Phew… this was supposed to come out two weeks ago.. but between Batman, Resurrection Man, Justice League, Zombie Love and life… things took longer than expected.
Quite the opposite, actually. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some pretty cool Bane, or more specifically, Dark Knight pages and I’m a bit behind on posting about them. Issue 7 of Dark Knight featured a massive brawl between Bane and Bruce (sorry, spoiler alert). Really incredible pencils by David Finch and as usual, gorgeous inks by Richard Friend. Funny anecdote about Rich and I. Years ago when Rich was just starting and I had just started at Wildstorm, we got to talking at a local San Diego Mini-con. Rich was trying to break into inking, so he asked me if I had anything he could try out on. I gave him a page to a comic I was self publishing (it’s weird to say self publishing when Dave Jolosky and Daren Bader were right there with me.. cullo, I digress) called Offspring (90 cents.. I’m insulted). So, Rich did some inks over a pinup of monsters I had drawn and showed it to me. Now, you have to understand, I inked all my own stuff at the time, for various reasons including I was picky and didn’t like not inking my own stuff. So I had to tell Rich I wasn’t into it and that kind of thing always feels awkward. Okay, flash forward to present day and Rich is easily one of the best inkers in the comic industry and I’d give my left (insert body part here) to have him ink anything of mine these days. Alright, end of anecdote.
My biggest dilema with this issue was it being night time with two characters in dark colored costumes. You don’t want to push Bane’s blues to saturated or he looks too cartoony and you don’t want Batman’s grey costume to just die on the page and get lost. I tried to use a deep green for the water color so the characters would stand out against it. The white bits of the splashing water really helped define different planes and helped with some depth, in my opinion. Drawing in knock out areas helped create more depth of field as well. Now the more I get into this post, the more I’m realizing, I don’t think I talked about the last issue. Yeah, I just checked and I didn’t post about Issue 6. I posted about the cover, but I didn’t point out some things I wanted to post about in that specific issue.
Getting to color Batman is a real joy. I’m not weirded out to say that. Getting to color iconic scenes like young Bruce losing his mother and father is a big deal, though it’s been rendered so many times. In High School, I wore this Frank Miller Dark Knight shirt (I see the’re still making them). I actually read Neal Adam’s Continuity books before realizing he helped create the look of what Batman is and so many modern artists unknowingly emulate. I re-learned what could be done with super hero comic story telling by reading Frank Miller’s and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One. I’m just trying to say, I really get in to coloring this stuff, to say the least. So, Issue 6 had a ton of cool things to render in it. Superman and Batman finished fighting in the rain. Getting to add all the gritty details on the dilapidated shack they crashed through was great. All the rain drizzle and lightning. Fun stuff. Again, sorry to keep saying the same thing over and over, but David and Rich’s drawings really sold the mood in this issue. Mood is something I’m so used to having to put into pages, because the penciler hasn’t done it that well (this is partly untrue in that, I get to work with a ton of talented pencilers because I’ve been doing this so long). But I guess my point is that a lot of modern pencilers are drawing less and less dark areas and leaving it up to the colorists to fill in where the light is coming from. Which can be fine, but in the wrong hands, you’re just asking for something bad to happen, storytelling wise. I pick up a number of comics where the penciler is used to working with a really good colorist who sets up a missing mood for the page and on top of that, does a lot of the modeling on the characters. Then these same artists try to draw the same way and they get a less talented colorist who doesn’t know what to do with their thin outline drawings and ick. I understand that some reviewers and editors say no that one buys these books because of who the colorist is, but this doesn’t belie the point that without a good colorist, a book can look like ass. Circling back to the origin of what I was trying to say, Dave and Rich really know what they’re doing, so I don’t have to waste my time worrying about that.
We move from this scene to downtown Gotham and we get to see Gordon and some cops nabbing this crazy looking dude. I had fun on this page and particularly this panel, to be more specific. Is it weird for me to say, I always like rendering black people different varieties of brown. I grew up with comics that were rather flat (knowing when to leave something flat is actually an artform in itself, but I’ll save that for a different post) and the colorists of the past were limited in what they could do and really just made all the black people one same flat hue. I hated that as a kid. It pulled me out of the story. I like making everyone on a page having disimilar skin tones, because that’s the way it is. I made this police officer sort of a mocha/nutmeg color, or at least that’s what I call it in my head. The villain was this shark guy that I’m really not remembering the name of right now. Come on people, I color a lot of comics, it’s a wonder that my brain hasn’t exploded pixels yet. I also enjoyed lighting up outside the paddy wagon with the police lights and throwing a red rim light on all three characters to really separate them from the background. To tie up this issue, we get to see some Scarecrow and this new character, White Rabbit just before the big fight between Bane and Bats. I like Scarecrow’s eyes in this panel. The burlap texture I created for Scarecrow’s mask worked really well in my opinion. Some people hate when something looks to realistic and some people love it. Some people think I’m a genius (wait, what? really… they obviously didn’t see my Jr. College grades) and others think I’m a terrible artist. I shoot for somewhere in the middle, so as to pull as many people along for the ride.
Okay, back to issue 7. Batman and Bane kick each other’s butts through out the issue. What? It’s a comic book, lighten up. Good guys fighting bad guys. It’s Joseph Cambell escapism. Everyone and their mothers are flocking to super hero movies to get their minds off of, perhaps, not to happy a time in their own lives. Seeing the bad guy get his just due or seeing the hero overcome seemingly insurmountable odds lifts a lot of people up. Theoretically, nothing wrong with that. I love indie comics and art films a ton, but my tastes change throughout the day or week and sometimes you don’t want to have to take things so seriously. Okay, back to the comic… Bane really serves Batman up in this issue. He’s menacing and truly lives up to his moniker. A real killer or slayer in the best villainous sense of the word. The comic obviously goes somewhere that I’m not going to divulge here… so, you just need to go pick it up. Or have it delivered to your tablet of choice.
Ahhh! Where did February, March and April go? To say I’ve been busy lately would insult father time and we all know what a grouch he can be. Well, I’ll just start where I left off. My first couple of Resurrection man issues came out. Starting with issue six, I took over colors from “….” and whenever I take over from another colorist, I try to ape some of their style and blend it with my own. I know this is all going to be collected and read in order, so I do my best not to make the styles jump to significantly. I want a continuity for the overall order of the pages. I wasn’t completely familiar with the series, but I’ve worked with writer Andy Lanning a lot. Namely Otherworld with Phil Jimenez.
Issue six takes place in Arkham Asylum, so I got a chance to color a lot of different villains. Artist Fernando Guerra is really amazing. Sort of a throw back style, but that’s a compliment in my book. Even though his style is more classic, his process involves a lot of computer work as far as I can tell. When there are FX or layered characters, the files I receive are set up so I can pull some parts out and isolate certain elements without having to make selections. If the artist knows how to do this, (Fernando does) this works really well for me.
The editors wanted me to take the colors in a more graphic coloring direction. which I can see what they want in terms of story. Sometimes you’re going for more of a moody tone, like an independent book or a book from Vertigo, but this storyline is best served to dynamically “pop”. The lead character in the book dies nearly every issue and is reborn with new powers. Story/tone wise, death and resurrection isn’t a subtle subject. It’s brash and exciting. I’m trying to match that tone in my colors. Am I over thinking this stuff. I don’t think so, and besides, this is what I do. Why not over think it? Sure this can kill spontaneity, but I’m not referring to that. I’m thinking that these little stylistic choices I hit upon, make a difference. I’ve actually had a number of people write me or tell me at conventions, about things they’ve noticed I’m doing and ask wether they were intentional. So even if it’s a small few things, I’m going to keep putting the thought into it, because I think it makes a difference.
Issue seven, I started to feel a bit more comfortable with issue seven which really loosens me up to start trying more of my own tricks and flavors. The issue had a lot of what are sometimes referred to as Knock Outs, or color holds or special effects. Basically, it’s where you’re colors or painting is affecting the line work done by the penciler and inker. There was a lot of fire and Mitch, the lead character, was lit up with his own blue fire and there was this magic/new power signature I had to come up with. These all really make the pages glow and sing, but they often overlap, so you have to plan the colors you choose to use. Choosing the wrong background color can really flatten out a page. If the fire or magic is a similar hue, it all gets lost on the printed page. Fernando does a lot of the special effects on his own layers and I pull them out of his photoshop files and layer them into and colorize them to work with my rendered files. Overall, I really liked the printed version of this comic. I’ve been having some difficulties with how my stuff is printing lately, so that feels good when it’s close to right. It’s just something you have to play with when there are new printers involved. I just need a little bit darker darks, more interesting mid tones and the saturation to bump up, just a smidge. I don’t think I ‘ll ever be happy, but I get close.
The most recent issue to come out, issue eight, printed better than the two prior issues, because I’d tweaked my settings and monitor to really get what I see on screen to match the printed page. Granted, RGB to CMYK is never going to hold up, but I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at knowing which colors will print and how well. Reds are still difficult. I know if I was working in CMYK, I would be picking specific reds that would really pop, but some of my other colors turn out so well, I just do my best with trying to not let my reds go to pink or orange.
This issue was also chock full of special effects, but the better color reproduction worked to my advantage. This issue was my favorite one, yet. Well, that’s it for now. I have a ton of post lined up, so bear with me as I get them all in line.
I’m a big fan of Santigold and she recently released a new video. Upon viewing it, I loved it but I kept thinking it reminded me of something. At first, I thought it might be M.I.A., but that wasn’t it. Later that night, enjoying a winter brew at the Tap Room, it hit me. The Guys Next Door. “Wow. I wonder if that’s on youtube?” I thought to myself and then realized I have an awesome phone, let’s take a look. There it was. Many years back, I was animating all manner of things at a place called American Film Technologies. I believe we were finishing up some O.G. Readmore (‘riginal Gangsta) and I believe my friend Corey or Heather (memory fail, this was awhile ago) and I were pulled on to do some animation for an opening of a new show. The art director, Ron Elliot, was an intense guy. He explained his ideas and it all sounded fine by me. We were going to be animating graphic elements traditionally (on paper and animation disc) and then do the coloring and effects in post. The big to do about AFT was that we were the first animation company to be completely paperless. The system we developed went on to become Toon Boom, if I’m not mistaken. We had time sheets, cassette tapes of the song that we played in “Walk Man‘s” and some loose scene break downs. Small joys were things like working to get the keyboard that flies in, to be directly beneath the one singers (Patrick Dancy) fingers. Timing the key frames so the keyboard arrives just in time, doing the inbetweens ourselves and having to shoot the frames on a camera system we had set up were all great hands on touches that changed things up in a real nice way. The fact that we were getting to animate on a disc with actual paper we’d ordered from Cartoon Supplies was great. I used to love their catalogue they sent out with orders. I do have to say, listening to that song over and over again in headphones can drive a man zany. It probably only took us a week to complete, but the change of pace made me come back to the computer and the Suma Sketch with a whole new energy. I’m about to brush off some of my animation rust for some pieces in the Gothic Cowboy movie I’m attempting to complete by July. Strangely, seeing this old clip is giving me energy, once again. Not to mention it makes me laugh. That’s some cheesy stuff right there.
What’s this all about? You’re just going to have to read it to find out for yourself. I have this story I’ve been wanting to write for several years and I’m finally putting it out there. I’m putting up new parts every Tuesday. New chapters start on the second Tuesday of each month, but if you check in every following Tuesday, you’ll find updates and revisions that I’ve made over the course of the week. Surprisingly, the revisions and editing are turning out to be some of the most fun. If you want to read the nice fully formated and edited version, then you’re going to have to tune in next year. Yeah, next year. There are 12 chapters, which means, I won’t be finishing this until January 1st, 2013. I’m averaging about 5000 words a part, with each chapter having four parts, that puts the final page count some where around 120,000 words. Eeek. Some of it’s hard for me to read with all the grammatical errors and a severe lack of polish (not Polish), but I’m having a blast writing it and this Tuesday deadline thing is really working for me. So, if you’re into some amateur quirky satire, jump on board. Then again, If un-edited manuscripts drive you up a wall, you might just want to chill for a year. Happy reading.