Sunday, June 29, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 186: Dead Dog Comics Tryout page

Posting on time this week (actually starting a few minutes before midnight, so technically early!). Worked a 51 hour week, so no time to complete either of the current Surrealist Cowgirls projects, but progress has been made on both.
Meanwhile, one more from the vaults.
This was also a colorist tryout page, like last week's, but this time I got the job! It didn't pay, but I got the job.
While completing my BFA, I found an internship with a new publisher out of Hopkins, MN. They were called Dead Dog Comics, and run by the very optimistic and friendly Chazz deMoss. As part of the tryout package, I was asked to color a page from a forthcoming monster book (all of the line was horror books at first). This was the result.
Ooh, scary! Sort of.
This was done in late 1999 or early 2000, so I'm guessing Photoshop 6 or 7. In retrospect, it would have worked just as well as a hand painted piece, but they wanted digital.
I tried to keep it vibrant but not overbearing (though the image doesn't demand subtlety, anyone who know the work of Bernie Wrightson knows it's possible to do sublime horror illustration). The piece doesn't show it, but it is more than 50% gray values.  The light sources are a bit inconsistent (the only visible light sources in the scene are the candle and the window, but much is brightly front lit). In my defense, my first priority was to be consistent with the cast shadows placed by the inker. Not sure if this ever saw print. I also did some spot inking and digital lettering for them.  
The best of the job: genuinely nice people, very enthusiastic about their work.
The worst: the day I showed up early and the place smelled odd. I opened the microwave and was swarmed by fruit flies. Someone had left a dirty plate, food still on it, in the microwave over a long weekend. Once I was able to hold down my cookies, I cleaned it up and got out of there- no more work for me that day! Yikes!
The only real problem I had with the horror books was that one of them was blatantly misogynistic- a slutty woman being chained in a dungeon by the monster, who "eyed with bad intent" as the song goes. This was in one of the stories I lettered for them, and I did very little work for them after that.
Dead Dog continued for a few years. Last time I saw their stuff at MNCBA's Spring Con, they were branching into cop books, and the line looked more polished. I've not heard anything about them for several years, but I do wish them well.
next: Cowgirls!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 185: Supergirl coloring tryouts!


Another week of too much work, but still plugging away at the Cowgirls fairy tale and the other long-promised Cowgirls project. I really am plugging away at these things, as my energy allows.
Soon, my pretties, soon....
Meanwhile.
As I was filing papers, I found some pieces I thought long lost.  The first of these was a tryout page from the early 2000s. I thought I'd posted this ages ago, but a search of the blog says otherwise. Friend and sister Venus de Mars approached me and a few other folks to join a team of Photoshop colorists. The project was recoloring pages for DC's Archives series. I was given pages of Supergirl to recolor, along with scans of the original page for reference and a shared swatch palette. I completed three pages, but only this one survived in print, and that computer is long gone!
The process is pretty straightforward.
First, isolate the black in a separate channel.
Also isolate in a separate layer.
Use as baseline for making coloring selections.

Then go layer by layer, adding basic color. Go from large areas to specific.
Keep effects to a minimum. You're duplicating an existing color scheme,
not making a new one! Flatten colors to one layer when complete, but save other layers
until the page is approved, to make changes easier. The process for flattening:
make a new layer and press Command-Option-Shift-E to merge visible.
Be sure the black layer is not visible when you do this step!
Turn the black layer (line art) back on, do another Merge Visible and a Save As... Final.
Send to the boss and receive your accolades!
While the whole team worked very hard on these tryout pages and did some great work, ultimately DC gave the job to a different team. Still, a great experience, and it honed my Photoshop coloring skills (not to mention my attention to detail) a great deal.
Next: who knows? I'd love to get back to the Cowgirls, if I can get enough time off work! If not, I have more of these newly discovered backup pieces for your reading pleasure...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 184: MIllie the Model Meets Mad Men!

After a month of overtime, I finally found a couple minutes to go back to the drawing board.
Funny story on this one. I put a new page on the board, and grabbed 14 x 17" Bristol instead of the 11 x 14" I had been using for the Surrealist Cowgirls. I decided to leave it there and do something different.
One of my regrets about current comics is that there are very few licensed books, especially relative to the 1950s and 60s, when Dell/Gold Key had contracts to adapt movies and TV series as issues of Four-Color Comics. Though we've had decent comics of The Muppets, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who and Fringe, it's a pretty safe bet to do Sf and kid-oriented material. I've always contended that we'd benefit from comic book versions of House, Harry Potter, Brisco Country Jr., even Law and Order: Criminal Intent comics!
In that spirit, here's a pastiche cover involving a favorite series that's now winding down: Mad Men.


