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    Archive for the 'Artwork' Category

    Thanksgiving 2017

    Messing around today, Thanksgiving Day, 2017. Have a happy one!

    Kit, Cat and Kapoodle

    A short animated film I helped create with my good friend, Mike Milo. Mike animated the whole thing as part of his job working for Adobe, demonstrating the use of their animation software, Adobe Animate, on a weekly webcast he does. I wrote the script and did the soundtrack. Eric Scott Fisher painted the backgrounds. Our friend Marcus Hirn did the animatic.

    These are a couple of characters (two scrappy alley-kittens and a snooty, filthy rich poodle)  that Mike and I have spent years batting ideas around for. Finally, here's their first cartoon. 


    Some of Mike's production drawings from the film:




    35 Years Ago


    When I was a kid I could often be found late at night underneath the covers drawing my attempts at comic books by flashlight.

    I’ve somehow managed to preserve quite a few of them.

    Yes, pretty terrible but cut me some slack I was 9.

    I got a chuckle running across this one. In it our hero “The Raccoon Kid” (so named because he fancied himself a western outlaw, not a super hero and seemed to resent being called on for help) is awakened from a nap by a phone call from current president… Jimmy Carter.

    I recently published "The Mystery of the Missing Cheeseball" by author Gwen Parks. (A pen name, respecting parent's and author's wish for anonimity.) Gwen was just 7 when she wrote the book, which I had fun illustrating for her. Now with the advent of nearly instant digital publishing, we figured it might be fun to release it as a $.99 Kindle book. 


    I figured it would be a fun project to release for Amazon's kindle (it's also in release for Barnes & Nobel's Nook platform) but as I discovered… digital publishing is more difficult than I at first realized. Kindle publishing is made out to be as simple as export from Microsoft Word straight to Kindle format, but as I was to learn the second you start adding things like illustrations, the process gets a lot more difficult. 

    First of all- the tools that exist to do the job are woefully primitive. With traditional publishing, one designs a page layout, a typeface, etc. and the final printed copy retains it. Pages are individual elements: What's on page 7, remains on page 7. With an eBook, the reader can change the layout at will- make the fonts bigger or smaller, read it on devices ranging from the size of a phone to a 10" iPad or a computer monitor, etc. So there is no such thing as 'Page 7', for example. There are only locations within the document that can be linked via a table of contents (much like web links). Page count means nada.

    I equate it to the dawn of web-pages on the Internet. Anyone that ever did page layout of any sort and then had to code pages for the web in the early days was ready to pull their hair out. Layout? Design? Proper font choice? Forget all of it. (And do people remember just how HORRIBLE most web-pages used to look? I mean… just atrocious, but that's all the design tools and browsers at the time allowed for.)

    The web has since reached some level of design cohesion since the advent of CSS. But most Kindle books look like crap. At the most basic level, there's no embedded fonts, no page layout, no inline images, very little formatting (like bold, italic, etc.) and just barebones text that the reader is in control of.

    Illustrations make things even trickier. Luckily, we own the full gamut of device screen sizes to test things on. (By the way, it surprises me how many other publishers obviously don't do the full range of testing- I can see when they haven't when viewing books across various devices.) With just a barebones HTML coding effort, the book looked perfect at cellphone size, on a black and white Amazon Kindle, and on a 7" Android tablet. But the images were stretched oddly on the iPod Touch and iPhone (4 and 5). 

    But when viewed on a 10" HD tablet, the images were postage stamp size. (This by the way, is what I notice most from publishers that publish to the Kindle format testing on Kindles and 7" devices, but not larger 10" devices.) So I had to examine and alter the images and code to look good on 10" devices as well- sounds easy, but there's virtually zero information out there about how to do this properly. Finally, I got things looking good at 10", but the iOS stretching problem persisted until I figured out a way to squash that as well. The final book looked and performed as expected across the full range of devices, both black and white and color, from the smallest 3.5" screen to a full 10" HD screen.

    Anyway, I've since figured out that I can get back some of the design freedom I'm more comfortable with by using InDesign. It even allows embedding fonts (although that's a whole minefield of issues since a publisher MUST own the right to use any embedded fonts since one is creating a published work).

    Currently, I'm hard at work porting my own books to Kindle, Nook and iOS with full color illustrations. This project was fun to learn the basic ins-and-out first, and now I'm really glad I did as there's a lot more to it than I thought.  

    Mike Milo on Digital Storyboarding

    My good friend Mike Milo (whom I've known for nearly 30 years now!) has a really cool article on AutoDesk's sketchbook.com. (Autodesk is the company that makes iconic 3D design software like Maya, AutoCAD, Alias, 3D Studio Max and Sketchbook Pro.)

