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ALEX HORLE Y PAINTING DEMO & INTERVIEW K YLE BA KER PART TWO OF OUR IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW COLLEEN CO O VER CREATOR OF BANANA SUNDAYS
PLUS! BEHIND THE SCENES WITH
ADULT SWIM’S MINORITEAM TUTORIAL BY
BRET BLEVINS & MIKE MANLEY! 1
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WINTER 2006 • VOL. 1, NO. 13 Editor-in Chief • Michael Manley Designer • Eric Nolen-Weathington Publisher • John Morrow Logo Design • John Costanza Proofreaders • Eric Nolen-Weathington, Donna Nolen-Weathington, and Chris Irving Transcription • Steven Tice
3 COVER STORY INTERVIEW WITH ALEX HORLEY
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Front Cover Illustration by Alex Horley
SUBSCRIBE TO DRAW! Four quarterly issues: $24 US Standard Mail, $36 US First Class Mail ($44 Canada, Elsewhere: $48 Surface, $64 Airmail). We accept US check, money order, Visa and Mastercard at TwoMorrows, 10407 Bedfordtown Dr., Raleigh, NC 27614, (919) 449-0344, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISE IN DRAW! See page 2 for ad rates and specifications. DRAW! Winter 2006, Vol. 1, No. 13 was produced by Action Planet Inc. and published by TwoMorrows Publishing. Michael Manley, Editor, John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Address is PO Box 2129, Upper Darby, PA 19082. Subscription Address: TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Dr., Raleigh, NC 27614. DRAW! and its logo are trademarks of Action Planet Inc. All contributions herein are copyright 2006 by their respective contributors. Action Planet Inc. and TwoMorrows Publishing accept no responsibility for unsolicited submissions. All artwork herein is copyright the year of production, its creator (if workfor-hire, the entity which contracted said artwork); the characters featured in said artwork are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners; and said artwork or other trademarked material is printed in these pages with the consent of the copyright holder and/or for journalistic, educational and historical purposes with no infringement intended or implied. Batman, Blue Devil, Lobo, Lois Lane, Maxima, Spawn of Frankenstein, Superman ™ & © 2006 DC Comics • Avengers, Colossus, Inhumans, Kang, Modok, Silver Surfer, Sleepwalker, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man, Thing ™ & © 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. • Donald Duck, Pirates of the Caribbean ™ & © 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc. • Daffy Duck, Porky Pig ™ & © 2006 Warner Bros. • Big Bird, Ernie ™ & © 2006 The Jim Henson Co. • Dick Tracy ™ & © 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc. • Scorchy Smith ™ & © 2006 Associated Press • Cryptid ™ & © 2006 Michael Todd • The Spirit ™ & © 2006 Estate of Will Eisner • Banana Sunday ™ & © 2006 Root Nibot & Colleen Coover • Small Favors ™ & © 2006 Colleen Coover • Freckled Face ™ & © 2006 Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover • The Stranger ™ & © 2006 The Stranger/Index Publishing • Minoriteam ™ & © 2006 Cartoon Network • Al Space, The Bakers, Cowboy Wally, Holmes & Watson, Nat Turner, Why I Hate Saturn ™ & © 2006 Kyle Baker • Madman ™ & © 2006 Mike Allred • Star Wars ™ & © 2006 Lucasfilm LTD • John Carter ™ & © 2006 ERB, Inc. • Nightbreed ™ & © 2006 Clive Barker • Creepy ™ & © 2006 Jim Warren • This entire issue is © 2006 Action Planet Inc. and TwoMorrows Publishing and may not be reprinted or retransmitted without written permission of the copyright holders. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING • ISSN 1932-6882
INDY COMICS BANANA SUNDAY AND SMALL FAVORS ARTIST COLLEEN COOVER
BEHIND MINORITEAM AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SERIES CREATOR TODD JAMES
KYLE BAKER PART 2 OF OUR INTERVIEW CONTINUED FROM LAST ISSUE
COMIC ART BOOTCAMP COMPOSITION BY BRET BLEVINS & MIKE MANLEY
And don’t miss the FREE PREVIEW of our sister magazine ROUGH STUFF #3, on page 79!
Interviewed by Mike Manley Transcribed by Steven Tice
TM & © 2006 ALEX HORLEY
Born in the outskirts of Milan, Italy, in 1970, Alex Horley (nee Alessandro Orlandelli) has become one of the foremost painters in the comics and sci-fi/fantasy fields. Though heavily influenced by Frank Frazetta and Simon Bisley in his early years, Alex has since gone on to develop a style uniquely his own. DRAW! editor, Mike Manley, caught up with Alex to gain some insight into his background and current working methods.
DRAW!: Did you attend art school or get any formal training? ALEX HORLEY: I did go to art college first, and then to the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, and although I learned a lot about art in general, there wasn’t much to learn there for the kind of art I was really interested in. DRAW!: At this time, who were your favorite artists? AH: I was heavily into Richard Corben’s art at that time, which was the reason I chose to study sculpture as well, to get a better feel for 3-D and to be able to apply that to my 2-D work, to make even the most incredible creatures look “real.” Then I discovered the work of Simon Bisley, which basically summed up all the artists I liked the most: Frazetta, Corben, and Sienkiewicz. He was one of the artists who had the most influence on me back then. DRAW!: What time period was this? AH: That was the early ’90s. I remember that my favorite
comic then was “The Melting Pot,” by Bisley and Eastman. The story was a bit psychedelic, but I loved the art. There was a surreal feel to the whole thing. I also remember being blown away by the first Hellboy mini series. I’m totally self-taught. What I learned was from studying the art of my favorite artists and trying to figure out how they did it. If I had someone pointing me in the right direction right away it would have saved me some time, maybe a lot, but I’m glad I went through all that experimentation; it was fun to make all those mistakes.... DRAW!: So was the art school an art high school? DRAW! • WINTER 2006
the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and I found that many things they were teaching, I learned on my own looking at Kirby’s work. Then, with Frazetta, I started having to deal with another problem: color! I slowly started to realize how the values work, how to achieve the illusion of depth. That later led me to study painters like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. It’s a never-ending learning process!
