Thursday, July 16, 2009

San Diego ComicCon -Signings and panels.

So I guess I should do what other people are doing and post information about where you can find Eric and myself during the week long madness that is San Diego ComicCon.

We will be doing a daily signing session at the SLG booth. That's the awesome booth right next to the DC Comics booth. Hard to miss.

Thursday 1:00-2:30
Friday 11:30 - 1:00
Saturday 5:00-7:00
Sunday 11:00-12:30


Additionally, Eric and I will be participating in two panels:

Friday:

4:30-5:30 - Spotlight on Landry Walker and Eric Jones— The creative team behind SLG Publishing's Little Gloomy series and the recent Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade for DC Comics discuss all of their work, past and present, including the upcoming run on Batman: The Brave and the Bold series. Landry Walker and Eric Jones discuss the pitfalls of working on all-ages books as well as developing their own properties for animation. Room 3

Sunday:

1:30-2:30 Comics and Graphic Novels for All Ages- It’s true! There’s a wealth of great comic books series and graphic novels out there for comics-loving kids of all ages-so much so, that Comic-Con presents its second big panel of the day on the topic! Moderator Randy Duncan (co-chair of the Comics Arts Conference) talks with Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Eric Jones and Landry Walker (Supergirl, Little Gloomy), Jeff Smith (Bone), and Alexis Fajardo (Kid Beowulf) about comics for everyone!
Room 3

...

Yup. That's where we will be. Come see us. Discuss things with us. If you attend, I will whisper to you the one true secret to successfully gaining employment into the comics industry. Maybe.

And don't forget, we will have limited edition signed prints. First come first serve.


 
We will also have a variety of comics on hand to sell and to sign. Trade paperback collections of Tron: The Ghost in the Machine and The Super Scary Monster Show. Not to mention an assortment of issues of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade.

Spend!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tron: The Ghost in the Machine - TPB

In stores now!



"Collecting all six issues of the six issue series TRON, based on the classic movie and hit video game! Inspired by TRON, Disney's groundbreaking science-fiction motion picture classic, TRON: The Ghost in the Machine takes place in present day, over two decades after the events of the film. Jet Bradley, son of the original TRON programmer Alan Bradley, has recently escaped the computer world. But his experiences within cyberspace have left him emotionally scarred — vivid nightmares plague him, and he's become paranoid and unstable. He shuns technology wherever possible, leaving him effectively crippled in the modern world. And now something within the computer world wants him back!"


Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 11 - The End

So... let me frame things a bit.

Eric and I had been working on comics for over 15 years. Many of those years were spent working on Disney Adventures. Once Little Gloomy and Kid Gravity had been picked up by the magazine, we had quit our day jobs and dedicated all our energy to comics creation.

Then, at the end of 2007, Disney Adventures folded. We were still very busy working with 1492 Pictures on Little Gloomy for the small screen, and there was some comfort in knowing that this work would keep us afloat... for a little bit.

Flash forward to February of 2008. WonderCon. We have no jobs. No money and no immediate prospects. So we turn to long time aquaitence Bob Shreck. It really was a whim. We had nothing prepared and though we had known Bob for many years, asking for work from someone I think of as a friend is not a thing I like to do. It feels... I dunno. Not something I like.

But we asked. Because we were desperate. So he recommended the Johnny DC line. There was (at the time) a bit of a push to expand. He offered to set up a meeting with Jann Jones for us. It was more than we hoped for and we seized on it immediately.

We had 24 hours. We needed to prepare. So we took a look at what else was coming out from Johnny DC. Turns out the big thing being pushed at the time was the work of fellow former Disney Adventures creator Art Baltazar and his coworker Franco. These are two people we had already been having dinner with annually at ComicCon. When Disney Adventures put out a call for new material, it was Art's Gorilla Gorilla and our Kid Gravity that were picked up. When Disney released collected volumes of previously printed material, Kid Gravity and Gorilla Gorilla were top of the lists.

So the familar work of Art and Franco bolstered our confidence. We realized that the best thing we could do at this stage is what Art and Franco were doing. The same thing they had been doing, only with DC characters.

We had just come off working on Kid Gravity. Kid Gravity had always been slightly inspired by Superboy. Superboy was, to the best of our knowledge, legally unavailable. Besides, we were more inclined to work with a female lead. So... Supergirl. At this point, we're maybe 2 minutes out of our brief discussion with Bob. Lots' of time to prepare, right?

While seated at the SLG booth, Eric started drawing. This is what he came up with first:


Cute, but too Kid Gravity. Besides, when you're pitching to a new editor, it' smart to show versatility. So Eric went back to the drawing board and...



