Monday, October 26, 2009


Each quarter I teach a class on Character & Environment Design for the Animation Department, and each time I try to do a demo maquette to show how to approach armature, base sculpting, detail sculpting & texture, painting, etc. This time around, seeing as Halloween is rapidly approaching, I thought I'd try my hand at H.P. Lovecraft's famous slumbering monster, Cthulhu, an ancient evil creature that waits patiently in a sunken Cyclopeon city deep beneath the sea for his chance to rise and destroy humanity. Click on any of these to bring up a bigger version of the picture in a new window.

 One of the things that always bugs me is that, with rare exception, he's always depicted exactly the same. Human body, tentacles coming out from where his mouth would be, humanish hands with pointy fingernails, etc. He never looks remotely as inhuman as I expect from the writing.

 He's described as HAVING tentacles - a cephalopod-inspired head, I think the prose says - and "vaguely anthropoid shape," meaning, to me, that he walks upright and has four appendages, nothing more. I wanted to distance this design as much from human while keeping to that basic idea as possible.

 He's described as having claws - flabby claws, actually - so rather than the human-hand-with-claws-on-it approach, I decided to go with more of a vaguely crab-based approach.

 I saw a gaming miniature of the character once with a lot of eyes, which was one feature that I wanted to keep. Oh, standing next to the monster, which is, I guess you might say, a "waterline" model, seeing as he's half-submerged, is a little Corto Maltese figure for scale. He's about seven inches tall, I'd guess, and about ten inches wide.

 I wanted to show a mouth, and I did my best to make it as gross as possible. I didn't have any balsa when I was doing the initial sculpt, so I crudely made the teeth from wooden coffee-stirrers that I cut into triangles with wire-cutters.

 He's described as being green, which I decided to ignore - I thought that, given his crab-like tendencies, I'd go with an orange more invocative of crabs, at least the type one sees in restaurants. He also is supposed to have small, mebranous wings, but I liked his back so much as he was coming along that I decided to ignore that little fact, too. He's painted with an assortment of those 44-cent Apple Barrell craft acrylics.

 I painted the base to look like water. I'd thought about scuplting bursting waves, but decided agaist it. If my imagination ca't conjure up a few ripples, then I've no business making stories. Anyway, this was an in-class-only project, so it took longer than it otherwise might, but, as I made clear last time, all of my outside-of-class time is being spent finishing Crogan's March. I'm hoping to have the entire thing inked by Tuesday night, and to have all my touch-ups finished by Saturday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Main story finished, framing sequence getting there...

I've been internet absentia for a while now, for pretty good reason - I've been trying extremely hard to finish Crogan's March by the end of October, because 1.That's the latest it can go to press and still hit shelves by year's end, 2. We're closing on a house on the 30th, and 3. My daughter is due to be born the following Wednesday, and I won't be much inclined to hole up in the studio once that happens. So the next week is likely to be one of the more overwhelming, so I've been teaching, prepping lessons and grading, and then using every spare second (there are so few these days) to try and knock this out. The "story" part - the section in the middle, focusing on the Legionnaire - was expected to clock in around 144 pages, but it grew to 199. As of yesterday, those 199 are finished. I am inking the opening framing sequence today (six pages), before and after our Comics Art Forum (more on that later), and I'll be doing the last three pages tomorrow, though I've still got some dialogue editing to do before penciling those. Once these are done, I have to go in and fix the numerous bolds in the first third of the book - I changed how I started making them, and need to go back and retroactively change the earlier versions - as well as a few artistic changes throughout. Nothing monumental, though - I feel confident I can finish in time. Once the book is done, I'll have more time to update this blog - I've got a number of news things to post.

Above: A panel from near the end.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

SPX Report

Okay. It's been a while since I last posted, due to a crazy schedule dominated by teaching duties, a schedule which currently permits little time for working on pages and NO time for updating my blog. Before getting back to normal, or as normal as can be expected during October, easily my most hectic month of the year, I thought I'd take a few seconds while scanning pencils to write a bit about my recent trip to Washington D.C.'s Small Press Expo.

