Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daily Post: Heidi in progress

Figures in pencil. I've got a more designy plan for this one than what I typically do. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Daily Post: Tim O'Casey's Wrecking Crew

Tim O'Casey and one of his robots from the cover I'm recreating in my own style of The original Fly #2.

This one is going to take a back seat for the moment to Tomie DePaola's SCBWI Heidi contest. The contest involves illustrating a scene from Heidi, and the deadline is coming up, so that's my current mission.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daily Post: The Fly. A Superhero. A Drawing. A Brief History.

This is my take on another second string, off-brand superhero, and a favorite of my childhood, The Fly.

Not to be confused with this guy:

This figure is a part of a larger scene I'm working on, a recreation of a cover from the 50s comic. It's a sort of side project to my side projects. Hopefully I'll knock this out and get back to business, but this superhero thing has distracted me a little.

I can't really explain my enduring affection for the character. The costume is just so appealingly schlubby, with the goggles and the dorky fly wings on his collar. With no apparent rhyme or reason, sometimes his ears would be pink, and sometimes they would be painted yellow. Maybe it was my attraction to underdogs in general. By the time he came around to me he was in his third incarnation in the 80s, and was hopelessly dated. The original character was created by Simon and Kirby and was pretty dorky even then as superheroes go:

The Fly was revived again in the 60s by Joe Shuster (co-creator of Superman, by now thoroughly alienated from the company that he made rich) and Paul Reinman. Their version was a campy answer to the then popular campy Batman TV show. They changed the name to Fly-Man, to mimic the then popular Spider-Man.

Neither of these series lasted very long.

Believe it or not, Marvel and DC comics actually own the copyright to the word "superhero". So Shuster called his characters, "ultraheroes". You would think that this was an obviously bad idea, but in the 90s there was a whole line of comics that borrowed the name:

You see, the "ultraheroes" came from the "ultraverse". Doesn't that make perfect sense? I guess they were hoping this whole "ultrahero" thing would catch on and replace "superhero" in the popular vernacular, but alas, it was not to be.

So this is what The Fly looked like when I was reading him:

That photo background was something they did that must have looked really cool in the late 60s and early 70s but by the 80s had gone out of vogue. The cover is by Steranko, a big name back in the late 60s, but by then no one knew who he was. This was what they used to call a "direct sales" book, meaning: it only went to comic book stores, so while other comics were 60 and 75 cents, this one was a whopping $1. These books were meant to appeal to the diehard fans. I'm sure the publishers thought they were really on to something. By the end of the run it was a newsstand title that you could get in the grocery store for the more reasonable price of 75 cents, but that didn't really help.

At the time it was written and drawn by a number of hands, with at least a good eight issue run written, drawn and inked by Steve Ditko. Ditko coincidentally co-created Spider-Man whom The Fly predates by a couple of years, and this was probably Ditko's last mainstream comic for which he still did everything. After that it seemed like he had washed his hands of them and the most you would see from Ditko were a few scribbled layouts that other artists would finish. I'm sure the publishers thought this was a perfect fit despite the fact that Ditko's approach to comics by then was about 20 years out of date. After doing The Fly Ditko returned to his single-minded obsession with Ayn Rand, self-publishing a series of endless objectivism inspired screeds in comic book form. His run on The Fly contained some none-to-subtle Randian propaganda that, though obvious to me now, went right over my head as a kid. Apparently nothing about Ditko was appealing to any kid but me at the time.

But they just couldn't leave it alone.

Check out the new costume! Though more modern, it still somehow manages to retain the dorkiness of the original. This one lasted about a year or two in the 90s. It was an attempt to target younger readers, because, while the the same guys who were reading superhero comics in the 80s were still hanging on, the publishers weren't getting any new blood. Needless to say, it didn't work. Japanese manga was already starting to dominate the middle-reader/young adult market and the still superhero obsessed adults were marketed to even more aggressively to try to compensate for the reduced audience. Can't get new blood? Just get the same old audience to buy even more comics. This is their strategy to this day. The average superhero comic reader has got to be at least in their 30s by now. Apparently they have plans to bring The Fly back yet again. This character was never popular. Ever. It really makes no sense at all why they keep bringing him back.

I have to admit my take on The Fly is inspired by Rafael Grampá, or as my friend Dan calls him, Sexy Grandpa.

