Monday, August 27, 2007


This weekend Liz and I drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee to spend the day with Chad and Jill. I met Chad at Heroes Con earlier this year, and he was gracious enough to come speak to my class this summer. I'd met Jill before with Chad in Nashville, but neither had met Liz.

First off, Chattanooga's downtown is extremely pleasant, and they have a GREAT used bookstore on the corner of 4th and Broad. I picked up an old Rafael Sabatini book, and they had quite a few other old writers that I like, including Farnol and tons of out-of-print Dumas books, but none that I felt I had to have right then.

We had breakfast and went to Ruby Falls, a cave system under Lookout Mountain.

Me, Chad, Jill, and Liz in the cave.

It was fun, though there was a lot of standing and waiting while other tours passed by on their way out. Chad and I both went nuts for this little underground lakey thing:

It'll probably serve as inspiration for locations in both of our books, so keep your eyes peeled.

Driving home, Liz helped me make an SPX plan. I'm going to try and have Giovanni in print (in extremely small quantity) and for sale, and I'm gonna have the minis I've already done - Goodbye Beard and Shoot the Moon. I'm also going to put together some portrait books. The first is going to be Authors of Adventure Novels. I've finished all but one, Russell Thorndike (author of the Doctor Syn books), because I've spent hours looking for a picture of him online with nothing to show for it.

Here are two of the new ones:

James Fenimore Cooper, author of the Leatherstocking Tales:

Baroness Orczy, author of the Scarlet Pimpernel novels:

In addition to working on Crogan's I'm going to try and do 5 portraits a day as a warm-up. Hopefully I'll have a few mini-comic portrait book volumes come October.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Elisha and the She-Bears

In trying to come up with a good silent comic, I started thumbnailing out an interpretation of the Bible story about Elisha and the She-Bears. Not familiar with that one? It was always one of my favorites. From 2 Kings 2:23-24:

"...as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead! So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths."

The sheer wantonness of Elisha's vengeance for teenagers/children making fun of his lack of hair always struck me as horrifically macabre and somewhat hilarious. Until I started trying to draw it:

Now I'm not as much of a fan. I've abandoned the project, as drawing a bunch of middle schoolers getting mauled by bears is an emotionally taxing experience, and is probably not all that psychologically healthy. Don't want to give myself whatever the artist version of PTDS if I can help it.

Which means I'm still at square one. No good ideas. Crogan's is back on track, but I'll be hornswaggled if I can think of any non-swashbucklery comic ideas. I want some stuff for SPX, which is only six or seven weeks away, and the SCAD anthology is having a contest with a scholarship prize that would cover my last two quarters. Grr!

Liz and I are going to Chattanooga on Saturday to spend the day with Chad Thomas and his girlfriend Jill. Hopefully talking with him and spending the day away from the drawing desk will help me come up with some ideas.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A few ink drawings

I did some small drawings today. The last one is on a 5x7 piece of Bristol, the others are three inches tall and of varying widths. Oh, the Creepy German Flying Ace I did last week or sometime thereabouts. The others I did today.

Liz gets home tomorrow! With temperatures of a hundred degrees, I'm looking forward to having a car, rather than walking everywhere. Got a hat though, to keep my cooler; it's somewhere between a panama hat and a straw hat. Also, I've been listening to Rilo Kiley a lot lately. Can't stress how much I love that band, and the members' side projects.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This page took me twelve dang hours to ink

To start off this missive, I did a picture of Dean Trippe's Butterfly. I was reading Drew Weing's Journal Comics (somewhat famous in the comics world for being very good) for the first time (I'm late to everything) and Dean was in them here and there. That reminded me that I'd been wanting to do a butterfly drawing for a while now. Here 'tis!

Man! Cartooning has become REALLY hard and stressful over the past few weeks. I'm doing that "try and make everything as perfect as possible" thing with my pages, and as a result they undergo a ridiculous amount of revisions. If the speed at which many of my friends and contemporaries work is to be the standard, then I work very fast; this page (well, the last panel), however, went through no fewer than a dozen significant changes and redraws, and rather than finding myself occupied for the usual hour or two of inking, I've been at it for nearly a half-day, from 11am this morning until 10:30 tonight. This is in addition to the hours I've spent thumbnailing and planning said page, so all in all this is probably a 24-hour panel. Disappointingly, though, it seems no more special than any other panel I've done, though I suppose that is good; I wouldn't want it to stand out and pull the reader from the narrative. The final page looks as you see it here, though the last panel has four layers of glued paper and a LOT of white acrylic paint slathered on, and all of these additions have been drawn upon, in many instances more than once. Anyone who thinks me infallible (no one comes to mind) would have their faith sorely tested by seeing this collage of inkwork.

Here's the page, though without the first panel. Though satisfactorily completed, it gives away a plot point better kept under wraps, and remains hidden lest your future reading experience be marred by knowledge of things to come.

I find myself continuously tweaking the dialogue, rearranging phrases, removing words, taking things in a slightly different direction, eliminating unnecessary information, and other steps of that nature. As panels and pages must be redrawn to accommodate these changes, it is harder and harder for me to jump into the inks, knowing as I do that they will likely be but the first of what should be a one-time exercise. So I'm trying more and more to tighten my thumbnails.

