Saturday, March 24, 2012

exotica: A Spoiled Sultan

Years ago I had an idea for series of illustrations where I would design them using musical beats and rhythms, a limited color palette, and animals with their textures throughout. I named it exotica, a word I heard in school when describing unique imports from other countries in the old days when shipping was still done by wooden ships. I completed three illustrations. While the layouts and coloring were cool, the line work was terrible, the anatomy and positioning of the figures needed work, the materials I used resulted in an amateurish finish, and there were a few other problems. I still thought the concept was a great idea, and I always intended to pick it up again.

Recently I completed a series of pulp team ups with my character Wandering Koala and was a little disappointed with how they turned out. I thought they could be better. So I asked myself, "Self, what could you do to improve your illustrating?" I thought giving exotica another go would help.

I love the work of Edmund Dulac. He was a victorian children's book illustrator from the turn of the century (early 20th, not 21st) who painted a lot of oriental scenes (Arabian Nights, Chinese tales, and much, much more). I love his sense of color, design, and the way he designed his figures. I've also always loved the Arabian Nights and things like it,  so I decided to try a scene in that spirit. I laid it out with a Staedtler 2B pencil and inked it with a brush and sumi ink. I thought about coloring it, but it worked so well in black & white I decided to leave it. I love black & white artwork, but so often I get nervous and color it. I need to be braver and just leave the line work.

Let me know what you think. The drawing and design are much stronger than my recent illustrations, but I've still got more work to do. Check back often to see what I come up with next!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pulp Heroes: Wandering Koala meets Lobster Johnson

This is the final pulp team up (for now) of Wandering Koala with my favorite pulp characters. Lobster Johnson was created by Mike Mignola in the pages of his Hellboy comic book. Initially he was a pulp character in the spirit of The Spider or The Shadow sporting twin guns but with a mysterious background. He eventually appeared in his own mini-series and novel. His second mini-series is currently on sale.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pulp Heroes: Wandering Koala meets The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks

This is the third in a series of new pulp fiction team ups. Previous match ups include The Spider and Jak Phoenix.

The Phantom was created by Lee Falk, who also created Mandrake the Magician, and appeared in newspaper comics. The original Phantom was hijacked by pirates and swore an oath that he and his descendants would fight evil. Most stories center around Kit Walker and his girlfriend Diana Palmer.

The Phantom appeared in a movie serial, comic books, a major motion picture, animated cartoons on television with other King Feature Syndicate characters and in his own show as a futuristic version, and mini-series on SciFi. He wears a purple costume and carries guns. Because he didn't actually originate in the pulps, some don't consider him a true pulp hero, but he had the mood, style, and sense of adventure that fits the genre. He is considered by some to be the first costumed character or superhero predating Superman by several years because he had a costume. I still consider Superman to be the first, because it was his introduction that launched the whole genre and spawned so many imitators.

I've liked The Phantom for quite a long time. A guy in a purple suit running around with a dog shouldn't be exciting and enduring, but the character is. Moonstone published an anthology of short stories with illustrations by Ruben Procopio a few years back that was great. I'm currently reading reprints of the old comic strips which are continue to impress me with their draftsmanship and engaging stories. It was while reading those that I got the idea for this series of Pulp Hero team ups.

The illustration was sketched with a 2B Staedtler pencil, penciled with a Papermate Sharpwriter #2 pencil, inked with a brush and sumi ink, and colored in Adobe Photoshop CS. The building was constructed in Google SketchUp and rendered in Corel Painter X.

You can read more adventures of Wandering Koala in his latest adventure Wandering Koala uncovers the Sixth Figure. You can follow The Phantom in pretty much any format you like short of radio dramas.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pulp Heroes: Wandering Koala meets The Spider, Master of Men

This is a second in a series of Wandering Koala team ups with some of my favorite pulp heroes and pulp-type characters. The first was Jak Phoenix.

The Spider was one of the most popular pulp fiction heros of the 1930s and 40s. He was created in response to the popularity of The Shadow. By day he was Richard Wentworth, wealthy criminologist who regularly consulted for the police. At night he put on a wig and fangs and stalked those who plagued society as The Spider, Master of Men. He carried two 45s and used them regularly to kill lawbreakers. Like most pulp heroes, he predated Superman, Batman, and the other costumed characters by several years.

The Spider also appeared in two 15-chapter cliffhanger movie serials, The Spider's Web in 1938 and The Spider Returns in 1941. He was brilliantly portrayed by Warren Hull who also played Mandrake the Magician and The Green Hornet. The Spider Returns was originally written to be the sequel to the 1940 The Shadow movie serial, but legal squabbles killed the project. Since The Spider was more or less a competing company's version of The Shadow, filming the script with The Spider instead was an easy fit.

