Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The War for Kaleb Part 3 Cover and Preorders

I finished the cover for The War for Kaleb Part 3, and am only 4 pages from being finished with the drawing at the time of writing this.  After that, I will be working on the scanning, corrections, and color, which shouldn’t take too long. 

I’m pretty excited about finishing up this series, and am apologizing in advance for the issue taking so long.  I hit some personal road blocks, and it had affected the progress of getting this last issue done.  This is my personal favorite chapter.  It is easily the most emotional, and intense of the series, and I really hope people get that out of the story as well. 

Preorders for the issue are also up in my online store, so everyone can secure a guaranteed copy upon release of the book, which is looking to be sometime in Oct.-Nov. 2017.

Preorders also come with an added bonus, of the first two parts of The War for Kaleb Digital Copies free, so you can get the whole story just by ordering the last book! (Delivered via email)

Here is a short description of the new issue:

After the incident at the bar, Kaleb turns inward, as the light hero has gone missing, leaving the dark hero in control. Kaleb reflects, but struggles finding any real answers for his anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, Mike and Addey discuss the next steps in saving Kaleb, and preserving their relationship with the man they care about.

Detail of TWFK #3 Cover Image

Remember you can download the first issue absolutely free HERE (nothing to sign up for, no strings attached ;)


Monday, June 19, 2017

The War for Kaleb Graphic Novel Cover and Podcast with Victims and Villains

I’ve finished the cover for the graphic novel collection for The War for Kaleb.  I’ve been struggling for a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to do for the cover of the collected edition.  I knew that because this is going to be the final book, with all the bells and whistles going forward once it releases, it needed to be big, and eye catching.  At first I was thinking of typical movie poster format, with all the characters on the cover.  I didn’t like that idea, not necessarily that it had been done before, but mainly that it wouldn’t express what the book was about.  And this has always been the face value dilemma of TWFK: how to express in one image that this is NOT a book about superheroes, but really about a person suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

I figured since Kaleb suffers from social anxiety, and particularly from the loss of control he gets from the actions of others, I thought of this idea of a tidal wave of people, similar to the zombies from the World War Z movie.  Kaleb rides atop of the tsunami of people, some that seem aware of the chaos, and others that don’t care, or even doing run of the mill everyday things; i.e. drinking coffee, checking email, taking selfies, etc.  The sky is a blistering red, with the dark Kaleb sitting in the sky commanding control of Kaleb’s emotional state, with the light Kaleb being engulfed by the wave of people crashing down on his head, to extinguish the light Kaleb for good. 

I’m hoping that when sitting on a comic book store shelf this image will stand out.  I’ve gotten some good feedback so far, and am feeling good about this image as the cover.  I’m hoping I can get the graphic novel out by the end of the year, or beginning of next, as the final issue is on track to be done end of August-beginning of Sept.

Also this week, I was on a podcast for victimsandvillains.net, where I discuss The War for Kaleb, where I’ve come from as a cartoonist, and a little where I’m heading.  We also talk about a few comic book, and pop culture topics, such as James Gunn’s influence of the Cosmic Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the loss of Adam West.

Victims and Villains a podcast that is dedicated to suicide, and depression awareness, relating to comic books and popculture 

You can listen to the podcast clicking HERE.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Darth Vader and the Weight of Pain

In the cold dark hallway of a Rebel Alliance starship, a handful of Rebel troops, frantically download the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star.  Never has a sense of urgency been experienced to this degree for the Rebel Alliance’s fight to end oppression and fascism in the galaxy.  As one Rebel troop finally completes the downloaded transmission from the Imperial occupied tropical planet of Scariff, he heads to the door leading to the docked Tantive IV to hand off the critical plans to the Death Star.  The door closes on him slowly, just enough for him to curse the fate of being even two seconds too late.  He pleads with the other Rebel troops on the other side of the doorway, who are also in a panic, but they are too preoccupied with their own duties to hear his faint cries for help.  As the desperation in his voice turns to defeat, the electricity goes out.  The hallway becomes impossibly black.  They are trapped.  There is only silence, and the Dark Side of the Force.

As the Rebel troops stand in the hallway, the panic begins to settle down.  The hallway seeming so short, and infinite all at the same time.  Fifteen feet in, there is the light that ends abruptly into nothing but darkness.  It is a pitch black that could make the hallway seem as if it goes on forever, possibly into the worst fears a person could ever know.  What stands waiting is worse.

A lightsaber ignites, a brilliant red, just light enough to show, that in this hallway, there is now a monster standing before them.  The red, faint illumination shows that there is someone (or something) here with them now, but also, to remind them that the Dark Side is in control here.