To much belly shirt. To old. I pushed Eric to draw something inbetween the two styles. Bear in mind that Eric had spent years drawing characters with really big heads. He wasn't particularly comfortable with the more realistically proportioned character designs.

But he persisted. And this was the result:



This was more like what we were looking for. But we still wanted to hedge our bets, and Eric had time for one more drawing.


You will please notice that this is not Supergirl. Better safe than sorry. But to be honest, I'm not a fan of Batgirl in any of her forms, with the possible exception of Betty Kane.

The next day we tracked down Jann for our meeting. The rest I have talked about elsewhere on may occasions. Her eyes lit up when she saw the Supergirl samples. Turns out she had been seeking someone to create an all-ages Supergirl book, and the person she had in mind had declined the day before our meeting. She called up Dan Didio (he was elsewhere at the convention) and showed him the art. He picked the third design, the middle school style Supergirl.

So we went home and concocted the pitch for the series and after one rewrite, it was picked up very quickly for a mini-series.

We were lucky on alot of levels. It was an amazing turn of events considering we were at an all time low. Supergirl was our last stab effort. If we hadn't found work that weekend, we were going to have to exit the world of comics.

Not that the industry isn't still a scary place. I was unemployed again from the beginning of December 08 until the beginning of April 09. All while anxiously waiting to see if our series was well received or not. I know in the world of the internet, people review comics readily and casually. If you're a reviewer, remember that on the other end of your review might be someone anxiously nail-biting. You're criticzing their jobs, after all.

Luckily, the series was very well received. So my nails have started to grow back in place. Also: The tremendous buzz around the series has helped Eric and I with other work. I've actually found myself at a point where I'm working on two comic series at once. I'm busy... but I really can't complain. And frankly, I have the readers and reviewers to thank for it. Thanks readers and reviewers!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 10

I said I would be posting the last installment of this blog series tomorrow. This is true. But that doesn't mean I can't post something today as well. So here I am. Posting.

First up we have some more Supergirl.



Yup. That sure is Supergirl. Note: These images have been slapped together kinda randomly. All of the above were drawn before the series began, with the exception of the bit with Comet the Super Horse. I think that one was drawn last fall, well after production on the series was under way.

Now, one thing that's been all over the internet lately is the issue of Supergirl's shorts. Not my Supergirl, mind you. No... I'm talking about the mainstream DC comics Supergirl currently crafted by comics creators Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle.

That Supergirl, long considered overly sexy, has recently taken to wearing bike shorts under her skirt. We first saw this with the work of Renato Guede.

And more recently with the work of Jamal Igle.

Of course, our Supergirl wears tights under her skirt, so we circumvented the controversy a bit. Just a bit, mind you. There were websites chock full of outrage over the tights (though mostly over her lack of boobs). But it wasn't as bad, mainly (I think) because our Supergirl is younger. Therefore people felt a little creepier vocalizing their outrage. Also, there is the out of continuity aspect. People were less offended as the "real" Supergirl wasn't the one wearing tights. To that I just roll my eyes. I am not a believer in slavish dedication to continuity. And I'm not willing to buy in to the notion that one execution of the character is inherently more important.

Anyway, neither Eric or my myself came up with the tights. Those were introduced by Rikki Simons during the pitch process. Rikki provided color samples and I gave him two choices. Full blue dress, or red skirt. He took creative control and went with red skirt and blue tights. We loved it immediately. It made sense. Our Supergirl is young, inexperienced, insecure and unsure. A short hand to show this lack of confidence is for her to cover herself up a bit more modestly. So with that in mind, it was a very conscious choice to have Belinda Zee fly around without tights. The choice in uniform for a character is not one of fashion. We shouldn't look around and justify our decisions based off of current trends. The uniform should reflect the psychology of the person behind the uniform. Therefore advancing the story. Writing isn't just the placement of words or even the construction of a plot. It's everything. Every nuance. Every camera angle. Every expression.

And to weigh in on the shorts controversy. I like the choice. It allows Igle to draw more fluidly, with more energy. But more importantly it suggests that the "real" Supergirl has grown up a little. So the decision works visually and subtly.

Alright, tomorrow I will post the original 3 images that landed Eric and I the Supergirl job. Be warned: they are nothing like what appears in the book.

But for now, I will leave you with what I had in mind before I concocted the concept of the Moon Gang. I have a thing for imaginary rabbits.


