Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Rogues' Gallery: Secret Origins #41 (June 1989)

Here is a freelance job I drew and lettered from a script by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn of Blue Devil fame (and I believe they also performed at weddings!). This is one of those work-for-hire assignments that earned me a rep as a primadonna hack from my erstwhile publisher, but I think it turned out rather well, and still holds up. In fact, I've always been rather fond of this piece, as it shows a more serious, relaxed superhero style emerging out of the overworked early Megaton Man and Border Worlds, just as the opening chapter of my career at Kitchen Sink Press was coming to a close.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pittsburgh Talent City: Illo for Annual Report

Illustration of The Pittsburgh Foundation's Annual Report...

Update Monday June 28 2015: The almost final shaded version...

Pen and ink on Bristol board.
The original blue and graphite pencil art.

Flat coloring with some editing of the lower right panel.
Original concept sketch forwarded to me by Rob Rogers, who got me the gig! Thanks, Rob (and we're forwarding your samples to DC Comics -- expect a call from the Superman editor, they're looking for a fresh take!)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Swipes and Studies from the Simpson Spiral Sketchbook!

I have already previewed a lot of sketches and work in progress from War of the Independents #4  in the latter half of 2014 elsewhere on this blog, so I won't be showing any more finished art (you'll have to buy the comic when it comes out in hardcopy this spring/summer 2015!). But I will show you some of the studies I've made for the upcoming bar-room brawl between Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark and Jeff Smith's Fone Bone, a key dramatic moment in the storyline (any similarities to real-life feuds are purely, purely, purely coincidental, I am sure!).

As I've mentioned before, the fun aspect of this project is having to learn to draw so many diverse characters and study their designs and body language. In some ways it's like attempting to forge a signature, since these characters are so personal to the artist and their respective style (and won't convince anybody as authentic!). Anyway, here's me trying to get the hang of two of the featured heroes of the issue (plus a few other stray doodles of my own and other characters). They won't appear in these exact poses (storytelling always requires a certain amount of invention, rendering direct swipes almost impossible or at least futile). Enjoy!

Some studies of the body language of Fone Bone, from Bone #52 and 53 (October 2003 and April 2004), along with a Popeye pose from the cover of Craig Yoe's IDW reprint (#24, July 2014) of Popeye #24 (January-March 1953). Note: Popeye will not be in War of the Independents #4!

More poses of Bone from the same issues, along with studies of Cerebus from images found online. (My character Gower Goose, who won't be in the story, appears at the lower left.) I can swipe funny animal poses fairly wellwhen the art is right in front of me, but when left to my own devices, my own homemade funny animal style is pretty clumsy and anything but classical! But I've picked up a thing or two from Jeff and Dave, and other artists I've studied for WOTI #4.

More Bone and Rose studies, along with my own Ms. Megaton Man drawn from my imagination, but suggesting a certain Tony DeZuniga cast for some reason! (Neither Rose nor Ms. MM will be in WOTI #4 either.)

Some earlier sketches of Ms. Megaton Man from imagination. The top center one I was going for a Gil Kane feeling and I think I got it.

More Ms. MM poses, in this case channeling a certain Romita-Kirby-Wally Wood-Larry Leiber quality from memory.

For warm ups, I often just freehand sketch cubes or boxes in perspective. If one can draw three lines freehand and suggest that they will converge off in some distance, one can draw a reasonably convincing box in 3D. Ultimately, one can then draw any number of converging lines and freehand anything in perspective (including the human figure). Here I'm making notes and systematizing the process into a lesson that I hope to present to a class some time soon.
The above material represents the last few pages of an 11" x 14" spiral Strathmore recycled sketchbook I began in 2012. This is the first time I can remember finishing the filling-up of a sketchbook so close to the end of the year. 2015 will begin with a new sketchbook and fresh drawing challenges and studies! Stay tuned ... and Happy New Year!
Ms. Megaton Man and Gower Goose are ™ and  © Don Simpson 2015, all rights reserved. Characters not owned by Don Simpson are ™ and  © their respective creators/owners.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Return to the Wars: Frontline Cartooning!

Updated 12/19/2014: page 6 of War of the Independents #4:

Gramps Grizzly (any resemblance to a certain Big Bang cartoonist is completely coincidental) directs the newcomers to the peanut gallery, where Ninja Mouse, Lethargic Lad, Mac 'n' Trouble, Rat Bastard, and Drunken Monkey hold court. Dishman dispenses the dairy products as Usagi Yojimbo tries to keep the questing adventurers on task, while The Tick is attracted to an object that strangely recalls the Electric Light Orchestra's UFO.

More War of the Independents #4, featuring The Tick, Too Much Coffee Man, Rat Bastard, and Blockheads J and G. What is unusual about this page is that instead of the elaborate rough/tight/ink procedure on different sheets of material that I've been employing lately, I just penciled and inked on the same piece of 12" X 18" Strathmore Drawing 400.

On the left are my thumbnails on Paul Castiglia's script. On the right, my old school one-shot piece of art.

Cliff Galbraith's Rat Bastard has to endure Ben Edlund's The Tick as Shannon Wheeler's Too Much Coffee Man revs up for a poetry reading. The Blockheads J and G (of Gumby and Pokey fame) are up to no good, as usual. Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot, meanwhile, has already had too much coffee, and excuses himself.

See previous posts for more on this comic, coming in spring 2015!

