crazy colored glasses

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Final Piece of Holiday Art

So I had the great idea of giving art to certain family members and friends as Christmas gifts. I planned this long ago to give someone like myself (a slow artist) plenty of time to get it done. With all that said, there I was last night rushing to get this piece done (all while I had a little cold... thanks Scrappy) so that I could give it to my brother and his wife for Christmas.

I started the process a few weeks ago by drawing a picture of the twins as Danny and Sandy from their Grease themed bday party. It was a cool image that I had fully pencilled out and just needed to add in the details. While in the process of getting tht done my love found a pic of the twins from the wedding. That picture contained the twin calling card of one with hair down, and the other with her hair up... this picture would be better to give as a gift.

So I printed it and had it ready to roll. Then I waited and waited until I had to rush through it yesterday. Let me start out by saying that my style is more of a cartoony comic book style, I don't really do realism very well. Any piece of a real person I've ever done I've always found to be lacking. My art is very personal to me and I also don't take to criticism well. I can beat up my own pieces, but have a hard time with having others nitpick them.

I was relatively happy with the way the piece turned out. The twins are tough to capture because they are so fair skinned that any additional lines on their face to add detail almost look like wrinkles. What I did was vary pencil strokes to add depth in terms of differing grays for shadows and soft detail lines. I can only hope that my brother and his wife appreciate the piece and realize that it comes to them with much love.

I should have my last piece of 07 up next week when I select my top movies of the year (hint: the piece of art is from a 07 movie)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The End of the Baseball Season... wait, it's December

When this season started I decided I was going to draft a team of backups and play the season with them (in MLB 07 The Show-which might be the best baseball game I ever played) . A full 162 game baseball season. For the first few months of the season I was keeping pace... then the summer started.

With planning a wedding, working on a major work project (damn calendar), and just the general craziness of life, I fell a bit behind... make that a lot behind. All of which led me to the discovery last week that I was only 4 games from the end of the Team Scrub season. I was going to put the pedal to the metal and finish up the season.

I thought the game was incredibly realistic (with actually very simple gameplay), I found that I was able to dominate the game by learning how to pitch very well. It was all about angles and breaks of different pitches, but if you can pitch well in this game, you are practically unbeatable. Which I quickly learned because my offense was pretty anemic.

While the team had an overall high average, I only had 1 player knock in 100 runs. No other starter knocked in over 81. The same player that did knock in 108 also hit 43 homers and hit .406... thank you Craig Wilson (exactly, the star of Team Scrub is someone few people have actually heard of). Besides Wilson the only other power threat was Carlos Pena who hit 24 homers. He happened to be a mid-season replacement at DH for Wily Mo Pena (he hit 17 homers in a little less than half a season) who spent most of the season on the DL. I had 4 starters who had less than 50 RBI's for the season (Jamey Carroll, Chris Gomez, Mike Lieberthal and Frank Catalanotto). My outfield consisted of speedy interchangeable parts Melky Cabrera, Matt Murton and Rocco Baldelli. They each hit over .300 and have over 30 steals each. Speed kept me in a lot of games (it also ran me out of lots of innings, but thats what you get when you run a lot).

The stars of the team were easily the pitching staff, led by Mark Prior. He was 23-4 with a 1.63 ERA. He was simply superhuman. The same could be said about the whole staff. Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Tim Wakefield and Roger Clemens (with some spot starts by Jon Lester) all had more than 15 wins. The bullpen was also quite stellar. Geoff Geary, Jimmy Gobble, Rafeal Betancourt, JC Romero, Scott Proctor and Kerry Wood pitched wonderfully all year. I could pitch any of them in any spot with confidence. Like I said earlier, I learned how to pitch really well and easily dominated the regular season.

