Monday, May 31, 2010

World War Three

Today is Memorial Day in the US - a day when we remember and honor those who died in military service. So no long post today. Just two comics to remind us that we should always strive for peace lest the next war be the last.

World War Three 01

World War Three 02

- Have a good Memorial Day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost Universe: Found | Milestone: Hardware

This article is another one of Caine's explorations into the Lost Universes of defunct companies. You can read other Lost Universe articles here. - Jim

Today were going to begin expanding the "Lost Universe" to include a few other universes; some that have never really been completely lost to us, some that have been brought back after long absences, and some that continue to be rebooted over and over again but are still being published.

Today we'll take a look at the MILESTONE books which were printed by Milestone Media with an arrangement with DC Comics (Similar to the arrangement that Wildstorm has today).

"Although Milestone comics were published through DC Comics, they did not take place in the DC Universe. Under an arrangement similar to the one DC and Wildstorm established later, all Milestone characters existed in a separate continuity that did not fall under DC Comics' direct editorial control (but DC still retained right of refusal to publish). Unlike Wildstorm, whose properties were bought by DC Comics, Milestone Media retained the copyright of their properties. Fundamental to Milestone’s agreement with DC was they would not relinquish any of the legal or creative rights to their work. Throughout the negotiations, Milestone, and their lawyers, insisted on three basic points: (1) that they would retain total creative control; (2) that they would retain all copyrights for characters under the Milestone banner; and (3) that they would have the final say on all merchandising and licensing deals pertaining to their properties. In essence, DC had in effect licensed the characters, editorial services, and creative content of the Milestone books for an annual fee and a share of the profits. All Milestone Media titles were set in a continuity dubbed the "Dakotaverse", referring to the fictional midwestern city of Dakota in which most of the early Milestone stories were set. Before any titles were published, an extensive "bible" was created by McDuffie and other early creators, which provided back-story and information on all of the original Dakotaverse characters, as well as detailed information about the history and geography of Dakota. Cowan produced the original character sketches that served as a guide for the other artists." ~wikipedia

While DC has come up with Zuda as a means to expand in today's marketplace (digital), in the comics boom of the 90s DC brought on Milestone just as Image was being founded by all of those defecting creators jumping the Marvel ship.

While HARDWARE & ICON were the first two books published by Milestone it was BLOOD SYNDICATE that first gave readers a glimpse into Dakota - the city at the heart of the Milestone "universe" and it's island neighborhood Paris.

"The Big Bang is a significant event in the fictional history of Milestone Comics, in which many of the superheroes and super villains of Dakota - including Static and the Blood Syndicate - got their powers. The concept was the brainchild of Christopher Priest, who cites African-American urban legends as the inspiration.[1]
The event took place on Paris Island, which had long suffered from heated gang wars. In 1993, the leaders of each gang decided to settle their grievances once and for all in a massive "gang bang" confrontation dubbed the "Big Bang." Word of the confrontation eventually reached Dakota's police department. Mayor Jefferson ordered them to spray every gang member present with an experimental tear gas laced with a radioactive marker that would allow the police to track the participants down later. The mayor was hoping that this would boost her reputation for being "tough on crime."
However, the gas also contained a mutagenic compound called "quantum juice" (or "Q-juice"). Most of those exposed to it - police included - died on the spot. The rest mutated, some being deformed, some gaining unusual abilities in the process. Others not personally involved in the conflict also became mutated as well. The survivors were dubbed "bang babies." The mayor disavowed any involvement. The survivors went on to become superheroes and super villains that continued to roam the city of Dakota for years to come. The survivors of two gangs - the Paris Bloods and Force Syndicate - formed the core of the Blood Syndicate, a gang of bang babies which claimed Paris Island as their turf." ~wikipedia

Curtis Metcalf, a boy genius into an adult super science freak, finds that his benefactor (Alva) is a criminal bigot who thinks of him as little more than a cog in the machine and has actively enslaved Curtis. This wouldn't be so abnormal accept that the benefactor had a large hand in raising Curtis as a second father and paid for Curtis's multiple college degrees in various sciences & technology.

When Metcalf goes to ask for a raise or a partnership he's told the truth. Digging into the company and Alva Metcalf turns over a windfall of criminal evidence to the authorities only to discover that it would have no effect. In Dakota Alva is completely untouchable. This drives Metcalf to reapply his genius and create the high tech gadgeteer persona known as Hardware.

Dwayne McDuffie masterfully uses the "simplistic" nature of the over arching plot: revenge against a horrific wrong doing, to draw in the reader. He further uses the advanced technology designed by Metcalf for Hardware to dazzle us fans of other comics such as; Iron Man, The Batman, and still more gadget centric comic book characters we've grown to know and love. There are other elements, all common place in genre fiction, such as the older wiser guide who shows him the way, and the strong willed and smart love interest who is so much more, but these elements alone do not make up the entirety of Hardware.

During the comics boom, a time when comic characters sporting little more than stars & stipes or a trench coat sold a million copies of a single issue, McDuffie takes a step in the opposite direction with Metcalf - writing him as if he were a real human being. Metcalf is complicated, and the world he lives in is even more so.

Curtis Metcalf see's him self as a champion, a writer of wrongs, a punisher of the unjust - his genius, a gift others have been profiting heavily from, can now be put to better use as Hardware. In the first story arch (a shining example of how to re-introduce your characters without making each story into an origin issue) Metcalf gears up as Hardware, actively surprising Alva and his mighty corporation but as the story continues into issues two, three, four and beyond we see fate begin to catch up to Hardware, Alva has set a trap and is ready for him.

In the second issue Hardware must retreat, injured. Not heard from for days the people in his life go looking for him only to discover his secret. This paves the way for a comic book character right of passage of sorts: spilling the beans (finally releasing the pressure a secret identity causes) and often times earning a side kick or girl Friday in the process.

True to form McDuffie zigs when you think he's going to zag and those around Metcalf don't quite see him as a champion for justice, a righter of wrongs, or a hero at all. He's wasting his life, and throwing away his gift. He's stolen from his employer, lied, cheated, and worst of all caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage as well as killed several people in the process (that's right, this isn't the A-Team, the bullets actually connect) - and all for what? A raise that he didn't get? This revelation not only makes Metcalf think, but it makes us as the readers think as well. Where did this come from? He's the protagonist after all, the STAR of the book. This never happens, accept that it just did, and we (us the reader & Metcalf too) are all the better for it.

Breaking barriers of all sorts, in story and out of it, Hardware is a great character and his adventures are well chronicled both in his own Milestone series as well as recent stints in the JLA and a new TPB. You should check them out if you like gadget centric superhero comics. You're chance to do so may be sooner than you think..

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Digital Art - Part 2

Last week Pierre started explaining why he prefers digital drawing techniques to traditional drawing methods. Today he finishes explaining the advantages with an example of how it helpped him finish the cover of a comics magazine featuring the Marvel character Nova.

I draw the artwork in pencil on paper... then with my "friend" Photoshop... I turn it into the finished artwork. With Photoshop... it allows me to separate the characters from the BG allowing Jim to move the characters around as needed depending on how much lettering he may want to add to this piece.

For example here is the cover for a new Flashback Universe comic we are working on. On one layer I draw the characters...
On another layer I prepared the background.

This way, if they need to be repositioned to accomodate lettering, it's very easy to do that later.

Also... whenever possible... I will use an assignment to experiment in working with the computer.
I had done various sketches when I did some artwork for the 30th anniversary of Nova magazine. And later I was asked to turn one of the sketches we ended up not using into the cover for the 35th anniversary of Nova magazine.

So I jumped at the opportunity of getting some practice in drawing and inking directly in the computer.

And doing this... it allowed me to keep the characters on a separate layer. That meant that it would be easy to decide to change the background.

I made an alternate version to suggest how the cover could be tweaked if needed. And as happens sometimes.... the alternate version was the chosen version in the end.

But in the end... I was happy with either version... so no harm done there.
Making the artwork digitally makes it easier to make some changes to a piece - if the piece is planned properly and the artist works in layers.

As time passes... you can be sure that it will be expected from artists to produce the work in the computer in order to make the job easier for everyone else in the production.

So if you are an aspiring artist... and if you are hoping to work on a production some day... it might be a good idea to learn not only how to use a computer, but also to learn how to draw in the computer.

So "sharpen" that computer... and let's start drawing. ;)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is This the Start of the Heroic Age?

So this week, the first issue of Avengers 1 volume 4 came out, heralding what Marvel is calling, The Heroic Age.

What is the Heroic Age? Well, as it was explained on, it is...

...The Heroic Age ushers in a brighter Marvel Universe and a bold new era for the world's greatest super heroes as they emerge from darkness with a renewed sense of hope and optimism, leading to the formation of all new teams with new members...and brand new characters!

But in actuality, it's just a branding campaign... ..

Titles branded with the Heroic Age banner offer a perfect jumping on point for readers new and old alike, as the top comic book creators in the world deliver a Marvel Universe like you've never seen before!


We've been working out the details of THE HEROIC AGE for about a year now. The plan is to give old and new fans alike the perfect place to jump into the Marvel Universe without feeling like they've missed out on anything that's come before. If there's a Heroic Age banner on one of the books, we're serious when we say 'the Marvel Universe Starts Here!

So with that as the definition, how did Avengers 1 hold up?
Well, it's 32 pages of heroes talking with one panel of Thor hammer-zapping Kang.

As a jumping on point, I'd give it an B, because they do a good job setting up who is who and what obstacle they must overcome. However, 32 pages of people just talking is a lot of damn pages, you know? I mean the story is essentially another riff on Days of Future Past, which was set up in what, 20 pages? Is it really necessary to spend 2 pages having Steve Rogers (who is not Captain America in the issue) talk to Wonderman about Civil War and Dark Avengers, in a comic meant to give people a story without feeling like they missed anything?

Let me say, as a publishing strategy, I think the Heroic Age is a good idea. It's always good to give people a clean jumping on point, especially in a marketplace with so many lax followers. However, when I compare Avengers 1 against the the bright and shiny Heroic Age mission statement, it feels to me like it misses the mark a little.

Let's hope future issues have more Heroic and less Age in them. ;)

With all that said, let's enjoy two great comics of a different age of Heroes.

[ America's Best Comics 19 ]

*NOTE: This is a reduced and repacked version of Yoc's original scans, which were too big for me to conveniently host on my site. You can get the the full scanned originals at the Golden Age Comics website.

[ America's Best Comics 26 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Clock Strikes! - Chapter 1

The Clock Strikes!Editor's Note: Today we present the first of a two part pulp story written by Caine Dorr and featuring The Golden Age Hero - The Clock. Hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1 - The Clock Strikes!
Mark Stash leaned against the guard station located in the lobby of the Brunswick Tower.  Just finishing his nine o'clock rounds, and finding nothing out of the ordinary, he pulled out a bottle from his desk drawer and poured two fingers of bourbon into a glass.

"It's just you and me tonight Jimmy boy." Stash saluted the glass of amber liquid and took a large swig.

On the desk sat a clipboard with his rounds check sheet and notes from the clients that resided in the tower.  While some evenings there would be building business to observe, like construction or moving, tonight he literally had nothing to do but walk around the building and talk to himself. 

He hated his job and wished he liked reading a bit better - at least then he could bring a good book with him.  Picking up his glass Stash finished the amber liquid inside and began to pour another when...


...Stash fell out of his chair and smashed his head on the marble floor.  Sitting up he could see, high up on the wall nearly to the ceiling, the huge clock mounted to the wall struck 09:10 and it was chiming!  In all his time at Brunswick, it had never chimed before.

“What the hell?” Stash rubbed his head, grabbed his flashlight and dashed up the stairs trying to ignore the splitting ache that invaded the back of his skull.

Ordinary people off the street couldn't get up past the thick security door that laid in waiting at the top of the third stairwell.  Access to the higher floors required use of the lift, which was of coursed manned by an operator every day. 

Stash fumbled with the huge ring on his belt, sorting through the dozens of keys, as he frantically tried to get the elevator door open.  Sparing a second for a quick glance up Stash noticed something. The big clock had stopped chiming just as suddenly as it had started.

“I aint putt'n this in my report.” Stash grumbled.

Turning around he headed back down the stairs to his bottle of Jim Beam when the very shadows seemed to move around him. From the other side of the landing, he heard a rumbling sound.

“The Clock strikes.” A rough voice cut through the air.

“Who's there”" Stash clicked on his flashlight and splashed light on the opposite wall.

Out of nowhere a thick arm flew out and a glove covered fist smashed Stash in the jaw.  From the floor, with the flashlight rolling back and forth, Stash saw a menacing figure in a suit standing over him in the dancing light.  It was a tall, broad shouldered man wearing a suit and fedora, with his face hidden by jet black veil.

During normal hours, Stash would have taken the man to be one of the many faceless businessmen who worked Brunswick Towers. Except that this man radiated strength and confidence in a way those men never could.

With the ease of picking up a babe The Clock lifted Stash by the lapel on his shirt and braced him against the wall just far enough away from the rolling light that it was torturously out of his reach in darkness.

“You’re out of time Stash.” The clock grumbled, the two men face to face in the dark.

“What!?  What!?” Stash pleaded, his breath reeking.

"The amulet, the Onyx Amulet Stash, who did you tell about it?" The Clock tossed stash over a foot and a half and allowed him to drop to the floor in a frump.  At the same time he produced a cane that clacked on the hard floor next to him.

"How did you know about that?" Stash asked in frustration.

The clock swept Stash’s legs out from under him with his cane, and jabbed hard at the floor mere inches from Stash's head.

“Tick, Tock.” The Clock bated.

“Ok, ok.  Just let me get another drink will ya?  I can't think straight with you toss'n me around up here!”  Stash shouted and produced a small pistol from beneath his uniform.  Rolling slightly Stash came up firing.


With time on his side The Clock dodged out of the way. Spinning his cane he steadied it in his arms like a rifle and fired.  The thick handle launched and struck Stash square in the face knocking the man out. 
Ordinarily gun shots would be a problem but The Clock knew the Brunswick Towers only employed this one guard.  Picking him up The Clock threw Stash over his shoulders and hauled the man back to the guard station.

Placing the unconscious guard in his chair behind the desk The Clock removed the lapel pen from his jacket and sprayed the man in the face with a custom gas he’d discovered while serving in the Navy.  He laid Stash on the desk with his half full glass of Jim Beam.  It would look to anyone else as if the man had drunk too much and passed out on the job.

Quickly, and with an intense focus, The Clock went through the guard’s station.  In his daytime identity of Brian O’Brien, District Attorney, The Clock had discovered that Marcus Stash had been looking to sell security information regarding the Onyx Amulet which was currently only invitation on display upstairs. Rumor had it that someone had paid for the information and was planning on snatching the Amulet tonight.