AH: From Frazetta I learned mostly that, before coloring, you need to have a strong composition, lights and shadows and values figured out. Then you can move to coloring.... Some of his paintings are mostly tonal renderings in sepia or umber with just a hint of color and they’re perfect like that! Of course the choice of those few colors and the subtleties he manages to obtain—you have to see his originals!!—are part of his genius. From Corben I learned the use of warm light-cool light— or I should say warm light-cool shadows and vice versa—and how to use it to emphasize volumes and shapes with color. Color is also mostly based on an artist’s personality and how one deals with each subject matter. There are some rules that you learn along the way, and there are endless methods to coloring, but in the end what you want to achieve is to lead the viewer’s eye where you want and suggest the “emotions” you want them to feel through the colors you use. DRAW!: I agree with what you say as far as color being emotional and very personal. It’s such a reflection of the artist’s emotions, his or her emotional expression toward a subject. When you get an assignment, say a cover or an illustration—a single piece as opposed to a comic story—what is your approach, the way you go about tackling the assignment? Do you do thumbnails, small layouts, etc.?
AVENGERS, KANG TM & © 2006 MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC.
DRAW!: Can you explain to us a bit on your thoughts on color, your approach to using it and what you learned from studying the Masters and artists like Frazetta and Corben?
AH: With a cover you have to suggest a story—or part of it— with just one picture, and at the same time try to capture the reader’s attention with it, make them go “Hey, what’s going on here?” and pick up the book. So, compared to the panels from a comic book, a cover—or any single illustration, like gaming cards—has to be more “complete”. I always do thumbnails, whether for covers, cards, or comic book pages. It’s so much easier to block down compositions at a small size. Then I blow them up to the size I need with a photocopy or with a projector. I have to do pretty detailed sketches to get approved first, but I don’t like to do super-detailed drawings; I like to leave some spontaneity to the painting stage. If I plan too much, then it becomes sort of like painting-by-numbers. If I know exactly where I’m going, it gets kind of boring. DRAW! • WINTER 2006
COMICS AH: I use photos very rarely. I actually use photos only when I do covers for Heavy Metal magazine, for which I work with Stacy Walker, my one and only model. But even in those circumstances, I never start drawing from a photo. I always start with my own drawing, then I shoot the pictures—usually you have to take many different ones to “fit” your layout—and finally I “squeeze” the photo references into my drawing. But I’d say that 90-95% of my work is without references. DRAW!: How do you try and set yourself out front, separate yourself from the pack as it were, as one of many artists working in the illustration, fantasy, sci-fi, and comics field, which—let’s face it—is really going through a rough time in many ways?
CRYPTID ™ & © 2006 MICHAEL TODD.
AH: Good question.... how? I tried to figure that out for years, but in the end I just settled with my instincts. I’ve been lucky enough to keep almost constantly busy since I started working in this field. The market goes through trends and flavors; I just stuck with what I like doing and what I have fun doing. Of course, having the chance to choose the right projects helps. Some kids at conventions will often ask me “How do I find my style?” or “What style do you think I should use?” I don’t have an answer to that. I can only say that it better be a way of working that you really enjoy because you’ll have to spend a lot of time doing it. DRAW!: What’s your studio set-up like? I know you travel back and forth between the States and Italy; do you have similar studios in both countries? At times I do small colored sketches—or color comps, which I suggest to do in general, in order to solve problems before you move on to a bigger surface—but I never have time now. At times I do “painted sketches” for myself, just for fun. To me those are real finished paintings; it’s all there, the energy, the spontaneity— but, you know, everybody wants “detail”! Sometimes I wish I had the guts to say, “This is my final piece!” but I like to eat, so....
AH: Heh! “Studio” is a big word. In Italy, I work in a former bedroom, turned into a comic book warehouse, turned into studio. When I’m in the US, I work in the living room, but I don’t paint huge canvases—for now!—so I’m fine with that. Both “studios” look like an art store just exploded, taking down the action figures section of a Toys ’R’ Us....
DRAW!: How often do you use photos or models, and do you shoot them yourself?
DRAW!: What about digital media; do you use Painter or Photoshop at all in your process?
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
AH: My very first published work was for some local fanzines, then I did some interiors and a couple of covers for an Italian RPG magazine whose art director put me in touch with Dave Elliott, who, at the time, was editor of UK’s Tundra line and Atomika’s beautiful black-&white anthology, A-1. I flew to London and met him; he was working on a new series with characters created by Simon Bisley and asked me right away to do some pin-ups of those characters. I was in seventh heaven! Even if the line was ended before my art could be published, I consider that my “big break.” After that, one thing led to another, my art started being seen around, and eventually I was contacted by DC to work on Lobo, one of my favorite characters ever. I started going to conventions to bug editors and artists which I learned is fundamental if you want your work to be noticed. DRAW!: So Lobo was your first work for the American market?
THE SPIRIT ™ & ©2006 WILL EISNER ESTATE.
AH: Yes, it was my favorite character at the time, and still is one of my favorites today. I had a ball anytime I worked on him. DRAW!: Now, so far we’ve been talking about mostly your painting work, but I’d also like to talk about your work drawing comics. Do you have any philosophy in regards to page layouts, or preferences in plot vs. full script? AH: I usually prefer a plot where I have a little freedom to work with, but I work with full scripts as well and, in those circumstances, the challenge is to make it “your own” even when following detailed directions.
ABOVE: Alex prefers storytelling over the “nice drawing” as illustrated by Will Eisner, among others. NEXT PAGE: Alex enjoys working in the “Bruce Timm style” for fun.