The Dark Lord, Darth Vader stands staring at his prey.  He waits for them to make the first move.  The Rebel troops are in awe at the mysterious figure that towers in the hallway.  While the Rebels look at and examine Vader, they recall stories told around the thermal heater, of a dark imperial figure.  Everyone wondered if  he, or it was real.  It wasn’t a Stormtrooper, or even a Royal Guard.  The accounts were vague at best.  A man, larger than most, dressed in black, a long flowing cape, and flashing lights popping through the silhouette of pure black.  It was the kind of black that a man felt could envelop him, and not know where the darkness begins or ends, but was quite sure that it guaranteed death (or maybe worse).  This was a legend.  A myth.  However, it was a myth that was standing in front of them now, and its call to darkness demanded satisfaction.

It was indeed a silhouette, but the Rebels could see more than the empty black described from the terrifying stories.  Its eyes were red, and the armor looked strong, and imposing.  But there was something else there.  Something that could be felt, rather than seen.  It was like a vacuum, sucking their own fear out of the air, to give the Dark Lord his power.  Inside of its cape was the vacuum.  An infinite abyss to all that makes the galaxy cold, and vicious.  It was as if it was pulled into the being, and displayed through the faint red glowing eyes.  In its eyes were where it put all the pain, fear and suffering in the galaxy on display. 

Was this a man, a machine, or a monster (perhaps all the above)?  Whatever it was, it was no Jedi.  Not one they had ever heard about since the extinction of their kind.  At least not from what their parents have told them.  But it did carry the weapon of a Jedi.  The blade is red, like the Dark Lords eyes.  The faint heat was giving the room a conflicting feel of comfort, and stark cold.  The hum of the lightsaber was all the Rebels could hear in the room, except for the breathing.  It was breathing, so it must be human.  Or at least part human.  But it wasn’t a normal man’s breath.  It was deep, and mechanical.  The bass from the aspiration made the Rebels hearts skip beats.  Some wondered if their own hearts were going to remember what the rhythm was to keep a man alive.  Some wondered if that would even matter at this point. 

Whatever the reason this Dark Lord was confronting the Rebels, the time to be afraid had passed, and there was still a mission to accomplish:  These Death Star plans needed to make their way to the other side of the malfunctioning door.  The Rebel troops in the front line opened fire on Darth Vader with their DH-17 Blasters.  As the blasts of red exploded from their weapons, they could feel their focus being rewarded as the aim was true.  True enough to make its way towards Vader without too much effort.  Vader chose to show the Rebel exactly what “little effort” truly meant as the laser blasts danced off his crimson lit blade, into the walls and ceiling of the stark white hallway.  The blasts mar the walls with deep char-coaled pits, with a hot fiery center.  Blast after blast kept coming, but to no avail, the mark could not be hit. 

Vader slowing moved forward raising a powerful hand into the air as one of the Rebels followed the gesture.  His body twisting, and contorting to positions not normally capable of.  A snap could be heard, but his Rebel comrades could not give the proper attention to even look over at him, much less figure out which bones in his body have been broken.  As Vader passes the helpless Rebel firmly attached to the ceiling, his lightsaber blade reaches up in a swipe, to cut the trooper down as the Rebel feels his spine separate from the lower portion of his body.  The Rebel smashes to the floor, as Vader releases his grip on the young soldier, almost as if he were a play thing a child became bored with.  The Rebel swears he could feel the pain in his lower torso, but is still aware enough that it no longer belongs to the rest of his body.  He stares above, as a mountain of black dully passes over, hoping that his inevitable death was not in vain. 

More blasts bounce off of the Dark Lord’s blade, but now they are focused ricochets.  Two of them hit a couple of Rebels, as they fall to the floor screaming.  Wanting to help their fallen brothers, they are at the same time desperate for help of their own. 

As the Rebel with the Death Star Plans turns to the door he hears the moaning of his fellow soldiers succumbing to the raw show of power that is the Dark Side of the Force.  He doesn’t dare turn around.  Darth Vader, unbiased and focused on one goal and his hatred for everything that stands in his way, runs his lightsaber, burning, hot an bright through the last Rebel, and then straight through the metal blast door.  The blast door roughly four inches thick, might as well been made of paper, as far as the lightsaber were concerned.  The Rebel pressed against the window, is pinned against the door.  He feels the lightsaber laying there, lit, inside his chest cavity, burning hot like the twin suns of Tatooine.  The pain increases as the molten metal burning away from the blast door falls into his own wound to cool, and solidify.  He reaches out his hand, around the small opening in the jammed door frame, no more than 3 inches wide.  He feels the touch of another human being, and looks up.  The Death Star plans are on the other side, staring back at him, and so are the eyes of the brave Rebel to take them from him.  With the Rebel trooper’s mission accomplished, he gives himself permission to expire, and fade away, perhaps even with the Force.

