In My Mailbox Today! – Wally Wood IDW Artist Edition

Well, not really in my mailbox, because it’s much too large to fit. More like, on my porch…

As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’ve been reading, perusing, and acquiring more comic-related art books because I’m currently working on a comic series and I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration. IDW has turned me on to artists’ work everyone in the industry is familiar with but which I never really appreciated until I was able to see in the Artist Edition series. This series reproduces artist’s work at their original size after having been shot/scanned in color from the original pencil/inked art, retaining the actual color of the aged pages with all of the blue pencil and correction marks. It’s the closest thing to holding the original art in your hands. What’s really nice about these editions is that they allow you to see the black and white work without any coloring to distract you from the beautiful pencil or ink work. It also gives you a better insight into the creative process.

IDW started producing these books around 2010 or so, the first being Dave Stevens Rocketeer Artist Edition, which is the first one I acquired a few years ago because I’m a big fan of Steven’s work. The second Artist Edition IDW produced was an edition of Wally Wood’s EC work. It immediately sold out and was so popular that IDW released a second edition, however, both editions have out of print out now for years and can cost over five times their original retail prices on those rare occasions they pop up on the market (which is why I’ve never purchased one).

Because of its popularity, IDW has released an Artisan Edition which is a small, soft-cover edition with a different cover and a little less content (for about a third of the original retail price of the Artist Edition). I had this in mind to eventually get since I never thought I’d find an affordable copy of the Wally Wood Artist Edition. Recently, however, a first edition popped up on ebay at a little over the original retail price so I nabbed it.

I’m not going to review it because it’s been thoroughly reviewed online since it came out in 2011, but I’ll link to a couple videos. I’d also encourage you to check out this excellent review of it (as well as other Artist Editions) HERE.

I’m savoring this tome as I study it (it arrived this morning and I haven’t gone through it all yet).

To give you an idea of the size of these twice-up editions, here’s a pic of the book next to my guitar. Yes, it’s huge (the book, not the guitar)!

The following are from YouTube (i.e., not produced by myself). But they’re interesting to watch if you want a quick flip-through of the book.

And another review for our Spanish-speaking friends…

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IDW Artist Edition: Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four “World’s Greatest”

In 2015, I wrote a post about how I had acquired some IDW Artist Editions. At the time, I mentioned how I was never a fan of Will Eisner’s The Spirit until I saw scans of the original art in both of the IDW Artist Editions.

In like manner, I was never a big fan of Jack Kirby’s figure drawing. Frankly, I never got all the hoopla over him or why he was crowned the “King of comics.” And then I had the same experience with Kirby as I had with Eisner. I saw the IDW Fantastic Four artist editions of Kirby’s original work and it blew me away. I suddenly “got it” and understood why Kirby was king. Every page of his work seems to be filled with action and dynamism. His compositions and story-telling are powerful and they never bore you. It’s something that really manifested by seeing scans of the original inked pages without the distraction of color or poor reproduction.

This really hit home for me when I was taking a stroll with my daughter and came across a comic shop, which we entered. I picked up an issue of The Shadow and the entire comic was essentially dialogue and boring panels of people just talking (or so it seemed from the flip-through of the pages). In fact, I think I only spotted one or two panels containing The Shadow in the entire comic. And this is something that I seem to see more and more. It’s as if no one is capable of telescoping a story into essential elements so that it gets to the point in a single issue or maybe three-issue-at-the-most story arc. Or perhaps comic-buyers today just enjoy slow, drawn out soap-operas. Who knows. Frankly, I’ve gone back to reading the stuff printed on newsprint that I read as a kid. No, it’s not fancy stuff and the stories may be campy, but they’re more entertaining than almost anything I see today (of course there are exceptions and some stuff today is great, but my comment is addressing what seems to me to be the general trend).

Anyway, from now on, count me in as a fan of Kirby.

