Tag Archives: Experiment

Jeff Bonivert’s Atomic Man

Atomic-ManAnd now, for some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent!”

I’m dig­ging deep for this one. The ’80s saw a lot of inter­est­ing, fun, odd, inde­pen­dent comics. Jeff Bonivert’s Atom­ic Man Comics was one of them.

I don’t remem­ber just how I first encoun­tered Jeff Bonivert’s work, but it most def­i­nite­ly caught my eye. It’s unique for the abstract geo­met­ric and graph­ic way he approach­es his draw­ings. I pick up a bit of an art deco or stream­lined feel to it in places. There’s no mis­tak­ing his work for any­one else’s.

I believe that like me, Jeff is from the Bay Area. There was a time in the ’80s when we even worked at the same place, but unfor­tu­nate­ly I nev­er got to meet him and talk comics (it was a pret­ty big place).

I some­how man­aged to get all three issues of Jef­f’s Atom­ic Man Comics back when they came out, and there’s a def­i­nite sense of fun to the pro­ceed­ings. Atom­ic Man is real­ly kind of a clas­sic-style comics hero. He has super-strength and invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, but does­n’t appear to have any oth­er super­pow­ers beyond that. Jeff added some fresh ideas to the mix, in that Atom­ic Man is hap­pi­ly mar­ried, with two kids, liv­ing in San Fran­cis­co. Being from the Bay Area, that last part sort of mat­tered to me, because it seems like the tra­di­tion­al default for most super­heroes has been to base them in NYC (or some fic­ti­tious NYC sur­ro­gate).

For my Atom­ic Man salute, I thought a styl­is­tic exper­i­ment using Adobe Illus­tra­tor might be a good way of attempt­ing some­thing that could evoke the look of Jeff Bonivert’s work.

Atom­ic Man is ™ and © 2014 Jeff Bonivert.

Heads Up!

Heads 1A sug­ges­tion was made to me recent­ly that it would be good if I were to do some kind of a post here that dis­played a num­ber of dif­fer­ent styles togeth­er, all at once. So this is what I came up with: a series of head shots, of dif­fer­ent types of char­ac­ters in dif­fer­ent styles.

It’s a pret­ty good exer­cise for an artist, I found. It makes you stretch a lit­tle bit, and it can be fun to see what you come up with. I think I may try this again at some point. Or maybe even a vari­a­tion on the theme: one char­ac­ter, dif­fer­ent styles. There’s a whole lot you can do with this idea.

Qui est Cette Fille?

BandetteI’m con­tin­u­ing with the theme from last time, talk­ing about good comics I’ve read recent­ly. The rea­son this post’s title is in French will become clear in a bit.

This time out, it’s Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Ban­dette. From the moment I first saw art from this com­ic, I knew it would be right up my alley. But it’s only recent­ly that I was able to buy a copy. This is because up until now, Ban­dette did­n’t exist in phys­i­cal form. It was part of the Mon­key­brain line of dig­i­tal comics.

Here’s where I might sound like a bit of an old fogey, but I haven’t quite been able to cross over yet to pur­chas­ing comics that exist sole­ly in dig­i­tal form. I’m not anti-dig­i­tal media by any means! I love check­ing out my favorite web comics, and I love the fact that if I devel­oped a sud­den ran­dom crav­ing to buy mari­achi music at 2 am, I could pur­chase it instant­ly on iTunes. But even so, I can’t quite get past feel­ing a lit­tle odd over the fact there’s noth­ing phys­i­cal to show for those pur­chas­es. Feels a bit like buy­ing air, even though I know it’s not the case.

Any­how, in this case, I knew that as soon as Ban­dette became avail­able in phys­i­cal form, I’d want to pick up a copy. And I was not dis­ap­point­ed! Ban­dette Vol­ume One: Presto! is an absolute blast.

Her adven­tures take place in Paris (hence my post title). You might think from the visu­al that Ban­dette would be a super­heroine, but no! Actu­al­ly, she’s a thief! Albeit an incred­i­bly gift­ed one, (with “Presto!”, as she’d say) who occa­sion­al­ly comes to the aid of Police Inspec­tor Bel­gique.

