Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Superman versus Nazis poster concepts

Back around the time we created the time travel storyline for Superman, called Time and Time Again, DC had started selling posters again, so I was asked to paint  a poster that could be sold, and also serve to promote our storyline. I started with these three sketches, done rough and sent to the poster editor.

These are on ebay now, click the LINK TO EBAY

Sketch number 1 was chosen, and I drew this tight prelim as a guide for painting. I used marker, so that it would photocopy cleanly. I taped the photocopy over a piece of canvas board, slipped a sheet of home made carbon paper (tracing paper covered with a black chalk) underneath and then traced over the lines on the copy, transferring the chalk layer onto the canvas board. Next I painted the piece in acrylics.
This is a photo of the finished poster, which has been on my studio door long enough to get dinged up:)

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Power of Shazam#18, prelim to finished cover

Here's another preliminary drawing I did, before the painting stage on Power of Shazam#18. I worked out detail, and composition, and also set my perspective on tracing paper (vellum) at same size as the cover art (11 x17"). I used a lightbox  to transfer this image in pencil, to a sheet of 2 ply Strathmore bristol board, and then applied the watercolor paint to the clean board.

    I wanted a warm feel, with sunlight coming through the window, but still wanted it to read "hospital room" with the green radiator. With watercolors on large areas, you have to work fast, and apply color uniformly. That's always a challenge, but with the board taped down to keep it from wrinkling, I apply water to the entire area I want to lay a specific color to, and this helps with drying time, so you can swab paint down into damp paper.
     At this stage, I am pretty sure I hadn't had a clear visual on the menace whose hands are coming for Mary Marvel, except that he'd have been horribly scarred. Peter Krause was drawing the comic's interiors from my scripts, and I believe he actually designed the villain.
     Anyhow, the only other thing to add, is that I used a photo of my wife in this pose, to capture the lighting more realistically. I don't do this very often, but it helps when you want a realistic effect. I think in this case, it made for a more dramatic cover.

Power of Shazam, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment, and used here for educational purposes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

JSA guests in Captain Carrot!

Just ran across an old photocopy of this Captain Carrot page by Scott Shaw, with an appearance by the JSA in the lower left panel, drawn by me. I guess since DC has put the Captain Carrot showcase back on their publishing schedule, this might be relevant. I did a few things like this that kind of flew under the radar. The photocopy was supplied in two pieces, probably by Roy Thomas, in the days before scanners and home printers.  

Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, as well as other related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment, and used for educational purposes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

All Star Squadron Annual #2 cover fun!

So I was scanning art recently, and was reminded of this situation-- where I did a cover and then started over because I was bothered by how it turned out. My memory is a bit hazy, but I am thinking this was  perhaps drawn from a rough sketch supplied by DC, perhaps by Ed Hannigan? I have great respect for Ed, if this was the case, and I drew many covers in 1984-1985 from Ed's cover roughs, but I occasionally had a hard time when an idea would "fight" me. Regardless of the sketch source, this one is clearly publishable, though the flow of it bothered me.

If this had happened today, I would have been tempted to just redraw a few elements and move the rest around in Photoshop to get what I wanted. In 1982 or 1983, I just light-boxed the first one, flopping the main villain from left to right, and lined up the heroes on one side, with the villains on the other. When satisfied, I put a sheet of tracing paper over the cover and pulled out the Design brand markers to draw a color rough, and get dizzy from the marker fumes.

 I wasn't officially paid as a colorist on these covers, but in 90 percent of them, I did a color guide. I suppose this was given to the colorist to follow or not. It wasn't until I worked on Superman that I was allowed to officially color my covers, after a few botched color jobs by others who misinterpreted my guides. At the time, comic colorists were generally trained to use great contrast, and bright color, for the most part. The subtlety of Jack Adler or Stan Goldberg and Marie Severin of the 1960's was mostly gone. Having drawn the images, I knew what I wanted, and also knew that much of what I liked came from inkers who colored their own work, like Klaus Janson and Tom Palmer, at Marvel. Klaus' work on Daredevil was so eye-opening to most of us working in that time, that we all wondered why we couldn't get that level of color on our books. Well, the important thing was that an artist understands the work he or she draws, and while not all have a great color sense, many do.

