Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year-End Lettering and Inking

So I'm ending 2015 in a completely unexpected way: drawing new Borders Worlds material for the upcoming Dover Publications, Inc. collection coming in Fall 2016! There will be an all-new 30-page conclusion to the 340-page saga that grew from a back-up feature in Megaton Man in 1985 to seven bi-monthly issues (1986-87) and a one-shot (Marooned #1, 1990), plus unpublished art and other goodies. Lettering on the conclusion is now complete; inking in progress. (Whatever possessed me to put so much cross-hatching into this art?!!) Here's a look:

Size of original: 9" x 12", pen and ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Smash! Skash! A Daring Rescue!

Preliminary roughs for new material I am drawing for the collected Border Worlds, coming in Fall 2016: Rory Smash foils Pinsen's plan to return renegades Drake and Cody Revell to earth. More previews elsewhere on this blog!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Systems of Notation: Script, Thumbnails, Art!

Here are the thumbnails to the remaining new pages I am creating for the collected Border Worlds, coming in the Fall of 2016 from Dover Publications. They are based on a very tight script written in November 2015, so dialogue has already been worked out, although still subject to modification as I transfer to pencil art. When I was a beginner in the 1980s, I usually outline a plot in bullet points on a legal pad, then thumbnailed or sometimes sketched out the art full size on Bristol board. At the time, it seemed logical, if one was thinking of comics primarily as a visual storytelling medium, to think visually from start to finish, i.e., non-verbally. However, if I had to set aside the thumbnails aside for any length of time, I would have trouble remembering exactly what I was thinking based only on the sometime very low-res scribbles (this was a major crisis when I took six weeks off to attend comic book conventions in the middle of production of Yarn Man #1!).

Spoiler Alert: This won't give anything away unless you can read Scribble! (Pencil layouts for some pages can be seen in other posts on this blog.)

During Border Worlds in 1986 and 1987, I worked in an almost bi-polar fashion from issue to issue, working visually (thumbnail) one issue, then script the next (particularly if an issue was dominated by a lot of dialogue), then visually again. These days (the twenty-first century), I find that a full script is best even when a particular sequence is predominantly visual or non-verbal. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is far easier to type "close up" than to sketch a close up, even in a scribbly thumbnail. I also refine the dialogue, describe the panel compositions in great detail (who is in the foreground, background, left, right, directions characters are facing, camera angles, etc.) and often character psychology and what the reader knows or doesn't know. Alan Moore is the only writer I have worked with who works to such a degree, and his artistic success speaks for itself. (Most comic book writers compose scripts that are very schematic, like recipes, that keep the illustrator in the dark unnecessarily, as if they were a member of the audience who needs to be kept in suspense instead of a member of the creative team whose job it is to convey the ideas to the reader. It's like baking something without knowing exactly what, and I have to read the script three times to figure it out, before I have a handle on what needs to be drawn.)

My own scripts enable me to describe the events going on in my imagination, and pick up where I left off, even if I have to set aside a project for any length of time. Besides, every project of any length requires multiple working sessions over days, weeks, or months (and in the case of Border Worlds, years and decades), so a solid notation system enables me to resume work each session without guessing, "What the heck was this indecipherable little scribble supposed to mean?" (We'll see how well this system works when I return to Megaton Man, for which I have fully scripted issues #4 and #5 of a new series; I was laying out the fourth issue from a full script when Dover called wanting Border Worlds!) Stay tuned for more updates during 2016!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Theory of Relativity: Varying Art Sizes in Border Worlds Through the Ages!

I began experimenting with the size of my original art in the 1980s, particularly in Border Worlds, and the tradition (or indecision?) continues into the twenty-first century. The image below is a good example: on the left, an 11" x 17" original (10" x 15" image area), the size I started out with in Megaton Man in the mid-1980s. which would reduce to about 60% at printed size; in the middle, the cover to Border Worlds #1, 11.5" x 14.5" (8.5" x 13.25" image area), for a 77% reduction, as shown; and my current practice, 11" x 14" (9.5" x 12.5" image area), a half-page tier that will reduce to under 50%. I did at least a couple issues of Border Worlds at 77% and contemplated going "twice up" (50% reduction), but at the time found it unwieldy. Obviously, the larger the art, the greater reduction, and the more the detail will tighten up and the less obvious will be the rough edges. Also, the easier it is on my aging eyes and wrist! (The half-page tier also makes it easier for me to reach the top of the art, Mr. Drawing Board Belly!)

