NUMBER 14 $6.95
SUMMER 2007 IN THE U.S.A.
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OVI NEDELCU SAM & MAX CREATOR CREATOR
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Spawn of Frankenstein TM & ©2007 DC Comics.
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SUMMER 2007 • VOL. 1, NO. 14 Editor-in-Chief • Michael Manley Designer • Eric Nolen-Weathington Publisher • John Morrow Logo Design • John Costanza Proofreaders • Eric Nolen-Weathington and Chris Irving Transcription • Steven Tice
COVER STORY INTERVIEW WITH DOUG MAHNKE
For more great information on cartooning and animation, visit our Web site at: http://www.drawmagazine.com
Front Cover Illustration by Doug Mahnke
WELCOME TO THE FUNHOUSE SAM & MAX CREATOR STEVE PURCELL
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DRAW! Summer 2007, Vol. 1, No. 14 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 2007 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 work-for-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, Birds of Prey • Black Adam, JLA, Major Bummer, Plastic Man, Spawn of Frankenstein, Superman ™ and © 2007 DC Comics • Stormwatch ™ and © 2007 WildStorm Productions • Hulk ™ and © 2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. • King Tiger, The Mask, Motorhead ™ and © 2007 Dark Horse Comics, Inc. • Pirates of the Caribbean ™ and © 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. • Sam & Max, Toybox ™ and © 2007 Steve Purcell • Big Wheels, Gumball Seeds, Inima, Pigtale ™ and © 2007 Ovi Nedelcu • Death Jr. ™ and © 2007 Digital Eclipse Software, Inc. • Pink ™ and © 2007 Will Vinton/Laika • Maniac Mansion ™ and © 2007 Lucasfilm Games • Juniper Lee ™ and © 2007 Cartoon Network • Felix the Cat ™ and © 2007 Don Oriolo • Tarzan ™ and © ERB • Scorchy Smith ™ and © 2007 Associated Press • Rip Kirby ™ and © King Features • Akira ™ and © Manga Entertainment • This entire issue is © 2007 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.
BEHIND PIGTALE AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SERIES CREATOR OVI NEDELCU
COMIC ART BOOTCAMP SPOTTING BLACKS BY BRET BLEVINS & MIKE MANLEY
ON THE ROAD TO CHINA THE STATE OF THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY IN CHINA BY MIKE MANLEY
And don’t miss the FREE PREVIEW of our sister magazine ALTER EGO #70, on page 80!
Conducted by Mike Manley Transcribed by Steven Tice
oug Mahnke is an artist’s artist. He does all of the hard things well, and makes it look easy. He’s one of the rare artists in the medium of comics who can flex between funny, fantastic action and horror. From Seven Soldiers of Victory: Frankenstein to The Mask, Major Bummer, Superman: Man of Steel and the JLA, Mahnke’s powerful figure work has always stood head and shoulders above many other artists working in the field. It’s not surprising to find out that the man who draws such powerful and dynamic heroes is also a competitive power lifter. DRAW! Editor Mike Manley catches up with this busy artist and father of six from his home studio in Minnesota.
BATMAN ™ AND ©2007 DC COMICS
DRAW!: What is your typical workday like? DOUG MAHNKE: It has varied quite a bit over the years, but I’ve settled into some fairly regular habits, as it has become obvious to me what gets the job done. I could divide this up into two different days, which is the productive day vs. the unproductive day. They do their best to coexist, although I feel
the unproductive day always gets the better deal as the productive one has to pick up the slack. Productive day: I get up by 5 a.m. and go right down to the studio. The first thing I tend to do is turn on the computer to check e-mail and let my brain warm-up by visiting some of my favorite sites, all of which tend to be weightlifting-oriented. By 6:00 or 6:30 I get to work penciling or inking, whichever is the DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
priority at the moment. I might just sit in silence or turn on the radio. I get into ruts where my “atmosphere” is concerned, and will go for very long stretches doing one thing then suddenly shift and do another. It might be talk or sports radio for a month or three, then some local music station for a while, then I might listen to a Greek or Italian station on the net for days. I will also put in a movie to keep me company. Most recently on a long productive day—which actually stretched into two days—I watched the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies over and over again. I’m not actually watching it very often, just listening to it. Oddly, I did this recently with the Jet Li movie, Hero, which is in Chinese. As I sit and work I hear the house wake up, as one after another my six kids and my wife rise until the house is full of noise. Usually after seven I go upstairs for a quick breakfast with the family, then back downstairs. It might be a bowl of oatmeal and some eggs or a protein drink. Coffee is a major player in my regular day, although I try to drink green tea now and then at the recommendation of DC editor Peter Tomasi. I also drink Yerba Mate. The bottom line is THIS PAGE: Batman pencil sketch. NEXT PAGE: Cover to Dark Horse’s King Tiger & Motorhead #1.
DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
BATMAN ™ AND ©2007 DC COMICS
caffeine, which I am pretty sure is the secret to the success of the human race as we know it. Back to work after breakfast, and I try to get at least one page finished by 10 a.m. I eat a snack then... probably a piece of fruit and more protein. Back to work and try and get a little more done before lunch, which can happen at any time between 11:00 and noon, or whenever my kids have lost their minds with hunger. After lunch I will goof around on the computer for a little bit, but I keep it down on productive days. I find keeping off of the computer the best way to get work done. The computer can kill your day. I don’t play any games or do much with it, but time flies even when you’re looking for reference. After my goof-off time, it’s back to work, which will be more of the same, penciling or inking. If everything has gone well, a productive day can have me finished with my work by 3:30. I’ll knock off then and lift weights until supper. I don’t have a set pattern for the amount of penciling I will do before inking, although I do know it’s best for me to mix the two, so I can make realistic projections of when I can finish a page. Unproductive days for me are almost identical to productive days, except everything is slower. I get to work later, I eat longer, I linger on the computer, I get distracted by some pointless Internet thread. I could be looking up some military reference, then discover myself an hour later looking up information on the old Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down cartoon. I might find myself paying too much attention to some facet of a page that will probably end up covered in a word balloon, or using some ink that is so thick I can barely get it to pour from the dropper, let alone flow from my nib. Out of a five-day work week, if I have two slow days it takes a couple of ultra productive days to make up the difference. The problem lately has been to turn the heat up on the productive days, as they feel they contribute enough. Occasionally I will work late, but I just function better in the morning work-wise than in the evening. Recently I’ve gone through a very long “anti-productive” slump, possibly the worst I’ve had in my 18 years of comic drawing. I chalk it up to a couple of things... one is coming off of an enormous productive stretch that lasted a couple of years and left me mentally exhausted. When I say “antiproductive” I mean in terms of quantity, as the quality is pretty high. I also was in a car wreck one year ago on October 14th, which is the date of my anniversary. My wife and I were going to go out for a quick bite at one of our favorite restaurants. To do so we were driving our kids to my sister-in-law’s place. About one mile away from our home we were rear-ended, while waiting to turn left off of the highway. I saw the car coming at the last moment in my rear view mirror and hit the gas, getting us moving just enough to diffuse a little of the impact. The driver, a young guy, nailed us at 45 to 50 miles an hour. My seat broke and threw me backwards, the back of my head smashed into my oldest daughter’s head, just above her right eye, severely fracturing her socket and the bones on the right side of her face. (I’m happy to report a full recovery by the way)... it could have been pretty grim. I received a concussion, but being the true professional totally behind the eightball with a big deadline, I went home that
night while my daughter was in the intensive care unit and finished five or seven pages if I remember correctly. The injury also effected my sight for a while, but I managed to work. Honestly, there are a few months that are merely a blur for me, but when you have a job to do you have to do it. DRAW!: What’s your drawing pace like?
KING TIGER, MOTORHEAD ™ AND ©2007 DARK HORSE COMICS, INC.
