Tag Archives: Inspirational Stuff

Kirby 100, Part 4

This is the fourth and final install­ment in my cel­e­bra­tion of Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month. Which hap­pens to be today!

Like most of the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, today’s draw­ing came my way years back as a pho­to­copy of Kir­by’s pen­cils, from a sketch­book orig­i­nal­ly done for his wife Roz. It was lat­er repro­duced and pub­lished in book form as Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. Like the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, this was a draw­ing that looked to me like it might be fun to take a crack at ink­ing it. So I did. And recent­ly col­ored it up for post­ing here.

This char­ac­ter (Ser­si) comes from a com­ic called The Eter­nals, which was one of a hand­ful of titles Kir­by pro­duced dur­ing his last stint at Mar­vel in the mid- to late-’70s. The seeds of this com­ic seem to have come from a very pop­u­lar book around this time by Erich von Däniken, enti­tled Char­i­ots of the Gods?. The book con­jec­tured that alien astro­nauts had vis­it­ed our world in the dis­tant past, and were mis­tak­en­ly thought by us to be gods. It’s easy to see how an idea like this could be fuel for Kir­by’s vivid imag­i­na­tion. Add to it Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myths and leg­ends, and he cooked up a very enter­tain­ing sce­nario from these ingre­di­ents.

Cer­tain sto­ries from Eter­nals still stand out in my mind. The saga of Karkas and the Reject, for exam­ple, which sub­vert­ed the usu­al assump­tions read­ers made about new char­ac­ters based on first impres­sions. Or “The Rus­sians are Com­ing!” in #11, or “The Astro­nauts!” in #13. Even in this lat­er stage of his career, Kir­by still had the goods.

If you caught onto the fact that each of my “Kir­by 100” posts has been in chrono­log­i­cal order of when the char­ac­ter first appeared, give your­self a gold star!

I men­tioned ear­li­er on that Kir­by’s work is very impor­tant to me. He was one of the ear­li­est com­ic book artists whose name and style impact­ed on me, and I was com­pelled to seek out his work. He may not nec­es­sar­i­ly have invent­ed all the “visu­al gram­mar” of draw­ing super­hero comics, but he cer­tain­ly per­fect­ed it! If an artist want­ed to do super­hero comics that had impact, it would have been a mis­take not to learn from Kir­by’s work.

Super­hero comics were not the only kind of mate­r­i­al he did, though. Kir­by worked in almost every genre of Amer­i­can comics, and brought the same inven­tive­ness and dynam­ic ener­gy to what­ev­er he did. He man­aged to cre­ate vital work in every decade, span­ning from the Gold­en Age of comics all the way up into the ’80s.

If for some rea­son you’re not famil­iar with Kir­by, do your­self a favor, and start delv­ing into the work of this tru­ly unique and impor­tant cre­ator! You are in for a treat!

Hap­py 100th, Mr. Kir­by! And a very heart­felt “thank you” for cre­at­ing so many great char­ac­ters and sto­ries that still live and inspire today. You were tru­ly one of a kind!

Kirby 100, Part 3

Wel­come back to anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out is Thor. Again, the pen­cil draw­ing came my way years back in the form of a pho­to­copy, and I believe the orig­i­nal source was a sketch­book Jack did for his wife Roz, which ulti­mate­ly saw print as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It was yet anoth­er Kir­by draw­ing that caught my eye, and looked like it would be fun to try ink­ing. Fresh­ly col­ored for show­ing here.

When I first got to a point where I had suf­fi­cient funds to begin attempt­ing to col­lect more back issues of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work, I tend­ed to not seek out Jour­ney into Mys­tery (where Thor first appeared) or Thor issues. I just did­n’t like the inks as much as I did the inks over Kir­by on his oth­er strips. How­ev­er, as I read more about Kir­by’s work (and espe­cial­ly his Thor work), I real­ized that I was miss­ing out.

Kir­by’s Thor work is sig­nif­i­cant, because in it you see not only a bril­liant comics artist and sto­ry­teller doing a great job. You also see some­thing of Kir­by the man, and his inter­ests. Just as in Fan­tas­tic Four you can see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with the unknown, what’s out there, in Thor you see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myth and leg­end (a touch­stone through­out his career). I feel that while all of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work is great, both Fan­tas­tic Four and Thor are the two main tent posts of his work dur­ing that peri­od which can’t be dis­re­gard­ed.

I tried in col­or­ing this to evoke the kind of col­or palette you see in those old Thor comics. It was fun!

Hap­py Kir­by 100! One more to go, if I can man­age it.