I'm a big Captain Carrot fan. Origially, I considered a different direction with Supergirl's imaginary world. But Eric and I (along with artist Mike Shoyket) had just explored something similar in Tron: The Ghost in the Machine. Subsequently, a different direction was required.

Enter the Moon Gang. Blatantly inspired by our brief time working with the Beagle Boy's on a re-imagining of Scrooge McDuck.



You haven't seen the last of them. Mark my words.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Supergirl and Batman limited edition prints!

San Diego Comic Con is almost upon us. Subsequently, Eric has illustrated two limited edition prints. These were meticulously colored at the last minute by long time collaborator Rikki Simons.



These will be signed and numbered and about 11 x 17. We'll mostly be camped out at the SLG booth, which is right next to the DC booth. I know that many people who read this blog will not be able to attend the convention, unfortunately we really, really cannot distribute these outside of a very limited number (for promotional purposes) during the show.

For those here for a specific purpose: The last entry of the Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures art blog will be posted on Friday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From the past... part 2 - Kid Gravity

What did Eric and I work on before Supergirl, you didn't ask. Oh... lats of stuff. One of which was the creator owned "Kid Gravity" that ran in the pages of Disney Adventures for several years.


This is just one page, and it's from many years ago. Don't judge us to harshly.

Anyway, during the time we were working for Disney Adventures, Eric and I would frequently attend conventions. The most common pahrase we heard was: "You guys kinda dropped off the map".

Yeah. That's what we did. Disney Adventures had distribution numbers of over a million, with a projected readership figure per issue that topped 5 million. You could buy it at the check out stand of almost every grocery store. And not just in the US. It was available in multiple countries, translated into multiple languages.

I think that's about as "on the face of the Earth" as you can manage. We worked for a magazine that outsold just about every comic every month combined. Kids though... they knew. They would be passing our booth, see our work, and try to stop. Just so their parent could continue dragging them, protesting, across the convention floor to go see something that had been turned into a movie.

Not that I'm bitter. I mean, ask anyone who knows me. I'm always bitter. So you can't really say it's just this one thing. Eric and I both made a decent living for years doing what was not a tremendous amount of work. And now there is an entire generation that was raised on our work.

Hard to be bitter about that, actually.

Disney released a collected volume. But it's out of print. It can be found at Amazon here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 9

So... Here we are again.

As promised, here is the start of the Supergirl artwork.



It has been a crazy week. I've been working on multiple projects at once. that's unusual for me. Subsequently I'm very tired. But that's not what you want to hear, is it? No... You just want to know about Supergirl.

One thing Eric and I knew as soon as we got the job was that Supergirl had to be played large, emotionally speaking. Her excitement and her stress, all had to be bigger than life. That way, when we would bring her emotions down to a quieter level, it would have more impact. More gravity.

It also goes along way to showing her age. I've heard it said that realistic teenagers are portrayed as sullen and surly. I don't think that's realistic at all. Can teenagers be surly and sullen? Sure. But not all the time and not all of them. And most importantly, it's not how teenagers see themselves.

That's a pitfall as an adult writer. When you start thinking that how you see things is how things actually are. The way a teenager interacts with me and how a teenager interacts with their peers are two different things. I may not be a teenager now, but I was one once. And I have a memory that can border on the photographic. I recall my teenage years vividly, as if I were watching them play out in front of me. And I must say, not everything should be recalled with such clarity.

Point is: Teenagers aren't just overcome with negative emotions. They're overcome with positive emotions as well. They're easily excitable and easily embarrassed. Imagine you're just as you are now, but you've never known sorrow or joy. You feel those things for the first time, you can barely contain yourself. It's overwhelming and amazing and horrible. That's being a teenager. And so we attempted to instill this in the character of Supergirl.

When we first meet Supergirl, she's still 12 years old. We wanted her in 8th grade, but still not quite a teenager when she debuts on Earth. Some people (mostly those who did not read the book) suggested that this was an attempt to make the character more "kiddie". Not the case. We brought Supergirl back to her roots. If you read her earliest adventures, she is portrayed as 15. But she acts significantly younger than any 15 year old I've ever known. A modern audience would have some difficulty accepting a 15 or 16 year old girl acting as young as Supergirl was when she was introduced. So we felt we could remain truer to the origins of the character by making her a bit younger.

I also didn't want to bog the story down with a tiresome exploration of teenage hormones. Frankly, it's been done to death. And if the character were older, I think it would have been necessary to make it a focus. As it was, I included the "Buzz" poster in issue 5 for multiple reasons.

1: Peter David told me I should put Buzz in somewhere. I am not going to argue with him.