A pin-up for the Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Special circa 1990; the cover to Border Worlds #2 (1986; "Worlds" was reversed out at the bottom of the design in the printed version); and a half-page pencil rough from 2015.

The Dover collection of Border Worlds (coming in Fall 2016) will include all of the Megaton Man back-up features, all eight issues of Border Worlds (including Marooned #1), and 30 pages of new material that I am currently producing, as well as several unpublished covers and extras. Not only will all these variously-sized originals appear side-by-side, but also the compendium of stylistic influences, from Moebius (Jean Giraud) to Wally Wood, and film designers such as John Dykstra to Ron Cobb (Star Wars and Alien, respectively), to say nothing of the influence of Lost in Space, Star Trek, and black and white art films such as the Cinemascope Woody Allen film Manhattan, magazine layout design, and everything else. Trying to match any of that at this point with my new stuff is mathematically impossible, so I can only do my current thing and hope for the best, but it is an incredible and unexpected opportunity to add to the mythos in middle-age! It will be interesting to see how well it all hangs together!

The ladies from Border Worlds #5 (one of the issues drawn at 77%) make a curtain call in the new segment I'm creating for the Dover compilation of Border Worlds, coming in Fall 2016.
If you would like to own an original drawing of Jenny or any of the Border Worlds cast, please visit the Don Simpson Commission Art Price List page and contact me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pinsen in Pursuit: New Pencils for 2016!

Brand new 2015 pencil roughs (not derived from old sketchbooks for a change!) for the complete, collected Border Worlds, coming in fall 2016 from Dover Publications! There will be 30 new pages of material (basically, a complete new issue of Border Worlds, with all the previous issues as well as the original Megaton Man back-up features tacked on behind it!). Here are some incomplete glimpses of scenes with Pinsen and Drake and Cody Revell, about to be deported back to earth, and Jenny getting back on her feet after plummeting several stories due to a jetpack failure. (I would put a spoiler alert on this but you'd have to have the storyline from the 1986-1990 comic fresh in your mind to figure out what is going on!) Dover is promising superb reproduction of both old and new material, as in their recent Puma Blues collection! More details TBA...

Drake and Cody Revell as prisoners about to be returned to earth.

Jenny after crashing (literally and figuratively) awakens to a new reality.

A make-up gift from Arcameon's most notorious smuggler!

Some of the rough layouts in light blue Col-Erase and graphite pencil on layout bond, next to my Trollopian output checklist on a clipboard.
If you would like to own an original drawing of Jenny or any of the Border Worlds cast, please visit the Don Simpson Commission Art Price List page and contact me!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sparky and Jenny: The Sequence That Has Taken Forever!

Here is the original art for a page first sketched circa 1998. The main characters were inked sometime thereafter. This weekend (2015) I've finally completed the backgrounds and some of the textures on Jenny's spacesuit (eventually, I finish what I start!). Matching my old stuff often presents a challenge, but this scene was pretty well realized in my sketchbook (right), and I think holds up pretty well. In the fall of 2016, Dover Publications will be collecting the complete Border Worlds including the original Megaton Man back-up features and all black and white issues, with 30 new pages of story and other unpublished goodies. Stay tuned for more details!

Brush, pen and ink on Bristol board (left) and original sketchbook (right) of a new page for the upcoming Border Worlds collection, coming in 2016 from Dover Publications, Inc.

Jenny marches off after she discovers Dr. Beecher has already left Stardome for good, and can't help stop Drake and Cody's deportation back to earth.

Original roller-pen sketch, circa 1998.

Jenny flies without heeding Sparky's sensible warning that she should have checked her fuel gauge after using the jet pack for such an extended period.

Original sketchbook layout.
If you would like to own an original drawing of Jenny or any of the Border Worlds cast, please visit the Don Simpson Commission Art Price List page and contact me!