Untold Tales of Bigfoot Nominated for Another NCS Reuben!

UToB_ReubenNom3_DorseHere’s some fun news (for me, anyway). Untold Tales of Bigfoot has been nominated by the National Cartoonists Society for a Silver Reuben in the Online Comics: Long Form division. This is Bigfoot and Scout’s third nomination (they won in 2013).

We’ve been buzzing about this here in the cave for the last few days, feeling very honored and grateful. Congratulations to my fellow nominees, John Allison and Ru Xu. Bigfoot and I consider the nomination itself a win, thrilled to be recognized alongside some other very talented creators. Scout, however, really wants the wall plaque and he won’t shut up about it.

Either way, we’ll be having a great time rubbing elbows with all the other cartooning professionals at the 72nd Annual Reuben Awards, May 25th-27th in the City of Brotherly Love, good ol’ Philadelphia, PA! Whether we go home with the bauble or not, it is always a sincere pleasure to spend the weekend hanging out with some of the funniest, creative people I know. -v

For a complete list of the nominees in all the divisions, CLICK HERE!

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Out and About: Upcoming Shows and Events

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Hey, I’m emerging from the cave for a few upcoming events in the next month or two. Here’s a short list (more to be added):

April 7th & 8th: MoCCA Festival This Weekend in NYC

If you’re in New York this weekend and plan to attend MoCCA (Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon, and animation festival) I will be sitting in at the National Cartoonists Society table on Saturday (3:45 to 7) and Sunday (3:45 to 6). MoCCA is a 2-day event with all kinds of cool stuff, and there will be other cartoonists at the NCS table throughout the weekend. Admission is only $7 a day!

“Held at the luxurious and modern Metropolitan West located on West 46th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, MoCCA’s host venue will encompass two floors of exhibitor tables, a gallery of original art showcasing the work of special guests, and pop-up cafés throughout the space.” CLICK FOR DETAILS!

May 5th: Free Comic Book Day at Phantom of the Attic, Oakland

I’ve done Free Comic Book Day at this amazing comic shop before and had a blast meeting people, selling books, and doing quick commission sketches. It’s a wonderful shop with a great staff and it’s stocked floor to ceiling with fun. I’ll be sharing a table with Jim Rugg (Street Angel, Afrodisiac) so stop by and say hi. PHANTOM FB PAGE

May 19th & 20th: 3 Rivers Comicon in Pittsburgh

I did this con last year, had a great time, and so I’m doing it again this year. Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20, I’ll be at my own table at 3 Rivers Comicon in Pittsburgh. There’s always a great guest list of talented artists at this con. CLICK FOR DETAILS

I’ll add a few more notable events as the details shore up, but this is a good start for now. Hope to see you out there! -v

Up And Away! A Collaborative Art Project

It’s the 1930s. Big City has become a place where greed trumps goodness, a city in desperate need of a hero. A hero like no other. The very first superhero.

Planning The Caper

This year, The Pittsburgh CLO invited members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators to attend rehearsals of the CLO musical Up And Away, as a collaborative effort to produce artwork inspired by the show.

In this post, I’m going to break down my basic illustration process and ramble on a little about the show (because it’s really fun and you should go see it if you can).

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Assembling The Team

I think there were six of us invited to attend early rehearsals for the show. We were there to get a feel for the show, and then create anything we wanted. Some of us illustrated scenes, some of us did renderings of the rehearsals, some did portraits of the cast. But from the very start, I knew I wanted to create a fictional comic book cover that featured the characters from the superhero-themed musical. Here’s the thumbnail I sketched out during that first rehearsal:

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Clip Studio Paint To The Rescue

I used Clip Studio Paint to set up my image. As usual, the perspective rulers were invaluable in helping me redraw the background architecture over my sketch (the show is set in “Big City”). I used the blue drafting pencil to sketch in characters based on reference sketches I did at rehearsal, and a G-Pen to ink them in. These aren’t caricatures of the cast as much as representations of the archetypes the actors portray in the show.

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About The Show

Up And Away is jam-packed with references to comic book culture. The two brothers (who leave their farm to find adventure in Big City) are Jerry and Joe Jessup (a nod to Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster). There’s a fast-talking lady-reporter, a mysterious billionaire, a tough but doting mother, and a host of costumed kooks running rampant in the city.

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One of the most interesting things about this project was seeing director Marlo Hunter, creators Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair, and the cast members hammer the show into shape during rehearsals; changing blocking and choreography, editing scenes, working out the props and stagecraft. Process. It’s fun to watch things unfold, piece by piece, whether it’s an illustration or a comedy-musical.

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Kevin Hammonds (Book and Lyrics) and Kristin Bair (Music) put together a catchy bunch of tunes. I must have heard “New Kind Of Hero” two dozen times that first day. Anyone who’s ever rehearsed a live musical performance knows you’re going to go over and over and over the songs. But that was fine, because when I saw the show opening week, I could practically sing along.

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The performers are fantastic too.  It’s one of those shows that employs a small cast (just five) who have to race through backstage quick-changes to play a series of alternate roles (with those roles sometimes possessing alter-egos themselves).

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And, in keeping with the stripped-down feel of a small cast, Up And Away employs classic, lo-fi stagecraft to achieve its own brand of special effects. Think “standing on one leg and bending at the waist with your arms forward to simulate flying over a collapsible MDF cityscape.” I don’t know how you’re picturing that, but trust me, it works.

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As the little corner box intimates, Up And Away made it’s premiere here in Pittsburgh in January. But it’ll be running at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square through Sunday, April 22nd. If you’re in Pittsburgh during that time, and you want to spend a fun couple of hours at a musical comedy made for comic fans, try to get tickets.

Art Show And Sale

And, as of this Wednesday, March 14, the Cabaret Gallery will have the Pittsburgh Illustrators’ Up And Away art on display and for sale, with 20% going to the Pittsburgh CLO. I’ll have two pieces there — the comic book cover (signed & numbered prints) and an ink and marker rendering of the villains in the show (based on brief descriptions in an early draft of the script). This was a fun project, a nice way to spend a few weeks with some talented creators and performers, and I got to see a superhero musical for free! Whooooosh! (that was me, flying away, in case you didn’t catch it) -v

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And here, just for fun, the fictional comic book cover:

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Chutz-Pow, The Art of Resistance Opening

I will be at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh this Sunday, February 11th, to celebrate the opening of The Art of Resistance — original comic pages from the first two volumes of Chutz-Pow, as well as the release of the all-new Chutz-Pow Volume 3, which I worked on.

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Chutz-Pow: Superheroes of the Holocaust is a comic book series produced right here in Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. These books tell the stories of survivors of the Holocaust. The third and latest volume focuses on survivors who were just children when World War 2 changed their lives.

A bunch of my cartoonist friends have work in this volume (Mark Zingarelli, Howard Bender, Marcel Walker, Wayne Wise, Loran Skinkis) and most of them will be there at the opening. Tickets at the door are a very reasonable $5. Here’s the rest of the details on the event. Stop by to see the artwork from the first two volumes, pick up copies of all three books, and talk to some of the writers and illustrators who worked on all three books.

How I Made My First Mini-Comic (Or Failed To, Actually, Because I’m An Idiot And Couldn’t Leave Well Enough Alone)

I Like Mini-Comics

Mini-comics are awesome. Homemade, photocopied, hand-stapled, indie gems that may be lo-fi but are often packed with amazing artwork and stories. Say what you will about big budget movie trailer sneak peaks… I think mini-comics are the heart of comic conventions.

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Recent buys, Detached:Vol 1 by Angela Fullard, Black Dog: Steps & Red Frog by Saramiel Ae.

But, despite drawing during practically every waking minute, I really haven’t put together a proper mini-comic of my own (at least not since I was a kid doodling bootleg Spider-Man adventures). So I decided to do it. Finally. It’d be good practice and would give me another low-price item to offer at cons (most of the ones I’ve picked up range between $4-$6). I’ll take you through my steps, start to finish.

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I began the process by folding eight sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper in half and I started drawing. Eight folded sheets gives you 32 pages (I know you know math, just bear with me). My goal was to come up with a simple story and have a 32-page mini-comic ready to go by the time I tabled at the Baltimore Comic Con this September.

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The thing I really love about mini-comics is that there are no rigid expectations about what they contain. Sometimes it’s light comedy, sometimes dark horror, sometimes artsy allegory, sometimes superheroes,….so many genres and styles. Often they’re limited-run one-shots so the storytelling can be bold and experimental. But just as often, you’ll see standard sequential art and linear storytelling. Mine? I wasn’t planning anything groundbreaking. Just a story about a girl and her cat. I really just wanted to have fun making it.

The Mechanics of Pagination

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So here’s why I folded up the paper before I started drawing. Whether you want to ink traditionally on paper, or scan in each sheet to ink digitally, the end result should be a spread that you can then photocopy and staple into a booklet. And you can see how the not-quite-intuitive page distribution is all taken care of by simply drawing the book as a book before dismantling it to make copies.

Inking

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Because I was under the gun to get it drawn, copied, and stapled before the comic con, I decided I would dismantle the penciled booklet, scan in the sheets, and ink the drawings in Clip Studio. That way, it’s easier to fix mistakes (and experiment with technique if I felt like it).

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Everything was coming along pretty quickly, aided by the fact that the story wasn’t a panel-heavy layout. I wanted a lot of single, solitary images on stark backgrounds (kind of like a kid’s book), eventually building to a more traditional, sequential format, then back to lots of breathing room again. This was another experiment for me, and I wanted to do something stylistically dissimilar to my other books. The inked, ready-to-copy pages were done in a few weeks.

Then, Like An Idiot, I Decided To Color It

Once I finished the inks, I got price quotes from Staples to plan my budget. Everything was rolling along smoothly. Then I thought I’d color one of the images to see how it looked. Good news/Bad news….I kinda’ liked it.

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Soon I started questioning the project, “How will they know it’s a ginger cat if I photocopy it in black and white?” and “Will anyone know the girl has two-toned hair?” So instead of heading to Staples for final copies, I went back to the computer to color a few more pages. You know…just to see how they looked. Then I colored the entire book.

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Coloring in the black line art would’ve taken enough time as is. But the pages for the mini were heavy on high contrast, with big areas of bold blacks, and most of the grey tones were completed. If I was really going to print this thing in color, the greys had to be eliminated, and some of the black inks had to be removed and replaced with color.

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While I was making those changes, I started researching prices for printing the mini in color at Staples. But I also researched what it might cost to do a very limited run of these things as a full-color, regular-sized comic book.

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I researched a couple online print services (Ka-Blam and Comix Wellspring), both of them well-recommended. Turns out, the online comic book printers weren’t that much more, per issue, than hand-folding/stapling a bunch of half-sized color copies. I figured, why not? And it would save me all that folding, collating, and stapling. With a deadline looming, I completed the reformatting in time to have the comics printed by Ka-Blam and delivered just a couple weeks before the convention.

The Finished Project From Ka-Blam

So there it is. Phoebe and Beeswax. Glad to get it in time for the show, but let’s take a closer look to see how the printer performed. minicomic_process_DorseOverall, I’m happy with the book. But I do note that Ka-Blam’s colors are a shade paler than what I expected. Still very nice, but just a touch washed out compared to my test prints at home.minicomic_process_DorseMost of the time, print-houses nail my colors. And Ka-Blam came pretty close. But Ka-Blam’s colors are not quite as intense as I expected. It might be because Ka-Blam prefers their files in RGB, while I work in CMYK (as most printers I use require). Ka-Blam doesn’t provide a proof, so you don’t really know how your colors will look until you crack open the box. The comic looks fine, but if I get anything else printed by Ka-Blam, it’s an issue I’d want to address to see if we could tweak things a bit more to my liking.

Damaged Books

minicomic_process_DorseAnother issue I’ve discussed with them is that a number of the books arrived with some corner damage/creasing. It’s not unheard of, of course. I had a few dinged Bigfoot books from PrintNinja, but I’d ordered a lot more of those. With such a limited run of Phoebe & Beeswax, the dinged copies make up an appreciable percentage of the total. I can’t say Ka-Blam didn’t try to pack it well — the books were sealed in plastic, and encased in a pillow of shredded paper. But take a look at the shipping box:minicomic_process_DorseIt took only two days to get to me, by airplane, and it was delivered to my door looking like it had been used as the ball in a Steeler’s pre-season practice game. I know sometimes I can be a little nit-picky. But most times, I think I’m the perfect amount of nit-picky! So I informed Ka-Blam customer service of the issue to see if they’d do anything about it. They asked me to send photos of the damaged product, so I assume they’re considering their options. However, they’re located in Florida and I’m pretty sure that Hurricane Irma is marginally more pressing than my dinged corners. I’ll update this post when I receive an answer.

Update: KaBlam Doesn’t Respond

Well, as of today (August 14th 2018) it’s been a full eleven months since sneding Ka-Blam photos of the damaged issues and I have yet to receive a response. Not even “sorry, but those aren’t damaged enough to warrant a discount” or anything. Just flat out radio silence. So, I’ve moved on to other comic printers (Comix Wellspring) and have been very happy with their product. Maybe Ka-Blam worked for you, maybe they’ll do good work in the future, but for me, I’m out.

That’s That

And that’s how I failed to make my first mini-comic. Because I really couldn’t stop tweaking this project, it went from a half-sized, black-and-white mini-comic (that I could price at $5~$6) to a full-sized, full-color comic book on premium paper with a gloss cover (that I’ll probably price at $7~$8). Not much of a price difference, really. And if you like color, this version of the story will satisfy your rods and cones. Personally? I like color, and I like seeing that the orange cat is orange.

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Phoebe & Beeswax Debuts at Baltimore Comic Con

Phoebe & Beeswax: There’s No Beeswax Like Show Beeswax is a sweet little story of a girl who’s not sure what her talent is, but luckily her cat’s there to help her figure it all out. I’ll have it with me at Baltimore Comic Con, September 22 – 24, 2017. If you’re there, stop by table A-233 and say hi.  -v