I’m too lazy to do a flip-through video of the book, but I’d like to link to this YouTube video of a gentleman reviewing the first IDW artist edition of Kirby’s Fantastic Four (the book above is the second volume of Kirby’s FF work, both books being released in 2017 by IDW to commemorate Kirby’s 100th birthday). The reviewer does a fine job commenting on the artwork. If you’re a fan of Kirby and still haven’t seen either artist edition, watch this video and you’ll want to run out and get them.


The soullessness of modern comic art…

I’ve been at the art game long enough to remember what being an artist entailed before the internet existed.

For one thing, artists used to clip pictures from magazines, books, pamphlets, and other sorts of ephemera and save them in what was usually known as a swipe file. If you needed to draw a lion running and wanted some reference, you went to your swipe file and hopefully you had clipped something from a National Geographic that provided enough reference for you to do a believable drawing.

Artists also often accumulated libraries of books and magazines on art, photography, and general reference on animals, anatomy, costumes, architecture, and so on — you get the picture.

And then there were times you couldn’t find what you needed so you loaded up a roll of film in your camera and went out and shot your own reference. That could cost you some money, depending on how much film you bought, not to mention the cost of developing, and then you hoped your pictures came out right.

Finally, when you just couldn’t find what you needed, an artist just relied on his imagination to best approximate what he wanted to convey (hoping that the viewer was unfamiliar enough with the subject matter to not notice any errors).

My studio and library full of reference.

I relied on all of the aforementioned sources for reference as well… until the world wide web arrived. The internet made reference ubiquitous and rendered swipe files and library sources obsolete (in all honesty, I was grateful I could throw away file-drawers full of clippings, though I continue to expand my book reference). The problem with internet reference (as I’ve written in a previous post) is that everyone is often using the same reference, so that there’s a sort of creative inbreeding occurring.

And digital photography has made the taking of reference photos cheap. No more cost of buying and developing film, so one could keep on clicking away until he gets the right shot, even if that means taking a bazillion photos.

So what’s my problem with this and why do I think this can be a problem in comics (and other art)? Well, comics in the late 80’s and 90’s seemed like they were going through a drought of talent where, in my opinion, there were few artists that I thought were really impressive. On the flip side, digital coloring and fancy printing was raising the bar on comic quality and was a far cry from the cheap newsprint comics I grew up enjoying. What this meant is that some artists who I will not name got a lot of attention and were hailed as great artists when, in my opinion, it was the novelty of digital coloring and fancy printing that made their art stand out as something special. And I’m not suggesting that digital coloring or slick paper is a bad thing, but only that it shouldn’t be a crutch when other aspects of good art are lacking.

Today, however, I’ve noticed the quality of draftsmanship in a lot of comics is over the top. By that, I mean it looks too real, like it’s heavily based on photo reference (and to elaborate further, I’m suggesting that some renderings look like they’ve practically been traced from photos), so much so that the characters lack style and the overall look seems to lack imagination. And it’s that style and imagination that I miss. No one will mistake Will Eisner’s Spirit for a photo-realistic drawing, but it’s filled with style. No one will accuse the team of John Buscema and Alfredo Alacala of using a photo when rendering a Conan page, but their efforts exuded talent and imagination. Certainly Jack Kirby’s figures provoked some debate as to the quality of his figure-drawing, but few artists have his imagination or are able to lay out an action scene with the same dynamics. Now I’m not suggesting that the artists mentioned would never have relied on a photo for reference if necessary; but if they used reference, it was only to spark their imagination and point them in the right direction.

Another problem with relying too heavily on photo-reference is that not every panel in a comic may do so. Consequently, you have a real change in feel when the artist is not using photo reference and now has to draw a character as well as the “photo” drawing from his imagination, which rarely works. Most of the time one can browse through such a comic and point out where the photo reference was used and where it wasn’t. Moreover, having to match the style of the photo-referenced-drawn panel restricts the artist from employing his own style (because photo reference has no unifying style, which is another problem in itself).

