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All characters TM & Š2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

No. 11 WINTER 2009

$6.95 Celebrating the ART of Creating Comics!


Volume 1, Number 11 Winter 2009

Celebrating the ART of Creating Comics! EDITOR

Bob McLeod PUBLISHER

John Morrow DESIGNER

Michael Kronenberg PROOFREADERS John Morrow and Eric Nolen-Weathington COVER ARTIST

Greg Horn CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Bob Brodsky, Cookiesoup Productions SPECIAL THANKS Rich Cirillo Mike Finn Shawn Fritschy Brian Galatis Kasra Ghanbari Gene Ha Greg Horn George Khoury Dave Morris Walt Parrish Mike Perkins Doug Resnick Edgar Tadeo Thomas Yeates

ROUGH STUFF™ is published quarterly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614. Bob McLeod, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: ROUGH STUFF, c/o Bob McLeod, Editor, P.O. Box 63, Emmaus, PA 10849-2203. E-mail: mcleod.bob@gmail.com. Fourissue subscriptions: $30 Standard US, $40 First Class US, $47 Canada, $70 First Class International, $77 Priority International. Please send subscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. Cover art by Greg Horn. X-Men copyright Marvel Comics. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2009 Bob McLeod and TwoMorrows Publishing. ROUGH STUFF is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.

ISSN 1931-9231

FEATURED ARTISTS 7

Gene Ha

20

Greg Horn

43

Mike Perkins

55

Edgar Tadeo

ROUGH STUFF FEATURE 34

Convention-al Wisdom Rich Cirillo

ROUGH STUFF INTERVIEWS 3 64

Gene Ha Thomas Yeates

ROUGH STUFF DEPARTMENTS 2

Scribblings From The Editor Bob McLeod

16

Cover Stories Gene Ha and Greg Horn reveal the process of creating a cover.

84

Rough Critique Editor Bob McLeod critiques an aspiring penciler’s sample page.

86

Rough Talk Comments and opinions from our readers.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

1


INTERVIEW A

PAG E

I N

TH E

L I F E:

GENE HA

By BRYAN GALATIS

E

very artist working in comics has their own individual approach to telling a story on the page. Their methods evolve over time and are often adapted to a particular collaborator or project. Gene Ha has been

working in the medium since the early 1990s. Fans admire him both for his draftmanship, for the detail

he brings to his backgrounds and environment, and for the emotional resonance he provides his characters. It is the latter for which writer Brad Meltzer begged to have Gene hired as the artist for Justice League of America #11. “I knew we needed him for issue #11. Emotion — true emotion — is the hardest thing to draw. [The

Justice League of America #11, pg. 4 script page with page layout and panel thumbnails in margins.

story] only works if the emotion is right.” In the story, entitled “Walls,” the characters Red Arrow and Vixen are trapped under the rubble of a building (it is an homage to the classic stories “The Final Chapter” in Amazing Spider-Man #33 and “Situation: Hopeless” in Secret Wars #4). Throughout the issue, the panels decrease in size as the tension increases, and Gene’s focus on character is placed firmly in the spotlight. This is Gene’s approach to page four of Justice League of America #11. BRYAN GALATIS: I’ve heard you say that working with

I started reading

great writers is of primary importance for you. Was Brad

Brad’s JLA run after I

Meltzer a writer with whom you’d been interested in

got the assignment. He

working?

was building up his story

GENE HA: Honestly, I haven’t read a lot of novels or

like a novel over several

superhero comics for the last few years. So I knew of

issues. There’s a strong

Brad, but I hadn’t read much of his stuff. I did have Eddie

parallel with the story-

Berganza’s assurance he was brilliant, and Eddie has

telling on my favorite TV

excellent judgment.