Death Star plans in hand, the soldier bids farewell to the Rebel Trooper who gave his life for a greater cause.  Caught off guard he notices the blade of red permeating through his comrade, and the door.  Slivers of white hot metal, vomiting from the door, the blade was just resting in place.  On the other side of the window, he sees it.  The monster that laid waste to his fellow soldiers: Darth Vader.  There was maybe five feet between the soldier and the Dark Lord, separated by nothing but that door.  How long the door was going to keep Vader on the opposite side was a whole other concern, all together. 

The Trooper, like his fallen brothers, looked straight into the red eyes of the Sith Lord.  There was a world unknown to him.  At first glance, true, it was evil.  But past the evil, there was a mystery that one could only hope to not go insane from unraveling it themselves. 

Darth Vader peers back at the Rebel Trooper through the scuffed window.  Vader sees the Death Star Plans plainly in front of him, with the thick steel door blocking his victory.  His anger flares his mind into a rage.  He doesn’t show it.  The Dark Lord instead internalizes his failure.  He is a slave to his emotions, as he is a slave to his Emperor, the Jedi Order before that, a junk dealer before that, and finally to the people he has loved in his past life.  It is a weight that forces him into a never ending cycle. 

It has been twenty years since Darth Vader has put on the suit that now keeps him alive.  He harkens back to the moment he decided to throw away a heroic life.  Grasping at the ash of Mustafar desperate to reach his old master, while using the only limb he had left:  one mechanical arm.  This arm, a symbol of his failure, was now accompanied by three more failures, his other arm, and both legs, which were removed by his Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi during a fateful lightsaber duel.  As bad as the pain was, it paled in comparison to the pain of his ultimate failure:  the murder of his wife, and unborn child by his own hand. 

Vader in a sense has only known slavery.  He was born into it.  Not even by his mother’s choice, but by shear will of the Force.  He was to be born whether he or his mother liked it or not.  Darth Vader knew this now.  In retrospect, he has spent his whole life trading one form of slavery for another.  Servitude to a greedy junk dealer, only knowing of what it was like to give.  The denial of his true feelings, never being allowed to love, hiding, ashamed, that the Jedi Order would find out about the one thing that had ever made him happy: his wife Padme’.  But as a Jedi, your heart belongs to the people, if anything at all.  Never are you allowed to have anything for yourself.  Here in the galaxy, as a Jedi Knight, you are required to give it all, and never receive anything in return.  Even something as simple as the touch of another was forbidden. 

And the Emperor.  If there was any pinnacle of slavery in Vader’s life, it is his devotion to his Master.  Training in the ways of the Dark Side can take its tolls on the mind.  It is made to rip apart the very essence of one’s own sanity, to only be reassembled into a mound of thoughts black, and focused.  Many nights, the torment of the Emporer’s training kept Vader in the pit of darkness.  The walls ever so high, that only his fingertips touch the edge.  The edge he knows is there to remind him of his former life that is not his anymore.  His mother, Shmi, Obi-Wan, Master Yoda, countless Jedi, and Younglings reaching for his hand, only to be denied by the firm grasp of the Emperor, and the Dark Side.  But it was Padme’.  She is there too, standing in the crowd, never at the front.  She isn’t reaching at all.  Why should she?  She is the reason Vader is here in the first place. The Dark Lord killed his wife.  He killed his child.  Darth Vader knows he deserves no better than this.  The Emperor knows this too. 

As a slave to his own pain, Darth Vader will be forever loyal to the Emperor.  The Sith that have come before Vader, have always wanted nothing but their own power, and glory.  Vader wants nothing.  He has nothing.  He powers through every day and every night, as the ultimate tool of the Dark Side of the Force.  A willing and loyal lap dog.  One that stares at his own ripe failure: the just out of reach Death Star Plans. 

The Rebel Trooper sensing the evil, hatred, and pain on the other side of the door, breaks the trance of the monster.  He takes one last look at the horrid figure, wishes his fallen comrades farewell, turns around and runs, never looking back in fear that the Darkness may take him, the same as it took the monster trapped on the other side of the melting blast door. 

Darth Vader looks on while the Rebel, with the plans in his possession, fades away into the corridors of the Tantive IV.   Smoke fills the room, and Vader extinguishes his saber, making a faint hiss, as the blade removes itself from the door and the unfortunate Rebel.  The body crumbles to the floor, with no life remaining.  The trooper makes a weak thud, while the molten door begins to dim, and the white hot mess starts to cool solidifying in random drips and crawls of melted metal.  Vader pays no attention to the death and pain in the room.  He has plenty of his own to think about.  The Dark Side calls back to the Dark Lord of the Sith, and demands more.  It forces Vader to peer into the future. 