The Clock found what he was looking for in the form of a dingy notepad with the corners folded in all directions.  Taking a pencil from the drawer he scribbled over the notepad until he nearly covered its page with graphite, holding up to the light he saw the notes that had been last made on it. 

He chuckled at what he found:  Miss Terry - 10:00 PM.  The note was underlined with dollar signs drawn around the words. Apparently, Stash was unaware of the concept of incriminating evidence.

Considering his options, The Clock began putting the elements of his trap into place on the fly.  He moved to the front doors of the Brunswick Towers and unlocked them.  It was unlikely that there would be a different intruder other than Miss Terry and The Clock didn't want her having any troubles getting into the building and finding her contact passed out drunk at his station.

Moving toward the stairs The Clock picked up the round bulbous end of his cane and reconnected it to the hollowed out tip.  Entering the elevator he produced a key to activate it and allowed it to take him to the penthouse.  While in the elevator car The Clock inserted a new gas chamber into the stock of the cane so that it was ready for use again and made a mental note to remove the wiring he'd added to the Brunswick Towers clock so that it would not chime at 9:10 tomorrow evening. 

With only 20 minutes before the mystery guest was scheduled to arrive, he'd need to work fast.

To be continued

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Digital Art - part 1

I recently finished an illustration of Marvel's Nova in which I had spent much of my time working digitally.
Novas Small
I mentioned before how as time passes... artists will HAVE to learn to draw with the computer.

We are close to the point where it will no longer be an option to draw on paper.

Sure... there will always be those like Alex Ross who might keep on painting their artwork traditionally.... and even then.... I seem to recall a Superman comic where Ross' artwork was colored in the computer.

I suspect that even an artist as prolific as Ross is scratching his head wondering how to use the computer to make his life easier... or to improve the quality of his work... whichever that might be.

Heck John Byrne has been experimenting with using the computer to draw comics for quite some time.

Brian Bolland has pretty much made the switch to drawing entirely in the computer about 10 years ago.

DC Guide to Drawing Digitally
The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics

And now... as time passes.... we are nearing the point where everyone will be expected to work using the computer.

Animation studios... are expecting artists to send in their artwork in TIFF files. So although there is still the option to draw the artwork on paper... scan it... then send it to the studio in TIFFs... at some point... it will be expected that the artwork has been produced digitally.

Why you say??

What does it matter if it was hand drawn on paper if it can be scanned and turned into a TIFF file??

Well... at some point.... it will be expected to not only send the artwork in TIFFs... but also on various layers so that we can have the notes on one layer.... the characters on another layer... and the BG (background) on a third layer.

For example... doing that would greatly simplify the Director's job if he needs to resize the characters for some reason.

The same could be done in comics.

By having each elements on separate layers, it could allow the editor to move some characters around to make more room for the dialogues for example.

So for quite some time... I have been trying to teach myself how to draw with the computer. I have also been toying with the idea of inking my artwork in the machine too.

In the early days that I was teaching myself to use Photoshop... I was drawing using the mouse believe it or not. If you go back and look at the early FBU comics... some part of them comics was drawn with the mouse in Photoshop.

When I finally went and bought a Bamboo tablet... about a year and a half ago... although it took a while to get used to the tablet... it did make things a little easier in drawing in the computer.
Bamboo Tablet

But... drawing with the Bamboo tablet... still is not quite as effective as drawing on paper. The drawing itself is much slower for starter... and it is much harder to get a nice line quality.

Although I just tested a new Cintiq tablet that I will be using at the studio in the coming days... and it does seem to make drawing in the computer that much more effective. The hand eye coordination is direct as opposed to drawing on the Bamboo tablet and watching the computer screen.

So it should make drawing in the computer a much more viable option if all goes as planned. Expect a Blog about my drawing with the Cintiq in a few months. We will have to wait and see. ;)

Although... for a while I was toying with the idea of pencilling my work on paper.... and then ink it in the computer. So I used an Avengers piece I did a while ago and experimented with inking it in the computer.
Here is the initial sketch:

And here is the digitally inked version:

I am fairly happy with the final result... and it even allowed me to fix some of what bothered me with Iron-Man in the pencilled version.

And making circles and ellipses is fantastic with Photoshop. But overall... inking this piece took much longer then it would have taken me to ink it on paper.

But I am hoping that the Cintiq tablet will make this process much quicker.

This is a subject I'm very passionate about, so rather than go on at length all in one post, I'll continue the discussion next week. :)

- Pierre

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Wrong Thor Omnibus

I just recently found out that Marvel is going to release an Omnibus of the J Michael Straczynski/Olivier Coipel Run on Thor (from 2007/2008)

Now I understand the strategy here - Marvel has a Thor movie coming out, and JMS is a big name writer, so putting his entire run into one volume to peddle to the big chain bookstores (as well as the comic shops) makes good sense.

On paper.

On the flipside, I think that when you consider the type of people shelling out $50+ a pop for an Omnibus, it might seem like a mistep.

