Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to Retire

The new job consumes my time. I can't believe its been two weeks since I posted last. My current comics project is going slower then I would like. Something's got to give, and this blog is going to be part of it. Yes, with a few books read I was going to comment on, and a thought here or there consuming my mind, and drawings being drawn... I leave them unshared.

160+ posts in a bit over a year. Hardly a record, but not bad. But that's it for the foreseeable future. I don't think many people have been following this, but there seem to be a few of you. Even more, for the sake of my own satisfaction and some kind of weird sense of obligation to the blog itself, I needed to check in and say goodbye.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Around Old Boise Town.

In Boise, the river is high. The ducks love it. But north of Boise just a few miles, we can see that it truly is the high desert here. In between, in Eagle Idaho, there is a charming coffee house in and old church building.

I've been back three times.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Comics in Boise?

So here I am in Boise, driving down Fairview, which is a super busy main arterial into the downtown area. (So busy that I was only able to get on it to inspect the distresses between 6-7 AM. I'd have gotten on earlier if the sun was up) and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature LCS, (and used book store). I went in.

Interesting. Total Android's Dungeon. Dingy, dark, and EVERY comic book was pre-bagged. Shades of 1995! Overheard a comment between the clerk (owner) and a customer, "Do comics still sell?"

"They're 80% of our business."

This amused me because 80% of his floor space was given over to used paperbacks. Hmmm?

I bought four books. Two from IDW and two from Image. I had never heard of any of them before.

They ALL were perfect manifestations of why comics have trouble pulling the casual reader. Each was part of some longer story... each a part of a story without providing a beginning nor an ending.... just a bunch of act two. And all were obviously a part of some large, complex story that the respective writers had worked out in great and loving detail in their heads... and probably should have written as a novel, rather then a comic book. All had sharp graphics, professional and contemporary cover design. All had seen an enormous amount of love and attention to detail in their execution.

I'll start with IDW.

Locke&Key by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos. This was the 6th of 13 issues. The art was careful and well detailed, and if not quite the sort of high energy line work I prefer, I recognize it was very professional. Its about some kind of body jumping demon, and given that its the middle of a story, not too hard to pick up on. They do provide a handy-dandy precis/intro on the inside front cover... but still, its the middle of a long story, and if you're going to hook people at this point, you need a catch. The art was professional, but not seductive enough.The hook in the story was, I guess, the mutilations. So daring. But not for me. Not world I care to re-visit.

Infestation by Abnett and Lanning, with art by David Messina and various helpers. Issue 2. This had more of a big two kind of feel to the art with the colorist dominating the linework, as has so often become the case these days. More careful, if staid, artwork. And even more pseudo-mysticism here with some kind of vampire-zombie mash-up/ secret organization and a big red guy with horns who wasn't Hellboy and managed to be utterly bland visually and in his personality. They seem intent of stopping some sort of hot chick bent on destroying four universes by becoming the same sort of combo vampire/zombie that evidently she is. Yeahhhh... no.


These were better, but ultimately suffered from the same sorts of problems.

Blue Estate by Victor Kalvachev predominately, with a couple of other writers and artists lending a hand. There's a beautiful painted cover that doesn't look like the artwork inside, although its by the same artist. The interior has the kind of quirky energetic art I favor and features imaginative color that doesn't overwhelm, and some memorable characters, or at least character designs. No mystical shit from what I can see. It seems to be about crime and sex and an inheritance. I might read another issue if I happened to see it again... on the other hand, its still only a few scenes of a story for $3.99. See more at their website www.BlueEstateComic.com

CarbonGrey by a whole bunch of people and I can't tell who is the driver, but this one I liked the best, although again, and more story for your 4 bux, but still only an episode. The painted interior art matched the cover and both were truly lovely. The digital lettering looked totally out of place and rather then puuling you into the story, it is distancing, reminding you that the images are paintings. I use digital lettering and its a godsend for me but it does have limitations and they are fully on display here. I was engaged and intrigued, but more than any other, this should have been a fantasy novel or video game. oh yes, its an alternate reality history of WW I with a quartet of (magical?) sisters engaged to protect the Kaiser.

I'd read the novel.

So. What have you read lately?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time to Pay Attention

If I'm to do this, I should pay attention to it. I'd thought, in coming to Idaho, I'd post about the last book I read, and I brought it with to have it available. I will get to it, I like to post comments about what I've read, and this book made an impression. But not yet. I'll post again.

