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The artist is IN! I am currently available for commission work of just about any variety (artistically speaking).  Pencil drawings, ink, di...

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 (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.

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 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.

18 January 2008

Image is Everything!

Back in the early days of Image Comics, some of the creators ran "fan art" pages in the back of their books. Readers were encouraged to send in their renditions of characters, with the best ones being picked to be printed. As this was in the prehistoric times before email was common, this naturally had to be done via snail mail. Being an ardent buyer of Image at the time, I produced a couple of drawings, but by the time they got where they were going, the books had stopped running those features. Nevertheless, I think the drawings were pretty good, and still hold up now. Here, then, is my take on a couple of favorite Image characters.

First up, Spawn himself. Arguably the most successful Image creation, and certainly Todd McFarlane's best work (while he was still doing it all himself). Spun off to a movie, cartoons and no end of merchandise, the character is proof of the potential that lies in comic books, if there's a good business mind behind the pencils.

Next, naturally, there's Spawn's nemesis, Violator, in Danny DeVito evil clown mode. This guy is just pure fun to draw, as he's somewhere between a leering gargoyle and a bigfoot cartoon. To this day, I have no idea why someone thought John Leguizamo was a good choice to play the character in the movie. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Finally, a couple of WildC.A.T.S. characters, Warblade and Voodoo. This is a series that has been brought to life by some of my favorite creators...creator Jim Lee, artist extraordinaire Travis Charest and so-brillint-I'm-conviced-his-head-is-full-of-stars writer Alan Moore. The 'Cats was the Image series I kept reading long after I had quit all the rest. While it has not reached the marketing potential of Spawn, it seems to have held to a more consistent vision, making it more of an artistic triumph...well, as artistic as you can get with a group of "underwear perverts", anyway.
Here, Warblade rebuts the possibility that his morphing metal claws bear any resemblance to a certain adamantium-laced X-Man:

Maybe one of these days, I'll be fortunate enough to have a book picked up by Image. It would be a fanboy's dream come true to be counted among such a talented group. Meantime, I'm content to mess around in their sandboxes when time allows.

14 January 2008

Rat Droppings!

Here's an interesting item that's shown up in my SiteMeter referrals recently...."rat droppng illustrations." I'm not sure if it's of more concern to me that someone took the time to Google that term, or that the term led back to my site. And what kind of universe do I live in where my sketchblog rankis #2 on Google for "rat dropping illustrations". Well here's hoping that after this post, I'll make it to # 1.

And incidentally...why rat dropping "illustrations"? Wouldn't you look for photographs? Prior to today, would anyone really feel the need to turn that into art? And who would want to have such a piece of art, for what purpose?
Ah, internet, you crazy kid, you.

08 January 2008

Ink is Ink

Every now and then I'll take a look at the referrals in Sitemeter to find out who's coming here and how they found me. One thing that occasionally strikes me is the unusual search terms that lead people to this blog. There's some that make sense if you look at them sideways and kind of squint a little, but there's some that I have to think MUST leave the reader disappointed.
In an effort to satisfy some of those wayward souls, and to share with regular readers some of the stranger things that show up in my search results, I've decided to make it a recurring theme to illustrate some of the more unusual search terms that show up in my referrals. I can't promise that the results will always be exactly what was on the searcher's mind, but when you search for things like these, I think you kind of have to take what you can get.

First up, here's to the person who found me by searching "Objectivism Tattoo".

And by the way...if you really want an Objectivist tattoo, let me suggest a gold-colored dollar sign. It's very "Atlas Shrugged".
For those of you who are saying a good Objectivist tattoo would be a boot stomping on a human face...forever: you can go away now, you filthy second-handers.

Open Zen

As an update to my earlier post on "Zen to Done", I thought it would be worthwhile to share with you the news that author Leo Baubata has just declared all content on his blog "Zenhabits" to be in the public domain. This includes his ebook, "Zen to Done". In his own words:

"my writing here at Zen Habits and in the Zen To Done ebook are now in the public domain. I hereby waive all claim of copyright in this work; it may be used or altered in any manner without attribution or notice to the me. Attribution, of course, is appreciated."

So, while you can (and should) still buy a copy of "Zen to Done" from Leo's site, I do still have the ebook myself, and would be willing once again to send a copy to anyone who emails me a request for it. Once again, I would ask that if you receive a copy, you "Pay it Forward" to someone else who would appreciate the book. Also, if you blog or otherwise write for the net, it would be a good idea to review the book or otherwise link back to Leo's blog to help spread the word about his work.

More details about Leo's decision to release copyright on his work can be found here.

02 January 2008

New to You!

Congratulations to the earth for having made yet another revolution around the sun, with warm wishes for many more.

Some of my favorite things from 2007, in no particular order....
-Tom Waits's 3 CD set, "Orphans". One of those musical things that makes you wish you could grab random people, slap headphones on them, and say, "Listen to this!"
-Warren Ellis's "Crooked Little Vein". Mad as arseholes, with more hate than Ambrose Bierce on a tequila bender, but the second best fun you can have between the covers, and the only book in the last ten years that insisted I finish it in one day.
-"Ratatouille" and "Meet the Robinsons". It's probably a sad statement on movies when the best ones were made for kids, but these were two of the most enjoyable films ever, made even better by being able to share them with the family.
-"League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier". Brilliant lunacy from Moore and O'Neill, two people who apparently remember what comics should and could be.
-Podcasts. Escape Pod. Pseudopod. Keith and the Girl. Spider on the Web. Starship Sofa. Hooting Yard. Soccer Girl. The list grows daily. My god, it's full of content.
-Life, libertine and the pursuit of happiness.

What does 2008 hold? I've got some ideas and plans, but short answer is, I don't know. Tell you what, though...I'm going to try to make it interesting.