DM: In all actuality, when only penciling and if the pressure is on, I can pencil a page every two to three hours of straight work. If it’s reference heavy, that can slow me down, but if I know what I’m doing, I can knock them out fast. I’m very fast with drawing and pretty accurate with laying out perspective without ruling lines. The only problem is it can fatigue me pretty bad these days, and leave me a mental pile of mush. I’ve penciled a complete book in a three-day tear with the help of my old assistant Shawn Moll. This is all fine and great but a sensible person would never put themselves into a position to find that kind of output necessary. Having to work that hard and fast is usually the result of taking on too much work—which I’ve done—or too many unproductive days. DRAW!: What is your studio set up like? DM: Very unimpressive. My studio is fairly small; it’s in a 12’ x 12’ room in my basement. Thankfully I have a nice window. My most recent addition to it is a large desk where I can organize my paperwork and store books and supplies. The last time I bought something for my studio was 18 years ago. I’ve always been terribly frugal where my studio is concerned, and it wouldn’t hurt me to invest in some new stuff now and then, but I’ve been comfortable enough to work with what I originally bought those many years ago. My desk and chair have seen better days, and I rule lines with an angle that is broken in two pieces. The angle has so many chips and dings in it that I have to watch out for the irregularities when inking with it. It does add character to a straight line though. There is an old tabby tray on the left side of my desk that is nothing more than a glorified pencil holder and graveyard for old erasers. I also have a picture of my wife and my mom there, and a cool little piece of artwork one of my kids made for me that I always liked. Sitting next to me on my left is an old child’s school desk that I use for a table. Reference material, opened ink
bottles and scratch paper is usually sitting here, while inside is a nice hand mirror that I swiped from one of my kids as well as my old broken one. Whichever ends up in my hand first is the one that gets used. Right behind me is a little piece of furniture with three open shelves, which I clear off a few times a year and slowly pile stuff on for the rest. I also tend to set coffee or food back there. I have a shelf that I line with knick-knacks and photos of my family, a Swedish horse, a little Greek vase, a Hmong tiger carved out of ivory, and my prized Lou Martin/Major Bummer Inaction Figure that my friend Joel made. I have a second desk that I bought a few years ago when my friend Shawn Moll started to work with me as my assistant. Since then Shawn has gone on to do his own work, but the desk stays. It DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
STORYTELLING: PLOT VS. FULL SCRIPT DRAW!: Getting back to the guts of laying out and storytelling the thing you mentioned about figures weaving in and out or suddenly changing place without regard to continuity, that’s something that I see a lot of professionals don’t really pay attention to. You see characters seeming to randomly jump around on a page, the breaking of the 180º rule. I guess that’s even more evident when people learn to work from the Marvel method, where it’s a
loose plot, and you kind of put things where you want, and the writer goes in and places the balloons to help try and clarify the storytelling, as opposed to the more traditional full script, where the writer’s really dictating specifically, “This person is talking, then this person is talking.” And that means that you have to put the person who is speaking first usually on the left side of the image. DM: Yeah, I mean, you certainly do your best. I suppose there are people who would sit down and read a comic and they never even notice that you moved people around. Maybe it’s just that when I was introduced into comics that I worked with a very fastidious and specific writer, John Arcudi. John’s scripts taught me a lot about how to draw comics, because he always told me what was important in a script. And so I’ve always enjoyed full scripts and things that have some quality and detail to them. His scripts were always perfect for the comic medium. And it’s—this is kind of getting off the track of what we were talking about, assistants, moving into Shawn Moll, who’s different. But with the writers that I’ve worked with over the years, you can see where the writer has got a comic book mind. And Arcudi’s one of them. He thinks in comic book when he writes in comic book, as opposed to cinematically.
©2007 DOUG MAHNKE.
DRAW!: Or TV, with lots of dialogue.
DM: I worked with Joe Kelly for quite a bit, and Joe was quite capable of just about giving me an aneurism per script. And, you know, I love Joe Kelly, we’re friends. And I would tell him every once in a while, “What are you, trying to kill me with this script?” Because Joe thinks very fluid, and so when he would write a scene I would call, I would tell him, “You’re writing a Fellini moment. How am I supposed to put all this stuff in?” And he might DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
amount of information that you put down. But I’ve discovered the one area that I can’t fool around with is women’s faces. I’ve got to make sure that they’re right, otherwise they end up looking funny. I hate to go back and go over a page and go, “Boy, I really botched that.” You know, it’s like you have one chance to get it right, and then you have to drag out the whiteout. At least that’s the one area I probably spend more time making sure that everything is correct. But the rest, male characters, I put an awful lot in with the ink. I really finish it, I definitely finish it with ink. DRAW!: Well, you know there’s a much more narrow tolerance for what we accept as a pretty girl than what we accept as a handsome guy. One nostril is a little off and she goes from being a hottie to homely, y’know?
lettering pen. Any particular ink you like or don’t like? DM: No, I just use Black Magic. I’ve got a dozen bottles sitting around in there. When I’m washing in some blacks, I’ll grab a bottle that’s all coagulated and heavy so that it has some density to it. So at least when the page gets done, it looks like a nice, finished page. The rest is extremely little. My wife has been helping me fill blacks, and she’s better at it than I am. DRAW!: So you don’t do things like I did on that last Superman job, scanning and FTPing the pages to DC, are you still sending them the original pages? DM: No, I’m sending the originals.
DM: It’s so easy to mess it up.
DRAW!: So you don’t have a scanner?
DRAW!: And the guys who do it so well, like Blevins, do it so easily it’s infuriating sometimes. [laughs] You know, there are certain guys like him or Bob Oksner, that just have that deft touch with a pen. One little dot with a nostril, or just breaking a line on a face or something could just add so much to an expression, or add a little air to the.... Or make it free. So your basic tools are, you have a C6
DM: No, I’ve got a scanner, but I just send in the boards. If there’s another way to do it, I should talk to them. If that’s what people are doing, isn’t it sad that I’m sitting here just sending stuff out Fed Ex? DRAW!: Well, the reason I mention that is, you were talking about things like whiteout, and I find myself now, especially if I’m pressed on a deadline, cleaning up any glitches, smudges
STORMWATCH ™ AND ©2007 WILDSTORM PRODUCTIONS.
BELOW AND NEXT PAGE: A Stormwatch page from rough layout to finished pencils.
DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
SAM & MAX ™ AND ©2007 STEVE PURCELL.
WELCOME TO THE
Conducted by Jamar Nicholas Transcribed by Steven Tice Edited by Mike Manley
From comics and animation to Lucasfilm, Pixar to video games, Steve Purcell has worn many hats and used many different palettes, digital and traditional, in his career. DRAW!’s Jamar Nicolas conducted this interview with the busy, multi-medium artist just on the cusp of the new hit game release based on his Sam & Max characters. 30
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JAMAR NICHOLAS: A lot of my interviews are about trying to really get into the artists’ head, and since I’m an artist, too, a lot of it’s just process junkie type stuff, the things only we would care about asking, like how do you hold a pen versus...? STEVE PURCELL: Those are kind of hard questions sometimes, because you don’t normally have to think about the way you do that stuff. JN: Right, right. Are you that type of person? Do you devour up other people’s working styles, or do you just kind of do your own thing? SP: Not at all, I tend to always try to reinvent the wheel. I’m kind of stubborn that way. I don’t like to ask for help. It’s good for me when I do, but I like to try to sort things out on my own.
