Archive for January, 2005

THE BUZZARD

I think it’s time for another dip into the childhood character pool. This time, it’s a bad guy. As I’ve said previously, most of my characters– like the characters that MOST kids come up with– are derivative of what were my favorite characters from the comics I read at the time. So, THE BUZZARD is an obvious knock-off of one of my favorite SPIDER-MAN villains, THE VULTURE. I think that looking back at THE BUZZARD, the thing that impresses me the most about my work on this guy is that it looks as though I actually may have done some research on what buzzards look like. Hence his black body and wings, with an orange helmet, gloves and boots. A buzzard’s head is really red (I think…), but looking at all my drawings from that time that are colored, the red is really dark and usually covers up the line work, and maybe I was trying to avoid this. Maybe I just thought that blue black and orange looked cool together as costume colors (which I still do…).

I really don’t have that clear a memory of my thought processes from back then anyway. After all, it was 30 years ago….! So anyway, here’s the original drawing followed by my new sketch.

This continues to be a lot of fun. I’ve had more than a few folks in the comments section encourage me to actually do some comics with these characters– and though it might be fun as an exercise… and a wonderful way to reconnect with my childhood and maybe bring things full circle– A big part of me can’t help but think these guys are really lame. It would be very hard to resist redesigning them to make them more contemporary and modern. I couldn’t really see these characters as is exciting enough folks to actually buy them as a comic. But then, by redesigning them, what’s the point…?

I might give it some thought.

Mike

Old Man Winter

A little less than two weeks ago, we had several days in a row of temperatures in the low 70′s. The fact that it was almost mid January made me think that we were going to have an incredibly mild winter, temp-wise, and I was looking forward to one of those winters that I had experienced when I first moved down here to North Carolina 12 years ago (that is to say, non existent for the most part). Starting last Wednesday, that all changed. We started to get snow and freezing rain, and the temperatures at night have been dropping into the low teens. It’s still not nearly as bad as what most of the Northeast and Midwest are dealing with– not by a long shot. I really feel for those folks being absolutely buried in snow and ice with the amazing low temperatures they have to put up with.

I just can’t help but to cast my mind fondly back to those first few years I spent here when I went more days during the winter in shirt sleeves than in a jacket. I’m spoiled, I guess. Not as spoiled as I’m sure a former studio mate of mine who shall remain nameless (*coughcoughchuckwojtkiewisczcoughcough*) probably is by now, living out in sunny Los Angeles– but still– it sure was nice. Maybe the worm will turn back soon.

In the comments section of a post I made a while back with some European characters I had drawn for a thread over at SKETCHBOOKSESSIONS.COM, Augie De Blieck, Jr. mentioned BLACKSAD as being one of his favorite translated European comics lately– and it just so happens I had done a sketch of him as well. So, here’s that sketch too, to sort of flesh out today’s post.

Take care,

Mike

The OUTCASTS

I thought I’d take another crack at drawing some of the characters I created as a kid. It’s been a very fun exercise, and this one was particularly enjoyable. Maybe because the drawing– of a team called THE OUTCASTS– isn’t of quite the advanced vintage of my previous entries. But at least the sense of design on the characters is a little more advanced (“advanced” being a relative term as far as crappy childhood superhero characters go…) as opposed to the previous examples done much earlier. This one was done in 1983, and I graduated high school in ’81– so I must have been around 18 years old. The drawing’s a bit better, but still not NEARLY as good as so many folks I see on the web and actually working in comics these days of the same age group. I guess I’ve always been a late bloomer.

THE OUTCASTS was my attempt at a multi-racial team like my absolute favorite of the time, X-MEN. I remember making many an attempt at emulating that comic that was so influential on so many of us wanting to draw comics back then. As you can see from the drawing, I wasn’t very practiced at placing figures in space. The Asian female character (I don’t remember any of the individual characters’ names, if they ever had any to begin with…) is on exactly the same plane as the much larger African American guy in (what’s supposed to be) the foreground. I had so much to learn…. (and still do). I see I was already signing my drawings as “‘Ringo”– but that comes from being nicknamed that early on by friends– just as my father was when he was in the Army.

Anyway, here are the two drawings– the first from my teens:

outcasts.jpg

And the second one from today:

Mike

European comics

Back in 2000, my buddy Todd Dezago and I had the thrill and honor of being flown over to France by the SEMIC, the publisher that was offering translated volumes of our TELLOS comic to the French and Belgian markets. We were there mainly to attend the massive ANGOULEME international comics festival– but we got to spend three fantastic days in Paris before we took the train out to Angouleme. Paris was absolutely amazing, I have to say, and I could go on forever about all the wonders of the place…. but for the purposes of this entry, I’m going to concentrate on the comics angle.

