Archive for March, 2010

In living color

You’ve seen Matt Smith’s pencils, you’ve seen Terry Austin’s inks, now here’s the final color for the Albany Comic Con exclusive Magdalena #1 cover. Matt’s previous Albany Con cover was a Witchblade image, with color provided by Matt’s Doctor Who colorist, Charlie Kirchoff . Charlie wasn’t available for the quick turnaround this time, so we had to look a little further afield for the color. Actually, a lot further afield.

When I did some work for Virgin Comics (now reborn as Liquid Comics) a few years ago, I worked as both editor and writer with a number of extremely talented India-based artists. The vast majority were adept at pencils, inks and color alike, and could work in a variety of art styles. So with assistance from my writer friend Saurav Mohapatra, the call went out for somebody who could leap heroically into breach and color the cover. Coming to the rescue was Saumin Patel, whom I had worked with when I edited Devi for Virgin (written by Saurav, in fact). Saumin provided interior art (but not color) on Devi, drawing in a unique style and exhibiting a sophisticated storytelling sense. He and Saurav had also collaborated on Mumbai Macguffin, which Saumin drew, inked and colored. The breadth of his talent is pretty impressive, as he’s worked in comics, animation, magazine illustration, advertising, storyboards and more. You can, and should, check out his blogs here and here.

Saumin volunteered to take a run at coloring Matt and Terry’s cover. As you can see here, he came through with a killer version that really pops forward the main figure of Magdalena, without losing the signature Albany towers and Egg in the background. The strong red of her costume highlights and inner cloak is going to be recurring color motif in the monthly series, and Saumin captured that aspect as well.

Saumin also offered up a second, slightly different version, this one with a violet overlay, giving the tones a bit flatter look. Both versions work well, but we ultimately decided to go with the brighter piece. I’m very much in Saumin’s debt for his work here.

The exclusive Magdalena #1 edition will be on sale at the Albany Comic Con on April 25. The con site is here. Hope some of you will be able to come to the show. If the cover doesn’t sell out, a few of the remaining copies might show up for sale online.

Cheers,

Ron


Don’t wait, you might not get another chance

Dick GiordanoI didn’t know Dick Giordano. It’s possible I was introduced to him once, but I don’t think so. By the time I had migrated from Marvel to DC earlier in my career, Dick had already left staff. But without Dick’s contributions as an artist, editor and executive , the comic industry would not be what it is today. When Dick passed away over the weekend at age 77, this business lost one of its giants, one of its true gentlemen. That would be the case if he was judged merely on his artistic accomplishments, which are rightfully legendary. But Dick’s editorial contributions at Charlton, Continuity Associates and DC Comics are also worthy of landmark status. His stint as DC’s executive editor (1983-1993) coincided with one of the most fertile and exciting periods in the history of comics. I always think of 1986 as the year that comics grew up.

I didn’t know Dick, but I know a laundry list of people who knew him well. And not one of them ever had a disparaging word to say about Dick. He mentored a generation of inkers, including Terry Austin, Klaus Janson, Joe Rubenstein, Bob Layton and Al Milgrom. He steered DC’s ship during a decade of unprecedented creative accomplishment. And he was a hell of a nice guy.

I think comics as a whole tend to forget previous generations, both the work and the people. It brings to mind the true story of a Marvel editor, a number of years ago, who had no idea who Al Williamson was, and wanted him to send in samples of his inks. Comics should never forget guys like Dick Giordano, because comics can never have enough guys like Dick Giordano.