This was a fair amount of work, but it was fun! The final render of Mr. Hanover is a bit crude, and Millie's figure here owes something to Mad Men's Joan Harris, as portrayed by Christina Ross. In the comics, Millie was not QUITE so zaftig!
Also, I appear to have the color of Don's eyes wrong. I rather like the rendering of Don other than that.
Lettered digitally rather than by hand. The trade dress is also digital.
While centered in the 1960s, this is all over the place. Marvel Pop Art Productions was a logo that was used for a couple years in the mid-sixties, and Millie the Model was a soap-opera title from the late 60s into the early 70s. However, Millie had gone back to being a humor book by the time Marvel Team-Up had begun, which was long after the Pop Art logo!
I'm looking forward to seeing the resolution of Mad Men. I'm cheering for Peggy Olson to make it, more than anyone else on the series!
That's all for now. I will work on being a better correspondent!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) No. 183: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, p.1

Posting a couple days late this week, only because of working extra and not having time to complete the page.
First page of a new story. Haven't mapped it in detail yet, but it will probably be 6 or 7 pages when completed.
I'm going for a kind of dreamy feel on this one. Lost of things on this page I like. The environment in the first panel works well. I think Maggie's "sick hair" in Panel 3 is effective.
Maggie is usually the one who's more serious and together. In most of the Surrealist Cowgirls stories to date, she's been the caretaker when one's been needed. Like most people who give aid, she's not all that good at receiving it! It's also an opportunity for Louise to show there's more to her than her sporadic "ditz" role.
Constructing the bid and fire villages was fun. Birdhouses: well, that's obvious. But the firehouses are always burning, which will be made more clear later in the story.
A few technical issues remain. I will rescan before going to press.
Next: either page two, or that four-page thing I'm doing on the side.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 182: Surrealist Cowgirls: A Margo Short Story

As promised, here's the newest Surrealist Cowgirls short story!
Just a little two pager, giving some background on Margo, the Shape-shifting Mule. I see this as a sort of a Fleischer cartoon feeling, that strangely tense humor and surrealism, reminiscent of the Koko shorts.
I'm trying to flesh out the world of the Cowgirls without making it too heavy or complex. I want it to be acceptable to the reader, but I really don't care if it makes absolute sense. Carl Barks once remarked that his ducks were only characters in his stories. "The ducks and mice and Pegleg Petes of Disney's menagerie are all fairy tale creatures. To humanize them to the extent of explaining their parental origins detracts from their mystique." That's sort of the way I see the Cowgirls. I want their stories to be enjoyable and coherent, but if the world's magic doesn't follow some arbitrary set of rules, I don't care.
With that in mind, here's a bit of the story of Margo!

Louise's top is loosely based on Leetah's top from the first Elfquest story.
The scanner seems to be behaving well, aside from some ongoing logistic issues. Most of my work is larger than the scanner bed, so I can either scan in tiers and match them, as I did here, or reduce them on a Xerox and then scan.
In either case, we seem to be on track for posting work on a regular basis again. I have two more Cowgirls projects going right now, and a couple other things are tickling me as I work. So thanks for sticking with me through the drought!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 181: An Oz Sketchbook

TheBack in the saddle again. I picked up a cheap scanner. It will serve.
Today's offering: more sketchbook work. In 1998, I toyed with the idea of an Oz alphabet book for children. I was discouraged from pursuing it by peers who foresaw copyright problems, but did complete a handful of preliminary work.
loose sketch done while watching 1939 film
As a former resident of Judy Garland's home town, Oz has always been near and dear to my heart. My Mother had an old edition (but not a first printing) of Ozma of Oz, and the John Neill illustrations fascinated me. although it has my sister's name in it, the booke ended up in my library- quel suprise!
Somewhere along the way, Mother  also got an older edition of Rinkitink in Oz, which further inspired my young mind and heart. John Neill has remained a primal artistic influence. The grace of his line, couple with the energy of his figures, was quite a shock.
It does need to be said that the 1939 film was my first exposure to Oz on film. As has been documented elsewhere, it is far from faithful to the Baum book in many ways- plot lines dropped out, characters omitted, the silver slippers exchanged for ruby, and so on. Despite this, the film also had a profound effect on me, though I didn't see it in color until I was in college- we only had a black and white TV set!
A more successful sketch
from the same session
I was never a huge fan of Denslow's work on Oz, compared to Neill (and later to Eric Shanower and Skottie Young). I found Denslow's stylization odd and distracting, though it has grown on me, as evidenced by the sketch on the left. I think the Lion's expression works very well here. I also like the "big sleeve" design of the Tin Woodsman.
Really, more a playful take on a rather menacing moment from the film than anything else.
Over the years, I became more invested in Oz lore (not as much as some, but it remains a significant fascination). While my Oz library is incomplete, it does include such curiosities as Roy Krenkel's illustrated version of the first novel, Philip Jose´ Farmer's A Barnstormer In Oz, the Shanower collection of First graphic novels, and the oversize Marvel adaptation of The Land of Oz.
In planning the aforementioned Oz alphabet book, I completed a few roughs. Here they are.
Layout rough, proportions clearly need work!
The most successful pieces in this lot are the Glass Cat pages, one of which appears here. When I dig it up, I'll post the Photoshop and Illustrator created version of the Glass Cat page!
Another layout rough
of a favorite character
















