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2010 SKETCHBOOK (60 pages, black/white/tone, print run 100 copies)


Monday, May 30, 2016

Johnny Craig

Fantagraphics started putting out a series of books reprinting EC comic book stories. Each volume focuses on a particular artist and collects stories from across the line of EC titles. The stories are printed in black and white, and I read somewhere that the reproductions are taken directly from photostats that were originally used for reproduction back in the 50's...someone held on to all of that material for more that 60 years! The reproductions tend to be clean and crisp, with solid blacks being nice and rich.

I picked up books focusing on the work of Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and John Severin last year. My favorite is definitely the Al Williamson collection, "50 Girls 50", because the majority of the stories have a sci-fi bent to them and there are some wonderful inking by Frank Frazetta on some of the stories (in fact, Frank Frazetta's "Squeeze Play", which he penciled and inked, is included in the book because it originally started out as a Williamson story and got picked up by Frazetta due to deadline pressures).

Last month I was looking through the new offerings in the series and noticed that there is a volume collecting stories drawn by Johnny Craig. I didn't know much about Craig, but the preview pages implied that some of the stories included had a "crime noir" feel to them and the artwork looked interesting (a clean inking style with solid blacks spotted through out the panels). So I took the plunge and ordered the book.

I just finished reading it and I have a much greater appreciation of Craigs abilities now. I didn't look into his background, so I know next to nothing about him personally or any of his other work that he did either prior to EC or after EC folded. And in a way that is OK, because I can appreciate his work for what it is, without trying to put it into any sort of cultural context.

He was a good storyteller. He composed his panels in such a way as to make all action very clear and eliminated any confusion that might be caused by complicated scripts. The spotting of blacks is very well done, the figures look solid and the environments look like they have depth.

His page layouts are straight forward and most of the time are 9 or 6 panel grids, but I believe that was mostly dictated by the EC editorial department (it's the same with Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and John Seven books I mentioned earlier).

His approach to drawing faces reminds me of Milton Caniff and a bit of Will Eisner (with the high cheekbones and expressive eyebrows). He was great at drapery, making men's suits look just right on a person with very interesting folds. Women's figures are pretty generic looking with small waists and high breasts, but once in a while he would break out and draw the female protagonist in a very naturalistic way and I was blown away at how great his female characters acted and moved across the page (an excellent example of that is an 8 page story, "When the Cat's Away").

Most of the stories were fun to read. Nothing intense and sometimes down right silly, but fun to relax with. Also, I knew that the stories were written in the 50's and since then lots of writers have build upon the same themes with more sophisticated plots that I have been exposed to on TV, in movies, and in comics. However, there is an art to writing a short story and I will also say that these 8 page short stories, really were short stories. Each one had a beginning, a middle, and an end, which is more than what I can say about a lot of short stories included in modern comic book anthologies.
I feel that Craig was a competent draftsman and a solid story teller. In my opinion he lacked the inventiveness of Bernard Krigstein, maybe didn't have the rendering artistic flare of Al Williamson or the fluid anatomy of Frank Frazetta, but I enjoyed the collection and I have learned a few things from reading his stories. I would definitely review it before starting any assignment associated with the 1950's for atmosphere and mood.

I do hope Fantagraphics will eventually put out a collection centered on Krigstein, that would be very much appreciated….in the meantime I learned that Fantagraphics will be putting out a second Jonny Craig book, collecting his horror stories. I already have my copy pre-ordered!

First few penciled pages from a new story

Sunday, February 28, 2016

New art

A start of a new project :)

A few of the recent illustrations completed for Onyx Publishing.

Alex Nino at New Comics Group and Innovation in the 1990s

A cover to the first Chuck Dixon / Alex Nino "Demon Blade" from NCG. Just love that cover and wish Nino did more painted work like that.

Alex Nino also did one issue of "Nightmare" for a company called Innovation. I loved everything about it...except maybe the coloring (which, through no fault of the colorist, was a result of the growing pains that comics were going through at the was all about trying to find a sweet spot between the better printing technology, better paper, and new coloring techniques).

I know for a fact that Nino drew a second issue that never got published. I know that for sure, because a few years ago, on E-Bay, I purchased a page of original Nino art from Nightmare #2. That is for some future post :)

Young Master by Larry Hama and Val Mayerik

One of my favorite series from the late 80's published by New Comics Group (NCG) featuring the scripts by Larry Hama and full artwork by Val Mayerik. The covers, also painted by Mayerik, were outstanding. Issue #5 featured the art of another great artist, Alex Nino. Later, Nino went on to produce two issues of "Demon Blade" for NCG (with Chuck Dixon scripts). Regretfully, the "Demon Blade" issues were printed a bit too dark, so lots of Nino's line work got lots in the process...maybe now, in the Age of Reprints, someone will find the originals and do that book justice (as well as come out with a "Young Master" collection!).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Creepy Presents Alex Toth!

