Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Crazy Awesome: Pierre Alary

I got this guy's sketchbook and have been trying to track down his book, Belladone. It's on but maybe I can find an importer stateside...

Check out Pierre Alary's blog and marvel at some of his comics pages. They're so so good it causes me physical pain.

New Comics Day

Power Pack/Avengers
Red Sonja
Strangers in Paradise

Hmmm... Grant Morrison writes Batman. I'm intrigued.

Hmmm... Howard Chaykin draws of whole issue of Hawkgirl in her bra. I'm intrigued.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Art Rage

I did these pics in a groovy little program called Art Rage. It's a paint program that simulates natural media rather well. The above was done in about 10 minutes with the oil brush and palette knife. The tree below was done with the same. Click on the picks for the large versions and you can see the paint effects details, the tools seem to give you those "happy little accidents" painters so enjoy.

The kicker? Art Rage 2 is only 20 bucks for the full version. There's a free version but it only lets you use a couple tools. Sure it's more of a toy than a serious paint program, cool as the media sims are they can't match the power/versatility of Corel Painter or Adobe Photoshop. But that's really the point-- it's clearly not meant to be as all encompassing. Anyone who just wants to get in and mess around will enjoy getting their creativity flowing. Especially if you bust out any old art books with classic step-by-step lessons, you're going to get some nice results. The oils brush simulates the mixing of colors nicely and you can turn off certain mixing and cleaning features that you could never do with a real brush and canvas.

If you're an artist looking for a new trick or just looking for a break to let your creativity run free, give it a go.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Huntington Gardens

Last week I took a "mental breather" and visited Huntington Gardens.

Tons of pics HERE.

I like trees.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Comicon: In-n-Out Edition

Somehow I found myself at Comicon on Thursday. And by somehow I mean I somehow found time to register and drive down to San Diego for a few hours even though I had every intention of not going this year. But since I've missed the last few years due to work obligations it wasn't hard for my buddy-- who had never been-- to convince me to go down with him.

Comicon is hard to do in just a day, that's how freakishly huge it's gotten. But we seemed to naturally stray to artists alley where I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting artists I've admired for years but have never met. Tops for me was a conversation with Yanick Paquette, whom was amazed anyone had ever heard of his work on Terra Obscura, a favorite series of mine. Yanick most recently completed the excellent 7 Soldiers title Bulletteer, and will now be doing a stink on X-Men of all things.

My friend Charlie was wowed by alot of the art booths, and was drooling over some new Janesko pieces. And I'm like, "Dude, that's Jennifer Janesko right there, go talk to her." To which he became a little "artstruck" as I call it. A couple booths down was none other than Olivia De Berardinis and a similar fawning over art, and I'm like "Dude, that's Olivia right there, go talk to her! How often will you get that chance?" A chance both of us took, to which she was very friendly to engage. I told her how much I've enjoyed her current illustrations in Playboy-- which if you've seen them is a very different style for her-- and she was very humble about discussing the challenge it was to try new styles and how grateful she was to "Hef" for letting her.

I also had a great conversation with Joyce Chin and Art Adams. Joyce I've actually known for some time, and since she's Art's better half it's kinda like I know Art, too, tho I still have trouble saying I "know" Art Adams... more accurately I "know" how to spend ridiculous amounts of money on Art's work. Sadly the piece I had my eye on was equal to two months rent, so.... yeah. Luckily I cam across a page that was half Joyce and half Art, and at a steal of a price. Joyce is a great artist in her own right, so it's a cool jam piece to own.

Other than that, all my pick-ups were sketchbooks:

Arthur Adams Sampler IV
Arthur Adams Sampler V
Robh Ruppel
J. Scott Campbell
Scott Benefiel
Jeff Moy
Adam Hughes (!)
William Stout
Dave Johnson

Sweet stuff. My last purchase, literally as the doors were closing was Ragnar's new collection, Vernaculis, aka Chromaphile 2. Not much else really wowed me, but I saw alot of cool toys (especially from Square) and Supergirl on a cell phone. It was fairly crowded but nowhere near the mob of Fridays and Saturdays, I can only imagine what it will be like this weekend. But a quick in and out was all I needed with a pilfering of groovy art for my troubles!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New Comics Day

An unexpectedly large stack on this Eve of Comicon....

Justice League of America
Western Legends
Modern Masters: Walt Simonson

Mmmmm, yeah. Walt Simonson. Rarely is a creator's work so definitive of itself. He's up there with Kirby and Kane and Romita-- except where there are dozens of examples of art apery for those fine fellows, you never see anyone ape Simonson. That's because you can't.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Scott Pilgrim! Finally!

