Images From Around this Blog!

28 December 2008

Looking Ahead, Odds and Ends

It's been a busy time, folks. I've recently finished up a set of illustrations for a CD project that won't see the light of day until the new year, but I'll post some samples here as soon as I can get permission. Also, I've just finished up a little project for the Canada Revenue Agency...a little thing known as a tax audit. Yeah. Fun.
In the new year, I'm looking forward to doing less commission work, focusing instead on bringing some of my own projects to the point where I can start selling them in various forms. That's not to say that I won't take a commission if it comes along, but it won't be my main interest like it was in the past year.
I'm still doing odd sketches and whatnot that I'll be posting here soon, just to keep building this blog as my online portfolio. A lot of my hits seem to be coming from people who want to see the tattoo flash I've posted, so maybe I'll put up some more of those, just to keep the punters happy.

In other news around the web, I see that Leo Baubata has posted a new, free ebook over at Zen Habits that will probably be useful to people getting by in today's economy - Thriving on Less - Simplifying in a Tough Economy. I generally stay away from the doom and gloom pundits who talk about how bad things are getting worse, and I haven't read this book yet (hey Leo...pay for some more bandwidth, why doncha!), but I've found Leo's advice to be the sort that's helpful at any time, and if nothing else, this book should provide more food for thought.

Another sign of the times was brought to my attention this morning from one of my favorite horror and science fiction publishers, Apex Publishing. Apex briefly published Apex Digest, which was the only magazine I've subscribed to in the past ten years. For better or worse, it's since gone digital and they have been giving more attention to book sales. They publish books by such notable writers as Jennifer Pelland, Matt Wallace and Lavie Tidhar. I've not read anything offered by them that's not pleased me.
Publishing being the mercurial business that it is right now, Apex is finding itself in need of cash, but quick. They figure about $2500 in revenue in the next two weeks to stay afloat. So if you've got a few post-Xmas dollars to spend and are an avid reader or would like to discover a new author, now's a perfect time to head over to the Apex store and try one of their books.
Myself, I prefer their ebook offerings from Fictionwise - the only source from which I actually buy ebooks - and from recent reading can personally recommend Matt Wallace's "The Next Fix", Fran Friel's "Mama's Boy", and Jennifer Pelland's "Unwelcome Bodies". You can also get back issues of their magazine through the site, and each is guaranteed to have something to please the sci-fi and/or horror fan. I've been nagging editor/publisher Jason Sizemore to offer more items through Fictionwise, and maybe if that wing of their store gets enough attention, they'll actually do it. At an average price of just below 4 bucks, it's probably the best bang for your fiction buck, and it will help keep a worthwhile publisher in business.

But enough begging...here's a glass raised to the new year, with a wish for health, wealth and happiness. Keep the good times rolling, and ride it til the wheels fall off!

30 October 2008

Cover Up!

Astute readers will notice that I haven't been posting much here lately. It's not that I've stopped caring, nor even that I don't have any material to post. It's just that I've been very caught up in current projects, with nary a minute to spare for things like putting together blog posts.
The good news is that some of those projects are finally starting to see the light of day, and I should be able to start posting samples soon, starting with the image below.

This is the cover to "Powers vs. Power" by Robin Reed, now available from Lulu.com. This book is a collection of superhero-based short stories, all connected within the frame of a larger story. I've read the stories myself, and I think they're quite enjoyable. This is not so much biff-bam-pow superheroics, nor what Warren Ellis calls "underwear perverts". Rather, it's solid writing with believable characters in a realistic setting. While a certain amount of power fantasy is unavoidable in this genre, the stories depend more on character development and strong narratives, which makes reading the book time well spent. Fans of stories like "Astro City" and "Kingdom Come" would do well to check out this book; they'll find the same kind of storytelling with a respect for the genre that does not have to resort to "Watchmen" style deconstruction to succeed. All in all, good value for the money.
"Powers vs. Power" can be previewed and purchased via it's page on Lulu.com. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

30 September 2008

Book Review: Bold Visions


I recently picked up Gary Tonge's "Bold Visions" on a whim while browsing the art section of a local bookstore. I generally tend to avoid the "how to" books on comics and fantasy art, other than a quick glance through the pages. This is mainly because I find that most of them teach very limited material, showing how to draw very specific characters in very specific poses, without really exploring the fundamentals of drawing or character design. Even rarer is it to find a good book on digital painting and illustration.
I hadn't scanned "Bold Visions" very far before I knew that this book was something different from the usual, and it practically demanded that I take it home and give it more attention. For the price ($21.00, less if you order it online), I was well rewarded with a book that is both inspirational and informative, and that I think would make a welcome addition to any aspiring artist's reference library.