Dick’s passing prompted me to think about an experience I had – or didn’t have – early in my career. This was at one of the first San Diego conventions I attended, back when it was not yet the monster it is now, back when the con was still mostly about comics (if you can imagine that). I can’t remember the specific year, 1992 or 1993. I was writing Silver Surfer, the first monthly I’d been handed. I ran into my editor, Craig Anderson, in one of the aisles – yes, back then you could actually walk through the aisles at the con. He told me he’d just come from seeing Jack Kirby, who was set up at his own booth a few aisles over. Craig offered to take me over to Jack and introduce me. But I demurred, telling Craig I’d make it over that way later in the day. In truth, I was hesitant to bother the great man. I thought he’d probably had people pestering him all day, and I didn’t want to add to it just so I could tell him how his work had inspired me. I knew he’d heard it all before, tens of thousands of times. I didn’t want to impose upon Kirby, just so I could thank him for all he’d created, which was very literally allowing me to have a job at that point.

For that reason, and maybe also because I didn’t want to seem like another awkward fan in front of Jack Kirby, Jack KirbyI never made it over to his booth. It was the last chance I’d ever get to do so. Jack died in 1994. So all the things I wanted to say to him were left unsaid. That’s easily my biggest regret in two decades of writing comics.

I didn’t get a chance to say thanks to Dick Giordano either. I’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen with any of the other creators upon whose shoulders I stand. And I’d urge you to do the same. The next time you have a chance to tell someone what their work has meant to you, make sure you do it. It might be the last chance you get.

Cheers,

Ron


Deadline doom

The dreaded deadline doom has been nipping at my heels, so the blog posts haven’t been as plentiful as I would’ve hoped the last week. I had an issue going to press last week, and two more heading off to press this week, so that means more time devoted to tweaking dialogue, proofing pages and all the rest of the tasks that go with putting an issue to bed. To tide you over, here are links to various stories on my work both past and present.

FCBD - Artifacts First up, an interview about this years Free Comic Book Day offering from Top Cow, with story by me and art by Stjepan Sejic. The issue serves as a lead-in to the upcoming Artifacts series. [ link ]
Hope is Lost - Artifacts teaserNext up, Matt Price covers the Top Cow presentation at this past week’s ComicsPRO gathering in Memphis. [ link ]
GL #51 CoverAnd finally, two different articles from the Multiversity Comics site, both concerning my Green Lantern run. The first is more of a broad remembrance, while the second is specific to the never-ending “women in refrigerators” outcry. [ #1 ][ #2 ]

Hope you find something you like.

Cheers,

Ron


“Uncle Terry”

As promised, here are Terry Austin’s inks over Matthew Dow Smith’s pencils for the Albany Comic Con Magdalena #1 variant cover. (Click on the images for hi-res versions)

Matt’s pencils Terry’s inks

First time Terry has ever inked Matt. Not much for me to say about the piece; you can compare the pencils to the inks yourself and see how Terry approached it. Terry’s a pen inker, as opposed to using a brush, a tool he’s never been comfortable with, according to what he’s told me. You can also see where he utilized a razor-blade skip technique toward the base of the background buildings, actually gouging the paper to lend texture to the piece. If I’m remembering the story correctly, Terry learned the razor-blade skip from classic inker Jack Abel up in the Marvel bullpen. I met Jack during his later days, when he worked as a proofreader up at Marvel. Incredibly kind man.

Maybe that’s an inker trait, because Terry is very literally, the kindest, most gentle soul I know. He’s “Uncle Terry” to my kids, and one of my best friends in the world. All of which is, of course, in addition to being a legendary inker, one of the best to ever work in the business. His pairings with John Byrne on Uncanny X-Men and the late, great Marshall Rogers on Detective Comics are invariably mentioned among the tops runs in comics history. I’d also add his work with Paul Smith on Doctor Strange, and Rick Leonardi on Cloak & Dagger to that list. A couple of single issues that Terry inked are also among my all-time favorites: the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover (with Walter Simonson) and Daredevil #191 (with Frank Miller).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have Terry’s inks grace a number of stories I’ve written, including a good chunk of my Green Lantern run (over both Darryl Banks and Paul Pelletier), the Green Lantern/Silver Surfer crossover, and the Darth Maul vs. Darth Vader story that appeared in Star Wars Tales (over Rick Leonardi again).