What's like in Idaho? Less attractive than I had expected. I thought it would be hillier and more trees. Its flat, high desert. Its isolating as well. I work "with" other techs, but we work individually, and only communicate for reasons of work. No socializing.

I have work to do, outside of the work I'm here for. I"ve some comics projects and I'm pleased that I have managed to pencil 9 pages of a 22 page story in the first ten days. If I push, I may have it penciled when I go home at the end of the month. I also wrote a story, and found a publisher and artist for it in a matter of a few days.

I'm about finished with my first book, and have a second larger one to get started with. We will be going from four to one tech in a matter of a few weeks. Or maybe not. There will be others coming and I may not be alone long. But if I am, that's fine.

Getting to the gym regularly as well and I had a nice weekend with some in-laws. I'm learning my way around the town. I need to get out into the country sometime as well.

And now finding time to post. Things get better.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Greetings from Boise!

I am, barring a few weekend trips home re-located to a long-stay suite in Boise Idaho, from the San Francisco Bay Area where I have so long lingered. This is for work... I'll be counting the cracks in all of the roads of Ada County for the next ten weeks. And trying to get a 22 page story drawn while I'm up here. No scanner, I don't think, so no art to be seen. I will get home for Memorial Day, and my daughter's graduation from College.
The little kitchenette is about as much of a kitchen as I would want. I do have 30+ years of experiance in food and beverage, and can work in cramped quarters as I am very organized and clean as I go. I also have a very limited repertoire of food I can cook.It'll mostly be salads, sandwiches and oatmeal... but I have to reduce my blood sugar and boost my HDL anyway.

I have two laptops with me. One for work, and the other for this stuff. I have drawing paper, pencils and markers etc, and few distractions so no excuses for not doing the work.

Which I haven't yet done today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gatsby Samples Improving?

The bottom three look good, the top one is OK, the middle two need work. They become a muddle. But this is better then the character samples below. Improvement on the way.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gatsby Character Designs_ a Start

An early pas at chacater designs for The Great Gatsby. can you tell who is who? These could change quite a bit before being finalized, and I'm anxious for the writer's feedback.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Job

There's much about this new job I like, and with my first paycheck coming, I expect to like it more. But I am working long hours and don't have the energy I'd like to get some creative work done... and here I am screwing around writing e-mails and The Facebooking and writing a blog when I should be drawing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Advice To Comic Writers

I got a lovely script tonight. It was lovely for several reasons, but one of them is something that has been floating around the back of my mind, but had never articulated it before.

Most of the pages featured an even number of panels.

Let me explain. I often, so often, get scripts that predominately have five panels to a page. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily. My sense is that writers are striking some compromise between density and decompressed comics. An odd number of panels provides flexibility. It can work very well, but...

An odd number of panels requires the artist to make one(or more) panels larger and therefor more important than the others. And it may be that the one you have to give prominence to may not warrant it.

Whereas, and even number of panels gives you the option to make equal sized panels, or to make one larger as required. In the absence of some compelling reason to use a specific number of panels, an even number actually provides more flexibility.

One of my tricks for visualizing a page is to make a note to myself on the script at the beginning of each page. Many writers will indicate how many panels there are, but I go further and make a note as to how many panels there are in each tier, row, of panels. So: 2-2-2, or 3-2-2, or 1-2-3.

It may be necessary to make a panel larger because of heavy dialogue, more participants, it's an establishing shot, or a place for the key action. Whatever the reason, its good for the writer to be aware of these things, and plan for it. In the absence of this awareness, if a writer wants to leave this to the artist, then its more flexible to go with an even number of panels, rather than odd.

Or so it seems to me.

My Day At Work

Most of the time I'm looking for cracks and potholes, but today I got to look at this during work. Sweet! The Northern California countryside is quite green in the spring. Of course I screwed up again, and did and hour and a half of work that had to be redone. Paying attention at the beginning sure can help. A lesson to learn again the hard way. Fortunately was able to use the mistakes later in correcting them, which saved me time. I just counted the mistake time as my lunch hour. I don't charge for my screw-ups.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bluetick and Redbone Character Designs

I was asked to sex up the female lead in this story, from my earlier version. Well, she is a stripper in the story. I continue to be optimistic about this new marker technique. It incorporates the color into the drawing, and will save me scads of time doing the digital coloring.