In this future, Darth Vader can see the Death Star plans in his triumphant hands.  Governor Tarkin congratulates him in his efforts, and loyalty to his Empire.  The Dark Side promises everything to Vader, including praise from the Emperor himself.  Vader shakes away these images, as such praise has always meant very little to him.  It has always been the mission, the journey, and the death.  How many more people will die by his hands in seeking these plans?  Vader looks to the Dark side for that answer.  It is an answer that is vague, and full of promise.  A future that can be seen, and not determined.  He looks further, past the Death Star plans in his hand.  First there is an empty dark space, as the future is always difficult to predict.  Beyond the darkness is a figure reaching out.  He believes it to be Padme’ at first.  Lord Vader looks closer.  It is a boy, maybe 12 years of age.  He looks like Anakin Skywalker, but it isn’t.  Dust and sand is in his hair.  Adventure is in his eyes.  Darth Vader becomes confused by the obscure vision and immediately dismisses it.    Vader recalls that the Dark Side does promise its slaves a future in their control, but he realizes that it can also lie.

Darth Vader comes to, as he thinks there is no time for such things as his feelings.  He signals back to his Star Destroyer, readies a boarding party, and sets coordinates for the chase to begin.  Regardless of the demands of Tarkin, the Emperor, or even the Dark Side, Vader will obtain the Death Star plans by any means necessary.  People will die, as they always have, and always will.  As long as Darth Vader vows to remain true to his pain, and serve it to the very end.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The War for Kaleb Part 3 Preview

I’ve finally finished up the first five pages of The War for Kaleb Part 3 and decided to give everyone a preview of the new book.  There are some corrections that need to be made, or things added, but they are fairly minor.  It shouldn’t detract from enjoying these five pages.

The book is coming along, slowly but surely and will keep everyone posted!

You can read the first part for free here:

You can purchase The War for Kaleb Parts 1 & 2 here:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Anatomy of My Comics

Page in progress at my desk
The way I create comics can differ from the more conventional means, especially compared to mainstream comics.  Usually there is a separate writer, penciler, inker, letterer, and colorist.   I have in the past, worked like that, usually as an artist, or an inker.  But for the most part, I work on my own comics as a one-man-army, and complete all these steps myself.  It allows me to work dynamically and freely between, the writing and drawing process.  

I wanted to show everyone, my personal method for bringing a comic book from initial concept to the finished page.  I get questions about it at comic conventions sometimes so I thought I would go into detail about how I get the work done in a manner that makes the most sense to me. 

When I come up with an idea for a comic, it is usually a pretty broad stroke of an idea.  It can start by listening to a song, or even from one line of cool dialogue that a character might say, but in the end, it is pretty general.  When I was in community college, I took painting classes with Mary Hardy.  One of the first lessons we learned about was the underpainting.  An underpainting is the first layer of a painting that sets the color palette, tone, and/or mood for your painting.  It can be representational, or abstract.  It doesn’t really matter, as it is going to be painted on top of anyway.  However, the details in the painting, don't exist in the underpainting.  What is there is the broadest stroke of the piece.  When the painting is finished, you don't necessarily see the underpainting, but the viewer can feel it's presence.  

I work on my stories the same way.  I start with the most general of concept first.  Then I fill in the rest of the details afterward.

For this article about my process, I will be using The War for Kaleb Part 3, page 3 as my example for the most part.  There is nothing spoilery in it so it won't give anything away.  I’ll also start by giving a general breakdown of the process, and then go into detail about each one:
  •  Initial Concept, and Idea
  •  Break Down of Scenes
  • Thumbnails of all Pages
  • Roughing and Writing Pages
  • Penciling
  • Lettering
  • Inking
  • Cleanups
Sketch page of dialogue ideas
First, I need a concept, and idea.  Most of my ideas come to me easier if I’m doing something that doesn’t use much brain power, such as walking, working out, or even driving.  The more automatic the activity, the easier it is for my mind to go wild.  Using this method can make the images, and sometimes entire scenes play out in my head like a movie.  I like to visualize the ideas in this manner because they conceptualize in a more complete way.  It allows me to pick and choose the moments in the form of a comic book easier.  Also throughout the entire process, I’m not married to any ideas, or structures.  I can change anything, and any given moment.  If I want, I will Special Edition the shit out of my stories!

Before the work of the final pages begins, I like to break down the scenes in a book, in its entirety.  I’m not much for the serialization of a story.  I like to know exactly where I’m going with a story before I start it.  The biggest rules are, it needs an absolute beginning, and an absolute end.  Once I have those, I just need to figure out what transpires in between.  Basically, I will figure out, how many books the story will be, and how many pages in each book.  When I have that I evaluate the book by scenes.  The scenes are then broken down in groups of pages, to equal the total page count of the given book.  I basically just guess how many pages would be sufficient to tell the story of the given scenes.  