DRAW!: It’s a different mindset to do comic storytelling, so would you say you are more in the school of the “nice drawing” which would be more like Adams, Wrightson, or Frazetta’s comics work—even Raymond and Foster—or the “Storytelling school” which I always think of more in the vein of Kubert or Eisner, and which is more cinematic, more design-oriented in the use of layout? AH: I tend to prefer rather “simple” layouts over too fancy page settings. My storytelling bible has been John Buscema’s Silver Surfer and Thor runs—and Jack Kirby, of course. To me, the story has to be easy to read primarily, and, like in those comics, the pages were following almost some sort of grid, but it was what was going on inside the panels that was incredi8
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
ble—the camera movements, the posing of figures, the dynamism, and the overall page’s balance of light and shadow. If a page is full of beautifully rendered drawings, but you can’t tell which panel comes first, then I think you missed the target anyway. I think a comic book artist is the closest thing to a movie director, where you “shoot” the scenes, “direct” the characters, and edit your own work.... In short, you have to tell the story, first. DRAW!: I saw on your website that you like to also play around with styles, you had some very animated-looking sketches and some Kirby-esque looking ones as well. AH: I’m a huge fan of Bruce Timm’s work; I just love his approach, which is both classical and stylized at the same time.
COMICS A few years ago, I tried to work in that style, just for fun, and got hooked by it. For someone like me, who’s used to rendering every shadow of every shape and muscle in a sort of “realistic” way, plus color, it was very refreshing to approach figures using only essential black lines. The Kirby-esque ones were just me going back to my roots, when I used to want to be Kirby (silly kid!). DRAW!: Do you do any drawing or sketching outside of work? Do you do landscapes and keep sketchbooks, attend life-drawing classes? AH: No, but I really wish I could. I suggest to anybody, no matter what style you want to work with, try to do life drawings as often as possible. It’s very useful to improve your understanding of the figure. Take art classes or draw your sleeping grandpa, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care much for landscapes, but I’m planning to do life “paintings,” meaning doing quick figure studies directly in oils. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and I’m determined to find the time soon. I have to!
anatomy in general was nothing short than Michelangelo-esque. Few artists managed to render the “fleshiness” of their characters as he did. Other European artists that I haven’t been influenced by, but I greatly admire, are Jordi Bernet and Moebius (especially his early “Arzach” stories!). DRAW!: What type of pens and brushes do you use in your comic work? What tools do you use; do you use blue pencils to rough out, etc.?
LOIS LANE, SUPERMAN ™ & ©2006 DC COMICS.
DRAW!: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? AH: “Never give up!” DRAW!: What’s the worst? AH: “Never give up!” [laughter] No, seriously, determination, in my opinion, is even more important than raw talent. I’ve seen many talented artists giving up within their first year and less talented ones, who were more “driven,” ending up with professional success. I’ve spoken with many artists, and I mean also some of my “art heroes,” and there’s something to learn from every single one, but also you can’t let someone else’s opinion or taste make you go in the wrong direction. On the other hand, there’s also people who don’t have a clue, they draw stick figures and can’t tell the difference from a real pro’s work.... DRAW!: Were you influenced in your comic approach by any of the great European artists, especially the artists from Spain or Italy? AH: The Italian artist I studied the most is Tanino (or Gaetano) Liberatore, the artist who draws Ranxerox. His approach to figures and DRAW! • WINTER 2006
They say making a simple drawing is hard, and this is true, but some artists like Colleen Coover make the hard part of simplicity look easy, and that is always the mark of a good cartoonist. From her just completed Banana Sunday series to her work on Small Favors and work in-between, Coover’s art displays a classic, charming, open and inviting style, a bouncy brush line that hearkens back to the best of Betty and Veronica and girls’ comics of the Silver and Golden Ages without becoming embalmed with retro kitsch. DRAW! magazine Editor-in-Chief Mike Manley conducted this interview over the phone with the hard working Coover from her home studio.
Interview conducted by Mike Manley Transcribed by Steven Tice
DRAW!: You’re normally a morning person? COLLEEN COOVER: Well... yeah. I mean, I get up probably around 8:00 and then sort of ease into things, probably like, 10:00, 10:30. I’ve been doing panel borders so far this morning for very low-impact work. And then I like to go down to my gym sometimes in the morning, and lately I’ve been hanging out at Mercury Studio to do actual work with the fellows there.
DRAW!: Okay, I’ve heard of them. And so it’s nice to have that camaraderie, I take it? CC: Oh, yeah, and they have a great space downtown in an office building, so it’s nice. It’s almost like going to work. DRAW!: Yeah. It’s nice to sometimes break up the monotony of working at home.
DRAW!: So who is Mercury Studios?
CC: It’s Steve Lieber, Jeff Parker, David Hannes, Ron Randall and Matthew Clark.
DRAW!: Which can get you really easily distracted sometimes.
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
CC: Yeah, or lazy, which is the other word for it. DRAW!: Well, you know, there’s that laundry that needs to be done, that pile of mail that needs to be gone through. CC: Yeah. And also I’ve found that if I go with a limited scope of what I can do, like if I don’t pack my inking stuff and I just pack some stuff to be penciled, then I’ll do more penciling. I’ll actually get more penciling work done than I would ordinarily, because sometimes, if I’m just doing whatever at home, I’ll pencil something halfway, and then I’ll get bored of penciling, so I’ll start inking it before it’s really ready. DRAW!: Right. So you have a setup at home, your home studio, and then you have, I guess, like a space that you rent with the guys? CC: Actually, I just sort of squat on whatever table is free. DRAW!: So you don’t have another mini-setup there so you don’t have to haul stuff back and forth? BANANA SUNDAY ™ & ©2006 ROOT NIBOT & COLLEEN COOVER.