Ban­dette is adorable, irre­press­ible, with je ne sais quoi and joie de vivre (and per­haps oth­er French phras­es that go beyond the extent of my lim­it­ed recall of my high school and col­lege French). You can’t help but like her! Some of it is due to the writ­ing (Paul Tobin dis­plays a tal­ent for giv­ing the dia­logue a French-feel­ing rhythm with­out resort­ing to pho­net­ic accents). A lot of it also comes from Colleen Coover’s art, which imbues Ban­dette with so much life and appeal, and spon­tane­ity.

I’d think most read­ers junior high age and up (or old­er read­ers who are still some­what young at heart) will love this book. My only regret is that there isn’t a Vol­ume 2 ready to read right now! I’d def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend check­ing Ban­dette out, if you get the chance.

Before I close, it seems appro­pri­ate (giv­en my tim­ing, and the top­ic) to wish all my site vis­i­tors a joyeux noel et bonne année!

Ban­dette is ™ and © Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover.

…Suddenly a White Rabbit…”

Marvel Team-Up #131 ReworkedYou’re see­ing a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion here of the cov­er to Mar­vel Team-Up #131. I must con­fess that I know absolute­ly noth­ing about the White Rab­bit, or how much of a con­nec­tion she has to the char­ac­ter that appeared in the Lewis Car­roll book Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land. I don’t have a clue about Frog-Man either. I’ve nev­er read this com­ic.

So why did I do this cov­er? Sim­ple: when I saw the orig­i­nal, I thought there was some­thing fun here that could be rein­ter­pret­ed. If you look around my site, you’ll see that I do things like this on occa­sion. I even got to do it once for the late, lament­ed Cov­ered Blog before they called it a day. Though they’re no longer doing cov­er rein­ter­pre­ta­tions there, I think the idea is still worth pur­su­ing from time to time here.

While more or less straight recre­ations can be fun too, tak­ing an orig­i­nal cov­er and try­ing to find a fresh angle or spin to put on it can be even more fun. In this case, I thought ren­der­ing it in a dif­fer­ent style to make the humor­ous intent of the sto­ry more obvi­ous would be a fun thing to do. And it seemed appro­pri­ate to use the Mar­vel Pop Art Pro­duc­tions cor­ner box with it.

For once, that’s pret­ty much all there is to say for this one!

The Mighty…Motor Scooter??

Thor on Pink ScooterNot long ago, I received an email from my friend and men­tor, Lar­ry Hous­ton. He’d stum­bled across the exis­tence of this toy motor scoot­er from the ’60s that had a fig­ure of Thor rid­ing it. Marx Toys had appar­ent­ly licensed the rights from Mar­vel Comics to man­u­fac­ture and sell these.

Oh, and I should­n’t for­get to men­tion that they made the motor scoot­er pink. Why Thor would even need to be tool­ing around on a motor scoot­er in the first place is one ques­tion. But why some­one at the toy com­pa­ny made the con­scious deci­sion that Thor’s scoot­er ought to be pink is one of those big ques­tions in life that I just don’t think we’ll ever have an answer to.

I had been aware of the exis­tence of this toy pre­vi­ous­ly, but had kind of for­got­ten about it until Lar­ry’s email remind­ed me. In response, I was able to show him evi­dence that not only had they done this with Thor, they’d sold toys of Cap­tain Amer­i­ca and Spi­der-Man on motor scoot­ers too. Spi­der-Man’s was also pink, but for some rea­son they allowed Cap to have a yel­low scoot­er. You can see all three toys here, if you’re curi­ous.

Any­way, the men­tal image of Mar­vel’s god of thun­der on a pink motor scoot­er stuck with me. Some­times these things just have to come out, so there you go! Per­haps this could even start an inter­net meme, of peo­ple draw­ing Mar­vel super­heroes on pink motor scoot­ers! I mean, why not?

Zita’s Back!

If you’ve checked in on my site from time to time, you may have seen my post­ing about the graph­ic nov­el Zita the Space­girl last year. My last com­ment on the sub­ject then (direct­ed at author Ben Hatke) was “…I hope you have plans for more Zita in the future.” Thank­ful­ly, the future is now!

