouveau

Here it is 2016 already which means the convention season is about to start.   With that comes the same question every year, new sketchbook or new prints?  Since I started making sketchbooks way back in 2000 (I can’t believe that the year 2000 could already be considered way back) sales have gone from great to steady to slipping.  Everyone and their brother is producing sketchbooks these days and have been for several years.  I think a lot of people, even art lovers, are suffering from sketchbook fatigue.

I have, however, noticed that a good collectible print will still sell consistently well.  So once again, I decided to skip producing a new sketchbook and instead put my mind to creating a couple of really “must have” prints.  To do this, I had to not only produce a good illustration but a great design as well.  I have always wanted to try my hand at creating something with an Art Nouveau/Mucha feel to it so that’s where I started.  I also know that I am best recognized for my work on Wonder Woman so I wanted to come up with something that would fit into that theme as well.  I hit my sketchbook and came up with this.

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I liked the figure and the staged but elegantly heroic pose.  The background though needed some thought.  After referencing some Mucha art, I came up with this.

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I was very happy with the background design and the figure, so I continued on and inked it with a brush and some micron work.  The original is 11X17 as is the final print.

WarriorNouveauB&W

Of course, the obvious next step was to color the art and create a border.  I did this in photoshop after scanning the image as a 1500dpi bitmap.   After converting the file to CMYK, I reduced the size to 800dpi and started coloring.  I tried to keep the coloring simple so to be more in line with what Mucha did.  I went back and forth with the background colors and the border color but eventually decided this version was the best.

WarriorNouveauPrint

And there you have it, my first print of the new year.  This is a signed and numbered print limited to 150 copies.  I will be selling it at all of the conventions I attend this year and it is also available through mail order.  It sells for $15 and if you would like one but can’t make it to any of the shows I will be attending this year, email me and for an extra $5 shipping you can have one too!

Until next time!