All in all, I heavily enjoyed playing this game for a full season. I love baseball and love playing with a team of relative no-names and playing them into contention. I had originally only planned to play the regular season and then jump into my long forgotten Madden 08, but now I think I will play the playoffs. I need to know if this squad can beat the Yankees in a 7 game season. I'll update when that series is done.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Art

My love had a great idea for our holiday card (after being upset that she wouldn't be able to illustrate all of us) where we would draw each other for the card. I won't put all the art up because that would ruin the card for people who are going to receive it.

I was tasked with drawing my love. She had recently taken some great shots of herself so she gave me a print of a pic to work from, but I was really inspired by her eyes as she was sitting on the couch next to me (she has amazing eyes). Here was my contribution to the card.

This piece was a little different for me. I put in lots of intricate shading in the pencils and then didn't want to ink it. What I did was then scan the soft pencils and darken the levels in photoshop. My initital plan was to paint the piece in watercolor and rescan. With us running short on time, and me having some extra time at work, I decided to color it in photoshop. I selected the tones I wanted for the skin hair and eyes and changed the opacity to get some of the pencil work to show through. I then used the burn tool to burn in some of the edges to add extra depth. I was really happy with some of the subtle touches I was able to achieve in the shading. At the end of the day it gave me the water color feel I was looking for (very reminiscent of a Phil Noto piece).

Of course, I don't think my little piece actually captured how beautiful my wife is. In my eyes, it is easily the weakest of the pieces that is included in our holiday card. So although I was happy with the piece I don't think I fully achieved what I set for.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 comics of 2007

Last year in response to an article I read I came up with my Top 10 comics of 2006. I had so much fun putting that list together, I decided why not do it again... here it is:

10. G.I. Joe: America's Elite
The G.I. Joe books were in such a sad state a year ago, that I considered dropping it. The stories were too far fetched, the art was horrible... there was nothing redeeming about it. Luckily for me, I have a great sense of loyalty and nostaglia and couldn't give up on a title that meant so much to me growing up. I stuck it out, and was treated to the current storyline, the yearlong World War III, written by Mark Powers and drawn by Michael Bear. Both have generated a sense of realism to the title that I've never before witnessed. It truly is the best run ever on any Joe title.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
This is another book based on a franchise that I have a lot of loyalty towards. I was a huge fan of the television series, and was a big fan of the original Dark Horse comics (and the great future tale Fray). The original series had very uneven storytelling, but usually had the very attractive art of Cliff Richards. Characters I loved plus great art were the reason I kept coming back to this book... the stories always left something to be desired. That all changed with the announcement of Season 8 written by the series creator Joss Whedon. This has been a greatly written Buffy book. Easily one of my top reads of the year. While the second story arc (written by Brian K. Vaughn featuring Faith) has been a little flatter, this book is head and shoulders over the original DH release. The art has been spot on with interiors by Georges Jeanty (who I've liked since the short lived Weapon X series) and beautifully rendered covers by Jo Chen. This is hands down the best book Dark orse publishes.

8. Daredevil
One of favorite books of the past 5 years. Consistently great. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark have picked up where Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev left off. They simply have not missed a beat. Every month this book comes out it makes it into what I call my "A" pile. I definitely expected a drop-off from the previous creative team but am happy to say I do still love this book. It is the best real-world story in all of comics today. I don't think there is any hero I feel worse for every month. The hero most in need of a break is Daredevil. Until he receives that break I'll enjoy reading each and every challenge.

7. Justice League of America
This has been a great year for the JLA. From the end of the Tornado's Saga to the Return of the Flash, to the reforming of the InJustice League, it has been one main event after another. While I must say I love the Meltzer issues, I have only liked the McDuffie issues. I'm going to withhold judgement until the end of his first story arc (although I hated McDuffie's FF run... blech) only because I loved what he did with these characters on the animated JLU. What has been spot-on and consistent since the relaunch of this book has been the pencils of Ed Benes. Truly one of the top 5 artist in the books today. The second best team book in DC Comics to...