Here's how I see the Omnibus lines shaking out - we have two categories:

The nice bundling of a low selling, but highly praised modern Marvel series - in this category, I would put:

Brubaker's Captain America Omnibus
The Bendis Daredevil Run Omnibus
The Alias Omnibus
Brubaker's Criminal Omnibus
Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist Omnibus

In the Second Category I would put:

All of the Silver Age and Golden Age Omnibuses
The Old Story line Omnibuses (Secret Wars, Miller Daredevil, Squadron Supreme, Acts of Vengence, ect...)

Now the first group works because what you do is you capitalize on the fact that the storyline/creator has been talked about on blogs and magazines, so there is a curiousity among a larger audience to buy all of the stories in one big bundle.

The second group works for pretty much the same reason, but the stories are just older. In both cases, you are counting on people who did not pick up the comics initially, but have heard good things about the run, to be the primarily buyers.

And this is where I think the JMS Thor Omnibus fails. The sales on the comics as they originally came out were already pretty amazing. (Averaging out at about 95K if one discounts the anamolous first issue) And word of mouth on the run wasn't that great. (Thor fans said it was slow and boring) Both factors sort of undercut sales appeal of the omnibus.

You know what I think would have been a better Thor Omnibus to peddle before the movie?

How about a Jack Kirby Thor Omnibus?

Or a Walt Simonson Thor Omnibus?

Or even a John Buscema Thor Omnibus?

Now let me be clear, I'm not dissing the JMS/Coipel run on Thor. (I'll let the die hard Thor fans do that for me...) - I am just saying it might not have been the best choice for a collected edition.

Anyway, here are today's two Free Comics - another Mythological Hero - The Dell Hercules!

Hercules 1
Hercules 01

Hercules 10

- Enjoy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Brightest of the Lost Universe

Unless you've been lost in your iPad since the day you were able to get your hands on it then you've probably heard of BLACKEST NIGHT. That event over at DC where heroes and villains alike came back from the dead as costumed Zombies? It's lead to another event entirely entitled BRIGHTEST DAY, that's right - you guessed it, where heroes and villains alike come back to life (for real).

"Brightest Day is about second chances. I think it’s been obvious from day one that there are major plans for the heroes and villains from Aquaman to take center stage in the DC Universe, among many others, post-Blackest Night. 'Brightest Day' is not a banner or a vague catch-all direction for the DC Universe, it is a story. Nor is 'Brightest Day' a sign that the DC Universe is going to be all about 'light and brighty' superheroes. Some second chances work out…some don’t." ~ Geoff Johns via Wikipedia

Both Brightest Day Issue 0 and Issue 1 have come out as of now (it's another DC weekly event) but I'm not going to be reviewing them - that's just not what we do here. Besides I couldn't do any better than the fine people over at IGN...

"Although Blackest Night proved to be entertaining and a commercial success for DC, the ending left fans with a ton of unanswered questions. Now Brightest Day is upon us, poised and ready to give us the answers while hopefully delivering a satisfying story in the process. This first issue features some fantastic artwork, and I found myself enjoying characters that I've never much cared for in the past, but the fact that some heroes got considerably less face time than others fills me with some apprehension about just who the focus of this book will ultimately be. "~IGN

No what were going to do here today is catch all of you up on some of the DC characters who've been lost to us (dead) for quite some time in the DCU ...

Firestorm may be the most powerful character in the DCU, or at least he would be, if he knew how to use/control the full extent of his powers: transmuting scientific elements.
Firestorm has the ability to perceive and rearrange the atomic structure of inorganic matter. He can also alter the density of objects, including his own body, and the ability to render himself intangible. Firestorm can project bolts of nuclear energy, fly at great speeds, and absorb explosive force and radiation into his body harmlessly.

Firestorm has the ability to affect inorganic matter alone. If he tries to affect organic matter, he causes a potentially harmful energy feedback. Also, while intangible Firestorm cannot create energy bolts.

When high school student Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein were both present during an unusual explosion the two became fused into one being: Firestorm.

Nobel Prize winning physicist Martin Stein was the designer of the Hudson Nuclear Facility. One of Stein's colleagues accused Stein of stealing the plans for the facility, thus causing the plant to not open on time. That night, an anti-nuclear power group, including high school student Ronnie Raymond, plans to protest and sabotage the facility. Unbeknownst to Ronnie, the leader of the group plans to sabotage the facility. As Martin Stein attempts to activate the reactor, he is attacked and left unconscious. Ronnie Raymond attempts to rescue Professor Stein, as the reactor goes critical, bombarding Stein and Raymond with radiation, causing them to fuse into Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.

Later Stein himself would be Firestorm (Version 2), and then in 2004 DC would revive Firestorm with a new protagonist: Jason Rusch (Version 3).

With Brightest Day Jason and Ronnie have fused together in the Firestorm Matrix to become Firestorm: The Nuclear Man once again.

Deadman is a ghost, formerly a circus trapeze artist named Boston Brand who performed under the name Deadman, a stage persona including a red costume and white corpse makeup.