Tonge's book stands out for three reasons:

1) the author is very good at explaining his process in as few words as possible, with only moderately technical language. His descriptions of his usage of layers, special effects and the basic tools of Photoshop are clear, and encourage experimentation, whereas some books on the subject scare off the reader with jargon. Beginning artists will find much of value in this book.

2) as obvious as this might seem, the book is full of pictures! Rather than relying on blocks of text and captioned images to communicate his methods, Tonge has used a simple yet brilliant technique of using well-labeled images to show the comparative effects of various tools. For example, when describing layer effects in Photoshop, he uses one large image broken down into smaller square areas, each area showing the result of applying the layer effect. The composite picture shows quite clearly the difference made in each case, and communicates the point much more clearly than could be done with traditional text and captions. This may seem obvious, but a quick glance at many art instruction books will show that it is not a technique in widespread use.

3) Tonge is a very good artist. Many of these books, I find, are done by artists who are mediocre, whose work does not really stand out. Take, for example, the many comic and manga instruction books authored by Chris Hart. While they're fine for raw beginners, or those who just want to draw action figures, the art itself is below the standard of even the better than average comic artists working in the market, and as such does not generally inspire the reader to want to take pen to paper. Tonge's work, as the title states, is indeed bold. It is well executed, polished and powerful. Tonge has a wonderful sense of color, and some of his digital paintings have the depth and detail of a John Berkey or a Syd Mead. Seeing this proficient work explained in such a simple way is great motivation for the reader to take mouse or stylus in hand and try some of the things he writes about. If nothing else, this is just an enjoyable book to look at, and makes a fine portfolio book for fantasy art collectors.

Aside from magazines like "Sketch" or "Draw", I've only added a few reference books to my library in recent years, great ones like Scott McCloud's "Making Comics" and "How to Make Webcomics" by Dave Kellett, Kris Straub, Brad Guigar and Scott Kurtz. "Bold Visions" will hold a welcome place among them, and I hope that more publishers will see the value in producing similar books by quality artists. This is the kind of stuff I really need in my collection.

For anyone who's curious about Tonge's work, you can see it for yourself at his website, VisionAfar. It's definitely worth a visit.

12 September 2008

Anything?

This is one of the few times I'll post someone else's art to this blog....
Comic artist D.J Coffman, creator of the highly enjoyable webcomic Yirmumah has outdone me in the cheap sketch department by offering to draw anything you want for $2. He's currently up to drawing #342 on his site, and still going strong. My own $2 went with a request for him to draw his favorite comics character and here's the result:


He's had many stranger requests than mine, and appears to have done a fine job by all of them. Drop on by his site, why don't you, and see the work he's done to date. While you're at it, throw him $2 and play stump the artist by giving him something truly weird to draw.

02 September 2008

Can't Sleep...Clowns Will Eat Me

For reasons not quite clear, but probably having something to do with lack of sleep and poor dietary habits, I felt that I needed to draw a zombie clown today. Thank heavens for the internet, where I can pass my crazy on to you, dear reader.

 

I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that I can't get Alice Cooper's "Look at You Over There, Ripping the Sawdust From My Teddy Bear" out of my head?

15 August 2008

Is It Drafty In Here, Or Is It Air On My Shorts?

The podcast "Air Out My Shorts", hosted by the loquacious Preston Buttons and the liquored Word Whore, is once again running one of my stories in their latest episode, "Catcher In the Eye". The story is titled, "Dawn of the Spooge" and is very, VERY NSFW. It may also cause eye irritation, runny nose, restricted circulation, blue skin, loss of consciousness, violent convulsions, and finally...death. Take only as prescribed by a blogger.

I love this podcast, really I do. However, I must be honest and say that I think they do a really bad job of reading this one. No, really. I know I'm no William S. Burroughs, and they make no bones about their literacy, but I do think the story was better than they present it, and suffers from a half-hearted treatment. Still, it's amusing if you can follow their meandering version of it. So give it a listen...if you dare!

06 August 2008

By the Pricking of My Thumbs...

Like most artists (I imagine), I have folders full of ideas that never seemed to come to fruition.  That doesn't mean they're bad ideas (well, not all of them, at least), just that they're ideas for books, stories or paintings that I never get time to finish.  Life, it is said, is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
One such idea that still looks attractive after a few years was that of doing an Image Comics style "update" of some classics of literature, starting with that most bloodthirsty of Shakespeare's works, "MacBeth".  This was inspired by seeing some of Travis Charest's work in a Green Lantern Quarterly, making me realize that the aesthetic of guys like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld could really be rendered in a beautiful way.
Being a longtime reader of Shakespeare, I thought a great way to introduce the Image generation to classic literature would be to render it up in the modern style, but retain the original dialogue.  I thought, and still do think, that the play would translate well with a good set of pictures to show the considerable action.
Below are some of the concept sketches I did for that book that never really got started, let alone finished.  It probably never will be, now that I see someone has beat me to the punch with an anime version.  Still, these old sketches are interesting and fun to look at.

First, we have a rendering of Duncan, the old king, much inspired by John Gielgud (the only actor I've ever seen admit to making up Shakespeare dialogue on stage because he forgot the lines):



















Next, there's Lady MacBeth, in Big Barda inspired couture, with hips and thighs that only Jim Lee could love....

 
Finally, there's the man himself, in all his clanky finery.  I had the idea that Scotland could be recast as a space colony, with energy swords, spaceships and all manner of science fictiony folderol.  Naturally, he'd need Captain Marvel wristbands and shoulder pads by Youngblood.  The only thing I failed to give him was the gratuitous waist and thigh pouches that Rob Liefeld stuck on his characters at every opportunity.
 
 


Somewhere, I've got a copy of a cover mockup I did for this book.  If I can find it, I'll scan it in later.  Meantime, I'm off to work on my reimagining of "Jane Eyre" done as a Vampirella-style pinup book.

18 July 2008

The "Johnny Saturn Pinup Gallery" is now available for sale through creator Scott Story's site.  There's some nice art in here, including a previously blogged page of my own.  I really like that Bruce Timm-style cover.  While you're there, check out some of the other books available at his store; there's some good work there.  Scott also runs Johnny Saturn as a webcomic on the main site, so there's a good read.  I'll predict that fans of books like Astro City, The Boys and The Authority will like this strip.



11 July 2008

Get Some! Get Some! Go! Go! Go!

This one's a small preview of a project I've been working on for a few months now. The initial stage is complete, and it will shortly be making therounds of publishers. If all goes well, a good book could come out of this. In the meantime, I'm still taking on some small projects to keep me busy. Hopefully, I'll have some more news about that shortly.


25 June 2008

Criminals Are a Superstitious, Goofy Lot...

As a longtime fan of the character, I'm looking forward to the new Batman movie (in spite of the fact that I think the new mask is the worst in the modern crop of movies, and I thought the color palette for Batman Begins was all wrong). I'm for any movie that kills one of its lead actors....Game of Death, Twilight Zone, The Crow...if an actor's willing to die for his art, I'm willing to plunk down my dough to watch him do it.
I was thinking about the character the other day, and realized that in all the writeups the movie Batmen get....Adam West, Michael Keaton, etc. ...nobody ever seems to mention the original movie Batman, Lewis Wilson. That could have something to do with the fact that there were none of the recognizable Rogue's Gallery villains in there. Or maybe it could have something to do with the fact that the costume they used for the Dark Knight in that incarnation looked like it was bought at a dollar store clearance sale. Really, Adam West's featurless physique was bad enough, but was this really the best they could do at the time? Batman is supposed to be a brooding figure of mystery who inspires fear in the hearts of evildoers. Can you imagine being afraid of this goofy sonofagun? So now matter how bad Dark Knight might turn out to be, remember...it could always be worse.

20 June 2008

Cherchez la Femme!

Here's a sketch I did a long time ago. I titled this one "French Class" because it was done in a university French class. I'm an inveterate doodler, and seem to pay better attention to a speaker when my hands are busy with pen and paper. So if you're ever talking to me and think I'm not paying attention because I'm drawing, relax...it probably means I'm deeply focussed on what you're saying!


13 June 2008

Bedelia, I Want My Cake!


Father's Day's coming up, for anyone who cares about that sort of thing...the time of year when your family ignores your request not to spend money and buys you things that you neither want nor need, nor could ever possibly use, all in the name responding to overwhelming advertising. Nevertheless, if nothing else, it's a good opportunity to lie in to the point of being ridiculous and then grab a nap in the middle of the afternoon without needing an excuse.
So, in the spirit of the sleep deprived everywhere, Happy Father's Day!

10 June 2008

Dina Babbitt


This is a very quick, very rough portrait sketch of artist Dina Babbitt based on a photo found via Google. Ms. Babbitt was a prisoner of Auschwitz during WWII who helped herself and her mother survive largely through her art. While at the camp, she was assigned by Josef Mengele to paint portraits of some of the gypsy prisoners, apparently because he did not think the film stock at the time captured their coloration correctly. She came to his notice by painting a mural of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the children's barracks, and fittingly, later went on to marry Art Babbitt, the chief animator on that Disney film.
At present, her gypsy paintings are kept in the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum. She has requested that they be returned to her for a number of very personal reasons, not least of which that she feels that the subjects they portray need to be finally freed from Auschwitz. Her requests have been denied to date on the basis that the paintings are an essential piece of the history of the place.
There is currently a petition circulating to have her paintings returned to her. Anyone interested can read about and get instructions to digitally sign the petition via this page at The Comics Reporter.

