Wednesday, May 28, 2008
It's co-written by her and comics legend, Jeff Mariotte and drawn and coloured by Donald Jackson.
I can't remember exactly how it started, but Kelly's talented artist, Donald had a smack at a cover. While it was a good job, Kelly wanted to try and get all her main characters into the composition. It just so happened that I had a small calm in between storms and asked her if she wanted me to do a cover. She leaped at the offer and I was pumped as Kelly and I had been talking about working together on the Black Tower somehow. Finally it had come to pass!
I shot her 8 composition ideas, and while I explored a variety of different ideas, I knew that this one was the one she would go for. It had everyone in it and balanced them all nicely. Kelly just asked me to drop Dreanna's glowing eyes.
All systems were go!
I began the research phase. To Dreanna's right (our left side of the image) are her human parents, Lori and Kyle. To her left (our right) are her supernatural parents, Iblis and Jennifer, the lord of demons and the embodiment of the Earth. Cosmic stuff.
It's really tough drawing new characters. If you want me to draw Superman or Wolverine, that's easy. It's hard to get them wrong as we both know what their costumes look like. But for new characters I have to basically just make them up. Even though Kelly had done a virtual casting, where she showed me which actors she'd ideally cast for the roles (and one she had already signed on - Cliff Simon from Stargate) I still had to do a great deal of costume design. I'm usually nervous about this as my ideas may not marry with your ideas.
Researching outfits for Lori and Kyle was easy. Dreanna was a bit tougher. Let's just say that I raised an eyebrow at the stuff I found when I typed "catholic schoolgirl" into Google Images. But my Google skills are powerful and will crush the toughest image search. Eventually I found some good, normal reference. Kelly asked me to base Ibliss, Lord of Demons on Ares from Xena. Using that as a base I tried to take it a little further. Jennifer is also her bodyguard, so a dark suit seemed appropriate. I found a great outfit with a hood and I was sold.
I am particularly happy with the line art of this piece. Dreanna looks more 17 than 15, but it's a small sacrifice. I wanted her to look beautiful and captivating without being sexy. Hell, she's fifteen! Settle down people.
Where this piece really became a landmark piece for me was on the tonal work. The one comment I get a lot about my colouring is that it has a tendency to look muddy. I realised that this occurs at the toning stage. So for the Black Tower I decided to avoid going to black on the tones, limiting and lightening my tonal range.
Annette and I had been chatting about her and my colouring recently. I was urging her to go to black on her tones on my artwork. She had been reluctant as every artist and editor she had ever worked with discouraged this as the colours ended up swamping over the line work. I emailed her some examples, but again I was too muddy. I agreed that an ideal point exists halfway between both our colouring styles.
I think I found that halfway point on this piece. I couldn't be happier!
Here are the basic colour flats wrapped over my textures. If you compare this to other work I've coloured you can already see it's a lot lighter at this stage. It seems fresher and easier on the eyes. I remember a huge smile creeping across my face. I knew I had hit the mark Annette and I were talking about. All I had to do was not screw it up from here.
Colouring the Black Tower itself was easy, I just followed Donald's guide. Black with gold edges. Sweet! Toning and drawng it were a pain in the ass though. Damn perspectives are only bearable because of the lovely line tool in Photoshop. Otherwise I find drawing perspectives by hand more frustrating than downloading catholic school girl "reference" by dial up.
The next step was the textures. I found a nice tartan for Dreanna's skirt. I mean, what's a catholic school girl without her tartan skirt? Donald drew her with a jumper, but I ditched that as I wanted the flowing feel of her shirt and tie to add to the drama of the piece.
Next up was the sky. I think I built the sky from about 5 different photos. I like it. It's powerful, foreboding, and most importantly unreal. I wanted to communicate the supernatural nature of the book immediately with the sky. You only have to look at it to know that there's something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Regular readers know how excited I get over a good fill light. You can fill in my future girlfriend that all she needs is a good lighting setup and I'm good to go.