show, The Wire. You get WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

3


HA: My initial thumbnails are done in the margins of the script. The script sketches are all under 2" tall. I make sketches of individual panels and of the blank panels on the page. I used to go directly from the script margin thumbnails to the 10"x15" Bristol page. I began to change my process after talking to Barry Kitson about how he works. He made tiny pencil roughs with all the blacks spotted. His roughs are as tight as most artists’ finished pencils. I created my current process after I got hold of scanners and color printers that can handle 11"x17" paper. Theoretically, I can make a 2" tall sketch, scan it at 2250 dpi, and then print it out 15" tall at 300 dpi in nonphoto blue. GALATIS: Your pencils always look kind of rough to me. You seem to save the fine-tuning for your inks. Is this to save time or to keep from locking you in too much for the inks? I have read that some artists feel like tight pencils take the fun and creativity out of inking. HA: [Top 10 collaborator] Zander Cannon describes my pencils as 3-D computer wireframe models. They’re not supposed to look like the finished artwork. They’re indications of where the planes and edges of objects are. Like a 3-D rendering program, I figure out the lighting and modeling after that stage. Red Arrow ©2009 DC Comics

You’re right that I don’t like having too much detail in my pencils. I know I’ll come up with better ideas later so detail is both an annoyance and a waste of time. GALATIS: Does the amount of detail you put in depend on the project? HA: If the setting is important to the story Justice League of

a huge payoff if you pay attention. Also, he had some fun

America #11, pg. 4

showing the less glamorous side of the job. I wish he had

full-page pencils.

even more room to tell the story. He’s got an amazing storytelling mind. He thinks visually. He writes like somebody who’s been drawing his own stories for years, like Dave Sim or Darwyn Cooke. I can’t think of another non-drawing writer who can think like that. GALATIS: Do you start off with thumbnails or rough sketches? What size are these usually?

4

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009

(such as in Top 10) I usually throw in more detail in the background. I didn’t throw much detail into The Authority because the settings weren’t as important and because my editor Scott Dunbier really wanted to meet the print deadlines. Sorry, Scott! The rough pencils are done with two 6.8" tall pages on a single 8.5"x11" sheet. I scan these at 882 dpi and print these as 600 dpi 10" tall bluelines for tight pencils. I scan the tight pencils at 680 dpi and print that as 400 dpi 17" tall finished inks and markers.


Justice League of America #11, pg. 4, full inked page.

GALATIS: In Brad [Meltzer’s] notes for page four, he asked for “lots of smoke and darkness.” In a guest spot on Brad’s blog (bradmeltzer.com, 18 July ’07), you said that you “mostly used Copic paper on this issue for grainy, dusty effect.” Have you used the combination of that type of paper with “graphite pencil, gray Copic markers, white charcoal pencil and white paint” on previous projects? HA: It’s the only time I’ve used the Copic brand marker paper. I am using Copic markers, pencil, Pitt brush pens and white media for my new Top 10 project. When I initially started using the Copic paper I was disappointed by how the marker ink pooled on the surface after it dried. If you placed another stroke on top it smeared the previous ink. It was oversaturated with ink, like rain drops on a windshield. Generally I wouldn’t want that effect, but it happened to match the setting (trapped in a dusty collapsed building). For scenes outside the building I worked on plain old inkjet paper. It absorbs the marker without bleeding. It‘s a trick I learned in my art school days. Marker paper is fine, but I noticed that when I worked on photocopies that the colors were more vivid. GALATIS: Does subject matter often dictate you choice of materials and/or style (such as your use of ink wash on The Forty-Niners)? HA: Various elements of the comic affect my choice of technique. For The Authority I wanted it to look slick and I needed to work fast. I went with standard Bristol Red Arrow ©2009 DC Comics

paper and India ink. The Forty-Niners was a period story so I used a muted palette, hinting at Saving Private Ryan and also b&w movies. In modern or futuristic stories I like a smoother and more colorful look. GALATIS: I recently read an interview WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

5


COVER STORIES

W

hat goes into the creation of a great cover? Some artists just do a rough sketch or two, then go right to the finish. Gene Ha did a sketch, then worked out the anatomy and perspective, inked it, explored the values in a marker rough, and only then digitally painted it, using muted complimentary colors.

GENE HA

Captain America #19 cover This cover was made after I moved to Chicagoland. It seems that the bigger the city I live in, the harder it is to find models. My friends in the Chicago area are mostly a 45-minute drive away, and it’s weirder going up to complete strangers in a big city than a small town. So my wife Lisa and I modeled for all the characters. This is my Photoshop “painted” style. The technique is strongly influenced by the oil painting technique I picked up in art school. Back then, I had a fantasy of daubing my brush in the light and spreading it on my canvas. Now I really can do that. To get the colors, I took digital photographs of all the colors I needed under consistent lighting, then used the Eyedropper tool in Photoshop to snatch the color. I drew the shield in Photoshop because I wanted it

Captain America TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

to be perfectly smooth.