Pretty much every take on a superhero here by Grampá I'm in love with. As far as I'm concerned, this is how superheroes should be drawn. I love the way their clothes don't fit quite right. I love Spider-Man's ballet pointed toes. How Thor looks like he's wearing these half wresting boot, half athletic shoe things. How a little bit of neck shows through Wolverine's mask. So yeah, I pretty much stole everything. I love this guy.

Since the readership for superhero comics is more conservative than ever, unfortunately Grampá's take is still an eccentric one. Strange Tales is a novelty featuring artists popular for drawing non-superhero comics. It only runs for a handful of issues.

Check back in the next week or so for the entire scene! Actually, keep checking. I'm Still for the most part posting new stuff every day!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Daily Post: Superman, Why Superheroes Aren't Any Fun Anymore--Weird Ass Comics

Not quite my definitive take on the character, but I still like the drawing. I wanted to make Superman more like a circus strong man, but it didn't quite work out. He's just a little too skinny and looks less stoic, and more chilly. I'm still working on it. I haven't drawn superheroes in a while but was inspired to do this one by Tin Salamunic who recently posted a bunch of his own versions of his childhood heroes, but I have plans to give it another go.

In my version he's got a wrestler's belt and wrestler's boots and his old school late 30s emblem. I also gave him one of those weird 30s pompadours, less greasy and more curly than the 50s pompadour. Back then superhero outfits were a little more high waisted. Superman had a narrow waist and no hips. The whole ensemble was definitely more circus strong man than spandex. The underwear outside of the pants thing was really just a sort of strong man speedo (to show off his muscles) with tights underneath, because I imagine circus tents could get really drafty. It was a look.

Things only got weird in the superhero costume department when costumes derivative of this look had lost sight of their original inspiration. Underpants outside the clothes became the default and no longer made any sense. In the 30s and 40s the look was recognizable. Later it just became the way things were done. No one remembered why. This seems to go for a lot of conventions of the genre.

That's why I'm a fan of the off-brand superheroes of the 40s and 60s (since superheroes had nearly disappeared in the 50s)--they didn't have the genre conventions down quite so pat. These guys still had the underwear outside the pants for no apparent reason, but they didn't read like DC and Marvel comics. I'm talking MLJ superheroes like The Fly and The Hangman (whose superpower was killing people. That was it. He just killed people with his noose), or anything written by Joe Simon in the 60s, like Bee-Man, or my favorite, Jigsaw. Now that one was just weird. He got all torn up when his spaceship crashed and aliens had to piece him back together, but they did it wrong because they didn't know what humans were supposed to look like, so he became a big mess of puzzle pieces and--well it just got grosser from there. It's hard to even describe.

Just try to figure that one out. There's this great scene where he returns from space and scares the shit out of his girlfriend.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents fits in there somewhere, Solar, Man of the Atom, Brain Boy I'm sure I would dig if I ever read it,

Dell/Gold Key seemed to really make an effort not to make their superheroes typical. This guy not only doesn't wear his underwear outside of his clothes, but he doesn't even have a costume! Solar Man of the Atom was another one that went out of it's way not to look like other superhero comics.

Then there was the original Ditko/Charlton Captain Atom and The Question, who had no face. Or at least a mask that made him look like he had no face. Very creepy. Now that would strike fear into the hearts of evil doers way more than a guy dressed as a bat.

Think of how much more effective that would be? Wouldn't that completely freak you out? They've revived The Question and others more recently, but they're just not quite the same.

And from the 40s, The Red Bee, who had two pet bees in his belt, or Madam Fatal, who was literally just a guy in old lady drag.

You can't make this stuff up. Well, someone can I guess. Did I mention Tiger Boy? See Tom Neely's even better version here.

Bee-themed superheroes never end up being hip.

Check out the blousey sleeves on The Red Bee.

It looks like I have three entries here from Joe Simon's brief but memorable Harvey run (Jigsaw, Tiger Boy, Bee-Man). His cluelessness about genre conventions was so eccentric his comics have a way of almost making me nauseous. I find them fascinating but at the same time, hard to look at.