The thing that first struck me as remarkable was that there seemed to be window displays of comics (or ALBUMS– hardcover comics that run around 48 pages and are much larger than our comic books) on almost every corner. The wonderful thing about Europe (and France in particular) is that comics are a much more visible, accepted form of entertainment. And unlike here in the States, a great wide variety of art styles and subject matter are on display for all to enjoy. And they ARE enjoyed. Humor and funny animal comics stand proudly beside science fiction, fantasy and adventure comics. One of the most amazing experiences I had was when Todd and I went into a huge book store called FNAC, which reminded me of a Barnes and Noble here in the States– and turning a corner, our eyes were greeted by the sight of a GIGANTIC area where every recent comic album available were on display. It was such an awe inspiring sight. I could swear I heard a chorus above me and light split the ceiling to flood down on the displays. It was almost a religious experience, I was so stunned at what I was seeing! And there were so many people standing or sitting around reading these things. Young AND old. Little kids stood next to old men– middle aged women sat next to teen aged boys… all reading or browsing these comics. I could have spent the entire week we were there in that place alone. I looked through as much material as I could, and grabbed everything I could carry to buy. I don’t remember how much I spent, but I should have had the albums shipped home, because carrying them in my bags almost broke my shoulders on the way home after the festival.

So when I learned that there was going to be a thread about European comics characters over at SKETCHBOOKSESSIONS, well, I had to join in!! The two sketches here today are from two of my favorite European comics– the first is from the series “LES LUMIERES DE L’AMALOU illustrated by the great Claire Wendling. She’s an amazing artist, and I was able to get 4 of the books in the series. The second sketch is of the character ATALANTE from a series illustrated by the equally amazing Didier Crisse. Anyone who has read the TELLOS: MAIDEN VOYAGE one-shot knows how fantastic Crisse’s work is– and Todd and I are lucky to know and have worked with this talented guy.

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atalante.jpg

I have a great love for the amazing works in comic art that come out of Europe (in particular France and Belgium), and I hope to be able to get my grubby mitts on a lot more of that stuff in the future. It’s hard to come by over here– so for now, I’ll just have to console myself with the handful of books I have right now.

Mike

SPIRIT

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We use terms like “master of the form” and “visionary” and “influential” and “genius” and “inspiration” too often to describe those in the comic book world who’s work we admire. But, really, Will Eisner is deserving of all those terms– and more.

I’ve been thinking about Eisner a lot the past several days since his passing– thinking back on the first time I discovered his work; some of my favorites from his massive life-long body of work. I was reading

Jeff Parker’s thoughts on Eisner the other day and he mentions rolling the tops of his gloves down like THE SPIRIT did when he was a kid after discovering Eisner’s seminal character in the old WARREN magazine reprints being published in the 70′s and early 80′s– and I remembered doing the EXACT SAME THING! It’s funny how universal some things are with kids. I can imagine a whole army of us back then rolling the tops of our gloves down to emulate THE SPIRIT.

There was something wonderful about that simple rumpled blue suit, gloves, black domino mask and fedora that comprised THE SPIRIT’S “costume” that just connected with me when I first saw that character. And Eisner’s art– I had never seen such vibrant, cartoony and yet utterly MOODY work before. Eisner was a master of lighting, staging, body language… and of course storytelling. His amazing– and at the time UNIQUE– work had a profound influence on so many folks through the years. From older artists like Jack Cole and Wally Wood who worked in Eisner’s studio decades ago to newer stars like Frank Miller– Eisner’s work touched so many. And fortunately for us all, he continued to work until the end. He’s left us all such a massive body of work to study and enjoy– he’ll be an influence for generations to come.

Eisner was a living link (one of the last, I think– if not THE last) to the beginnings of the comic book industry. He was there when they were born– he was a part of their birth. He was one of those young, energetic pioneers who worked for little pay and less recognition (back then) to create the industry we all love so much now. One of my favorite works of his beside THE SPIRIT is a graphic novel he did called THE DREAMER. It’s a heartfelt look back by an much older man– now a wealthy giant in his field (who, incidently, was smart enough to retain the rights to his character, the SPIRIT, at a time when all his contemporaries sold off their characters to the big companies and lived to regret it)– recounting personal experiences and shared anecdotes of the formation of this amazing art form. It’s a fascinating read and a MUST for anyone who cares about how we all got here to engage in this craft we all love (whether reading OR creating them).

I’m just grateful to Will Eisner for leaving us so much amazing work to enjoy. His spirit (as well as SPIRIT) will live on forever in those works. Anyone who creates comics can only aspire to have an IOTA of the impact on comic books that Eisner did.

I’d also like to take this time to congratulate Jeff Parker on the birth of his son, REID!!! Parker’s a two-time daddy now– one of each–a girl, and now a boy. Go check out his new cutie.

Mike