2: Having this bit of Earth culture hanging over Linda Lee's suggets an acclimation to Earth culture that was utterly absent in issue one.

3: Having a pop-star poster on the wall suggests that teenage-girl hormones aren't absent. They're simply not the focus.

Going back to the choice of age, it was a surprisingly difficult choice. I felt 12 was a little young for 8th grade, until I did the math and realized that I was 12 at the very start of said school year. So I thought, why not have her birthday in September (as is mine), so she becomes 13 just after she starts school?

A little research turned up the fact that Supergirl has an official birthday, and it's September 22nd. Serendipity is awesome.

About the art: This is a good example of how drawing comics isn't just about on model imagery or marketable design. It's not just about drawing someone being punched by someone. It's about acting. The character must show the emotion and energy of the scene. That's more important and more sophisticated a story telling device than explaining the feelings through text. So in the majority of the above images, that's what Eric was focusing on. Acting.

I included one image that doesn't really fit the rest. Supergirl floating with her hands on her hips. It's the image that DC chose to use to announce the series. To be honest, Eric never intended that drawing to be publicly released. certainly not in any form other than perhaps this after the fact examination. It was off model within a few days of it being drawn and was not our favorite shot. But, as the book did well, we can't really complain.

Wednesday: More behind the scenes of the Pre-Teen Powerhouse! The truth behind why our Supergirl wears tights! Some other stuff I have yet to think about because I'm tired!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Context...

Would you believe it if I said the bit of writing seen below was from a perfectly innocent all-ages comic?

"He’s been banished back to the world of sexy dreams!"

No... I guess I wouldn't believe it either.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures Fanfic

The link below leads to a wonderful Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures fan written story I recently came across. The most striking part for me was how clear the voice of Belinda Zee came through, despite me not having anything to do with this. There's a bit of ego tied in with these characters... they exist in my head. That's where they were born and that is where they will always live.

But that's ego. The truth is that a talented writer can take the characters and bring them to life. As exhibited below:

mithen.livejournal.com

The scene that plays out, and some of the perspectives held by the characters does not necessarily match how I would portray things. Nor should it. This is a well executed extrapolation from the mind of another writer. I think she does a very good job and I hope she chooses to write more in the future.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 8

Yeah, I know that behind the scenes of Supergirl would be posted next. But my plan was always to make that post on Monday. Today is Saturday. So think of this as a bonus, not a detour.

So this is what a full page of pencils from Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures looks like.



This is page 21 from issue 5, to be precise. Here's a look at the same page, completed and printed:



Eric draws each panel on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. I take that stack of paper and scan it, Eric then assembles the page on Photoshop. I print it out at about 9 x 15 and he lightboxes the inks onto a piece of bristol board.

Don't ask me why it's done this way. I have no idea.

Then end result is stacks and stacks and stacks of paper. And since Eric has never sold any original art, and also not boxed it up and taken it out of my house, I get to live with it. All of it. Too much of it, really.

The upside is I have full access to it and get these opportunities to share.

So... Monday. Supergirl. The start of it anyway. There's more of her to see than any of the other characters, so I expect I will break up the images over a few posts.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 7

I promised Supergirl next. And that's what you're going to get. Kind of.

Supergirl isn't just Supergirl, of course. Unlike Superman she didn't arrive to Earth as a baby. Unlike Superman her Kryptonian name isn't simply a part of his heritage he discovered late in life. Supergirl's name is Kara Zor-El. But when she first arrived in her rocket back in the 50's, Superman tells her she needs an Earth name. Of course, I know a few Kara's. But I suppose times have changed just a bit.

So Linda Lee was born.

That's Linda Lee on the left.  I think we debated between a ponytail and the final hair design. The images on the right were a bit of an experiment. How to properly portray Kara Zor-El in her native Kryptonian guise.



Anyway, I felt I needed a bit more of a rationale for her not using Kara as her name while on Earth. So when she crashes in the middle of Metropolis, she's swarmed by reporters. Why wouldn't she be? And they want to know who she is, the poor disoriented, confused girl stammers out her name. Again, why wouldn't she? Subsequently, she needs an identity that no one associates with a blond girl in a Superman style uniform.

In her original appearance, Linda's solution to disguising herself from her Supergirl self was to wear a brown wig. I think that if you have a formula that works, stick with it. Glasses coupled with a hairstyle change = Secret identity. I once tried this myself to great effect. Readers are conditioned to this formula. It's comfortable. They don't question it. So giving Supergirl a glasses based secret identity seemed the way to go. In fact, I was rather amazed that it wasn't already the common solution for her.