Does this mean I hate realistically-drawn comic art? No, it’s impressive on a certain level. But I noticed that what made a lot of past artists great is their talent for cartooning and unifying style. Cartoons may seem silly or childish to some, but they’re filled with animation and life that portrays an ideal. Renaissance artists were great precisely because they sought to capture this ideal and not simply recreate reality.

So why do I think much of modern comic art is soulless? A well-posed wax statue might initially seem alive, until you realize it’s stiff, making the lack of animation all the more conspicuous. And a photo-realistically drawn comic may initially impress, until you notice the same dead stiffness. I personally prefer a cartoony comic full of life, than a comic filled with a realism that lacks animation or style.

The best example I can give to sum up what I’m trying to say (and this is really aimed at those who are familiar with the artists I’m going to mention, even though the example is not from comics) is to compare Frazetta and Boris (here’s a good article discussing their differences in depth). The former painted mostly from imagination (yes, he used reference on rare occasions, but it was strictly as a springboard and nothing more), while the latter’s figures were almost entirely based on photos. After a long examination, it’s clear which artist’s work is brimming with life and energy and which represents “nice” paintings (no disrespect to Boris, whose work I still admire greatly).

In the same way, I think realistic comics are “nice,” but I’d rather take the comic art of a Will Eisner or even an Eric Powell (a contemporary comic artist oozing with style and talent…and weirdness), or any number of other artists any day over a lot of the realistic comic art of today.

Did I also mention how I miss those Sea-Monkey ads? … And don’t get me started on the perversion, profanity, and propaganda in modern comics. I’ll save that rant for another day.

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Comic Con 2017 – THE LOOT

I acquire a lot of art books. I mean, a LOT. Most of them serve as inspiration when I just feel like getting into a certain mood before tackling a project. Others provide ideas for color palettes, lighting, or anatomy reference for animals and people, and still others help with period costuming (unfortunately, I have no access to a theatre company’s costume or prop department, so I make due with period films or period artwork for reference).

So my trek to the Comic Con is really to see what’s new in pop art and to hunt for new and inspiring art books (as I’ve stated elsewhere, Comic Con these days is less about comics and more about pop art, gaming, films, toys, with some comic stuff thrown in there to appease the die-hard comic fans).

In the past I made a beeline to Bud Plant‘s booth, which was a great booth for art books. Unfortunately, Amazon has killed small book dealers and Bud Plant, after surviving going completely out of business, has been reduced to a small table in the back, near the food area. It’s really sad, because I’ve purchased some hard-to-find art books from them in the past.

The other book-seller I make sure to peruse is Stuart NG, who seems to have a healthy business due to his plentiful offering of imported books (usually from France) which aren’t something you usually find on Amazon or in your average bookstore.

And then I may purchase a sketchbook or something from the many artists who are there to show their stuff.

So here are some very poor iPad pics of the stuff I hauled back home…

The two books on top are children’s picture books in that unspeakable language, French. I’m a sucker for a charming children’s picture book. It doesn’t matter that I can’t read them, because I really only enjoy them for the art. The Dean Cornwell book is something I’ve wanted for years because I really admire his art. He’s simply a fantastic Golden Age illustrator.

The books in this unforgivably blurry photo were all free. The top two are James Bama books which were given away by Flesk publications. I suspect they had quite an inventory they couldn’t move and it would be cheaper to get a tax write-off by giving them away than to let them collect dust in a warehouse. I already own a Bama book with his DocSavage illustrations. These two are more personal western art, art which is well done, but not really of much interest to me. Still, who am I to turn down free art books, right? The bottom left item is a Heritage Auction House catalog featuring a lot of Disney and other animation art for sale.

Oh, and I didn’t shoot a pic of it, but in case you were wondering, I got DC’s The Flash pin with the Con bag (for those of you who know to what I refer).

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Comic Con 2017 Badge

So my Comic Con badge arrived in the mail today. Here’s a video of the package opening.