Black Flies Hello Again

I looked up and JH and RH (no relation) came back to me with a proposal to provide 3d models of the spaceships to be rendered and used in the comic. It actually sounds like it could be feasible. Lets see what the models look like.

I've worked with 3d digital assets before in comics. I don't think they usually look very good for doing people, but for spaceships... it seems like a natural. Looks like I'm back in.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Black Flies Good Bye

I hated to do it, especially after the work that he, and we had put into it, but I told my partner I felt I needed to drop out of the Black Flies project. The propagating reason was simple enough... I simply don't draw good spaceships nor the industrial tech feel that we wanted for this project.

I don't like failing to complete a project, or failing to make a deadline even, although our only deadlines here were whatever self-imposed ones we chose. That attitude is needed to get things done. It takes a long time and commitment to draw comics, especially long comics. I've been doing short comics the past few years as I recharged myself to do another long one.

Black Flies isn't an especially long project, although it took longer to get rolling than I expected. But it was a project that I liked very much, and I think it could be a success, but it won't be, it won't even draw eyes, if the critical space hardware looks bad. And no question, mine did.

So why not buckle down and simply learn to draw better space ships? I tell myself that I want to re-invent my style into something more careful; why not carefully draw the spaceships? Just no feel for it, I suppose. Is that the same thing as I don't want to?

Maybe so, in which case I am catering to my whims.

Or its part of me changing and events not keeping up. Head Mechanics seems to be dead as well. I haven't heard from the writers in months. My enthusiasm has waned there as well.

I've told myself and others that I wasn't going to wait for others to give me permission to draw comics. I've always meant publishers when I've said that, but it applies to creative partners as well, I'm realizing. TD is making no real progress drawing a story I wrote for her. Black Flies and Head Mechanics have lingered for six months or thereabouts. I'm waiting on a writer for Redbone and Bluetick and considering doing The Great Gatsby right now, and my enthusiasm for that is high, but its going to take time.

Meanwhile my personal projects linger. Will Not Wrapped Tight die on the vine?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gatsby 001

So I finished reading Gatsby last night.

An offer has come up to pitch a graphic novel adaptation. Gatsby is still under control, so rights would have to be obtained. The publisher would have to like our pitch. Contracts arranged. Then we would have to do it.

I haven't read the book since high school, so I down loaded a copy to my wife's nook e-reader yesterday and read through it. Its a short novel, 114 pages. Hard to get it published today at that length. Seems like everything has to be 300 pages anymore.

The following are some of the thoughts about adapting it I just sent to the writer. Its a start.


For purposes of adaptation it does have the virtue of being short. I should think that the first step in adapting it would be to go through it and determine what to eliminate, or compress and what to use. And then, what should be described in narrative captions, and what should be illustrated.

Nick's visual descriptions will have to go from the narrative, of course. How Gatsby looks in his blue suit on the white steps; how radiant and endearing his smile.... I have to capture these in the art, and not compete with verbal images. On the other hand, some passages seemed to go by in a blur (perhaps it was simply late, and my attention wavered) but Myrtle appearing from the garage and getting run over seemed a bit vague. That may have to be elaborated a bit (and I'll need to re-read that.) On the other hand, these kind of transitions might best be handled by lifting Fiztgerald's passages almost verbatim as narrative captions and allow the dream-like passages to stand.

How to portray Gatsby's energetic, nervous motion, the foot tapping? This might be a little of both, verbal and visual. And of course the prudent use of silent panels... Gatsby looking at the stars from his porch, Nick entering the room where he first sees Daisy and Jordan lounging on the divan in white... this is where we can capture much of the mood. This is a book with ample room for silence.

In B&W, I've been drawing a lot using low cast light, shadows to one side of the body, light on the other, and this has translated to the colored marker drawings I've been doing. I like this for Gatsby, it suggests twilight and crisp early mornings and that seems appropriate for the era, this late partying crowd and the themes of end of the day and new starts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Color Sketches

Some of the colored marker drawings I've played with these last few days. Its promising, but needs refinement.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Daily Grind

The cover for a just finished small project, and very short story with an esteemed collaborator RL. Good little story, tightly written, and smoothly executed.

WonderCon Report

I went to WonderCon over this past weekend and have a few things to say about the experience. It was the kick-off for a new push in comics. I've been laying low for the past couple of years, going to school to re-train for a new job, and while the job I found isn't quite what I was training for, yet I am excited about it, satisfied, and ready to re-invent myself, yet again, artistically.