But I wanted to say something about the story with the fill lights. You will notice that the characters on the left are predominantly coloured in blues, while the characters on the right are more red.
The Black Tower is about the mixing and interaction of all these worlds. So I had a blue light coming from the right, and a red light coming from the left. Each set of characters are affected by the other set's colour scheme. Dreanna sits in the middle bathed in both those lights showing her interaction with both of the supernatural and natural world.
While I liked the piece, it was looking very bottom heavy and cluttered. I also wanted to up the mystical element of the piece. I added a mist behind the characters and that helped to separate them from the actual Black Tower itself. Suddenly there was breathing space in the piece, depth and an increased sense of mystery about the Black Tower itself.
Now, I knew glowing eyes were off the table, but I needed to draw more supernatural attention to Dreanna. I added glowing white hands. I was going to make one hand blue and the other hand red, but it just didn't work. She looked like some sort of traffic light. This way she looks angelic rather than looking like she should be waving planes in for a landing
The last thing that I did was a colour balance. This is my newest trick, taught to be my friend Xander. I can't believe I'm releasing this one, but here goes.
Once you've finished coloring your piece, you need to unify all the colours. In Photoshop, flatten the piece, copy it, un-flatten then paste the piece back over the top of all your layers. Blur it slightly, then use one of four layer effects for the look you want: multiply, screen, overlay or colour. Sometimes I use multiple layer effects at various opacities. Then hit control b and play with the colour balance to get what you want. This is a multiply with a slight red balance.
God. Now it's all out of the bag. This better help someone.
When I emailed it to Kelly she said she actually started crying when she saw it. I've never had higher praise. And my nerves about drawing characters that had never been visualised before were unfounded. Kelly loved everything I had done. I beamed a huge smile. I don't ever expect to hit things the first time out of the gate, but it's really nice when it does happen.
So a final and huge thanks to Kelly for bringing me onto this project. It's a landmark piece for me which marks a significant step forward in my artistic career. It's one of the best covers that I've ever drawn and I love it totally.
Kelly's sending this to Erik Larsen, publisher of Image to see if she can publish through him. Cross everything you've got two of for her, people. It's not an easy job to bring magic into everyone's lives.
The only thing I can promise about the new HEROES story I'm doing is that the first part looks like this cover for every panel. It's easily the best stuff I've drawn.
Oh, so the other awesome thing that happened has to do with Alex Zamm's and my ideas for promotion of Zero G. Alex came up with the great idea of getting quotes for our back cover. You're not gonna believe this, but the first person to get back to us is Stan Lee! Yeah, Stan "the Man" Lee. You know, the guy that co-created Spiderman, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. Here's what he had to say in his awesomely alliterative style:
"Mystery, murder and mayhem on a meteorite! What else could a sci-fi fan hope for? Jason Badower's awesome artwork and Alex Zamm's suspenseful script have created a torrid, terrific and tantalizing must-read graphic novel!"
Alex met Stan at a movie premiere and they got chatting. But it says so much about what an incredibly generous and supportive guy he is. He gave us the most valuable thing he owns: his time.
When Alex emailed me about this I was practically dancing around the flat to my sister's amusement. She practically threw money into a hat I was that good.
JASON BADOWER SIGNING
I'm also doing a signing at Orbital Comics in London on the 7th of June. It's so little notice as I fly out of London on the 15th. So that's next Saturday for all those keeping score.
Here's the link with the details at ORBITAL COMICS.
I will be doing a portfolio review and workshop at 12pm, then signing at 1230pm til whenever I run out of people or Orbital kick my ass out onto the street.
I'm also doing a competition raffle, and one lucky person gets to be drawn into part 3 of my HEROES comic.
So please tell your London based friends to come on down and say "Hi." I'm terrified I'm going to be watching tumbleweeds go by and listening to crickets.
Oh! And one lucky person gets to be drawn into the third part of the upcoming HEROES trilogy I'm working on.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I also found the idea of doing the cover to a romance novel of the highest level of intrigue akin to wondering whether Bond wears briefs, boxers or those modern little Calvin Klein shorts.
I think Jenny sums up her own book the best:
When a meteoritic crystal opens a wormhole on the grounds of ruined Kilchurn Castle in the Scottish Highlands, trapping American physicist Elizabeth Martin over 300 years in the past, her cheating ex-fiancé becomes the least of her worries. Pursued by the politically avaricious Earl of Breadalbane, who wants to use her "Sight" to further his consolidation of power, her only choice is to take refuge with an outlaw clan—a temporary measure until she can find a way to return to her own time.
That's the plan, at least, until she finds in Alec MacGregor, her handsome protector, a love worth giving up everything she's ever known.
But it is the late seventeenth century, and while is torn by the power struggles between supporters of the exiled King James and the English who would seek to rule them, she and Alec are swept into the intrigues of Earls and Kings, and events that could take their lives…or separate them forever.
While it's a historical romance novel, Jenny was quick to point out that she didn't want some "bodice-ripping" cover art. I was both amused and glad. Then Jenny sent me her brief. What it lacked in "brief"-ness, it made up for in thoroughness. I was overjoyed that she'd already done my research for me. Kilburn castle, highlander kilts, swords, guns, hair, clothing. Virtual casting of both Alec and Elspeth. I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate this. It was great to meet someone else who was so thorough with every little detail. It also saved me a heck or a lot of time and trial and error.
In fact, Jenny was really proactive the entire process, which really sped things along. She did everything from copying and pasting corrections to drawing all over the thumbnails I sent her.
I love this piece at the linework stage. It's just a really nice balance between her simplicity and his detail. I think it just hits the eye really nicely.
When the tones kick in, I'm especially happy with several things. I love the texture of her jeans and the fill light thats coming from the right.
The colouring really opened up what was quite a muddy, dark toned piece. I realised that I find ambient soft lighting really tough to deal with. I laboured on getting the right palette for this for hours. I like powerful, dramatic lighting. I also find that the more things you give me to colour, the more I struggle. I think Storm and Batman turned out so well because they had such few colours in them.
But I'm trying to pull away from this with the upcoming three part HEROES gig. I want a softer colouring that's more in harmony with the linework. It was commented recently that my colouring can tend to overpower my linework. And given that everyone seems to agree that my linework is my strength, it's something I definitely want to look in to.
UPDATES: ALAN MOORE AND LONDON EXPO
Last Tuesday I went down to chat to HuwJ's comic book Masterclass at the Movieum. They were a great bunch of guys with a lot of talent and most importantly, passion. HuwJ is doing a great job of nurturing the extraordinarily wide range of talent. We're talking everything from anthropomorphic beans to Top Cow. It appears I spoke for 2.5 hours. I warned the dudes to interrupt me whenever they wanted, as I'm the sort of dude who will not only talk until the cows come home, but I will talk to the cows too.
I had a great time, and they really fired me up. If any London based comic book artists are interested in a comic book course, I do recommend what HuwJ is doing down there. Shoot me an email and I will put you in touch with him.
As I left, HuwJ and his business partner, Russell gave me a limited edition Brian Bolland print of Judge Dredd. I was totally taken aback. Then they invited me to come down to the London Expo this weekend. But then I remembered that I really wanted to go to the Alan Moore signing that was on at the same time at Orbital Comics. I mean, Alan Moore rarely leaves Northhampton let alone journeys to London. And he never heads overseas. Well, thanks to HuwJ I was able to do both. He also mentioned that I was in town to the Orbital guys and they were keen to have me down for a signing. Their marketing manager, Emily found me in the queue for Alan Moore and was shocked that I was waiting with everyone else. I assured her it was fine. I met Dez, the director of the biographical film on Alan that they were promoting. On his business card it mentioned he was not only a film maker but also a martial arts choreographer. Needless to say, we had a divergent, but very interesting chat.
But Alan Moore! What a lovely gentleman. I had a brief chat to him, and regretted not being able to really pick his brain about the language of comics and storytelling. If there's anyone who could help me find solutions to the questions and queries that I have about comics, it would be him.