When Brand is murdered during a trapeze performance by a mysterious assailant known only as the Hook (in fact his last words were "Gee, from up here it almost looks like that guy with the hook for a hand has a gun..."), his spirit is given the power to possess any living being by a Hindu goddess (created for the purposes of the story) named Rama Kushna (a corruption of Rama-Krishna), in order to search for his murderer and obtain justice. It is established in Green Arrow Vol 4, #4, that Deadman believes Rama is the supreme being of the universe

In Blackest Night, Boston Brand begins to hear the voices of the dead and his own remains calling for him to protect them. Being a spirit, he is unable to stop his body from being raised as a Black Lantern. He attempts to possess his own body but is ejected after experiencing extreme physical and emotional pain during the attempt.

Boston goes to his own tombstone, demolishing it with a sledgehammer. Afterwords, he picks up a bird that had died falling out of it's nest, and his power ring restores it to life. Boston then hears a voice calling his name, and asking for his help. He then vanishes in a burst of white light. He then appears before the other eleven beings resurrected by the white light, completely invisible to them, and notices that he is the only one still wearing a white ring. He then appears in Star City, where the white ring transforms the area devastated by Prometheus into a lush forest. The voice again speaks to Boston asking him to help the others revived by the light, and to help it live.

Are you reading Brightest Day?

Have a nice weekend,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Be An Artist

I used to refer to myself as a "Visual Technician".

I somehow did not think that the word "artist"... as most people perceive the meaning of the word... really applied to what I was doing.

I guess I thought of myself as a cross between a "technical artist", and what is generally perceived as an "artist". But I came to realise that I was a foolish fool... that it was just a matter of semantic. Not unlike "comics" or "graphic novels".

You will notice that I never refer to comics as "graphic novels".

I understand that some are trying to make comics more respectable/acceptable to the general public by calling them "graphic novels" instead. But to me.... calling them "comics" is quite acceptable. So I made the choice at some point to not fall into the trapping of calling them comics "graphic novels". Comics are comics. So I call them just that... comics.

So "artist", "cartoonist", "illustrator", "technical artist", all those terms and others I fail to mention do describe what it is that I do.

But for the sake of discussion... to keep the discussion simple... let's agree to stick to the word "artist" for this blog.

Don't be an artist.



How can this be??

It depends on the type of person you are. Sometimes, on projects, I see people who should have perhaps chosen a different carreer path than becoming an artist. Here are a few examples.

If you are an insecure person... don't be an artist.

On each project I have worked on... there always were a few people who were terrified because they did not know what they would do at the end of the project.

In some cases, the fear will grab them a month or so before the end of the project. In other cases.... from the very first day on a project... they worry about what will be their next project after the one they are barely starting to work on.

Some people are constantly terrified of not finding a new gig.

If that is your case... if you need some sort of job security... Don't be an artist.

If money is important for you... don't be an artist.

There are times when you can make a lot of money as an artist.

There was a time when I was making more money than anyone that I knew. More money then even my bosses at the time, thanks to the amount of scenes that I would make. Even those I knew who had more "important" jobs did not make as much money as I did.

I can tell you that many who had other more "important careers" were green with envy that I was making more money than them from drawing "silly little cartoons".

And I even saw many who "improvised" themselves as artists to try to make some of that money.

But there are times when the money just isn't there.

When the animation industry crashed in Montreal... many people had to settle with lesser paying jobs. There were a lot of artists looking for work... and there were just a few jobs for all those people.

So many had to settle for lesser jobs.

Directors had to settle with making storyboards. Designers had to settle with being clean-up artists. And some artists had to settle with making photocopies or such jobs to keep a foot in the studio.

And many others.... once the money was no longer there... simply changed carreer. Some went into banking. Some went into printing. Some went to make websites. And some went to work in various shops or fast food joint.

It happens. So if money is important in your value system... don't be an artist. Because when the money isn't there... odds are that you will simply change career and go do some other job.

If you don't like networking/job hunting... don't be an artist.

As an artist.... you are constantly expanding your network and looking for your next gig.

So your networking skills and job interview skills are constantly needed. And you must be prepared to always be making some new business contacts, and constantly be meeting new people.


10 years ago.... I had a pretty big network of people who would offer me work... or who I could call to try to find out who was hiring at a given time. But when the animation industry crashed... a LOT of them contacts just disappeared overnight. And those that remained were so busy trying to get work for themselves... that no information concerning who was hiring would be available.

So it was back to square one, and it was time to rebuild my network.

It happens.

So if you don't like looking for work and for new contacts... don't be an artist.

If you can't adapt easily...don't be an artist.

As an artist... you constantly need to adapt.

Adapt to a new project, a new style, a new studio, a new working method, new technologies, etc.

Even if you are always doing the same job... you still will need to adapt.

For example... even if you are exclusively working as a painkiller... you might need to adapt your style to the project you are working on. If you are penciling Superman on one gig, then on your next gig you move on to drawing Batman... although you are still doing essentially the same job... penciling... you still need to adapt to the needs of your new Batman project.

You would not pencil the Batman comic with the same approach as you did the Superman comic. You might want to use more shadows/black areas, more textures/etc.

So your ability to adapt is always needed. It is always challenged.

