Monday, August 30, 2010

Mega Post part 2! Classics and Comics cover final artwork

So last week I told you all about a cover I recently drew for an upcoming book from Oxford University Press called Classic and Comics. The idea was that I drew several pastiches of famous superhero covers with the superheroes replaced by Olympian deities. I showed several such sketches, as well as their inspirations, but we finally went with Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman.

And below here we have my quickie sharpie marker sketch for my take on the cover, with Supes replaced by his inspiration, Heracles, and the various assorted random thugs replaced by various assorted random superfolk.

After we all decide that this sketch was the way to go, I penciled the image on a piece of Bristol paper. It's now a bit tighter than the sketch, and a few elements of the composition, like Herc being bigger, have been tweaked.

From there I went into the inks. This was inked with pen nibs and brush. I work from pretty loose pencils, as I like to do most of the actual drawing in ink-- keeps it fresher for me. Once again, there are a few changes at this stage-- like, where did that loose tire go? Folks thought that tire was confusing, as the car being smashed by Herc still seems to have all its wheels. I will point out, however, that is a detail from the original cover. Maybe Superman had a sidekick from Krypton who was a tire and got cut from the final story?

Finally, after I inked it, wonder-intern Evan Petersen did some color flatfills (basically tracing out shapes) for the piece in Photoshop, and then I went in and did the final color. And we're done!

Notice that the final piece has a lot of extra color space around the edges-- that's bleed room for when they print it up. I also left plenty of room for type elements, which the good folks at Oxford University Press will be handling. Hope you all enjoyed this exhaustive look at how I work!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comics classes by yours truly, at the Park Slope Brooklyn Y

That's right! Want to learn cartooning and comics from your truly? Starting September 7th, I will be teaching two classes at the Park Slope Armory YMCA (which has to be seen to be believed-- it's awesome sauce), cartooning ( for little kids) and Making a Graphic Novel (for tweens and teens). Check out here for more info, and how to sign up. Each session will run for eight weeks, and classes will be held on Tuesdays. I hope to see you there!

Mega Post! Classics and Comics cover tryouts!

So a few months back I was approached by the editors of a new book coming out from Oxford University Press called Classics and Comics about doing the cover. Classics and Comics will be an exploration of the influences, both subtle and less subtle, that classical literature and myth have had on comics, something that is pretty much the whole point of a series like Olympians.

We talked about a few cover design ideas, and I came up with the idea of paying homage to some classic comic book cover designs, but replacing the modern superheroes with their Olympian forebears. Here's a gallery of some of my sketches, as well as the images that inspired them. All of the original covers are, of course, trademark and copyright their respective owners.

First up we have the cover of Superman #1, which I was pretty excited for, as I'm both a huge Superman fan and the cover itself already has a fair amount of Grecian styling (the frame surrounding Supes, for instance).

I replaced Superman with Zeus for my cover idea, and Greeked up the city a bit beneath him. Looks like the oval frame surrounding Zeus is deflating, though-- must be all that electricity.

Up next, the immortal Jack Kirby's classic cover to Avengers # 4, the reintroduction of Captain America.

Here I replaced Cap and the Avengers with Athena leading an Olympian charge. If you look closely, you can see the pencil lines indicating where other cover elements would go. I'm kind of surprised looking at this now that I didn't put Poseidon in the little box that Namor the Sub-Mariner is in on the original cover. Lost opportunity.

Giant Size X-Men number one-- the issue that replaced the old order of X-Men with the new superstar team of Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler (and , sniff! Poor Thunderbird). I actually have attempted to use this cover as a base before, for my kids book Ker-Splash!, though after the publisher's sales dept. were done with it, it doesn't resemble its inspiration all that much anymore..

In my version, the old guard X-Men have been replaced by pre-Olympian deities like Kronos, a Cyclops and a Hekatonchieres (note that X-Men leader Cyclops is in the same spot as the mythological Cyclops. I'm a geek!). The all-New X-Men have been replaced by the Olympians.

I threw this one in as a lark, because I wasn't entirely sure this cover was iconic enough. It's been "homaged" like, a zillion times in comics, but I'm not sure it's old enough, has had the time to permeate the non-comics world as much as the other, much older comics have. A couple of my studiomates suggested doing this cover though, so I gave it a shot.

That being said, Justice League was one of my favorite books of all time, and it was seriously fun to draw this shot. My first feedback from the editors seemed to favor this one as well, so I was pretty pumped to try it. Ultimately, we went with a different design, one that was undoubtedly the best for the project, so I can't complain. I may do a finish of this one day just for my own amusement. Like with the X-Men cover, I tried to match some of the superheroes personalities with the god's who replaced them in my sketches-- that's why gloomy Hades become Batman, and trickster Hermes replaces the jokester Blue Beetle.

Which brings us to Action Comics # 1, the comic that started the whole superhero shebang. Probably the most iconic image of them all, and the first appearance of Superman.

My take replaces Supes with Heracles, on of Siegel and Shuster's inspirations for their character. The running thugs have become generic superpeople, scattering before the awesome might of the Glory of Hera.