CC: I’ve got the girlfriend drawer, you know? I’ve got a box that’s really filling up. I’ve got a bottle of ink and a brush that’s sort of just staying there now. DRAW!: “I guess we can clear some of these action figures off to let you have some space for your girl stuff.” CC: Yeah, nothing official. Some of the people who actually pay rent there never go there, and there are still tables from former artists who used to go there. DRAW!: So they’re the mystery artists? CC: Yeah, I don’t think they still are actually paying rent on the place, but they still have all their stuff there. It’s a very easygoing kind of studio space. ABOVE: Layouts from Banana Sunday. DRAW!: I was very interested in interviewing you, because in the comics industry there seem to be fewer women, and in the animation business there don’t have to worry about doing all-nighters when you’ve are a lot of women in various positions—animators or backalready had to deal with your family as well. Whereas in the ground painters, even character designs—but in comics, at least other industries, historically, it’s more acceptable for a fellow to in the mainstream, it’s like, four or five women in total. I may go do an overnighter at a studio or whatever and leave the family be stretching a bit, but I always see, it seems, the usual suspects. behind for a few hours, y’know? And in the alternative comics crowd, there’s a lot more women. DRAW!: So you think it’s more that than maybe the material in CC: Right. I have my theories, but they’re all sort of conjecsome respects? tures about that. I think a lot of it has to do with the same sort CC: I also think it’s the material. I don’t think it’s necessarily of family dynamics that have made women historically less because the genres are less appealing, although, now that I’ve powerful in other industries, where, y’know, if you have a baby or something, that’s going to take time away from your art. And said that, I want to contradict myself. I think if you’re working for yourself, that’s not as much of an DRAW!: Well, I mean, another reason I ask this is, it’s always impact. So, if you are, say, Carla Speed McNeil, and you’re fascinating for me to go into the comic book shop with my girlworking for yourself and you set your own schedule, then you
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
RIGHT AND NEXT PAGE: More Banana Sunday from layout to finished page. Notice the change in panel 2, which puts more emphasis on the missing chunk of wall.
DRAW!: Okay, define fast. Are you a page a day, two pages a week? CC: Right now, on the graphic novel I’m working on, I’m striving for four pages a week. DRAW!: And that’s pencils and inks, or just pencils? CC: That’s a whole page, pencils and inks. But I’ve met that goal once, so.... DRAW!: And now, how many hours a day are you putting into that in order to get that done? CC: I’m estimating six or seven. DRAW!: Okay, so you’re not grinding yourself down working 16 hours a day? CC: Right. I’m also doing some illustration work, as well. BANANA SUNDAY ™ & ©2006 ROOT NIBOT & COLLEEN COOVER.
DRAW!: Yeah, and I was going to touch on that, as well. So I guess, going back to what we were talking about.... CC: So, yeah, for Banana Sunday it’s actually gone through a lot of incarnations, because we sort of came up with the idea years ago, and it got sort of back shelved while I was honing my skills with Small Favors. And it was only after I had done enough work on Small Favors that I really felt like I had the discipline and the skill to do a larger story, something that had a complete story arc over, what would that be 80-some pages, I guess. DRAW!: As opposed to doing eight- to ten-page stories? CC: Exactly, which is—I mean, Small Favors started out with one ten-page story and a bunch of one-pagers, or something like that, and it was very much “do a story of X number of pages and then figure out how to sell each individual issue with other pages or pin-ups or whatever.” DRAW!: Which, you know, in a way, is traditionally how the business used to be. CC: Sure. DRAW!: When you started out, you’d get an eight-, ten-page story. Even the old Warren magazines, those were eight- or ten-page stories. DC had their anthology books like House of Secrets. They don’t really have books like that anymore. CC: The entire Golden Age was like that, too. DRAW!: Right, so you couldn’t start out and do an eight-page 16
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
story and then kind of work your way up to get a main feature. They’d throw you, basically, right in the deep end of the pool and see if you can do 22 laps a month. CC: I probably would have had a nervous breakdown if I had had to do an entire story arc right off the bat, because just the pressure of getting that much done and having the end of the project that far away would have been really intimidating to me. Small Favors really gave me that confidence, y’know, I can complete eight issues, or whatever, of material over X amount of time. DRAW!: Now, while you were doing that, obviously you had to have another source of income. So were you also working a full-time job, or were you doing illustration on the side? CC: When I was doing Small Favors, I was working retail at the comic shop, and before that at a coffee shop, so that was—up
INDY COMICS “Is it a living?” versus “Is it a hobby?”. CC: Right. I don’t know any other independent people who don’t have a job outside of their projects, other than Clowes or Charles Burns, and they do illustration work. I talked to Seth at a convention once, and he said he spends 80% of his time doing illustration work, and only 20% of the time doing comics, which explains why his stuff comes out so slowly. DRAW!: Well, again, that’s one of the things that becomes very clear when you start to talk to more people who do the indy, non-mainstream. We have to come up with a better name for that because it just seems sort of dumb now. CC: Yeah, and it overlaps a lot more than it originally did. If I go into a shop and there’s the Marvel stuff, the DC stuff, and then everything else, the “everything else” includes everything from Dark Horse to mini-comics, and it just doesn’t seem appropriate.
BANANA SUNDAY ™ & ©2006 ROOT NIBOT & COLLEEN COOVER.
DRAW!: Right. And that represents something like, what, 14% to 15% of the business, but I think that 14% or 15% of the business has 95% of the variety. CC: Right.
CC: I would call it making an income.
DRAW!: So that’s very interesting to hear. My assistant, she’s trying to break into the business doing work on her own, and it’s much tougher to develop yourself as an author doing independent comics, as opposed to trying to get your work accepted by Marvel, DC, or somebody who’s actually going to give you a $150 to $200 page rate. In the short term, it’s harder because it’s harder to connect with the audience, but I think, in the long term, if you have a body of work—you have Banana Sunday and then ten years from now, you have five or six or seven other properties, books, things that you own that you can control—I think you’re better off. Because, in the long run, working for Marvel or DC is great—I’ve done it for over 20 years—but I don’t own anything. And I don’t control anything. I don’t control whether they reprint it in Brazil, whether they reprint it in Russia, whether they decide “We’re not going to pay you for any more royalties or reprints.” And, y’know, it’s not going to pay for my applesauce when I’m 80.
DRAW!: Okay. Again, see, this is another important piece of information. I think, something that is very fascinating and important for the up-and-coming artists, readers of the magazine, people trying to break into the business—because there definitely is economy of scale between the mainstream and the independent, the people that basically do non-superhero material—and nobody seems to talk much about this—the monetary end of it.
CC: Right. Exactly. It’s frustrating not to be able to get paid for your work right away on the one hand, but then, a comic book is a really good way to show people in the rest of the graphic art world that you can get the work done. It’s led to a lot of illustration work for me, and illustration work is a really nice way to supplement my comics work. I’ve been doing a lot of illustration work for The Stranger Weekly in Seattle.