For those of you who don't like shop-talk, sorry for such a boring and indulgent entry! Here's another drawing to make it a little more worth your while:

It's the Captain Alatriste character I mentioned in the previous blog.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Back to the Thumbnailing Board

Although I thought I was well along on my pencils, turns out I'm gonna have to do some reworking. I was going over them with Shawn Crystal and he pointed out that I wasn't directing; I was showing part of this particular scene with no narrative decisions (just a flat, straightforward portrayal of the action and dialogue), and as a result the reader doesn't know whether to be concerned, relieved, etc... and he was 100% right. I'm not pushing my angles in this scene, I'm not playing with action or body language, I'm not using my "camera," I'm just not using all the storytelling elements at my disposal, and I'm gonna have to rework the latter part of this scene (the preceding pages are fine).

Here's a page which will most likely never be seen; a few panels might make it out, but the rest... ces la vie.

The little ship (while in reality being far more menacing and dangerous than its cumbersome counterpart) doesn't look like much of a threat, and its diminutive appearance in the wide shot sort of negates the intended impact of its own arrival. Setting up that shot was a real pain, though. There also needs to be more going on aboard the larger ship to build tension for the (probably murderous) consequences of the smaller ship's arrival. Anyway, the next few days will be a "back to the drawing board" type of deal.

Liz looked extra cute today when she came home from work, so I drew a picture of her. She was wearing a black dress that apparently she's had for a while but that I don't remember seeing.

And, as usual, research excites me. As I read further back from the period on which I'm working in order to gain a better comprehensive overview of that period, I start to get into the aforementioned preceding timeframe. Now I'm considering pushing the Crogan family tree back to the early 1600s, but if I do that I likely won't stop. If I focus on the Baroque then I'll want to get into the Elizabethan, which segues oh so smoothly into the whole Henry VIII stuff, with the Irish rebellions and the dissolutions of the Monasteries, and if you're doing Henry then you may as well play up the intrigue of the whole Tudor transition, and then you're smack in the medieval, and how can you avoid those delectable Crusader possibilities? It's a slippery slope, to be sure; the family tree is going to be poster-sized before long and I'll be stuck making Crogan books for the next seventy years... but that probably wouldn't be so bad.

Here's a sketch I did in studio today: a potential villain for a Baroque-era Crogan who serves as a diplomatic envoy to France and Spain? Literal "cloak and dagger" stuff...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Crogan's Vengeance: my new book

Well! It's been a semi-productive weekend so far. I've got the next scene pretty tightly thumbnailed, and I'm doing my pencils as we speak (taking a break to do this blog). I'm hoping to be completely done with the first third of the book (a fair chunk, to be sure) in two weeks - up through page 38 by Friday.

Oh! For those of you who haven't heard the specifics, my book deal was announced at the San Diego Comic Con last weekend! Here's the skinny:

Oni Press (publishers of such great books as Scott Pilgrim, Northwest Passage, Courtney Crumrin, and Capote in Kansas) is publishing my graphic novel series the Crogan Adventures.

The first of these books is Crogan's Vengeance:

Each book (to be released every 18 months) will feature a different member of the fictitious Crogan family as they have a variety of exciting adventures. I'm having a great deal of fun doing tons of research (you'd think that part would be over by now, but I end up having to look up something -- usually multiple somethings -- on almost ever page on which I work), drawing, writing piratey dialogue, choreographing action scenes, etc.

Woo! I'm now allowed to talk about it in detail to anybody, so anyone writing comic-related news stories feel free to pester me.

The Oni announcement has already been covered by a few news sources: Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, even some foreign-language sites. The best advance press of all has come from Indie Spinner Rack, a great comic review and news podcast based out of NYC. One of the hosts read the 26-page preview I gave them, and was REALLY complimentary. If you want to find it on iTunes, it's episode 91, at 50:05. If you want the highlights, phrases were thrown around like "I was rivetted," "I couldn't put it down," and "look for this book, it is so good, it is SO good." Wooo! That's the best review I've ever had, and the book ain't even done yet!

On another note, I've been reading some AWESOME books by an author whose stuff I've enjoyed in the past,
Arturo Perez-Reverte. He's penned a series about a Spanish soldier-of-fortune named Captain Alatriste, and I'm enjoying the heck out of 'em -- it was originally a research purchase, but I'm totally enthralled. Under the hopes that there may have been a movie made at some point, I IMDBed it, and had a real shocker --
there IS a movie.

It's starring our fellow countryman, Viggo Mortenson, and for some crazy reason it doesn't have a US release date, even though it's already on DVD in Spain. If anybody has a copy of this puppy (it's called Alatriste, by the way), let me know! I'm dying to see it. All I watch anymore are period pieces set between 1600 and 1820 (I'm trying to stay in the right mindset for working on the book) and I've just about run out of new ones.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Back from SAN DIEGO

Wow! What a weekend.