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ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


BOB McLEOD Gene has basically figured everything out in the gray-tone rough, but notice the few changes he did Captain America TM & Š2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

make, such as the dark shadow behind Cap's face, and the shading on Cap's chest star.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

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GREG HORN

I S T A R T

his work st known for be is n or H g Gre gitally, . He paints di st ti ar r ve co as a eroes. sexy female h in s es. ze li ia ec for video gam and sp t ar e n do so Marvel, he’s al slouch with In addition to g, but he’s no n li zz da is e u techniq Greg's digital ! a pencil, either

GREG HORN She-Hulk and Black Cat Wizard V.I.P. Sketches These are drawings I did for Wizard’s Texas show back in 2006. It was part of a five-piece set planned as a giveaway to Wizard’s VIP guests. I didn’t sign it because I wanted to meet the winners in person for the signing (being that they were choosing my sketches over all the other stuff they had there. Anyway, one dude had purchased two VIP passes and was able to snag both of these drawings. With both designs I was trying to infuse some personality and humor into the characters because this is a lot more enjoyable than a chick just standing there saying “look at me—I’m doing a sexy pose.” Of course, the task of adding these elements into the design makes the art work about ten times harder to do! I think this is why I love Adam Hughes so much. He has an incredible, innate sense for the whimsical and humorous—Adam is one of the artists that made me look at art from a totally different angle. None of his drawings are typical…. He’s like a genius or something.

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ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009

She-Hulk and Black Cat TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

D U R E F E A T


GREG HORN For the cover of Ms. Marvel #16, editor Bill Rosemann was looking to introduce the freakish M.O.D.O.K. into the storyline. This disgusting lump of flesh and hair has a head the size of a garbage truck (’cause he’s so smart, you see) and a really bad dental plan. He is a vision of horror and we wanted to make sure that vision came across on the cover art. In my first round of sketches I tried to show Carol in the foreground as if she had not yet noticed M.O.D.O.K. behind her. The intention was to get her in a high position on the cover because Magazine Design 101 says you should always have the main character’s face high on the page. But none of the sketches really popped out at us and Bill’s precious M.O.D.O.K. was getting obscured! So, I came up with a solution to have Ms. Marvel battling M.O.D.O.K. mentally. She’d be lower on the page, but still very prominent in the foreground. The next concern was that Ms. Marvel might look too passive… or even submissive laying on the ground, and as we all know Ms. Marvel submits to no man… except for Wonder Man… and that guy from Avengers #200… and a few other guys, but that’s beside the point. Bill and I wanted to make sure that Ms. Marvel still retained her powerful qualities while fighting this mind war. When you have a face this big on the cover, its going to need some texture to look right—such as pores and little skin imperfections, etc. Otherwise the skin will look unnaturally plastic or rubbery. Adding a kazillion little pores is a time intensive step and I had already decided this was something I did not want to do in pencil. Especially considering I had just created a digital “pore brush” in Photoshop months earlier to do the She-Hulk #19 cover. That was another big head cover… it had the Leader on it. Get it?… bighead cover. Anyway, on the M.O.D.O.K. sketch you can see where I put about seven little pores under

Ms. Marvel, Modok TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

his nostril as a reminder to add them in later.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

21


GREG HORN She-Hulk #7 original art Probably my favorite She-Hulk cover. In this scene She-Hulk is sitting on a bench waiting for the bus. She is sitting on her own cornball ad!! So, the idea was to give her an expression that provoked a question… Maybe she knows she’s on her own ad and this is a look of “You wanna make something of it?” Or perhaps she is just bored waiting for the bus and

BOB MCLEOD My favorite part of this is, um, well my second favorite part is actually that wood fence! I like the Norman Rockwell-like subtlety of the colors and technique and texture.

24

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009

She-Hulk TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

has not realized the goofy ad.


