Saturday, May 30, 2009


Hey gang, no posting today. Every second I have directly correlates into how good I can make the upcoming story. I can't justify posting when I can do so on Monday after the deadline.

Sorry, but I promise it's gonna be worth it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

FAMILY part 5

This was the last page that I coloured, and definitely my favourite. I remember that it was 4am in the morning and it had been a long day colouring both pages 4 and 5 on one day. Ironically, they're both my best pages, which is a testament to my learning curve (or how much I had to learn) and my ability to combat exhaustion.

The other reason why I like my new colouring style is that it doesn't take forever. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I wave my fairy wand and the colours appear... It's still a lot of hard work. The 4am finish would testify to that. I remember being so happy with pages 4 and 5 that I worked until 6am fixing up the other pages so that they were a little stronger to fit in with what I'd learned. I'm a perfectionist like that. While panel 1 of page 2 is definitely weak, it's an exception rather than the rule. So I can be happy with that. I'm looking forward to a higher level of consistency on my upcoming story... part 4 of Rebellion.

Ages ago I remember reading WE3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (which I highly recommend) and there's a scene where a train tumbles off a collapsing bridge. I remember needing to draw the underside of a train so I thought I'd check what Frank Quitely did for the underside. I found the sequence again to find that he'd covered the majority of the underside of the carriage with rubble and shadows. Smart. Very smart. It saved time and no one noticed or missed it. So I decided to use that same technique here. The huge chimney not only covers up heaps of tedious perspective, but it also creates a sense of depth. But it did take a fair amount of time to draw, just not a great deal of emotional effort. But that was a lot of bricks. Did I mention that was a lot of bricks?

The flag and the tree are all other examples of not only framing the scene to draw attention to what I want you to look at, but saved me drawing another couple of buildings too. See? I call it stealth cheating.

But I am particularly happy with the design of this page. I think that once you finish panel 2 the arc of their flight sweeps your eye back down to the collapsing building. I'm also not a huge fan of motion lines. Again, like Bryan Hitch I like to try and use what's in the scene to convey movement. In this case the dust, debris and dirt peeling off the forcefield as they fly to safety... not Washington. Anyone who thinks they all flew from here to Washington is crazy. They would have frozen to death. It's why I changed the girl's costumes to help sell time passing.

And while we'd never seen him do it, I thought it would be cool to give West the "donut" effect on his flight. I felt that it was such a unique HEROES visual that I just had to throw it in to remind the reader exactly which universe we're in.

NEXT: Page 6: The dilemna of sexing up friend's fiances and girlfriends.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

FAMILY part 4

No bloggage yesterday as it was Memorial day weekend and I found myself kidnapped in my girlfriend's bed and checking email and blogging was the last thing on my mind. We're powering through the 2004 ALCS World Series with the Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees. She's a huge Red Sox fan and wanted me to see their greatest moment of victory in 86 years. Being the accommodating boyfriend, and more importantly wanting to share something that means so much to her, I said, "yes".

Then I heard the beeping as a massive truck reversed up the driveway. It's chassis sat low and its suspension rebeled under the weight of its cargo. The doors swung opened and from within the darkness thunder echoed. Flashing lights cut the darkness and a huge robotic hydraulic cargo machine that I recognised as the one that Ripley used to fight the mother alien at the end of Aliens came teetering out.

Its 15 foot frame reeled under the 12 disc box set of baseball that it carried. Setting it down on a specially reinforced concrete frame I checked the side of the box to see that it was 33 hours of baseball! Dear god! What the hell had I got myself into?!

And the game I watched yesterday was 5 hours. Even Heather was starting to wilt. The next one is 6 hours. If you don't hear from me it's cos I chewed my own wrists out trying to be a good boyfriend.

But lets get onto this HEROES story. Again, you can find it HERE.

The biggest technical difference in this story is that I used the inestimable Paul Caggegi (check out his site, THE PROCESS DIARY - don't worry I will chuck another link further down) to help me out with the backgrounds. You may remember Paul. He used to do the 3HEROES podcast and he was my very first interview. Since that time we've struck up a great friendship and even had the chance to meet up over lunch.

The formula in comics is (effort + talent) x time = result.

So the more time you have, the better the result. It basically means that anyone no matter how mediocre can take years on a project and rival the best professional. The trick to being a professional is that your effort and talent multiplier is much bigger so you can spend less time on a piece. But at the end of the day, time is the deciding factor. It's a matter of doing as much work as you can before the deadline.