Dean Trippe and Me - Both of us had our books announced at the Oni panel on Saturday, but that doesn't stop us from having "hero hands."

I spent the last six days in sunny San Diego, perhaps the most comfortable place on Earth, at the San Diego Comicon. For those of you unfamiliar with the SDCC, it is the biggest comic trade show/convention in the world (as far as I know), with a hundred and fifty thousand people packed into a room roughly the size of three or four city blocks. It's a big deal, too - video game companies, movie studios, toy manufacturers, all sorts of bigwigs abound at this thing.

I shared a hotel with Hunter Clark, Chris Bruner, Andrew Robinson, Shawn Crystal, and Jason Latour.

Me and Hunter, giving "a look."

I helped sell books at the Oni Press booth. I've been unable to speak freely about it until now, but Oni is the publisher of my new book series! I'll write another blog specifically about that in the very near future. Although I'd met editor-in-chief James Lucas Jones before, it was my first chance to meet managing editor Randal Jarrell and C.E.O.(?) and founder Joe Nozemack. I also got to hang out with some Oni cats whom I had met on prior occasions, like Capote in Kansas writer Ande Parks and Northwest Passage auteur Scott Chantler, whose original pages are more than any books can do justice to, even the beautiful new hardcover edition of Passage, AND I got to meet a lot of the artists and writers with whom I'd had no prior contact, like Brian Hurtt of The Damned. It was a lot of fun, and Oni treated us like KINGS. Let me elaborate.

On Friday night we had a party through United Talent Agency, who represents Oni through the production studio Closed on Mondays, bringing Oni books to the big screen. I'd never been to a fancy private club party before, with the guest list and the bouncers and the open bar and all that. It was LOTS of fun. All the Oni creators were there, and the editors, and a bunch of producers and a variety of celebritites - a few of the guys from NBC's Heroes, the kid from Arrested Development, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, Liv Tyler, X-ibit (the rapper - is that how you spell it?), etc... I had no idea how "in" with the Hollywood crowd Oni was until that night. There were producers and stars in the booth throughout the weekend, which sort of surprised me - it's hard for me to think of comics as "more" than comics, even though I know that, in terms of licensing potential, they're a multi-million dollar industry. Strange, though, how that doesn't translate to comics being more of a standard in terms of the literary market. Oh, well - we're getting there.

I gave Stan Sakai my Usagi Yojimbo drawing, and he was very kind - he gave me his sketchbooks and signed a couple of Usagi trades for me, and offered to do a pin-up for the back of my book, which elates me to no end, as he's one of my all-time favorite cartoonists. His comic is the embodiment of what a monthly book SHOULD be - well-written, well drawn, a complete story in and of itself but contributing to a larger overall story. Perfect for new and old readers alike.

Justin Wagner, probably griping about how we should all be watching the Simpsons movie, with Joey Weiser and Doug Dabbs.

I picked up Joey Weiser's book The Ride Home. It looks GREAT. Can't wait to read it.

I spent most of my money at the Stuart Ng table, purveyor of amazing comics unavailable in the US (nothing bad or illegal, just not published for American editions). I got a couple volumes of Loisel's Peter Pan, one volume of the Marquis of something-or-another (great ships and sea art), and the most expensive but so-worth-it Belladone books, which, as Scott Chantler put it so well, are "exactly what we're trying to do, only much, much better." I got off easy at Stuart's - a few of the other guys who I was there with dropped a lot more than I did - but had you seen the books offered, you'd be proud at our restraint. I DID get a great watercolor sketch from Belladone artist Pierre Allary. It's going on the wall soon!

I also got to know Jared Jones, brother of James, and his friends Corey and Shana. They were amazingly interesting and fun people, and it's rare that I get to meet non-industry folk at these things and have such a good time with them.

I spent all of Sunday-day at the San Diego Maritime Museum, which was just as much fun as (and maybe MORE fun than) the con. I'm such a nerd when it comes to nautical stuff, and one of the highlights of my summer (and it's been an amazing summer) was getting to spend five hours aboard the HMS Surprise, the ship built for the Master and Commander film. It was amazing! While prohibited from actually climbing the shrouds, you could go just about anywhere you wanted, and I DID. I examined and sketched just about everything that I could - mostly knots, splices, tackles, and the like, to better prepare for my book, and I took about a hundred and fifty carefully chosen photographs to use as reference. I was in heaven, all the moreso because of the constant light wind and the Baroque string music that carried over the deck. Heaven, to me, would be that ship with that music, only I'd be allowed to dive off the sides and climb the rigging.

The last night was the "Dead Dog" party, which James invited me to and which I assumed was a smaller Oni party - boy was I wrong! It was another of the guest-list and bouncer parties, this one populated by the cream of the crop of the comics world. Jeff Smith and Sergio Aragones were at the table next to us (us being myself, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund honcho Greg Thompson and his wife (whose name I can't immediately remember and can't find online) and one of their friends; Paul Pope and Jim Lee were about, Stan Sakai was there - even little Alexa Kitchen. It was a great way to wrap things up.

More on the book - and the additions to the website - tommorow!