I don't claim to be a scholar of Alex Toth's work. I have been aware of his work for years and even blogged about it here , but I feel that there is a lack of Alex Toth centric reprint collections and thus unless you stumble on one of his short stories by accident in some House of Mystery collection, you won't be exposed to his art.

A lot more Alex Toth art is now available thanks to the recent release of IDWs three volume collection. Seeing a number of individual pages scanned in from the originals was awesome and very inspirational for me. However I feel that Alex Toth can truly be appreciated as a storyteller, only if you read his complete stories. At least that has been my desire.

And my desire has been satisfied! I just received "Creepy Presents Alex Toth" from Dark Horse. The book stands at 168 pages! All pages are sequential stories!

I might upset some folks when I state that, for me, the material is somewhat uneven. It appears that Toth tried to experiment on almost every story... and some are much more successful results than others. Lots of stories that I never seen before, which is a pleasant surprise AND 4 stories that are penciled by other artists and inked/finished by Toth. Toth was a "heavy handed" inker and there is a lot more "Toth" in the finished art than Carmine Infantino, Leo Duranona, Leo Summers or Alexis Romero. But that is fascinating and all good. In fact, I think one of the BEST stories in the collection (artwise) is a collaboration between Toth and Duranona called "The Killing".

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Video from Flesk Publishing!

A few months ago I visited with John Fleskes and we got to hang out for a bit and talk about art. I brought a bunch of artwork to share and John filmed me talking about my experiences in comics. It was a good time, mostly because John is a very easy going guy and easy to talk to.

John talked about putting a video together and I thought that would be pretty cool. I didn't realize just how professional the whole production is going to be! John just posted the video, and I would like to invite you to check it out. John used his wonderful editing skills to make it look like I can carry a conversation :)

Sheikman Interview

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Satoshi Kon "Opus" and "Tropic of the Sea"

I'll start out by saying that I am not a huge manga fan. Back in the early 90's I tried reading "Lone Wolf and Cub" because Frank Miller was inspired by was very good, but I liked Frank Miller's interpretation of that more than the original material.

I was blown away when I read "Domu" by Otomo Katsuhiro. Since then, I have also read "Akira" and purchased a few art books by Otomo Katsuhiro. Also, when I was in Japan in late 1990's, I somehow stumbled onto the work of Katsuya Terada and I have been keeping up with his art books and his Monkey King comics. But apart from those two creators I don't really read a lot of manga.

At least that was true until about a month ago when I "discovered" the manga work of Satoshi Kon. WOW!

As I understand it, Otomo Katsuhiro was his artistic mentor and I guess the art style was the first thing that I noticed. I liked the art and thought the story idea behind "Tropic of the Sea" was interesting. Big development firm moving into a small sleepy sea side village and starting to change the way of life. The catch is that the village supposedly has a pack with the mermaids. Will the fisherman be pushed out? Will the economic factors outweigh tradition? Are there really such things as mermaids?

I gave it a try and loved it. As always there were a couple of places in the story, where I felt that there was a cultural factor that I didn't understand, but overall it was an excellent story, beautifully drawn, and wonderfully laid out (I still get chills when I remember those night time scenes in the still waters of the bay).

So I looked for other books and found "Opus", the story of a manga artist who ends up being sucked into his manga and eventually pulls his creations into his own "reality". That was just fantastic (in any sense of the word). The only regret is that the story was never finished...but that is OK.

I have just purchase a 420 page collection of earlier Satoshi Kon's short stories from the 1980's called "Dream Fossil". I am looking forward to start reading it :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Muirwood from Amazon's Jet City Comics

For the last few months I have been working on a comic book adaptation of "Lost Abbey", a short novella by Jeff Wheeler. The comic book will be a bridge between Muirwood trilogies and apart from the book covers will be the first graphic visualization of the special world that Jeff created in his books.

I am working on this project with writers Matt Sturges and David Justus. On the art side of things I am re-united with Lizzy John, who did such brilliant work painting my Dark Crystal pages (as well as the Cave Girl story from Moon Lake). 

I am also re-united with editor Paul Morrissey. Paul and I worked together on "Legends of Mouse Guard" #1 as well as a portion of Dark Crystal Vol 2.

I had the pleasure of exchanging e-mails with Jeff Wheeler, who reviews all the artwork, and provides feedback when we don't quite "hit all the notes" just right. I think with Jeff's involvement we will be able to create a graphic novel that will enhance his creations and give his fans a visual treat.

So, 5 issues, 22 pages of 110 pages :)

More info as images get released!