Jim Lee, Justin Long and the iPad

If a new comic book initiative launched in the forest,
 would anyone care?

Okay.  I didn’t want to do this, but my hand has been forced.  I now have to accept the job of DC Comics Marketing Director.  I am now the new DCMD.  They’ve been knocking on the door for some time, and I haven’t been answering.  They couldn’t handle me.  My years of marketing training, my Don Draper swagger, and my awe inspiring work ethic are just too much for them.  They are Zack Galligan and I am the Chinese man with the Mogai.  DC Comics…You are not ready.

Okay part II – The Admission.  I have no marketing training, and I never would have claimed to until I witnessed DC Comics pushing of their New 52 initiative.  But after seeing how this giant multi-million dollar corporation (which is backed by Warner Brothers no less) is going about their business, there are only two possible solutions:  either I am a genius or the marketing people at DC have no idea what they are doing.
A quick explanation of the New 52 initiative, which I believe is great (actually not sarcasm).
1.  DC Comics is cancelling all of their regularly published comic books (Batman, Superman, etc.) and relaunching them from new number 1 issues.  In theory, this makes DC Comics accessible to anyone that might want to give them a try without needing 60 years of background information to make sense of the book.  Great idea.  It might irritate fan-boys in the 30 to 60 year old market, but lets face it, those fellas are going nowhere.  WE have nowhere else to go.  
2.  This is the exciting part.  DC Comics will be made available digitally on the same day that the books are released.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, you will no longer have to seek out the dark, smelly dungeon that is your local comic book store.  You will now be able to tap download on your iPad and bingo-bango presto-change-o, you have just downloaded the ass-kicking new Batman #1.
Great initiative.  This potentially puts comic books into the hands of people in markets that have never even considered comic books (this includes business men on the morning train and, sadly, 11 ad 12 year old boys who only vaguely know that Spider-Man existed before they were born).  Unfortunately, the industry still hasn’t figured out how to put comics into the hand of girls and women.  Perhaps the iPad is the first step. 
Great initiative-Greater problem.  No one knows about it.  Sure, the nerd market that frequents CBR, Newsarama, and verious nerdy pop culture sights have read all about it with fervor.  But DC comics already sells comic books to us.  Sure, their sales will spike for a few months as some Marvel readers say, “Hey, Jim Lee is drawing Justice League.  I’ll have to check that out.”  But ultimately that will end when those same marvel readers remember that they have loved The Avengers since they were 10 years old and don’t need DC’s version.  Congratulations DC.  You had the opportunity to change the industry and you settle for a few months of stealing Marvel readers.  Bravo.
What abut those business men on the morning train?  What about those kids who know little about comic books beyond Diary of a Wimpy kid?  They surely don’t know about the New 52.  Shouldn’t someone at DC be asking, “Why the hell not?  Why are we aiming our marketing at people who already buy comic books?”
Here is the pitch.  
Jim Lee talking comics
with Justin Long
Two nationally televised commercials.  One featuring Jim Lee standing next to Justin Long, both of them holding iPads.  The two of them are talking about the latest issue of Batman (or whatever), and slipping in how they downloaded it from iTunes.  The second commercial is more like your typical iPad commercial, showing people varying in age, sex and ethnicity using their iPads in different ways.  I’m thinking of the man on a train, closing his stock portfolio and opening the latest issue of Green Lantern, the 11 year old kid in his bedroom closing angry birds and flipping through Superman,  and the hipster-girl on the park bench delving into Wonder Woman while waiting for a group of friends.
DC Comics has to sell three ideas before they can sell comics to the mass public.
1. Comics are easy to get on your iPad.
2. Anyone can read and enjoy comic books
3. Comics are nerdy-chic, just like iPads and Buddy Holly glasses.
DC Comics has created the opportunity to change the industry.  If they are not selling these points, then they are going to a lot of effort to just tread water.  
*Apologies for the non-art blog.  Back to normal in the next couple of days.
*Artwork in this particular blog post belongs to DC Comics

All Around the Mulberry Bush…

All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get my design printed
On Monsters

The outer world may be full of full of terrible people doing awful things for insane reasons.  You hear about them on the news or read about them online.  You stand aghast.  You shake your head.  You ask why.

What next?  You move on and forget about it.  You know that in your world, you are safe.  There are no monsters…
…But there are monsters.  In the inner world, they are legion.  They creep through your imagination with free reign needing little more than a dark corner or an creaking floorboard in the night to reach out and grab you by the throat.
Since I was a child, there have been clowns stalking through my nightmares – waiting.
Threadless Tees is running their third annual Threadless Loves Horror competition.  I could think of nothing more horrific than the emergence of a nightmare clown through a jack-in-the-box (the most fundamentally deranged toy ever given to a baby).
Compostitional sketch
Click to Enlar

On the Design

The artwork for this piece was created entirely in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq Tablet.  I began by loosely sketching the concept in various compositions until I found one that felt right.  At this stage, I am thinking in broad strokes.  What is the audience going to take away from this piece when seen in the blink of an eye?  If I am doing my job, then they will see a child shocked and terrified by a horrific clown.
Once I find my composition, I have to sell it.  This is in the details, and for me, the details are the really fun part.  This is where I get to work out just how vile this jester will be.  The wrinkles, the jagged teeth, the fake nose that may not be fake.  This is also the part of the process where you can catch me making funny faces and weird gestures.  It is invaluable to act out the parts of the characters in your scene.  I strongly believe that you will be able to draw your subjects with more authenticity if you (at least on some minimal level) have stood in their shoes.  Elbows raised with huge snarling grin?  Leaning back, hand draw close to the body?  Yes, I was both the clown (his name is Twinkles) and the kid (place your name here if you are afraid of clowns).
Black and White Art
Click to Enlarge

The next step was digital inking.  I created a new layer over my sketch and started to create the final artwork right on top of it.  I leave my sketch loose enough that this part is still an exciting, creative process – not tracing.  I was surprised at how little of the kid I had in my initial sketch.
 Clown Final Art
Click to Enlarge

Next comes the color.  I had decided on my black, white, gray, and red palette during the sketching phase.  At this point I was just following my plan with a bit more finesse.  The colors are rendered using halftones (tiny little dots).  You know what these are if you ever looked way too close at the Sunday funnies when you were a kid.  You can make the dots so tiny that they are virtually imperceptible or leave them big enough so that the viewer is entirely aware of them.  It depends on your preference.  For this Piece I wanted to play the middle ground.  You can see them if you dig into the illustration, but you probably won’t notice them with a passing glance.  If anyone is interested in how to create halftones in Photoshop, let me know.  I’d be glad to do a step by step, pure art nerd post about it.

The finished piece is to the right.  Click the link below to rate it on Threadless.
All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get the design printed

Thank you, and remember…monsters are real.

Oh look. I’ve found my chops.

The comatose blogger awakens.  There hasn’t seemed to have been much art time recently while preparing to get permahitched.

Spending time away from the drawing table is the absolute best way to get lost in self doubt.  Eventually you have to buckle down and face the dreaded blank page in its featureless face, if for no other reason than to discover that your chops have not abandoned you.  “Oh Chops, you would never leave your old Pah, would you?”

Here is a small character sketch created for a picture book idea that’s been percolating for some time. Graphite on cold press watercolor paper.  More to come.
Draw everyday kiddos.