I’m a lit­tle late men­tion­ing it, but Leg­ends of Zita the Space­girl (book #2 in the series now) came out last month. Based on the first book, Ben set my expec­ta­tions pret­ty high for this new one. And he did not dis­ap­point! Pret­ty much all the things I said last time hold true of this new book too. I don’t want to just repeat myself, but I would like to make some fur­ther obser­va­tions about Ben’s work here. The book also spurred some thoughts about comics in gen­er­al, which fit this dis­cus­sion.

I’d men­tioned before how much charm Ben Hatke’s art­work has. There’s a nice, organ­ic loose­ness to his approach. He is unapolo­get­i­cal­ly a car­toon­ist (and I don’t under­stand why in some fan quar­ters, “car­toony” is a pejo­ra­tive. Per­son­al­ly, I’ve always grav­i­tat­ed towards artists who are strong styl­ists). I had­n’t made this asso­ci­a­tion pre­vi­ous­ly, but this time out I real­ized his work was remind­ing me a lit­tle bit of the com­ic Mars by Hempel and Wheat­ley, pub­lished back in the ’80s. While I can’t go so far as to pro­claim Hempel and Wheat­ley’s Mars was an influ­ence on Ben, it seems like visu­al­ly he’s com­ing from a sim­i­lar place. Or per­haps they have some influ­ences in com­mon. Whether there’s any con­nec­tion or not, in both cas­es, the visu­al approach allows for a much wider and more imag­i­na­tive range of char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions than per­haps a more real­is­tic take would allow.

And the uni­verse Ben has cre­at­ed for Zita is quite imag­i­na­tive! Lots of strange crea­tures and wild con­cepts going on in this book. With­out giv­ing any­thing away, there are a cou­ple of ideas in there that I think would even do Jack Kir­by proud.

Anoth­er thing I was more con­scious of this time is the fact that Ben is not afraid to do whole sequences with­out any dia­logue or cap­tions. He’s will­ing to let his art­work car­ry the whole bur­den of telling the sto­ry at points, through the action, facial expres­sions and pos­es. I think that’s great, and real­ly kind of brave. Doing a book like this (even as writer/artist), I imag­ine there’s a temp­ta­tion to fall back more on the words to car­ry the weight of your sto­ry. While it might be more of a chal­lenge, it can be much more sat­is­fy­ing in some ways if you can get as much as pos­si­ble of the sto­ry across using just your visu­als. The bot­tom line is that comics is a visu­al medi­um. It is quite pos­si­ble to do a com­ic with no words (in fact, it’s been done sev­er­al times over the years). But it’s not pos­si­ble to do a com­ic with­out pic­tures.

There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about there not being enough comics that are appro­pri­ate for kids. Often the way peo­ple attempt to address that is to do spe­cif­ic “kids’ comics.” In my opin­ion, that’s a risky way to go. The poten­tial pit­fall in that approach is that there can be a temp­ta­tion dumb things down, and talk down to the kids. Kids aren’t stu­pid. If you think back to when you were a kid, you knew it when peo­ple were talk­ing down to you, and I’ll bet you did­n’t like it any more then than you do now. Per­son­al­ly, I believe the bet­ter approach is to attempt to do “all-ages” comics that work on mul­ti­ple lev­els at once. Bring­ing this back on-top­ic, the Zita books are a good exam­ple of that. A younger read­er will appre­ci­ate them on one lev­el, while old­er read­ers will find themes and aspects that res­onate with them on a whole oth­er lev­el. Much like the best chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture has always done.

I guess I should talk a lit­tle about the illustration(s) I did to accom­pa­ny this arti­cle (since this site’s sup­posed to be about me draw­ing!). This image is kind of riff­ing off some visu­als and sit­u­a­tions in the book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot and spoil any­thing. But I thought it would be fun to take the poster idea from the book and real­ly do it up, like a full-blown silkscreened poster (inspired by the work of Strongstuff, AKA Tom Whalen).