JN: Do you keep a network of people around you, or are you the solitary artist? SP: I like to make my mistakes in private, so working in a collaborative environment at an animation studio means you end up having to show stuff before you want to sometimes. But it’s good for me to have people looking over my shoulder from time to time. At home I’ll show projects to my wife, Collette, but only if I want to get feedback because she’ll give it. JN: I’m sure you have a studio at home, too, right? SP: Yeah, I do. JN: How much does that differ from your work environment? SP: Physically not too much. My studio is full of a bunch of crap that’s all around me. I have lots of artPREVIOUS: Concept art for the Sam & Max TV show. work hanging up, I’m surrounded by toys, books and ABOVE: Steve at age 5 in Magnolia, Massachusetts. musical instruments. I keep a really messy desk. I have things right in front of me where I work, and I kind of JN: Yeah, that’s true on a couple of levels. I always forget who have to shove things out of the way. And my office desk is pretty said this quote, and it’s probably somebody who’s still alive, but much the same. Somehow things just pile around me, and I’m they said, “When you work at home, you’re always at work.” always digging through the strata, the layers of junk to find what I need. SP: That’s true. That’s true. Whenever I was doing freelance, which is most of my career, I spent about 20 years doing freeJN: I just started a new day job, and I’m finding that my worklance stuff, I always felt like I couldn’t get going until late in the space at home looks like a disaster area, but I keep my workday. I would end up working late into the night, and it would be, space at work really clean. I don’t know what that’s about. like, a twelve-hour work cycle, into about three in the morning or something like that. And I felt like I had to do a lot more SP: Is anybody looking over your shoulder ? hours at home because of distractions. I kind of like having a structure of knowing that my day is this many hours and whatevJN: It just, it kind of makes more sense at work to have a noner I can get done in that block of time is the work day, and then I chaotic space. But in the house, it all makes sense. can come home and kind of create another workday for my own stuff. SP: Once in a while I’ll take the time to go, “Okay, time to clean all this junk out.” I go through it all and I’ll actually manJN: Even if you have to walk a couple yards to home, still age to put it where it should go, but over time it always builds there’s that difference, right? up again. It’s like, right now my paint jars are all over my desk, I’ve got your magazine, I’ve got a lot of sketches and other stuff. SP: Yeah, I’ve known people where it’s worth it for them to rent Somehow that all ended up on my desk, and it hasn’t been a space in town just so they can leave the house, and they go to thrown away in about a year. this place and they feel like there’s structure, having to go someplace to work. JN: That’s awesome. I have very random things laying around my space, too. Now, let me ask you a question, since we’re talking about work areas and things like that, do you find that you spend more time creatively at work versus home, or vice versa?
JN: Do you find time to do a lot of commissions? Do you do a lot of commission work?
SP: Well, we built this studio at home. It took a lot of last year to do it, and it moved me out of the house, freeing up one of the bedrooms upstairs. Somehow having this little separate space that I have to walk twenty feet from the house to has been more productive as far as creating anything. This last year I’ve been able to do more paintings and things on the side than I have previously, and I don’t know what the difference is, really. It’s something about having a separate space. It feels more fertile for creating stuff than the old studio inside the house.
SP: Not so much private commissions, but I do a few illustrations from time to time. I did a Death Jr. cover for a trade paperback. It’s something that I normally don’t do, but they needed one in a hurry, and I like the character, and I like the creator, Mike Mika, and agreed to do it. And it was fun, because I don’t do a lot of that. And then I agreed to do the digital color, which I also haven’t done a lot of either, because I figured I’d take a stab at it to get better at doing it. I had an idea in my head to see the whole thing through. I always find a way to make the job more complicated for myself. There’s another guy, Jai Nitz, he DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
ABOVE: Panorama view of Steve’s studio space. LEFT: Steve at work at the drawing board. BELOW: Ever wondered what was inside an artist’s desk drawer? Well, here’s a look into to Steve’s—you might even be able to find art supplies.
to go to that much trouble, why don’t you just do another painting?” At that time it was really great advice, and it’s something that I’ve thought about a lot, that if you’re going to keep reworking everything, you could have done three or four paintings for that amount of effort.
MEDIUMS JN: What are you working in these days? Now, I know you do a lot of gouache and things like that, don’t you? was doing a book for Image, and he asked me if I would do a cover for him. Okay, I’ll just do a quick painting, I thought, and I started to do this thing thinking I could do it in my character design style, which is really rough pencil with washes of color over it, but I didn’t like it. I started the whole thing over so that I could be satisfied with it. So the idea of a quick, shaggy cover disappeared. JN: Do you ever find yourself being in positions where you can’t give something away? Just like you said, you don’t think it’s good enough, so you keep messing with it and messing with it? SP: I have done that. I normally don’t do it so much anymore. I remember I had a teacher that I didn’t learn a lot from, but one thing I do remember learning is, whenever he would see somebody fussing over a painting too much, he’d say, “If you’re going
DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
SP: I used to. Actually, I started doing gouache for game covers early on when I was freelancing. I found out I could do those pretty fast, that I could do the painting in a couple of days, and the style that I was using was kind of painfully detailed. I was doing these little hatch lines instead of just blocking in tones. At some point I started experimenting with acrylics, and it took me a while, but it is more of a loose, washy acrylic style that I’m using now, where I kind of work detail into the more opaque part and let the washy stuff show through the darker areas. I started doing that at ILM when I was painting a lot of character designs for the feature development group and I would start with these really loose pencil sketches. I’d Xerox them onto Bristol board and build them up in washes and I really liked working that way. It seemed like I wasn’t having to be as painfully detailed as I was when I first started out painting. So that’s how I’ve been working lately and if there are structure lines that are
T T T ELLING
with ovi nedelcu
Ovi Nedelcu’s Pigtale, a story about a talking pig published by Image, was one of the standout comics of this last year. What’s so big about a talking pig you might ask? Oh it’s just a comic filled with intrigue, charm and style—making his book quickly the talk of many of his new comic peers. This was also another case of an animation artist doing a comic, which seems to be a growing trend. A veteran of animation story development and character design, Nedelcu seemed to “pop” into comics out of nowhere. DRAW! magazine editor Mike Manley wanted to find out where Nedelcu came from and how he got so good...
DRAW!: Why don’t you tell us a bit about your background, education, etc. Did you go to art school at all? OVI NEDELCU: Sure, I left high school in 1997 and went straight into art school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I was an Illustration major, but only managed to finish two years out of the four I was supposed to be there. Mostly because I got a job offer from WB Animation down in LA, but also because I just couldn’t afford to keep taking classes. My funds were just about empty and I had no job or other means to keep paying tuition with. So it kind of all worked out just in time, which was fine with me because I never went to art school for a diploma. I got what I needed and got out. Although I have to say there are one or two classes I wish I could have taken, but for the most part I’m happy with what I got. I have a big problem with paying $2000 for a “required” academic “career search” class. If you’re paying that much for school and you don’t know what you want to do for a living, you’re in trouble. The school recommended you take three art classes and three academic classes so that your workload wasn’t too overwhelming. But I think this is just another way to get you to take worthless expensive classes you can take at a community college
for a fraction of the price. But some art schools won’t let you transfer the credits. It’s an evil monopoly. I only took art classes while in school. I took six art classes every semester, for two years. I got what I needed, and left the expensive “required” classes behind. Wow, this interview is starting out on a good note. [laughs] Just making friends. DRAW!: Can you tell me a bit about how you broke into the animation business? What was it you were aiming for job/career wise? ON: Well, back when I was in art school and even before that I wanted to be a professional comic book artist/illustrator. I would always attend comic book conventions and show my portfolio to pros and editors trying to get advice and a job like every other 18-year-old aspiring artist. I continued to attend the shows through college and still do to this day. Although I loved animation and the art form, it was never something I saw myself doing or getting into. I just didn’t like drawing the same thing over and over to make it animate. After I got into the animation business I realized there where plenty of other things to do besides in-betweening.
RIGHT: Pink development art, pencil on paper.
PINK ™ AND ©2007 WILL VINTON/LAIKA.
DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
ANIMATION LEFT: Pigtale digital pin-up art. BELOW: Juniper Lee character development art, pencil on paper & digital color.
PIGTALE ™ AND ©2007 OVI NEDELCU
apply directly to your comics work? Do you feel that working in film language, the cutting and editing has really influenced your comic work?
At this time were you still taking any life drawing classes or working heavily in sketchbooks, you know working out or practicing theories? ON: Yup. I’m always drawing in my sketchbook. I haven’t been life drawing as much lately but I still try and do it when I get the chance. But yeah, I’m always drawing in my sketchbooks, or now that I have a digital PC tablet, I draw on that also.
ON: Yeah definitely, a lot of people have commented on how the book felt cinematic when they read it, and I think it comes from working in animation and studying film. I don’t try to deliberately make it feel and pace like a film, it’s just the way I visualize and pace things in my head when writing and doing layouts. I think it started long before I ever got into animation, though. Back when I was in high school while I was studying comics, a friend of mine gave me a book called The Five C’s of Cinematography. I was blown away by all the great information in that book and I still reference it to this day. That and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art really shaped me into what I am today as far as any type of storytelling “language” goes. But yes, later when I got into college and in animation I got interested in all the different forms of film language and just visual language in general. DRAW!: What is your studio at home or work set up like? What type of computer do you use? Are you working more digitally?
DRAW!: So what do you do at Laika? ON: Right now I’m a story artist on Henry Selick’s next film, Coraline. I did some early production art/design work at the very beginning, but now I’m on full time as a story artist. Before that I did some character design and storyboards on Henry’s short film, Moongirl. The work being done on Coraline is absolutely amazing and I’m not just saying that because I’m working on it. Films like this only come around once in a while, and I’m glad to be a part of it. Working with Henry has been a great experience. People are going to be blown away when they see this film. ©2007 CARTOON NETWORK.
DRAW!: What would you say you learned from animation that you
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ANIMATION ON: My studio at my house is actually pretty sweet. It’s basically a living room turned into a studio space. When I bought my house here in Portland, that was one of the things I knew I wanted to have: a good studio space. I moved up to Portland from Pasadena, California, and I had the smallest studio space in that apartment I moved from. So, yeah, I was hell-bent on making sure I had enough room to work and store all my books and materials. Right now I’m using an HP workstation. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the work done. I use a flat LCD 20” Viewsonic screen and have a tablet I draw with. Eventually I
want to get a Wacom Cintiq so I can draw directly on my screen like I do at Laika. It’s pretty sweet. At Laika I draw my storyboards digitally on the Cintiq, but at home I still draw my comics on paper. I’m not sure if I’ll ever switch over and do my comics digitally from start to finish but you never know. I still like paper. DRAW!: Okay, now it’s time to talk shop. What are your tools of choice, paper, pens, etc.?
BELOW: More Juniper Lee development art.
©2007 CARTOON NETWORK.
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MANIAC MANSION ™ AND ©2007 LUCASFILM GAMES.
LEFT: Steve at Lucasfilm Games with his Maniac Mansion painting. BELOW: “Pigeon”—an acrylic painting from Steve’s personal work.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32
SP: Yeah, you don’t want to be doing too much of the same thing. Like, I’m trying to do some comic work right now, but if I were to try to make my living doing comic work, I think it would take some of the wind out of it, because when I was doing straight comics for a living it was really a struggle. It seems like the people I know having the most fun doing comics right now are people who are doing it as a hobby, because they do what they want and it doesn’t matter if it sells or not.
ANIMATION AND STYLE
SP: I wouldn’t say a lot. Most of the animation that I did was doing game animation for LucasArts. I worked for Colossal Pictures in San Francisco at one point, and I actually got that job because they were teaching animation to illustrators in the area so that they could call them to do freelance animation jobs. So I took a class there and learned how to do screen animation, but ended up just doing character design and storyboard stuff for them. I jumped straight from there to LucasArts and was animating game characters, which were really primitive. It wasn’t anything like 3-D animation. DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
©2007 STEVE PURCELL.
JN: Now, you have a pretty vast background as far as your artistic stuff. You have a lot of animation in your background, too.
kind of experimenting now to see if I can do a comic with my sketching style, and I’m liking the look of it. I’m painting on top of my sketches, and it’s looking really spontaneous, and I’m going to try that and see what people think of that, because it’s very different looking. It has this kind of energy that maybe my inking doesn’t necessarily have. JN: Wow, that sounds interesting. I’ve been experimenting, myself, with maybe doing a comic book on nothing but paper bags. SP: I was working on brown paper when I used to do figure drawings in school. I loved working on that with, like, a little bit of white chalk on the figures. JN: Ah, yeah, that’s great. Those mid-tones, they just pop at you. SP: People are always, like, fussing about acid-free paper and stuff, “You’re drawing on butcher paper? You need to make sure this doesn’t rot,” but tons of drawings that I did on newsprint in high school are still around, even though they don’t deserve to be. I like working with junk materials from time time to time and if those works don’t survive beyond me I’ll never know.
SAM & MAX ™ AND ©2007 STEVE PURCELL.
JN: So getting back to that whole technology thing, are you archiving any of your work on the computer? Are you hands-off with computers? SP: I have computers around. I use them to write, and my wife uses her Mac to do graphic design and my stuff gets scanned and manipulated on her computer. I’ve got some of it on disc, but until recently there’s been no really good, concerted effort to archive all that stuff. I’ve got flat files in my office, and all the work I care about is in those. And there are copies of most everything I’ve done somewhere, so it’s not really a very organized way of archiving it. But lately everything I paint I scan at 600 DPI just for the record.
PREVIOUS PAGE: “Black Tree 400”—another of Steve’s acrylic paintings. ABOVE: Concept art from Sam & Max. The ship’s design is based off a DeSoto. LEFT: This acrylic painting of Sam & Max was done for a limited edition print.
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JN: I was going to ask you when we were talking about office things before, what’s your theory on file cabinets? Do they work, or are they just a graveyard for paper?
I like the thumbnail and the idea, and the rough sketched for the first time on the side of a panel layout, so I guess I keep that kind of an informal sketchbook from time to time.
SP: Well...yeah, they can be. I try to go through and sift stuff out sometimes, and usually what I throw out is what I can’t stand looking at anymore. I’ll keep things as long as I can, because I feel like anything that’s an original drawing should be saved, but then I go through the stuff, I go, “Oh, look at that, I would never show that to anybody.” So there’s a practical use for file cabinets, but you have to purge from time to time.
JN: When I was in high school—I went to a creative arts high school—they beat it into us to keep a hardback sketchbook, so now that’s all I can use.
JN: Yeah, that’s one of my problems, I put it in there, give it a couple last rites, and I’m done with it. I never see it again. SP: I have a lot of concept stuff that I did for games, and it’s not like I would ever show it to somebody, but I look at it and I go, “I spent a lot of time on that drawing. I’m not going to throw it away yet.” Even though it’s not something I would ever want in a book or put in a portfolio or anything. It’s just taking up room, and at some point I’ll have to purge it. JN: Do you ever go back to old designs and reuse them for things? SP: Well, yeah. Especially in the comics file, there are ideas where I’ll just randomly write what I think is a funny line for a Sam & Max moment. It’s amazing how much of that stuff hasn’t gotten used and still has a place somewhere. Like just a jotted down catch phrase or something will remind me of an idea for a gag I had a long time ago. JN: Do you keep a sketchbook?