As I said in an earlier post, one of the best things about working in comics is you get to work with your friends. In the case of this cover, I got to work with two of them. Thanks, guys.

Later this week, I’ll be able to show off the colors for the cover. If all goes as planned, maybe even a few different versions.

Cheers,

Ron


Sharp Pencils

Last time, I showed off Matthew Dow Smith’s roughs for the upcoming Albany Comic Con variant cover of Magdalena #1 (with Matt’s kind permission, I might add). As you see now, the consensus pick was the “perched on a cross” image, as it allowed for a large, striking figure of Magdalena, and utilized the Albany skyline in the background.


Rough Layout

Once the selection was made, Matt revised the image into a more refined rough (above), adjusting the pose and adding the Spear of Destiny in her hand. That completed and approved, Matt moved on to the actual pencils on a full size board, “full size” for comic originals being roughly 11 inches by 17 inches.


Rough Pencils

The second image shows Matt’s rough pencils, more of a work in progress. Magdalena’s pose was revised again, albeit slightly, and the Spear switched hands. The perspective for the background was also worked out, arranging the towers and uniquely-shaped Egg performing arts center.

After a quick approval, Matt completed the finished pencils, adding detail to Magdalena’s ornate costume as well as the towers. A final note from Top Cow’s Filip Sablik asked for the Spear to be a little longer, and for Magdalena’s face to be given a slightly more delicate look. Once those revisions were made, the pencils were complete and ready to go to inker Terry Austin. Since Terry lives only an hour away, I met Matt for coffee, got the cover from him, and delivered it to Terry.


Final Pencils (revised)

Since Terry had never inked Matt before, the cover was virgin territory for both of them. I know I was really anxious to see what the collaboration would look like. Next time, I’ll show you how it turned out.
Cheers,

Ron


All thumbs

You’re looking at thumbnails –“thumbs” – for a variant Magdalena #1 cover. Now, I assume most people reading this blog would know that “thumbs,” or roughs, are small sketches. But I don’t want to assume everybody knows that.

first set

These roughs are by my buddy Matthew Dow Smith. The variant will be available at the Albany Comic Con, the “hometown” convention for both me and Matt, which will take place April 25. The show site is here.

The guest list includes me and Matt, as well as a number of other Hudson Valley creators that have all been my friends for years: Terry Austin, Fred Hembeck, Todd Dezago and Joe Staton. Terry, Fred and Todd, along with Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, were regulars are the weekly Woodstock volleyball matches I played in until our five-year Florida detour. Coming to the con from a bit farther afield are Lee Moder, my artistic partner on Dragon Prince and the work-in-progress Shinku, and Saurav Mohapatra, a writer I edited at Virgin Comics. Check out the entire guest list; it’s pretty impressive for a “local” one-day show.

I’ve always been an admirer of Matt’s artwork, including Hellboy and Starman contributions and DC’s Day of Judgment series with an up-and-coming writer named Geoff Johns. Matt was my first choice when we needed a fill-in issue of my samurai-themed comic The Path at CrossGen. I thought his use of spot blacks would make him a good fit with the kind of work Bart Sears was doing on the series. Matt turned in a great job on his issue, and when Bart left the series, Matt moved to Florida to take over the regular art duties. We produced some issues I’m quite fond of, but it was destined to be unfinished business. Not quite a year later, CrossGen blew apart and Matt moved back to the Albany vicinity. A few years later, I settled in the same vicinity.

Matt’s first Albany variant, which he penciled and inked, was the Witchblade #131 cover for last year’s autumn con. The show was held the day after Halloween, so the subject matter was a natural. This time around, the obvious choice for a variant was my Magdalena series, which will debut just prior to the con. Without a natural theme this time, we discussed utilizing a background of the Albany skyline, featuring distinctive towers and an egg-shaped performing arts center.

The towers feature in three of the four roughs from Matt’s first batch (above), including one I suggested featuring a trolley-car diner. Matt also included a shot of Magdalena perched atop a church cross, an iconic image that would also be a comfortable fit for Daredevil or maybe Spider-man.