Any­way, if you like real­ly good all-ages comics, I rec­om­mend you get your hands on this one. If you haven’t already picked up the first vol­ume, Zita the Space­girl, get ’em both!

…The Cool Exec with a Heart of Steel.”

This time out, it’s the invin­ci­ble Iron Man! Thanks to the recent movies, now even more peo­ple know Tony Stark’s alter ego. Obvi­ous­ly I’m not doing the movie ver­sion here. Instead, this is the out­fit that first comes to mind for me when some­one says the phrase “clas­sic Iron Man armor” (though I real­ize oth­ers may think of dif­fer­ent suits).

I can’t claim to have fol­lowed Iron Man reg­u­lar­ly as a kid, but there were still some very cool images and sto­ry­lines I caught back then that stayed with me (such as his epic bat­tle with the giant Tita­ni­um Man!). And as far as wish-ful­fill­ment goes, Iron Man’s a pret­ty cool idea: hav­ing the smarts and mon­ey to invent an armored suit which enables you to fly, gives you great strength as well as many oth­er kinds of cool abil­i­ties and weapons. And he even made his first suit out of spare parts, right under the noses of his cap­tors while being held hostage!

This draw­ing was a big exper­i­ment for me. I elect­ed to make myself do it 100% dig­i­tal­ly, final­ly give myself a project to do using my Man­ga Stu­dio EX soft­ware. It just seemed the appro­pri­ate thing to do, with such a high-tech char­ac­ter.

Work­ing all-dig­i­tal­ly is a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. While I’m very com­fort­able with most oth­er aspects of gen­er­at­ing my art using my com­put­er, the ini­tial draw­ing is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It feels very weird to start a draw­ing with­out first pick­ing up a pen­cil and a piece of paper. Almost like I can’t quite ful­ly think or visu­al­ize clear­ly with­out those items. The feel­ing’s a bit like those old dreams where you’d go to school and have this nag­ging sen­sa­tion you for­got some­thing, only to look down and see you left your pants at home! This will take fur­ther work. But regard­less, I don’t think I’ll ever want to entire­ly give up my pen­cil and paper!

This one’s for Frank, A.K.A. Iron Man Fan #1. Hope I did jus­tice to your favorite!

We’ve Got You Covered!”

Per­haps some of you read­ing this might be famil­iar with the Cov­ered Blog. If not, it’s a site where artists are chal­lenged to take an exist­ing, pub­lished com­ic book cov­er and rein­ter­pret it. The results can be inter­est­ing, and I thought it might be fun to take a shot at doing one.

I chose to rework the cov­er of Dell Comics’ Dick Tra­cy Month­ly #13, cov­er-dat­ed Jan­u­ary 1949 (If you’re curi­ous to com­pare, you can view the orig­i­nal side-by-side with mine over on Cov­ered here). But I did­n’t do it in one of my usu­al styles. Instead, I real­ized that Chester Gould’s style on Dick Tra­cy was pret­ty 2D and graph­ic to begin with, and that it might be fun to push it just a lit­tle fur­ther into look­ing some­thing like a Flash ani­ma­tion style.

I worked on a Flash-ani­mat­ed direct-to-video fea­ture, Hydee and the Hy Tops, and enjoyed it very much. The look of Flash is fun, and I would wel­come the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work on anoth­er project in that vein. I have a lot of respect for artists like Craig McCrack­en and Lau­ren Faust who do that kind of work very well. So it seemed like this would be a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to stretch some artis­tic mus­cles and try some­thing new.

The BG por­tion of this cov­er was done using Pho­to­shop, but the rest of it was done in Adobe Illus­tra­tor. If you’ve vis­it­ed my site before, you know I’ve used Illus­tra­tor for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent projects. But this project required car­ry­ing out the final image in a dif­fer­ent way from how I’d done before.

As far as why I chose to rein­ter­pret a Dick Tra­cy cov­er in the first place, I think it might be because I’ve been fol­low­ing the reg­u­lar Dick Tra­cy strip these last sev­er­al months, so Tra­cy was in the back of my mind. The strip’s been reju­ve­nat­ed by Joe Sta­ton and Mike Cur­tis, and I’ve been hav­ing a blast fol­low­ing it. If you get the chance, give it a look!