I'm a little late on this one, sure. If, like me, you've spent some time in the comics blogosphere, you may have heard of this chap Scott Pilgrim. You may have heard it's the best thing since sliced bread, the books herald a new age of comics accessible to the everyman, and each are full of charm and verve that no mere mortal can resist.

It's all true.

"Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim, it's so great!" is all I ever seemed to hear about the book. So damned if I wasn't going to find out for myself. It actually took a bit of hunting to find Vol 1, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, because it was perpetually sold out at many fine establishments. But the good folk at Burbank's House of Secrets put one on order for me and I finally got my grubby little hands on it.

I tore thru it pretty quick, and then proceeded to tear thru it again. I had no idea what it was about, and each new chapter filled me with smiles like a rising thermometer on a hot afternoon.

The plot is simply protagonist Scott's trials as a young man who's fallen for a very strange and compelling girl-- but in order to be with her he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. And that detail isn't even revealed until 3/4 into the first book! Before that it's all about getting to know Scott and his friends, as subtle clues lead into the inherent strangeness of it all (I don't even know where to begin to describe, and would rather not spoil it for you).

Scott Pilgrim as a character is a wannabe rock star, struggling urbanite, videogame master, and fighting champion. He longs for simplicity but is mired in the complex. His friends flip a coin to love him or hate him, and his relationships with women (d)evolve from charming to outlandishly absurd.

In many ways, Scott Pilgrim is me.

At least, that's what I get out of it. That's how it got to me, through author Bryan Lee O'Malley's criminally accesible art, painfully obscure videogame references, and outright oddity of how much is packed into one man's story. No doubt other readers may identify more with Scott's other traits or those of his friends he pals around with, it's got alot of texture.

The next two volumes expand on this wonderful world and only leave you wanting more. I now join the ever-growing readership that waits patiently and eagerly for each new book. Pick it up folks, you won't be disappointed!

Scott Pilgrim on Amazon:
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Scott Pilgrim Versus the World
Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
Bryan Lee O'Malley's web site, Radiomaru.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Again I'm wondering where I stand in relation to the masses. Box office phenom that it is, there's a discrepancy of thought in regards whether Pirates 2 is any good. My god, man, good? It's fantastic!

I loved the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl. It was good in a way I never could have anticipated, it's... really good. So my anticipations for Dead Man's Chest may have been a little lofty. The movie is a bit slow to get the ball rolling, but once it does (literally), the damn thing snowballs like a man possessed.

I usually judge sequels on their ability to stand alone. Are they good enough to let the viewer assimilate what has gone before? Pirates 2 does not have this, it relies heavily on the first film both in story, introduction of characters, and the relationships therin. But somehow it all works, while at the same time introducing huge new plotlines that could have been two movies on their own.

It's amazing how Johnny Depp can play a character like he doesn't care he's playing a character and still come across so genuine. He can really hold his own even though he's pitted against powerful antagonists who devour the screen. Bill Nigh as Davy Jones is awesome, the whole movie could have been just him and Depp going at it. The other characters are what they are, nothing terribly prestigious, but they also play through every situation that's thrown at them.

I did wonder how Pirates 2 could match the first in terms of pirate coolness, I mean how do you top the undead skeleton crew from Curse of the Black Pearl? Well, throw in another cursed crew of Davy Jones's Flying Dutchman, where each deckhand is some grotesque amalgam of sea creature and man. I am all over that.

When I left the movie I kind of wondered "Whatever happened to Indiana Jones?" I think the spirit lives on in Pirates of the Caribbean, the action sequences just keep one-upping themselves. Each time you think, "oh, this is the big action finale," some crazy ass shit keeps going on and you think "oh, THIS is the big action finale." Finally you're just thinking, "well that could happen next, but they can't possibly have that happen next..." and then it happens.

The movie also pulls a Back to the Future II at the end... Dead Man's Chest isn't even close to being a stand alone movie but I sure as hell enjoyed it.

Superman Returns

Time to break the silence! I saw Superman Returns last week. I've read all kinds of reviews since and I was struck by how much it was loved by fans almost de facto... Not sharing much of this adoration I sort of sat back and took it in. So is it just me? Then I remembered, it's never just me.

I tend to refrain from using "gay" as an adjective, but Superman Returns? Pretty gay. I'm sure mothers and daughters will love it the world over. There were moments when I saw the visceral impact of what Superman on film should be, but they were quickly derailed by way too much thematic exploration and hack story points meant to force emotion.

My main objection to the film is a little deeper, in that I felt like I was watching a film I'd already seen. This was director Singer's homage, as it were, to the original film with fleeting references to the second. But it's one thing to film an homage, or even a re-imagining, but it's another to use the same lines of dialogue from that which one is honoring. The first instance was cute, by the fifth I'm just a little insulted. The action scenes were cool, but also anemic in their repetition of what had come before.