Kirby 100, Part 2

We’re back for anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out, it’s the Chal­lengers of the Unknown. The pen­cils for this draw­ing came into my hands years back as a pho­to­copy. I believe the orig­i­nal came from a sketch­book Kir­by filled for his wife Roz, which saw print (in un-inked form) as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It looked like it would be fun to take a crack at ink­ing this draw­ing, so I did. And just recent­ly col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

There are a num­ber of inkers who got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to han­dle Kir­by’s pen­cils over the years. I like a num­ber of them for dif­fer­ent rea­sons (though if forced to, I could name a favorite). In the case of Chal­lengers, this strip is one of the rare instances of of Kir­by being inked by Wal­ly Wood. If you haven’t seen the pair­ing before, it’s kind of hard to imag­ine, but you’re in for a treat. Wal­ly Wood was a great artist in his own right, and the com­bi­na­tion of Kir­by and Wood on Chal­lengers (also on the syn­di­cat­ed news­pa­per strip Sky Mas­ters of the Space Force) plays to both artists’ strengths. Check it out, if you get the chance.

Chal­lengers is also sig­nif­i­cant in that it’s also pos­si­ble to view the strip as a dry run for the Fan­tas­tic Four: both are teams of four who go off on a flight at great risk, some­how sur­vive it, then in the wake of that expe­ri­ence, decide that it’s their call­ing to look into the unknown. There’s even an ear­ly Chal­lengers sto­ry where one mem­ber devel­ops flame pow­ers briefly!

There’s more to come, before the end of the month.

Hap­py Kir­by 100th!

Kirby 100, Part 1

This month would be Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day, and though things have been busy for me late­ly, I’m going to try to post some things this month by way of cel­e­brat­ing.

Most vis­i­tors here like­ly already know who Jack Kir­by is. I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to over­state his impor­tance as a comics artist and cre­ator. So many of the char­ac­ters we’ve been enjoy­ing in the Mar­vel films, more often than not, Kir­by either co-cre­at­ed them or flat-out cre­at­ed them him­self.

But you can find all that his­to­ry else­where. The point I want to make here is that Kir­by’s work mat­tered a great deal to me per­son­al­ly. I believe he was the one of the first com­ic book artists who I came to rec­og­nize by his name and his work. When I first came across it, it was pow­er­ful. It was, to my think­ing, comics the way they should be.

I went through a phase in high school where I was try­ing very hard to draw like Jack Kir­by. Not the most uncom­mon thing among fan artists back then, but (this is the embar­rass­ing part) my rea­son­ing was that at some point Mr. Kir­by would retire, and there need­ed to be some­one to pick up the baton. I thought (in my naiveté) maybe that should be me. As I said, it’s embar­rass­ing to admit, but I was young, and this shows how impor­tant I tru­ly felt his work was.

Of course, I grew out of this phase of think­ing I need­ed to be the next Jack Kir­by (A change I’m sure Jack would approve of). But there are still valu­able artis­tic lessons I picked up from study­ing his work that I can see in my work even today.

An expla­na­tion of this piece: years back now, a pho­to­copy of a Jack Kir­by Red Skull sketch came into my hands. Dat­ed 1970, as my trac­ing over his sig­na­ture indi­cates. It was clos­er to a lay­out than the full pen­cils we usu­al­ly see, but some­thing about it spoke to me, com­pelled me to take a crack at ink­ing it. I col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

I’ll be back soon with anoth­er piece.

Hap­py Kir­by 100!

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!

With One Magic Word…

Final­ly I get to show off the last of those two items I teased back in Decem­ber. I gave a fur­ther peek at it here. It’s anoth­er cov­er done for FCA, which appears in the back of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego mag­a­zine. This one was obvi­ous­ly done up to look like one of those issues of Secret Ori­gins that DC Comics pub­lished in the ear­ly ’70s. I loved those as a kid, because back then they were one of the rare venues where you had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see any of that gold­en age com­ic mate­r­i­al.

I’ve talked in pre­vi­ous posts about how much I liked the gold­en age Super­man and Bat­man. But with­out a doubt, my favorite gold­en age char­ac­ter would have to be Cap­tain Mar­vel. When DC brought him back from pub­lish­ing lim­bo in the ear­ly ’70s, I was already primed for it. I’d read about the “Big Red Cheese” in our local library’s copy of All in Col­or for a Dime, as well as in The Ster­anko His­to­ry of Comics. Some­thing about the visu­al and the idea of the char­ac­ter hooked me, even with­out ever hav­ing seen a sin­gle Cap­tain Mar­vel sto­ry yet.