6. Justic Society of America
The senior squad of super-teams has a very interesting mix of older verteran heroes and newbies. All well-crafted by the best DC writer of today... the great Geoff Johns (you'll see his name again on the list. Dale Eaglesham's pencils have been clean and very action oriented. The covers by the great Alex Ross are some of the best covers on the stands today. Plus the introduction of the Kingdom Come Superman is the shot in the arm and the exposure that this title really needs. I think this book is poised for great things in 08.

5. X-Factor
Easily the best X-book of the year. As much as the whole line has gotten new life by the surprisingly good Messiah CompleX, the only X-book worthy of this list is X-Factor (sorry Joss... simply not enough issues of Astonishing X-Men). Peter David has long been one of my favorite writers, and it is clear that Jamie Madrox is one of his favorite characters. One of the the smartest written characters in all of comics. Jamie's quest to absorb all his dupes kept me on the edge of my seat all year. That plus the love-triangle with Monet and Siryn, and the incredibly interesting Layla Miller (she just knows things) has made X-Factor my favorite Marvel team book. My one gripe (not really) is that I wish there was a consistent artist on the series. While I have liked the art on the series I was a little frustrated over the rotating team. Ryan Sook, Renato Arlem and Pablo Raimondi have all great styles which work well with the book, I just wish they would stick with one gy and let him do his thing. That by far is the one unifying thread in this list. All the creative teams are long running and consistent.

4. Green Lantern
The most action-packed series of the year. This easily could have been the top pick of the year for me, but simply too much of the year's best war (sorry World War Hulk and Civil War) took place in Green Lantern Corps which left most readers of only Green Lantern missing major plot points that were being fleshed out in another title. With all that said Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis are crafting a best ever run of Green Lantern. This story will hold up for years to come. Johns continues to write superheroes better than any other man in the comcs game today. Ivan Reis is another top 5 artist. A true revelation. Easily the breakout artist of the year. His pages leap with action and emotion. He is one of the very rare artist who can capture both emotion and action seamlessly.

3. Ex Machina
The best superhero/political drama in comics today... wait, it's the only superhero/political drama in comics today. Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris continue to produce one of the best and smartest comics on the shelves today. The TV show Heroes with a super hero politician as well as a little boy who can talk to machines seem to have been influenced by this great series. The best Wildstorm book being published today. Who would have though anyone would care about a comic about a politician... BKV and Tony Harris make us care... they also continue to get this book out on time every month for 3 years running. A true accomplishment in these times were creative teams seem to have no concept of a deadline. Keep up the good work, I will be with you every step of the way.

2. Captain America
If you would have told me before this year started that Cap would die mid-year and his comic would not only go on but would flourish, I would have told you you were crazy. Brubaker and Epting (with some fill in work by Mike Perkins while Eptings family dealt with a great tradegy) are doing truly spectacular work on this title. Brubaker does real world heroes and crime better than any writer on the planet. The way he has taken this title and made us care about Sharon Carter, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is astonishing. I would never have thought it possible. It seemed implausible, but it has worked. I can't wait to see what else Brubaker has in store for us on this great run. Next year looks to be a banner year as a new Cap is poised to hit the scene in January.

And now as a reward for all those who have read this ridiculously long post the top book of the year is...

1. Catwoman
I can't say enough about this title. In a year where a lot of my favorite books took a step back (notice the lack of Super and Bat books on this list) this book took a gigantic step forward. No DC jumped as much in quality in the OYL storyline. When we first saw Catwoman OYL it was Holly while Selina was playing mom to her newborn Helena. That introduction says it all. We had Selina constantly rescuing Holly, then trying to clear Holly's name all while trying to keep baby Helena out of trouble all of which led Selina to eventually give her child up for adoption and try and have Zatanna wipe away any memory of her. Issue #72 was easily the most powerful comic I read all year. Catwoman weeping for the child she just gave up for adoption to keep her safe was the most powerful image of the year. Will Pfeifer did a great job of writing the pain and anguish she went through as she made this decision. David Lopez' pencils have also captured every aspect of the story perfectly. Everything from Catwoman fighting Hammer and Sickle to Selina carrying Helena were all beatifully rendered by Lopez. I guess as a father of a young girl this story truly resonated with me. Would I be strong enough to make the same decision Selina made. Could I give my daughter up to protect her... it's something no parent could truly ask themselves. Stories like that helped make Catwoman my pick as top comic of the year.

Here are some other books that deserve some sort of honorable mention: Trials of Shazam, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Green Arrow and Black Canary, The Incredible Hulk, Umbrella Academy, The Sword, Madman, All-Star Superman, X-Men Messiah CompleX, Thor, Star Wars Legacy.

Here are some other characters and notable things I think occurred in the comic world in 2007:

Hero/Character of the Year: Bucky/Winter Soldier
No character more greatly evolved from sidekick to badass than Bucky (sorry Nightwing). Brubaker continues to make him a compelling character in Captain America. As well as his appearance in a flashback in Wolverine:Origins written by Daniel Way where we learn that Bucky always = badass.

Villain of the Year: Sinestro
From orchestrating the war to creating his own corps, no villain had a bigger or more high profile year.

Artist of the Year: Gary Frank
This is a pick I make with my heart, as Gary is now working on Superman. His pencils have always been clean and fresh, but there is now a greater level of detail than at ever before in his career. He has had quite a busy year from pencilling Supreme Power (Squadron Supreme) to the Incredible Hulk to now teaming with Geoff Johns on a great Action Comics run. It was a great year for Frank, and I look forward to seeing more super-pencils in 08.

Moment of the Year: The Death of Captain America
This was the biggest "duh" moment for me... nothing matched the death of an icon. Period. Nothing more needs to be said.

I think it was a pretty good year overall in comics. Spidey and X books (up until Messiah CompleX) continued to disappoint. To me the biggest trend of the year was how great the independent comic scene was in 07. Devils Due, Dark Horse, Image and imprints like Vertigo and Wildstorm all published great books. I look forward to that trend continuing because when the indy's push the envelope, the big two follow. Which means great books all around.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Turning 31

I turned 31 last Friday, which marked the end to a great 30th year for me. I started a new job, drew a lot, settled into the apartment, got a huge TV, got kittens, but most importantly... got married.

To celebrate I didn't want to go out and get drunk, I just wanted to be very low-key and hang out with my family. So we settled on ordering pizza, while my love baked a devil's food birthday cake (very delicious) decorated in Cowboys blue with a white star on top, followed by a rousing game of High School Musical Sing It! (check out cupid's cameo to the left of the picture... streaky was probably around somewhere eating very loudly)

It was as a good a night as I could have hoped for. I love my life... I have an amazing wife and wonderful daughter. The night ended with us unlocking the sappy Beautiful Soul on the HSM disc and me seranading my ladies with it. A nice end to a great birthday.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Legion of SuperHeroes

One of my fondest memories from growing up was reading the digest-sized collections of Legion of Superheroes tales. My brother would bring me digest-sized collections to introduce me to the world of comics (a lot of these still sit on my book-shelf in the living room).

To me the Legion always has been Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl. Everyone else was filler. These three characters played off each other perfectly. The original stories I read left a definite mark on me growing up. In fact one of the very first times I was exposed to death was in the pages of Legion when Ferro Lad died. Poor Ferro Lad, it doesn't matter how often the story of the Legion gets told... he always dies. Still to this day one of the most impactful comic stories I've ever read.

I've thought the latest Legion relaunch has been great. It will only get a higher profile when Francis J Manapul takes over. With all that said, I wanted to take a crack at comic versions (I've done animated styles) of the lead characters I grew up with and loved. The pencils on this piece took about an hour and a half. The inks took a little over two hours. There was a lot of intricate detail in the costumes of the two boys. So much so, that by the time I got to Saturn Girl I was tired and cranky... so her face and hair doesn't look so great. Even though I wasn't thrilled with Saturn's face, I really dug this piece as a whole. I think the characters look strong and confident, but like the teenagers they are.

