Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Late, and I'm Feeling Lucky!

It's been a very creative day. I accomplished quite a bit, getting another page colored from the Johnny Ruckus/Monster Patrol team-up story that was published all those years ago in Big Bang Comics.

Meanwhile, that Secret Project #1 I keep teasing about gets better and better. I'm working on it like a fiend.. like back in the days when I was doing Creepsville. I don't know if anyone will like it, of course, but it's going to be my most personal piece. Having said that, it's not about me.

As the days go by and my 50th birthday looming (Sheesh! How the heck did that happen?!!), my thoughts go in myriad directions. Still, one thing keeps coming back to me.

A couple of years ago, a brick flew off a construction truck and shot through my car windshield while I was driving and only just missed my head by less than a foot. I was driving with a huge hole where the glass once was, the interior of my car totally covered with tiny shards of glass (yet, as luck would have it, none went into my eyes or mouth). I could taste the dirt on the brick as if flew through.

I drove by a police officer, and he waved me to follow him. At the police station, I was shaking (I have Parkinson's and shake anyway). The officers were trying to get me to relax, giving me water, asking what they could do for me. The officer who had me follow went through my car and found the brick, sitting in the backmost area of the car (I was driving a Toyota station wagon at the time). All he could say was, "Man, you must have had an angel watching over you." I could have easily freaked out, but I kept a thought in my head that rather than being almost killed I was very much alive.

The thing I'm getting to here is that that moment of intensity served to pick me up off the metaphorical ground of self-pity I had been going through due to illness and other things. It kicked me in the ass. It was like God saying, "What in hell are you doing? I gave you these skills. Get to work, because the next time you might get that brick between your eyes."

That's when I finally let the bad things that had happened to me in my life fall by the wayside. I can't ignore health issues but I'm not dead yet, either. Once I got back on track, good things happened to me over and over again. Now, I'm working on something I love, and my wife, Colette, is being very understanding putting up with having the Tasmanian Devil drawing comics all over the house. Yesterday was our 1st anniversary. Love you, Colette.

So, I guess that in an odd way, the new secret project is about life, mine and those before me. It's about following your dreams, no matter how odd they may seem. If you don't try you may find yourself years later wondering why you didn't go for it. I'm lucky that way... I have gone for it a number of times. Though it hasn't made me rich, it has served to give me a great life.

Now, get up off your ass and get to living!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another Mystery Project #1 Teaser & a "How To..."

I can't help myself. I'm getting very excited at how my two as yet unnamed comic projects I'm working on are going. Okay, okay, I've given 'em names but haven't shared those with anyone... except my wife, Colette, and my daughter, Molly.

Once again, like the vampire girl piece I recently posted, I must caution that this piece of artwork is very misleading. It's also not quite done. Also, there is virtually no black on it, though the original piece was inked.

I feel I must add that this unknown fellow will have a prominent part to play in the new comic... which I'm intent on launching here very soon.

Also, a few weeks back, I showed you a color piece featuring Monster Patrol that had been originally published in Big Bang Comics in black and white. At that time, I also wrote a "How To" for the way I color my comics... which I didn't publish, because I thought I had lost it. Thank goodness, the folks here at Blogspot thought ahead and always save documents while you're working on them, without you having to do so.

So, weeks later, here's my hopefully lucid explanation on how I color comics:

I learned how to do this from my good buddy, Mark A Nelson, artist of Dark Horse Comics' first Aliens series, Epic's Feud and the Crab Boy strips that were in my Laughing Reindeer Press Creepsville series. I use Adobe Photoshop. In my instructions below, I presume that you have Photoshop and know how it operates, especially the various Windows.

How's it done? First thing I do is get a good photocopy of my artwork shrunk to fit a regular size sheet of paper. Photocopying can actually get rid of pesky pencil lines while retaining the strong inked work. I usually (but not always) scan the black and white artwork in high res (300 dpi) Bit Map, the reason being that Bit Map scans in black and white only, eliminating grays... which provides the cleanest form to color in.

Once scanned, I change the image mode to RGB. Then, bringing up the Layers window, you'll see that your scanned image is named Background. I create a Duplicate Layer, which I allow to have the default name of "Background copy." It's actually in this duplicate that I will be coloring.
Go to the Eye icon on your Background Copy and click it, which momentarily removes that scan, but does not delete it. Then, click back on Background, and go up to the command items at the top of the Photoshop window, clicking on "Select" and then pull down to "Color Range." A window will open with a mini version of your artwork. Using the eyedropper, click on a white area of the artwork and press Okay. Your scanned image will then have what Mark calls "marching ants" running around the black areas of the image. Then, select your Eraser tool and click on a white area on this piece. The area you clicked should show a checked background (white and gray). If it does, then press your computer's Delete button, and all the white will disappear, replaced by that checkered background. This creates a transparency which will retain the line art while you color below it. At this point, I save the artwork, which it will do as a PSD document (aka Photoshop), retaining the layers.

