It’s taken us a long time to get to this point. Usually we would offer the original art after each issue, but with Overture being on such a strange schedule we decided it best to wait until the series was complete. The plan will be to offer one issue at a time. We are considering a week apart for each issue as well. And hopefully we’ll be able to do that in October, or when the release of Hardcover edition arrives early November. These details of where, when, and how will be posted in the next couple of weeks. But we thought it wise to start talking about it now, so those of you want a piece can start saving your pennies.
Sandman Overture 5 is finally here. Each chapter of this feels like it gets more difficult to do than the previous. And sometimes that is isn’t from how much to be drawn, but rather than what not to draw. This chapter explores that a little in places. weaving in and out from open negatives spaces to mind-bending strangeness. Sandman, as always, is a challenge. Here is the cover with and without text…
Last post was about some of my work for Milestone (the old DC imprint version of them). There I mentioned doing a Static Shock piece, arguably Milestone’s most famous creation. So I’m posting that this time as a follow up. This was done for a special centered on the character, and surprisingly I was asked to do the cover. I didn’t expect that because I’ve never been associated with the character in the past– but some other really great artists were. Those guys set up such a distinct feel for the character that I wasn’t sure I could get away from that, do my own thing, because the visual style they created for him was so strong. But I felt I really needed to push it another direction if I was going to do it. I didn’t see the point of me doing it unless I could bring something different to the mix. Most of the past interpretations of Static have been very graphic minded, thick lines and chunks of blacks. So I decided to see what he would be like with a more realistic approach, but somehow retain the graphic punch of the character. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. But what helped in the effectiveness of this particular composition was the color choices being equal parts muted and bold vibrancy. I also wanted some 70s funk music visuals as color inspirations, there was a certain type of vividness in some of the more wild visual presentation from some of that great funk stuff. So I thought pulling a little of that into this was a cool thing. It gave it that slightly unique vibe, setting it apart from the typical superhero iconography just enough, without losing it entirely. The other aspect I want to point out is the symbolism, I thought it pertinent to show him breaking through a stone ceiling, rising up and out of it into the sky. The stone ceiling representing the impenetrable hardness that many black characters come up against when trying to find an uplifted place in entertainment media, especially comics. Static Shock is one of the few that seems to have broken the cycle, making his way to other forms of media and attention, and more of that to come apparently, good for him. But he isn’t enough, there really needs to be more. It’s a bit ridiculous that there still is not more black or other ethnic heroes in the broader popular entertainment culture, considering that Marvel’s Black Panther first appeared in the mid 60’s. Below is also the logo text placement version I did for the image, having the electric energy breaking between the words. I had a really good time doing this one, I think that shows.
This week is another lesser known piece. Very early in my career I wasn’t getting work, couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to my stuff. Not until meeting Howard Chaykin, who in a single hour at a con became my advocate at the DC booth. He got eyes on my samples, forever changing my life. And from that came business cards, and from that came probably at least 80 pestering phone messages left by me to offices in NY until one day somebody decided to call me back. That somebody was Milestone, the forward progressive thinking venture that was supported by DC Comics at the time. Looking back at the quality of my work back then, I probably should NOT have been given a job, but I was. So I did my best to make it as good as I could. It was fill-in work on Blood Syndicate, a very interesting and diverse group. That lead to Deathwish for Milestone, another progressive forward thinking mini-series that partially dealt with lead character transgender issues within the frame work of crime fiction, interesting thoughtful material. Again, I did the best I could, I was improving. I loved Milestone, some really great comics came out of there, and was proud to briefly be there. I wish it had continued, it deserved to be an ongoing success, doing comics with fully fledged diverse characters works, this should be a no-brainer. It’s a bit disheartening to think that there still isn’t full on equal diversity within mainstream comics. It’s certainly better than it has been in the past, but there isn’t anything currently on the shelves as full with it as Milestone was. So I suppose that because where and how my career over time has moved, the types of stories I’ve engaged throughout, that even though my skills weren’t really up to snuff I did start where I should have. A type of thinking I believed in, that continues to this day. So the piece I’ve selected is from much later but relates in that it is from a Milestone special published many years later, now that my skills were really better. This time I was given the opportunity to pick the character, I chose Hardware, one of Milestones more famous concepts. Later I also did a Static Shock piece, Milestone’s most well known character, I’ll post that another time. With Hardware, I thought there was something about the tech-armor character interesting to the eye. I decided to go with the man in the machine aspect. But wanted to find this strange hybrid of influences coming together– a vaguely Kirby meets Moebius meets African folk-art thing– something that wasn’t the typical action pin-up or glory shot. I kept the colors bold and direct, which I think helped push some of what I was after. One of my favorite bits in the piece are the indications of little mechanical crustaceans. I have this obsession with placing references to sea life in my work where I can get it in. The image is a decent file, but if I come across a higher res version in my archives I’ll switch it out, but at least for now you can see the design intentions clearly.
Today I’ve selected another piece not seen much. The very talented Brian Churilla created a uniquely cool series called The Secret History Of D.B. Cooper, published by the good people of Oni Press. It has this wonderful mix of strange mystery and surrealism that I really could get into. They asked me to do a variant cover for the series. Brian was going for a sort of pop art very graphic nature to the covers for this, so I wanted to do the same but without duplicating the exact feel of his images, to do my own take. The story dealt with alternate realities with touches of noir. I decided it would be interesting to really play that up for the composition, showing Cooper crossing realities through use of a very simple split composition that acts as a device of seeing the character in two realities, but more symbolically and through use of action movement, having the art change in style and techniques depending on which dimension side you’re viewing while also remaining one single image. By use of textures and style changes, keeping the backgrounds very simplistic allows for all of the focus to remain on the action. And as that action crosses into another dimension it was key in having that transition line be very simple, almost subtle but not quite, to not interfere with the action immediacy. The really fun part about this idea was showing this hint of a Lovecratian creature crossing through the dimensions, and having its colors shift depending which dimensional side you look at, and then do the same idea to D.B. as he is on the attack. I’m displaying the piece below without text, and then two versions of the logo treatment. The first logo treatment was attempting to play on the dimensional dividing line in the art, applying that to how the logo and text fit compositionally with the image. A decent enough idea, but it was decided that it just wasn’t popping enough, so the second version is what we went with, it pops with a little more color. As fun as it was to do this piece, it was so much more fun getting to read the book, which everyone should do.
The piece I’ve selected this week was something I never thought I’d ever do: Star Wars! A few years ago I was contacted by the Lucas people saying that they were going to produce an Art Of Star Wars Comics art-book, and they were interested in me contributing something for it. I was quick to point out that I’ve ever been involved in doing Star Wars comics except for 3 covers I had done for a mini a long time ago. I wasn’t known as a Star Wars artist. In reply, that didn’t matter, that they were selecting from a small group of people to commission new pieces. I asked if I could create my own character, something new, since it was going to be a new piece. Yes! I wanted to do that because I had an idea for a piece that was to feel like a snippet of a Star Wars story we hadn’t seen. And I also wanted it to be be a very subtle homage to Jack Kirby giant monsters. But instead of it being a creature, it’s a giant war machine that looks like a creature, piloted by empire troopers. The idea was that it was facing off, like a western showdown, with one lone jedi on some alien desert world. The jedi being the lone hero in the face an evil invading force. I also wanted this to not feel like my typical work in terms of techniques. I wanted it to feel like something closer to classic fantasy illustration. The result is a wide fold out image of sequential art, not a splash poster type of thing. I used the width of it to loosely convey in design for the middle tier of panels the vague shape of a lightsaber, as the actual lightsaber in the story flickers to life. The entire image was rendered in black and white greytones, ink, and ink wash, then scanned into photoshop and digitally painted it. Normally for something I paint I do that work physically on the board. But with this I wanted to make absolute certain I had completely control over the clarity of the colors, so I went with digital paint. This also was helpful in keeping the design work very clean. The odd thing was that the hardest part of the entire image was getting the lightsaber and laser fire to look correct, graphically solid but still feel like energy bolts and blade, to feel like Star Wars. It was surprisingly difficult to get that effect cleanly. Looking back on it, I wish I had the lightsaber flickering to life in those middle panels with the blade running completely off on the right side of the page, literally coming out of the images entirely. Ultimately though, I think the sequence is relatively successful in capturing the feel of Star Wars, slightly filtered through my own sensibilities.
Out today is Sandman Overture 4 special edition. I ended up doing a decent length interview for this, talking about process with editor Sara Miller, hope it’s amusing. And we used some photos in spots that show my mess of a workspace. Yay.
This time I’ve selected a set of pages that was from a not as well known project. Back when we still actually had Wildstorm, before it got fully absorbed into the DCU, they published many different types of really good creator owned books. Much like what has become much more popular in the market today. One of the them I was involved in, besides Promethea and Desolation Jones was a little labor of love called Wild Girl, written by the very talented Leah Moore and John Reppion, and drawn by the incomparable Shawn McManus with a little help from myself. Each issue featured a short sequence aspect that was a story inside the main story. Leah and John asked for me to do these special segments. I suspect that had something to do with seeing that I could tackle various styles and they really wanted each of these brief story segments to be unique from each other and from the main look of the book that Shawn was handling. I loved the concept of this series, and liked the idea of being able to do something radically different each chapter. Playing around with different styles and techniques is something I really can’t help myself from doing, so any opportunity to make that work in the context of the greater narrative is something I relish. The pages below are my complete sequence from the final chapter of the series, and one of my favorites to do. It pushed expectations in ways that excited me. A story about about gods of India, so I wanted to give it all a sort of eastern hand-painted folk-art look, but also had to keep it feeling like comics. An interesting challenge. The result is something unique, and not what one typically thinks of when thinking comics. I keep asking for this series to get collected into tpb, so people can discover it again. It was interesting material and a pleasure to work on.
Sticking with the theme of cosmic from last week– here is that relatively unpublished Warlock cover I mentioned. It was meant to be for issue 6, but with that particular series being canceled at issue 4 or 5 it never saw a full a release. I think it may have been used in the tpb of the story, can’t remember for certain. The fun thing for me about this is the pose I chose. Not many know this, but I love Ultraman. One of the all-time greatest Japanese live action monster versus space-alien hero shows. I remember fondly being eager to get home from school when I was a kid to catch the latest 30 minutes (with commercials) campy bliss of it all. It was that show and along the Adam West Batman TV episodes, and numerous anime shows from then that sparked my fertile young mind. At the time there wasn’t really anything like Ultraman being shown regularly, other than Godzilla flicks (love those too). Back then I had no idea that what I was watching was from the 1960s. There was so much crazy mind buzzing things going with that Japanese stuff. I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. To this day I get giddy over the concepts and characters, I still really dig this cheesy campy stuff. But at this point you’re probably asking what the hell does this have to do the Warlock cover below… You see, there was an often used iconic shot whenever SSSP senior member Hayata used this device that turned him into the enigmatic silver and red giant alien Ultraman. It’s one of those things that just doesn’t go away from my brain, forced tight perspective angles, permanently imprinted glory. So, for this Warlock cover I decided to try to capture that same effect. It came out somewhat alright. When I look at it, I want to imagine the sound effects and cheesy heroic music as its companion. I’m not certain at all why I ended up associating doing a Warlock cover with my fascination of Ultraman. Perhaps it’s the graphic design nature of both characters, some subliminal correlation taking place, I don’t know. Or… perhaps it’s just simply they’re both cool as hell.