I have seen many good artists who could not adapt to a new project. To a project that was not done in their style. Heck I remember on Arthur a guy who I thought was a GREAT artist, leave the project after only a week because he simply could not do it.

It happens.

So if you like to have some sort of routine and always do the same thing.... don't be an artist.

I could probably go on and on with reasons NOT to be an artist...

If you like to work from 9 to 5, from Monday to Friday...

If you can't draw 80 hrs a week...

If you don't like solving problems...

If you give up easily...

You get the idea.

Being an artist requires a lot more than just talent or the ability to draw. Talent alone won't do it. You need talent, perseverance, the ability to adapt, the ability to solve problems, the ability to build a network...

If you have all of those... then you might have what it takes....

... to be an artist.

- Pierre

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Phantom Revamp

Last week, Cash Gorman mentioned that both Dynamite AND the SyFy channel had Phantom revamps in the works.

Well, this week, some art from the Dynamite series was released, and it was met with quite the number of moans and groans from comic fans. And not just old geezers like me. If you haven't seen the images in question, then behold...

Now, I don't actually think this comic is going to feature Lee Falk's character running through the jungle in nothing but a loin cloth and leather boots - this just strikes me as a the type of evocative image Alex Ross likes to use (like Captain America with a scarred back.) What I'm more concerned with is the story concept as detailed at Newsarama...

As we begin the series, there is no Phantom. The historic line stops at Kit Walker the 21st, who has forsaken the mantle of The Ghost Who Walks and is enjoying a life with a growing family, while handling the day-to-day affairs of the Walkabout Foundation, a philanthropy created by one of the previous Walkers/Phantoms to help support charities benefiting Bengala, and the surrounding nations of continental Africa...

This seems right in line with what the SyFy Channel is pitching...

I don't know - doesn't that show look more like M.A.N.T.I.S. than jungle adventuring Phantom?

Now I understand my fanboy sensibilities are completely at odds with what the kids want (though I don't think Hollywood is any closer to figuring that out than I am...) but this whole tact of main character who rejects his legacy and then must accept it - not only is that played, it's shortsighted.

That's not enough to build a series on. It's what you PITCH the series with. After that, once the hero has made his journey of self discovery or whatever and accepted the mantle of The Phantom (or Green Hornet or Captain Midnight or whoever) then all you have is Roger Corman's Black Scorpion - it takes more than that to build a series.

What really confuses me is that SyFy was savy enough to green light the groundbreaking Battlestar Galatica series, but damn if they have presented anything with the same verve and vigor since then.

Really, I think a better *modern* treatment of the Phantom would be this:

Jim Shelley's Phantom Revamp Pitch:
A small airplane crashes in the jungle with 12 people surviving. Their only chance to survive is to travel through the jungle on their own to reach civilization. Like Lost, we discover things about the 12 as the series goes on. The Phantom is ever on the perimeter - doing his own thing, watching over them, but his motivations are unknown to us. When he appears it's a moment that can cause fear or relief for our travelers - depending on who they might be. He's the Others and the Smoke Monster rolled up in one. We also get the occaisional anachronistic dinosaur or Roman Soldier ruled lost city thrown in.

See? You get a Phantom that can be true to the original idea, but you also get modern day angst and conflict. The trick is to keep The Phantom mysterious and wonderous. Not turn him into just another vigilante with a gun.

As to the Dynamite version, does anyone know if this means that Moonstone will have to stop publishing their version? I would think the answer would be yes, but in the recent past the Phantom liscensing wasn't always exclusive.

Of late, Moonstone has done some really nice things with the character, most recently was the cool Captain Action/Phantom team up drawn by FBU friend Reno Maniquis

Strangely, the Moonstone Publishing site doesn't seem to be available today. I hope this is just a momentary glitch and not a sign of some other problems. I know Moonstone recently upgraded their website (for much the better) so it's probably just a server error.

Anyway, for today's free comics, I present two issues of a guy who (as far as I know) has thankfully not gone through a recent revamping...Captain Midnight.

[ Captain Midnight 23 ]

[ Captain Midnight 46 ]
- Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

One Fans Opinions

I wonder how many blog posts have been devoted to Zuda over the last 2.5 years? People previewing a comic they or an associate created? People promoting a comic they or an associate created? Reviews? Commentary? Rage filled rants about not getting in or loosing (come on you know there have been a few at least)?

There have been a few here at Flashback Universe.

Today there will be one more.

A few days ago Zuda posted the following on their blog:

"About two and a half years ago the very first ZUDA COMICS competition went live. The goal was to engage the community, bringing them into the editorial process in a way that had never been done; shifting the ability to green light a project from the publisher to the public.

Those of you familiar with the history of the competition know that we’ve had our ups and downs. While I don’t think anyone can argue with the quality of previous competition winners like HIGH MOON, SUPERTRON and others, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there were clearly great series that, for one reason or another, didn’t win.

The format absolutely has merits; engaging the community and giving them real decision making power, giving creators a level of exposure that they might not have otherwise had and encouraging an ongoing dialogue about storytelling, quality and what makes good comics. However it’s also had its shortcomings; accusations of cheating, confusion about the process, spamming in the the name of promotion and argumentative, dismissive or even aggressive behavior.

Is there a better way to achieve the former without having to endure or encourage the latter? I think so. The comic industry needs a steady influx of new creators and new ideas. We should consistently explore the medium, looking for new ways to tell great stories. I think that if we, as a company, are committed to those goals we would be foolish not to pursue them.

However, from this point forward, we wont be using the competition format to do it.

In the next few weeks you’ll notice some changes to the site as we eliminate the competition and retool the submissions section. We’ll do our best to keep you updated through our blog, our Twitter and Facebook page; however, if you come across something buggy please leave a comment or send us feedback and let us know.

I’d like to take an extra minute to personally thank everyone that’s ever been in a ZUDA COMICS competition. It takes an amazing amount of passion, dedication and effort to run that particular and often peculiar gauntlet. If you’ve got any specific questions please feel free to reach out to me via email or on my personal Twitter."

There is plenty to dislike about that statement. Sure there were difficulties with the previous format, the biggest of them were listed. There were also benefits from the program as well, namely getting accepted into the competition even if you didn't have the best production values. All sorts of books got in, and they all had an equal shot and achieving a popular status (at least in the begining of each month) so that they might take home the prize.

While I don't have any facts about what Zuda's new system will entail it's going to have to be judged somehow. Judges require guidelines to judge by. Guidelines of any type will surely require production values of a certain level to get in.

The end of an era? That's not for me to decide, and it may be too early to tell just yet but one thing seems fairly certain: fewer applicants, not more, will be getting in from here on out.

In other news, when one door closes and another one opens...

Digital Webbing:

"Digital Webbing Presents, our very own homegrown anthology, is returning!

Many (if not most) of you are familiar with DWP and the roster of established and new talent who have graced it's pages. Not to mention the guys who had some of their earliest work published in DWP and are now "rising stars". Guys like Yildiray Cinar (Legion of Super-Heroes, Ravager, Noble Causes), Mahmud A Asrar (Siege: Young Avengers, Atom, Nova, Dynamo 5), Ryan Ottley (Invincible, Haunt) and Kody Chamberlain (Sweets, 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales, Beowulf) to name a few. Go check out a list of creators in DWP here.

DWP 2.0 will be taking advantage of current technology to publish as first-run digital content on mobile devices like iPhones and iPads, as well as online. Options for printed editions/collections are being discussed as well.

We're looking for quality work, the kind of work that built the reputation that had editors from the big boys sending promising creators to DWP to "get some real work under their belts." We'll need both short stories and serialized stories. Shorts or chapters should be in the neighborhood of 8 pages, content should be PG-13 at most.

I'll be helping Ed run things so you can ask questions here in the thread and one of us will answer you."

Here at least is a new publishing platform to possibly fill the void of Zuda for those who's Zuda pitch was nearly ready....


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doc Savage Fail

A couple of weeks ago, DC published the first issue of a new Doc Savage series by writer Paul Malmont and artist Howard Porter. It was Malmont's first comics work, his previous writing credits being the novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. Porter on the other hand is a well known comics pro who has worked on both Flash and Grant Morrison's Justice League.
So - how was the first issue received by the critics? Not so well it seems...

From IGN:
Doc Savage falls flat on his face in the debut of his first DC ongoing.... I'll leave all subsequent issues of this new ongoing on the stands next to all the other poorly crafted comics I'm not buying. 4.3 out of 10.

From Broken Frontier: overall sub-par offering that fails to live up to the exotic perils and strange adventures that so typified the pulp era.

The one common theme in the bad reviews is Porter's art.

From ComicBookResources:
Worse is the art of Porter, which is wildly inconsistent throughout the issue. One of Savage’s associates, Remy, is meant to be so ugly that it causes one of the boys to react in disgust, but Remy’s face doesn’t look any uglier than the faces of the other characters. Eyes move around faces at random, heads change shape, and limbs grow and shrink from panel to panel. Porter has always been an artist that can be counted on for energy, but his art here is flat with awkward poses and unclear storytelling.

My thought on the art is similar to what the guys at iFanboy and The Comic Book Page podcasts said - what appeared on the cover is what the interior of the book should have looked like.

If you are pitching a comic to fans of a character (and I'm guessing that's the logic here right?) and there is a well established look for this character, then isn't it a misstep to not use that look and feel? Judging by the reviews, I'd say the answer is "yes."

Judge for yourself (panels from issue 1)

Note: the anatomy in the panel below isn't as bad as it is in the rest of the comic. The action just seems awkward. Are those flames coming from Docs fingers? What exactly is igniting? It may be the colorists fault.

In summation - I think Porter works well with a writer like Grant Morrison, whose stories already have a quasi surreal element to them, or for a larger than life cast of characters like the Flash's Rogues Gallery, but for a comic that was supposed to harken back to a pulp era - or at least trade on that appeal -I don't think this was a good match. This was not a great way to start the series.

I predict this new Doc Savage gets cancelled in less than a year.

- Jim


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