Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
One of my complaints about technology has always been that you get increasing functionality, but also increasing cost and complexity. Think of replacing a $15 walkman with a $250 iPod.
But I'm reading there's a trend to move away from that. Here's an interesting article from Wired magazine about "Good Enough" technology: Technology that is cheap and easy, but works just well enough to satisfy demand. The mascot for this is the Flip videocamera.
After some trial and error, Pure Digital released what it called the Flip Ultra in 2007. The stripped-down camcorder—like the Single Use Digital Camera—had lots of downsides. It captured relatively low-quality 640 x 480 footage at a time when Sony, Panasonic, and Canon were launching camcorders capable of recording in 1080 hi-def. It had a minuscule viewing screen, no color-adjustment features, and only the most rudimentary controls. It didn't even have an optical zoom. But it was small (slightly bigger than a pack of smokes), inexpensive ($150, compared with $800 for a midpriced Sony), and so simple to operate—from recording to uploading—that pretty much anyone could figure it out in roughly 6.7 seconds.
Within a few months, Pure Digital could barely keep up with orders.
(sorry this is late, but piece of sh*t blogger wouldn't let me upload the picture)
It seems like a lot of my posts lately have been making references to tna, so I figure, why stop now? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a comic that pretty much summarizes the state of the comics biz in the mid-90s: Purgatori vs. Lady Death.
It's Jack Kirby's birthday today. He would of been 92. (It's also my brother's birthday). I don't think he would have approved of the constant regurgitation by the big two. The best way to celebrate his birthday would be to create something new. Good or bad, he was always creating new characters and worlds. The guy was a machine. I've been admiring all the Kirby art pouring out of the wood works today.
(This ties in tangentially to the post I made earlier in the summer about the art of rock posters)
Ward Sutton, he of the Sutton Impact alt comic strip, has written a review of Died Young, Stayed Pretty, a documentary film about show posters. Except his review is done as a slideshow of one-panel comic art. Worth a look. It's over at The Village Voice.
You know, this recent spate of celebrity "created" comic books is really starting to piss me off. Now normally I don't get too worked up about this sort of stuff, but come on, enough is enough. We get it. Comic books are the current "cool" and "hip" things, especially where Hollywood is concerned. So now every actor, singer, reality star and stunt man is getting into the action and creating a comic book. And by "creating" I mean slapping their name on something that's written, drawn, colored, and edited by other people.
And on and on and on...until you get such masterpieces as this newly announced gem from "country music star" Trace Adkins. Everything in that press release makes me want to throw up, from the worthless marketing claims ("Adkins becomes the first country artist to invent an alter ego in comic books...") to the cliched, derivative story ("a hard-as-nails adventure story of revenge and redemption, in the tradition of “Walking Tall” and “Billy Jack"...) to the obligatory bullshit faux praise from the poor sap who's trying to make a living by writing this celebrity vanity project ("The McBain character kicks ass and takes names,” says writer David Tischman (Red Herring). “But the character also has a compassionate side, and he makes the hard choices few others have the guts to make.")
It used to be that anytime someone made a name for themselves as a celebrity, they'd run off and open a trendy restaurant or come out with their own chic perfume or line of clothing. Apparently now comic books have replaced sushi joints and handbags as the celebrity masturbatory product of choice.
And yes, I realize I'm coming off as a bitter or disgruntled aspiring writer. But you know what? In the big picture, I don't even matter. This is still very much a hobby for me. It burns me to think that there are infinitely more talented writers and artists out there, professionals who are trying to make their living through their craft, who can't get their original, innovative series past an editor's door while publishers are falling all over each other trying to sign up the backup drummer from that one 90s band to "create" a new series for them.
Here's the latest entry in the Art for All series, sharing various one-off sketches and commissions I've done recently. This time - THE PHANTOM STRANGER.
I'm a big fan of DC Comics' supernatural characters—Constantine, Swamp Thing, The Spectre, etc—but was oddly completely unfamiliar with the Phantom Stranger, apart from his appearance in Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic series.
The Stranger has a pretty cryptic history. In fact, he's one of the very few characters whose origin story has never actually been revealed. He first appeared in the 50's in his own short-lived solo series, with art by the great Carmine Infantino. As the years went by, he was featured more prominently in the DC Universe proper in titles like Justice League of America, Swamp Thing, and Detective Comics, among many others.