ABOVE AND NEXT PAGE: More layouts from Banana Sunday.
until two years ago, I was doing retail full-time and then coming home at night and working for a couple of hours. DRAW!: And now you’re able to make your living completely off of your artwork?
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
TODD JAMES presents... the SECRET ORIGIN of
MINORITEAM ™ & ©2006 CARTOON NETWORK
Interviewed by Mike Manley Transcribed by Steven Tice What would a smash-up between those old limited animation Marvel cartoons, Jack Kirby, racist stereotypes, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and part of the team behind Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers look like? The result is the disturbingly funny and un-PC Minoriteam. DRAW! Editor Mike Manley was asked early on to contribute to the look of the show by inking the storyboard art to look very “Kirbyesque.” So sit back and enjoy this look behind the scenes on one of Adult Swim’s newest hits—Minoriteam!
DRAW!: Where did you grow up?
DRAW!: You dropped out of art school and high school both?
TODD JAMES: New York City.
TJ: It was an art high school.
DRAW!: Did you go to art school?
DRAW!: While you were there did you have any teachers of note? Any famous cartoonists?
TJ: I went to the High School of Art and Design, which is not the same as Art Music and Art, the school Fame was based on. Art and Design was more for commercial art and had some cartooning classes. By the time I was in 11th grade they had cut all that stuff and I dropped out. Art and Design was a huge training ground for graffiti writers and comic book kids. So in that way it was great and like nowhere else.
TJ: The one teacher I can remember was a guy named Mr. Pacter; he’d talk with a microphone. He’d tell everyone to stop watching TV and practice drawing or they’d end up as garbage men. I remember stopping for a week. I might have actually ended up doing something I didn’t like if it wasn’t for TV. Thanks, G-Force. DRAW! • WINTER 2006
DRAW!: Did you attend college or take any more art classes to continue your education? TJ: I took some night classes at The School for Visual Arts (SVA) with Don Duga and a class at Parsons in comic book art with a teacher named Ken Lendgrath—I think that’s his last name. He was a good teacher. He was very into reference files, and that was before the Internet, so having your own library of images was important.
DRAW!: Do you continue any classes now or go and do weekly figure drawing, etc.? TJ: No, but I draw a lot. DRAW!: Are you New York-based, or did you move to LA for the show since the offices for the company, Funny Garbage, are in LA? TJ: I live in NYC but was out in LA most of last year working. Peter and Adam, my partners on the show, both live there. DRAW!: So I take it you were a big Marvel Comics fan growing up? TJ: I had a big phase around the age of 12 to 14; it was when John Byrne was doing the X-Men and they had those issues with the Sentinels. When I left Art and Design I was at this school called City which was internshipbased, and I interned at Marvel and then got hired for a summer job. I read mail, Xeroxed comic art for editors, I sat in the bullpen. I loved reading fan mail because it was usually nuts. I was 17 and wasn’t as big a comic fan then. I was wrapped up in Graffiti and Tex Avery cartoons, but it was a very fun job. DRAW!: What other cartoonists were you into? TJ: Well I actually didn’t know the names of the designers, the directors had the credit at the beginning. But I loved the art.
MINORITEAM ™ & ©2006 CARTOON NETWORK
ABOVE: The clean-up pencils of the character El Yo from the storyboard rough at right, for the episode “El Dia Gigante.”
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DRAW!: When you first got the idea to pitch the show to Adult Swim, were you already planning the show to be done in the style that is both largely based on Jack Kirby, but also the limited animation of the Marvel Super Heroes cartoons of the ’60s? TJ: Yeah. Adam, Peter, and I all love that stuff. We love cheap stuff. I’m a huge fan of Roger Ramjet and Rocky and Bullwinkle as well. When you can get a point across simply, it’s a thing of beauty. The great thing about deciding to do Minoriteam like those shows was we knew no one else would really do that now. It’s the type of show people joke about doing. DRAW!: Were you a big fan of those old cartoons? I know I was; I watched them everyday after school. They had great voices and very cool canned music, too. TJ: I watched them and loved the theme songs and the characters, but even as a very young kid I could tell the animation was really lowend. I loved the Hulk [cartoon] and those were my introduction to comic art, actually. Now I love the Thor series and Loki’s voice was my inspiration for the Corporate Ladder’s voice. I read in a Kirby Collector that they actually bought an expensive Xerox machine to make those cartoons and Disney owned the only other machine. I think it Xeroxed onto cells. It’s funny that such a high-tech, expensive piece of equipment was used on those shows, because they looked like they just cut drawings out of a comic and moved them around. DRAW!: Did you have any trouble getting that idea across to the network? In other words, did they get it? Were they familiar with the Marvel cartoons? TJ: They knew exactly what we were talking about. Mike Lazzo knows cartoons, and Nick Wiedenfeld loves that kind of stuff. DRAW!: Do you feel your audience, most of whom are in their early 20s will “get it,” get Kirby as well, or is that not as important as them just liking the show overall? TJ: I doubt that younger people know those shows but the style of Minoriteam fits in with Adult Swim. The audience doesn’t need to know the reference, it’s just an added bonus to those who do. Also about Kirby’s stuff, it’s so influential that even if you don’t know him, you know his work. For instance, I grew up on John Byrne, who later on I could see was very much influenced by Kirby. Kirby created a ripple effect so everyone’s imitated him, most comics are based on Kirby. For a show like this, the posing needs to be an easy read to help tell the story. He’s the master of layout.
MINORITEAM ™ & ©2006 CARTOON NETWORK
TOP: Kirbyesque Zombie pilgrims ABOVE: Cleaned up pencils of an Indian chief.
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LEFT: A final inked drawing of Jewcano. RIGHT: El Hefe inked. BELOW: Cleaned up Figure of El Hefe ready for inks.