A sketchbook piece, more successful than its digital successor!
I love the Glass Cat's attitude! I wrote text to accompany these pages, long gone (aside from the digital version of the Glass Cat page, wherever that is now in my mountain of old work).
I completed a mockup for a pirate alphabet as an alternative to the Oz project. This was also in 1998, five years before the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. There have been quite a few pirate books for children since then. So though the project was ahead of its time, it's now dated. Go figure.
Next: back to the Surrealist Cowgirls!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Original Art Sundays No 180: The Sharp Invitation

Well, technically after midnight, so not really Sunday any more. But I won't complain if you don't.
Worked a 55 hour week this week, so did not make it to the library to scan.
Here's a story I completed a while back to promote a class on Graphic Memoir that I was set to teach. The class was cancelled due to low enrollment, which made me rather sad.  However, even in this very rough stage, I felt like I was on to something. This work was previously published at the Loft Literary Center blog in relation to the proposed class.
I'd like to complete this work (I know, there are so many projects I've already said that about). Part of me considers much of my previous work- Tranny Towers, A Private Myth (not forgotten, only stalled), TranScending, the Squirell, Cat and Car short story- as prelude to this.





This art in this is beyond crude, deliberately. I've been irritated for some time by the praises afforded to "loose" artists like Christopher Iriving and Rich Burlew, creator of Order of the Stick. I now my work has its, ahem, uneven properties, but some artists don't appear to even try and have praise lavished on them. I mean, come on, stick figures are popular? So I thought I'd try to work a little looser, let go of some of the control. This is the result. A bit too far the other way, I think. I suspect my answer lies somewhere in the middle.
As for the story, I plan to execute sporadic short pieces and work towards assembling them. That seems to be my strength anyway, so why not? 
Soon: the long-promised Surrealist Cowgirls short, which has been completed for weeks now.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 179: An Unexamined Life

Wow, more than a month away. This new job really kicks my butt -working overnights as a caregiver for AIDS patients.
I have completed the aforementioned Surrealist Cowgirls short, but it turned out to be two pages, not four. I will be able to scan later this week.
As a placeholder, here's an editorial page I did for TransSisters Magazine, just under 20 years ago!
The emotions are a bit raw in this one. I was still mending from that abusive relationship I've mentioned in the past.
In general, I rather like this page. It was done oversize and was a bit of an experiment. The editor asked me stick to humorous material after this one, but as a direct result of this page, I also became staff cartoonist for the other major political transgender zine of the 90s, TNT News.

The craft on this one is all over the place. I particularly like the last image of the second tier, but the one before it is aesthetically painful. The lettering is wildly uneven. At this point, it was still more about getting the work - any work - out there than about any measure of craft, though I was too stubborn to accept that at the time.
I'll post some catch-up images later this week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 178: The funny animal/comic strip/comic book Enterprise

Missed last week's post. I was preoccupied with preparing for a new job. Many logistic difficulties- government forms, meetings, etc. Well, the job orientation is tomorrow, so we're back in the saddle again!
Working on a 4 page Surrealist Cowgirls story (and a couple fun Cowgirls side projects), but they're not ready to post yet.
As a placeholder, here's an airbrush piece from 1990!

The craft is rather crude, but it's a fun piece anyway. It grew out of my then-partner's love of both Star Trek and the Pink Panther.
Starting top left and going counter-clockwise:
The Little Mermaid as Dr. Beverly Crusher
The Tasmanian Devil as Lt. Worf
Omaha the Cat Dancer as Counselor Troi
Opus as Lt. Commander Data
Calvin and Hobbes as Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher
Pepe lePew and Commander Riker
center: the Pink Panther as Captain Picard (Captain Pinkard!)
So there it is. More pure silliness.
Next week: back to the Cowgirls!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Wednesday) No. 177: Surrealist Cowgirls, the Recipe!

Completed my blog post for another institution by deadline, details to follow. I'm finally making time to post a piece I finished over a week ago.
My vision for the Surrealist Cowgirls comic is much like the old Sugar & Spike comics: a great variety of content. So far, I have short stories, slightly longer stories, and paper dolls. I'm considering adding an illustrated text piece, more paper dolls and another surprise I hope to post soon.
Meanwhile, here's today's contribution.
As I've discussed in the past, I'm quite fond of comic book cookbooks, and of recipes in comics. To that end, here's a recipe I got from my late Mother, one I make a lot, for papaya and pumpkin stew!
There are a number of fun things about this page.

  • The Cowgirls get to wear slightly different clothes. I've pretty much had them in the same shirts, jeans and vests for all their stories so far. 
  • This was all done in marker, fast and loose.
  • I created the recipe card in Photoshop, rather than doing a printout and pasteup of it. If I do another, I'll try it the other way. This was OK, but had its frustrations.
  • I also worked a bit smaller on this one, on 11 x 14 board rather than on 14 x 17. The proportionate live area is 9" x 14"- I got to use my old proportion wheel! Hooray for traditional production tools!

Mother always called this Brain Stew, but I prefer to just call it papaya-pumpkin stew. I love it. I've served it at a couple potlucks, and people seem polarized on it- either you love it or you hate it.
Next: either more Cowgirls, or...