Characters are ™ and  © their respective creators/owners.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Studying the TV Batman, Part Two

Here is a cover concept or pin-up I am working up as a tryout for Batman '66. I have been studying stills online (see previous posting), as well as Showcase Presents Batman Volume 3, which contains many Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson strips from 1967, including the first Batgirl appearances. In my picture, a hypnotized Batgirl karate-chops Batman and heel-kicks Robin as Catwoman waits with a pair of cat-ears to place on what she hopes will be her new sidekick (did they already do a story like this?).

Here is the final inked version, crowquill pen and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum, approx. 11" x 17".
Here is the original thumbnail in my 3' x 5' notebook that I jotted down over a cup of strong French roast at The Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill. As you can see, the design is supposed to cut off just below the display lettering for "Catgirl."
Here is the first sketch, approx. 9" x 12", on the brown paper bag in which I purchased Batman '66 #17 and The Lost Episode at Phantom of the Attic in Oakland. I sketched this out in the Frick Fine Arts Library, University of Pittsburgh, in the early evening.
Here is the second sketch on the reverse of the bag. As you can see I give Batgirl more of a side view and Catwoman turns her head toward the action.
Here is the full-size rough, Col-Erase Light Blue and H graphite pencil on sketch paper, approx. 11" x 17".
Here is the refinement on canary yellow tissue paper with Pilot and Sharpie fine line pens. I patched over Catwoman's head to get a bit more of a likeness to Julie Newmar, but didn't get that much closer.
Here are some studies I did of Julie Newmar on my birthday. She is one of the true Hollywood beauties and by all accounts a very creative lady, designing the Catwoman costume with its distinctive Lurex fabric.
More studies of Ms. Newmar, although I feel like I'm kind of losing it. The Catwoman eyebrows are distinctive, but it is her perfect nose, vulnerable mouth, and exquisite jawline that are elusive.
A few more studies of Julie Newmar and Cesar Romero as The Joker.
The whole ensemble, from thumbnail sketch to finished ink.
The original rough (center), the tissue refinement (left), and the inked final (right).
The inked final (center), flanked by the original rough on the left and some of the reference on the right.
The inked final with some of the reference material.
To be continued...

Characters not owned by Don Simpson are ™ and  © their respective creators/owners.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Studying the TV Batman, Part One

Here are some very preliminary studies of the cast of the Batman television series (1966-1968), which I am doing in hopes of landing a Batman '66 assignment. They represent only the first day of work, and my Burt Ward is not happening yet, but my Yvonne Craig is coming along (one should start with one's enthusiasm) and my Adam West shows promise.

Burt Ward as Robin and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, from various stills. The translation of line drawings into costumed live actors then back into line drawings seems to me a strange but interesting challenge.

More Yvonne. Here I am trying to wing a pose on my own to see if anything has stuck.

I grew up on the original broadcast of the series, and it was my introduction to superheroes. Reruns of the original George Reeves The Adventures of Superman quickly followed (I wonder if DC is planning a Superman '52), and I was hooked. My mom, a wonderful seamstress, got a sewing pattern for Superan, Batman, and Robin (it seems to be the McCall's pattern from 1966), and for three consecutive years, I was Robin, Superman, then Batman (the latter being the most intricate). Me and by brother Glenn and several neighborhood kids wore those costumes out by the mid-70s.

I have to do a lot more studying of Julie Newmar (I'm not complaining!), but this one headshot does not seem bad for a first try, if I do say so myself. Sometimes candid shots, such as the one of Yvonne on the Merv Griffin show in the upper left, are more revealing than posed publicity stills or screen captures from the show.

Masks are much easier to draw than construct in the real world of costuming. Frank Gorshin hated wearing The Riddler mask and did all kinds to business like taking it off or wearing it lifted above his eyebrows, as he is shown here.

Studying online stills is already an interesting process. I have watched quite a few of the Adam West shows on Me TV here in Pittsburgh, although I don't have any of the many statues, toys, and other memorabilia that has been produced in recent years. It is particularly noteworthy how the TV costumes differ from the Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane renderings (particularly of Batgirl) of the period. This endeavor is reminiscent of the work I am doing on War of the Independents #4 (where I am learning to draw multitudes of Indy and Archie/MLJ characters), and is also comparable to the study needed to illustrate Al Franken's 2003 bestseller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. There I had to achieve the likenesses of George W. Bush, Bill O'Reilly and others, and also tell a story with them, which was a challenge. Here the goal is to absorb as much photo-reference as possible so that I can comfortably tell a story in the world of the TV Batman without having to resort directly to photos (which will stick out like a sore thumb) when it comes to drawing the comics narrative.

One thing I've noticed about the TV costumes is the capes are of silk, so as to billow easily when the characters move. The cartoon drawings always seem to have more substance. There were also modifications made to the Batgirl costume after her first appearance, including points on her cowl below her eyes.

Some more ad-libbed poses of Batgirl. Getting comfortable recalling her costume from memory, although I miss the purse from the Infantino version!

This process is also reminiscent of drawings I did at Point Park University of the productions M33 and The Producers in 2012, which involved sketching live actors in rehearsal and from photographs I took. Getting to know the personalities of the individual performers took time, and working through several lousy drawings initially to become acquainted. Sometimes when making preliminary studies, its not what ends up on the paper but what is retained in the ol' noggin that will emerge later as the payoff.

Batgirl's mask seems to be misbehaving in this head shot, lifting away from the bridge of her nose. Something to look for in other shots to see if it was a common occurrence or just a fluke.
More to follow...

Characters not owned by Don Simpson are ™ and  © their respective creators/owners.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet? Grab Some Coffee and Hit the Bar!

Here are two more finished pages from War of the Independents #4 (see previous posts on this blog for more).

Characters are ™ and  © their respective creators/owners.