Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CAPTAIN ATOM

A couple weeks ago, I saw a post from a Facebook friend by the name of Freddie Williams. I've never actually met him. Freddie is the artist on DC Comic's “Captain Atom,” as well as several other comics in the past few years. I always liked his style, and when his post said “the next ten people to contact me will get the first six issues of Captain Atom, And I'll even pay shipping.”

Free comics? Sweet! Sign me up!

I inboxed Freddie a message, and he got back to me pretty quickly saying that I would be receiving the comics in the mail shortly. All I had to do was read the books, and give an honest review on my blog, and post it to Facebook and Twitter.

After A trip home to see the fam last weekend, I found the books in the mailbox. Like a ten year old kid, I ripped open the packaging and opened them immediately. My bags may or may not have hit the floor before this happened. I read the first issue immediately, and the following five today. Myself being an artist, writer, and designer myself, It was fun to actually pick something apart from my standpoint. The subsequent review is here for your perusal.

The best place to start is the cover, I suppose. All six covers are fantastic, from the composition, to the rendering, and down to the logo and trade dress placement. My only gripe is that Freddie didn't do the covers himself. His iconic portrayal of the hero, Captain Atom, is top notch. (More on that later.) I don't know who this Stanley “Artgerm” Lau is, but they need to keep him on covers for as long as possible.

First up, Being an artist first and foremost, I'll hit that area first. Freddie has been doing really solid work for a long time. This however is the first time I've read several consecutive issues of his work in a row. And, there's a reason why this guy is working on Captain Atom, part of DC's NEW 52.

He knows what the hell he's doing.

The storytelling is clear, the characters stay on model from page to page. What stuck out the most to me though, and probably my favorite part of the book, is it seems that EVERY shot of Captain Atom is a money shot. That iconic, badass, “That's a SUPERHERO” shot. A lot of artists can make an awesome pose, pinup... And it usually sticks out in the book as just that. A blatant flexing pose, taking up the whole page. Freddie has mastered the art of incorporating these iconic poses into his page design and storytelling without making it look like an advertisement.

Now, I know what you're thinking. “He's just jocking him because he gave him some free comics.”

False.

This isn't all puppies and rainbows, so here's what I dislike about the art. The main figure, Captain Atom, and all of the other super powered “Metas” are rendered in kind of a pencil, ink wash style. Which looks friggin' sweet. The background, or non-powered Humans, are rendered a strong, high contrast black and white ink style. Which also looks friggin' sweet. However, I felt a huge disconnect when these two separate styles were merged. It's not like it took me out of the story, and it may just be the artist in me, but they just didn't seem to successfully achieve a cohesive look. There were a few small scenes where entire panels were rendered in the pencil/ink wash style, and I found myself wishing the entire book was rendered in that way.

On to the story.

I've never heard of the writer, J.T. Krul before, so I go into this story with an open mind, hoping to be pushed to my ass by a kick ass story. He pushed me, but I didn't QUITE fall to my ass. I really liked that I didn't really have to know much about the main character to pick the book up and jump right in. I suppose that's the whole point of the New 52. It flowed well, and had solid character development. I really liked the homage to Stephen Hawking in the character in Dr. Megala. (At least, I took it as that. My only experience with Cap is in a few issues of Batman/superman a few years ago.) Captain Atom however, seemed to read a lot like it were a “Dr. Manhattan” solo book. From his overwhelming power, his loss of a sense of humanity, even down to his look.


For the reason alone of wanting for this guy to knock me out with a kick ass story like I think he can, I'll probably pick up the next story arc. Add some really good art on top of it, and this book is pretty successful. I don't think it's QUITE hit it's stride yet. But It's definitely worth checking out to see if it gets there. They have all of the tools, they just need to put the pieces in place.

You can check out more Of Freddie Williams' art on his site, www.freddieart.com.

You can also follow him on Twitter. @Freddieart

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Critique of a Rob Liefeld cover

A lot of folks hate on Rob's art. But the truth is, he's still doing his thing in the industry. Like him or hate him, He's probably doing more than the Fanboys that point fingers. I just thought I'd offer an unbiased Crit of one of his latest covers for DC comics "Grifter." Keep in mind this is all subjective, and one artist's opinion.

First up- The composition. I like it. It's not trying to be anything more than it is. Straight to the point, dynamic, It's catchy, It's got explosions, and the Main character featured prominently. It Doesn't blow me away, but it really doesn't suck. At all.

Grade- B+

Next- The figures themselves. These Look pretty good. Oddly enough, I like a lot of Rob's older figure work better than his current stuff. The anatomy looks pretty good in this one. as comic book artists, we often take a great deal of creative license with anatomy. The thing that stands out as being a little off on this cover is the foreshortening on the main figure's arms. They just dont seem like they are coming forward in space enough. It's not like this piece has extreme perspective, But exaggerating it just a hair more would help things out a LOT.

Grade- B-

Which bring us to- Detail. Things look nice and rendered. It looks like the folds in the clothing and whatnot have had a great amount of attention payed to them. But what really stands out and turns me off about this image is the detail that WASN'T paid to the weapons. Grifter's pistols, and the cannon in the background look like no care was put into them. We live in 2012, where access to reference images is in the palms of our hands. A quick Google search will bring up millions of images of weapons that one can look at for inspiration. There is simply no excuse for taking shortcuts in this area. Readers nowadays have video games and movies with the most imaginative weapons people can think of, so we have to compete with that.

Grade- D-

Colors- For the most part, the colors are solid. Most of what i have to say about it is in regards to personal taste, not technique. I was never a fan of the "airbrush" highlight style. I feel like it takes away from the shape of the figure. The light sources look accurate, but then again, there is light coming from everywhere. That being said, this is also something we take a lot of creative license with. As long as it looks believable, You're usually good to go.

Grade- B

Last- The background. I understand that the background on this piece is the last thing most are concerned about. The thing is, it's kind of hard to tell where the pencil art ends and the photo background starts. In a bad way. I use some photo backgrounds myself, and it's a very thin line between clunky and seamless. I think this piece would be better off just dropping the line art and go with an all digital background.The colorist saved the background on this one.

Grade- D+

Okay students, This brings us to the final report card. In the end, Mr. Liefeld gets a B-. A few little tweaks here and there could make this cover awesome. But in a business where time is money, sometimes things just need to get done. I know this all too well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Swollen heads, prima donnas, and the ego of the comic book creator

In my many years if trying to make a name for myself in the comic book industry, I have come across a lot of great people. I've met superstar creators that sell hundreds of thousands of books, and I've met indy artists and writers that still print their books at Officemax. From small press to the big two, I found that the overwhelming majority of these good people shared one integral character trait: Humility.

They didn't try to dazzle you with rehearsed charisma. They didn't claim their project, script, or art was the best thing ever. And they sure as hell never bashed other creators work, even if it was from creator with less experience, and ESPECIALLY if it was from someone who has has encountered far more success than themselves.

I read a quote yesterday about artists, and it most certainly pertains to writers as well. "Very few artists look at their work and think it's awsome, and if they do, they're usually wrong." This couldn't possibly be more spot on. Fucking bullseye. There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your work. If you don't, what's the point? But when one's ego is so large, so unaccepting of constructive criticism or input from peers and colleagues, you make the mistake of thinking your shit doesn't stink. Every artist has room to improve. Every artist, no matter the medium, should strive to constantly be getting better at their craft. If you close yourself off from creative input from others, then you are in a sense saying, "I'm better than everyone else, and I don't need to change anything." And if that's the case, you might as well hang up your pen and get a job somewhere other than the creative field.
At the end of the day, us comic book creators are a very lucky gaggle of nerds. We took our love of comics we fostered as kids, and turned it into a way to support ourselves. It's basically playing make believe on a much larger scale. It's also something to be increbly thankful for. So even if there is a writer, artist, or publisher you're not really digging, don't go ripping on their work in public. No matter the quality of the work, they are still a vital cog in the machine that keeps people dropping their ever so harder to earn dollar in your local comic shop. This brings the first post of 2012 to an end. Let's all make this year a productive and prosperous year. Go out and buy some comics. Write some comics. Draw some comics. If you come across something that really isn't up your alley, just don't buy it. It's that easy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jinger Bears, Jinger Bears...

The holiday season has descended upon us with the fury of one thousand wombats fueled by Red Bull and anxiety once again. Where a family will spend 42 percent of it's earnings on mostly useless, poorly fashioned, designer merchandise, just to tell the recipients, "I think you're awesome enough to eff up my credit for." Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays. It's one of the few times a year I get to see my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, and now nephews and neice, all in one place, at the same time. What people should REALLY be concerned with this time of year. NOT wether they can get 30 bucks off the latest Toshihoshi high def TV, or if they nead to assault a 90 old woman in order to secure the last Foot Fetish Elmo. At the end if the day, do you REALLY think that electronics manufacturer or toy company really care if you have a joyous holiday season? Nope. They couldn't care less if you used that flatscreen as a changing table, just as long as your greenbacks make it into their profit column in their 4th quarter wrap up meeting. My suggestion is this. Instead of buying Mom that fancy smartphone that she probably doesn't know how to use anyway, make her dinner. She'll probably treasure that gift for the rest of her life. Way more than a platic pile of circuits that will be obsolete in a week. Buy your dad a few beers, sit and talk with him for a couple hours. It will be infinitely more memorable than that torque wrench that he'll use twice a year. Sure, buy your kids a few fun things...but make sure they know WHY they are getting them. Not because some fat ass who runs a sweatshop in the arctic thinks they're "nice."  My rule of thumb for gift giving for adults is this- ask yourself, "Would it be a good gift after the zombie apocalypse?"