According to his Wikipedia page, In his earliest appearances, the Phantom Stranger would prove supernatural events to be hoaxes. In later stories, the supernatural events were real and the Phantom Stranger was given unspecified superhuman powers to defeat them. He later appeared in various other DC Universe titles, sometimes as a major participant; in others, the Phantom Stranger just appears and gives advice or warning to the featured heroes. Occasionally he serves simply as narrator. In some stories, he seems to be answerable to a mysterious Voice, implied to be God, or the Lords of Order.
And after all this time, he never got tired of that turtleneck and disco-era medallion.
I love doing commissions of characters I am not at all familiar with, as was the case here. I went for a high-contrast, shape-driven piece, as opposed to my regular line- and texture-heavy approach.
This piece, like most others, is 9 x 12", and drawn on Strathmore cold-press watercolor paper. For more information on commissions, drop by my gallery on deviantART or my website.
Frank Cho has "created" a new series that he will be publishing through Image. It's called 50 Girl 50. However, he's not writing it. Doug Murray is handling that part. And he's not drawing it, either. That job might belong to you.
This weekend's titanic clash is Super Heroes vs. Super Villains.
This 68 page one-shot was published by Mighty Comics Group (actually Archie Comics) in 1966, and featured their lineup of costumed heroes that were later purchased by DC. The label "By: Dick, Vic, Bob, and Paul" on the cover refers to the creators featured within, although the only ones I can discern are editor Richard Goldwater and penciller Paul Reinman. Not mentioned on the cover, but apparently the scribe of all the stories, is Jerry Siegel.
This edition of 7 Covers is curated by PANELista Andy Bennett. Andy writes:
"Frank Miller is the best cover artist of the past 50 years. Everyone gets a "What have you done for me lately" attitude about Frank, but the truth is - so many of the comics you enjoy today would not be around, were it not for his seminal work in the 80's. These particular covers were all released over about a year's time. How could you not buy these comics? THE POWER OF FRANK COMPELS YOU."
(If you'd like to submit your own set of 7 covers - it can be any theme, or no theme at all - send me small files (i.e. 72 dpi for the web) to ferret at ferretpress dot com and include "7 covers" in the subject line. Also, let me know if you have a blog or website you'd like me to link to.)
Here's a new entry in the Art for All series, sharing various one-off sketches and commissions I've done recently. This time - Mike Mignola's HELLBOY.
Hellboy debuted, to the general public, in 1994 with the 4-issue mini-series "Seed of Destruction" at Dark Horse Comics. It was released as part of Dark Horse's "LEGEND" line, and co-written by fan favorite John Byrne. At this stage, Mignola wasn't nearly as well-known as he is today, and I'll tell you - I bought those comics strictly for the backup story, Arthur Adams' "Monkeyman & O'Brien". Little did I know, Hellboy would eventually become one of my favorite comics of all time.
Since then, it's been nothing but upwards for Mike Mignola and his creation. Hellboy comics are still being released today, as well as a spinoff series, B.P.R.D. There have been 2 feature films and 2 animated DVD films, and the momentum doesn't appear to be subsiding.
I did a commission of the B.P.R.D.'s Liz Sherman a couple of years ago, an the owner came back for a Hellboy this time. It's not easy trying to put your own mark on a character that is so intimately associated with Mike Mignola's illustration style, but I've given it a go. This is a larger piece - 11 x 15". Click for the bigness...
Typically these pieces are 9 x 12", and drawn on Strathmore cold-press watercolor paper. For more information on commissions, drop by my gallery on deviantART or my website.
Amazon.com and Andrews McMeel Publishing are sponsoring the Comic Strip Superstar contest. You could be the next big syndicated comic strip star! (yes, that was sarcasm, considering the syndicated strip business is even further down the death road than print comics...)
"The winner will receive a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Publishing, a $5,000 advance from Universal Uclick, and a monthly stipend for the development of 20 comic strips that will be considered for syndication.
From the submissions, Universal Press Syndicate will narrow the entries down to 250 quarterfinalists. The quarterfinalists will then be narrowed down to 50 semifinalists by John Glynn and Lee Salem, seasoned Universal Press Syndicate editors. In the semifinal round, popular comic strip creators G.B. Trudeau (Doonesbury), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Scott Hilburn (The Argyle Sweater), and Mark Tatulli (Lió and Heart of the City) will choose 10 finalists and post feedback for each on Amazon.com. Amazon.com customers will then have the opportunity to view the finalists' submissions and vote for the grand prize winner."