Convention-al

WISDOM

I

Captain America TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

By Rich Cirillo started reading comics at an early age, but didn’t see my first piece of original art until many years later at a local comic book convention. They had very large conventions in Manhattan, which I went to occasionally, accompanied by an adult. Local, smaller shows on Long Island were right on my back doorstep, and they would attract a big-name artist every so often. In the mid-’80s artists such as Bob Layton, Dave Cockrum and a newcomer

named Bill Willingham paid us a visit. Back in the day, a convention sketch could run you $5 - $20 for either full pencils or inks, depending on the artist. Most convention sketches back then were more quickly rendered and looser in style, very different from a lot of the tightly rendered sketches of today. It had never occurred to me to buy original comic book art back then. I was a teenager with a meager part-time

Sketch by Mark Texiera

keep them interested with my unusual requests. For instance, in the mid-to-late ’80s, there was a smaller

job, and most of my money was going toward either the

comic company called Comico, which was putting out

latest issues of my favorite comics or the elusive back

some interesting titles. One of their better sellers was a

issues we all tried to find in near-mint condition. I can

book called the Elementals, a reinventing of the Fantastic

vaguely remember seeing original art for published pages

Four, if you will, had they come back from the dead. Bill

back then, but they would have been way too expensive

Willingham was the creator of that book and he was the

for me at the time, with their $100 price tags. Con

guest of honor at our local con that day in October of

sketches were more affordable, and they had one thing a

1986. Others asked for sketches of the main characters

printed page could not offer; they were more personal. I

from the book: Morningstar, Vortex, Monolith or Fathom.

could ask for whatever character I wanted, within reason,

But not me, I had to ask for the most obscure character

and I would then own a piece of art that no one else had

from the book I could think of. I could ask for none other

ever seen. Before the days of the Internet, an unpublished

than the villainous vermin... Ratman!!!

con sketch would occasionally appear in a fanzine, but

My con visits were few and far between through the

otherwise most would go years, decades perhaps, with-

’80s, but I also got sketches of the future Red Wolf by

out being seen by more than a few.

Bob Layton, Wolverine by Mike Zeck, and I happened to

I was on the shy side back in my teens, and approach-

meet an up-and-coming artist by the name of Adam

ing a comic book artist to me was like approaching a god

Hughes, who drew for me his first Captain America con

stepped down from Olympus. I wanted to stand out from

sketch, and like any true fan boy, I asked him to inscribe it

the crowd of sketch seekers, so I usually asked for

as such. I had only acquired a few original sketches back

obscure character sketches. I also felt the artists would

in those days, but the foundation for my future avid col-

tire of sketching the same characters, so I would try to

lecting had been laid.

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ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


Doug Resnick I was looking at all my Spider-Man vs. a villain commissions and thought “wouldn’t it be great to be able to display all of my favorite pencilers at one time.” That started the idea of a poster jam. I also only wanted the artist to draw in pencil so an inker can ink it later to give it a better finish. Before starting the poster jam, I needed a way to carry it around at shows. After thinking up a way, I started with Pat Olliffe right in the bottom center. For the big body jam, I got to to play editor and showed the pencilers where to pencil. The second one had boxes laid out and I just had to ask the penciler what character they’d like to draw. I had a lot of fun watching the artists draw the villains. I remember sitting on a couch with Mike Wieringo outside of the Baltimore convention hall while he drew the vulture. We talked and he drew. The real trick was co-ordinating the pencilers and the inkers. All pencils were done at shows and most of the inking, too. A lot of prep work went into these poster jams. All characters TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

35


Chris Caira trophy wall: http://www.comicartfa ns.com/GalleryRoom.a sp?Order=Date&Page =1&GSub=22086 I happened into theme collecting by accident. In an attempt to come up with an idea inspiring enough for Mr. Bolland to create a commission for me, I had a half-sleeping nightmare one night and immediately ran to my computer and sent it off to Brian. Brian thought it just twisted enough and just darkly humorous enough to be worthy of bringing to life. That was where the Trophy Wall idea started. I realized it was a theme versatile enough to apply to comics, film, theatre and literature and adaptable enough to find the perfect project for almost every artist (such as McLeod’s Kraven pieces, and Layton’s Mandarin). When you give an artist an idea that really inspires them you get their very best work every time. I did not mean to be a theme commission collector but the idea All characters ©2009 DC Comics.

has made me more friends and helped me reach out to more artists than I ever would have on my own. Now there are more than 30 Trophy Walls in the collection and for several still in development. Illustration by Brian Bolland

36

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


D U R E F E A T

S N I K R E P E K I M

I S T A R T

tist now is a British ar Mike Perkins came da. He first be living in Flori ker for States as an in known in the . He’s and CrossGen se or H nt work k ar D , DC l and his rece ve ar M r fo g ses and inkin me away. He u now penciling ew bl st ju D N A ing’s THE ST d it really on Stephen K lor comics an co is h r fo en ash ev a lot of ink w erly. en colored prop h w ok lo t ea creates a gr

MIKE PERKINS The Stand promo This was one of those images that, pretty much, appeared fully formed in my head. I submitted various roughs for approval—some playing on similar poses and themes—and Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada suggested bringing one of the skulls right into the foreground to give added depth and to play on the primeval image of the skull in general. It worked. I really wanted to play with the gray-tones on this one using conte-crayon, black pencil and ink wash.

The Stand and all related characters ©2009 Stephen King. Artwork ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

43


The Stand and all related characters ©2009 Stephen King. Artwork ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

MIKE PERKINS The Stand Covers When it was determined that I would be illustrating the variant covers for Marvel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, series editor Bill Rosemann and I put our heads together to discuss which approach to take and came up with the idea of a series of covers, for the first arc, which joined together to make one cohesive image. I put my thinking hat on. I knew that each cover should be a spotlight for a number of the main protagonists and should play on the flu-ravaged environment of New York. There’s a section in the novel—one of the most truly terrifying moments (and one I’m eagerly looking forward to illustrating)— where one of the characters, Larry Underwood, departs Manhattan via the clogged, and pitch black, Lincoln Tunnel. I had my backdrop set piece. During the NY Comic-Con I spent the time to wander around some of the areas described within the novel and take plenty of reference photos and, luckily, the Javits Center is situated very close-by the Lincoln Tunnel. 44

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


MIKE PERKINS The Stand #1 Not much change from the rough here. You’ll notice that I’ve used one of the Randall Flagg poses that weren’t chosen for the promo piece. Recycle! My pencils are pretty tight here as I wasn’t sure if they would use the pencils for promotional purposes. With a concertinaed cover like this —a quintet (?)—it’s important to get the connecting artwork to correspond, and connect correctly to, the previous artwork in the series. Luckily, Marvel’s cover illustration board comes equipped with trim lines. As long as I started the second image overlapping within the righthand trim section of the previous illustration, things would line up correctly.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

45


D U R E F E A T

EDGAR TADEO

I S T A R T

do in the got nothing to e ’v ey th s es I gu Edgar draw comics. pt ce ex es n pi Philip Filipino other talented nciler, and Tadeo is yet an , inker, and pe st ri lo co a s e’ tist. H jobs for comic book ar done several s e’ H . os di tu valon S a member of A s. d Image Comic Marvel, DC an

EDGAR TADEO

Red Sonja TM & ©2009 Red Sonja corp.

Red Sonja pencil commission A customer asked me to draw him a Red Sonja character. He didn’t say what kind of pose but I assumed he wanted a sexy one. Since I’m the one who’s going to decide on the posing, I thought of drawing her arms raised up with the sword while walking in the water.

EDGAR TADEO Red Sonja pencil commission Most artists who do thumbnails or prelim sketches use a lightbox for the final drawing. In my case, since I change things a lot, I redraw it to make some more adjustments. On this final drawing I made her crouching a bit. Since there’s a massive amount of water I made her look like she’s struggling walking.

EDGAR TADEO Red Sonja pencil commission I sent the prelim sketch before I started on the bigger version, and he said he’d like her arms to be thinner since it’s only a comic book character. So I drew Red walking in the water with flowing hair with the sword. WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

55


EDGAR TADEO

Sabretooth and Wolverine TM & ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

Sabretooth & Wolverine inked commission I thought this was very difficult, because the customer gave me a long description of how the piece should look. Basically he just wanted Wolverine and Sabretooth standing with their arms crossed. He likes veins and muscles popping out and details of armor, so I drew a basic rough [left].