Spider-Man was really the only insect-themed superhero that ever came across as cool. Check out The Tarantula:

Now that's just eww. The tarantula is from the 70s and is more of a late entry into the whole what-were-they-thinking era of superheroes. Between Jigsaw and this guy I'd just assume let the bad guys get me.

In the 80s things took a turn for the weird again, with some trippy stuff from Neil Adams who was famous for his run on Batman before he did his own thing with stuff like Toy Boy and The Revengers, and best of all, Skate Man:

I knew it was kind of dorky at the time, but I loved Skate Man! If you can't read the word balloons, Skateman says, "Hands Off Jerkhole, the parties over! We're forming a union! My foot and your face!" To which one of the thugs responds, "Ayee. Dios... mio...Skateman!"

It was clear that Neil was almost as clueless as Joe Simon when it came to superhero comics. "The Revengers" sounds like "The Avengers" but isn't quite the same. Revenging just isn't the same as avenging.

OK, I guess the 90s weren't all that bad:

But wait, they ripped off the whole ferret thing from this guy:

But without the enormous mullet, what's the point? The mullet makes the ferret.

Edit: apparently the 90s Ferret was a revival of the 40s Ferret. Who knew? Also, you'd think if he had a secret identity people would recognize him right away. "Who is...the Ferret? Could it be that guy with the enormous mullet? nah..."

Superheroes apparently aren't allowed to be this fun anymore. They're too busy being "realistic". For me, this is even weirder than The Tarantula. What happened? I guess, Watchmen happened, and The Dark Knight (these were comic books before they were movies). Like underpants on the outside of your tights, there seems to be no going back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Daily Post: Potbellied Pig

Watercolor painting, 18 x24 inches. Just finished this morning. It was a bitch to scan and piece together on photoshop. Still on the fence on this one.

Since I color on photoshop typically, and use white paint to fix my mistakes in ink, Watercolor is a high risk, seat of my pants kind of medium. It's both scary and freeing. Usually it takes me a couple of tries before i get it right. This was try number three.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Daily Post: Giraffe

The only thing with this animal drawing thing is that, unlike with monsters, it requires me to come up with a bunch of reference first. I got a giraffe toy too, for a dollar at Target--I'm very into the target dollar animal toys right now--but I just didn't get around to hunting it down for this. So this is all from photos culled from the net. I drew this while we were watching The Walking Dead. It was a pretty gruesome episode, but I was busy drawing missed a lot of the gory stuff.

Anyway, I want to draw superheroes I think sometime, since i haven't really done much of that. Tin Salamunic is doing a sort of superhero of the day, and that's sound appealing. We'll see.

Daily Post: Hang'in with Jesus

Daily Post: Another Unused Color Comp

Again, the mystery project. All will be explained in a week or so most likely.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Daily Post: Unused Color Comp

This is an unused color comp for my still as yet not quite green lit mystery project. particularly pleased with the water on this one. It's a shame I'm not likely to take it to a finish.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Daily Post: Christmas Mailer

I usually post in the morning, but I spent a good part of the day still coloring this one. This will be a card, and on the outside will be this image:

And when you open it you'll see this one:

I worked on this intermittently between other projects, and now its finally finished. I had a great time making it! A lot of challenging stuff in this one on a technical level, not the least of which was the curvilinear landscape. I made the beginnings of a traditional grid and kind of guestimated where the vanishing points would be. It came out pretty good. I also got some nice reflective shadows in the figures. I went with a limited palette, basically red, blue, purple, white and black. Sometimes the fewer colors you use the more of a graphic impact the image makes. Or something. Anyway, thanks for looking.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daily Post: One More for my Mysterious Mystery Project

In ballpoint pen. Inspired by Heinrick Kley. Still in a holding pattern on this one--hope to find out soon one way or another what's going to happen with this project.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daily Post: Deadwood

Re-watched a little Deadwood. Really enjoyed that show. As basic as it is, it really is true: the more you draw the easier it gets. Drawing every day really keeps your drawing muscles in shape.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daily Post: Drawings of Tati, also, How Not to Keep a Sketchbook

Did these while re-watching a little bit of Tati's "Playtime". Tati, for those who don't know, is the great French silent auteur and my favorite silent actor. In "Playtime" There's no plot to speak of and sometimes all it looks like is a lot of elaborately choreographed people walking around, but patience is rewarded. Apparently Tati's most expensive film. Can't wait for Chomet's "The Illusionist" which will star an animated version of Tati.

I'm particularly pleased with this one:

I love Tati's combination of ungainliness and grace, with his tall awkward stoop. The guy on the far right is just a random Frenchman from the film, but here's Tati again, stooping.

An Added Note About Not Keeping a Sketchbook:

I've been continually told throughout my education how important keeping a sketchbook is, but I've always hated sketchbooks. It always feels like a big commitment, putting a drawing down in that hard bound book. Even cheap ringed ones feel like some kind of indelible record of my crappiness. But lately I've been keeping more of a "sketch envelope". I take a sketchbook with me when I travel (which is rarely) but since I'm home more often than not, I just sketch on 11x17 bond paper. It's cheap, and I don't have to give a bad drawing a second thought. There's no commitment involved. This has worked out well for me and I have been drawing more than ever. The good drawings go in the envelope, the bad ones in the trash. So the sketch envelope seems to be the best solution for us shut-ins who hate keeping sketchbooks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Daily Post: Alligator

So I've decided to give monsters a break for a while and to switch to animals. This one was done from both photo ref., and an alligator toy while watching Peter Pan, continuing my Disney kick. I also started The Sword and the Stone, a Disney film I hadn't seen and knew little about, and I'm pretty impressed so far. It's got the same quality of character animation and style of my favorite Disney era, the 60s, reminiscent of 101 Dalmatians and Jungle Book. I'm surprised it's not more popular.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Daily Post: Snowscape

This is the background line art for my christmas card, which I'm in the process of coloring. Some of you may remember an earlier post with a flying santa. Well this is what he's flying over. I better get this thing done soon!

The Armadillo Records show went great! Nick Jaina was amazing! We also had the best showing of any Davis Art Walk event where I've shown my work.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Daily Post: This Guy

So, for the first time since I started, I missed a daily post yesterday! It'll never happen again (for those who are paying attention). It was a crazy busy day yesterday, one of those days when you swear you did something but you didn't.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Friday Art About at Armadillo Music! Nov. 12th

For the Davis Art About Art Walk I'll be showing my prints and posters at Armadillo Music at 205 F Street in Davis on November 12th! Starting at 6:00pm, a live performance by Portland-based folk artist Nick Jaina, Opening and Refreshments, 7:00pm.

Also featuring this exclusive signed and numbered limited edition print only available at Armadillo Music!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Daily Post: Twisty

This one is a little less in the realm of kid friendly, but it was fun.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Daily Post: Lumpy Guy, Thoughts on the New Walking Dead TV show vs. The Original Dawn of the Dead

Done while watching AMC's new Day of the Dead show. Not really a zombie or particularly related to the show.

It's interesting how what was essentially George Romero's idea in the sixties became a genre. There's pretty much nothing in the new show, concept-wise that wasn't taken directly from Romero's zombie trilogy--or what is it now? septilogy? I haven't seen any of his new movies after Land of the Dead, which was pretty fun, but I heard his recent efforts weren't so good. Anyway, the Walking Dead is pretty much Night of the Living Dead the TV show, and is quite well done. It looks like it succeeds in being exactly what it sets out to be. At this point, with CGI, zombie apocalypses are no sweat. An arial view with a million shambling zombies in a deserted city? No problem. A zombie with only a torso dragging itself around on the grass? Yuck. No problem. The special effects are completely seamless. The scares are real--Romero could be proud. They definitely know how to build up the tension and suspense.

I read the first few issues of the comic and the TV series seems to be following it pretty closely. I didn't find the comic all that compelling--the characters were mostly archetypes and the concept seemed old hat, but I'm told it gets better as it progresses as the characters become more fleshed out. Comics can't carry the same tension and suspense that you can get in a movie, good actors well directed can make simple characters compelling, so the TV series immediately had more appeal to me.

Reg and I watched the recent Zombie parodies together, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland--Zombieland was kind of eh, but Shaun of the Dead definitely got it right. So was willing to try this new show. I warned her, it was going to be gross. It was gross. But after all these years of being unable to get reg to watch horror movies, reg loved The Walking Dead. I mean, loved it. She immediately wanted to see everything zombie. She e-mailed me from work the next day with the message, "can we see a zombie movie? Tonight?"