I've just finished listening to an interview with Ms. Babbitt on CBC Radio's "The Current". Considering a recent discussion I've entered at the Bruno the Bandit forums, it seemed especially relevant. Listening to her speak was fascinating, not only because of her singular experience, but also because of the dignity with which she presented herself. She strikes me as a very self-actualized person with a strong appreciation of her own existence, which I suppose would follow logically from the events of her life. Considering that we live in a time when everything from spilled coffee to a parking ticket becomes the cause for a lawsuit, a public inquiry, or indignant demands for justice, I was surprised at how undemanding and sincere Ms. Babbitt sounded in the face of the true injustices she has endured. In that, I think she may be a model for understanding the quality of individual existence and questioning why we assign value to the things we do and own.
For anyone interested, the interview with Ms. Babbitt will apparently be archived at www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. I strongly recommend giving it a listen.

09 June 2008

Simon Still Kicking!

Just a reminder for anyone who's interested that my old webcomic, "The Journals of Simon Pariah" is still up over at Comic Genesis. I would have thought that they'd have taken this down by now, considering that it's been a couple of years since I've updated, but I just checked, and it's still there. In addition to 8 original Simon Pariah online comics, there's also a bunch of other things I've written and drawn. Some of it is rough stuff, but it's amusing to browse around the site for a bit.

04 June 2008

Coming Out of Quarantine...

How do you spell Fun? I can tell you how not to spell it...P.N.E.U.M.O.N.I.A. I've just had the two most unproductive weeks of my life, weeks in which I couldn't get it together enough to read a book, let along write or draw anything. One of my lungs is still trying to eject itself from my body, and I've burst the blood vessels in one eye from coughing (no joke! I look like a rough draft of Harvey Dent), but I'm finally putting myself back together, which means back to work.
Once again, my plate is full for about the next month, so anything new will have to wait at least that long. The sketch request line is still open, but will understandably be running at a slow pace for a while as I try to catch up and recuperate.
Meantime, here's an old sketch that I think fairly accurately describes how I feel...

22 May 2008

Iron Maiden

Here's a sample from a coloring job I recently completed for a book titled "Stormchasers". This was a fun page to do, just because I got to pull out my Hajime Sorayama references and have some fun with gradients and metal textures.
The pencils are by Jay Dee Rosario and the inks by Bobit Nacila. The book will be published as a digital download soon, and I'll post a link here when it's available.

12 May 2008

Destination: Moon

I submit that as of 12:20 Atlantic Time, 12 May, 2008, I am the first comic book artist to have his name sent to the moon (feel free to challenge this assertion in the comments). This was done by submitting my name to be included on a list of names to be carried aboard the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, to be launched before the end of 2008.
NASA, through the Goddard Space Centre, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Planetary Society, is offering the opportunity to submit your name to be included on the list. If you want, you can have your name included here and find out more about the LRO Project here.
This is real science fiction coolness, guys...the kind of really cool thing that the Internet could be used for, instead of ads for Viagra and upskirt shots of Emma Watson, so treat it with respect and don't do a Bart Simpson on the site, please and thank you.

06 May 2008

Meme Me

The hot idea on the street today is "Draw Yourself as a Teen", a meme started by Davario at his LiveJournal blog. Never one to pass up a good idea, or an opportunity to talk about myself, here's my contribution to this net sweeping phenomenon....with slight apologies to Alex Ross and Vin Diesel.

Headbanger? Me? You'd better believe it. I won't tell you when this was, but if you look close, you can probably figure it out from the context.

In case you're wondering, the numbers in the background are the tab to the the opening riffs of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast".

UPDATE: Another facet of this challenge seems to be that artists are comparing their teen selves to their current selves. In the spirit of that, here's my somewhat subjective interpretation of what that old-school rocker looks like today:


01 May 2008

Free the Comics!

Don't forget that this Saturday, May 3, is Free Comic Book Day! Run, don't walk, to your nearest comic retailer and grab some good reading material, and maybe discover a new favorite. Or rediscover an old one.

If you're in the Halifax area, the best place for comics on ANY day is Strange Adventures. Not only do they have an incredible variety of books, games and paraphernalia throughout their store, but they also have the friendliest and most personable staff I've seen in any shop...No pretentious Simpson's comic book guys here, but interesting folks who'll gladly help you waste your time and money in a mind-broadening way.

21 April 2008

Tweaking

I'm finding that the ol' blog is looking a little too cluttered these days, so it's time to simplify a bit while I rethink the basic design. I don't think I'll break anything TOO seriously, but if anyone suddenly has problems with this page, please drop me a line.

17 April 2008

The Great Old Ones are Coming!