SP: Oh, I was visiting the Art Academy in San Francisco while I was working at LucasArts, and there was one professor, Barron Story, and he was the one that promoted the sketchbook. He would have students pasting things in the books, sketches and photos and poetry and they were really cool art pieces. And we would receive a lot of those sketchbooks at LucasArts as portfolio submissions. I remember one time this staff artist was lamenting, “We keep getting all these sketchbooks with guys’ paintings of their naked mother. Doesn’t anybody want to draw monsters anymore?” JN: [laughs] I think they beat it out of you. They beat all types of imagination out of you. You can draw a lot of apples and cantaloupes. SP: Yeah, they’re amazing sketchbooks, but very serious. Very much still lifes and café sketches and things. JN: I just like to doodle. I’m a doodler, and I’ll just attack something. SP: I want to do a sketchbook of just heads because I like to do these random drawings of, like, devil heads, Frankenstein heads, and gorilla heads. JN: We all have one thing we draw all the time, for some reason.
JN: That’s interesting, too, that there’s kind of an emotion that comes to just an object. You know, like you said, just having the bound sketchbook, it almost gives you this feeling of dread. “I don’t want to draw in that. I gotta draw in something else.” SP: Something with a spiral in it releases me from the pressure of worrying about what’s in it, because I can tear out the drawings I don’t like and it doesn’t make a mess out of the book. I still have spiral sketchpads from my old comics stuff that I’ve kept because PREVIOUS PAGE (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT): “Bud Luckey”—personal acrylic painting. “Uncle Blue”—personal acrylic painting. “I Hunger”—personal acrylic painting. “Humpty”— personal acrylic painting. RIGHT: For New Year’s of 2006, Steve drew up this festive Sam & Max illustration as a greeting for his website.
SAM & MAX ™ AND ©2007 STEVE PURCELL.
SP: I don’t ever keep an official bound book, because I get intimidated by having a binding. I just don’t draw in it because I don’t want to mess it up, because I feel like, oh, it’s got a binding, so this has to be an important drawing. I keep ringed, spiral sketchbooks just so I have paper to draw, like if I go on a trip or something, but it’s not like I keep them together. If I like the drawing, I’ll tear it out and put it in the drawer. Most of my sketches are done on random pieces of paper and just collected in a pile. So I wouldn’t call it a sketchbook, but I guess I do sketch quite a bit.
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COMICS JN: There’s definitely a rhythm to it. SP: Sometimes I’ll favor a rhythm rather than comprehension. Like, I’ll put in a silly word that doesn’t make sense just to make a sentence sound funnier, rather than be more informative. JN: Do you find the writing process to be... does it hold your interest more than the art? SP: Oh, yeah. That’s why there’s been such a dry spell for me to do any comics stuff is because seeing it through is the obstacle. It’s not the writing of it. I’ve got a million stories in my head, and when I’m writing them is the fun part because it’s all potential, not having to see it through. But then actually drawing things and making it make sense in the visual is the part that slows me down. So at least I have a little headstart doing the web strips where I don’t have to ink them, so that gets me on the page a lot faster. Nobody has complained about the style, so it’s more likely I’ll do the work if I can present it in a way that doesn’t take me forever. JN: Do you do any other writing, like, personally? SP: Yeah, there’s always something I’ve got kind of brewing in the background. And writing is part of what I do at Pixar, too, so I end up writing a lot. JN: Do you see yourself as a pretty on-task type of guy? Do you stop and start a lot? Do you have some stimulus to keep you going until something’s done? Do you “ADD out,” as I like to call it? SP: I like to be working on new stuff, and in the past year or so, I’ve been trying to contribute to these little painting shows, so it’s fun to have an excuse to produce those. It does help me to know that there’s a goal. If the goal is too openended, it’s too easy to push out of the way. Like, when I was working with that sketchbook idea, it had this intangible deadline, and it was easier to push it out in favor of other stuff. So it does help me to have a drop-dead kind of goal for something to get it finished. But I think I’m pretty good at using my time to create work beyond my day job.
JN: I feel like I’ve struck a nerve, man.
SP: The joy of doing my own stuff is not having anybody breathe down my neck, so it’s just work on my own terms, and if I want to stay up late and paint or something like that, the hobby side of it, that’s my choice. But if it gets to the point where I needed an assistant to do it all, I think it would be too stressful to be worthwhile. I would maybe just shut it all down and concentrate on my day job only.
DIGITAL DRAWING JN: Did I ask you what your computer setup was? Has anything changed? SP: Actually, what has changed is at the office, I don’t know how much I can say about the set-up at my day job, but I’ve been using a big Cintiq tablet at the office, and I find that really appealing. I can see maybe installing that at home. I’m working on a sketch for a game magazine right now, and it is such a time saver to have the actual format of the magazines just on the desk. To actually have it there and to be able to draw right into the layout of the magazine cover and just do simple blocking in of color and stuff, there’s a real appeal to that ease in the kind of graphics/layout step of coming up with concepts. I don’t know that I want to do a lot of finished art on it, but I sure like it for blocking out ideas.
SP: Drawing on the Cintiq?
SP: An assistant? Oh, that would drive me crazy to have an assistant. You mean, like, a person?
SP: I was wondering, do you mean a computer program? No, that would be crazy to have somebody breathing down my neck looking for stuff to do. That would make my regular life like a job to
have to feel obliged to be providing them busy work or something rather than making good use of them. I’d want to keep them busy just so they wouldn’t be breathing down my neck. “Take all these old drawings, and line them up.” It’s probably a good idea, but when I think of it, it makes me anxious to think of somebody hanging around looking for something to do. But if I think it through, I could see there’s a lot of good things that I could have somebody like that do, like go through my file drawers and get everything from every drawer kind of organized, at least by subject, so I could decide which things matter.
JN: Do you like the tactileness of it? Do you like the way that feels? Because I know there’s a lot of people who don’t.
JN: Do you have an assistant?
JN: Yes. [laughs] Or a robot or something.
SP: What I do like about it is it kind of reminds me, when I was a teenager I used to draw with markers on, like, SAM & MAX ™ AND ©2007 STEVE PURCELL. cheap kind of poster board or PREVIOUS PAGE: Concept art for the Sam & Max something, and the pen would TV show. glide over the surface of that in a ABOVE: Sam & Max character concept for Flint Paper. way that I liked, so I don’t mind it DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
By Bret Blevins and Mike Manley
HULK ™& ©2007 MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC.
The Use and Placement of Black to Empower a Page elcome to the third installment of our continuing Comic Art Bootcamp series, where Bret and myself instruct on the basics of cartooning and comic art. If you’ve been working toward breaking into the business for any time, be it by reading an interview in DRAW! or standing in line to get a personal critique from a pro or an editor at a con, you have almost certainly heard the term “spotting blacks.” I remember the first time I
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heard it myself; it was at a local comic-con in the Detroit area, and the artist, a pro, who I was showing my work said to me I spotted my blacks pretty good on one page but could use them better on the others in my samples. At first I wasn’t exactly sure of what he meant, but he took his pencil and showed me. Taking his pencil he added a few shadows or pointed to where on his original art he used big areas of black to lead the eye to something important, to frame something, to push something forward or make it stand out. This is, in essence, 2-D design—using the contrast of certain elements of a design (in this case blacks) to focus the attention where you, the artist, want the viewer to pay more attention, to make something stand out or “pop.”
FELIX THE CAT ™ AND ©2007 DON ORIOLO. SCAN COURTESY OF HERITAGE AUCTIONS.
What is “spotting blacks” you ask? Simply put, “spotting blacks” is the placement of black as a design element in a composition (panel, splash page, cover or page) which directs the viewer’s eye to the focal point(s) of the composition and helps achieve depth, separating figure from background, background from foreground objects. The use of black as a design element also helps lead the reader’s eyepath across the comic page as a whole, for the arrangement of panels on a page must be considered not as single panels but as a unit, the master composition we use to tell a story in a sequence. The smart, planned use of black, the placement of word balloons along with the direction of the elements in the panels themselves help create a road for the eye to follow across the page. Most readers are unaware of this “magnetic path,” but the artist must be; he or she must purposefully plan this out carefully. Poorly planed or poorly used placement of black or lack of black can reduce a dynamic drawing or page to an unreadable, boring hash or flat, lackluster drawing. In pen-&-ink drawing, which comic art clearly is, the amount of middletone rendering is usually at a minimum, even the most rendered comic style usually has a minimum of halftone, therefore most of the range of tonal value is either black or white which reads as light or shadow—two values. The middletone, or third value, is reserved for a slight “feathering” between the light and the shadow areas on a form. The feathering can be done in a variety of styles but they all achieve the same result: a halftone between the shadow and the light. But the greatest achievement of depth or shadow is created not by the rendering, or half-tone rendering, but by the careful placement of the shadow, or black. Unlike a charcoal drawing or other medium where we can achieve a highly sensitive passage of values, light to shadow, in comic art we are reducing the values down to a very narrow range, often to just black-&-white with no middletone value. The exception here might be the few black-&-white comics where the artist can achieve a more rendered style since they don’t have to worry This page of Felix the Cat by Otto Messmer is a classic example of clarity about the color muddying up things or covering up the linework. and charm. This clear-lined comic style is employed with minimal use of rendering and fluxuation of line weight, the center of attention in each panel is But for color comics clarity is essential, as one has to take into clearly Felix whose solid black color is a prime example of “local color.” account the color will probably have as much if not more to do in some cases with the clarity and how well a page reads. This “high contrast” style or approach in comic books came from comic strips first, and the more photorealistic approach is clearly evident in the masterful drawings of the comic strip masters Noel Sickles (Scorchy Smith) and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon) who were the first to employ this approach along with Hal Foster on Tarzan before he created Prince Valiant. Later artists like Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) as well as many others came along to follow in the realistic tradition of comic strip art and there became a few distinct styles or “schools” as it were. The Caniff School and the Foster-Raymond school. DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
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The huge success of these four artists went on to influence other artists of the day and the roots of their stylistic approaches to pen-&-ink art have trickled down artist to artist and are still with us today. Foster and Raymond employed very realistic drawing, as did many of the artists who followed in that tradition, often using photographs and models to achieve a highly realistic look. Noel Sickles left comic strips for the field of illustration, but Milton Caniff continued to refine that approach along with the disciples of the style such as Frank Robbins who continued to produce a very chiaroscuro style which was bolder, employing a bold brush line and more cartoonish and stylized drawing than the Foster-Raymond school. In the context of comic art, animation and illustration we are discussing here, the concept of spotting blacks serves as a narrative tool in conjunction with its simultaneous roles as a design element and a formdescription technique. I know that sounds like a lot to hold in your mind at the same time, and it can be confusing, but it gets easier with a little careful study of each role. First let’s define a few conditions of our working properties:
In the basic optical sense, black exists in the absence of light, so when making cartoon line drawings with our extreme limitations of either pure black or pure white, using black to indicate cast shadows from a light source creates a black shape on the composition. This is a logical way to place black within your images, and is a solid foundation for building a series of black patterns (that must also, because they effect the composition, function as design). Our eyes understand how shadows behave in the actual three-dimensional world, and will accept these patterns in artwork that effectively mimics them. Even here though, aesthetic distortion, exaggeration or elimina-
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TARZAN ™ AND ©2007 ERB.
Black as Shadow
tion is often necessary. If you look at the Sickles examples below you’ll see that he eliminates or simplifies shadow that would logically appear on the faces of the characters in some of the scenes—this is intentional and helps the characters “read” better—too many shadows obscuring their faces would be distracting and serve no purpose.
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those areas are “asking” to be removed or modified. All these choices should be made in the planning or pencil stage—changing black areas of original inked art on paper is an unpleasant chore. If you are working digitally this isn’t a big problem, but it’s still better to learn to think clearly in the planning stages rather than “find” your best results by later trial and error. Your work will be stronger and more consistent. A second difficulty is the fact that any number of choices within the same set of images may work equally well! This is where your personality, preferences and intentions must guide you. In many cases the possibilities are decided by the mood the material and your treatment of it requires. A gothic horror story or image is a natural vehicle for deep, black, shadow-rich
scenes, a lighthearted, whimsical humor story suggests a bright cheerful approach. Notice the complete shift in effect between these two treatments of the respective subjects. Depending on the desired narrative intent, any treatment can work, but in typical cases a specific mood will “feel” appropriate. As I’ve already mentioned, mood, (or narrative effect) created by “spotting” black is almost impossible to apply isolated from the other specified functions of black—they are almost invariably woven together, because any placement of black that doesn’t strictly describe form moves into the role of local color, cast shadow or arbitrary elements of shape and contrast, any of which also automatically becomes a design element. If this seems confusing, just stay with it, study and experiment and you will understand the concepts. If you are reading this you are already interested in narrative artwork, so you have seen the effects in the material you find inspiring—look at them with a fresh eye, make altered versions (like those below) of images or sequences that strike you. Doing this will reveal how an effect was achieved (or missed) by the artist’s original choices, and you will begin to develop a sense of manipulating the black patterns in your own work to achieve the results you intend.
The cute elephant looks bright and silly in the first image. The stylization of form, the caricatured features and the impossible pose are contributing to the playful fantasy feel of the drawing, but absence of black is a key factor, too. Look at the creepy incongruous effect of the second, heavily shadowed version. It’s slightly disturbing (though in the right context it could be made to work) because it doesn’t seem appropriate.
The crawling corpse seems much more menacing in the first version —the heavy shadow of the arm across the skull gives an impression of mass and weight and locks the effect of a light source (moonlight we might presume) casting the shadow pattern throughout the rest of the image. The weightless outlined image seems almost dainty by comparison and certainly doesn’t project much spooky atmosphere.
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SPOTTING BLACKS LEFT (MIKE): This is an unused page that I drew and inked for Birds Of Prey #66 which took place in a library at night. As a result I was looking for ways to use the background and foreground elements as well as blacks and cast shadows to make cool, interesting patterns and help create not only mood, but depth. The simpler and stronger the black patterns are the stronger the design will be. The the “X” of the window’s shadow as a design element combined with the framing of the girl’s head helps focus our eye on her face even though it’s in shadow. The repeated square shadow pattern of the cast shadows and the decreasing thickness of the shadow patterns running across the floor help achieve great depth and focus our eye on the figure leaving. No amount of detail would be able to achieve depth as well without these strong black patterns. Shadows or light create depth, not detail.
BIRDS OF PREY ™ AND ©2007 DC COMICS
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BELOW: The drawing of Frankenstein below is a quick illustration in how adding black to a drawing gives it so much power. The first version of the drawing is fine, if it was colored well it would be a solid panel, but you can’t always rely on the colorist to save you, in fact, you usually can’t. By simply adding the black cast shadow against the wall we quickly put Frank in front of the wall, by following suit with adding black to the arch and a cast shadow shape in the archway we create the illusion of greater depth very simply. It’s the black that gives the power and pop here, the depth, not the detail or linework. If in doubt a good solution is to make a copy of your art and experiment with placing blacks with a marker first.
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BIRDS OF PREY ™ AND ©2007 DC COMICS
This unused page from Birds of Prey #66 is another good illustration of how the careful placement of black, especially as drop shadows (shadows created or cast by an object or form) or black cutting into white as a framing device gives the figures weight. This use of black should be planned out from the beginning stages to help hold the page together and lead the eye where you as the artist want the focus to be. All of this is conscious design, blatant, nothing is by accident.
