Monday, February 27, 2006

New York Comic Con...DISASTER!!

I hated the New York Comic Convention this past weekend.

Absolutely hated it.

I had high hopes for the show. I really would love to have a quality convention once a year within a few hours of home. It would be much more convenient and much less expensive than the airfare and a hotel room in San Diego, Chicago et al.

This show though...this show sucked.

I arrived at the Javitz Center around 4:00 on Friday afternoon to get my badge and walk the floor for a bit to get the lay of the land. There were a couple of impressive lines of people waiting to pick up their badges or register, depending on the line they happened to be standing in. As a professional appearing at the show, I'm accustomed to being able to find the professional booth, show my ID, and get my credentials with no fuss or no muss. Not so at the NYCC, where after asking around I quickly learned that professionals had been grouped in with online preregistrations. Annoyed, I waited in line for over an hour for a badge that at any other show in the world would have taken no more than five minutes to obtain.

Note to the convention staff: A great part of the reason people come to these shows is to meet the professional writers and artists. Most of us don't get paid to appear at your show, we do it as a way to network with other professionals and, more importantly, to provide a thank you to fans for shelling out their money for our work. You might want to put a little more thought into making our presence feel a little more appreciated. You are making money off of us, after all.

Once on the convention floor, I was quickly struck by how claustrophobic and cramped the hall was. The room was built to be long and narrow and the booths were not widely spaced apart, leaving thin 'halls' between them that already felt crowded, even with the room being only filled to about half capacity. It took all of fifteen minutes to get up and down every aisle, there was little to see.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed catching up with many aquaintances in the few hours I was there. Saturday though...Saturday was the nightmare.

When I arrived on Saturday, even though I already had my badge, I wasn't allowed into the hall. Instead, I was shunted into an enormous line of several thousand people waiting to get into the hall, all of them with their badges too. I tried to explain to the security guard that I was already late to my first signing of the day at the DC Comics booth fifteen feet behind him but he, obviously following orders and unable to think for himself, insisted that I go to the far end of the building to the end of the line with everybody else. The convention staff seemed to be unprepared for the fact that people actually showed up to their show and didn't know how to handle the turn out.

What started out as chaotic quickly got worse when, a couple of hours later the NYC fire marshall shut the show down because it was filled beyond capacity. No one was allowed in to the convention hall. If you left the floor, you weren't allowed back in. At one point, there was a line of seven thousand people waiting up to six hours to actually get into the show. It was ridiculous.

Meanwhile, on the inside of things, moving around was much like trying to swim through a can of sardines, complete with that delicious smell. Comic fans can be a gamey, sweaty lot at times. The narrow halls were basically shoulder to shoulder with people trying to move around. Foot traffic was slow and by mid afternoon, frustrated and annoyed, I basically decided I no longer wanted to be there. I packed up my things, grabbed my coat, and hit the door, tossing my badge into the trash as I went. Enough was enough, at least for me. I have better things to do and, after a three hour drive, made it home in time to put my son to bed.

Not that the weekend was a total waste. Friday evening, I enjoyed a fine meal with Firestorm editor Mike Siglain, writer Stuart Moore, and fellow artist Jamal Igle. I had never met Stuart of Jamal before and had a good time talking and getting to know both of them a little bit. It's always fun to trade war stories and hear different perspectives on this little business.

On Saturday, I also took a big step towards solidifying some writing work with another company. That should all get firmed up and started over the next couple of weeks. And I do enjoy meeting many of the fans who just want to say hi, chat about comics, and grab a sketch. That's what makes the show fun.

The rest of it though...what a waste.

Monday, February 20, 2006

New York Comic Con...assemble!

For anyone interested, I'll be appearing at the NY Comic Con this weekend (Well...part of Friday and all day Saturday) at the Javitz Center.

I don't know my exact signing schedule but the way things look, I'll be sketching and signing at the DC booth with the rest of the Firestorm creative team and I'll also be sitting at the ACROSS THE POND COMICS booth. ATP is the company that published Armor X and they're a fine group of people and a lot of fun at conventions. They've become sort of my own little convention family. Awww...ain't that sweet? Anyway, exact times are a mystery but that's where I'll be.