I was first introduced to The Spider by a cover illustration by Jim Steranko on a book called The Spider: Robot Titans of Gotham reprinting two Spider stories sitting in Barnes & Noble. I had never heard of the character before, but I had recently discovered that a certain style of art I've always loved was called Pulp Art and this was part of that. So I bought it. I was impressed that the story began with an attack and the action never let up until the end. It's rare an author dares do that.

I also was impressed by his girlfriend Nina who was truly an aeser cognito or perfect compliment for him. When most people talk about a "strong female role" they aren't talking about a strong, confident woman but a rude, duplicitous, witchy female who tries to do everything she can to be a man by having his job and his bad habits. Nina was 100% woman, very feminine, very pleasant, and very nurturing. At the same time she was very strong--not tough--strong. She had principles and values and held to them even when it wasn't convenient or beneficial in the short run. She was confident and loyal. She stood by Wentworth and even risked her own life to save others. She is a true strong female role model. She was very much like the best versions of Wonder Woman--the rare times the writers get her right such as William Moulton Morrison's original run and the Linda Carter TV series. More writers need to take note.

I did more research and discovered there were two Spider movie serials. Reviews online praised them for the number of guns that were fired. Being the fan of movie serials, I had to have them. At the time there was a company that had acquired several film rolls and had transferred them to DVD and sold them on eBay. I bough many, many DVDs from them. In this version, The Spider didn't use a wig and fangs, but a hood and cape with a spiderweb pattern. I loved this look the best, and that's the one I used in my illustration.

The illustration was sketched with a 2B Staedtler pencil, penciled with a Papermate Sharpwriter #2 pencil, inked with a brush and sumi ink, and colored in Adobe Photoshop CS. The building was constructed in Google SketchUp and rendered in Corel Painter X.

You can read more adventures of Wandering Koala in his latest adventure Wandering Koala uncovers the Sixth Figure. You can read more about The Spider in a series of eBooks reprinting his early adventures at Radio Archives. And be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Teamwork in Fiction

After I finished my latest comic, Wandering Koala uncovers the Sixth Figure, an exciting murder mystery, I wanted to do something really different. the Sixth Figure was very stylized in a comic book format. It is visually exciting and a great deal of fun to do, but it's not what I enjoy doing most. My very favorite art work to do is a one-page, full color illustration that tells a story. I've also wanted to do a team up with Wandering Koala and another character for a while. But who to choose? Jak Phoenix, of course!

Jak Phoenix is an exciting space opera created by Matt D. Williams in his debut science fiction novel. The sequel, The Markazian Deception, is due this spring. I really enjoyed the first novel, and am looking forward to the second which made me wonder what would happen if the Wandering Koala somehow made it into space and met up with this indifferent adventurer. I usually keep my character in this world with situations that could and do happen in everyday life except for one fantastic element. But I also made sure to give Kyle several magical tools so his world was open to anything. So it is possible for the two to meet.

I laid out the illustration with a Staedtler 2B pencil, penciled it with a Sharpwriter mechanical pencil, inked it with a paint brush and sumi ink, then colored it in Adobe Photoshop CS. I was really pleased with the result.

Plan on seeing more one-page illustrations, both black & white and color. I'm currently writing a science fiction short story, but after than it's another illustrated novella like The Caveman Conspiracy!

Let me know what you think of this latest illustration.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It all began with an image...

It all started one night while I was reading a biography of H.J. Ward, one of my favorite artists. He painted covers for pulp magazines during the 30s and 40s before he killed himself with tobacco from smoking (bad habits hurt everyone). I purchased the biography quite a while ago but never got around to reading it until a couple of months ago. It mentioned how putting women in terror on the cover sold more copies regardless of what was actually in the magazine. It reminded me of early Wonder Woman comics which featured bondage in nearly half of all the panels, and which were as popular as Superman and Batman in the day.

Does bondage, torture, pain, peril, and the like really sell? An image of Wandering Koala being chained up and tortured came to mind. I thought it'd make a great cover.

I drew a thumbnail and started to lay it out, but never finished. But what I did do was create a story around the cover. I was so intrigued by the imagery I couldn't help myself. Until I had drawn half the comic. By that time I realized I needed a different cover image to accurately reflect the tone. But I thought it would make a nice interior full page panel. And it did.

I drew it with a Papermate Sharpwriter pencil, inked it with a crow quill pen, then colored it in Adobe Photoshop and used Corel Painter X and Google SketchUp for the background.

The comic is available at Smashwords and A 12-page preview is available online.