EDGAR TADEO Sabretooth & Wolverine inked commission Since it was only a preliminary sketch, I was asked to draw Sabretooth a bit bigger with massive arms and body. Before I start inking I always have to send the final pencil to the customer. 56

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009

EDGAR TADEO Sabretooth & Wolverine inked commission Every time I finish an inked drawing, I always refine the line hatchings using brushes or quills. I also use French curves, elliptical and circular templates for round objects and figures just like on Wolverine’s elbow pads and other parts of the armor. I used the French curves on the sword.


EDGAR TADEO Sentry watercolor painting Whenever I start doing a watercolor painting, I always do a study using pencil shading. I draw thumbnails and a detailed drawing of the face. The pencil study (top left) will be the actual size of the watercolor painting, which will be traced onto the watercolor paper. After tracing the basic line art, I started doing the background first (top right). Note: The prelim sketches and pencil shadings are my guides for the final coloring so I won’t get lost since I only draw line art on the

Sentry TM & Š2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

watercolor paper.

58

I always start my painting by using blacks and grays before ren-

Just like I did with the face and hair, I also render everything

dering the skin tones. I also apply this on the hair.

else using grays and blacks just to give shapes on the figure.

ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


INTERVIEW

THOMAS YEATES T

By GEORGE KHOURY and BOB McLEOD

homas Yeates was born on January 19, 1955 in Sacramento, California. He was a

member of the first class at Joe Kubert’s School. Strongly influenced in his craft by old-guard illustrators like Hal Foster, N. C. Wyeth, Al Williamson and Wallace Wood,

Yeates’ favorite settings to draw are the outdoors and exotic locales.

He worked for DC Comics on numerous series, including Warlord, Mystery in Space and Swamp Thing. From 1984 to 1985, Thomas Yeates was the artist for Timespirits from Marvel/Epic. He worked for Eclipse Comics on titles such as Airboy, Scout, Lugar, the political documentary Brought to Light, and Aztec Ace. For Pacific Comics, Yeates did Alien Worlds and Vanguard, and for T.S.R., he illustrated the Dragonlance Saga based on the Dungeons & Dragons game. In the early 1990s, Thomas Yeates drew one of his child-

novel. During the same period, Yeates also illustrated Dracula

hood heroes, Tarzan of the Apes, for two and a half years, co-

vs. Zorro for Topps comics. This cult favorite was his first team-

authoring and drawing Tarzan, The Beckoning (for

ing with writer Don McGregor.

Semic/Malibu). He went on to illustrate a total of 15 Tarzan

Thomas then returned to DC and illustrated a comic

comics, many for Dark Horse. The Return of Tarzan featured his

book authored by Rachel Pollack titled Tomahawk. In the

adaptation into comics Edgar Rice Burroughs’ second Tarzan

late 1990s McGregor and Yeates created a highly regarded Zorro newspaper strip. In 2001, Yeates illustrated two Universe X specials for Marvel in collaboration with Alex Ross and John Totleben. Most recently he has illustrated seven graphic novels in the Graphic Myths series for Lerner publishing including King Arthur, Odysseus, Atalanta, King Arthur and Lancelot, and Robin Hood. [This interview was originally conducted in 2002 by George Khoury and transcribed by Steven Tice. I recently posed some additional questions to Thomas to update it with what he’s been doing more recently. -Bob McLeod] Swamp Thing TM & ©2009 DC Comics

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ROUGH STUFF • WINTER 2009


GEORGE KHOURY: What kind of comics

of pictures. And it wasn’t until many

were you into growing up in California?

years later that I got interested in comic

THOMAS YEATES: I was into drawing pic-

books. I was aware of comic books and

tures based on movies that I saw on TV: Davy

had a few. But I wasn’t—I liked

Crockett, Zorro, monster movies and Tarzan, I

Tomahawk and Turok, Son of Stone

got inspired by that subject matter and histori-

when I was young. We had a few

cal adventure. I just liked to draw those kinds

Archies because they were funny. A few

THOMAS YEATES Flash Gordon is a favorite character of mine. I get to draw him every once in a while on covers for Comics Revue. It’s great to try and combine the elegant art styles of Alex Raymond and Williamson with wonderful lowbrow pulp elements. I still can’t figure out how Flash got his pilot’s license, he crashes almost every

Flash Gordon ©2009 King Features

rocket ship he flies.