Superman Returns is good looking, all the money is on screen and Singer paints a pretty picture for his love of all things Reeve and Donner. But if someone gives you 200 million dollars to make a movie, why wouldn't you make it your own?

New Comics Day

Comics, comics, comics. Ugh.

Green Lantern Corps
American Virgin
The Eternals
The Escapists
Shaolin Cowboy

52 is nice and all, the art is decent and there's alot of story going on. But I think it's wearing thin for me. The Morrison influence from the early issues is fading off and the major plot points I can't see being sustained for much longer. Of course the idea is for them to be replaced by other major plot points, although I'm having trouble thinking of any that can hold my interest. Batwoman, maybe, though with her own series in the works how much can 52 really offer?

The main problem with 52-- and this isn't my idea, I read it elsewhere and agree-- is that it stems from Infinite Crisis to "fill in the blanks." What DC is saying is that Infinite Crisis was so grand in scope that it will take an additional 52 comics over the course of a year to explain what happened. That is bullshit. Marketing friendly, but bullshit. All it really says to me is that whatever Infinite Crisis tried to accomplish, it failed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

New Comics Delay

Overcoming near-insurmountable odds, I'm rewarded with a boon of fantastic comics offerings!

Kid Colt and the Arizona Girl
Battler Britton
Manifest Eternity*
Y the Last Man
Flight Vol 3

I've noted before about my love and fascination with previous volumes of Flight. The latest one on first glance appears to offer the same glorious content of artistic vision and inspiration. I urge all of my readers to pick it up, Flight 3 gets the official Edco Seal of Approval.

WWII era war comics may not be on everyone's watch list, but I'm equally enthused about this new Battler Britton/Air Ace offering from Garth Ennis and Colin Wilson. Ennis will deliver a solid brass balls story, Wilson's pages are a glorious sight to take in, and the icing on this cake is Jeromy Cox on color duty. Pick it up!

*Also check out my interview with Manifest Eternity's Dustin Nguyen below!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

INTERVIEW: Dustin Nguyen

An Edco Exclusive!! Dustin Nguyen rocks the comics page with a crisp and delicate line. From small time showcases like WildStorm's Jet to a spotlight run on DC's Batman, Nguyen pounds out the pages with a distinctive style that's caught many a reader's eye. His growing body of work also includes defining issues of Wildcats 3.0 and The Authority that let him cut loose with blockbuster action and tight character drama. It's my personal opinion that he also draws really hot women.

With his first original creative effort on the shelves -- Manifest Eternity-- Dustin offers thoughts about his new book and the work that goes into it.

EDCO: Manifest Eternity #1 is out on shelves now. The story sets the stage for a violent conflict between two core sensibilities, science and magic. The premise is ripe for telling with an opportunity for keen visuals, but give us the scoop on what the book is really about from the creator's view.

DN: For me, it's really about, not the merging of sci-fi and science, but the separation of the two. How one can be completely organic compared to the hard-edged, constructed world of the other. And with that, not just visually, but also story wise as Scott (Lobdell) has done it. We get to create this entire new galaxy of characters, and also those in the magical realm... and...Basically, it comes down to getting to draw cool ships and hot fairies, haH!

EDCO: Until now you've been in the vast throng of work-for-hire artists on both major and minor titles. Where did the itch originate for doing something of your own? How did the project solidify from an idea to a scheduled book?

DN: Ever since I’ve know Scott, we've always toyed with the idea of doing something in this genre. And only in this genre I think, would I even be allowed schedule/art-wise to do what I do in the style that I chose for the book. I love being able to keep my versatility and when given the chance to jump around on different books, this was one of the best opportunities to try out something new. I know sure as hell I wouldn’t be allowed to pull this stuff on a mainstream you know?

EDCO: You're pulling some major art chores, but more on that in a bit. First, from a storytelling perspective, what have you laid out for the book, and what is writer Scott Lobdell bringing to the page? How did he get involved?

DN: Scott's pretty much the main idea house behind the book, I come up with characters I think will make his ideas come to life better. Though the book is creator owned, the great thing is that it's still done thru Wildstorm and with it, we have the editing knowledge and know how of my Wildcats and Authority editor Ben Abernathy. He really brings it all together at the end of the day, and he has about as much input into the book as me. The guy can actually explain why space ships don’t need wings and the ones that enter atmosphere do... what a nerd.

EDCO: What are some of the storytelling influences that are helping you bring this world into view? What about artistic influences specific to Manifest Eternity? (Dare I say I see some Shirow lurking about?)