So I ended up getting two the following night, 28 Days Later (I don't care what you say, it's a zombie movie!) and Dawn of the Dead. I thought 28 Days later was a good one to start with since the scares are comparable to The Walking Dead, and it has strong characters.

28 Days later is zombies as an out of control virus, with zombies that run, but basically it's zombies without the word zombies being uttered. In fact, generally in zombie movies, no one says the word zombie, so that's not exactly new. Danny Boyle is a director that I find often disappointing because his movies are so often just on the cusp of being a lot better than they are. 28 Days later unfortunately keeps to this rule, with an ending where bike messenger Cillian Murphy inexplicably turns into a commando-style tactician with what amounts to superpowers. Up till then, the movie was pretty naturalistic, a zombie movie with unusually good writing, strong characters and strong performances, genuinely terrifying. Reg loved it.

So last night was time for Dawn of the Dead, her first Romero zombie movie. I warned her about the campiness. I didn't realize before how recent Dawn of the Dead was when I saw it originally when I was about 10. It came out in 1979, and the film was only about 4 years old when we saw it on our brand new VCR in the early 80s. This was back when we still wore short short bathing suits and the first movie we saw on our VCR was Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke.

So despite this, I forget sometimes how much the early 80s still resembled the 70s, and Dawn of the Dead is as 70s as horror movies get. At the beginning of the film they're chasing down this gang leader who turns out to be a white guy unconvincingly painted to look Puerto Rican, maybe the last time anything like that was ever done in a wide release mainstream movie. The blood is as bright red as tempera paint. The black guy says stuff like "sucka" and "chump". It all seems quant and innocent now, but when I was 10 it was terrifying. I remember seeing some sort of "making of" afterwards where they showed how they did the scene where the zombie gets half decapitated with a helicopter blade. It turned out to be a very convincing dummy. At the time, knowing how it was done softened it a little for me and probably prevented a few nightmares.

At first Reg wasn't so into it because of the relentlessly cheesy 70sness of it all, but by the time they got to the mall, she was into it. Not too long ago I saw Zack Sneider's remake, which was scarier--he borrowed Danny Boyle's running zombies, and there's the notorious zombie birth scene--but the characters weren't nearly as compelling as Boyle's. Not that they were so convincing in the original. But I still prefer the original. In Sneider's you never got that great image of zombies pushing shopping carts in the mall. I can't see how he could have passed that one up. The original also better captured the whole feel of living in this mall for months, going on shopping sprees and getting obsessed with an abundance of stuff. I mean, that was practically the whole point. In one scene, as one of the characters is defending their mall stronghold from an army of bikers (the biker scene in general is one of the best and campiest in the movie) he says something like, "it's ours. We took it." He's so invested in all that stuff that he loses sight of his own survival. This concept was completely missed in Sneider's film. Dawn of the Dead is first and foremost a zombie movie, not some great comment on consumerism, but this subtext is part of what makes the movie fun. But Sneider is not really strong on subtext.

So now Reg wants us to have our own miniature zombie fest, so I get to introduce her to some of my favorites: Night of the Living Dead of course, Evil Dead 2, Evil Dead 3, Army of Darkness, Land of the Dead, and I still haven't seen Return of the Living Dead. So we'll get to see that one together for the the first time. I don't think she's going to be much into the high camp and gore of Re-Animator--it's no Evil Dead 2. But it'll be fun. Now if only I can talk her into early Cronenberg...

So with three of my favorite shows right now, Mad Men, Rubicon and the very promising Walking Dead, AMC, as far as I'm concerned, is the new HBO. And if you haven't seen Rubicon yet, do. It's a John le Carré style espionage thriller with great characters and great performances. It's not exactly fast-paced, there's no gun play or car chases, but it's smart, and it only gets better as it progresses. AMC also does Breaking Bad, but I found Breaking Bad to be pretty disappointing, the old, I'm-dying-so-I'm-throwing-caution-to-the-wind-and-by-god-I'm-living-for-the-first-time-because-of-it schtick. But the other three--so far so good. I'm started to get sick of Dan Draper screwing everything within arms length in Mad Men, but otherwise, Mad Men has a lot to recommend it as well. Right now the best part about Mad Men isn't the men but the women--Peggy and Joan.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010