Scene Breakdown from TWFK #2
Keep in mind, at this point I have not done any writing yet.  I may have jotted down some scenes, and even some catchy dialogue, but nothing fully fleshed out.  I want to keep this portion of the creative process as basic as possible.  Remember, broad strokes at this point.  This is the underpainting.  Right now I want to create the moments of my book.  By doing this, I’m cutting the fat of a story, and what is left, are the interesting parts.  What I mean exactly by this, is I want to break down the story in total of pages for a book, and then the pages broken down into the important scenes that need to happen.  George Lucas always thought of his stories as a series of memorable moments.  When you do this, the audience is left with nothing but a retrospective of iconic moments, which are not easily forgotten. 

Working like this also gives me a definitive space to work in so my story does not go off the rails, or lose focus.  I like there to be a purpose to a story.  If you think of the way people talk to each other, particularly telling someone a story, they will usually keep to the point and focus on the point in their story that matter (unless it one of those friends that likes to ramble).  When this is done, the listener is engaged, and wanting to know what happens in their friend’s story.  When my stories have a set amount of pages, and/ or parts, then I can make a much more purposeful, and focused story.  Some may think this denies them of freedom, which is fair, but personally I like there to be a destination.  When disregarding a destination, a story can then fall victim to becoming convoluted and its meat being nothing but filler.

Thumbnails for The War for Kaleb #2
The next step in the process is the thumbnails.  I will do the thumbnails on an 8 ½” x 11” piece of typing paper.  Then I layout the paper to fit as many tiny boxes that represent the pages as possible, without getting to small.  The importance of the thumbnails, is due to their size.  My thumbnails are pretty small.  It allows me to work on the layouts without inhibiting me from the overwhelming task of laying out the pages.  From here, I can now draw what the pages are going to look like scene by scene.  You can see in the example (from The War for Kaleb Part 2), that it is kind of hard for someone to make out what is happening there.  As long as I can understand what is happening on those thumbnails, alls good in the hood.

Once all of the thumbnails are down, I begin work on the roughs, along with the writing.  Here is where my methods can be a bit different.  Usually, a comic is written in the same fashion as that of a movie script.  The scenes are set up, characters have their respected dialogue, and the shots or panels are described for the artist’s interpretation.  I write alongside of the drawing of the roughs.  When I bring dialogue into the mix, I want it to be as free formed as possible, almost as if it is happening in real time.  By doing this, I can have the actions of the characters play off the writing, or vice versa.  I feel it creates this dynamic interaction between the characters, and the worlds they inhabit, as if the writing is unfolding before me. 

Roughs for The War fo Kaleb #3, pg. 3
The roughs, are done on the 8 ½” x 11” typing paper just the same as the thumbnails.  They take up the entire page, just like the original artwork on the final pages will.  The drawings are generally very loose, as I personally don’t like spending too much time on things that I don’t need to.  I like to get the general idea and energy, and move on.  Any changes can be made here, or in the final pages.  Sometimes, going with the gut, works really well, while fine tuning it along the way.  Now with all of the leg work out of the way, I can get down to the fun part:

The Final Pages!

Penciling the pages can be the most challenging portion of the process for me.  During this stage, I have to turn a blank piece of paper into something engaging, and meaningful using the vast knowledge, and tools at my disposal, from the years, of practice, training, and education of my craft.  No pressure.  It’s okay, though, as I have a philosophy behind this that I will explain later.

For now, it’s time to work! 

A common misconception about the original artwork of comics is that it is done on the same size paper the comic is actually printed on, while in reality it is significantly larger.  The paper traditionally used is an 11” x 17” Bristol Board.  I use a classic 10”x15” image area for my panels.  This is what was used in the old days, like with Wally Wood, and Jack Kirby.  You can use whatever you like for your image area, as long as you stay within what are known as “Safe Zones” which is usually designated by non-photo blue lines on the paper.  I’m not really going to go into the non-photo blue lines with bleeds, and word balloons in this article.  Basically there are non-photo blue lines, and their authority demands respect!  (I personally use the reverse side of the paper, because I think the blue lines detract from the original art, and I’m a rebel!)

The first thing I do, is lay out the panels of the respected page in pencil.  Once done, I begin to layout and draw the main characters that are talking in the scenes.  I do this with the thought in mind that I will still need to put down my lettering, which I also do by hand.

Penciled page, TWFK #3, pg. 3
To step back for a second, one thing to keep in mind is that everything I do for the most part is done by hand, meaning, minimal computer work.  The only computer work involved is pretty much dedicated to cleanups, lettering corrections, color work, and formatting for printing.  I’ve always liked the philosophy that the artwork the reader sees in the book should represent the original art as much as possible, and for me, this includes the lettering.  To me, a piece of comic art doesn’t look right without the word balloons, and captions in it.  Again, this is only my personal feelings on the matter. 

As for my tools, I use a pretty hard lead for my pencil work, which is a 2H.  I like the harder leads because it keeps the smearing down, and pencils less messy.  The drawbacks of this are the fact that if you’re not careful, you can end up creating groves in the paper if you draw to hard.  Also hard leads usually mean lighter tones in the drawing.  For me, that isn’t a big deal since I will be inking my own drawings and I have enough confidence in my inking to know what I was going for in the first place.  But if someone else is inking, it could lead to confusion on what the penciler’s intentions were.  Just something to keep in mind.

Earlier I spoke about how I'm not married to anything that I do.  If you look at the roughs, and then the penciled versions of the example page, you will notice that the first panel is different in each.  I basically decided that instead of having the characters meet, and walk into the coffee shop, I would have an establishing shot of the coffee shop with the characters inside already.  I felt it worked better for the pacing.

When I get the main drawing down on the page, I can start working on the lettering.  The drawing thus far is really just light drawing and nothing too terribly detailed yet.  If I put down too much it is going to make the lettering portion of the work get a bit messy, and hard to deal with. 

To letter, I use what is called an Ames Lettering Guide, which is an old school tool used to lay down lines for various types of lettering on a piece of paper.  I set my guide to a “3” which to some might be a bit small, but I’m not sure.  I think the traditional size is a 3.5.  I lay down the lines with the same 2H pencil I use to draw with.  Once the lines are all down on the paper, I go ahead and letter the dialogue and captions on the page.

Ames Lettering Guide
Close up or Ames Guide Setting
Sometimes, I will make last minute changes to the script, if I need to during the lettering phase.  Since the first draft was written back in the roughs, it allows time for the original dialogue to set in my mind and look at it again with fresh eyes.
Panel in Progress with Lettering
After the penciling for the lettering is completed, I will draw the balloons around the dialogue with pencil.  I then ink the lettering.  I like to ink my lettering with a Staedtler Mars Matic 0.5 technical pen.  For bolder words, I will use a 0.7.  During this stage, I stick to just inking the letters, and NOT the word balloons themselves.  This way the drawing can be altered if anything is getting in the way of the balloons, or vice versa. 

Now that the lettering is done and inked, I can focus on the drawing.  Not much going on here, other than barreling through creating the artwork.  Some of the things I like to keep in mind are really just simple fundamentals, such as:
  1. Perspective:  I like to find the perspective before I add characters in the space.  Without this grid, I can end up with characters, floating in space or not being in the same plane. 
  2.  Angles and distance of shots:  I try to get a variety of angles, and distances from the camera.  Nothing too crazy unless the action of the scene demands it.  If it just a couple of people talking, there is no need for crazy angles.
  3.  Paying attention to expressions and gestures:  This one is very important.  I always think to myself “How would I act in the situation, given the subject matter?”  If I have to I will get up off my butt, and literally act a scene out.
  4. Give attention to the backgrounds:  Sometimes we, as humans, get wrapped up in what is going on in our little lives that we forget about the vast world around us.  Just because the story is about my main characters, doesn’t mean the world around them stops.  I always give extra love and care, to my setting, and the people interacting with them.  It helps bring the fictional world to life.  It is a lot of work, but well worth it in the end.
Layouts, penciling, and lettering are done, now it is time to ink.

For the inking, I have used pretty much exclusively a brush.  My favorite brush, and the one I have used for The War for Kaleb, is a Raphael Kolinsky, Red Sable Hair Brush No. 2.  For my brushwork, I ALWAYS go for genuine hair brushes.  They are a bit more expensive, but they last a long time, are of great quality, and get the best results in the drawing.   The brands of ink I have used in the past have been, Speedball Super Black, Windsor and Newton Indian Ink, and most recently Deleter Black No. 4.  I suggest playing around with different inks, but I’m really digging the Deleter.  It works great with a brush or a crow quill, stays solid black, and won’t bleed using alcohol based markers on top.
TWFK #3 pg. 3 Finished Inks
After the inking is done, I have to clean up the page, and erase the pencil lines.  For erasing, I use a Factis Extra Soft Plastic Eraser.  These are real nice, because of how soft they are, they don’t pull up the ink as much, and fade the blacks like a harder plastic eraser.

Once the pencils have been erased, I will go back and make as many corrections as I can with a whiteout called Pro White.  This is a nice opaque white out that can be thinned and applied with a brush.  When it dries, I can also draw back on top of it if I need too.  What’s fun though, is it can be used as a tool as well to draw on top of black, to make cool effects. 

Some of my most used tools
One thing that I get asked a lot as well, especially when someone is looking at the original artwork, is “how long does a page take to draw?”  Without the preliminary work (concept, thumbs, roughs, and writing) it will take me about 9-12 hours, give or take, to complete a page of comics from start to finish.  For a 24 page comic, this is roughly 300+ hours of work.  That being said, it is the most rewarding work I can do for myself.

The last part of my process is something a little more meta.  Drawing comics is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It tugs at me no matter how many of these pages I complete.  I’m my own worst critic, and that is okay.  When I’m working, I am constantly making mistakes.  I try to not let it get to me, as these drawing aren’t sacred.  That doesn’t mean I brush them off though.  I pay attention to the mistakes, more so than the things I do right.  In the mistakes are the answers to becoming better at what I do.  I acknowledge the mistake, and I move on.  Every single drawing that I do, and will ever do, there will be something that could have been done better.  I find that thing, I put it my pocket, and I keep it in mind for the next time. 

The acknowledgement of the mistakes in our art is more important than the fact those mistakes exist in the first place.

"We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better." 
-Walt Stanchfield

Monday, October 3, 2016

The War for Kaleb Part One

This week, I'm posting "The War for Kaleb" Part One, in its entirety so you can read it for free.

This is a story that started when I was working a warehouse job, in Long Island and not being very happy about my life.  During that time, my job allowed me the unfortunate opportunity, of being in my head all day.  I would go over some of the things that triggered my anxiety, and the things that weren't making my happy, and then I heard "The Metro" covered by Alkaline Trio, and "The War for Kaleb" was born.

I've always had anxiety, for as long as I can remember.  In recent years, the anxiety has worsened, due to some personal events in my life.  What I noticed the most about it wasn't what was happening to me personally, but what was happening to the world around me: nothing at all.  

Anxiety comes about in the form of "the world is coming to an end", when in actuality, it goes on functioning, just fine with or without us.  Anxiety is nothing but another form of perception.  However the problem with that perception, is it takes a lot not to internalize it. 

Kaleb can't separate his feelings brought on by anxiety, and what is really happening in the world around him.  It becomes a constant struggle, a push and pull, for reason, logic, and rational.  

Our greatest of Wars...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Or Die Trying: My Vow for Creating Comics

The War For Kaleb Part 1
I’ve finally made the decision to re-brand my comic book, “The War for Kaleb” by separating it from my former series, “Leftovers”.  After doing numerous cons, it occurred to me that the confusion in selling the book, and marketing it was cumbersome at best being that “Leftovers” has always been an anthology of my short stories.  Then comes along, what was originally supposed to be the last “Leftovers” story, "The War for Kaleb".  Problem is, it’s a three part story.  So my pitches always played like this:  “This is my series “Leftovers”, where you can jump into any issue, and not be lost…oh, except for issue 4 & 5.  Those are a connected story, so you need to read 4 before 5.”  Yeah, nice and streamlined from a marketing perspective, right?

So the re-branding has begun.  Posted are the reissues, of the covers separating “The War for Kaleb” and “Leftovers” from each other.  Now, if you have the originals, they are no different than these, sans the covers.  There is no reason to buy them again, unless you really have to have the new covers. 

The War for Kaleb” is going to be his own man going forward, and I will be promoting it extensively as such.

The War For Kaleb Part 2
Another thing I’ve been taking away from the last few cons is something a little bit more disheartening.  My cousins, Justin, and Shelley Briggs Callahan (guest writer of “Leftovers #2, and author of upcoming book “The House of Life”) and I were talking about how it seems the majority of people are fixated on only the things that are familiar to them.  For instance, the amount of prints being sold at cons of known characters, be it from Marvel, DC, Star Wars, or what-have-you, has become astounding.  Now, I don’t find the act of this, to be inherently wrong, or bad.  I find the need of some artists to have to do this, unfortunate.   My wife also does this.  A lot of us do it, due to the fact that we can’t make the money back for the tables we pay for, unless we give people what they want.  Meanwhile, these same writers, and/or artists, have some amazing work that they have labored, literally upon, hundreds of hours for their own original stories, and characters, that they have created out of nothing, only to overshadow, themselves, by a drawing they took a small amount of time of a more popular character.