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Power Girl

With all the craziness of last week (very busy days at work, which is where I do my blogging... shhhhhh), plus my birthday, I still found time to ink all the pictures I had drawn in the past few weeks. I just never got around to posting them.

Here is Power Girl in all her glory!

A few months back when I was drawing pics of members of the Superman family I wrongly omitted Power Girl. In Power Girl's (Kara Zor-L aka Karen Starr) convoluted history, she has been Kryptonian, Amazonian, Atlantean, Kandorian... and now finally the Kryptonian cousin of Kal-L, the original Superman from Earth-2 who met his end in Infinite Crisis. She is clearly one of the most powerful female characters in all of comics. She probably ranks right behind Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

She is a character that has grown from complete cheesecake distraction to unquestioned leader of the Justice Society. She also has one of the most controversial costumes (and chest sizes) in all of comics. Her well endowedness started out as a joke by artist Wally Wood (who became famous drawing Plastic Man). He knew the Power Girl title would be short lived, so he decided since she was supposed to be a more mature, adult Supergirl and because DC wanted to have her have a slightly larger chest then SG, he would make her rbeast larger with each issue. DC never objected and now the large breasts have become a calling card for the character. That and the window on her costume. I've always thought that part of the costume was cool because as she described it to Superman... "the first time I made this costume, I wanted to have a symbol, like you. I just… I couldn’t think of anything. I thought eventually, I’d figure it out. And close the hole. But I haven’t.". That statement above illustrates how vulnerable the character is, which makes her more emotional and therefore more human to the general reader.

This piece was inspired by the cover to Infinite Crisis #2 by the great Jim Lee. Among the other artists who have left a great mark on PG are Adam Hughes, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham and Bart Sears. The pencils took me a little less than an hour and the inks took me about the same. It wasn't a piece that contained a lot of blacks, so it was a pretty straight forward piece. With a piece like his the line work has to be really clean and strong. Not to toot my own horn, but I think this piece ahieves that.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beautiful Killer

As I watched MNF last night, I remembered I said I would post pics of the Beautiful Killer piece I drew two weeks ago, but hadn't inked. It was starting to get late, the game was strting to get good, but I sat down and did as promised. Here she is, Beautiful Killer.

Beautiful Killer was a Black Bull published comic written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by the amazingly talented Phil Noto. Beautiful Killer was released in 2001-2, right around the time Alias has taken off. Sexy woman spy stories were all the rage. The story was basically a female assasin (Brigit Cole) out to avenge the murder of her parents. The story was very reminiscent of a 70's espionage tale. The allure of this book for me was the art of Phil Noto. Phil's work looks like a combination of pencils with watercolor backgrounds. It gives a very unique art feel. No one in the comic medium draws the way Phil does.

Phil's work would normally be very hard for me to interpret, but I was quite happy with the way this turned out. The pencils didn't take very long for me. The inking took a bit longer because of the heavy blacks. Not an extremely complex piece, but I think it's great in it's simplicity... in fact, very reminiscent of a Phil Noto piece.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

New Art Coming

I have not been lazy lately... just the opposite. Although I've been pretty busy both at work and at home, I have drawn 4 new pieces that I need to ink. The pencils are all done. I'm hoping to post all 4 by the end of the week. Hopefully in this order

Tuesday: Beautiful Killer
Wednesday: PowerGirl
Thursday: Legion of SuperHeroes (classic look. Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad)
Friday: The twins

This weekend also marked the day I knew would one day come. I finally had to give in and get a storage space. The need for closet space took precedent over my need to have 15,000 comics in my home. I moved over 12 long boxes as well as 3 boxes of toys. Hopefully in the coming weeks I can make another trip and get the rest of the books in there. I thought it would be harder to take the books there, but it was surprisingly easy. Friday night I was super-stressed ovr the prospect of having the books out of the house, but after loading up the car and getting to storage (thanks bro)... it was quite easy. In fact as I loaded things into the empty closetat home, I realized it was for the best.

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