Steve just had a kid, so all the best to him and his wife. Dell Barras also worked with us. He’s amazing; he is super-fast and super-good. Adam saw him drawing one day and said, “Don’t you get tired?” Dell replied, “I make the pencil tired.” Dell drew a lot of the art on “Fasto in Viking Heaven” and it’s really well done. He’s a great singer, as well, and got everyone to go to Stargazers in the Valley to do karaoke. I just spoke to him the other day; he’s a real pleasure to work with. I want to just also mention our inbetweeners, George Lowery and Nick Jeong, as well. We had a friendly, unique group and it made a fun environment to work in.
MINORITEAM ™ & ©2006 CARTOON NETWORK
DRAW!: How long did it take to do an average episode? From script to the final cut of the show? TJ: Two months. DRAW!: What would you do on those days when the magic seemed to be hard to come by, when you get that rough patch and the drawings don’t seem to flow? Does working in a studio help that at all? TJ: The magic was all ways there. Adam is a DRAW! • WINTER 2006
The Artist, Kyle Baker, the Comic Book Maker COMICS
THE BAKERS ©2006 KYLE BAKER.
DRAW!: So who are you reading today? What gets Kyle Baker excited when he goes into a book store or a comic book store? KB: I’m waiting for the Victor Moscoso book. I’m very upset that it’s late. DRAW!: Really? KB: Yeah! I’ve been waiting for that Victor Moscoso book for, like, the last five years. He’s been promising it on his website. Fantagraphics, they were supposed to put it out in June, and it didn’t happen. I also really look forward to everything Joe Kubert does. DRAW!: Talking about another guy who is one of the smartest guys in comics. KB: Yeah. Eisner’s dead, but I used to look forward to his stuff. Frank Miller. And that’s about it. I like Sergio Aragonés. He doesn’t seem to be working as much these days. I mean, he still does his two pages in Mad, but I’m not going to buy a whole
This interview is continued from DRAW! #12, where DRAW! Editor Mike Manley had caught up with the busy artist as he was in full production on the second issue of his slavery epic, Nat Turner.
Mad issue just for two pages of Sergio. I don’t like anything else in there. I like Bill Wray in Mad, but I’m not going to buy Mad just to read “Monroe” and Sergio’s two pages. My favorite stuff is really the funny stuff, and nobody anywhere is doing funny stuff right now. [laughs] I still read For Better or For Worse. I still like that one. DRAW!: So you still read newspaper strips? KB: I only read For Better or For Worse, and I like Dilbert, and that’s about it. I think the rest of them are pretty rotten. DRAW!: Are you reading them online, or will you buy the paper? KB: No, there’s usually a newspaper at the place I get my coffee on Sunday, so usually I just pick up the newspaper, read the funnies, and put it back. DRAW!: And what about animation, TV, do you watch any cartoons on TV? Are you a fan of any of that stuff? DRAW! • WINTER 2006 33
AL SPACE AND ALL ARTWORK ©2006 KYLE BAKER.
a funny idea about my kids this week, I’m in the middle of Nat Turner, so I’m not going to be able to work on the kid idea, so I just rough it out into some kind of a sketchbook. I’ve got, like, two or three, or maybe four or five, sketchbooks around here. Less for practicing technique, they’re more for keeping track of ideas, because I forget stuff. And usually when it comes time to draw, I usually have a lot of ideas. If I’m working on Nat Turner it’s going to take me away on that this week, away from Plastic Man jokes, because that’s my next job. So when it comes time to put the plan together, it’s often a matter of just going through my lists and finding 22 pages worth of jokes. Like, when it comes down to do the next Bakers book. The next book I’m doing is titled The Important Literary Journal, which is just a bunch of gag cartoons. I’ve decided that I’m never going to do a second issue of any book that I publish.
FAN’S TASTES AND CROSSOVERS DRAW!: So in the future you look to publish just all-new, unique, standalone books? KB: The first Cartoonist book did so well that I immediately rushed out a second book. And the second book, in my opinion, is superior, because I had figured out the formula. Like, the first book, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but the second one, I put in more of what everybody liked and got rid of all the features everybody hated. So it was a better book, but sold worse. And the only thing I can think of was that it was a #2, because I’m still getting orders for #1! KB: Um, I like what Genndy Tartakovsky does, and I like what Craig McCracken does. I don’t have TV, so I usually see everything about five years after everybody else. It has to come out on DVD so there can be bootlegs, so I can download it. Like, I just finally got around to seeing the Justice League. DRAW!: Oh, okay. [laughs] So you’re going on KaZaa or whatever and downloading stuff? KB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s where I see—it depends on what it is. A lot of times, if I like the show, once I see it, then I’ll go out and buy it. But 99% of the time, the stuff’s not very good.
SKETCHBOOKS DRAW!: And what about drawing and sketching on your own? Do you do a lot of that just to keep the sketchbooks going? KB: Sort of. I always write down ideas, and a lot of them are visual ideas. If I think of a funny picture, I usually write it down. I try to write everything down just so I don’t forget it, because I’m usually in the middle of something. Like, if I have 34
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DRAW!: Again, it’s one of those mysteries that seems unsolvable despite even some publishers overshipping second issues in the direct market, is you could sell 5000 copies of #1; #2, everybody immediately slashes all their orders on it; and then, maybe with issue #4 or 3, they’re ordering based upon what they know they actually sold of the first issue. It’s just infuriating. It just doesn’t make any sense. But again, if they can stick your #2 up on the wall, because there were less copies of it, for more money, then it would make everybody want to “order more Kyle Baker, because that stuff’s really hot!” “Let’s slab it!” [laughs] KB: Who knows? This is such a weird market. But in that audience, there are subsections. And most of the people I meet, who like my non-super-hero stuff, tend to be Dan Clowes and Hernandez Brothers fans. Y’know, they’ll say, “Oh, yes, I loved Why I Hate Saturn,” and what have you, “and I buy Drawn & Quarterly comics, and Chester Brown,” and whatnot. And then there’s the guys who like Captain America and only buy my super-hero stuff, and they want to know if I’m going to do another Batman story. And there’s not much crossover. But that other section, that Fantagraphics crowd, it’s a significant portion. They’re not driving the market, but they are—I’d say they’re 10
MAXIMA, SUPERMAN ™ & ©2006 DC COMICS.