A perfect example of this is on my deviantart page.  Many years ago, made this drawing of Deadpool, as birthday gift for my best friend.  It is currently one of the most popular Deadpool drawings on deviantart, with a view count of 31,888 at the time of writing.  However, if you take a look at other pieces in my gallery, particularly that of anything that I have created, the views are severely lacking.  Take the cover for Leftovers #4, it currently stands at 102 views.  One would think that maybe the attention that my Deadpool drawing grabs, would point someone in the direction of other works I have created, but that unfortunately is not the case.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that well know pop culture is awful.  Everyone who knows me, is fully aware, I love me some Star Wars and Batman.  But the thing I love about them is some (not all) of the original, visionary stories they bring to the table of narrative fiction.  Same as, Concrete, Pop Gun War, Titan, Study Group Comics, and many other narrative stories that may be lesser known (please check out the extensive list of lesser known creators, and stories in the links below!).  There are hundreds, and thousands of awesome, over-shadowed stories out there waiting to be discovered, be it comic books, movies, novels, or TV shows. 

The world of the narrative arts, and comic books in particular, have become crowded.  It is hard to be heard in the sea of noise, and the over reliance of nostalgia.  With shows like Stranger Things, and movies like The Force Awakens coming out, there is a good reason everyone is so obsessed with them.  They make us feel similar to the way we did when we originally saw The Goonies, E.T., or Star Wars.  But for someone like me, it wasn’t quite the same.  All the beats were there, and some of the spirit, but there was one big reason those movies originally hit us hard when we first expanded our imaginative universe in them:  They were brand new.  We will never fully capture that feeling again.  And how can you?  The world of pop culture has become a drug pushing industry set on selling you that “first time”, but we are doing nothing but chasing the dragon.  We keep looking for that fix, to get that first high again, but it will never be there no matter how hard we try.

They are “Member Berries”.  The newest episodes of South Park, calls out this form of force feeding the audience nostalgia as of late, by personifying our need for such things, with “Member Berries”:  a bunch of berries that have faces, and remind the person eating them of all the things they have grown to love, by whispering to them things like “Member Jurassic Park?  Oh yeah, I love Jurassic Park!” “Let’s ‘member Chewbacca again!  Yeah Chewbacca!  I love Chewbacca!”  The person eating them goes into a trance and is comforted with only the things they already know and love.

Like the body wants to be nourished by a variety of healthy foods, and exercise, the mind prefers to absorb many forms of stimuli.  I think we sometimes confuse what we think as horrible, with what is different.  I’m guilty of this too.  I will see something, and think to myself, “what are they thinking?  Why would they do it that way?  WHY IS IT NOT THE SAME???”  But what if I’m looking on it with fresh eyes?  What if I was seeing something for the first time, similar to that as a child?  The older we get, the more we have eaten from the “Tree of Knowledge” and the harder it becomes to except what is new.  Instead of being mad because we didn’t like Batman V. Superman, why don’t we move on to something else, like the movie Super?  There are so many stories, and things to love out there.  With all the energy and attention we give to hating things, we could instead be discovering brand new means of imaginative stimuli.  Some of them are great, and some of them won’t be, and that’s okay.  What you may hate, another person will love, and it will become their own.  And that is what's so amazing about it.  We can find the things that make us who we are. 

And this is who I am.

I have never sold prints of characters I haven’t created, or fan art at cons, and I don’t usually do commissions due to my anxiety of drawing in public.  I’ve always felt that I would rather have someone buy nothing from me at all, than give them the choice to buy something other than my comics.  However, going forward, I will be taking it a step further, as I will not be posting artwork based on other people’s creations on social media either.  Spiderman, Batman, and even my most favorite fictional character of all time, Darth Vader, does not need any more attention from someone like me.  They are doing just fine without me.  And what if I need the views or hits?  Well, according to my popular drawing of Deadpool, it doesn’t even really matter.  Deadpool unfortunately hasn’t done me any favors, by getting anyone interested in my books.  In my original ideas.  In my complete stories, characters, and artwork, that I have created out of nothing. 

I’m not condemning what anyone of my fellow artists, and creators are doing, nor am I saying they should stop.  I totally get it.  It’s hard out there.  I have panic attacks watching all the people go by my table, and not glance my way for hours on end, because I have nothing recognizable to offer them.  But then there will be someone out of the crowd, that will come up to my table, and tell me (after hearing my monotonous sales pitch) “This is exactly what I was looking for!  Something different.  Something new.” They may like, they may not.  But they gave it a chance.  They will open up their world to something they’ve never experienced before. 

That is why we like the things we do, and not because we are constantly reminded that we like it in the first place.  

What follows is a list of lesser known artists (some more than others) that deserve to be looked at.

Also, I'm going to be actively sharing posts of my fellow artists, every time I see something posted, on social media (regardless of whether or not it is fan art).

I hope you check out some, or even all of them!

Comics, Books, and Illustration, and Fine Art
FarelDalrymple (Pop Gun War, The Wrenchies)
Study Group Comics (Awesome indie comics sight, for free web comics)
Inbon (Creator owned studio full of emerging new talent)