I'm either:

a. Lazy

b. A team player

c. All of the above

So what I did is you looked for help. Now, at the end of the day, I prefer to draw everything. But that doesn't mean I can't ask Paul Caggegi to help be my interior decorator and set builder. And that's exactly what he did! Paul went above and beyond the call of duty to create a beautiful living room for this scene. He made it a believable home. I sent him an overhead map and the layouts of the pages (see left) and he took it from there. He built the room in 3d and then rendered out the angles that I needed. I pasted his renders in behind the figures and basically traced over his lines for perspective and structure. Because he made this stage so quick, I was able to concentrate on lighting, texture and distressing the room from Sparrow's antics. It made for what I think was in incredibly effortless amazing result. I've included the page of renders so you can see the effort that Paul went to that unfortunately got covered up by my figures and later, lettering. Damn writers getting in the way of the artwork!

I can't recommend and praise Paul enough. He was so efficient it was ridiculous. If his turn around times were any faster he would have sent them before I'd sent my requests! His models were perfect and detailed enough to give me character and a great base to work from, but also sparse enough that he let me put my own stamp on things. It was one of the best working partnerships I've ever had. We're teaming up again on the next part. He's not just helping me out this time, he's helping me achieve the impossible.

Again, the link to his site is THE PROCESS DIARY. He has all sorts of tutorials, thoughts, videos and generally runs the sort of blog that I can only envy at. If you think you'd like to hire Paul for freelance work or something bigger please chuck me an email at or wander around his site for some contact details.

NEXT: Wednesday: Page 5. Colouring in all its glory and how I learned to cheat from Frank Quitely.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

FAMILY part 3

Remember, you can find the link to the grahic novel >HERE<. It's s free download! Fans have surmised a great deal about how this story ties into some of the foreshadowing of COG which you can find >HERE<. Smart readers noticed that on page 3 of COG you can see Lee and Abby. They then theorised that this was foreshadowing this story.

I guess this perfectly examples the organic and coincidental nature of smart storytelling. Foz, the writer had nothing to do with putting Lee and Abby there. I put Lee and Abby in COG for two reasons. One, I had to fill two photos and didn't have time to draw new pictures. Those two shots were from SUM QUOD SUM part 2 page 2 panel 1 and 2(see side labels). Because they got so distorted and blurred in the effects we never saw the pictures clean. So I asked Annette to pull them out so we could show them off here. Secondly, they're two great friends of mine and I wanted to throw them a shout out. Two birds one stone.

Now, whether Ollie picked up on this and decided to write FAMILY including them again was because of, in spite of, or despite of these cameos is something you will have to ask him about. But regardless, what he's accidentally or deliberately done is to create some fantastic foreshadowing and a tangible link between the two stories.

Let's talk about colour, shall we? Did you know men actually see FEWER colours than women? It's to do with either them or us having more or less rods or cones. I can't remember which. So when your partner says, "Honey... which of these do you prefer" and holds up two swatches that look identical to you... don't feel bad. It's just our inferior male genetics at work. On the plus side, we apparently see better in the dark. I guess you can put it down to evolutionary gatherer (being able to tell ripe from rotten) and hunter (stalking prey in the dark) roles.

But... this was the first page where I started to figure out exactly how to colour. The order went: 2, 6, 1, 3, 4, 5 . I had to do the Nissan thing first. Then I went to page 6 cos being a splash page it makes a good warm up. After stretching my colouring muscles I moved onto page 1 and started charging through in order. Page 1 is ok, and when I finished page 5 at 4am Sunday night, I stayed up another 2 hours just to clean up pages 1 and 2. I just wanted to make sure this was perfect. If I could I would have coloured this page again. I finally figured out how to get all the muddiness out of my style and make it clean and open. Before I just don't think my work breathed. It was so dark and murky. I remember Brian Bendis saying just that and it took me about 4 years to figure out the problem. I'm a nice guy, but I'm not the sharpest knife in the draw.

But here is where I stumbled across the style I wanted. I remember taking all damn day on this page (while listening to Hearts from Atlantis - the Stephen King story - I'm almost done with the Dark Tower and trying to listen to everything that ties in). I then fell into a bad place health wise. I headed to Heather's to hang out and rest. But while I was there the back of my brain was ticking- the cogs turning trying to figure out how I could do what I did faster and better. And by the evident improvement of pages 4 and 5, I think I solved that problem.

But while this page is good... it could be much better. What killed me is that the house that I drew behind Abby (see the black and white versions) is all fully coloured. the chairs have upholstery, the skirting boards are colour co-ordinated and the cabinet at the back tastefully matches the walls and floors. Then I covered it up with those damn forcefields!