Quite some time ago I was given the opportunity to redesign Warlock for Marvel. This was way back before all of the film stuff for them went into play. The formidable Greg Pak was tasked to write a new series, and for some reason the people in charge felt I could contribute something to the new design, and also do the covers for the series. Charlie Adlard was the interior artist, and as always did a great job. Unfortunately the thing just didn’t take off, and so it was abruptly cancelled at issue 4, resulting in an unpublished cover (I’ll post that later). I’ve always loved Warlock, one of my all time favorite Marvel stories, the stuff by Jim Starlin was/is a tremendous inspiration. So being asked to be involved in an attempt to bring the character back, I was excited over the prospects. The trick for me was to try do something visually new with the character while very much adhering to what made him visually strong in the first place, staying true to the right feel, to do my best not to defile Starlin’s golden child. It was daunting, but the result is pretty interesting. It’s too bad this wasn’t coming out now. I think it would’ve been a hit now. With the new interest in cosmic Marvel happening, and excitement over what future films may bring in this area, I thought it would be cool to post these two images. The first is my final design, color by me. The next is the first issue cover for that series, color by my pal Dave Stewart
Well, in an attempt to keep things relatively active here (I’ve been very neglectful)– I’m thinking about occasionally posting random images from my gallery at Flicker. Post a comment if you think this is a decent idea, or just a bit dull. Usually, in the past, I’d have more frequent content. Such as art of what I’m working on. But with Sandman, every reveal before issue releases is understandably negotiated by editorial. It’s difficult to figure out what can be safely shown that doesn’t spoil anything. And I’m rather indecisive as to what cropped art would be worth posting. So I’ve left it alone. But the result means that the blog has been very stagnant in terms of new content. And I’ve had very little time to devote to prose writing as I had previously discussed publishing here. Extra work time has been focused on developing projects that will follow Sandman down the road.
Here is some recent drawings I did for some friends of mine. You can view larger versions at Flicker…
We’re finally getting this out there. Yeah, we know it’s been awhile ;^) We do hope you enjoy it…
Here is the main cover– virgin version
Now the main cover– with logo and text
Here is my variant cover– virgin version
Now here it again– but with logo and text
And finally the digital combo variant
Well, it’s that time of year where shopping becomes a priority for many of us, preparing gift giving for the next holiday break this December.
So I thought I would shamelessly point in the direction of my shop. Quite a few things for consideration that possibly make good gifts. If you happen to agree with that, then click the store button in the menu. But wherever you’re shopping, do it with heart.
Working with powerhouse music artist The Sword just remains utterly cool– it keeps on going. The latest development is a BMX bike featuring art elements from the album artwork I did for The Sword’s Apocryphon. It’s a wickedly cool bike. More details through the official band site will come October 17th and over the weekend. Below is an official press release along with some photos and video teaser…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 17, 2014
THE SWORD AND SUBROSA TEAM UP FOR “THE STORMWITCH” BIKE
BIKE UNVEILED AT TEXAS TOAST THIS WEEKEND IN AUSTIN,TX
Following in the footsteps of their branded beers and hot sauce, The Sword is now expanding their brand to the world of extreme sports by partnering with Subrosa for the creation of the “The Stormwitch” bike. Overseen by Sword drummer and longtime BMX rider, Jimmy Vela, “The Stormwitch” features artwork from famed comic book artist J.H Williams who designed the most recent Sword album, Apocryphon. The bike features quality components by Rant and the Shadow Conspiracy. The bike was displayed last month at Interbike in Las Vegas but will have its first public viewing starting today at Texas Toast in Austin.
The bike will be available worldwide. U.S distribution will be handled by Sparkys distribution, firstname.lastname@example.org. For dealers ex-US go to http://subrosabrand.com/contact/. During Texas Toast, the bike will be on display at the Subrosa tent. It will also be available at Empire BMX in Austin, TX http://empirebmx.com, Dan’s Comp and all Subrosa’s worldwide distributors.
September 6th we’re doing something we’d been thinking about doing for quite some time. A massive retail sale of comics and books I’ve worked on in some form or another, all from my personal cache.
There will be signed hardcover and softcover books, some of them in sets. Such as a few Batwoman five volume trade sets, or Promethea hardcover sets. Signed sets of various series. We’re also doing a bunch of grab bags– 50 random comics for $50 (Guaranteed at least 5 or more signed). There is an amazing array of comics going back to the early parts of my drawing career. Also throwing into this mix are old sketchbooks. There are some interesting surprises and odd things in there. And some packages might even have complete runs of a few things, or a random tpb.
Each Grab bag features a mix of 50 different comics/trades/sketchbooks/variant covers, no duplicates per grab bag.
We’re also offering six signed Promethea 32 poster sets, these are very rare artist proof numbered editions that come with a limited comic sized Promethea covers book signed by author Alan Moore and myself.
Items will start going into the store Saturday September 6th from noon to 1pm PST– we should have everything loaded up within that hour.
Skulking from corner to corner, scrutinizing every shadow. Poking under tables and chairs searching for unseen enemies, always high strung. Coloring of grays, browns, soft tans, and sandy whites. All layered with deep grey-black blocky shapes and stripes. Slightly billowy and lush to the touch, but it gets obsessively compulsively pulled out in clumps that skirt and puff along the wooden floors. A tiny brown reddish nose rimmed with a fine line of black. And two large citrine and lime wide open orbs that stare up at me with an expression full of love, “I love you. I love you. You are mine and I love you” they say to me. He always comes out of nowhere whenever Wendy and I get in the same room, no matter what or when, he arrives with uncanny precise timing, its like he is psychic or something, he always knows. Demanding our undivided attention, exclaiming with a voice that seems to have a hint of desperation as he looks up at us with his beautiful feline eyes that say “You are mine and I love you”.
February 7th 2012
Today was a terrible day, and I feel a bit strange blogging a sad thing when I’ve been extremely inconsistent and neglectful with my blog this past year. But today we lost Sweet Sam after 16+ years of him in our lives. It’s hard to explain just what that feels like– when you lose a dear four legged friend after so long– he is family. I remembered writing about him a couple of years ago during a year long blog experiment, and felt like sharing it above again in honor of him. We first met Sammy when he was a very small kitten on a hot Fourth Of July holiday. A scrawny little greyish thing, and noisy enough to hear over the fireworks. He had been hit by a car in a shopping center parking lot, and his back hip and pelvis were broken. We managed to rescue him, but that injury never healed quite right. That injury caused him some serious trouble in his old age unfortunately, and played a role in what happened to him today. I wish more people had gotten a chance to meet him and see just how much of an oddball cat Sammy truly was. It easily took two hands to count his obsessive compulsions. They always made for amusing stories, such as the singular joy he took in finding and eating cobwebs like they were cotton candy made just for cats, very carefully leaving the spiders alone. Or no matter how docile he was here at home, all of his vet files and charts had giant red caution stickers all over them because he would literally lose his mind whenever going in for a check-up. Or loving to hide inside paper bags pretending that we couldn’t see him, and whenever we showed that we could he would get very annoyed while trying to pretend even harder. So funny and strange. And no matter what we were doing throughout the day he was there, most likely staring at us. He liked to stare at us a lot. As if we were his personal entertainment, waiting for us to jump up suddenly and do something just for him. It’s going to take a very long time for us feel normal without him. We love you Sweet Sam. We were yours.
Chapter 3 has arrived!
Hardcover collection of various Batman work from over the years. I wrote a new short Afterword for this.
I’ll be doing a bit of a short notice signing appearance. Details below…
Barnes And Noble
1720 West Olive Ave.
Merced, CA 95348
The plan is to have some time for a Q and A along with the signing meet and greet. I’ll be signing whatever is there or what people bring in. The short notice couldn’t be helped, but please come and chat a bit.
Here is an image for the Tales Of The Batman By J H Williams III hardcover book due out next week and we’re hoping to have fresh off the press copies for this…
Recently a cover image was circulated attached to the solicits for Sandman Overture issue 4. But there was a bit of crossed wires information. That image was actually planned to be a variant cover. Below is the proper issue 4 cover, in its virgin and logo versions…
Well. I’ve been typically remiss in keeping the blog current. I suck. But thought I’d finally post the second print cover of Sandman number 1 that was made available a few weeks ago…
Blondie’s Ghosts Of Download album is officially out. So here is a new post featuring more images and design pieces that I did for the release.
First up is the back and front covers to the CD booklet. The back cover gets used again as part of the vinyl inner sleeve that holds the record.
Here is another example of how the lyrics were used for the CD booklet. There are sections of the booklet that use just the handwritten lyrics against an art backdrop. It was a lot of fun creating these more abstract art sections to lay the lyrics over. The lyrics in the booklet transition from red to blue half way through and so this is from the blue half featuring written lyrics by Debbie Harry on the left, and written lyrics by Chris Stein on the right.
Next up is another example of the CD booklet design. This is one of the end credits pages butted up against another page of art. I felt it was best to keep the credits sections simple, and then transition back to art for one last image. This image was originally only seen as the cover to an early promo cd single cover. So I thought it’d be nice to give it more attention here.
This spread below is from an alternate version of the CD booklet being used overseas. The art on the left is grabbed from the CD Trifold Cover here on the US version, but slightly tweaked. The image on the right is grabbed from the back of the CD Trifold Cover as well, but on that I used the song titles, where here I placed ghostly images of the entire band set into the screen.
Next is the first versions of the inner sleeve art for vinyl edition. The red side shows how this was used slightly differently than the CD booklet version. The back of the CD Trifold Cover was used here differently as well, more in a Warhol sort of way. Originally I had placed the album credits here on the screens. Below that shows how it was altered for the final version (shown sideways here for production set up). Ultimately it was best decided to move the very small album credits off the those small screens and onto a insert for the vinyl that I will show in the next post. That allowed to make them larger and easier to read by moving them elsewhere. I replaced those credits with variations of fonts that are G.O.D. repeating, keeping with the Warhol repetitive nature of the design here. Simple but interesting to look at.
The strange orb like thing that I created in some places and the odd spider like creature are based on biological viruses, another blending of the physical and the digital themes the graphics show throughout all of the art for this album.
And yes, the codes say real things!
So cool, it’s using my graphics!
The art I did for Blondie’s upcoming release Ghosts Of Download can finally be shown. I worked on this mid-last year, so all of the work has been waiting for a release date. That is now here, May 13th 2014, links below on where to order the package, and Blondie’s Facebook page and website. The package design is a unique one, there will be two albums in one package– featuring The Ghosts Of Download album along with another album of Blondie’s greatest hits newly recorded, and a deluxe version with all kinds of extra goodies. I did all of the design work for Ghosts, while the Hits portion was done by someone else. I worked on every visual aspect of this release, from concept, to cover design, to booklet design, and all the same for the Vinyl Double LP. There are different pieces or alterations for the CD versus the Vinyl, and the same situation for some foreign versions of the release– GO COLLECTORS GO! Below I’ve selected some of the art images for your entertainment. I’ll show more over the next couple weeks, but wanted to get a few Key pieces up for everyone to see. The CD booklet will print the lyrics for the songs, and here some of them are shown as example of the art design, but the album will feature all of the lyrics, all done in the band’s own writing, something they’ve not done before. The Vinyl LP will feature the lyrics as well, but very different in configuration, I’ll show that soon. The overall goal of the visual concept was to marry the idea of digital and organic, but done with a graphic sensibility. The first images I’m showing are good for getting that idea across. This mode of thinking brought the idea of the handwritten lyrics being used, so cool we were able to do that.
CD and Vinyl LP Front Cover…
Vinyl LP Back Cover…
Various Pages From The CD Booklet…