    Check out Part One of what will be a three-part series:

    Digital Storyboarding – Part One


    An example of one of Mike's awesome character animation layout sheets from Disney TV Animation back in the day: (click to view full-sized image)


    digital-storytelling-Fig-2 timon

    Outside of Chuck Jones, circa 1944 to around 1955, I don't know of anyone in the animation industry that draws animated characters as well as Mike!

    Joe Kubert (1926-2012)


    It was with sadness that I saw news reporting the passing of comic book legend Joe Kubert at the age of 85. Here's the New York Times article. 

    I grew up a huge fan of Joe Kubert. He was always one of my favorite artists. Just seeing his iconic signature (with the K and T of Kubert enveloping his name) on a comic book cover meant a real treat awaited.

    He was the long time editor-in-chief of DC Comics, but of course it was as an artist that I knew and loved his work best. Among comic book artists, his balance of black and white contrast was at the top of the heap. I feel his work is best represented in the original black and white line art, minus the color. His drawings were always gritty and organic (perfectly suited to brutal tales of war and adventure that he drew for DC) but at the same time his detailed renderings of machines and weapons were always spot-on. 

    Graphic artists measure their work in 'pencil mileage' and if Joe's could be accurately calculated, it would probably be one of those astonishing figures like "enough to reach the moon and back" or some such. He penciled and inked thousands of comic books from the 1940's into the 2000's. Kubert is known for super heroes like Hawkman, the jungle hero "Tor" but he's probably best known for war comics, and specifically the WWII character, Sgt. Rock.  

    Star Spangled War Stories #144 Feb. 1969

    My favorite Kubert-created character was always Enemy Ace, a WWI era German pilot not unlike the Red Baron; a character with a fearsome reputation who was in reality a reluctant killer.

    2 -page splash and detail from Star Spangled War Stories #149  December, 1969

    War comics are seen today as an oddity; we now take war much too seriously (as we should) and comics much to lightly to conceive of the two together. But what I liked about the DC war comics that's probably hard to understand today, is that they didn't glorify war. They were all created by veterans (including Kubert) who understood it from a first hand perspective. A lot of them were surprisingly anti-war in tone, sometimes almost preachy that it was a terrible, wasteful thing. But at the same time, there was a message of the need to stand up to the world's tyrants, and indeed that among those types falls much of the blame.  Most of the stories and characters were about ordinary people thrust into the horrors of warfare against their will, and then having to survive. No, they weren't always the greatest stories, but they were compelling, and Joe Kubert's artwork did justice to many of the best of them. 

    Brave and the Bold #34 March 1961.

    The Joe Kubert School

    From 1986 to 1989 I attended the art school founded by Joe Kubert in Dover, New Jersey. I'll never forget talking to Joe Kubert for the first time via telephone in 1985, after I had submitted my portfolio to attend the Kubert School. Commenting on my (admittedly dreadful at the time!) artwork, he told me that I certainly showed ambition to be a comic book artist, and if I was willing to do the work and wanted to attend the school, I was welcome.  At the age of 17 to even be talking to a comic legend I grew up reading was amazing, let alone to be granted entry into his art school!

    I had seen ads for the Kubert School a thousand times in the back of comic books I'd read as a kid, and I always had it in the back of my mind that I would go there and learn the art of comics from the giants of the industry.

    My first year at the Kubert School was in many ways my introduction to the real world. I was away from home for the first time, among a crowd of would-be artists, writers and illustrators my own age for the first time, and immersed in how grueling the art of comics truly is.

    As Joe used to say, forget nine to five, if you're not at a desk drawing for eleven, twelve, even sixteen hours a day, you probably won't make it in this business. My first year was mostly that; hunched over a desk drawing, learning first hand how back-breaking the business of comic illustration really was. Class and hands on instruction from the industry veteran teachers was just a small part of the course- back in the dorms, most students could be found hunched over their drawing tables struggling to complete assignments at all hours of the day and night. Like most of my fellow students, I tried to balance the crazy curriculum with the crazy social life of a newly on his own 18 year old kid far from home. (Back breaking days/partying nights/hung over backbreaking days… repeat. The only thing that was a problem at 18 was the hung over part, and not dealing with it, finding ways to get that way without being 21.)

    Frankly, Joe was right. I wouldn't have made it in that business. My first year at the Kubert School taught me that my first love, animation, was more my calling than being a comic book artist. (The Kubert School was split into two majors, comic art and animation) I gravitated to hanging out with the 'animation people', like my good friend Mike Milo, and by my 2nd year was convinced that the animation side of the school was more for me, and I graduated from the Animation dept. in 1989.

    One of the directors I work with at the big F is a Kubert School alumni as well, and over the years I've met quite a handful of them in the industry. Many people who started out as comic book artists have also over the years made their way into the animation industry as storyboard and background artists among other things, as many of the skills required overlap.


    I'll always have fond memories of Joe Kubert himself, as I knew him from the school. Mostly, he was a very approachable guy, and he didn't mind 'ignorant noob-art student' questions about the artistic techniques and the comic business. Like many of the industry professionals that taught there, Joe's office at the school was really his workshop, where he could be found doing his latest work for DC, Marvel or independent publishers. 

    We used to tease him about being a bit stingy, like the time my 2nd year animation department complained about the lack of heat upstairs in the animation side of the school in the New Jersey winter. I could often see my breath in front of my face and we all ran personal space heaters next to our desks until we blew the fuses out every 10 minutes or so. Joe's rousing response was "You guys need pencil and paper, you don't need heat," and the rallying cry, "You're not chained to this school. If you don't like it, you can leave." No one left.

    Other than freezing my ass off in the winters, I enjoyed the hell out of attending Kubert School and wouldn't trade that experience for the world. I graduated in 1989 and began hitting the New York City pavement looking for animation work in the cuthroat Madison Avenue industry which had virtually no tolerance for 'noobs'. In 1990, when a west coast video game company called Sierra On-Line came calling at the Kubert School looking for traditional animators, it was the school's administrator -Kubert's daughter-in-law Debbie Kubert- that recommended my friend Mike Milo and myself to Sierra. A few months later I was living in California, doing animation in the then nearly brand-new field of computer video games.

    My friends and I that attended Joe's school tell war stories about it, but I'm always thankful for the experience. I owe it my lasting friendships made with people there, the start of my career, and much of whatever artistic skills I do possess . I'm thankful Joe Kubert took it upon himself to found such a place where his considerable talents  could help shape the career paths of so many others.

    Thanks for everything, Joe.   Rest In Peace. 

    Back Cover

    The in progress back cover art for "The Great Honeybee Heist"- a kids book I've been writing on and off (mostly off) since 2004.

    Cartoon Violence

    Cleaning out the house and garage recently, I've unearthed quite a stash of original artwork.

    Many years ago, my friend Mike Milo and I got the opportunity to write and draw Itchy and Scratchy for Matt Groening's line of comic books based on the Simpsons.

    I & S is the cartoon that Bart Simpson watches- a bizarre ultra-violent parody of Tom and Jerry and the whole genre of cat vs. mouse chase cartoons. It was way too much fun dreaming of funny ways for Itchy (the mouse) to carve up hapless Scratchy, and we had a blast writing and drawing the series until parents actually started closely examining the 'funny book' they bought their little ones at the local 7-Eleven:

    A flood of protest letters followed, and Fox pulled the plug. (Not to mention, how much can you really do with this concept?)


    Weirder still: while I & S was still on the comic racks, not to be outdone, WB (now owners of Tom and Jerry) approached us to write and draw a slightly more violent version of the original cat and mouse team! Basically, the original was copycatting the parody.

    Here's a couple of pages from the first issue. I believe the comic book was actually released in Asia, but not the states. Some editor at WB's comic division probably realized that it was a dreadful idea to begin with- and I & S got canned anyway.  But hey, it's what they asked for.

    Picture Book Project

    Leila and I are working together on a picture book. The above is a snippet from one of the page spreads. I'm really excited to be working with Leila on a project that we've wanted to do for some time now. It's definitely a very, very busy year for our own creative projects. 


    I've really been wanting to restore some of the old comic books my friend Mike and I used to draw from 1986 to 1994. We did them mainly to amuse ourselves and practice writing and illustrating stories. Most of our stories were the misadventures of an amphomorphic Hippo named Charlie, and his pal Louie, a hedgehog. I've always liked animal characters to avoid any issues of what race the characters are; animals are just animals. Plus we were both always inspired by the old Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics of the 1940's and 50's.

    A page from a 1993 issue of "Zaptoon Tales" penciled by my friend Mike Milo, and inked/lettered by me. I'm contemplating re-publishing some of our old comics, but it's a daunting task to sift through the hundreds of pages we cranked out, and ready them for publication.

    A stack of original pages from a 1992 issue of Zaptoon Tales. I placed a nickel on the top page for a size comparison. These larger 11 x17 originals are tough to get in a scanner- basically to digitize for print I have to do them one panel-row at a time, per page.

    47 pages from a 1992 issue. Over the years, some of art has yellowed considerably, and the original white-out and zip-a-tone in some cases is cracking.  Luckily scanning restores the art to crisp black and white. Mostly I want to preserve these for my own sake, not because I really think our comics were all that great for anyone else to read. It's just one of those things you hate to see turn to dust with the passage of time.

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