It’s the Fourth of July!

It’s Inde­pen­dence Day today in the U.S. of A.! That usu­al­ly means time off, doing fun things like pic­nics or bar­be­cues with friends, pos­si­bly tak­ing in a fire­works show (depend­ing on where you live), and maybe hope­ful­ly even giv­ing a thought to some of the free­doms we’re priv­i­leged to enjoy in this coun­try, which we can some­times take for grant­ed.

This post is most­ly moti­vat­ed by the fact that real­iz­ing the hol­i­day was com­ing up, I had an image pop into my mind appro­pri­ate for the day, so I thought I’d go for it! As not­ed there, the char­ac­ter is Miss Fire­crack­er from Big Bang Comics, though she’s depict­ed here in a dif­fer­ent style from how she ever appeared in Big Bang.

This is a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about Big Bang Comics a lit­tle bit. Some peo­ple read­ing this may know that I was a con­trib­u­tor to Big Bang through its most active years. Though I can’t claim to have been there from the absolute very begin­ning, I did get in pret­ty ear­ly on. The char­ac­ter I had the most involve­ment in shap­ing would’ve been the Badge. But thanks to Big Bang hon­chos Gary Carl­son and Chris Eck­er, I got the chance to get my hands into a whole lot more than that.

Not only did I get to draw a num­ber of oth­er Big Bang char­ac­ters (par­tic­u­lar­ly on fake com­ic cov­ers as seen in “The Big Bang His­to­ry of Comics” issues of Big Bang Comics), I got to design sev­er­al oth­er char­ac­ters, cre­ate logos, even kib­itz on some sto­ry­lines, ink and col­or. The way I looked at Big Bang, it was sort of  “comics his­to­ry through a fun­house mir­ror.” You got to cre­ate things that felt famil­iar, yet new at the same time. It was a real­ly fun ride, guys! Thanks much!

I’ve got anoth­er post already in the pipeline that I hope to be able to pull the trig­ger on soon, but that’s it for this one. Have a great 4th, every­one!

The Original Black Cat

This time out, for no spe­cial rea­son, here is the orig­i­nal Black Cat. I’ve kind of had a soft spot for Har­vey Comics’ ver­sion of the Black Cat from the gold­en age for a while now.

If you’re not famil­iar with the char­ac­ter, behind the Black Cat’s mask in the comics was actress Lin­da Turn­er. She’d start­ed out her career orig­i­nal­ly as a stunt­woman, but had suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tioned into becom­ing a lead actress. The var­i­ous skills she’d picked up dur­ing her stunt­woman career enabled her to fight crimes and solve mys­ter­ies incog­ni­to as the Black Cat. The ’40s Hol­ly­wood milieu gave her sto­ries a lit­tle dif­fer­ent feel from oth­er, more typ­i­cal­ly NYC-fla­vored super­hero comics.

Sev­er­al artists drew her sto­ries, but the artist most asso­ci­at­ed with the char­ac­ter would have to be Lee Elias. Elias was clear­ly a Can­iff dis­ci­ple, and he did that style very well. He gave his hero­ine (and the strip in gen­er­al) a real charm and appeal.

Obvi­ous­ly I did­n’t both­er try­ing to mim­ic Elias’ work here. For some rea­son, I envi­sioned this from the begin­ning as using a vec­tor-based Adobe Illus­tra­tor approach. Yet anoth­er exper­i­ment. The beau­ty of this being my site, I can exper­i­ment with all kinds of approach­es.

If you’re curi­ous to see some Black Cat comics for your­self, I’m not sure where you could buy them now (with­out pay­ing the usu­al prices for gold­en age comics). I picked up a set of reprints some years back now via Bud Plant (and thanks once again to my bud­dy Eric Wight for alert­ing me to those back then!). Unfor­tu­nate­ly though, I don’t think those are in stock any­more. But, the good news is, you can view just about every issue of Black Cat online, cour­tesy of The Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um (What a great resource!).

And that’s a wrap for this one!