This week, I've been working on some web banners for Derek Pegritz, author of "City of Pillars", one of the freshest stories set in the Lovecraft mythos that I've read in quite a while. From the information I've been given, "City of Pillars" is only the beginning, and he has a much larger tapesty of work planned for this projects. What he's published so far is very much worth reading, and what he intends to publish is worth watching for.
Derek found my work through my recent post "Things Go Wrong At Guantanamo", which was inspired by his work, and has asked me to create some art for his website redesign. Naturally, being the Lovecraft acolyte that I am, there was no way I could refuse. Not all of his banners will be my work, but keep an eye on his site and you will see my work there. Meantime, here's a teaser of one of the images I've completed for this project.



The source for this image is a photograph by deep sea diver Jim Lyle, used with permission. Jim is an excellent photographer; check out an impressive collection of his work at Scuba Diving Magazine.

11 April 2008

Suit Up!

Here's another recent piece, a test page completed for a job audition for Tom Stilwell's book "Honor Brigade" #5. The character is "The Suit" and the artist is Brad Bowers. Shiny.


Thanks to Tom, Brad and Spinner Rack Comics for letting me repost their art here.

Utopian

Here's a piece completed recently for Scott Story's Johnny Saturn pinup book. If it gets published, you'll see the final work in greyscale. However, the original was completed in color, and I'm rather proud of the finished product. You can see the other entries for the book at Scott's Myspace page.


I won't try to hide that this piece was inspired by Alex Ross...that much is obvious. I've just finished reading "Mythology" and am more impressed than ever by the artist and his work. I can't take too much credit for the background; that's courtesy of NASA.

04 April 2008

Doodulz!

One of the motivators behind my plan for my never realized website "Doodulz" was a collection of caricatures that I did in my university days. I think at some point, I had aspirations of being an "underground" cartoonist, judging from the obviously Crumb-inspired nature of some of these drawings. Each was based on something I either saw or experienced while attending classes at Memorial University of Newfoundland in the 90's. After all this time, I still find them charming, and hope you will as well.

I think we've all sat through lectures like this one...




Coming from a small town as I do, I have an instinctive fear and mistrust of the excessively liberal. It's one thing to keep an open mind, another thing to let your brains fall out...



I can relate to this one even now. Usually by 11 am.


Sadly, I can also relate to this one. Usually between 8 - 10 am.

I think we probably all knew this guy, the skeevy professor or teacher who was always grinning at some joke only he knew, and could usually be caught at least once a day trying to peer down someone's shirt. I swear I had one of these from about Grade 4 on.


And finally, the guy you don't want to be, and certainly don't want to be around. He "knows" it all and is more than happy to share every...single...bit...of...it at the merest indication of interest. This is probably a personification for about a quarter of the internet, those parts of it that are not spamming, trolling or looking for nude pictures of Amy Winehouse.


I've got a few more of these that I'll post once I scan them. Feel free to use any of these on a website if you like, but do me a favor and throw a link back if you do.



31 March 2008

Sketchy Characters

When I was still actively updating my webomic, "The Journals of Simon Pariah", I was toying with the idea of doing a sister site called "Doodulz", just because I have folders full of odd little sketches and character drawings that I really can't use anywhere else, but I can't bring myself to throw away. That idea didn't really fly, but it seems that this sketchblog is just as good a place to show off these little oddities.
Starting off, we have a trio of comic book characters that have interested me at one point or another.
First up is Morpheus himself, aka Sandman. This is an easy character to draw, what with chalk white skin, messy hair and a voluminous robe. Like a dream, the character gets amorphous, which conceptual drawings like this one.


Next is that ol' webslinger, Spider-Man. This is one character I can honestly say I hate drawing. I've always suspected that the reason the black costume was developed was because whoever drew the character at the time got sick and tired of trying to figure out all those weblines. Nevertheless, I wanted to play with a Frank Miller-esque effect on the bricks behind him, and so came this....

Finally for now, one of my old favorites, Lobo. I love Giffen's work on this character; it's always cathartic and fun to read, especially when Bisley is on his game, as he was in the original miniseries. I recall one rather Douglas Adams-esque line from that series that states the Czarnian meaning for "Lobo" is "one who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it." Here, the Main Man seems intent on living up to his name...
I've got a lot more of this sort of this...some of it very rough, some of it very weird. I'll be sharing it all, for better or for worse, over the next few weeks.

SO DESU KA?!!

Found via Boing Boing this morning, the creepiest/funnest/most startling evolution yet of those sprites that follow your cursor.
Click the link and prepare to be...amazed? Amused? Weirded out? I dunno.


Later today: art. I promise.

26 March 2008

Error! Your Post is Off Topic...