I’m not sure why they’re mailing it in a box when an envelope would have been more than enough room and would have probably been less expensive to ship. Maybe they’re trying to counter the ticket-price sticker-shock with a somewhat pleasant badge package.

I wonder if people are already selling the box, pin, and and ephemera on ebay. I’ll probably save mine since this is the first year they’re doing this. I suspect as ticket prices increase, the fanciness of this package will get even more, er, um, “fancy-schmancy”?

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Comics – Dandelion Odyssey

For those who’ve never bothered viewing my website, here’s a cover I did some time ago for a comic called Dandelion Odyssey (actually, I illustrated the entire issue, not just the cover).

This style was a departure of what I normally do, but it was fun trying something what for me would be out of the ordinary. I hate feeling like I do the same thing all of the time, so attempting to do different styles is a good change of pace. Falling into a creative rut or settling on doing one thing over and over tends to stunt creative growth (or perhaps is a symptom of some other issue).

Dandelion Odyssey

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If Other Professions Were Paid Like Artists

I came across this comic on a guitar forum and thought it was worth sharing.



Life is too short to take oneself too seriously…


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WAR OF THE ROCKETMEN Crowdfunding Campaign

Rocketmen3John Semper Jr., producer and head-writer of the 1990’s “SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES”, has finally launched the crowd-funding campaign for “WAR OF THE ROCKETMEN,” on which I did some preliminary concept work.

FG_RocketMan_ComicIf you’re interested in donating to this project, you can do so HERE.

Even if you’re not interested in donating, please just check out John’s presentation video. If it’s something you’d like to see move forward, please share the link with others.



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IDW Artist Editions – The Sequel

I was never a big Will Eisner fan, but he garnered so much industry respect that I thought I must be missing something. I really wanted to go back and study his work on The Spirit, but any trade reprints just didn’t seem to be of great quality. Let’s face it, the production quality of comics has come a long way from the off-register-colored stuff printed on newsprint which made up the comics of my childhood. Frankly, I preferred the DC series which were done by Darwyn Cooke several years ago. So I never purchased any of the series by Eisner. TheSpirit_IDW_1st And then came the IDW Artist Editions. I watched a YouTube video of someone flipping through one of The Spirit editions, and it just didn’t impress me. And then I saw one in person and flipped through it – Wow! Seeing the work up close made all of the difference in the world. Naturally I bought both volumes. The first thing I have to say is that I now understand why everyone has such great respect for Eisner. His work on these Spirit comics is amazing. And seeing the original-quality inking without the distraction of coloring really highlights what’s best about this work. Eisner wasn’t just a great sequential story-teller (which is what I thought was his claim to fame). He was really a great artist as well. I would recommend any fan of good, traditionally inked work to run out and get themselves a copy of these editions. An artist can learn a lot from studying these. TheSpirit_IDW_2nd The IDW Artist Edition on EC comics is my least favorite of the ones I’ve reviewed, though, that Frazetta cover is an amazing work of art which one could study endlessly (it’s easily one of my favorite Frazetta pieces). I was really hoping this edition contained mostly collaborative work by The Fleagles, but that wasn’t the case. It’s still a top-notch volume where quality is concerned, but if you’re looking for lots of Williamson, Frazetta, and Krenkel, don’t look here. I think there was only one such collaborative story, but that isn’t really much in a volume this large. Wally Wood also isn’t represented here because his work was saved for another Artist Edition devoted entirely to him. Still, as I said, it’s a well-produced book. EC_IDW Regarding future IDW Artist Editions, what I’d really like to see is some work from Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine (from the 70’s) reproduced in this format. I really want to see Big John’s penciling with Alfredo Alcala’s beautiful pen and ink work. Can you imagine seeing the following pages reproduced at their original size in all of their splendor? alcalaconan5 Perhaps someone at IDW is already on to these and has plans for reproducing them in a future Artist Edition. One can only hope.