But comics has always been assembly-line work, and the thinking is that if you are a penciller, you should use your time pencilling, not coloring, or even inking. (forget wanting to write!)

So, in honor of Labor Day, I salute all the comic creators who fought to climb out of their niches to also write, ink, color, publish, edit, whatever. Our generation of creators helped to break the assembly line, but we also broke the notion that comics were "just a job."

All Star Squadron, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment. Used here for educational purposes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Power of Shazam#9 from sketch to finish

Started with this, which was a sketch for DC's promo book for that year, and meant ultimately for an issue of the Power of Shazam. The story in the comic at this point had introduced Mary Marvel and her nemesis Madame Libertine, as well as Captain Marvel Jr and Captain Nazi, so the idea was that this would be a big fight, with the demon Blaze behind the scenes, pulling the strings.

The issue this was slotted for turned out to be Power of Shazam#9, and here I drew a full sized prelim on tracing paper, fairly tightly rendered. This was then traced using a lightbox, onto 2-ply kidd finish Strathmore art paper, in pencil.

Ebay link for prelim here

The color art was done using washes of Dr Martin's watercolor dyes, a very vibrant and transparent medium. Then I often used colored Prismacolor pencils to add extra shading, and also some black ink to punch up the whole thing. These paintings were photographed as film transparencies, and then digitized for print, because we found that digital scanners tended to lose subtleties due to the scanner lights basically bouncing through the color and reflecting back the white of the paper too much. Opaque medium such as gouache or acrylic seem to scan truer, but it generally took me too long painting that way. DC solved the problem, so I continued with the transparent watercolors. What is seen below is the printed comic cover, with the logo and copy in place.

Power of Shazam, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment, and used for educational purposes. No further reproduction of these images is allowed or authorized by the rights holder.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adventures of Superman#441: a tale of two covers

Hey all, I thought I'd post something from the archives. 
This first image is an attempt at a cover to Adventures of Superman#441, and was based on a rough sketch by editor Mike Carlin. I don't seem to have that sketch here, so feel free to imagine Mike's cartoon style rendering a similar layout!
 I fought this one, because Mike's idea conveyed a kind of slapstick humor that I just couldn't pull off to my satisfaction. This is technically fine, and would have been accepted, but I was just not feeling it, so I went back to the drawing table.

 This wound up as the finished cover, and I think it ultimately fits in better, in tone, with what we were selling with the Superman relaunch. Basically we wanted a Superman who could sweat, not effortlessly breeze through very adventure. The interior story, though, is pretty slap-stick in tone. By the time you cracked the comic open, you had already bought it, and enjoyed a light-hearted Myxyzptlk story.
If you are interested in either of these originals, email an offer to ordwayweb@gmail.com
I've had these since 1988, so no lowball offers, okay?

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment, and used here for educational purposes only.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Avengers cover sketch

Avengers cover sketch on ebay HERE

Sketch, and finished printed cover. This was a fun project to do, working with my pal Dan Jurgens who did the companion Fantastic Four Domination Factor mini-series, which told a complete story between the two books.

Avengers and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 Marvel Enterprises

Monday, May 27, 2013

Human Bomb#1 cover sketches on EBAY

Human Bomb#1 cover sketches on Ebay

 This rough color sketch is done in photoshop, and not included in the ebay auction, but I thought you'd appreciate seeing the thought process.
Human Bomb is trademark and copyright by DC Entertainment 2013

Happy Memorial Day

I'd like us to take a moment to honor the United States Armed Forces soldiers who died in service for our country.