I'm wandering a bit from the topic of the blog with this one, but I couldn't let this bit of geeky fun pass without sharing it. Cracked online is running an article on "30 Error Messages You Never Want to See". There's some really good ones there, reminiscent of Something Awful's "Photoshop Fridays" back when it was funny. However, this one really got me going:



If you need a chortle, go read the full article.

25 March 2008

As the Animal Tamer Said to the Elephant, "Up, Simba, Up!"

And if anyone else can tell me what TV show that quote is from, I'll give you a cookie.

Having mostly finished up (for now) the project I've been working on, I find myself with a little spare time, so I'm free once again to do some drawings for interested readers. As always, my email address and Paypal link are there to the left, and the rules are pretty much the same: anything you want in b&w for the minimum price, with anything larger or more complicated (i.e. color) to be negotiated. Now's the time to get your request in for...oh, I don't know...a character design, a custom birthday card drawing, some tattoo flash...a cartoon of Herve Villechaize wearing a taffeta dress while tap dancing to a Gilbert & Sullivan musical. Whatever your deviant imaginations can contrive.
What's "up" is of course my price. With time constraints being what they are, I find that I have to raise my prices a little to make it worth my while to continue to offer custom sketches, hence the $5 increase per page*. Still, I have to say that many of those who bought have been more than generous in donating more than the original $10 asking price, and the extra is very much appreciated. I hope everyone who's bought has found it worth the investment and I look forward to doing many more of these.

*If I've already agreed on the $10 price with you, that still holds true, lucky you. I never change horses midstream

19 March 2008

Is It Really Full of Stars, Arthur?

The news today is that one of the last great masters of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at age 90.
Honestly, Clarke is one of those authors permanently on my "must read' list, but whose work I rarely get around to. I've read "2001" a couple of times, as well as "Childhood's End" (my favorite Clarke work to date), and some of his shorter pieces, and heard several of his stories dramatized as radio plays, but I've never really gotten around to the Rama series, "The Ghost of the Grand Banks", or any of his many, many other books. Still, his presence was always felt in his influence on other writers I have read, especially "hard" sci fi writers.
I suppose the good news is that all that work is still out there for me to discover. Meantime, the world at large, not just science fiction, has been enriched by Clarke's vision. Like Heinlein and Asimov, he was one of those writers whose influence extended beyond his genre or his medium towards the shaping of reality. I'm tempted to make some analogy about his being a monolith to a bunch of hairy apes, but I wouldn't want to sell the species that short...yet. Nevertheless, in many ways we're still proving the truth of his statement that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

With this, and Dave Stevens in my last post, this blog is starting to get a little morbid and a lot off topic. If this world can keep from killing off any of my literary or artistic heroes for a week, I'll see about getting some lighter fare up here real soon.

12 March 2008

Anyone who reads anything connected with comics knows by now the sad news that artist Dave Stevens died two days ago of leukemia.
There are a lot of comics artists that I like. There are fewer that I consider great. There are a very few that I consider a strong influence. They're the ones whose art would always arrest my eye and force me to linger and admire. The ones who would cause me to buy a book on sight, even if they only did the cover. The ones who I would gladly pay for the privilege of working with.
Dave Stevens was one of those artists. Best known perhaps for his creation The Rocketeer, nearly as much so for being instrumental in the revival of Betty Page fandom, he was also, in my opinion, a driving force behind the modern pulp revival. Growing up as I did in the company of Doc Savage and The Shadow, it was no wonder that his work caught my eye; every line of his work was everything that was good about the golden age of pulp. He was, with Olivia de Bernardinis, the latter 20-th and early 21st Centuries best heir to the idea of "cheesecake", with a sense of form and clarity of line that were second to none.
Like the recently deceased Steve Gerber, I always thought that he did not receive the respect he deserved among comic readers, mostly due to the fickle ways of popularity. As artists with lots of flash and little substance came and went, Dave seemed to be continually refining his own instantly recognizable style, surfacing occiasionally with the odd book or issue, but seen more often in his influence on the work of others.
I don't need to say he'll be missed. The tributes to him I have been reading all day are proof enough of that. Saddest for me is that, as I continue to hone my own craft, I know that he's one of the greats that I'll never get to meet or work with.*
Still, here's my small tribute...a little color job on a very low-rez sample of Dave's work. I don't know if this is kosher to use the piece this way, but frankly, I don't care. This is as close as I'm going to get....



What with Mike Wieringo, Steve Gerber and now Dave Stevens all within the past year, this is happening too often. Just stop it now guys, OK?

*FYI, if anyone's interested, some of the other big names on my "wishlist" are:

-Frank Cho
-Dave Sim
-Brian Bolland
-Bart Sears

None of whom need any help from me, but hey, you gotta dream big, right?