This was the cover that won. Tune back later for a step-by-step look at the creation of the final piece.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finished page from Hades: The Wealthy One!

For your viewing pleasure, a finished (well, black and white, not colored) page from Olympians Book 4, Hades: The Wealthy One. The book opens with a tour of the Grecian afterlife,and here comes ferryman Charon to take you across the Styx. Hope you have a coin for him.

Carousel Slideshow at the NYPL! Wednesday, September 1st!

Come see me and a host of other talented cartoonists (Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Aaron Renier, Susan Kim, and Laurence Klavan) as we perform dramatic, multi-media readings of our work at the Chatham Square Library. Cartoonist Bob Sikoryak's ongoing Carousel Slideshows have been entertaining the cool kids for years, and now you get to see it for free! I know that the flyer art shows my book Journey into Mohawk Country, but rest assured, mythophiles, I'll be reading from Olympians. Come on down, the fun begins at 4pm-- you won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Persephone Pin-Up

Work has begun in earnest on the finished artwork for Book 4 of Olympians, Hades: The Wealthy One. In a few days I hope to have finished inks for the pages I've been slowly revealing from thummbnails through rough draft, but until then, I hope you enjoy this pin up page of the Dread Queen herself, as she'll appear in the back of the book and in the online family tree.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Guest Artist Gallery: Michel Fiffe

It's been an eternity, but finally, another installment of that beloved feature, Guest Artist Gallery (of the Gods). Up to bat this time-- Michel Fiffe brings his inky blacks and sensuous lines to his depiction of the primordial embodiment of Darkness, Erebus!

Confession time here: Even though Erebus is mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony (the ancient text which I used as the main basis for the story of Zeus: King of the Gods) I did not depict him. D'oh! Son of Kaos, brother to Nyx (the night), I plum just left him out in order to get to the "fun stuff" (Titans, Cycopes, Olympians) that much quicker. Luckily Mr. Fiffe is here to shed some light (ha!) on this (in my little corner of the Grecian universe) sadly neglected mythological personage. Well, not entirely neglected: Erebus features rather prominently in Olympians Book 4, Hades: The Wealthy One (which I am working on right now) but as a non-personified section of the Underworld. Its roots as a god of living darkness get nary a mention, except for here, in Mr. Fiffe's awesome illustration.

Michel Fiffe
is a very busy man. One half of the creative duo behind Image Comics Brawl (alongside previous Guest Artist Gallerier Dean Haspiel) he has also brought his wonderfully delirious sensibilities to the magic-realism drama Zegas and the stream-of-consciousness non-continuity strip Fut Miso, both available for free at the web-comic collective Act-i-Vate. Go read them!

In addition to his wonderful comics, Mr. Fiffe is also the editor, contributor and all-around main creative force behind the ongoing Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies, a collection of Indy cartoonists' takes on Erik Larsen's famed creation (even I'll be contributing a page! I'm drawing it now! Honest!).

I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. Fiffe's other passion, as (in his words) "interviewer of some of the world's raddest cartoonists". There is a term we use in comics, that of an "artist's artist"-- basically the sort of cartoonist who is so good that their fanbase is comprised, in large part, of other professional cartoonists who want to be half as good. Through methods both mysterious and arcane, Mr. Fiffe somehow gets a hold of these modern Titans and gets them to spill their secrets. Any fan of comics should give his interviews a hearty perusing.

Finally, I invite you all to check out this interview of the interviewer himself at the Graphic NYC blog. Aside form the insight into the artist that is Fiffe, there are several way-cool Seth Kushner photos of Fiffe at his other job, making awesome puppets. Where does he find the time!?!

(he really shouldn't have posted this on Facebook where I could find it)

Can you draw, paint, operate a camera, sculpt, etc.? Have a desire to capture the essence of your favorite figure from Greek myth and see it pictured here on this site? Send me a scan of your work, a few words about yourself and the piece, and I'll put it up!

Progress Report Hades: Rough Sketches

Last time I showed you all some of the thumbnail sketches for Olympians Book 4, Hades: The Wealthy One. Now here is the next step in my admittedly complex process-- the rough sketches, or dummy.

Now what exactly is the difference between these and thumbnails? Well, at first glance, not all that much. For starters, in real life they're much bigger than my thumbnail sketches-- about 5 1/2 inches by 8 inches, as opposed to my barely two-inch high thumbnails. They're also more detailed and clean-- they actually serve as my blueprint for the finished pages I will draw, so I try to fill them as much as possible with the information I will need. Finally, as you will see in the scans, they are actually bound together in a book (see the spiral bound in the middle?). That's the dummy part-- it's a little scale version of the finished book, with facing pages and all that, to help me and my editors to fully visualize the final project.

I tried to include some of the same spreads as I showed you in my thumbnail preview, so that you can see the evolution of the pages. Sharp-eyed readers will note that the first spread in my thumbnail post is not represented here-- that's because so much had changed between thumbnailing and roughs that they didn't even match anymore. Another reason for this extra step-- more opportunity for self-editing.

Hope you all enjoy this view of my precess. Next step-- finishes!