I usually try to keep my "work" life separate from my "art" life (which I flog through this blog), but I'm making an exception to give a shout out to two of my favorite day job co-workers, Dave Bett and Michelle Holme from Sony Music, who were recently nominated for a Grammy for "Best Boxed / Special Limited Edition Package" for Bruce Springsteen's "The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story."
I did some of the imaging work for them and I got to see the enormous care, attention to detail, and meticulous organization (it was a huge undertaking) they put into this project. You can see the package, including a gallery of many of the booklet pages, here.
Here's a video I wrote and co-directed many years ago for the Crash Test Dummies - it's their version of "The First Noel". We shot it in a pizza joint in Niagara Falls, Canada in a single day - then had to go shoot another video for them (for their cover of "Androgynous" by the Replacements) at a nearby amusement park for the following two days!
If you look closely, Brad (the lead singer) is holding a "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug, which I asked the props person to go buy somewhere. The next day, on the set, I looked closely at the mug and realized he'd drawn it on in magic marker, having been unable to find one in a store! He did a good job, too.
When the camera pans over to Ellen Reid sitting at the piano it's a deliberate nod to the opening credits for Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Many cartoonists create beautiful little pages of preparatory drawings for their comics called "thumbnail" pages. My friend Bishakh Som, who is a wonderful cartoonist (you can see his work here) posted some of his thumbnail pages on Facebook last week that were just gorgeous, and suggested to me that I post some for The Moon Prince.
I'm sort of torn about this, because my thumbnail pages are very loose and scribbly. I use them to write the dialogue and plan the sequence, design and layout of the drawings, but the drawings themselves sure aren't much to look at. On the other hand, I guess it's sort of fun to see to see the process that goes into making comics like these, and I like to give visitors to this site something to look at while they're waiting for new pages of comics (stay tuned for more piracy and warfare on the Moon this Friday!).
So, without further ado, here are some of my ugly thumbnails, followed by the finished black and white drawings for the page they're from and the final colored page, with all the water and spooky fog.
Since the last couple of pages of The Moon Prince have featured a young girl (Molly, of course) standing guard with a rifle, I thought it might be interesting to post an old, old picture of my grandfather (the real Max and Molly's great-grandfather), William Fraser.
This photo was taken around 1902, and shows Bill with his pet black bear (really!) and a toy gun. I believe at the time he was living near Keewatin (a Cree Indian word which means "Blizzard of the North"), Canada.
There's an excellent post over on Geoff Grogan's Look Out Monsters blog announcing the end of our giant format newsprint comix project pood. Pood made it to four issues (which seems to be the magic number for anthologies I co-publish, see: Blurred Vision) and, while it would have been nice to keep it going forever, we had to recognize that these are dark days for comix on paper.
I'd just like to say thanks to all the artists involved (there were so many I'm afraid to try and list them in case I miss someone!) to Alex for all his tireless efforts and to Geoff for letting me be part of the trip.
My graphic novel Fantastic Life (which won a Xeric Award and was included in TheBest American Comics 2011) is in the November 11 issue of Diamond Distribution's Previews catalog, so if you'd like to see it in your comic shop now's the time!
This is an illustration I did back in the early 90's when I used to art direct for the Crash Test Dummies. It's a pen and ink drawing of two ghost puppets we had built for a rock video I wrote and co-directed for their song "The Ghosts That Haunt Me" (if you're curious, you can see the video here).
This is a digital composite from 1998 based on an old Picasso painting of a couple of Amazons running down a beach. I used barbie dolls for the bodies and my wife and her sister posed for the faces, hands and feet (I used my wife's boob for both of them, reshaping it so it wouldn't be too repetitive. Is that wrong?).
Anyone out there who might have wondered what happens to poor deranged Adam after Fantastic Life will surely be thrilled to hear that a sequel is in the works, picking up on the story about 12 years later. It's tentatively titled The Rough Pearl, and I'm going to start serializing it here in a few weeks (after Super Love People wends its way to some sort of baffling conclusion) but in the meantime here's a little sneak peek:
You'll notice it's sort of rough looking - that's because I'm also doing The Moon Prince right now and I don't have time to polish up the drawings and add full color. A couple of my cartoonist friends have sworn to me that they like this loose look just fine, so I'm gonna go ahead and put it out there, with my fingers crossed that you'll like it too.
Here's a couple of pix from the Best American Comics event last night at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. I'm the dude with a microphone stuck to his head, and that's fearless editor Alison Bechdel in the middle, and the redoubtable Gabrielle Bell on the left.
Back in the early 90's I was involved with an "artist-run center" up in Winnipeg, Canada, called "Plug-In". We mostly showed Conceptually based paintings, installation and performance art, but we tried to liven things up from time to time, so we brought in Fantagraphics' touring "Misfit Lit" show of original comics art.
We flew Chester Brown, Charles Burns and Mary Fleener in for the occasion, and afterwards, Chester was kind enough to send me a copy of his graphic novel Ed the Happy Clown, which had one or two panels in it based on old comics panels which he had used as a "point of departure" - more or less "sampling" them, in other words. I loved this approach (I was doing big paintings based on found images at the time) and wondered if it would be possible to make a whole story that way.
I went and bought a huge stack of old comics and cut them all up to make a big pile of panels, then fished around in them and pulled pieces out at random to try and collage a story together. The result was a comic called Captain Adam, which you can read here (if you click on the pages you'll also see the collages each page was based on). Here's the collage I made for the cover:
And here's the ink drawing I made from it:
Here's the pencil crayon on Xerox color study I did for the company (Digital Chameleon, operated by Winnipeg's own Lovern Kindzierski, one of the pioneers of digital coloring) which created the original digital separations:
and finally, here's the cover with digital color recreated by me a few years ago (I couldn't find Digital Chameleon's version) for a revised version put out by Blurred Books here in NYC:
I'm going to be on a panel discussion for Best American Comics 2011 next Tuesday, Oct. 18th, at the Union Square Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, with this year's editor Alison Bechdel and Gabrielle Bell, who's also in the book. Since both of them are vastly better known than me, I'll mostly just try not to say anything stupid.
After I posted yesterday about different versions of the first page of my Fantastic Life comic I noticed it was a bit hard to see much difference between the last two (color) versions, although I remembered making lots of little changes, so just for fun here's an animated GIF to show them better (I turned off the "color holds" in the first version to make it easier to see the changes to the drawings):
So my book Fantastic Life is starting to make its way into a few stores, courtesy of indie distro maven Tony Shenton, and I thought I'd put up one of those "process" posts that comics artists sometimes do for the benefit of anyone who might be curious about how they make these things.
When I started Fantastic Life in the summer of 2006 I hadn't drawn any comics in more than twenty years (I did Captain Adamin 1993, but I don't count that as "drawing" because it was a "sampled" comic, more like a collage). Needless to say, I was really rusty. Here's the first page of Fantastic Life just as I drew it then, using pencil on a 16 x 20" sheet of bristol board (click on the images to see a larger version):
I didn't want to finish the drawing the traditional way, using India ink applied with sable watercolor brushes or nib pens, because I remembered how frustrating that process was for me when I was young - I'm a little obsessive-compulsive, and I hated how hard it was to rework ink drawings.
So instead, I figured I'd clean it up in Photoshop and just add a lot of contrast (using color correction curves) to the grey pencil lines to make them more "graphic", and adding tones by painting them in on a Layer set to "Multiply". I also decided my hand lettering looked too messy and was too tedious to fix, so I typeset the texts using a comic book style font I downloaded.
Here's what I came up with (this version was published in Blurred Vision #3):
I thought this was reasonably okay - although I was a little disappointed in the "scratchiness" of the overall look. I kept forging ahead, and after about ten months I was forty pages into the book. By this point, I'd started manipulating the drawings a lot in Photoshop - distorting and reshaping them a lot to improve anatomy and perspective using the Liquify filter and Transform command. This was terrific, and made me much happier with the look of the pages - except for one problem. The pencil marks were starting to look really fuzzy and beaten up from all this reworking.
It occurred to me that I could "ink" these mushy drawings using the pencil tool in Photoshop and have a much cleaner - and less scratchy - result, so I gave that shot, and came up with this (notice all the changes to the layout I was able to do digitally):
This looked considerably better to me, although it meant I had to go back and redo more than forty pages! To make matters worse, I decided I wanted to work in color, since I was uploading each page to my website as I completed them. So, for about six months I redid the old pages while still trying to keep up with my page-a-week schedule of new pages. I also had a font made from my own lettering, and replaced the old font in all of the texts. By January of 2010, I finally had all 121 pages done. Here's the result (notice I was using colored outlines - in comics these are called "color holds"- which I later discarded):
Then I found out the book had won a Xeric award. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of publishing all of these pages as a single book - and I was mortified by how much my drawings had changed (improved, I hope) over the course of the four years I'd been working on the story. So I went back and reworked every single page again, to try and make the style and quality more consistent. I also realized that all of the music I'd been quoting (for this page it was originally "Chinese Rocks" by the Heartbreakers, which was later changed to "Running Free" by the Buzzcocks) was probably copyright infringement, so I changed it all - in this case to something I made up. All of this took another six months! And here's the final, final result: