Tag Archives: Experiment

To Boldly Go where No Tastebuds Have Gone Before!

Recent­ly, cour­tesy of Net­flix, I’ve been re-watch­ing the orig­i­nal Star Trek. It’s not like I haven’t already watched all of these episodes mul­ti­ple times over the years, but they’re always enter­tain­ing (even the less­er ones have some­thing to rec­om­mend them). Yeah, I’ll admit it: I was a bit of Trekkie grow­ing up. I prob­a­bly built the Enter­prise mod­el three or four dif­fer­ent times (always hop­ing that maybe this time they’d fig­ured out a way to engi­neer it so the nacelles would­n’t sag out­wards). I even did my own lit­tle home­made 8mm Star Trek movie when i was in ele­men­tary school (but that’s anoth­er story).

Watch­ing the episode “The Cor­bomite Maneu­ver” again for the umpteenth time, I got struck by this sil­ly idea for a retro-styled ad. It was one of those things that gets stuck in your head, and you feel like you have to do it in order to get it unstuck. So here it is! If you’re as famil­iar with the show as I am, you’ll get it.

Though my his­to­ry with Illus­tra­tor goes back quite a ways (Illus­tra­tor 88, any­one?), I tried a tech­nique I haven’t done before on this. I’m used to Illus­tra­tor always look­ing pris­tine clean, so get­ting more of a tex­tured look was some­thing dif­fer­ent. I’d guess in the pre-dig­i­tal art era when peo­ple did illus­tra­tions like this, it was like­ly done using an air­brush set so it would spray in a more tex­tur­al way. Or maybe it was done by paint­ing with a sponge and frisket material.

It occurs to me this also kind of works pret­ty well as a year-end piece! I wish all my site vis­i­tors the best, and may 2021 be a much bet­ter year for us all!

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!