Captain America is trademark and copyright 2013 by Marvel Entertainment

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Superman Unchained variant cover by me

I was asked to contribute a special cover for the first issue of Superman Unchained, and I quickly sketched out some ideas for Mark Chiarello at DC Comics to choose from.

The first thumbnail was chosen, though they wanted the image flopped from left to right. Also, Cat Grant was left out because she was kind of squeezed in there in the sketch.

I enlarged the thumbnail up to 11 x17 inches, and then refined it via the light-box onto 2 ply Strathmore paper stock. Inked with a Hunt #102 pen tip as well as a Pitt brush pen for thicker lines using Pelikan yellow label black drawing ink.
 As I was on another tight deadline at the time, I somehow got this done on a Saturday evening with no trouble. As with all drawings, there are things I'd like to fix, but it's as good as it can be, in the time allowed:) That's the motto for anyone working with fixed deadlines. Always try to do better next time, and be happy you made the deadline.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Superman's birthday

Here's a neat commission I did a short while back. Superman is celebrating an anniversary this year, and I'd like to publicly acknowledge his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for their tremendous contributions to pop culture. While comics pre-dated Superman, this one character launched the superhero genre.Thanks, Jerry and Joe.

Superman is trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Power of Shazam poster sketch

Here's the original sketch for the Shazam retail poster done prior to the publication of the full color graphic novel I did. 
From the early 1990's. This was approved as is, and went smoothly to the finish stages, thanks to my editor and pal, Jonathan Peterson. 
The whole project was a fun experience, and DC was very patient in waiting on pages from me, as I was learning as I went along, working in full color. This poster was a way to get something out for sale, while the book was slowly being drawn. I did one other retail poster, Captain Marvel versus Black Adam, that went on sale closer to the book's completion. It was a good way of selling, as well as marketing a 25 dollar hardcover.
EBAY link here, for this sketch  :Shazam poster sketch on ebay

Shazam, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Captain America original sketch

Ebay link here for Captain America sketch

A new sketch done for fun, as I was feeling in a Captain America mood the other day:)

Captain America trademark and copyright Marvel Entertainment 2013.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

All Star Squadron #60, cover image

Here's a clean shot of the art for All Star Squadron #60, scanned with the overlay intact. The star patterns were drawn on a sheet of mylar, and reversed in white against the background color on the printed comic. This is also for sale, though I will pass on the price via email to anyone interested.

All Star Squadron, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 DC Entertainment.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Adventures of Superman #486 cover

I am  posting this scan, of a Superman cover from 1992. This has the lettering on an acetate overlay, and the cover is in great shape, no bends or damage. I had fun drawing this one, and I recall that it is a cover that didn't "fight" me. Any artists out there will know what I mean by that. Sometimes they just flow from the pen or brush, and sometimes (many times) they don't. Back then, cover designs weren't approved by committee, but by the editor (Mike Carlin), and DC's cover editor (I think Curtis King at this time), whose job it was to try and avoid any too-similar designs in a given month.

I'd like to offer this for sale, but I am not sure about doing it here. Any interested can email me at: ordwayweb@gmail.com  I am asking $2200 plus shipping costs, depending on location. Thanks.

Superman is trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the origin of Shazam and Black Adam

Just scanned these, and I think you'll enjoy! Both segments are from issues of the Power of Shazam series, done to help lighten the load for Pete Krause, the regular penciller. I drew on previous Captain Marvel lore, as well as the origin that I set up in the Power of Shazam original graphic novel I produced before the Shazam monthly launched.

The next set are from issue#12 of Power of Shazam, and fill in some gaps in the events leading up to the origin of Billy Batson as Captain Marvel. Billy's CM persona is based on the likeness of his dead father, so we see his dad in an early meeting with the wizard Shazam.

The Power of Shazam and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment

Monday, March 4, 2013

Howard Beale strikes back!

Wow, thanks for the outpouring of comments! I appreciate every one of them, and I want to clarify that yesterday's essay had been simmering for a while, and was brought to the surface by a few things. I had seen comments on the internet, that  the reason I wasn't on regular assignments had to do with me being semi-retired, or perhaps independently wealthy:) Neither is true. I also was at a bookstore this past weekend, looking at a big book on DC, a history, year by year. It reminded me of how many noteworthy DC universe projects I've been involved in over the 33 years in comics.

My intent was not to garner sympathy, because I have a fine life, and career. I am doing fine, and have more commission requests than I can handle right now. I wanted to pull back the curtain a bit, to show a little of what goes on behind the scenes. I made it clear that I chose my path, I made the decisions, and I don't have any real regret, except for staying with the DC exclusive contract when it wasn't really helping me.

I brought up the contract issue of not getting work, while being exclusive to DC, because I have heard from others who were in the same situation, who might not feel free to publicly say anything about it. DC comics  has always been fair to me, and honored signed deals with no problems whatsoever, in all the years I worked for them, except in this one instance. To take this further, I think that if DC had, say six artists, that they DESIRED enough to sign to exclusive contracts, then those six artists should have all been incorporated into the New 52 launch. You assign the folks whom you have obligations to FIRST, then hire others. That's called honoring the contract that you as a company drew up and signed.  Personally, I was surprised that I wasn't included. I contacted plenty of editors when I was open, and I wasn't even told of the plans to relaunch. I pitched story ideas, and did my best to contact any who could help me, finally resorting to contacting Jim Lee on Twitter. Jim probably got me onto a list of creators that Palmiotti and Grey saw, when they were planning their Freedom Fighters mini-series.

DC chose 52 artists over me, and let me twiddle my thumbs for a full 3 months while they tried to find inventory work for me. I knew I wasn't currently in anyone's "top ten" artists, but to find that I wasn't in the top 52 was a shock:). If any of you are ever asked to be exclusive to any company, make sure they will incur penalties if they can't keep you busy:)  I had that clause when I first signed, but the renewals did away with it because "it wasn't really needed." D'oh!

So anyhow, don't feel sorry for me--I don't want that. Don't use this as an excuse to bash DC over their new books, but DO use this to understand the life of a freelance creator. We pay for our own healthcare, we pay an extra tax known as the self employment tax, and we all work strange long hours trying to make sure your comics ship on time. Support comics by the creators you like! Every sale helps. Support the independent publishers, and the small press comics, because they are putting their hearts and souls into their creations without any advance payments or page rates.

 I know it's easy to be negative, and throw out comments like"Everything new sucks, why can't we have 1980's comics again," but don't stop buying comics, and then remain on the sidelines complaining.  If you like comics, stay in the game, search out books you think you might like, look for familiar creators you like. Your dollars count, and if you support what you like, and support your local comic stores, it helps us all. Buy from smaller publishers! Competition is what pushed DC and then Marvel to initiate royalties on comic sales, putting creator names on covers, raising rates, etc. With the industry dominated by a few, there is no incentive to treat freelancers better. People joke about the content of the Image comics at their launch, but Image Comics' success forced other companies to pay creators better, rather than lose them to creator owned books.

When I started professionally in comics, in the Summer of 1980, comics were printed on the cheapest paper known to anyone except the toilet paper manufacturers, and the big publishers all bemoaned the state of the business. Then things started to change. DC made great strides, and created deals to lure talent to their ranks. People were offered equity in new character creations, royalties came into play, new formats were targeted to the new, direct sales market, and there was growth in the industry again. People were enjoying more creative freedoms, freelance rates were raised, and this wave lasted through the Image launch and the comic book "boom" time of 1991-1994. Once creator owned books were no longer guaranteed to earn a creator the equivalent of a DC or Marvel page rate, the power reverted back to the publishers with big pockets. Since then, page rates have been flat, and year by year, and with a glut of freelancers available, the publishers have treated everyone with less respect.

The time is now:
I think that the comic fans who feel like they've been abandoned could organize and be a force for change. I hear from so many of you, that there's nothing to buy that interests you, except for reprints of older stuff. If you can all rally around me, based on my blog post, then let's see you rally around books by creators you like. If I had a kickstarter, I would love your support. I know of plenty who have crowd-funded projects who could use your support. Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, Jamal Igle, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, all did or are doing their own stuff. And there are many many others. Support them! Support Image books.  We all love comics, or we wouldn't be here right now, correct? Your local comic store probably needs your business as much as I do. If any of your favorite creators solicits a book through Previews, please pre-order a copy, and try and talk it up to the owner, in hopes they will stock a few extras to be discovered by a customer or two.

Whatever ire I've stirred in you, it needs a positive outlet. Hopefully something good can come out of my rantings. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life over fifty

I want to address a few things that have  been bothering me a lot lately. Bear with me, if you're a fan of my work or not. This comes from my perspective, with over 33 years in the comic book industry, and my experiences are common to many of your favorite seasoned comic books creators.

First off, I want you all to understand that I welcome , nourish and encourage new blood in the comic book world.  I think it's healthy for any industry, to be welcoming to new talent. When I started in comics, in 1980, many of my artistic heroes were in the same age group I myself am in now. I was thrilled to be in the same club as Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, John and Sal Buscema, John Romita, Don Heck, Gray Morrow and many many others. They were all valued for their skills, and their experience, and most if not all all worked steadily into their 70's, or until they passed away. 

In my own experience, I have worked most of my years for DC Comics, and that was by choice. The people who worked there were good people, and I still call many of them friend. Like any young artist, I had offers to work elsewhere, and occassionally dipped my toe into other company's ponds, but always came back to DC. At DC, I have had many successes, and opportunities. I was thrilled to help establish the All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc with Roy Thomas. I was thrilled to be part of the original "Crisis" as well as "Zero Hour" and "Infinite Crisis," all major DC character event comics. I was thrilled to help DC share in the success of the 1989 blockbuster "Batman" movie by drawing one of the best selling comic book movie adaptations ever. 

I poured my heart and soul into reviving the character of Superman, working alongside John Byrne and Marv Wolfman at first, later graduating to writing Superman's adventures alongside people who became my best friends. I left the Superman universe at a time when our successes paved the way for a TV series, "Lois and Clark" as well as an unsuccessful attempt to bring the Death of Superman to the big screen with Tim Burton and Nic Cage. Superman as a property was revived, and led to a ton of Death of Superman merchandise, a higher profile in the public eye, and renewed interest among kids.  A cartoon series did make it on the air, and was terrific. Smallville the tv series owes a lot to what happened when I was involved in the comics.

 I moved on to pouring my soul into reviving Captain Marvel, and it was a wonderful experience that lasted through an original graphic novel, and 48 regular issues of the monthly comic plus an annual. After that, I seemed to suffer from the cancellation of Shazam, and a firing from the Superman books I had been invited back to, before I even started. Bad feelings ensued, and I stopped working for DC.

I went to work at Marvel for a few years, and enjoyed my work on the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, as well as drawing the company wide crossover "Maximum Security: and the spin off USAgent mini-series. When my opportunities dried up at Marvel, I went to work on a smattering of Wildstorm books, on comics such as Tom Strong, Top Ten, Planetary and a mini-series with Hollywood writers Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo, "Red Menace."

I returned to DC as well, drawing Wonder Woman with Walt Simonson writing, and then fell into the situation of being a "fill-in" artist, jumping from title to title, sometimes drawing a whole issue or two, sometimes drawing only a partial issue, when the regular artists were either in deadline trouble, or unavailable. I was offered, and accepted an exclusive DC contract in hopes that this would somehow help me to land a regular assignment, and steady work. After 9 years of being the guy who was thrown at late deadline material, I was still not any closer to getting regular work, nor was I being treated by the company as a valued employee. In my last year on exclusive contract, I was starved of work. Kind of hard to believe, but there it was.The contract had no clause to require DC to give me a minimum amount of work, as this problem never happened in the past, and could have happen, or so I thought at the time.  I drew the last two issues of JSA so that the regular artist could jump onto one of the new "52" comic launches. After that, I spent the summer trying to use whatever connections I had to get work-- any work. I was finally given a short Batman themed story to draw, a story that was never published. Dan Didio kindly invited me to join him on a new Challengers story, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey asked for me on their Freedom Fighters re-launch. That manifest itself as the now concluding Human Bomb four issue series, done after my contract expired, but promised while the contract was still in effect. 

I am thrilled to be well remembered, and respected in the comic book community, and to have fans willing to pay me to draw commissions, but I got into comics in order to tell stories, not to draw custom art. I still feel vital, and still want to be at that table. Do I think DC comics owes me anything? Yes and no. I understand that no company owes anything that isn't contractually stipulated, but in my heart, I think I deserve better than being marginalized over the last 10 years. I'm not retired, I'm not financially independent. I'm a working guy with a family, working for a flat page rate that hasn't changed substantially since 1995. I may have opportunities at smaller companies, companies that pay less per page than I made in 1988, with no royalties or ownership of any kind. I'm not at all looking down at that, but it is hard to reconcile, as I can't work faster, and refuse to hack my work out to match the rate. I have pride in what I do, and always have. As to my part in the history of dc for the past 33 years, I was a highly visible and successful part of it, not a minor footnote.

Getting back to the beginning of this essay, and to the artists I loved as a kid, all I ask is for some of the same consideration my generation of creators and editors gave to the older guard in the 1980's. My work is still sharp, my mind is still full of stories to tell, and I'm still willing to work all hours of my day to meet my deadlines. Why am I out of work from the publishers? Why are my friends, people who turned in great work, worthy of hardcover and trade paperback reprints, not able to get work? 

As a comic reader and customer, the publishers use our older work in collected editions, for what they call first copy royalties, no reprint fees. They publish the All Star Squadron trade, for example and you buy it for whatever the cost. My royalty is maybe a couple hundred dollars, if I'm lucky, for 11 issues worth of work. On a recent Absolute Infinite Crisis hardcover, I had 30-odd pages reprinted in there, a book that retailed for over a hundred dollars-- a book that DC never even gave me a copy of, and the royalty amounted to a few dollars, I couldn't buy a pizza on that windfall. I want to work, I don't want to be a nostalgia act, remembered only for what I did 20, 30 years ago.

Older fans need to voice their opinions, and ask the various companies why (fill in the blank) person isn't drawing or writing comics for them anymore. If you like the Superman books enough to spend a hundred dollars on a volume, I don't understand why your buying power can't wake the companies up to the fact that they have a willing and able talent pool idling. 

Oh and put in a good word or two for me as well, why don't you:)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gene Colan pencils, Detective#523 gallery

Hi, this was scanned from photocopies sent to me by DC Comics in around 1986, I think, in order to entice me to ink this Gene Colan Batman story. One page is missing here, and page one was redrawn, I assume at the editor's request.
I grew up reading and loving Gene's work on Daredevil, and all the other stuff he did at Marvel, so I turned this assignment down with much regret. I just didn't have the time to ink it, and figured I would always get another chance to ink a childhood favorite of mine! Well, it never happened, with the sole exception of a commission I did via light-box, in the early 2000's. 
The thing to remember when studying these pencils, is that there is a lot to interpret, as an inker, here. You could ink it exactly as drawn, but would have to interpret areas where gene indicates tone, not solid black. This is where many inkers went astray on his work, and why guys like Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson, and Dick Giordano, to name a few, excelled on his pencils. They used varying techniques such as dot patterned films, or lines the approximate the grey tones on the pencils.

Batman and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment. Used here for educational purposes only, no reproduction is allowed without permission.