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Transformers/Joe Test


What kind of paper to use for the Transformers/Joe comic? I like the softer line and blending of colors that occurs on a course uncoated stock, like American Barbarian was printed on. Glossy bright white paper is the default setting for comic books. For years I bristled against it, but now I know how to use it to my advantage. Glossy stock, because of the way the ink sits on top of the page, allows for a fuller range of colors.


Here’s a test page I drew. This is not an actual story moment from TF/Joe. It was a test page, to work out the scale, the way these characters might move and interact, and get some practice drawing the characters and working out the kinks before I settle on a final approach to the art. It was also a chance to test out some possible ways of coloring the book. Most importantly, I’ve been spending so much time in the writing phase, I needed to take a break and draw something, even if it isn’t part of the actual book itself.

Here’s a closer look showing some of the detail:


With American Barbarian, in terms of color, I went for a nostalgic approach, but with a few flourishes. I chose a palette for the line and color that was different from the actual palette in an old comic, but hit notes that I felt captured the spirit, but in a more aesthetically pleasing way. With Satan’s Soldier I went for a more intense, saturated, eye-melting approach to color.

This image printed on glossy paper would have the visual noise that makes old comics so pleasing, but also the full range of intense colors that buzz in the eye.

With this test page, I feel like I brought lessons learned from each approach. I’d like to push this line of inquiry further in subsequent tests.

Godland Finale


I just approved the printer’s proofs for Godland #37. It will be in stores December 11, 2013. If you’ve never read an issue of Godland before, please start with this one. Godland Finale is a heady, intoxicating, hyperactive comic that nothing, not even the preceding 36 issues, can prepare you for. The closest I can come to describing it is as a fusion of two of my favorite Futurist comics: Hunger Dogs and Dark Knight Strikes Again, but even that doesn’t do it justice.


One of my favorite things about collaboration is the way the sum of the parts add up to something that could not be achieved otherwise. The collision of the various elements have created a visual reading experience that is genuinely new, the likes of which may never be seen again.

I want to thank my co-creator Joe Casey, colorist Brad Simpson, Letterers and Graphic Designers Rus Wooten and Sonia Harris for making this “Very Special Issue” very special. Also, thanks to Jonathan Chan and the Image Office for getting this Finale into production as quickly as was humanly possible.

See you on 12/11/13.

Avengers/X-Men Cover


I was recently commissioned by editor Jordan White to create a cover that references an iconic classic Marvel cover but with the roles of The Avengers and The X-Men swapped out. In this case, take the iconic Kirby cover for Avengers #4, which is in my opinion THE Marvel cover, featuring the return of Captain America, and replace the Avengers with X-Men. Jordan presented me with a couple of concepts to choose from, but the one we both liked best was Professor X casting aside his wheelchair and walking. Filling out the rest of the roles was easy enough. “Flying” X-Men replace the flying Avengers. Earnest Giant-Man replaced by the earnest Cyclops. Long-haired Thor replaced by long-haired Marvel Girl. I was tempted to give Marvel Girl a hula hoop, to reference the ring of motion that Thor generates by swinging his hammer, like how the wheel from Professor X’s toppled wheelchair forms a visual rhyme with Captain America’s shield.


Whom to put in the inset box above was a little trickier. The Beast would’ve made sense, but in the original version it was Sub-Mariner, who was always a loner, belonging to no group at the time. I thought Spider-Man fit that role, the perennial outsider. Putting Spider-Man on a cover doesn’t hurt sales, either. I added the subtle flourish of a stamp border around his portrait.

I decided to use this cover as a place for stylistic experimentation. I’m trying to figure out the perfect look for Transformers/G.I.Joe. One that I’m considering, is printing directly from my pencils. Working on Satan’s Soldier for the past year, I really liked the results I was getting from intense colors over loose pencil drawing. I wanted to see what intense colors over a tight, meticulously-crafted pencil line would look like.


I was commissioned to provide black and white line art, to be colored by someone else. I’d recently made the decision that going forward, even if I’m just being hired for black and white art, I’d also color it. If the client decides to keep my color, great. If they decide to have somebody else color it, the colorist will at least know what my intentions were for the piece. The colorist can feel free to go in whatever direction he’d want with it, but at least he’d understand what everything’s supposed to be. That’s something you can’t take for granted. Sometimes areas of overlap can be confusing. Is that an upper lip or teeth? Is that shape part of the foreground character’s leg or the background character’s arm? These things are often difficult to discern.

In essence what I’ve created is at best, actual finished colors, at worst, a color guide, which many artists provide when they do black-and-white line art.

I drew it in pencil, then redrew it a couple of times. Instead of inking it, I redrew it again as a pristine, blemish-free, camera-ready super-tight pencil drawing. I like the variation you get with a dark pencil line. It breathes a little more than the crisp ink line I usually use. On a separate layer, I played with the contrast to make sure that, it could be easily adjusted into a proper hard digitally-inked line if need be.

First I added flat colors, then successive layers of modelling and color adjustments:XFlat



Here are my final colors:


Usually when somebody else colors my work, they make it less poppy, more modeled. In this instance, the colorist did the opposite. My version has soft, modeled colors, a subdued line and a somber palette reminiscent of Suydam, while the colorist went with a flatter Pop Art approach with a cheery palette and increasing the contrast on the linework.
As with the Deadpool cover, I feel like the end result is stronger than my initial version.


What the colorist made is richer than what I’d provided, but I can also see the influence that my guide had. Without that guide, I feel that the cover, for better or worse, would’ve been very different. I’ve been pleased with the results I’ve been getting from this approach and feel it’s worth the extra effort.

American Barbarian is Now on Comixology

Today American Barbarian has launched on Comixology. I created American Barbarian to be widely read, widely circulated, and perpetually available. Comixology is an excellent option to get it into as many hands in as efficient a manner as possible.

Because we didn’t print enough copies of the American Barbarian hardcover to meet demand, as with the Godland hardcover, I’m left to wonder what the true extent of that demand is. Comixology is extremely useful to get a better sense of that. If demand warrants it, I’ll make getting another edition of the book into print a priority, whereas right now my priority is the creation of new work rather than the curation of previous work.

I have two more years worth of new American Barbarian stories beyond the one told on, in the hardcover, and now on Comixology. From a creative standpoint, the projects I choose to spend my energy on are the ones that captivate my whimsy at the moment. Given a choice, I’d rather work on something altogether different than add to the breadth of a past work. That said, I’ve learned over the past 2 years that commercial success is more important to me than I’d previously allowed myself to believe. If AmBarb ends up being successful on Comixology, the responsible thing would be to seriously consider getting these new American Barbarian scripts drawn and into circulation.

In any event, I’m curious to see how this unfolds.

Transformers/G.I.Joe Process

This weekend a new series, Transformers (vs?) G.I. Joe was announced by me and John Barber. Here are the steps that led to the final image that was used for the announcement.


I’d pitched a number of possible compositions with the idea of it being big, bold and Kirbyesque. This is the one we settled on, trying to capture the essence of Kirby’s big fisheye lens warped-perspective battles like Daredevil #43 or Captain America #106, with Destro and Duke fighting in the foreground like Destro and Col. Hawk from Herb Trimpe’s excellent cover to G.I.Joe #6 (one of my favorite  issues of the series).




In addition to taking inspiration from Trimpe’s Joe cover for Destro and Duke, I also wanted to capture some of the extreme body language in Orion and Darkseid’s big battle to the death in Kirby’s New Gods story “Even Gods Must Die!”


Trying to channel the combined essence of these images while maintaining my own voice, I take a first pass at the pencils:


I feel like the fist needs to be bigger to really sell the perspective. Here it is with the bigger badder fist:


Here’s the inked version.


Here it is with eye-searing psychedelic color:


If this were “Starmorrfens vs. The Icelandic Army” this cover would be perfect, but it’s “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe.” I can take these characters into whatever crazy realm the story demands, but they still need to be recognizable as the characters they are. There’s a learning curve to getting comfortable with drawing characters you haven’t drawn before, and with each attempt the likenesses keep getting better. Paying careful attention to keeping the characters on-model, while still putting my stamp on them, I make alterations to the figures.


Here’s the finished cover, utilizing the same palette that I used for American Barbarian. I’m pleased with the results and am looking forward to sharing other images I’ve drawn for this series when the time is right. I’ve been experimenting with a range of styles. I have enough lead time on this project that I’m able to craft the story and art with an exacting attention to detail I’ve never before attempted.



Satan’s Soldier #3 Premiers Saturday 9/10/13 at SPX


Satan’s Soldier #3 is premiering at this weekend’s SPX 2013 (Small Press Expo) in Bathesda, Maryland.

Issue #3 is the Return of the Jedi/Superman III/Search for Spock/Escape from the Planet of the Apes/Batman Forever/MI:3/Dark of the Moon of Satan’s Soldier comics. It’s an all-ages, bubblegum pop, good-timing installment of the acclaimed series.


The greatest superhero ever fights an endless army of Manichean space gods and techno demons who have joined forces to take him down. The arena for this cosmic battle royale? Planet Earth.


The dusky cloaked avenger, D’Ark, and the ring-slinging valkyrie, Heroine,  get caught up in the gladiatorial globetrotting. Be there for the first appearances of an array of international strongmen including Union Jack the Ripper, Herr Doktor Glockenspiel, and Pablo Picasso.

Who will live, who will die, who will return from the grave? Find out in this full color, 50-page adventure presented in the burning neon hues of SCIOLI-VISION.

The Star Wars

Ever since I read George Lucas’s early drafts of Star Wars, I thought they’d make a good comic. The early script treatments read like Star Wars Apocrypha, with elements just familiar enough to resonate and just exotic enough to be exciting and new. When Dark Horse announced earlier this year that they’d be releasing a comic book series adapting these stories, I thought I’d better take a crack at it before I read them, knowing that the official version would probably obliterate the half-formed version I had in my head. For fun, I went into high-speed comics mode for an afternoon and drew 29 pages of bare bones comics. Check it out: