Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bell of Splendid Awakening

One of the reasons I chose to draw Liberty Belle a few weeks back is because I wanted to draw a bell. But not the bell Libby was holding. I wanted to draw an Asian bell. I loves 'em. And, when I found that drawing Libby had not scratched that itch, I drew this picture.

And, well, every real superhero deserves a supporting cast that includes hordes doppelgangers and variations on one's theme. Batman has Batgirl, Batwoman, Batmite, Ace the Bat-Hound, and so on. Spiderman has a couple Spider-Women, Spider-Girl, the Scarlet Spider, and at least one Spiderman from the future. Superman... well, let's not even get started on Superman. So I decided that my mythical A-List Liberty Belle comic would include women from other cultures who also had bells that they used in various super-powery ways, collectively called the Bell Maidens.

Bell of Splendid Awakening is holding a nao, which is a clapperless bell that is kept upright and stuck with a wooden mallet. She uses it to focus and magnify her qi, granting her a range of wuxia-style abilities, including Libby-like blasts, healing, and, of course, sonic kung-fu.

Thanks to Memphis artist/ designer Kong Wee Pang, who translated Bell's name for this image.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

William Blake

This is a page from a job I just finished. The whole story will be appearing online as part of an academic journal on the Grand Old Man of words and pictures, William Blake. It's a pretty short story, but it took me forever to do, because I was so intimidated by the idea of doing justice to the Master. I kept second, third and fourth guessing myself. There is one page that I redrew and reinked in its entirety four times.

One of the projects I hope to get to one of these years is a longer biography comic of William Blake and his wife, Catherine. They had an unusual life together. William Blake educated his wife, teaching her reading and printmaking. Both of these were unusual skills for a woman of Catherine's class. But he also taught her to see visions as he did. Who knew that was a teachable skill?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shelter pt. 10: Deleted Scenes

Here's the original ending of the story - the one I just couldn't believe they were letting me get away with. And then, of course, they didn't. Actually, at the sketch stage, Rand nee Kahn was holding a shotgun instead of a ping pong paddle in panel 3, and more or less frothing at the mouth. Some references to landmines were also removed. All of which probably adds up to me being unfit to draw comics for our nations youth.

Over on the Rooftop, kind words are being said about our friend, Libby.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shelter pt. 8: Deleted Scenes

Page one of the axed version of the story. Compare and Contrast. Instead of showing up early for an appointement, our slightly more predatory salesman is now going door-to-door.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Juggle Boogie

I bet those words have graced the cover of every juggling magazine in the world, at least once. Probably in a novelty font with lots exclamation points and colored drop-shadows.

This was for a kid's magazine. In the big white space would have been instructions on how to make your own juggling balls. No instruction were provided on how to actually juggle.

I foolishly accepted this job a few year's back while I was in the middle of a move from Richmond, VA to Memphis, TN. It was drawn and painted on the floor of my empty apartment, while I waited for the moving truck to show up.

The shadows in the yellows look funky because I still haven't worked out the calibration on my scanner.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Shelter pt. 7

Okay, so that's the version of the story that ran. Tomorrow, I'll share a little dab of unrelated whimsy, and then I'll show you the version that was kiboshed at the last minute.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Shelter pt. 6

All I know is, if I had to be couped up with my family for months or years in a single cramped room, eating dehydrated food and peeing into a chemical composter, I would need some serious ping-pong.

Also, I just noticed that Mr. Rand refers to the bunker as being equipped with Murphy Beds, even though you can clearly see a pair of bunk beds behind him. Geez, you'd think the writer and artist would exchange notes, or something.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I got a new job!

Not that I'm leaving any of my old jobs. 'Cuz, you know, it turns out that being comics editor for a literary magazine ain't exactly the zippiest flume-ride to the Palace of Earthly Delights. Or, for that matter, sustenance living. But, oh, the satisfaction. After all the times I've had to grit my teeth over editorial changes... well, now the monkeys have to dance on my string! Dance faster, monkeys! Dance sprightlier! Only thus may you please your master!

Monkey-dancing comments aside, if'n yer interested, here's the relevant info:
Page size: 8.25" x 10.75"
Safe Area: 6.75" x 8.25"
8 pages, Black and White
This issues theme is: Sin & Redemption
Please submit files for consideration as 150 dpi JPEGs. Higher resolution images will be requested of accepted stories. Files may be submitted via email (comics at ballyhoostories dot com), or mailed on CD to:
Joel Priddy/ Ballyhoo Comics Editor
c/o Memphis College of Art
Overton Park
Memphis, TN 38111

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shelter pt. 5

At the sketch stage there had been a panel during the description of the dangers of radioactivity that showed the poor housewife's children as flesh-eating mutants in a post apocalyptic landscape. Fortunately, calmer editorial heads prevailed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Shelter pt. 4

In preparation for this comic, I watched tons of footage of nuclear blasts and mushroom clouds, and filled a dozen or so pages in a sketchbook with them. And then I go and only draw one measly little blast, in one tiny panel, in the background, with the head of the cloud completely obscured by a word balloon. Ah well, it may have been wasted preparation, but I'm pretty happy with that panel, so maybe not.

And then -Happy Ending!- I recycled one of the nuclear blast drawings for a page in IronHide Tom.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shelter pt. 3

The salesman above had his name changed to "Victor Rand" after the editors complained that his original name, "Manny Kahn," sounded antisemetic. Obviously, that thought stung, and I changed the name quickly. My intention had been to reference Herman Kahn, the father of America's Civil Defense Policy.

Herman Kahn was an interesting and deeply creepy guy. It is claimed that he had the highest IQ on record, although he may have been the only source for that claim. He was at least one of the inspirations for Dr. Strangelove. His job, at the RAND Corporation, was to "think the unthinkable," specifically, to figure out how America could win, survive, and prosper during a nuclear war. He was the first to ask "Will the living envy the dead?" regarding life after such a war. This question, and some of his brutal descriptions of post-nuclear conditions won him fans among anti-war protesters, who assumed that anyone who had stared so long into the abyss would not be pro-abyss. Personally, I side with those who considered him a montser with a big ol' Thanatos-woody.

Kahn developed the idea of Civil Defense - that is, that a population could prepare to survive an atomic attack with enough underground shelters, tinned food, and a couple strong fans to clear away the fallout. It took him a long time to sell this theory (two Presidential administrations, if I recall) for one very simple reason: the military knew it wouldn't work. Never, at any point, did the American government that backyard fallout shelters would do a lick of good. But the plan wasn't to save American civilian lives. It was to bluff the Soviets into thinking that we, frankly, were crazy enough to believe that we could live through an attack, and, therefore, just might be crazy enough to launch the first strike ourselves.

That's the cynicism I mentioned earlier.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Shelter pt. 2

In a totally unrelated note, I've been very excited to learn that a local produce stand is now carrying low-pastuerized cream-line milk. It comes in glass bottles and everything. I've had a hankering to play with home cheese production for a couple years now, but have only had access to ultra-pastuerized grocery store milk, which is, apparently, worthless for this task. The Lovely Wife, only a couple months into our acquaintance, built me a cheese press for Christmas. That was one of the long succession of green flags as I barreled down the Speedway of Love. But sadly, I had no milk worthy of such a gift. Until now! So I very happily trotted out and dusted off the cheese making books, tools, and chemicals, and set about making homemade mozzarella.

The good news is that nothing blew up. The other good news is that, rather than making mere mozzarella, I instead stumbled across the secret of making a bitter, dry ricotta-like paste. I call it Joelcotta. I put a schmear on some toast with a slice of tomato, and it wasn't bad, but, clearly, I have a lot to learn. And, at about $4 per 64 ounces of cream-line milk, I better learn soon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shelter pt. 1

And back to the McGraw-Hill stories.

There are two versions of this story. I took one version all the way to finished inks before the editors came to their senses and realized just how cynical the story was. Three times the story passed editorial muster, while I just shook my head and thought "They can't possibly let me get away with this." And, well, they didn't. I'll show you the accpeted version first.

And, as I'll explain later, my cynical little story still isn't half as bad as the actual truth.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Liberty Belle

As you may know, I'm a reviewer over at Project: Rooftop, a Dean Trippe joint where people give superheroes makeovers. As one who is usually dishing out the criticism, I felt like I'd better pony up sooner or later, and submit a design of my own.

Liberty Bell was one of the legions of patriotic superheroes to come out during World War Two. Originally, she was pretty much just a good scrapper who was alerted to danger by the ringing of Philadelphia's own Liberty Bell. Later, it was shown that she drew strength from the bell's ringing. Still later, she gained the boilerplate power of shooting sound waves out of her hands.

I like to think of Belle as super-infantry on the frontlines, and so I've stuck her in a practical-but-stylish ensemble that wouldn't stand out too much among the grunts: jodphurs and a modified Ike jacket. The early Belle was modeled on Veronica Lake, and I couldn't see improving on that. Going a little past the mandate of a P:R makeover, I've fiddled with her powers a smidge. Libby now has a great big bronze bell to haul around, and uses it to generate the soundwaves which she super-powerly manipulates into blasts. A degree of enhanced strength is implied by the fact that she can schlep the thing without much effort. She has a hammer, because the bell doesn't have a clapper.

We'll see if someone chooses to review it. I haven't hesitated from bring the harsh in a couple of my reviews, so I'm kinda nervous.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006