 My editor, James Lucas Jones, standing with saintly patience considering he expected me to have the book finished by this weekend, which it is not This was the best SPX I've been to yet. The amount of foot traffic seems to have increased a LOT from previous years, which is nice. I changed up my usual buying strategy - in the past, I would sit at the table and sell until the end of the last day, then run frantically around during the show's last hour or so, trying to buy what books and mini-comics seemed my taste. This year, though, I was dropping off an order with a comic shop within minutes of arriving in DC, and as such had a clear idea as to what my profit margin already was. Knowing I wasn't going to go into the red, I did my shopping first thing, taking my time, and walking around the show at a leisurely pace. I got lots and lots of great stuff, and feel like I had a chance to look at everything I wanted.

 There were some things I had on my list of things to look for going in. There were two cartoonists in particular whose work I've developed a fondness for recently who were attending, and I wanted to pick up whatever they had on hand. The first, Kate Beaton, only had one book, which I snatched up. We all felt bad for her, in that her overwhelming popularity seemed to keep her from being able to have the sort of relaxed atmosphere most of us tend to enjoy about SPX, as she had a line around her table pretty much the whole time. That may have been great for her - it's of course nice to have your work appreciated - it just seems that she went from zero to superstar without ever having that comfortable getting-acclimated period. The second was Corinne Mucha, whose work I first encountered in the tenth issue of the consistently excellent Papercutter anthology.

 Greg Means, publisher of Papercutter Mucha's comic was one of my favorites last year, and after getting a copy of the Ghost Comics anthology and being delighted by her contribution I decided to grab up whatever she had there. I got quite a few excellent minis and one book, and have been enjoying them a great deal. By coincidence, another anthology I got at the show, Wide Awake Press's Ancient Age, had yet ANOTHER Mucha story. She's quickly become one of my favorite new cartoonists, and I'm devouring her comics with joy and enthusiasm. Sitting next to Mucha was a cartoonist with whose work I was entirely unfamiliar, but am glad that I picked up - Sam Sharpe. He had two straight-forward mini-comics - one of which, Return Me To The Sea, was a beautifully drawn, excellently told story (I've yet to read the other) - and a couple of collections of hysterical gag strips. I also bought a dvd from him, something I NEVER do at a comic show, because A. it was about WWI pilots, and B. the special effects, as showcased on the back, seem to be obviously models, and I'm a sucker for intentional artifice. Whether or not that's how it's played, I've yet to see, but look forward to having some time to give it a watch. I was also impressed by the new books at the One Percent Press Table. My only disappointment with the 1PP table is that I'm rarely surprised anymore by the outstanding quality of both the comics they've made and the excellent production values implemented in printing those comics. Most times, when I find something as spectacular as what I find there, I flip out, and consider the show a success, then and there. But I expect that degree of excellence from 1PP, and, while I'm never disappointed, I also am rarely filled with elation upon leaving them, having found something completely unexpected. Anyway, the 1PP books I got this year were (as usual) some of the best books at the show, including a great 3-comic set by James Hindle, a formalist Galleon story from Alexis Fredrick-Frost, a new color piece by Joseph Lampbert, another fun action piece by J.P. Coovert, and a wonderful anthology including all four cartoonists, featuring perhaps my favorite Frederick-Frost story to date. I had a lot of time to visit folks - Savannah friends and Oni friends getting the brunt of my company - and having a great time, all around. I picked up a lot of other great books, including Beard-themed books like Lumberjack! and Pranas Naujukitus's excellent Beard. James, Cory Casoni, and I went to the Smithsonian. A group of about 20 of us went to my yearly favorite restaurant, an Asian buffet that required a long, wet trudge through the pouring rain. And a great train ride, there and back! I'm gonna wrap this up, but expect Crogan's March updates soon. Thanks to everyone there for making this such a great trip!