I actually sent Annette an email asking her how to do the forcefields. She gave me some good outlines but I had to figure it out myself. The best advice she gave me was, "Don't stress. Make them your own." I tried to do two things with the forcefields. The first thing was give them this ripple effect when the darts hit them. Instead of just bouncing off a hard perspex shell, I liked the idea that the forcefields are like hard water. Also when Abby gets flustered they start to break down like in panel 1. But when her concentration is perfect, like panel 2 they're solid as houses.

Panel 3 I really wanted to sell Sparrow's power. I wanted it as widescreen as possible. I would have pullled further back, but I just couldn't justify it in this tiny corridor. I mean, if she can pull a column of the earth out to catch her fall out of a plane, she can tear a house down. And I really wanted to sell that this house was falling the hell apart! I hope it added a level of dramatic tension that you consciously or subconsciously processed. I wanted it as widescreen as possible. I would have pullled further back, but I just couldn't justify it in this tiny corridor.

NEXT: Claude and Abby. More effects and 3d modeling by the amazing Paul Caggegi!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

FAMILY part 2

Once again, you can find the free download of this comic >HERE<.

Thanks for all the great feedback! It's so great to see everyone back. I'm so glad this story is resonating. I don't know how Ollie does it, but his stories have such an incredible momentum! I found that reading it myself I just kind of drove through it like a bullet. And I know how much time was put into each page more than anyone!

Zach Craley wrote parts one and two. He was responsible for giving Sparrow terrakinesis and perfectly casting her as his lovely girfriend Kat Purgal. Obviously, Ollie's fiance, Abby was in it too, and Ollie graced us in a panel. Originally he'd planned a larger role for Lee posing theidea of Lee "going nuclear" but decided that not only had that idea been done in HEROES already, but rethought it due to his constant humility (not wanting a feature role) and trying to serve the other characters better. With Sparrow bringing down the roof I think it helps sell the scale of her power and her impact on the series. She's been on ice so long (living really only in the roleplaying boards) I think Ollie and Zach decided that it's time she really had her time in the sun.

Ollie organised a big barbeque so I could shoot all my photo reference. I could do it without it, but the likenesses would only be mediocre. Everyone was available and so beforehand the likely suspects involved met up and I shot all the reference photos. Kat was fantastic. Her acting background made it so easy. I'm convinced that I'd much rather work with actors than models. I need performance, not just pretty faces. Abby was brilliant as usual. You can see how well the girls did by how good their likenesses are. When performances are a bit wooden I have to change facial features to get the performance I want. And generally the more the performance in the photo deviates from what I want, the less it looks like them.

My sinus infection had begun to kick in, and I remember huddling over the bbq, wrapped in my jackedt, shivering - on the border of shuddering I was so cold. Heather took me home, made me soup and I tried to sleep it off. I think the cold lapsed for a couple days before coming back in full force. It felt like Tracy Strauss or Bobby Drake (Iceman from the Xmen) had grabbed a huge steel hook, lodged it into my nose, froze it then started pulling for all they were worth. I don't take pain killers. I like to know where my body's at so I can moderate my activity to make sure it's getting rest when it needs rest. But there was no rest for the wicked while drawing this. I saw the doctor who diagnosed me with a sinus infection and began popping Tylenol Extra Strength like they were candy... only just managing to stay under the limit of 8 every 24 hours. Because the pain was so great, they would take up to 2 hours to kick in. So I would wake up 2 hours early, pop the pills, then go back to bed for two hours and wake up with only a mild amount of pain. In fact, today is the first day I have woken up and not started popping pills.

The pain was quite frankly, exhausting. Trying to labour through this on top of it was one of the most trying things I've ever done. But as I've said before, the pain is temporary, the page lasts forever.

This story is also totally sponsored by Nissan for Comic Con. They were actually incredibly reasonable about changes and ammendments. The only time it was a little frustrating was when they gave me an image of the exact angle of the car they wanted drawn after I had already drawn it! You can see the original artwork above with some more shout outs.

The key to making changes quickly and effectively in Photoshop is to keep things labelled and on separate layers with masks and selections. I made sure to do this with the Nissan panel and so I was able to do pretty much every change they asked for in minutes... except when I had to redraw the car. That took an extra 5 hours.

I remember Frank sent me an email Friday morning telling me that this page had to be coloured that day. I freaked and rushed the colouring. I later went back and cleaned up what I could but it was like, 4am on the eve of the deadline. Unfortunately, I think this is the weakest panel in the story. I think I cluttered it up with too much black and excess linework. It looks flat and I hate the palette. But I dig the colouring on the rest of the page! I just wish I'd put some sort of motion blur on West to sell his speed more.

Thanks again for stopping by!

TONIGHT: Off to see Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction. I can't wait. Two of my favourite bands playing on the one tour. I'm gonna be in heaven!

FACEBOOK: Friend me up, cos sometimes I make announcements like the shout outs in this comic. Just please mention you know me or my art.

FRIDAY: Effects, colouring and characters.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FAMILY part 1

First up, you can find the free graphic novel at the HEROES site >HERE<. I recommend downloading the pdf to see all the detail. I've drawn it so you should be able to effortlessly read it on your screen.

I haven't been this excited about a graphic novel since SUM QUOD SUM. I loved what I did with Jim and Foz in the meantime, but two things really stood out for me. First up, I got to work with Ollie again. While the other guys are incredibile talents, Ollie just has my storytelling style down to a "T". I just find his and my stories read that little bit better. It's like they're greater than the sum of its parts, you know? Ollie outlined the story for me, and it just sounded so damn exciting. I loved the twists him and Zach came up with. Then Zach Craley sent me the Dennis Calero artwork preceeding mine and I was blown away. Looking at the artists before Dennis and I noticed it was comic book superstar (and all-round nice guy) Phil Jimenez and before that Michael Gaydos. Holy crap, I knew I just had to step up. The second thing was that Ollie told me that this would be the story printed for San Diego Comic Con. I just knew I had to bring my A game.

Another thing that fired me up was that I recently had to put together a proposal for a super secret project that Ollie and I are hoping to work on. I realised that SUM QUOD SUM (see labels on the side) was the last time I went without sleep and worked around the clock to hammer out the best possible artwork I could do. I've done some nice work since, and some stuff that has come close but nothing that rivalled it. I'm all about self improvement and I decided that FAMILY was the time to show people just how far I could hit the ball now.

The other factor to the story was the Nissan integration. This means that Nissan could really be the only logo in the whole story. I remember turning to Ollie and asking him what the hell we're going to do. I had to fill up two shots of Times Square with fake ads!

"Shout outs." he said.

So I put a call out on my Facebook for anyone who wanted a shout out. Here's the complete list of all 28 shout outs:

page 1 panel 1
Lee Olson: Heather's middle names

page 1 panel 3
Alexandre Togeiro
rob beck: : you were originally the guy fighting Alexandre, but you got covered up. You can now find yourself on page 2 panel 1
lindsey Elhai
Jessica Taurins
Alex Moses
Anthony Mitchell: that's you in the scarf in the bottom right corner dude.
Ian austin

page 1 panel 4
Chloe Nye
Alby Chin
Green Dragon

page 2 panel 1
Kelly J. Compeau
"Da Shark Shack"
Paul Cageggi
"Helix Comics"
justin barlow/Riddler
Steven Barrance
Dylan Eales
Adam Waterfield

Ok, these guys got covered up and lost:
nick hayden
Stephanie Gerk

You can see your shout out over on the left without the Sparrow Redhouse text. I'm so sorry. I just couldn't squeeze you guys back in. =(

Paul, buddy... you also got left out. I had to redraw the Cube on page 2 panel 1 and I had to shift the background around and you got erased. But here was your shout out dude, "Absolute Abstruse". I even drew you a bottle and everything!

I'm so sorry.

I think I managed to fit them all in, but some got covered by lettering. For example, my sister is on a star on the Hollywood walk of fame that's directly under the caption, "Are you ready to join the fight?". I think a fair few of them got covered up. But I have no control over the lettering. On the good side, I read a lot of posts saying that while they saw all the shout outs, they didn't seem to distract or detract from the story. I figured that people would just gloss over them the first time and then go back and look for them the second time.

I think the only pall over the proceedings was that Annette was unable to colour this because of other commitments. She gave me plenty of notice though (and tips on how to deal with Abby's forcefield), so I was more than able to factor in the time it would take to colour this baby. I did a better job than I've normally done of colouring, in fact, I would argue that pages 4 and 5 (the last pages I coloured) are the best I've ever coloured (I like the subtle effects like the reflection of the room in the tv in panel 2, as well as the red palette guiding your eye from panel 1 to panel 2). But I really think it looks so much better in black and white. If you want to do me a huge favour, go click on the black and white links and see the extraordinary amount of detail I put into every panel. I didn't skimp on a single panel. I recently bumped into a retired comic book artist by the name of Frank Gomez, who used to work for Top Cow. He told me that the secret to being a superstar comic artist is this... LONG HOURS. The more time you put in, the better it looks. And the proof they say, is in the pudding.