WINTER 2009 • ROUGH STUFF

65


war comics. But I wasn’t a big comic book collector or reader

blood and it’s a lot easier for me to draw that stuff. I can do it

until I visited my cousin, Randy Yeates, who was a fanzine

faster, and speed is real important in this business.

artist at the time, in Colorado. And he introduced me to all the

THOMAS YEATES In the late ’90s I did a Zorro newspaper strip. That’s penciling

periphery stuff: Witzend magazine, the Burroughs fan maga-

KHOURY: Would you say you were heavily influenced by

zines, the fantasy adventure comics. EC Comics. Wally Wood,

Williamson at the same time?

Bernie Wrightson, Al Williamson, all those artists. I was aware

YEATES: Yes.

of [Roy] Krenkel and [Frank] Frazetta through the Burroughs novels that they’d done the covers for. I had those; I was read-

KHOURY: You worked a period for him [Al Williamson]?

ing Burroughs. But as far as comic books, it really wasn’t until

YEATES: Yes.

I visited my cousin at the age of about 14 or 15 that I suddenly started seeing comics in a different light. And thanks to him,

KHOURY: How long did you work for him?

and inking six

I started following those artists. Started buying DC comics,

YEATES: I wasn’t really an employee, I just helped him out

dailies plus a Sunday

mainly the mystery ones that were coming out at the time that

here and there as a friend. Around ’75 I went to a comic

page, plus coloring

had just great art and stories by people like Len

the Sunday page

Wein and Bernie Wrightson. I got the House of

every week. Don

Secrets with Swamp Thing in it off the stands

McGregor wrote the

when it came out. And then when the original

stories. We had done

Swamp Thing came out, I bought and read

Dracula vs Zorro a

every issue. I was a pretty committed fan of that

few years before. After drawing the first four months solo I brought in Tod Smith to do tight layouts. You can see his work here. I met Tod

kind of material by then. KHOURY: You’ve always stayed true to your early influences, like the Zorro strip and Tomahawk, that kind of stuff. YEATES: I was enjoying other kinds of stuff, too, other subject matters. But the swashbuckling old adventure genre seems to really be what’s in my

when he was at the Kubert school, he’s a fellow Zorro fan and a hell of a good comic artist, with great storytelling skills. I did the finishes on duo-shade board, which enables you to create gray areas that would print as line art. I used Micron markers for most of the line work, faces, details etc., as well as brush. Coloring all those Sundays enabled me to learn coloring, which has proved very useful. Zorro TM Zorro Productions, Inc.

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ROUGH CRITIQUE By Bob McLeod

T

his issue’s sample page was sent in by the mysteriously single-named Wattana. It’s far from typical in style and subject (what, no superheroes!? Does that even count as comics anymore?), but it’s nonetheless very typical in many of the problems he’s having, and I chose it because I think discussing them will help a lot of

other artists as well as Wattana. Some pages just need some tweaking here and there. But other pages need to be rebuilt from the ground up, which is the case here.

Art ©2009 Wattana.

First off, I just have to commend you, Wattana, for trying to be original. This girl apparently has no super powers (she can’t even spear a lion six feet away) and she’s not even blonde! I haven’t seen a brunette jungle girl since Frazetta’s glory days. Your story-