RL has been pulling me out on some small projects, and I thank him. Its been a good collaboration, but... but I'm anxious to begin working as a sole creator. And with a newly evolved style. I've been playing with markers lately, inspired by Darwyn Cooke's PARKER (see a previous post.) I've worked with markers in the past, and abandoned them. But this approach is different... not quite the way Cooke does it, but that's to be expected. My way will invariably be different. But it also seems to be working for me. I like the results I'm seeing, and it seems to be drawing attention while sketching at the Con.

One of the other great things about being there this year was that I actually had three of my books in front of me, and a poster for the fourth. the poster was a free giveaway and went over very well. This final book, The Grave Doug Freshley has always had the potential to POP for us, and I'm more optimistic about that after seeing the response.

I saw a number of people I knew, and met some new ones... you never know what can come from these things, nothing most of the time, but then it can't all happen or you'd be overwhelmed. If a few connections develop into something, that's serendipity. But it only comes from making the effort.

One possibility was a tentative invitation to come to Brasil as a guest of Rio ComicCon Int'l. It probably won't happen... most likely the contact will go home and come to his senses, but how cool if it does!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comics Review; Echoes

Went to WonderCon over the last week end. I didn't really do any shopping, but I picked up to promo comics from Archaia. Cyclops #2 from Jacomon & Matz, the folks who brought you The Killer didn't quite hit the spot for me, but the craftsmanship was impeccable. No reason for you not to like it.

I picked up the third issue of another title and anymore than this is best left unsaid. OK I will say this... there was product placement (bad enough) and it was so screamingly poorly handled, that I wasn't sure if the writer was completely incompetent, or it was a fuck you for being forced to include it.

What was good, very good, were the first four issues of Echoes (Minotaur/Topcow) by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal. I think they pitch it as a crime book, but for me it is crime slipping into horror. The pitch? A man learns that his recently deceased father was serial killer, and then the crimes start again. Is he doing it? The man has schizophrenia, as his father did, but he is managing it with meds. Or is he? By the time the big plot twist arrives at the end of issue four (of five), I'm not sure if its real or imaginary. Doubt is everywhere.

Ekedal's art is outstanding in black and white and gray all over. His drawing is naturalistic, and appropriately detailed where it needs to be, and his mastery of washes and tones is a master class.

Its not a particularly comfortable world to visit, and that's very much to Fialkov and Ekedal's credit. Bravo!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_006

Taking a third look at NOT WRAPPED TIGHT. Which is to say, considering a third character as the lead. Perhaps too influenced by PARKER at the moment, but the tough guy male lead is well trod ground and easy to make work.

I have characters and back story...its how best to play it I ponder. Of course, I've ignored the project for a week, but time to get back to it tomorrow, I think.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parker: the Hunter

I've been meaning to get to Darwyn Cooke's Parker books for a while now, and finally picked up the first one, The Hunter.

What a joy!

The story's good, but its based on solid material, so why not?

Of more interest for me was looking at Cooke's drawing, and his narrative techniques.

Cooke successfully transfers his cartoon/animation oriented drawing style to this hard-bitten crime story very successfully. The look recalls Eisner's The Spirit more than a little. He combines simplified rendering with a keen eye for detail as on the first page of Book Three. Its a single panel page showing a few items on a counter top. Cooke remembers to include wet rings from where glasses had been set. Nice touch.

The tones for the art are in blue, and maybe a bit too dark. Occasionally text is overprinted on the blue, and becomes a little hard to read. Part of what is nice about the way he approaches the tones is that they sometimes are captured by the black line work, and at other times are not... on occasion even becoming the lines, often for a woman's hair, giving a softer look. In another subtle usage, he draws the hinges for a door in the blue tone. Another example of a detail appropriately downplayed. It seems likely to me that he planned the tones right from the beginning, rather then coming back after to find spots to place them.

Narratively, Cooke blends dialogue, silent pantomime panels and lengthy narrative blocks to vary the texture of the story. Art can provide lots of information about setting and tone in a compact and dense way, but text can present activities, especially those designed to transition from scene to scene, in an equally compact manner.

Many writers want to "show" every bit of business in the panels and some of its just not worth showing. But combining these techniques a comic can be dense and compact, and not just something to flip through, done in a few minutes.