Update: For anyone who's not familiar with Stevens' work, there's a fantastic gallery of his art online at "Golden Age Comic Book Stories". Go check it out, and while you're there, check out the massive gallery of pulp and comic art that this blog's author has collected.

21 February 2008

Things Go Wrong at Guantanamo

Has anyone else noticed the resurgence of popularity of H.P. Lovecraft's work on the internet lately? Like some elder god rising from the depths, his stories ascend through the chthonic miasma of the digital age, bringing him a popularity he's not enjoyed, I suspect, since the first run of Weird Tales. Whether this is due to the emergence of much of his work into public domain, the culmination of popular works by authors such as Brian Lumley or Neil Gaiman, or some bizarre alignment of the stars, I cannot say, nor dare I predict what ineffable doom it spells for our benighted plane of existence.
He's been celebrated as a dildo cozy on Boing Boing, parodied in a webcomic at the Unspeakable Vault of Doom, celebrated by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and represented in his many aspects at Ectoplasmosis (whose "Cthulhu Cthursday is must see internet every week). Leave us not forget that the internet almost collectively wet its pants at the possibility that the monster in Cloverfield was going to be Cthulhu. And you know you've really made it to the top when Tori Spelling stars in an adaptation of your work.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good squamous horror as much as the next being; I just wonder why and how it's come about. Time was when only the most hardcore of nerds or horror fans even knew the name of Lovecraft, now he seems to pervade the net like the shadows that haunt fabled Arkham.
So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I says. I for one would like to welcome our tentacled masters, and here's the proof. Inspired by reading Chapter 2 of Derek Pegritz's "Footnotes to the Human Species", here's my interpretation of how things might play out after dark at a certain well-known prison.....


18 February 2008

Doesn't Look a Thing Like an Onion

Apropos of nothng much, other than the fact that I went to see Spiderwick with my kids yesterday. It's an OK movie, although darker than you'd think, considering the market. If you're thinking about taking kids to see it, read some reviews first.


On the Auction Block

This is an FYI that the first volume of drawings from the "100 Artists" project is now up for auction on Ebay. It's got a starting bid of $500, so make sure you've got a few shekels socked away if you're going to bid on it. If, like me, you find the price tag a little too steep, you can still see the drawings contained in the book, including my own contribution, at the 100 Artists Flickr page.

Personally, I think they've set the starting bid a little high, considering the fact that it's been up nearly eight days and hasn't had a bid yet, but I'm hoping there's a few high rollers out there who'll get into a bidding war at the last minute. I'd love to see them make a bundle of money off this and do more of these projects. Considering where the profits will end up, it would be a worthwhile investment for anyone who's got enough cash to jump in the ring.

12 February 2008

Happens to the Best of Us

Found via Metafilter, via Mark Evanier, the news that Steve Gerber has died.
Who now, you may ask?
Only the creator of Howard the Duck, that's who. The foremost writer of Man-Thing. The creator of Sludge (for Malibu Comics). A 40+ year veteran of the medium, working, according to his blog, up to almost the last minute, on Doctor Fate.
Gerber had a spotty history in my mind. He was never a "first-rater" outside of Howard the Duck, not because he wasn't talented, but because he never seemed to receive the respect he deserved in the places where it mattered. Proof positive is the movie version of "Howard the Duck" and the legal battles surrounding ownership of the character. Still, I think he is one of those people who will be remembered as a sincere creator and inspiration in the field. Mark Evanier's keeping Gerber's blog alive for now, so it's a good time to reminisce about some of your favorite comics, and see what he was up to recently.
Goodbye Steve. Thanks for the duck.


07 February 2008

Can You Hear Me NOW?!!!

Another odd search term that's turned up in my SiteMeter reports recently is "sketches of ears". Some part of my subconscious took that as a signal to do a Wolverton-esque figure drawing, and so I give you:

Ears McGillicutty, the world's most successful paranoid. Blessed with Brobdingnagian lobes, Mr. McGillicutty knows for a fact that people are talking about him behind his back, because he can hear every word. He's not worried, though..he's too busy working too jobs (radar technician and dog whistle tester) so he can keep himself in Q-Tips.



Seeing as how my last sketch took me to the number one spot in Google search for "rat dropping illustrations", let's see if I can match that feat by making myself #1 for "sketches of ears".
Yes, here at Paladin Freelance, we're all about ears and rat droppings.

Update: And just like that, I'm #1 in the search listings. I guess the secret to topping Google's rankings is to specialize in categories that no one will ever search.

31 January 2008

Return of the Zinja!