My collaborator on the Terminator Salvation movie prequel, artist Alan Robinson, sent me this page of original art from the series:
This is page 15 from issue #3.
By the way, believe it or not, Alan's new gig is drawing a 6 issue mini-series for IDW based on the Weekly World News! Yeah, I know. Bizarre. Click on over to his website to see some of the art from that project.
I have a dirty little secret. Like a Republican senator railing about the sanctity of marriage, I harbor a secret love in my heart that until now I have been unable or unwilling to give voice to for fear of exposing my own hypocrisy and secret, terrible shame.
I really, really enjoyed Steve Englehart's late 1980's tenure on the Fantastic Four.
Fantastic Four #323
That's right... at the same time the once-mighty scribe was driving the train called West Coast Avengers off the tracks, I actually took out a subscription to the FF title he was writing so I could be spared the embarrassment of slipping each new issue into the middle of my stack of books as I approached the register at Central City's east side location.
It was a dark time for the FF, coming during the era in which Marvel dictated across the board cosmetic changes to all their non-mutant core titles-- black costumes, Grey Hulks, goofy yellow and blue armored Thunder Gods... The FF got saddled with turning the Thing into a talking pineapple and replacing Reed and Sue Richards in their membership with the Inhumans' Crystal (not necessarily a bad idea) and a She-Thing (THAT was a bad idea), all under the umbrella of Englehart's relentlessly goofy plots. What did the book have going for it? Well, Ron Frenz was supplying some beautiful Kirby-Klone covers that pretty much sold the book (he was doing the same for Thor and Captain America at the time), and something about the interior artwork appealed to me. My former arch-nemesis Keith Pollard provided some "poor man's Buscema"-style layouts, while inker Romeo Thangal and colorist George Roussos both took a light approach to their respective crafts that gave the art a very crisp look. Plus, there were Englehart's relentlessly goofy plots...
So it is that I owe Dara an apology for the scorn I have so frequently heaped upon his own fondly remembered and much-maligned WCA series. I'll probably continue to do it in the future, though.
With everything going against this series, Marvel had to heap one more thing onto the pile: an intrusive crossover with the "Inferno" storyline over in X-Men. New York has been overrun by demons, but since the cause and resolution will be confined to the two (!) X-titles that summer, we just had to put up with all the rest of our comics making absolutely no sense for a couple months. I never understood the logic behind these crossovers; if Nova guest starred in Spider-Man's mag, it was to get Spidey readers to check out Nova. Did they decide that not enough people reading the Marvel line of books were checking out the X-Men on a monthly basis, so they were trying to lure in the legions of Englehart fans? The crossovers certainly weren't required reading for the X-Men series', so I can't imagine the goal was the other way around.
The FF are strolling through Manhattan fighting stray demons when they stumble across the 1970's kung fu lady Avenger called Mantis (a relic from Englehart's own run on the title back in the day). Once married, power-augmented, and impregnated by a cosmic being, she has been stripped of her powers and seen her child taken away to be raised in outer space, or some such. She has come to find the FF because they have a rep for manned space flights (one wonders why, given the horrible mutations that tend to occur) in hopes they might help her find her offspring. Unfortunately her quest is interrupted first by hordes of demons, then by an old super-villain.
Kang the Conqueror is aware of a "time bubble" in place around the years 2005 and 2020, preventing time travellers from entering that era-- except during an upheaval like "Inferno", apparantly. Legend says a Celestial is hiding within those years with a super weapon which Kang plans to steal. Unaware that Mantis no longer has her cosmic powers, he plans on using her energies to defeat the Celestial; Mantis was oncle called the "Celestial Madonna", so her power must be effective against Celestials (giant Kirby space gods who could kick Galactus' ass), is the reasoning. Really.
Of course, having progressed to those years ourselves by now, we have learned that reports of Celestial WMDs were exaggerated. Kang really should have known, given that 1988 didn't look as bad as Deathlok would have had us believe, either (though Reagan tried). Our cast is unaware of this yet, and the story closes with Mantis mysteriously disappearing as the FF's attack on Kang's ship goes horribly wrong.
This was among my favorite series' of the time, up until the point Englehart had a falling out with the editors and wrote his last few issues under a pseudonym. Walt Simonson was actually brought in to clean up the mess, but he unfortunately was allowed to use his FF series to tie up loose ends from three different comics (Avengers, FF, and Thor), so his run was an exercise in continuity-cleaning more than anything else, and lacked the charm of Englehart's issues.