I recommend this for anyone who wants to see how a master cartoonist tells a story.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Newsarama Interview features DOUG

right here

The article itself is about web comics and digital delivery, but Archaia, and The Grave Doug Freshley feature prominently.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_005

I outlined the first chapter/story. Sixteen scenes intended for thirty pages. I left space for some of what I had written before, but mostly this was just about the action. The real story will take place in the narrative blocks. Not the dialogue really, although that should deliver some backstory, but the first person narrative of the lead character, Virgil DeBluer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_004

I need to hold myself to some of the same standards I hold my writers to. Do I know what this story is about? Do I know the theme? Do I know what is to be learned in the story?

I am thinking to break my newly revamped premise into maybe 6 stories. They could be considered as chapters in the larger story,but each one should contain its own three act structure and its own theme and resolution.

STORY 001: Why does the nebbish bachelor Virgil DeBluer offer protection to the young and lovely Egyptian princess Irisi, despite knowing of her crimes? I think the answer is evident in the phrasing of the question.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_003

Starting over on this project. What I have written was not bad on its own terms, I thought. But it wasn't giving me the comic element hat this title calls for. Much of what I've written so far can be salvaged and re-used I think. But I need to shift the lead character to make this work properly.

But that's what starting in can do for you. It shows you the error of your ways.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_002

This title calls for a humorous approach. Gross humor, black humor most likely, but humor nontheless and for the first 16 pages, I wasn't quit getting it. Instead, I'm getting a tone of wistfulness. I like it. It may be what this story should be, but its not right for the title, quite.

I had pushed the script out to 16 pages, and today I trimmed it back to 14, shifted the one bit of black humor to the lead character, where it belongs. The story moves a bit faster now, which I like.

It will probably require more editing, but I'm at a point I could call the first chapter, so maybe its time to do a bit of drawing... character design and such. Or more outlining, perhaps a beat sheet. Its possible to plan too much and not really move forward on a project. I'm glad I've got this one underway. It gives me material to push back against.

BTW: If you think this sounds like a terribly undisciplined approach, I might agree with you. For now though, I am just unreeling a line into the water to see what kind of fish I catch.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Curse You, Mr. Buttons!

I've been thinking about doing a bunch of short, short stories to have on hand for various projects when they pop up. This one just popped up. A one page story for a small anthology called Horror Haikus. Its not easy to write a one page story, but the writer A D-G pulled it off nicely. Fun to do.

Now to scan it in and tone and letter it.

Mercy Blade

And the second of my two vampire hunter romance action adventure books. I liked this one better. More action. More plot. the lead character is not in and of herself more interesting then the last one... or the Anita Blake characters for that matter. The characters have pretty interchangeable personalities. They invariably have some extraordinary powers that make them lethal to the bad supernaturals, and useful to he powerful (but good)ones. Sexually, they are good girls, or good girl wannabes who find themselves drawn into a web of romantic and sexual intrigue. These are, at bottom, romances... but Faith Hunter delivers on the promise of action that the other two authors mentioned keep to a minimum.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_001

Many projects are in flux right now. The two that I was expecting to develop during the early part of 2011 seem to be stuck in writer land. I was developing a third project with a writer I've worked with before when I got pitched by another writer to do something for that same slot. I caused some conversation between me and the two writers and the publisher to figure out what was happening,and most likely I'll doing the first project as planned... but developments could change that again, I suppose.

So while all of this waiting on writers was happening, I decided to just write my own story. And this is the elevator pitch:

After 50 centuries, an Egyptian princess returns from the dead seeking her warrior husband. Pursued by a ravening hunger for human flesh, both aided and hindered by an assortment of supernatural beings, she crosses the modern world in search of romance.

Fourteen pages into the script at the moment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blood Heat

Google Blood Heat, and one comes up with a lot of books not to mention other usages of the term. This is the one I just read. A year or two back I sampled Laural K Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Slayer books. I found them to be about 70% conversations about relationships, 20% steamy explicit sex, and 10% action. I felt like I was reading in a thick soup. and after several of these, was ready for something more astringent.

Maria Lima's book tends to follow these tropes closely, except that the sex is not very explicit at all. The other tropes of this sort of dark urban fantasy, as the genre is called, all seemed to be in place. A feudal relationship between various clans of supernatural beings, vampires and werewolves being the most popular although other types of were creatures are assumed as well, establishes the basic culture, with vampires generally seen as being at the top of the hierarchy.

There is a strong(meaning a combat badass)female lead, who likes sex (often with multiple partners)a lot, is herself partnered with a bi-sexual Master of the City (a king vampire)who takes on the role of co-leader through this relationship, coupled with her own innate and potent set of magical skills.

I would point out that science fiction has a long tradition of galactic civilizations being conceived along feudal lines, Dune, anyone? And the ass-kicking female lead who can go mano a mano with with male antagonists is popular enough in superhero comic books. Both of these tropes contain dominance/submission themes that are popular in romance and pornography, and the pack structure of the werewolf clans overtly plays right into this.

As an aside, I wonder how many of these writers recognize that the wer term in werewolf is a cognate of the Latin vir, for man, as in virile. They tend to use it to mean animal shape-shifters, and it is convenient shorthand, but actually refers to the human component, rather than the beast, which their usage of the term suggests.

As a final note, I would add that most of these books are written by women, for women. ts a popular genre to judge by the shelf space and number of TV shows out there. next I'll be reading Faith Hunter's Mercy Blade as continue my research.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Classical Painting Atelier

Author Juliette Aristides even has a name that's made for this approach to painting instruction. Aristides is an advocate for a return to the atelier method of art instruction, wherein talented students work with a master painter, who passes on the secrets of the craft, and teaches painting, sculpture and drawing from life, developing in artists an acute eye for observation.

This of course is how it was done for centuries before the development of art instruction in universities. And it has very much the virtues of teaching and progressing in an organized, coherent fashion with new learning based on the old. University education can be very much a hop-scotch of learning, especially in an era of underfunding and overcrowding. Students have to get classes when they can.

While this approach can and has in he past led to academic straitjackets on what is acceptable in art, current methods can lead to a lack of craft and critical acumen. A balance, as always, is needed. Aristides' arguments that traditional subjects such as still life, portraiture and figure can be handled with an eye to the modern sensibility, and retain the power to evoke an emotional response is amply demonstrated through the choice of illustrations, which includes paintings by old masters with student work from her atelier.

This book is inspiring me to attempt painting again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Is Jake Ellis?

The following is posted verbatim from a thread I've started at Panel and Pixel.com


It seems to me that we don't talk enough about the good comics we've read. Mia culpa, I don't read a lot. When I was much, much younger, I marveled at the Jack Kirby's of the world who confessed that they didn't regularly read comics. Impossible! Granted, artists can better get away with this than writers who have plot threads to pick up (assuming you do WFH). But at 57, I get it. And no, I'm not going to try and explain it. That isn't the point of this thread.

The point is, I do pick up comics from time to time, and I do look for things that have some point of interest. One so rarely gets a complete story in a pamphlet comic, that its almost useless to purchase based on that. But I'm an artist, and I do get excited when I see art... and more particularly, storytelling that works for me.

So the rule for this thread is point to a comic you read that was worth a look see, and explain why. No pointing to comics created by any of the regulars here. We know Marv is an eminence gris and Jimmie is a prodigy. We recognize that Russell has more talent in his pinkie than Michalangleo put into God's index finger. JAQ is a legendary wit and Derek is Proust. Jason and PJ are the new Stan and Lee.

What else is out there that we can learn from?

So the other day I was thumbing through the funny books at Comics Relief in Berkeley, enhancing the value of mere comic by dog-earring the pages. The stuff from the Big two features some impressive drawing, and absolutely amazing coloring. The development of digital coloring has fueled a style of drawing that is very open and sparely rendered. I firmly believe that colorists should be getting a hell of a lot more credit. They are turning forms and establishing mood in ways that inkers used to do. But the visual storytelling is uniformly flabby.

Enter, Who Is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmundson and Tonci Zonjic. The immediate impression is Alex Toth in his marker pen, Torpedo, Bravo for Adventure. Very spare drawing, complemented by equally spare coloring. Not monotone, but coloring is is only moderately used for turning forms. The writing is elegant... just enough to carry the story and characterizations without bombast. better than Toth's writing by a margin.

But its in the visual storytelling where this book really stands out. Staging, camera angles, just the right details, compositional variety... all of these keep the story moving along at a sprightly pace. If you want to see what I consider to be an an engaging, involving way to tell stories, check this out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How NOT To...

Most of my posts have been about my comics work, self-promotion really. But I also try to comment about books I've read, and the dearth of posts on this subject reveals how little in the way of long form reading I've been doing this past year.

I got this book, How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe as a Christmas gift from C, and its one I had looked at previously and thought sounded promising. Clever title, and the central conceit of time travel as tense had promise. The author introduced several characters, or at least character concepts that appeared likely as sources of humor or insight.They provided neither.

The book reads at a brisk pace. Yet it took me several weeks to get 80% of the way through the book. Some of this I attribute to my own malaise about reading novels these days. I am spending a good deal my intellectual capital on short for reading... mostly on my computer.

But in truth, I did something I almost never do. I quit. I had maybe less than 50 pages of reading left to do, and I put the book down and said to myself, "No more."
I even flipped through to the end to see what happened, and evidently something did happen, but I couldn't bring myself to care about how it happened. I just couldn't care about the central character, and I was tired of waiting for some plot development.

I simply got worn out listening to the narrator whine about his relationship with his father. As with the last book I read, Big Machine either the author was not in control of his metaphors and themes or they were too deep for me.

Frankly, if a book can't engage me 20% of the way in, I should have an obligation to finish it. 80% seems like I gave it altogether too much credit. Going in, it seemed like a book I would like. Somebody liked it... they published it. C plans to read it. Perhaps it will suit her more than me. I hope so.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

RVs Interview

Rob has a great interview on Inanna's Tears right here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Inanna's Tears Blog


With both The Grave Doug Freshley and Inanna's Tears coming your way within a short time frame, my respective partners and I are taking slightly different tacks in promoting these. RV has set up and arranged graphic design for a blog dedicated to our book, and I've posted a few images and comments already.

This whole promotions thing is something I'm still learning about. What are the best approaches and just how effective are they? More effective than not doing anything, I expect.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

They Are All Great Books.

Most of my books have kind of odd topics. Ramses and Moses. Flood myths. And with Inanna's Tears a tragedy set 50 centuries ago.

Moreover, my art style is distinct in ways that may never make me a fan favorite, although I will immodestly claim that it does have its virtues.

Inanna's Tears is the last of the four graphic novels I drew for Archaia some years back to see the light of day. Rob and I are elated, but also recognize that it is coming at a time that can be difficult for little known books. The same can be said for The Grave Doug Freshley, and Some New Kind of Slaughter (still available), not to mention Omega Comics Presents, Kagemono, Acts of Violence, Spinning to Infinity and your comic as well.

Archaia deserves credit for having persevered to get my books out. They take risks, and make extra efforts, and spare nothing to see that all their books receive the highest production value. I'm proud to be associated with the company, and of the range of material they publish, and for the way that they have supported my own odd ducks.

But seriously, folks, my books are all great reads, you'll love 'em!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Goddess Lives!

Just got the word that Inanna's Tears will be published next month, that's February 2011. May I say that RV and I have been waiting four years for this. It was the second of four graphic novels I drew for Archaia, the first, after The Lone and Level Sands of three that I drew in a little of a year of creative frenzy. Some New Kind of Slaughter saw the light of day about a year and a half ago,and The Grave Doug Freshley is >ahem< freshly available at Graphicly, as detailed below. And hot on its heels comes Inanna's Tears.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daddy's Girl Thumbs Up!

Also available is a short that RL and I did for Kagemono, an Australian anthology. This one was rather personal for my partner, and that paid off with a terrific review from the website Scary Minds

"Kicking off the book is one of the better zombie stories you are ever likely to read in Daddy's Girl (story Russell Lissau, art mpMann). Last time I reviewed a Kagemono release I mentioned that Jason Franks had perhaps been giving the zombie thing a wide berth due to there not being a whole lot more to say on the matter. Naturally Franks has left me with egg on my face, as Daddy's Girl takes an idea Romero hinted at and gives it an impactful central focus. Flowers and Skulls is worth investing in for this story alone kids, best zombie story since The Walking Dead enthralled us all."

You can get it here.

OMP 4 Cover

After about six iterations and varied discussions, we have a cover for Omega Comics Presents 4 coming from publisher Pop Goes the Icon home to The Utopian and other great comics. "L'ange De Bastogne seems to be the featured story and takes the cover slot.

Doug Press Release

the press release for The Grave Doug Freshley is up at Archaia.

Both ADL and RL have offered lovely testimonials.

Its Commentin'Time!

JH and I have added comments to the first issue of The Grave Doug Freshley, now available at Graphicly. (They've officially dropped he period in the middle of their name.)

To Many Little Things to Do

And several that I need to devote some real time to. A few are obligatory, but most are things I volunteered for. Those feel as real as the ones required of me, maybe moreso.