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ON THE ROAD TO CHINA DRAW! Editor-in-Chief Mike Manley recently returned from traveling for two weeks in China and gives you DRAW! readers a glimpse into the comic book business—or manhua as comics are called in China—as it exists today.
ack in June I spent two great weeks in China with my fiancée, Echo, who is from Beijing. It was a great trip and a wonderful experience, especially visually as an artist. I snapped a ton of pictures from our trip through Beijing, Kunming and Dali. One of the things I was interested in seeing when visiting China was what the comics situation was like there. Echo had done some comics for a publisher in Beijing before she moved to the US—we even passed that publisher one day riding to the Forbidden City in a cab. The only Chinese comics (manhua) I had been exposed to previously were some I had picked up downtown in Chinatown here in Philly. They were basically comics where dudes were fighting each other, like some kind of Dragonball crossed with Fist of the North Star. Echo said these are comics from Singapore, Korea or Taiwan. The father of Echo’s friend, Summer, ran the dorms for international students, and he was able to hook us up with a dorm for a week for a ridiculous price of about $170 US. The dorm wasn’t bad and had air conditioning, something none of the other far more expensive hotels we stayed at had. Being near several universities, like the Schools of Language, Geophysics, etc., had a lot of benefits, as there were many Internet cafés, bookstores, etc. One day after having breakfast at the local McDonald’s, Echo and I noticed a sign for a comic shop called Cool Comics. Echo said that there really wasn’t much done domestically comic-wise in China, as the publishers didn’t last long and most Chinese readers wanted Japanese comics. Also the government would crack down on anything that was deemed too far-fetched,
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lewd, etc., and there really wasn’t the local fan support. The shop was located in the small mall in the bottom of the same shopping complex at the McDonald’s at a busy intersection about a half mile from our dorm. There was also a jewelry store, music store and a calligraphy shop where some artist did signs and gave lessons. When we showed up the comic store wasn’t open yet. We peered into the dimly lit shop, which reminded me of the trips my parents took us on to Ann Arbor from Detroit as kids. Before we moved to Ann Arbor we visited often, and always on a Sunday as that was my dad’s day off. We’d often pass a comic shop which was always closed. I’d longingly stare into the door wanting so bad to be able to go inside. Years later I did visit that shop, sometimes a few times a week after we moved to Ann Arbor. We both looked around the mall a bit then to wait till the shop opened at 9:30. Our hours were pretty screwed around still as Beijing is a 12-hour difference from Philly, so we’d wake up at 4:00 a.m. and were a bit out-ofsorts as nothing was open yet except for places like McDonald’s, as it was open 24 hours a day. Soon the shop owner came by and we were able to go into the shop. I was a bit let down to see the store was stocked with pretty much just all Japanese comics, in fact the same stuff you’d see here in the States, though translated into Chinese, of course. I didn’t see one single American comic, no Hellboy or Sin City even, though I did see a TMNT figure. As we perused the shop a few more teenagers came in and shopped. I had Echo introduce me to the shop owner whose name was Lai Yongxiang, which translates to something like Eternal Peace. They did have some manga drawing supplies, so I bought that up, Zip-a-Tone, paper,
pens, inks—just to try and for presents for friends back home. Echo’s comments about there not being many, if any, local Chinese comics seemed to be proven true when we looked around the shop. I didn’t see one local Chinese comic as I scanned the shelves, but instead walls filled with figurines, buttons, cosplay costumes, book bags, backpacks—many featuring Nightmare before Christmas characters. Maybe there were, but I didn’t see any; we asked the shop manager and he said he didn’t really sell any. The only other comics I had seen on the trip were a few bagged Disney comics in the local newsstands. The Chinese LOOOVVEE Disney. One of the things that happened comic-wise was that we noticed on the CCTV English channel we had on the cable in our dorm, a news story about popular Japanese manga, Death Note. As I reported on my blog from China, it seems the popularity of both the manga and the movie have caused a little controversy in Beijing, at least. It seems the local authorities had become upset over the comic, especially I think the licensing, specifically the Death Note notebook which had been made. I guess the idea of disgruntled teens writing down the names of people they wanted to “punish” didn’t sit well with the authorities. The funny thing was in the news story they showed books being taken off shelves, DVDs confiscated and they were interviewing LEFT: A merchant I bought a few little kids, kids under 10, brushes from in the market in who the book certainly Kunming. isn’t written for nor I imagTOP: The Cool Comic store in ine would appeal to. I had Kunming. to laugh, it was the sort of ABOVE: The manager of the the Chinese version of the Beijing Cool Comic shop and me. lame old story we see here: RIGHT: A calligraphy shop that “Bang! Zap! Comics are was located next to the comic shop. not just for kids anymore.”
I asked the manager about this, or had Echo translate for me. I asked him why he still had copies as I had seen on TV that the local authorities had been removing copies from stores all over. He said that they really only wanted the notebooks, not the comic. He had a full set in his comic shop. I’ve read many of the volumes so far and have enjoyed the story, and I was curious why it was so popular with the Chinese fans. So I asked one who was shopping who appeared to be in his early 20s. He said that he liked the story because it required thinking and strategy over super-powers or some other type of magic ability. That thought was also echoed by the manager and the other teen shopping. It seems that the more cerebral approach really appealed to the readers. This wasn’t the Naruto crowd, though clearly he seems as popular there as here in the US—they even had a ready-made cosplay Naruto costume hanging from the ceiling of the shop. This store was part of a chain, and when Echo mentioned we were traveling to Kunming, the manager gave us a card and said they had a sister store there. Like I said in the first post I didn’t see any American comics my whole time in China. I guess you could call the Disney comics I saw in the kiosks and newsstands American, but since I never opened the bagged issues I saw I am not sure where the material originated. Disney does have studios around the world that produce comics, so perhaps that work was merely reprints. That’s what I imagine anyway. I saw no Civil War, 52, Hellboy, Sin City, Batman or even Spidey comics in either shop I visited nor on the newsstands I saw. I did see ads for DVDs of the Batman/Superman cartoons and Tom and Jerry that Warners Bros. is releasing in the big bookstore I shopped at in Kunming.
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samurai anime-type DVD. In the back were lots of photos of kids dressed up in cosplay—some looked pretty good. The shop also sold pre-made costumes, as well. In this shop I did find these two weird American super-hero figures. As I scanned the store again I noticed basically the same type of manga and anime material I see in shops and cons here. Naruto, One Piece and the boy-on-boy comics too. The store also had plenty of Nightmare before Christmas- as well as Miyazaki-inspired product, too. Echo was happy as she was able to buy the complete set of 3 Eye by Tezuka she’d been looking for. Several girls crowded around as Echo chatted briefly with the manager and then we left. But as we walked out I noticed that almost right next door to Cool Comics was another comic reading room called Comics World. Here you could sit, order food and read, like a comics café. I know these are common in Japan, but it seems they have become popular to at least some degree in China as well. We didn’t stay as the huge package of art books I bought was starting to get really heavy, so we hailed a cab and went back to our hotel. I think the Chinese market is ripe for some good homegrown Chinese comics. If they could develop some cool concepts and characters and stay free of the Chinese government censorship, who knows, 10-20 years down the road the next huge comic/animation property could be Chinese, not Japanese. One thing
was clear from my trip, China is going through a huge revolution, bigger than the old cultural one, as it is trying to leave the third world and the borders are open to a lot of culture from around the world in a way they never were before. Just like the comics and animation hugely influenced the Japanese artists like Tezuka after WWII, I think the same is going to happen or is already happening in China now. Somewhere in China there is a teenager scratching away with a fevered imagination, ink and some blank paper dreaming of being the next big world-wide comic star. If you’d like to read more about my travels in China, visit my China-Manley blog at: http://china-manley.blogspot.com
PREVIOUS PAGE: Cool Comics, Beijing. Two comic pens set made by Memory. ABOVE LEFT: The packs of comic paper I bought. ABOVE RIGHT: Fans in Cool Comic’s reading room watching a DVD and some of the fan art they do displayed on the wall behind them. LEFT: Ink—one white, one black—I bought. BELOW: The art section in the Kunming bookstore showing the amazing amount of good art instruction books available.
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and one of my favorite books was one that Dark Horse had been publishing. I wonder if they still are doing it, I haven’t checked that out for a little while. It was Blade of the Immortal. If that guy used assistants, he was certainly using the right ones.
DM: You know, surprisingly, I have very little time to read. At least I stopped reading cookbooks. On the other hand, I like to cook and that was always a bit of a passion, but I don’t have time for it anymore. I was an avid reader at one time. I read all the time, and I always had a book I was working on. But these days it’s pretty rare. In fact, the last book I read is a book I’ve read many times over, and it’s... I’ve probably read it ten, eleven times, and I just reread it. It’s a book called Eleni, and it’s a true story. It’s a story written by the father of the writer that I’m working with on Stormwatch. Eleni is the true story of a woman living in post-World War II Greece, when the Communists occupied northern Greece. And she was in a small village near the Albanian border named Lia. Her children are in danger of being taken north beyond the Iron Curtain. She manages to get them to escape but has to stay behind, and is killed for this. Her son grows up and becomes an investigative reporter for The New York Times and researches her life as well as her death. His name is Nick Gage. Well, Nick Gage happens to have a son named Christos Gage who’s writing comics right now, and we’re working together at the moment. DRAW!: Wow! That must be an interesting story. DM: Yeah! There’s so much more to it. It’d be hard to go into all the detail. But I ran into Christos on the DC message boards, and I noticed his name, Christos M. Gage. And I’m thinking, what are the chances? I’ve read all these books, the story of Nicholas Gage’s life and his mother’s saga in northern Greece,
©2007 DOUG MAHNKE.
DRAW!: I have the feeling that maybe he wasn’t, but I think guys like Otomo were. I think the guy that was doing, what is it.... But I think most of them do, simply because if you’re doing something in Shonen Jump and you’re doing 40 pages a week or whatever, it’s a huge amount of work; you have to have zipa-tone boy, you know, and zip-a-tone girl, and background guy. You simply have to, or you would be dead. You would have to draw a page an hour or something and eventually you would give out. So what are you reading these days? I always find it sort of interesting to see what fellow professionals are reading, what’s getting them excited about..... You know, when you have that Maytag repairman day, do you go to the comic shop? Do you flip open an old Eerie or Creepy and look at a José Ortiz story or something?
and also he followed up with a book called A Place for Us, which takes place in, I think, Worcester, Massachusetts, where the boy Nick grows up, after he leaves Greece. He and his sisters go to live with his father, who’s an American originally from Greece. But it wasn’t unusual for Greek men to go abroad, especially back then. So at the end of these books, I know of the birth of this man’s son, whose name is Christos. And I’m thinking, oh, could it possibly be? So I e-mailed him and said, “Are you the son of Nick Gage?” And he goes, “Yes, I am.” So Christos had been working in television and film, and he started working in comics, and the rest is kind of history at the moment. A brief one. We ended up working together at Wildstorm. So pretty neat. For me it was fantastic. It’s like encountering, even though just a little tiny character, a character out of a book that I have read. So that was the last book I read. As far as comics goes, what did I just read? Solo with Sergio Aragonés. It’s just been lying around the studio and I pick it up and I read it again. DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
COMICS they make for good strongmen. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 17 years old, and I did a lot of physical stuff before then, so I’m as much of a jock as I am an artist. I’m always busy. In fact, that’s probably one of the most contradictory things in my life is how much I actually have to sit, when I’m very much not a sitting kind of person. DRAW!: Well, you can’t do this job if you’re not sitting. Well, I guess you could stand, but you really have to, it’s about having your ass in the seat. A minimum, I mean, if you work eight hours in a day, you’re probably like me, “Wow, that wasn’t really working.” DM: Boy, eight hours, that’s nothing. DRAW!: That’s one of the things I always try to impress upon people who are interested in this as an occupation; it’s like, if you don’t derive a great sense of pleasure from sitting there and drawing—it has to be something you really love to do as much, if not more, than you like doing anything else—you’re going to have a really hard time with this job.
I sometimes wonder how some of my fellow professionals make a living, because I see so little work from them, so I always assume that they must be rich, or their wife’s a doctor or something. DM: Yeah, my wife was saying everyone’s wife is a nurse or something like that. DRAW!: So where do you compete? On what level, interstate or national? DM: Well, I was almost World Masters Champion at one point. I lost to a Canadian on body weight. That’s what I get for eating an extra slice of bread. DRAW!: Wow! DM: Yeah, I’m pretty good at it. I’m one of the better local lifters.... It’s divided into categories, so it’s not as much “wow” as you think. On a national level I’m very competitive in my weight class for the Masters category. That means “old guys lifting.”
DM: You’re going to be in trouble.
DRAW!: So where are you, are you middleweight, heavyweight, bantamweight?
DRAW!: Especially if you’re trying to draw, I would say, monthly comic books. I mean, if you’re doing independent comics, or you’re doing your own thing, or you’re doing a graphic novel and you’ve got a year deadline, fine. But if you’ve got to draw an issue of Superman in two weeks, you’ve got to be able to put your ass in the seat and go. And if you can’t, you really can’t make your living at it.
DM: I am what would be a light heavyweight right now. I weigh about 220 pounds, and we just had our state championships and I took third. But it was kind of a lackluster performance. I’m nursing some injuries, so I couldn’t perform very well.
DRAW!: I know that is as much about as strength it’s about technique, and if you mess your knee up or something, those big ligaments there where you have to finesse to get the weight IF YOU up,ENJOYED it’s tough.THIS PREVIEW, CLICK THE LINK TO ORDER THIS ISSUE IN PRINT OR DIGITAL FORMAT! DM: Yeah, if they’re complaining, you’re not going to be doing too well at that. DRAW!: So you don’t go to a regular gym to train?
SUPERMAN ™ AND ©2007 DC COMICS.
DM: No, I’ve got everything at home. But I kind of save time by training at home. And training in an unheated garage all winter in Minnesota can be pretty daunting, but I still do it. So, yeah, I’m kind of hardcore that way. But I can’t stop it. I absolutely compulsively like to lift weights, and since I’m still competitive, that probably gets me more interested in it. DRAW!: It’s always interesting to me as an artist to also find out the other artist’s#14 passions. Because usually artists are very pasDRAW! Features in-depth interviews and demos withthey DC Comics artist have other... maybe art is a major sionate people, and usually DOUG MAHNKE, OVI NEDELCU (Pigtale, WB Animation), STEVE PURCELL (Sam and Max), plus Part 3 of editor MIKE passion, but they also might like music, or in your case you like to MANLEY and BRET BLEVINS’ COMIC ART BOOTCAMP on and you’re power lifter. “Using Blackcook to Power up Your Pages”,aproduct reviews, a newSo I would think that physical type MAHNKE cover, and a FREEor ALTER EGO #70 PREVIEW! of hobby sport, it definitely feeds into what you do as a comic (84-page magazine with COLOR) $6.95 book artist, because (Digital Edition) $3.95 you’re drawing these massively muscular, http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_59&products_id=575 strong people, so I would think it definitely does give you.... DM: Yeah, in a lot of ways. To me, they always were connected, oddly enough. The first thing I did when I started reading comics as a kid was, well, I want to be a super-hero, you know? That was number one. And I remember when I was five years old or six years old, something like that, I strapped a couple of squeeze bottles to DRAW! • SUMMER 2007
The twice Eisner Award-nominated DRAW! magazine, the top step-by-step magazine on drawing for comics and animation, brings you working “how-...
Published on Apr 26, 2013
The twice Eisner Award-nominated DRAW! magazine, the top step-by-step magazine on drawing for comics and animation, brings you working “how-...