Need to draw a futuristic car for your next story? Interested in the latest eco-friendly car concepts? Like looking at kick-ass sports cars? Indulge all 3 by checking out this slideshow of 13 Hot Eco-Cars That Go Zoom.
Without trying to sound too self-serving, I think I'll start a series sharing various one-off sketches and commissions I've done recently. In addition to my frequent comics projects, I like to decompress by doing single-image character pieces. This way I can try out new techniques and tools, and get in some drawing practice as well.
I just got back from Chicago Comicon this past weekend, so I'll start this off by sharing some commissions I produced over the 4-day marathon.
This was the first—booked via e-mail several days before the show—Wesley Dodds, the Golden-age Sandman.
First appearing in 1939, Dodds (as The Sandman) was an original member of the Justice Society of America. Wielding his signature gas gun, and relying on prophetic dreams, as well as highly honed detective skills, The Sandman prowled the streets, subduing criminals under cover of darkness. The Sandman used a World War I era gas mask to protect himself from the effects of his own sleeping gas.
After various incarnations over the years (including a stint by Captain America creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby), Dodds was featured in his own solo title in 1993 at DC/Vertigo when Matt Wagner and Guy Davis launched the film-noir Sandman Mystery Theatre. He was even ret-conned into Neil Gaiman's "Dreaming" continuity in 1995 in the one-shot special, Sandman Midnight Theatre.
It's no secret that Guy Davis is one of my heroes, and Sandman Mystery Theatre was one of my favourite comics of the past 20 years, so this one was a pleasure.
Typically these pieces are 9x12 inches (sometimes a little larger), and drawn on Strathmore cold-press watercolor paper.
Longshot remains the only superhero ever modeled on pop singer Limahl of Kajagoogoo and "The Never-Ending Story" fame. For real.
And this one about Looker, a DC character I'm not familiar with:
If you're creating a character whose whole deal is that she's stylish and hot, maybe try picking up a fashion magazine or something, so you can see what's considered stylish and hot. It probably won't include butterfly collars, Ziggy Stardust eye shadow, a unitard with one leg missing, or big white circles over the lady's nipples.
My wife just told me that the Spider-Man musical, Turn Off the Dark, isn't happening. It was going to cost $900K a week and had a $45 million budget. Maybe Marvel can reallocate some of that money to re-retcon "Brand New Day" out of existence.
The birthday's almost over as I type this but Marvel turned 70 today. It's been kinda hard to read you lately but hey, every once in a while you throw me a bone. I have the Scottie Young art to look forward to and the Strange Tales project. The random Criminal or Incognito. I will never forgive you for Greg Horn/Guy Davis combo. (Just let Guy do the covers for Christ sakes) Or Mark Bagley and Rob Liefeld's awkwardly distracting anatomy.
But I have so many fond memories of Spiderman, X-Factor and the Fantastic Four. Epic was especially thrilling. Part of my gateway exposure was looking through my cousins collections. The one cousin almost had the complete Kirby run of Fantastic Four. Never got any of the damaged ones they'd get in trades. All the great artists that came through the doors. The Bendis run on Alias, Ultimate Spiderman (I grinded my teeth as I waded through the Bagley horror-show), and Daredevil was great.
It's hard to say where things go from here on out but make mine Marvel.
(If you'd like to submit your own set of 7 covers (it can be any theme, or no theme at all) send me small files (i.e. 72 dpi for the web) to ferret at ferretpress dot com and include "7 covers" in the subject line. Also, let me know if you have a blog or website you'd like me to link to.)
It has almost become cliche to say about urban works of literature or comics that "the city is a character." I'm guilty of it myself having written in a paper about how the city of New York permeated the feel of Don DeLillo's Underworld.
It has been said many, many times before, but the fact that Marvel set their universe in a real New York City, as opposed to DC's Gotham or Metropolis, was a significant differences= in the companies approach.
Boingboing recently featured a link to this article on the British Architect's Journal website listing the author's Top 10 picks for cities featured in comic books. As you can guess, Metropolis and Gotham City are on the list, but so are less known cities (at least to American audiences).
My vote is for Schuiten's city of Urbicand. I believe that story was serialized in Cheval Noir. Just check out this insanely detailed art:
As some folks point out back on the boingboing site, the list is far from complete. Cerebus was cited as another comic feature some amazing architecture. Can you guys think of others?
As far as artists, I've always loved Walt Simonson's architecture, especially when he drew fantastical cities, from Asgard or alien metropolises. Marshall Rogers, I believe, began his career as an architect and contributed a lot to the Gotham City look. Mike Mignola can draw the hell out a gothic cathedral or a decaying castle. P. Craig Russel does gorgeous renditions of fantastical cities of myth or magic. Who else...?
Like most people, I'm a member of Herb Trimpe's email list. A few weeks ago I got a message asking for a very small donation to a nonprofit scholarship fund (or somesuch) his daughter-in-law was trying to establish. Donors would in turn receive a postcard sketch from Happy Herb; here's the jewel that arrived in the mail today:
Aaaaw. Hulk get sentimental.
It's even personalized; turning it over, one can see that it's plainly addressed to... "Craig Bosart." Sigh.
Kent Williams (no relation) has an art blog. He's all but abandoned comics, save for the random inking stint or cover. The Fountain (Vertigo) was the last thing he did and it is worth every penny if you can find it.
A brief warning: this might not be work safe as his work includes pervasive nudity. Either half clothed or full on.
This is the first demo I've seen regarding shipping large original artwork. Almost wish I had ran across this last year but I would have been out more money on shipping. (The piece still hasn't sold. Probably for the best.) Demo is by the awesome Cathie Bleck. A Cleveland scratchboard artist who was one of the illustrators to re-popularize the technique in the early 90's.
This edition of 7 Covers comes to us courtesy of PANELista Craig Bogart. It's a collection of "homages" to the classic FF#1 cover. Craig would like to send a shout out to the Swiped! site for the assist.
I think my favorite is the Organic gardner cover, simply for the WTF" factor.
If you'd like to submit your own set of 7 covers (it can be any theme, or no theme at all) send me small files (i.e. 72 dpi for the web) to ferret at ferretpress dot com and include "7 covers" in the subject line. Also, let me know if you have a blog or website you'd like me to link to.
I get asked periodically: 'How do I break in?' Well one of the ways is to enter contests. Oni's doing one. There are less than 15 days remaining in the Oni Talent search. This is a great way to either build up some new samples or try to land a gig at Oni. You have your choice of three scripts to work from. There's a espionage thriller (set in the Cold War), a western or a supernatural comedy.
Check out the link for details and scripts (they're pdf's). Samples have to be postmarked before August 15th. Brent should have all three scripts drawn up by the end of the week.
So long as the work is printable in b/w, Oni will take it. Like most indie publisher's, they're looking for finished art. I'd skip trying to letter it.
No, not that one. I'm talking about every gardner, lawn owner, and landscape maintenance worker's nightmare: thistle. This weed grows fast, spreads fast, and is nearly impossible to get rid of. And it's incredibly hearty and adaptable. Case in point, this 6 foot tall specimen from my back yard:
Notice the almost white pigmentation, instead of the usual deep green?
That's because I found this growing inside my shed through a small hole in the corner. No sunlight and very little water, and it still grew taller than I am.
Now there's an idea for a plant-themed supervillain. The Thistle.
Another weekend, another comic book crossover. August is going to be Batman vs. Predator month. Why? Why not, I say.
Here's the cover to the first Batman vs Predator mini-series, jointly published by DC and Dark Horse Comics.:
The cover art is by Chris Warner, who is an editor at DH but started out writing and drawing the near-future post-apocalyptic series Black Cross in the early issues of Dark Horse Presents. The interior featured the pencils of Andy Kubert, with inks by brother Adam. Dave Gibbons provided the script.
I understand the need to market, promote, and otherwise get your product or service out there in front of the public's eye. I really do. But most advertising, IMHO, skews towards the manipulative, unethical, and downright sleazy end of the spectrum. Like this ad for some sort of bullshit diet or miracle weight loss pill or somesuch that I saw on a Yahoo page recently:
Ok, setting aside the fact that that's obviously not the same woman in the "before" and "after" shots, that's not even a real woman in the "after" shot. I mean, seriously: WTF?
It looks like they photoshopped (rather badly, too) the giant head of some model on the shrunken body of another. I wouldn't be surprised if they swiped the image from the brochure of a "how to spot pre-teens with anorexia" PSA. And then shrunk it down even further. Ugh.
In fact, that body looks like it came straight from the pen of some 90s Image-inspired comic book artist (and you know how anatomically accurate those illustrations are). Kinda' like this jewel by "artist" Micah Gunnell: