Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unsung Characters of Comicdom

A comic I made in the 1980s, Steel Pulse Pro-Wrestling Adventures, is featured in this week's column Unsung Characters of Comicdom which runs on the website, Comic

Writer Josh Jones gives a rollicking synopsis. Sometimes I forget how fun it was to write that thing. I was a beginner and my artwork was full of crazy weird mistakes. Even so, Jones says the artwork is "refreshingly expressive" and adds, "Modern mainstream publishers just don’t produce comics this awesome." Thanks, Josh!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ink Improvisation

"Hector Goes to Medical School," 2001.

I've been teaching some courses on comic book inking and having the students practice what I'm calling "ink immersion"-- not in the sense of baptism, which might be fun, but in the sense of working directly with ink, sans penciling. I figure this is a good occasion to continue this thread I started awhile back about individual comic panels regarded as illustrations.

"Secret Rites of Hector," 1993. I'm pretty sure this is the first strip I improvised. I generated a stack of of these figures to get something wiggy enough. The text is adapted from a masonic handbook my friend found in a dumpster.

I find the traditional way of drawing comics-- inking on top of pencil plans-- to be frustrating. Usually, when I erase my pencils, the ink lines are way more anemic than I imagined. By the time I adjust the weights, they lose much of their character. One solution, tracing onto clean paper on a light table, presents its own problems. Often I lose track of subtleties in the penciling that weren't visible through the paper.

This panel from True Fiction #1, 2000, is made from two versions collaged together.

So sometimes I try this method of looking at my thumbnail designs just as I would look at a sketch subject, and improvising the illustrations directly in ink. If I'm warmed up and having a good day, I find it permits a degree of spontaneity and invention that the pencil-tracing approach tends to squelch.

from "The Stutterer's Alfalfabet," 2001. Can you spot my hidden signature?

You might think this would speed up my process, and sometimes it can. But more often, as I'm sure it is with most jazz musicians, I end up doing several "takes" before I get something I can use.

from "The Twilight of the Bums," circa 1999. These character designs eluded me until I resolved to put away my pencils and doodle them into being.

Nowadays, depending on the project, I might do tight penciling, light penciling, or no penciling. A small percent of my comics are ink improv. Many examples are scattered on this blog and my website. Can you tell which ones they are?