And I know there are a great number of people who question whether or not Supergirl even needs a secret identity. The answer is: Yes. Sure, she could fly around all day, performing acts of incredible strength and what not. Sure. And while that might even be the reality if a teenage girl had superpowers, comics are not reality. Comics are entertainment. And one of the key factors in entertainment is relatability.

Peter Parker/The Amazing Spider-Man hits this balance perfectly. I find now that when I go back and read Ditko's early work on the character, I skim the moments where he's Spider-Man and focus instead on the trials of Parker. I'm much more interested in how Parker will deal with Flash Thompson than I am how he will deal with the Green Goblin. I know the frustration of being a regular person with regular problems. I don't know what it is like to fight a guy in a fright mask on a flying broom stick.

Don't get me wrong, those fantastic moments are the glue that holds the rest together. But there is a balance that should be maintained. The recent Pixar film "The Incredibles" is another good example. Yes, we want the fantastic and the amazing. But we want to care about the characters first. If we don't, than the fantastic and amazing can become trite and trivial.

Of course, there is room for another take. MiracleMan is a perfect example of this. Why would MiracleMan ever change back to his human self? But this is Supergirl. A character who, despite her alien origins, was always shown to be more human than humans were. A deeply empathic and caring person who would allow herself to live in an orphanage because she believed that the rest of the world would be better served by her sacrifice.

So Linda Lee was an unquestionable necessity. Particularly when you consider that Linda is a more accurate reflection of who Supergirl really is. A young teen-age girl alone in a confusing new environment. She's not like Superman, pretending to be bumbling Clark Kent. She's really a normal young girl who just happens to have suddenly been given amazing powers and is striving to live up to an impossible heroic ideal. She's still going to be awkward and nervous and shy. If she isn't, than we can't relate to her. And if we can't relate to her, why would we want to read about her?

Next up: Supergirl. For real.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Super Scary Monster Show AKA :Little Gloomy

I feel like posting something non-Supergirl related. I mean, there will be more Supergirl stuff. Probably tomorrow.

But for now... Little Gloomy.

This story is one of my favorites in regards to this era of my writing. I know it's one of my favorites because it's the only one I looked at and could bear the thought of posting. This was originally featured in Disney Adventures Magazine back in... what? 2005? 2006? Probably 2006. It was part of the Super Scary Monster Show trade paperback in 2007, published by SLG. But due to financial considerations, the collected volume does not include the color. The coloring on this peice was executed by long time collaborator Rikki Simons.


The book is available here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 6

Today I will post images of Belinda Zee.



See. Told you.

Belinda is notable as she is really the only original character we introduced to the Supergirl mythos. Admittedly, our version of Lena Thorul seems to have very little in common with the original version. But still...

Obviously, Belinda Zee's name is also a take off of Supergirl's secret identity, Linda Lee. Not quite as obvious is the fact that her name was also inspired by my fiance's name: Belinda Lee.

I've also seen it mentioned that she seems to have some common elements to Grant Morrison's Zibarro. What with the non-Bizarro like speech patterns and the color scheme and the prominent "Z" in the name... Coinicedence. I won't lie. I think All-Star Superman is one of the best books out there. But I didn't read it until a few months ago. In fact, I rarely read comics anymore. That's changing a bit... out of necessity more than anything else.

The design of Belinda was partially inspired by Archie Comics character, Veronica Lodge. A little of her temperament springs from this source as well. Belinda is a fun character to write. She's not exactly evil, and she certainly isn't good. Her emotional state of being is on a hair trigger. Essentially, she's an agent of chaos. Chaotic neutral, if I must let my roots as a D&D geek show.

The images here of her as Superiorgirl are Eric's original take on the concept. But I was looking more for the mirror image feel, so we switched to classic Bizarro look, with the mask. The mask was specifically inspired by the Silver Age appearance of an evil Superman, who was indistinguishable from the good version, except for his domino mask.

I didn't really realize just how common Supergirl doppelgangers were until after we had put the Belinda Zee wheels in motion. I'm not sure I would have done it differently anywaey. Anyone who has read much of our work will know that doppelgangers are a fairly common theme. Our Tron comic has a character who deals with multiple versions of himself. Seems natural in a universe with copy and paste functions. Little Gloomy has met two different doppelgangers in the pages of Super Scary Monster Show, and Kid Gravity once met his parallel universe twin named Kid Anti-Gravity in the pages of Disney Adventures magazine.

Evil duplicates are nothing new. But they're always fun. Belinda Zee was alot of fun to work with. From her arrogant sassiness, to her vulnerable emotional outbursts. Fun.