But he definitely Knew The Score.
I did have a great chat after with Emily, the marketing manager for Orbital and her friend Ami. So far, we've figured out that we want to do things on Saturday the 7th. I will let you all in on more details as they become apparent. It will be just in time for the first part of my HEROES trilogy to go online.
London HEROES fans, be ready!
I then journeyed across London to the ExceL center, where the London Expo was going on. I bumped into 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles; his partner and illustrator, Sarah Wilkinson; writer extraordinaire, Tony Lee; one of my favourite artists, Frazer Irving; Writers Al and Keiron (who's surnames I've forgotten, but guys, email me and I will add your links!). A real treat for me, was bumping into fellow Aussie and Killeroo contributor Andie Tong! It was great to finally meet him and we had a great time catching up.
So I'm on my way out and this dude is standing behind this kinda chain link barricade. He wouldn't let this guy get past to get his girlfriend. Anyway, I kept him busy and distracted while the dude nipped past.
As you can see, I don't let size intimidate me. I've seen bigger Hulks in my time.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Some of what I have to say may even relate to the pictures. Some of it, like what I'm about to say relates to previous posts.
It's funny, so Ida Walker and her crotchety old friend are playing dominoes on page 4 and 5. And on page 5 you see the actual game. Now I have a confession to make, I don't really know how to play dominoes. And you know what? I'm not really planning on learning to play dominos before the age of 60. In fact, I'd rather play Mah Jong. I'd rather be one of those old asian dudes with facial hair that looks like it's half falling off with a squinty eye and a cigarette permanently attached to my lower lip. I'm going to start work on a "leer" so I can be a truly great Mah Jong player.
But uh, dominoes!
So I hit up my pal, Google for a dominoes game. And voila, instant dominoes game. That's how thorough I am. I like to make sure that the game actually makes sense. I guess I'm a stickler for detail. I'm not quite as bad as Sir Ridley Scott, whom in Bladerunner had the chess game which Roy Batty checkmates Tyrell based on a famous game played in 1851 by the German chess master Adolf Anderssen. I don't know if they had a Russian master beat a computer when they filmed Bladerunner back then, but it would have been cute to have used that game. Or vice versa. Or whatever.
So, uh... Dominoes. Woot! Yeah.
I also recall sitting in a Paris hotel trying to upload these at 3am. I had been finished by midnight, but I'd spent 3 hours trying to repair their internet and giving their poor night guy grief. The one night their isp goes down... Typical.
Also, have you ever tried typing on a French keyboard? It took me 20 minutes to write a paragraph because the keyboard has a different layout.
But coming back to the actual art. Oh yeah, the art. I also have to make a special mention of Annette's ghosts. They look beautiful, ethereal and most importantly subtle. It's so easy to go overboard with the special effects in comics (as they cost nothing), but I always feel that an understated show like HEROES does its best work with subtle visual effects.
As a house/blog cleaning thing, I've included a new label on the side: Funny and Favourite. I'm going to mark my favourite writing posts. And while I enjoy all my writing, it's only a few posts that are truly Touched by the Hand of Ciccolina (a Marvel no-prize for anyone who can guess that reference).
So as usual, I've been drawing my little butt off.
I've started work on the new HEROES gig. I'm just waiting for Peter (I assume Steigerwald) to get his character designs confirmed. I've done all my research. And here are my only clues. My research includes:
Blue tooth headsets
Good luck putting that one together because Oliver Grigsby already has.
Last night I just finished Kelly Compeau's cover for the Black Tower and I will upload that soon. I'm so happy with it I almost burst. Kelly loved it too. We're just wrestling with typesetting, design and logos.
HANGING WITH NOO AND NAT
It sounds like some sort of prime-time tv show, and in some ways it was. Noo and Nat are both SARMY members (gratuitous link to this worthwhile Sylar inspired charity included). I've decided that as a hobby, I'm going to collect SARMY members, they're such damn nice people!