After input from con organizer John Belskis and Top Cow’s Filip Sablik and Phil Smith, Matt produced a second set of roughs (below). The diner concept was refined to include a neon sign featuring the Top Cow logo, and a peek at a couple of patrons inside that might well be Sara Pezzini of Witchblade and Jackie Estacado of The Darkness. The towers remained a background element in two of the roughs, but the lower angle on diner concept forced a different background for that image. Matt also added a shot inspired by look of golden age comic covers.

second set

So which one did we pick? Come back tomorrow to find out, and get a look at Matt’s finished pencils, which will be delivered to legendary X-Men inker Terry Austin for his distinctive contribution.

Cheers,

Ron


Readin’ and Writin’

“What books do you read?” That’s one of the usual questions writers get. Or at least this writer. When I get that question, people almost always mean what comics do I read. And the answer is … not as many as I should, really.

The more time you spend writing comics, the less time you spend reading them. I don’t run out to the comic store every Wednesday. I truthfully don’t even go to the comic shop once a month. But my “to read” pile seems to grow steadily anyway, between stuff that shows up for free, collections I pick up in a book store or online, and the single issues I grab when I do get to the comic shop. It usually comes down to a choice of doing more writing, or taking a break and doing some reading. “More writing” usually wins because, thankfully, there’s always more to do.

When I do read, it’s usually collections rather than single issues. I’d rather consume a story arc as a whole, rather than in bite-size chunks. Over the weekend I picked up the Millar-McNiven Wolverine: Old Man Logan hardcover. Mark’s a good writer and a fine fellow, even if he got back in the Self Promotion line for seconds. Steve McNiven, of course, got his start at CrossGen as essentially an apprentice, on the strength of some sample pages featuring Lara Croft.

An aside: on Steve’s first morning in the studio, most of the artists were absent, having pulled all-nighters the night before. So when Steve showed up, there wasn’t anybody around to give him the studio tour and show him the ropes. It fell to me. So in addition to showing Steve where the supply closet was, where his flat file drawers were located, and that there was indeed beer in the fridge. And I kinda indicated that it was part of his job to get me coffee every morning, with milk and one sugar. Just a joke! But Steve seemingly took me seriously, and as I remember it, ran off to get me my coffee. He delivered the coffee to my office, and asked, “Milk and one sugar, right?” I said, “Right.” And before I could explain I was just joking, Steve asked, “And should I put my dick in it every morning, like I did just now?” Pretty obvious he was going to fit right in.

Some of the other collections in my “to read” pile currently: Brubaker’s Daredevil Omnibus, Iron Fist Omnibus and Criminal Deluxe; the CharlesVess art book, Drawing Down the Moon; the Edginton-Culbard adaptation of A Study in Scarlet; and the latest volumes of Nexus Archives and The Walking Dead.

I try to keep up with a few books in singles, though even then I’m apt to read a handful of issues at a time: Captain America, Hellboy, Jonah Hex and Northlanders, as well as The Darkness and Victorian Undead. A few others that draw me in with fantastic art: the Ultimate books drawn by Frank Cho, Arthur Adams and Carlos Pacheco; and J.H. Williams and Cully Hamner on Detective Comics. I’m also enjoying the hell out of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X series, both the Garney and Paquette issues.

Another aside: I’m a big fan of Yanick Paquette’s art. We got to hang out a bit at the after party for last year’s Calgary Expo. In addition to being a terrific artist, turns out Yanick composes music and actually seriously considered becoming an entomologist. He regaled me, artist-sculptor Ruben Procopio and Ruben’s fiancée Jeanne Schanberger with tales of experiments involving what sort of, uh, poop insects preferred to nest in and consume.

Now … I have some writing to do. And reading I wish I was doing.