Now, back on the Layers window, click the eye on the Background copy, turning it back on, restoring the white that was erased. Now, make sure that you have the Background copy selected on the right side of the box. As a test, select the brush tool on your toolbar and make a big streak across the page. If you have selected correctly, your swipe of color should show up while the lines in front remain fully intact. Because you're not going to keep it that way, you can do a Ctrl-Z to remove your test... or just color over it as you do the real coloring work.
For coloring it, you will just have to experiment with the tools. See what you can do. I use the Lassoo, Magic Wand, Brush, Gradient and Eyedropper quite a bit when coloring.

Once I'm finished with my piece, I go to the Layers window and Flatten Image, merging the two (or more) pieces of art (transparency and color) into one. I then save it in JPG format to save space, but I also retain the original high-res layered PSD document.

Be warned: if you convert the artwork to CMYK format to save, it can make drastic changes in the way your colors come out. To avoid this, you could start coloring the project using CMYK or Lab Color. Usually CMYK format (or EPS) is used for printed materials. JPG is best for digital media, like the Internet or CD-ROM.

Good luck! I find that I enjoy doing the coloring almost as much as the original artwork. It's a different challenge and, when finished, very rewarding.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Teaser Image From Mystery Project #1

Sorry for being so mum regarding the name of one of the projects I'm working on right now. Still, I have to admit that I can hardly wait to show it to you. So, I will now, sorta...

What I've posted here is a teaser from the project, a piece of art that is slightly misleading... though I won't say why.

It's also a piece that isn't quite finished yet. Just like I do with my inks, I like to go in and tighten things up. There's lots of tweeking left to do, but I wanted to give you all a little taste. What may surprise those of you who've seen my earlier stuff is a lack of inks. Okay, the black suit was inked and, honestly, so was the whole thing... but not the whole thing.

That's all I can show for now. Just a little bit more time and you can see what I've been up to.

Meanwhile, feel free to give me your 2 cents on this unfinished piece.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

McHale's Navy & Death From Above

Don't ask me what prompted this,but while working on some artwork, I got to thinking about something from my childhood wholly disconnected from what I was doing.

I've mentioned the Plano Theatre, which was in Plano, Illinois... but now long gone with a Casey's covenience store sitting there. It was at this theatre that I saw one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. It always brings at least a smile to my face, sometimes I still laugh out loud about it.

As I mentioned in my post on King Kong Vs. Godzilla, the theatre had a summer matinee series in the mid to late 1960s showing flicks on Wednesday afternoons. There were loads of scifi and horror films screened, which isn't surprising due to the audience being made up almost entirely of kids (I pity the adults who tried to actual watch the movie with their kids).
There were also lots of comedies including Jerry Lewis movies, Munster Go Home, Batman (with Adam West) and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force... the latter of which was the memorable screening. Hold on, I'm not talking about the movie itself. That was mostly unfunny. What happened during that showing could have happened to any film.

As luck would have it, on that day we had one of our summer thunderstorms. The kid audience was having a tough time paying attention to the movie while they heard the thunder from the storm that came along while the movie was on. This was a nervous bunch of kiddies, probably a great number of them still scared of storms (obviously they hadn't got the "Angels are bowling" talk like my mom gave to me).

The storm, very obviously, was getting worse outside... and then the power went out. The whole crowd screamed. For only a moment, the lights came on and then went back out. In that brief moment I saw something hilarious. I don't know who he was, but there was this little blond-haired boy in jeans and a t-shirt. He was out of his seat and running down the aisle waving his hands yelling with a smile on his face. In the last moment, he deliberately fell down and rolled on the floor, still waiving his arms. Then, darkness, with renewed screams. Soon, they got the power back on, and it was determined that the rest of the film would not be shown. To appease us, they still had their regular matinee finale, giving away one girl's and one boy's bicycle. It was very wet but sunny when we got out, as if the storm was a dream.

I didn't care if I saw the end of the movie (and I've never seen or wanted to see it since), I got my entertainment for the day. In the midst of madness, one unknown kid defied fear and the possibility of horrible tornado death and had the time of his life. He did it laughing.

To that kid, I've just gotta say: Thanks for the laugh!