DN: Storytelling wise, I’m just really going with what I’ve known and used in the past, maybe something new, maybe something different, but its the same pacing and panel work I’ve always done. I think that’s the one part of me I can’t really change or want to. There might be some accuracies where Scott will want things a certain way for dramatic of theatrical value, and I'm happy to incorporate that. It's really fun since he's got all these crazy ideas and I get to translate them to picture, the times it works, it's awesome!

I get mentioned about Shirow a lot, but I’m actually more towards the Terada end. Last thing I saw of shirow was the original ghost in the shell movie which kicked ass. Maybe it's still in me consciously. With the MAIN storyline though, I lean towards using ROBOTECH as a reference a lot. With its cast of characters that are related and their kids and such. The Max/Miriam/Dana Sterling family was my favorite. Also the rebels in the 3rd generation. But anyway.

EDCO: The art in the book I would describe as dark, but lush. There is a careful gathering of rendering styles mixed with specific color palettes. Is there any pen reaching paper for this project or is it entirely digital?

DN: Artistically, I’ve been very influenced by the likes of the animations I’ve watched over the past few years. I am nowhere near a real comicbook colorist, so I do my best when going thru sequentials. There’s a huge difference between coloring a cover or a pinup, and coloring pages panel by panel. I got a lot of tips and tricks/ advice from some of the WSFX coloring gurus Randy Mayor and Adam Archer as well as Jami Noguchi from Udon (had to give credit to those guys in here somewhere!) to help me make the art flow from page to page.

I went for more environmental/event lighting and atmosphere than I did on individual characters and such. Most of the time, I am trying to bring the characters more together in a shot than make then stand out unless they needed to. I also went for sort of a dreamy eerie feel. Sometimes it works, not always. haha. Issue 1 I REALLY messed up; I accidentally colored the entire thing in RGB... then at the end had to convert to 4 colors and redo a lot of it... the rookie colorist in me.

For this particular book, I was really inspired by Disney’s ATANTIS and TREASURE PLANET. Mainly treasure plant with the atmospheric feel in every panel, the 70/30 ratio design principle of old/ new in the design of the visuals. I tried my best to keep the formula going, but I strayed a lot. In the end, I figured whatever was fun, works.

EDCO: You've mentioned before about incorporating 3D work into your 2D pages. Traditionally this is a difficult process for artists to integrate. Some of the set pieces in ME are certainly on the fantastic side, one can only wonder which were built and rendered in 3D. But they fit extremely well, what is the method here? Any fancy sketch filters applied to your renders, or perhaps just lots of Photoshop?

DN: For issues 1 and 4 which take place in the more shiny, well polished end of the timeline, I used a little 3d to help keep it well constructed and... Well, shiny. haha. For the rest, I gave it more of a natural, off grid/proportioning to keep it different. I still use 3D the same way I did for the early WC3.0, issues where I build models for reference and complicated angles and repetitive use. Eventually, I transfer the wireframe to pencil lines by hand (tracer!) so that it doesn’t distract from the normal linework, then I color it in photoshop. I rarely even use the actual models on the actual page and I cant render for crap.

Most of this is only when time permits. Building a 3D model of something that will only be seen once is really not worth the numbers of hours to build it. Not for me at least. The big ship in the first issue's spread was actually the pencil/concept art for the ship I wanted to build in 3d, but I never got around to making it, so I just cleaned up the linework gave it a slick paintjob. You can tell you...if you look closely... the construction of it is soooo off.

EDCO: When you are responsible for the entire delivered page from pencils to colors, how does that affect your workflow? Do you still approach it traditionally one step at a time, or do you like to get a sequence or page complete before moving on?

DN: Doing all the art myself has made me REALLY appreciate my past team of inkers and colorists, and production crew. Though I try to approach it traditionally, I always stray and sometimes for the bad. And in the end, who has to pick up the slack for the penciller's sloppiness? Me :(

EDCO: What is the Dustin Nguyen "stamp" on Manifest Eternity? That is, what is the artist signature that you'd like to associate with the book that separates it from past works like your recent runs on The Authority and Batman?

DN: Hopefully, I’d like to have Manifest Eternity look NOTHING like my work on Authority and Batman. The book is in different genre and I’d like it to feel that way as well.

EDCO: What is the final goal for Manifest Eternity? A collected edition, offshoot miniseries? Is the world something you want to come back to every few years or is it just a story you need to tell for now?

DN: I’d really love for Manifest Eternity to just keep going if possible, but if not, we can visit it every once in a while. The great thing is that it's ours and we can do whatever we want with it. Scott's got TONS of stories, characters we want to introduce, worlds we want to visit.

EDCO: Okay... Batwoman. Spill it. Just give me something!

DN: Batwoman? thats crazy talk.
hehe, thanks Ed.

And thanks to you, Dus! Be sure to pick up Manifest Eternity, published by WildStorm! And if you're inclined, stop by Dustin Nguyen's Blog.