Cheers,

Ron


Uncovering some “Artifacts”

First, sorry to have disappeared for a few days. The combination of a pretty nasty virus inserting itself into my laptop, and the deadlines that led to me pulling out of Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con, stalled the regular updates here. The good news: I’m already committed to Emerald City for 2011, the first time it’ll be a three-day affair; and, my laptop seems to be back in working order. So expect regular updates as well.

DarknessDespite missing the con, I was at least able to participate in the Top Cow panel on Saturday via cell phone. You can read the details here.

Every publisher saves their announcements for conventions, and this was no different, as Top Cow named my first artistic collaborator on the upcoming Artifacts series, the 13-part event intended to redefine its universe. Joining me for issues #1-#4 will be penciler Michael Broussard, who is just coming off of a pretty stellar run on The Darkness with my buddy Phil Hester. I’m absolutely looking forward to working with Michael again. I wrote one of his first published jobs, the Marvel-Top Cow crossover book Unholy Union, which featured Witchblade, the Darkness, Hulk, Ghost Rider and even a couple pages with Doctor Strange. I’ll take advantage of even the slightest opportunity to write Doctor Strange, and Michael’s Doc pages are among my favorites. Michael was even kind enough to do a Doc piece in my sketchbook. Once that sketchbook makes its way back from the West Coast, I’ll use the blog to show off some of the art within.

Michael’s work certainly has what a lot of people might call a “Top Cow style,” meaning something in the same ballpark as that of Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri. I think there’s a perception out there, at least in some people’s minds, that the Top Cow studio somehow imposes a stylistic edict on its artists. Not true. Top Cow has launched a pretty impressive collection of artistic careers, including Michael Turner, Brandon Peterson, David Finch, Mike Choi, Francis Manapul and Billy Tan. True, many of those guys share a certain sensibility, which is understandable given that all had some tutelage under Silvestri. But you also have to factor in current artists like Stjepan Sejic, Kenneth Rocafort and Nelson Blake the 2nd, who have pretty diverse styles.

Unholy Union

Michael is one of those rare artists who emerged with a great deal of polish, even at the beginning of his career. Most guys slave away for years, getting better in little steps until they’re finally ready for professional-level work. Michael showed up at that level already, and has only gotten better since. I’m looking forward to working with him again a great deal. At one of the previous Emerald City Cons Michael and I were able to take a walk around town prior to the show opening. We ended up at a coffee shop, talking at length about art styles, influences and storytelling.

Why only issues #1-#4 of Artifacts for Michael? We’re going to be splitting up the series between four art teams, both for scheduling purposes and as a reflection of traditional three-act story structure. Crossover/event series are notoriously difficult to keep on schedule, as the shipping woes and artistic musical chairs of some Marvel and DC projects can attest. The intent is to circumvent that by having three art teams working at the same time, getting ahead so we can continue to ship on time. The art teams for issues #4-#7 and #8-#12 will be announced in due time, and we have something pretty special planned for issue #13. Artifacts #1, by me and Michael Broussard, will be out in July.

Cheers,

Ron


Above and “Beyond”

Beyond 1One of my graphic novels is going to be a movie! Except it’s not really my graphic novel. It’s Deepak Chopra’s. And as with any movie deal, it’s only real when the cameras start rolling. So I guess there’s not much cause for excitement, at least on my part. But still … kinda cool.

In the waning days of the late, lamented Virgin Comics, I was asked to adapt a Deepak Chopra screenplay called “Beyond” into a four-issue series. Deepak’s son, Gotham Chopra, was the one who originally recruited me to do some work for Virgin, so I was flattered that he wanted to entrust his father’s screenplay to me. I was paired with artist Edison George, one of Virgin’s studio artists based in Bangalore. I had to do a little judicious trimming here and there, but I think I preserved the important aspects of “Beyond” in the screenplay-to-comics translation. I recruited my buddy Luke Ross for the cover to issue #1, an image that needed to somehow convey the cross-dimensional, metaphysical aspect of the story. On the interiors, Edison turned out some beautiful work on what were consistently dense pages in terms of panel count. And Gotham told me his dad was pleased with the comic, which to me was the most important aspect.