In the script, Ollie had Micah's captions introducing each person. I can't remember where I first saw the idea, probably in Grant Morrison's X-men run, but I pitched to him the idea of this big bold lettering introducing each character like a 70's tv show. Somehow, in a comic it gives it a real blockbuster feel. Ollie dug the idea and he modified the script to accomodate it. I had such a clear vision of how I wanted to design it, and I'm really happy with how it came out. Zach Craley sent me an email commenting how much he liked it, and that cinched the deal for me.

The biggest thing for me was making sure I set the scene. While there are captions telling you where you are, I really tried to find places that oozed an undeniability of location. While it seems obvious now, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was a late location selection - but perfectly fit the bill. I also wanted to make sure that each location had a specific colour palette.

Huge thanks also to Kat Purgal as Sparrow, Abigail Wong as well... Abigail, Ollie as Lee and Zach Craley as the Hotspur rental dude. I will talk about the great job they did and the modeling stuff later. That's a whole other ball game and I've rambled on for long enough already.

I hope you all enjoyed the story. I also hope it's obvious that Ollie and I enjoyed ourselves immensely making it.

NEXT: Wednesday, page 2. Nissan and Sinus Infections.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

COG page 6

A long time coming cos I have my next HEROES story to chat about.

The new story is written by the awesome Ollie Grigsby and drawn and coloured by myself. Unfortunately, Annette was unable to colour the new story due to time constraints. But I think I've really stepped up to another colouring level. Check out pages 4 and 5, which were the last ones I coloured. I think they're incredibly professional.

The other thing to keep in mind, is that I drew and coloured the latest HEROES story with the worst sinus infection I've ever had. But more on that tomorrow.

So there's the story that's out tomorrow, then the fourth part of REBELLION which will have the same creative team of Ollie and I. Then in two weeks after that, I will draw Harrison's 8 pager.

20 pages of my HEROES stuff! And I honestly believe that the six pages you see tomorrow is the BEST stuff I've EVER drawn.

Again, huge thanks to Bill Hooper for modeling for James Martin. He really helped COG stand out.

Friday, May 01, 2009

COG page 5

I wish I could show you guys the stuff I'm doing for HEROES right now. It is flat out the best stuff I've ever drawn. I think it even rivals Sum Quod Sum. I did a good job on COG, but I find myself inspired and on a nice relaxing deadline right now. As Paul Caggegi once said to me, you better put ten pairs of socks on so I can see how many I can knock off.

Speaking of Paul, he's helping me out on this upcoming story by modeling a room in 3d for me to use as reference. This way I can get him to render out angles and backgrounds so I don't have to worry about that tedious perspective thing. We're juggling timelines and what not, but I hope it works. If it does, we're hoping to do this a lot more. It's like working with a production designer, it's fantastic!

The story is written by Ollie Grigsby. Because of all the cameos, he held a big bbq last Saturday so I could shoot everybody for photo reference. Looking at the photos I was stunned how good the performances were. I'm very damn excited. You're gonna see characters you haven't seen before, characters you haven't seen in a while and characters you're dying to see in a story that totally rocks... And I'm doing my damndest to make sure they all look... AWESOME.

I wanna send a huge shout out to Bill Hooper who played the shape shifting James Martin in COG. You can see him here being attacked by Agent Jenkins here on this page. Bill was actually conscripted on the show to play James Martin after NBC determined that the original guy "wasn't sinister enough." Bill took that comment in his stride and allowed his mug to be used for the show. Explaining the reasons for his casting choice to his mom was a bit tougher. I'd met Bill a couple times on the set and at Ollies and he's a very cool, very smart guy. When I mentioned that I'd like to draw him properly he came around to my place to shoot the reference for the fight in Foz's script. I was so grateful to him. Panel 3 is probably my best likeness of him. Thanks so much, buddy!

I also love Annette's colours on this page. Where it goes from the teal to the red is just awesome. It cranks up the danger as well as the visual dynamic power of the page.

Thanks for all those who want shout outs. I'm putting them in, but I can't guarantee that they will survive the lettering process. What I mean by that is I have little to no control where the word balloons are placed, so the word balloons might end up covering your shout out. But so far I've managed to fit in 14 of them into one panel... and it's seamless and there's room for more.

FACEBOOK: I usually post a once per day status update there. Friend me up if you're interested. Make sure you mention you know me. I don't friend people I don't know. I also have an awesome little Facebook fan page there. Be awesome if you join that too. It helps make me look more awesome than I am.