Plumber racing 7 for the latest next-gen video game system?

Nope. Zed would eat you quicker than your labored breathing ass can say "wi-fi."

Two hours at the shooting range with your dad who you see twice a year?

You've just improved your relationship with pops, while at the same time securing your place in a world that is ruled by the undead.

My next topic is this- who is the pretentious jerk off that decided "Merry Christmas" is inappropriate? If someone wants to wish you good fortune, in whatever fashion it may be, is something that doesn't happen nearly enough. If someone wishes you a "happy birthday" if you were cloned in a lab, would you get all salty with them and tell them to fuck off? No, you'd say thank you, and be happy about it, even if you are an abomination of science and nature that lacks a soul.

So if someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, or Radical Ramadan...and you get offended by it because that doesn't happen to line up with whichever invisible man you pray to, then fuck directly off. You aren't deserving of the kind nature and well wishes a stranger went out of their way to bestow upon you.

With Christmas just one short week away, make sure you take the time to appreciate the people in your life. If you're like me, and Jesus is more of a "Really cool hippie who helped a lot of people with no concern for self" rather than a personal savior...then Christmas really isn't about religion. It's about showing your Family, Friends, and various other characters that bring a little light into your life that you actually care.

Take care Townies, and I'll check back in after this holiday turned zoo is over.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sunshine.

It doesn't happen much this time of year, so you have to make it yourself.

What's up world... Been a few weeks since my last blog entry, so I thought I'd update everyone on what's happening in the world of Townies.

First, Townies Got accepted to Kickstarter.com. This is huge. For those of you that don't know, Kickstarter is a website that helps independent creative projects raise funding for what they need. In my case, that would be printing funds, advertising, art supplies, and hardware. They help fund pretty much any type of creative projects, from music to art, so if you have a project that may need some funding, check them out.

Second, I'm on the tail end of finishing up a project I started a few years ago, called Kozmik. I did the Pencils, digi-inks, and colors for the first 40 pages back in '07, and I got hired a few months back to complete the pencils for the rest of the book. Hopefully You'll be able to pick it up sometime next year.

Third, The Projects at Ravenhammer Comics I've been working on for the past couple years are on indefinite hiatus, For me anyway. Due to various legal reasons and creative differences, My partner and I have decided to part ways, and pursue our own projects. I'm imagining he'll continue with Lucius Hammer, so for all of you Hammerheads out there, fear not, the show goes on.

For me however, I've decided to take the workload on my own shoulders, and write and draw my own material.

Anyway folks, That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Unfortunately, there is no new art to go along with this post, so here's a little ditty that picks me up when things get grey.

Friday, November 4, 2011

We all have one.

It could be a neighbor. A teacher. A bully. In some of the worst cases, a family member.

One person that inspires such frustration, such disdain for their mere existence, you wonder how such a life form could even have come into existence. How on a cellular level, two very shallow ends of the gene pool come together, and create such an abomination. Almost as if it were some cruel sociological experiment crafted by two evil beings to create the devil himself.

The unfortunate soul on this page that is getting the tar beat out of him is just that evil creation.
Richard P. Cockwood was born when in 1962, his father successfully mated with a Billygoat. (Or so the legend goes.) Other stories have the Dicker being raised by mutant grubs in a series of tunnels under Toledo, Ohio.

Fast forward 59 years, and he becomes the CEO of Wireless Widgets, and also, Our Main Character's Boss. Will he get his just desserts? You'll just have to wait and see. But if I were a betting man, I would bet a strong YES.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Black and white Vs. CMYK. FIGHT!

There is a certain attitude some people have that black and white books aren't as good as color books. Now, most of the time, I will never blast one person's opinion. But for those jackasses that think black and white is inferior to color: You're stupid.

Some of the very best books ever produced were in black and white. American Splendor. Anything done by Crumb. The Walking Dead. Sin City. Hell, Japan sells BILLIONS of dollars worth of Manga every year, most of which is in black and white.

Nobody can argue that anything was lost because the previously mentioned titles lost anything due to them being in black and white. In fact, one could argue that if they were in color, they wouldn't have the same appeal. I sit on that side of the argument.

Among the amazing books I read as a youth, the ones that shaped my perception of comics, one stood out, head and shells above the rest. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. The pen and ink, coupled with the tones used, captivated my young mind, and still resonates today. This is one of the reasons that Townies will skip the ever so popular four color printing process, and opt for a more economical, yet still very effective black and white technique. It's faster, easier, and has a certain appeal that color books don't.

And hey, if you're colorblind, you get a double bonus.