Not to dis­miss the sto­ries, but a huge part of the appeal of those gold­en age Cap­tain Mar­vel comics for me is the art. As the char­ac­ter’s design­er and main artist, C.C. Beck set the tone there. Most gold­en age com­ic book artists doing super­heroes looked to the news­pa­per adven­ture strips for their inspi­ra­tion. They most­ly tend­ed to fall into one of two schools: it was either the illus­tra­tive real­ism of Fos­ter and Ray­mond, or the more impres­sion­is­tic approach of Sick­les and Can­iff. Instead, Beck looked to the “fun­ny” por­tion of the fun­ny pages for his inspi­ra­tion (like Jack Cole did with Plas­tic Man). The result was a strip that had a look and feel like no oth­er. And of course, the writ­ing played a role in mak­ing that pos­si­ble too.

While the high­er-ups at Faw­cett may have want­ed Bill Park­er and C.C. Beck to just give them a knock­off of Super­man, that was not what they got. They got some­thing bet­ter. Many read­ers back then must have thought so too; at the peak of the char­ac­ter’s pop­u­lar­i­ty, they were pub­lish­ing Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures bi-week­ly and sell­ing 1.3 mil­lion copies of each issue!

I know some­times mod­ern fans have trou­ble with Mr. Tawky Tawny and some of the more whim­si­cal aspects of the strip, but for me, the clas­sic Cap­tain Mar­vel mate­r­i­al is inspi­ra­tional stuff. I wish I could tell you of a rel­a­tive­ly cheap and easy way to lay hands on that work if you haven’t seen it, but it seems hard­er to come by these days.

The Ultimate Comic Strip

I see this mon­th’s zip­ping by, and as busy as I am, I’m just not at a point where I can post any­thing cur­rent and new yet. So instead of that, here’s some­thing old that might be of inter­est.

This was done while I attend­ed Art Cen­ter in Pasade­na, back in the ear­ly ’90s. Some of the specifics are lost to time now, but I had an illus­tra­tion class at the time, and for our final, we were to do a self-por­trait. The para­me­ters of the assign­ment and how you could inter­pret it were wide open.

I was­n’t sure what to do, how to approach it, and was wrack­ing my brains. Until one of my friends in the class made the off­hand com­ment, “Oh, you’ll just do yours as a com­ic, right?” It was one of those fore­head-slap­ping moments. I was too close to it to see the solu­tion myself, though it was the obvi­ous way to go in the eyes of my friends in the class who knew my inter­est in comics.

And this was the result. Though I think I draw a bit bet­ter now (I did this twen­ty years ago now?! Yeesh!), I still kind of like this. I think most artists can relate, at some point or anoth­er. Any­way, enjoy! I hope to have some new cur­rent work to post next time.

Missile Mouse

I men­tioned ear­li­er that from time to time, I intend to do posts of “inspi­ra­tional stuff.” Basi­cal­ly, we’re talk­ing comics I’ve come across that I think are real­ly good, and kind of inspire you to draw. So here’s anoth­er.

If you’ve ever checked out the list of artists over in my side­bar, per­haps you’ve looked at the work of Jake Park­er. He’s one of those artists that seem to strad­dle mul­ti­ple media, includ­ing comics and ani­ma­tion. His stuff is very imag­i­na­tive, appeal­ing and a lot of fun to look at.

One of Jake’s cre­ations, Mis­sile Mouse, has now been fea­tured in two books: The Star Crush­er and Res­cue on Tanki­um 3 (Actu­al­ly, Mis­sile Mouse has appeared in three books, if you want to count Flight Explor­er Vol. 1) . You can buy them here. Mis­sile Mouse is a tough lit­tle char­ac­ter who usu­al­ly has to face down char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions that are much big­ger than him, but he nev­er backs down. He always does what he has to do.

In my opin­ion, one of the best aspects of these books is the way every­thing’s so clear­ly been thought out in great detail. Jake is a “world-builder.” He plain­ly puts a lot of thought into design­ing even the tini­est prop. In the back of Res­cue on Tanki­um 3 is a sec­tion where among oth­er things, he goes into great detail about all of Mis­sile Mouse’s gear, how it’s assem­bled, what prin­ci­ples it works on. The lev­el of back detail and thought put into these books makes for a fun and rich read­ing expe­ri­ence. They’re good all-ages reads, and worth check­ing out.

Since it’s my art­blog, of course I’ve got to put up some art. So up top is my Mis­sile Mouse fan art piece. As usu­al, my ani­ma­tion train­ing seems to have com­pelled me to try to get as close to on-mod­el as I can.  I did some exper­i­ment­ing with the col­or meth­ods, because if I can’t do that here, where can I? It struck me that most­ly we’ve seen Mis­sile Mouse inter­act­ing with beings who are a good deal big­ger than he is (play­ing the “David and Goliath” card very well), so I thought it might be fun to see him inter­act with some­thing much small­er than him­self.

Mis­sile Mouse is ™ and © Jake Park­er.

UPDATE: If you look in the Com­ments below, you’ll see that Jake has seen this post. He appar­ent­ly liked my draw­ing well enough to post it on his own site here. I’m very flat­tered! Thanks, Jake!

How to Care for Your Monster

Here’s anoth­er “inspi­ra­tional stuff” post for you. It isn’t about a com­ic this time, but a book. One that I’m not even sure is in print any­more. But if not, it should be.

I came across this book called How to Care for Your Mon­ster when I was about 9 or 10 years old. As a kid, there are often cool things which cross your path and cap­ture your atten­tion for a while. Every so often though, you get your hands on some­thing and real­ize that not only do you think it’s cool now, you know for a fact that you will still think it’s cool even when you’re an adult. And How to Care for Your Mon­ster was one of those things for me.

The book was writ­ten and drawn by Nel­son Brid­well (the same guy respon­si­ble for Clif­ford the Big Red Dog, I believe). The con­cept was pret­ty clever; talk­ing about var­i­ous types of clas­sic mon­sters as if they were pets, serv­ing as a guide to the do’s and don’ts of car­ing for them. The humor is even mild­ly bent at points, in a way that I’m not sure a mod­ern kids’ book could get away with. I thought this book was great then, and I still think so now!

The draw­ing above is my attempt (I put the empha­sis on the word “attempt”) at try­ing to cap­ture the style and feel of the illus­tra­tions in the book. “Fan art,” kin­da. I prob­a­bly should’ve just drawn this in my own style, but my ani­ma­tion train­ing com­pelled me to attempt to put it on-mod­el. Still, it was an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment.

Any­way, it’s a real­ly fun book. If you ever come across a used copy at a rea­son­able price, give it a look! As a pub­lic ser­vice, I’m post­ing a scan at right of the cov­er of my very own much-loved copy that I’ve hung onto for all these years, so you’ll know what you’re look­ing for. Don’t say I nev­er did any­thing for you!

How to Care for Your Mon­ster is ©1970 Nor­man Brid­well.

 

Zita the Spacegirl

Before talk­ing about the illus­tra­tion at right, I need to set the stage and explain what I’m doing here. Please bear with me.

It will come as no sur­prise (if you know me, or have looked around my site) that I’m a long-time fan of comics. It’s a top­ic I can go on at length about (and have, at times!). Now there are a lot of things I real­ly have no use for in mod­ern comics. But it’s way too easy to talk about those. It strikes me it’d be a waste of time and space for me to go rant­i­ng on my blog about what I don’t like in comics.

Instead, I thought it might be more worth­while to take a pos­i­tive tack and point out comics (or oth­er books and things) I’ve come across that I like, and have found inspir­ing. So from time to time, I’ll do posts about inspi­ra­tional stuff I’ve come across. It may be new, or some­thing old. But these are the kinds of things that remind me why I fell in love with comics (and car­toons and sto­ry­telling) in the first place. Maybe you’ll like them too.

For my first install­ment along those lines, here’s a bit of “fan art” I gen­er­at­ed of Zita the Space­girl. Cre­at­ed by artist/author Ben Hatke, I picked this book up a few weeks back. I’d pre-ordered it on a whim, based pure­ly on the cov­er art and the sto­ry descrip­tion. I was not dis­ap­point­ed. In full col­or and clock­ing in at over 180+ pages, it def­i­nite­ly qual­i­fies as a graph­ic nov­el. Hatke’s art is loaded with charm, and he’s craft­ed a sol­id all-ages book. Zita faces some chal­lenges and some hard choic­es that kids will under­stand, but per­haps adult read­ers will find addi­tion­al res­o­nance with (much like Pixar movies). I thor­ough­ly enjoyed the book. It’s the kind of thing that gives you hope for the future of comics.

Zita the Space­girl is ™ and © Ben Hatke.

UPDATE: You might notice in the Com­ments that Ben some­how dis­cov­ered my post here, and asked if he could re-post my Zita draw­ing over on his own blog. Which he did, along with a cou­ple oth­er cool Zita draw­ings. Thanks, Ben!