Today’s Hollywood Reporter carried the news that “Beyond” had been picked up for film production, with director Suri Krishnamma attached. The full story is here.

“Beyond” was described as “a supernatural thriller about an American businessman, Michael Morton, who arrives in India with his wife Anna and son Ty on a vacation. Wandering through a teeming bazaar, Ty watches as his mother wanders into a small store but never comes out, leading to a frenzied search for her whereabouts.” That’s it in a nutshell, though the story is much richer, much more complex, than that brief summation. I enjoyed working on it, even though adapting someone else’s original work is a wholly different challenge than creating your own.

The first three issues of Beyond made it out before Virgin’s publishing ceased. The fourth issue was written and drawn, but never hit the stands. When Virgin folded, the company’s properties were purchased by the founders, now under the banner of Liquid Comics. Issue #4 is now complete, including colors and letters, and awaits release both digitally, and as a collected print edition along with the first three issues. Hopefully that’ll happen sooner rather than later; it’d be nice to have the completed story out there. Issue #4 also contains Edison George’s best work, I think, including some truly spectacular, large-scale battle scenes. Turns out I’m working with Edison on another project, but that’s fodder for a future post.

If you’d like to sample Beyond, the first two issues are up for free online at Issuu.com.

Cheers,

Ron


Appearances can be … exhausting

Angelus Variant for Emerald City Comic Con 2010

I’ll be honest – conventions are not my favorite thing to do. I’ve been doing them long enough that the conventions themselves all tend to be the same show in a different building. That’s not to denigrate any of the shows I’ve done or will do in the future. But from my side of the table, a con is signings and panels and meetings. It’s a lot more like work than a vacation. It’s also a necessity. With so many books being published every month, doing the extra promotion to get your book noticed just goes with the territory. Still, the time away from home and family is not ideal, nor is the lost work time.

For me, the best part of the convention experience – besides getting together with industry friends that I only see at cons – is getting a chance to chat with fans. This job is a solitary one. Creating comics is a pretty individual pursuit. I think the only guys who get a lot of interaction “at work” are artists who share studio space. And even then, we all ultimately do what we do alone. So getting some feedback from the audience is a way to recharge creative batteries.

Taking all that into account, my next two months are pretty jammed with appearances.Top Cow Print ECC 2010

This coming weekend, March 13 and 14, I’ll be at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, one of my absolute favorite cities. There will be a Seattle-themed litho and T-shirt available, featuring Witchblade artwork by Michael Broussard and Sunny Gho, as well as a con-exclusive Angelus #2 variant. [link]

ECCC Update: As I mentioned in my twitter feed, I can’t make ECCC due to work commitments. Rest of the listings here remain valid.

On April 10, I’ll be at the Empire State Book Festival in Albany, NY, for an autograph session and a panel on graphic novels with my buddy Matthew Dow Smith, among others. [link]
On April 16-18, I’ll be at C2E2, the big, new Chicago convention from the same people who bring you the New York Comic Con. Again, I’ll be at the Top Cow booth, and there’s rumor of an Angelus #1 con variant. [link]
On April 25, I’ll be at the Albany Comic Con, along with a number of my buddies like Terry Austin, Matthew Dow Smith, Lee Moder, Todd Dezago, Fred Hembeck, Joe Staton and more. Great little show, done for all the right reasons. Look for an Angelus #1 con variant by Matt Smith and Terry Austin. [link]
On May 1Free Comic Book Day – I’ll be signing at a number of New England Comics locations in the Boston area. I wrote Top Cow’s FCBD offering this year, which is a prelude to this summer’s Artifacts series. [link]
And finally, on May 15, I’ll be at the inaugural ComiConn in North Haven, Connecticut. You guessed it, there will be another Angelus #1 con variant, this one by Eric Battle. [link]

After that, most weekends you’ll be able to find me on my couch, watching the Mets. I hope.

Cheers,

Ron


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