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telling is fairly clear, and your figures have some problems, but at least they aren’t stiff. You’re drawing very sketchily (with what appears to be a pencil badly in need of sharpening—or did you draw it all on the computer?). The reason it’s so sketchy is because you don’t really know what anything looks like and you’re trying to fake it all. If you study the arm, for example, and really memorize what it looks like, you’ll be able to draw it much better. Right now, you’re just guessing at everything. That’s the wrong way to go. But good drawing is only one aspect of pencilling comics. There’s also a lot of thinking involved. One of the first things you need to do when starting a page is decide on the number and size and placement of the panels. On action pages, the fewer panels the better, because you want to have room to show the action in a dynamic way. Looking at your page, all the hot action is squeezed down into the lower left corner, and the page as a whole is too heavily weighted there. Your biggest panels are the first and last, where nothing is happening, and your smallest panels are where the most action is happening. This is totally opposite of how it should be. Think of your panel shapes as design elements. Even as empty panels, they should create a design. Using one slanted panel border on an otherwise very horizontal/vertical set-up is simply bad design. Clustering them all on one side of the page is also bad design. You also need to decide how best to tell your story. Usually, the fewer panels it takes, the better. I eliminated your third and sixth panels to make room for enlarging panel 5, where the most dramatic action is happening. Your third panel is also clumsy, attempting to show the action from both sides at once, which turns her into a disembodied spirit. Your panel six, with her jumping over the lion, seems superfluous. Why would she do that? You have limited space on a page, and you have to use it wisely. So I staggered the panels to better balance the page design, straightened the slanted border, eliminated two panels, and enlarged the last two panels. This really could have been two pages, with the first three panels on one and the last four on another. Then your third panel would have been a dramatic cliffhanger and the reader wouldn’t have been able to wait


to turn the page. A lion attack is certainly worthy of two pages. Going back to panel one, you committed the grievous sin of aligning her spear parallel to the panel border. Always try to use diagonals, and never put shapes parallel to the panel border. Notice I also tilted the girl to a more diagonal angle, and moved her away from the panel border. Place your figures more within the panel, not pushed over to the sides or corners. Then place your background elements to fit around them and balance out the panel. So I moved your bush, and moved and enlarged the distant mountain. I eliminated the volcano, because it distracts from the tension between the girl and the lion. Now, let’s look at that lion. This is not a lion, but rather your best recollection of what a lion looks like. His tail is too long and sticking out of his, um, butt (the tail is actually an extension of the spine, and is much higher up). His snout is flat and his ears are missing. Never try to draw an animal without reference. Also, with his body facing away from her, he seems to be minding his own business, rather than threatening her. Look

at the difference when I turn him around. Now I’m scared! Get ready with that spear! She has too much hair in panel two, and you need to put it on one side or the other. Her head is also misplaced too far forward (the neck also continues from the spine). Making her arm black sinks it too far back into the background, and it’s not good to position it parallel to the horizon. The lion needs to be higher up, overlapping the horizon to create more depth. Since his tail is coming out of the panel, the spear should also. In the new panel three (your fourth panel), her knife should be in the panel, since you already have stuff extending out of the previous panel. You don’t want to repeat the same gimmick. I don’t think a profile shot is the best way to show action, but it’s works okay here. Imagine how much more impact this panel would have if the lion were jumping toward us rather than past us. I pieced together a (female) lion photo to fit your pose, so you can see the proportions are quite different than you imagined. Animals (and people) are so much more interesting when you draw them correctly. Your girl has two left hands, by the way. And what is that, a sand storm in the background? In the new panel four, where she stabs the lion, you want to pull in closer for more impact, and make the panel as large as possible. You don’t really want her left leg there, do you? I just rotated them to fit the space, so the corner of panel three doesn’t hit the lion in the head, but it also now leads the eye nicely toward the last panel. In the last panel, I flopped her to better balance the composition, and also enlarged everything a bit to get us more involved and to have more variety in figure size. It’s good to have the figures a different size in every panel. I also did a quick redo of your figure. With arms folded across the chest, her breasts would be pushed up, and I like the way you cocked her hip, but I think you took it a bit too far. Her face is also a bit small. This panel really needs some more backgrounds. You can delete backgrounds in action panels, but when you get to a panel like this, you need to give us more to look at. You established some horizontal clouds in the top panel, so I’d stay with that in this panel, rather than those diagonal whatsits you have there. So, to sum up, you obviously have a lot of studying to do. What, did you think drawing comics was easy? Get out some comics and study the panel layouts and where the artists place the figures, and which panels are big and which are small. Get some reference and practice drawing some lions. And, along with the rest of us, study figure drawing every day. Oh, and sharpen your pencil. Any thick-skinned readers who’d like me to critique their sample page should e-mail me at mcleod.bob@gmail.com, or mail me a sample at P.O. Box 63, Emmaus, PA 18049

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