Today I'm digging deep into my filing cabinet to bring you some of the oldest artwork of mine that I still own, and one of my first true comic book attempts.
Back sometime in the 1980's, when I was still in high school and living in a small fishing community on the arse end of nowhere, two of the things that kept me within some reasonable bound of sanity were books and comics. I was literally addicted to both, consuming them as fast as I could get my hands on them.
For a brief while at age 15, I studied kung fu with a local instructor, and developed as well a strong fascination with all aspects of martial arts, including Eastern philosophies. For a time, my reading was dedicated to this kind of subject matter, and I discovered many good books and ideas as a result.
One of the books that stood out at the time was "Shike" by Robert Shea (perhaps better known as the co-author of the Illuminatus series with Robert Anton Wilson). In two hefty volumes, this was the story of the "Zinja", a group of Japanese warriors somewhere between ninja and Shaolin monks, and of the Mongol boy Jebu who was raised among them.
Shike stood out for me not only because it played into my fascination for martial arts, but also because it contained elements of high fantasy that engaged my imagination, and more importantly, it was a very well written story. In the years since I left that small community, I have acquired and disposed of thousands of books. Outliving all of them, my first paperbacks of "Shike" still sit amongst the 100 or so books that are displayed on my shelves right now. It's been a while since I read them, but I know that if I were to sit down with them again, I'd find them just as engaging and enjoyable.
At one point just before I left high school, I attempted a comics adaptation of "Shike", partly for the exercise of it, and partly because I considered that if I did a good job, maybe I could use it as a portfolio for approaching the big publishers. For reasons that will shortly become evident, my attempt languished in a drawer for the past 20 years.
However, yesterday, "Shike" was brought to mind once again, thanks to that repository of wonderful things, BoingBoing. In one post yesterday, it was announced that Michael Shea, the son of late author Robert Shea (who died of colon cancer in March, 1994), has made "Shike" available to the internet under a Creative Commons licence. This means it's now free to read, copy and distribute. Michael Shea is doing this in hopes of reviving awareness of his father's work, and his generosity is your gain. If you would like to read "Shike" for yourself...and I heartily recommend that you do...the full text can be found at bobshea.net (direct link to the text here). If you do enjoy it, and I think many people will, do yourself a favor and go find some of Robert Shea's other work. I have to be honest and say that I have not read any of his other novels yet, but I will definitely make a point of doing so soon.
Upon learning of this, I emailed Mike and asked if he would have any objection to my posting some of the pages from my early attempt at adapting this story to comics. He happily agreed, and you'll see the result here.
I'll warn you...these pages are very rough. They're the very definition of "warts and all". They're pencil only, as I didn't have access to proper inks at the time, and done on bond paper...which makes it a miracle that they survived at all. What's more, they're not terribly original. Much of the artwork was shamelessly lifted line for line from issues of "Masters of Kung Fu" and "Savage Sword of Conan". So if you think you recognize something by Paul Gulacy, Mike Zeck or Gary Kwapisz, it' because you do.
What it does have going for it is that it is sincere. It was a labor of love at the time to put this together, and I think for all its flaws, it's a pretty good adaptation (if you don't count the lettering...I still can't do hand lettering to save my life). Also, it taught me a lot about the process of putting together a comic book, lessons that are invaluable even now.
Every now and then I think that I'd like to take another crack at this, but so far time has not allowed. Maybe one of these days, I'll get around to it. In the meantime, here's a blast from the past for your amusement. What you have here is the first 1 1/2 chapters of the novel, up to what I thought made a logical breakpoint. For some reason, for chapter two of the comic, I made a jump to chapter 18 of the story. Those pages are not here, but if you would like to see them, I am including a link to a cbz file containing all 16 pages I've drawn. This is perfect for reading in cdisplay or your favorite comic book reader, of you can unzip it and view the images individually.
Enjoy!















25 January 2008

I'm Only Human!

Apropos of nearly nothing, and irrelevant to the main subject of this blog, but I saw this at Kottke.org today and thought it was too good to let slip by. This is a quote from Robert A. Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love":

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Damn straight.

21 January 2008

Memories of Fleetcon

In 2004, I attended a local science fiction/fantasy/comic book convention called Fleetcon. I've done a couple of these and always had a fun time doing sketches for convention goers and generally showing off about art and comics in general. Unfortunately, when I gave up doing Simon Pariah on a regular basis, I also gave up attending Fleetcon, and I don't think these conventions are still held. Every now and the, I miss it. Like this afternoon, when I thought about the piece I did for auction at the 2004 convention. The original was bought by the owner of Strange Adventures comic shop in Halifax, and my scan of the piece has been missing until now. I had run the drawing on my webcomic site for a short time, but took it down shortly afterwards, and couldn't find my saved file. Now, thanks to the power of the Internet Archive, I've recovered the drawing to share with readers.
This was a large piece, 20" x 30" on illustration board. The characters depicted are heroes of the DC Universe past and present, some of whom have not really been seen in stories in the past 50 years. If you think you've got what it takes, try to name them all...I guarantee you'll miss at least one.