ABOVE AND NEXT PAGE: Maxima triumphant! Alex Horley’s rough pencil sketch and the final painting for a Superman trading card.
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ARTWORK ©2006 ALEX HORLEY.
UNDER THE COVER: Here we go, Alex Horley’s cover to this issue! We start with Alex’s pencil sketch. Next is his initial underpainting (above) to establish the tones of the painting. The next underpainting (left) adds detail, color, and lighting. And finally we end up with the finished painting (next page).
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SMALL FAVORS ™ & ©2006 COLLEEN COOVER.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21
DRAW!: Oh, right, yeah. The red book? He has, like, the red book, the yellow book, and the brown book. BANANA SUNDAY ™ & ©2006 ROOT NIBOT & COLLEEN COOVER.
CC: I think it’s the red book. I love that book. And also, we collect original art from all time periods, so we have a bunch of Golden Age original art and independent original art from contemporary stuff, so I can look at an original Gilbert Hernandez, or an original Wally Wood. I’ve got an original Seth above my desk that I look at all the time; I can learn a lot just by looking at those and sort of analyzing, just figuring out what design went into this, and what kind of mechanics went into the drawing of it. Because when you see something printed it’s done, it’s flat, it’s two-dimensional. When you see an original.... DRAW!: “The veil is lifted.” CC: Yeah. DRAW!: I agree. I learned a lot when I shared Al Williamson’s studio, and he has this amazing collection. CC: Oh, sure, yeah.
TOP OF PAGE: Two pages from Small Favors. ABOVE: Go-go raids the fridge in this nice watercolor illustration of one of the featured monkeys from Banana Sunday.
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ARTWORK ™ & ©2006 COLLEEN COOVER.
It starts with a rough sketch in a sketchbook (above). Once a the basic composition comes together it’s time for a more detailed pencil drawing (right). After some fine tuning, it’s on to the watercolors (below), and Baba Yaga springs out of the Russian fairy tales to chase down her runaway hut.
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COMPOSITION Does Your Drawing Pass the Test? By Bret Blevins and Mike Manley
elcome to the second installment of our continuing series, “Comic Art Bootcamp,” which is a direct response to many of you regular readers of DRAW! who asked for us to give more tutorials covering some of the basics of drawing for comics and animation and its various disciplines. This time around Bret and I decided to cover what may be the most important element of any drawing—the bedrock or foundation, if you will—the “Big C”: Composition! Now, we have covered the subject a bit before in previous issues of DRAW!, but as Bret and I discussed what we feel are the universal issues with many of the examples we both have seen, critiqued, and continue to see from aspiring artists, we both came to composition as the biggest issue we see artists struggle with. Composition is often an artist’s weakest skill, and it hurts so many artists’ work. Their use of composition often weakens, clutters, or confuses the design, and therefore the impact and the success of their drawing. It is also the one big problem most students I teach struggle the most with, and like building a house, if the soil is weak and the plans poorly designed, the house will fall down no matter how beautiful it looks or expensive and detailed the wallpaper. Detail and rendering can’t save a bad composition. Cartoonists, comic artists, and storyboard artists are required to draw dozens and dozens, sometimes even hundreds of compositions in the service of telling stories, so you can see how vitally important composition is. If the average 22-page comic has six panels on a page, that is an average of 132 compositions per issue!
What is composition, you ask, and just why is it so vitally important? Well we are glad you asked. Simply put, composition is how a picture is built—the plan, the design. It is the organization of shape, line, texture, value, color, as well as pattern arranged in an appealing design or arrangement that uses the design principles of dominance, subordination, balance, harmony, and rhythm, to focus the eye where we, the artist, want the eye to go in a drawing or painting. Poor planning—meaning poor design—means poor composition, which weakens the effect we artists want to give our pictures and stories. In a good, strong composition all the pieces are in the right place; moving one element or placing it in the wrong spot or arrangement would seriously weaken or destroy the design and thus the effect we want the composition to have. Compositions also have emotional impact and the arrangements of the elements in a design contribute to the emotional meaning of the design—happy, sad, danger, peace, power, etc.
Over the course of teaching and reviewing many, many portfolios I have come up with a checklist to help you troubleshoot your compositions to see if they pass the test. What test, you ask? Well, the clarity and design test. Put simply, does your composition work to tell the story in the best fashion?
COMPOSITION: A Simple List of Do’s and Don’ts DO: make a clear pleasing composition. DON’T: crop important storytelling elements. DON’T: have bad, lazy staging. DO: when planning out a panel or drawing, draw a frame around it. You’d be surprised how many artists try and design a composition without defining its proportions, by drawing a border around it. Without a border the elements of design wander and float away across the paper like cows out of the barn. ■ Is this layout/composition clear? Can you look at it in a second and tell what’s going on? ■ Are the gestures of the characters clear and strong shapes or silhouettes? ■ Can you push the design more? Create more contrast in shape and size relationships? ■ Did you explore more than one possibility to solve the design problem? Did you try another angle, another composition? If your drawings don’t pass these tests— START OVER! No matter how well you draw, you can’t save a bad composition with lots of detail and rendering.
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COMIC ART BOOT CAMP
In the disciplines of cartooning, illustration and animation, good pictorial composition is an arrangement of shapes that convey the subject with visually appealing clarity. Line, tone, color, gradation, or modeling of form and space can strengthen clear composition, but the flat contours of the shapes that create your pictures are the strongest, most fundamentally effective means of controlling the impact of your images.
Control is the basic requirement of composition. Good composition is intentional—you design the edges and placement of each shape of every element to create effective relationships that clearly communicate your intent. Choice and discernment are essential—subconscious, instinctive composition can be excellent, but good accidental compositions are as rare as accidentally successful surgery or tightrope walking. If you don’t have or develop a strong understanding of visual clarity and techniques for composing it, your pictures will always be weaker than they can be, either in variety or effect. There are basic visual principles that will be described on the following pages, but it’s also important to realize that composition is as personal and particular to each artist as any other facet of picture making; subject, rendering, color choices, idiosyncratic accents, or distortions of form, storytelling rhythm, mood, and pace, all these elements are supported and defined by the compositions devised to present them. In essence an artist’s “style” is a direct expression of his taste, inclinations and skill in composition.
SILVER SURFER, THING ™ & ©2006 MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC.
The contrast between these two depictions of the same character by Moebius and Jack Kirby is more than a difference in rendering—the essence of each artist’s personality informs every choice of shape and its placement, which in turn creates and reveals their individual “style.” In each case their composition choices are the ones that most effectively convey their ideas and preferences.
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COMIC ART BOOT CAMP
Before we explore the basic principles of good design and composition, I must mention an important but elusive, mostly subconscious aspect of composition that is very difficult to explain with rules or simple, inclusive directives. In our endeavor of creating narrative storytelling artwork, most effective compositions emerge from a personal “sense of drama”—an instinctive identification with the heights and shallows of the subject, story, characters and situations we are visualizing. I’m not sure this sensitivity can be taught, though it can certainly be enriched and deepened into greater subtlety and strength through effort and experience. As you continue to make images, you will find a particular sensibility of effect emerging in your “sense of composition” that becomes a characteristic mark of your “style.” Notice and nurture it by experiment and exploration—as with other tenets of making pictures, it’s easy to become complacent and fall into the habit of repeating formulas that work, which dulls your capacity to express. Don’t settle for automatic thoughtless solutions to every composition problem—it thins your art into a predictable shallowness. There are two main challenges to manipulate in a typical composition: the relationship of shapes, rhythm and contour within the content (subject matter) of the image; and the relationships of these to the containing border—the limits of your picture area. A vignette is a borderless variation, but the chief interior elements of any good composition should also be able to stand alone without a border.
©2006 RESPECTIVE OWNER.
The ability of the foreground figure to stand alone as a strong clear vignetted design is not an accident. Every element of Rockwell’s compositions can be extracted this way and function beautifully.
©2006 RESPECTIVE OWNER
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COMIC ART BOOT CAMP
Awareness of the borders of the confining shape you must compose in is the essential starting point. In storytelling for film or video game this shape is set by the aspect ratio of the various screens used for different mediums, but in comic art or illustration the possibilities are endless. There is an optically mathematical proportion guideline that is useful for any border shape and dimension, though (see right).
A pleasing space division of any containing shape can be found by dividing the height and breadth into fifths and placing your center of interest near an intersection two-fifths in from each border. This is a ratio dating back at least to the ancient Greek principle of the Golden Mean, the concept of proportion that informs most of the world’s great architecture and art.
You can see in charts 1, 2, 3, and 4 how the use of this principle “breaks up” the space in a visually balanced and pleasing way. In charts 5 and 6 the division of space feels awkward, unbalanced and cramped. Chart 7 is fine for an emblem or signpost, but placing your subject dead center creates a static quality that “freezes” the picture into immobility. All of these effects are there to be exploited, of course—just make sure you are doing so intentionally.
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COMIC ART BOOT CAMP
Bending the perspective to arc the ground plane into a swell that then drops quickly away from us allowed me to “drape” Chewie over the rise and steeply tilt the buildings and background figures down sharply—somehow this optically adds weight to the axe head, making it seem deadly heavy. The jet trails of the closer flying platform subtly convey the swing-path of the axe, coming to a point directly aimed at Chewie’s head. Most of the directional lines of the background figures and moons lead toward the axeman’s head, while the main lines of the buildings point downward toward Chewie’s head, creating a double (but balanced) center(s) of interest. This image is a good example of arriving at compositional ideas through the process of solving storytelling problems—trying to clearly convey particular information using particular subject matter within particular restrictions can lead to unanticipated arrangements that will surprise you. Finding successful results is where you also discover your “style” of composing.
STAR WARS ™& ©2006 LUCASFILM LTD.
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The Leia image is a very straightforward composition, intended to echo a simple oldfashioned “pulp” feel—Leia’s curving forms are set against the rigid lines of the rails and post behind her, to accent her graceful forward thrust by contrasting curves against straights. The other elements (R2D2, the fallen soldier, the ray blasts and impact bursts) are rather methodically placed to optically “push or pull” Leia forward, accented by the spear she holds and the contour of the sand dune background. The two black cables sweeping down nudge the eye back toward her face as the viewer’s glance circles the composition.
COMIC ART BOOT CAMP
©2006 RESPECTIVE OWNER.
The clashing diagonals of these football players create a powerful dynamic interplay of jagged shapes, yet the composition has a very appealing grace, too. In the diagram notice how deftly the eye is led upward from the lower left, along the shadow of the tackler’s right leg, across his torso and sharply up along his right arm, arcing quickly back up the top edge of the runner’s body, down across his shoulders, arm, and the shadow between his legs to join the top of the tackler’s helmet, swoop around, down his back to the lower left border, where the trip starts over again! This piece is typical of McClelland Barclay’s mastery—his compositions are always strong.
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Step-by-step demo of painting methods by cover artist ALEX HORLEY (Heavy Metal, Vertigo, DC, Wizards of the Coast), plus interviews and demos by Banana Sundays’ COLLEEN COOVER, The stalking scarecrow illustration has behind-the-scenes on Adult Swim’s MINORITEAM, regular feabeen reduced to a very simple schematic tures on drawing by BRET BLEVINS and MIKE MANLEY, links, color section and more, plus a FREE ROUGH STUFF #3 chart of its directional structure and PREVIEW! ©2006 RESPECTIVE OWNER.
rhythm—note how the majority of lines lead the eye to the center of interest, the http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_59&products_id=383 girl in the loft door. She forms a cross shape, one of the strongest (and oldest) eye-catching design motifs, strengthened here by the added tonal contrast of white against black. (88-page magazine with COLOR) $6.95 (Digital Edition) $3.95
DRAW! • WINTER 2006
Eisner Award-nominated DRAW! magazine, the top step-by-step magazine on drawing for comics and animation, returns with another stellar selec...