The strangest thing (to me) about the convention experience are the people who, for whatever reason, want to get their picture taken together. It doesn't happen super frequently but it always happens a couple of times at these shows. I think most of the time, they're not even aware of who I am or what I do. They just see a person behind a table and go from there.

Or maybe I just really am that darn pretty.

I have many aquaintances in New York that I suspect might be bopping around the convention. It will be interesting to see who I run into and should be fun to get up to date with friends that I've lost touch with, as well as get a chance to see closer friends I've kept in touch with.

For anyone reading the blog, hit me up with a secret handshake or something.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jamal Igle: Rock Star part deux

The week kind of got away from so even though I inked this page on Monday, I haven't really had a chance to post the inked version until now. So without further adieu, thar she blows!

Basically, as an inker, when I work with a penciller who knows what he's doing (like Jamal), I pretty much try to stay out of the way. The goal is to bring out the best in the pencils and, like a doctor, the first rule is "Do No Harm."

I didn't quite get the results I wanted in every panel but I don't think I really hurt the art so I guess it's a decent page. I don't can be hard as an artist not to see anything except for the missed opportunities.

As far as the inking thought processes that went into the work (aside from the basic foreground/middle ground/background separation), I generally tried to give the muscular guy a stronger contour and make him a little more harder edged. I attempted to keep the pretty girl's contour softer and more rounded. It's a very subtle change in line quality but I think it helped to provide a physical contrast that matches the contrast in their personalities.

When inking the girl, I held the brush higher up on the handle (about halfway up the brush like a Japanese Calligrapher) and with a slightly looser grip to give the linework more bounce, to make it more playful. Gripping tightly at the base adds control to the line but eliminates a little spontaneity in the linework. I wanted her contours to match her personality, which is perky and unpredictable. I tried to add some variety of weights, gradating from thick to thin even to the stripe pattern on her shirt to give everything about her more life.

Anyway, these are examples of the subtle little touches that inkers think about that no one ever really notices or cares about. It's not about tracing, even if you're staying very faithful to the pencilled work. It's about thinking through and living in the line, if that makes any sense. Zen inking, I guess. While the result ratio is mixed on every page, it's better to try and fail than to not think at all.

Except on a tight deadline when you say "screw it!" and just crank the pages out like a machine.

Actual working time on this page was a bit less than 5 hours inking time and about fifteen minutes of erasing and touch up work. I also inked the first panel entirely in nib to give myself a change of pace and stay focused. Shaking things up like that can be good mentally.

The file itself is a low rez jpeg, hence the broken line and poorer quality reproduction. Hopefully, anyone reading can still get the idea.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 12, 2006

A quick burst of pimp action

For anyone interested in checking them out, here are links to a couple of things I've been enjoying lately.

Tom Nguyen is a fellow inker and friend of mine. His linework has graced many fine comics, usually in tandem with penciller Doug Mahnke, usually for DC Comics. The lucky little bastard has also inked John Byrne, something I've yet to manuever my way into doing.

Anyway, he's also a talented penciller and has recently begun writing an online column for The Pulse that basically is going to point out all the horrible art in comics and explain why it's bad. It's a ballsy move; it's not considered proper etiquette to rip apart your peers in a public forum but Tom doesn't care. He's lonely, he's desperate for attention, he's got strong opinions about what makes good art, and he's going to share his POV with the world. Here's the link to his column which is called, "I draw the line." It's good stuff and it's only going to get uglier as he goes. Luckily, Tom is a champion bodybuilder so most people with an axe to grind will be afraid to come after him.

Secondly, another friend of mine, the multi-talented Charlie Lagreca, has a podcast centering on independent comics that is getting to be hugely popular. Charlie, or Chimpy as I call him, is a cartoonist (he's published in Disney Adventures every month) and entertainer. His comedy troupe, Minimum Wage, is wildly popular in NYC and they travel almost constantly all over the country performing. At least, I think they do because that's how I rationalize the fact that he never answers his phone when I call.

I've listened to a few of his podcasts (under the nomme du broadcast Chucky Maggregor) with partner Mr. Phil and I love his show. They're well worth the time.

I know cool people.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Jamal Igle: Rock Star

It's been a while since I posted anything comic related on the blog. Seeing as most of the people that read this are comic fans, that's probably not a good idea on my part. Comic fans that feel neglected are a dangerous lot, especially when they're dressed as Wonder Woman or a Klingon.

Anyway, this is a page of Jamal Igle's pencils from Firestorm #25. I hope I don't get in trouble for posting it, I can't see how it could possibly give up any spoilers to the issue or anything but it's a good example of what I think makes Jamal's pencils so great: Good basic storytelling.

The script for this issue called for a nine panel grid on this page, meaning nine panels of the same size and shape. It limits the layout possibilities for the page, you're tied into that format and it's not the most exciting page layout in the world. I actually like the grid quite a bit, I think it can be used to great effect but at the same's very rigid and unforgiving.

Strike two on this page is that nothing is really happening. It's a scene between Firestorm's father (Alvin) and his girlfriend (can't think of her name, is it Gemma?) sitting and watching a news report and having a conversation. The script is very static visually, there's just nothing exciting happening. Actually, that's not true. To be fair, it's a character building scene and it's very cutely written. But from a visual standpoint, those aren't always the most exciting scenes to look at.

Strike three never crosses the plate on this page because Jamal saves it with a mighty swing of his pencil. His use of body language, expressions, choice of angles for each panel, and plain, old fashioned good drawing skill makes it a much more interesting page than the mental image I got while reading the script.

This is my third full issue over Jamal and, now that my commitment to also inking Batman is finished, I'm able to really devote myself to his pencils. I'm having a great time with his stuff and I feel like I'm really starting to understand how to bring out the best in his art. I don't have an overpowering ink style. Some guys feel the need to impose their own sensibilities over the pencil art. I actively try to remain as invisible as possible and I think I'm slowly starting to understand how to let the best of Jamal's work shine through without getting in the way.

This is on my plate to ink early next week. I'll post my inks for comparison when they're done.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Basic Instinct 2: Electric Boogaloo

I watched the online teaser/preview for Basic Instinct 2 this afternoon and I've gotta say...there's nothing subtle about the marketing plan for this one. They should have just called it "Sharon Stone's Softcore Porn extravaganza."

I was surprised to see so much naked Sharon Stone in the preview because, normally, there's not much full frontal going on in teaser trailers. I would guess there's not much story to be found in the film and they're trying to hide that fact behind 50 year old fake tits.

And I think that's where the movie is going to have a problem or two. Sharon Stone is in great shape for her age but let's face it: She's pushing 50. Personally, if I see her running around naked in a movie now, my first reaction isn't to crane my neck and check her out. The first thought that pops in my head is "There's something you don't see everyday: A naked 50 year old crotch shot."

It sort of loses something but then again, watch the movie be brilliant and win all sorts of awards next year. That'll show how much I know.

The really sad thing is I'll probably buy a ticket just to see what kind of train wreck the movie is.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A happy little clam

Today, I received the first royalty check from my writing stint on JSA. It was substantially more than I was expecting so I did something I very rarely do with money these days: I irresponsibly wasted a good chunk of it. Don't get me wrong, some of it was tucked into savings but the rest was squandered on the sweet new laptop computer I'm typing this on.

On my couch. In my living room. Via wireless connection.

I feel like a king.

Weird how a new toy can do that, can give a person a feeling of accomplishment or pride. I mean, really, it's just a stupid box with a screen on it that my wife is going to use for schoolwork or I will write and email from. But it's also something that I've secretly wanted for a while but could never really justify as an expense. Because it's not something I needed, it was just something I wanted and being a one income family, that's not enough of a reason to buy something anymore.

I'm trying hard not to feel guilty because there are easily 5600 more responsible ways I could have used that money. At the same time, I'm also trying to justify my purchase with the rationale that I work damn hard and damn long and there's nothing wrong with rewarding oneself once in a great while. I'm soothing myself with the idea that there will be two more royalty checks in the next couple of months and I'll be more responsible with those.

But mostly I'm just relaxing with my feet up before I go to bed.