Finished the cover for Omega Comics Presents, which I will share once it is approved for release by the publisher. I would like to finish another book someday, I am reading two at the moment...

Need to go run a few errands now, et to the gym, and do the real thing I need to finish, or at least start while I still have a day off.

Days off. Always so busy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lifelike at Graphic.Ly

Lifelike can be found here

A collection of stories written by Dara Naraghi appeared on the web some years back, and then in hardcover from IDW and is now available at Graphic.Ly for a variety of platforms at only $3.99.

I illustrated two of the stories, apage of which can be seen here.

This stuff was all done some years back, but I gotta love the way Dara has kept it out there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On the Form of Digital Comics

One of my problems with the digital display of comics is that it tends to be an effort to adapt comics designed for print first and foremost to a medium that is markedly different. Digital features lower resolution than print; and while phones and e-readers came be both landscape and portrait in orientation, computer screens are overwhelmingly landscape, while traditional print has a portrait orientation. Hand held digital devices are mostly smaller than printed books as well.

Many of these new digital publishers advertise how their applications show the comic "the way the creators intended." And it is clear that the creators intended it for print. The result is scrolling around from panel to panel, either automatically or by hand, and popping individual panels out because they are too small to be comfortably read otherwise.

Now admittedly I'm old. The first telephone I used, you spoke to the operator and told her the number. I'm rather slow to pick up new technologies. But for me, scrolling and popping is not how you read anything, let alone comics. Your mileage may vary.

But I'm not so old that I can't think about how to take advantage of this new tech, this new medium, and create art that is designed for it, and takes advantage of the strengths and limitations it offers. This is exciting, the beginnings of things are where innovation can begin. It will change the form of the art, just as comic books changed comics from the pace and shape they used in newspaper strips. This is a time for innovators and thinkers to re-invent and have an impact on the medium.

So I want my digital comics to be clear and readable at a glance on a screen, large or small. Especially small, because if it can be read small, it can be read larger. For Okita and the Cat, I cut a story designed for print up into tiers of 1-3 panels, each intended to represent a kind of thought or sentence or exchange in comics terms. maybe it was just a reaction shot to the previous screen. Maybe it was a back and forth, call and response. Maybe it was an entire conversation. I made the text larger than usual, because the lower resolution wouldn't support text that was too small. But Okita wasn't written or drawn with this in mind so there were compromises.

I will be drawing a web comic called Head Mechanics for Serene Hamzawi, and another project with Josh for Longbox called Black Flies. And my thought is this, although I may have to modify it, as conditions dictate in the field.

Each screen consists of a horizontal tier of panels, drawn at 6x9 inches. The text should be large enough to be reduced to smartphone size and still be readable. The art should be simple enough to be unconfused at that size, yet detailed enough to look good on a device like nook color with its 7 inch diagonal. (I sell these, BTW) and even on something like an iPad or your computer monitor. These tiers could then be stacked, two a page for print. That results in a 3x4 magazine aspect ratio and may not be ideal. But it is possible and is intended as a secondary usage.

These conditions drive the way the story is written. Larger text means fewer words, so the writer has to be concise and the shorter duration of each passage, means that there needs to be... well not necessarily a hook, although that remains an important story element, but the completion/resolution of a thought, an idea, the way a sentence or a paragraph completes an idea in prose.

Just as the daily comics strip calls for a different pace of storytelling than a comic book (read a big chunk of Terry and The Pirates at a sitting to see what I mean, it has a lurching pace that reads well in small daily doses, but seems odd at a sitting) so this type of presentation calls for a different pace of writing as well.

And I find that to be an exciting challenge.

Now I fully expect that over time, this plethora of new devices will shake out and standardize, and we will settle into something perhaps different from what I am attempting here. These are still early days, but late enough that we can now see that comics designed for pamphlets translate awkwardly to the small screen and we can be exercising our creativity to adapt to the possibilities before us.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Change

Right Here.

Noel Tuazon's take on my bit of dialogue makes the emotional exchange crystal clear while adding mysteries through the character and production design.

So It Was Settled

Right Here

And Jason Copland's take on my short script can be found here. Jason just keeps getting better and better.

Other artists versions can be found at PnP Right Here.

Quantum Vibe

quantum vibe

Not my work, but certainly a new webcomic to watch from Scott Bieser, so I am sharing it with you. Check it out.