That's the legendary Noo on the left hocking her work's latest product. Go buy, go play. Forget your life and go become a Serbian criminal. That's Nat on the right, super-photographer and all-round coolness personified.
This time we made our way to the Movieum. The what?! It's really simple. Movie. Museum. Do the math. It's a whole bunch of stuff on exhibition that they pilfered from Pinewood studios (where they made Superman, Alien, Gladiator, a bunch of Bond films, Elizabeth, Batman and a whole bunch more).
Here are my highlights:
Do you see that on the left, that's the ORIGINAL costume from Superman 1. Let me tell you what this felt like for me. I was recently in Notre Dame and inside a vestibule at the back they have reliquaries holding fragments of the actual cross and the crown of thorns. Seeing this for me was like the most fanatical, devout Christian seeing those. God, I want it.
Christopher Reeve was a big guy too! He's on a raised platform and he towered over me. We guestimated he'd be around 6'4. All around the Movieum they had fun movie trivia cards. One of my favourites was that Christopher Reeve's body building routine for Superman was supervised by David Prowse - Darth Vader! How cool is that? To Kal-El's left was the Batman costume Keaton wore. Now Keaton's not so big a guy. Even on the same pedestal as Reeve's I was looking down on it. A little short for a stormtrooper, methinks.
Ok, now me and like, one other person are going to get this:
It's the throwing blade from Krull!!! Yeah! KRULL!!! You know, the movie with the five ended throwing blade and the uh - five ended throwing blade. I don't actually remember anything else about that film, but that's still awesome, right? Right?! The girls couldn't believe I was flipping out over this. C'mon people! KRULL! Ok, ok. It was a long time ago. Some of you probably weren't even born then. I'll let it go.
The other totally cool thing that happened was that there is an inhouse artist at the Movieum. His name is Huw J and he's a great guy. He is currently working on a revival of the old English space-hero, Garth. We got chatting and amazingly, Noo had a bunch of my stuff on her (I promise I will sign it next time I see you Noo!) so I could show him what I did. He invited me to go speak to his comic illustration class on Tuesday night. My mission? To psyche these poor bastards out. I'm really looking forward to that.
Friday, May 16, 2008
But maybe I've just got Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter on the brain. I just read the first three books and enjoyed the hell out of it. I don't want to sounds sexist, but if I had to guess, it's really easy to tell that it's written by a woman (which I believe is what makes it so fresh in a rather stale genre). How can I tell? Well she goes into almost meticulous detail as to what Anita and everyone else wears. This is cool if the descriptions of the outfits weren't so vivid as to definitely date the books in the early to mid nineties. Other than that I heartily recommend them. Books 1 and 3 are good, but book 2 is a kicker.
Have a look. If you have any questions about Moonlight post them in the comments section.
Anyway, what were we talking about? My brain isn't quite firing on all cylinders as it's aged a fair bit between the MONTH between posts. A month?! God. I suck. But I've heaps of stuff to show you.
I just finished Zero G, the 4 issue graphic novel for Spacedog written by Alex Zamm. I'm just doing the final corrections, but there's no new pages or covers to draw. It's like a huge load off my back. Poor Annette still has to finish colouring.
I planned on using my free time to check out London and do some commissions.
Let's go through the list:
I have a cover for Kelly Compeau's masterpiece, THE BLACK TOWER coming up. Kelly's a huge HEROES fan so fans of it should give this a look.
I also have five covers for Balance and Grace, which is the re-release of the Innocents with an all new ending. I can't wait to do these. I love drawing Grace. Go check out the labels of the INNOCENTS for my previous covers.
I've got an AVP picture for a friend in Melbourne that has been more patient that god.
A picture of an old school Aussie adventure hero for another very patient friend.
I'm designing two animated characters for an upcoming film pitch.
A cover for a set of ebooks called "Wraiths and Worlds".
A redo of the movie poster for American Psycho for Noo (who you will meet later).
A fair list, right?
But then it all went to hell when I got the best/worst email today.
Frank, my editor for HEROES asked me if I'd be available for a three part upcoming story debuting on the 2nd of June. They wanted one artist for the gig and he wanted to know if I was available.
There was a small debate which raged inside my head. Would I use my spare time to wander around London or wander around the HEROES universe?
I looked at the god-awesome list above and replied to Frank with two words, "Game on!"
What's the point of living if you can't make it tough for yourself?
LONDON AND NOO
Noo is a SARMY member who is a good friend of Sheindie and Ororo. She got in contact with me and wanted to buy a sketchbook. I sent it back along with the original pencil layouts for Moonlight Serenade page 1. I noticed she didn't live too far from London and organised to meet up. Noo not only has the good taste and heart to be a SARMY member, but she's also a senior localised tester for Rockstar Games. You may have heard of them. They put out a little game recently called Grand Theft Auto 4. Anyway, this is Noo and I on the bank of the Thames with the Houses of Parliament in teh background. Slightly out of shot to the right is Big Ben. Oh yeah, I shaved my head. I got sick of my hair.
So suggesting something a bit different, Noo recommended the London Aquarium. In doing so, she got to learn something about me. I'm terrified of sharks. Terrified to the point that I don't swim in the ocean, and only recently was able to swim in pools. What possible problem could I have with pools, you ask? Well remember, I'm a kid with an over-active imagination. I've seen James Bond films where the seemingly harmless pool looks all nice and comforting, then the trap door slides aside AND A HORDE OF BLOODTHIRSTY HUNGRY SHARKS SWIMS OUT TO EAT ME!!!
I didn't say my phobia was rational.
So the shark above is a Sand Tiger Shark. Mean looking guy, huh? They have these psycho eyes that just freaked me out. Apparently they look so scary cos they're related to the great white shark. You know, JAWS. This one's probably a little over two meters long. And look at these teeth:
But get this, the Sand Tiger Shark isn't the one you want to worry about. It's this guy:
I have no idea what sort of shark he is. Let's just call him Dopey. Dopey looks like the sort of shark you let mind your kids and does tricks for fish. But Dopey will RIP YOU APART UNTIL YOU'RE A SCREAMING, BLEEDING, WAILING AND PAINFULLY DYING GRIZZLED MESS HOPELESSLY CHOKING ON SEAWATER RED WITH YOUR OWN BLOOD.
We listened to a lady from the Aquarium talking to a bunch of kids. And once I got past her sing-song voice I learnt that the tiger shark has 5 rows of teeth (check the photo) which slash it's food. But if it can't swallow the meal in one go, the teeth just slide off you and you can swim limping away. Dopey's teeth are serrated like a combat knife and dig into flesh allowing Dopey to thrash and tear chunks off you so you bleed to death while the smiley looking bastard drags you down to Davey Jone's Locker.
Who says I don't teach you anything.
Don't swim, don't go near the water and carry a large gun - just in case there are flying sharks.
You can never be too careful with sharks.
The next day, Noo and I met up again (she had Monday and Tuesday off) to go see the Dali exhibition which we noticed as we left the Aquarium. I'm a huge Dali fan as the man can draw the pants off me, and then portray it through a lens so consistent, convincing and brilliant to become my epitome of Surrealism. We took 3 hours to walk through this thing. The man can do everything. Paint, sketch, etch, lithographs, inks as well as sculpt in bronze, wood, stone, glass, plastic and pretty much anything else he could find. Dali was a prolific genius who broke my head and smelted my brain into a low calorie ooze that seeped out my left nostril.
But what's a day with Jas without comic book references. Above the Aquarium was the Movieum (which we're checking out Sunday with fellow SARMY member, Natalie). The Movieum is a museum collecting props and going behind the scenes of a bunch of films and tv made in London. These include Superman, Alien, Dr. Who and did I mention Superman? And outside the Movieum is:
He's without cape as I think it blew away or tore.
And then a ways down the road well away from the Movieum, as we're walking back to the station we see this:
Unfortunately I didn't see the Scooby Gang as I totally wanted to check out Daphne.