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Archive for June 2011


TothPix: Stop That Man!

Here's a sweet Toth panel from an unfinished, unpublished story he was writing and drawing, Stop That Man! So good - what fun!

This is panel 1 of page 2, the lower half of the page not yet inked. This panel is pure comics! Personality, movement, dogs, action, barks & yowls sound effects, a perty lady, bouncy lettering and balloons, playful, rhythmic dialogue - there's so much going on, but everything's still clear and readable. Take it all in, enjoy!


Comics Panel: Ink to Color

Sometimes the look of a comics panel can change between the inking and coloring phase to aid and enhance clarity, mood, tone, character and storytelling. Many times it's planned, but in other cases as you go.In the case of this frame, I plotted out the color treatment from the get-go, which was indicated in my roughs. But there's no need, and in the digital age a waste of time to include all elements in the line art. In this panel, these four kids are making a transition from something of another world or reality back to their home turf and original state. I had limited space to make that transformation happen in a clear way. This story has to do with giraffes, so I used the spots pattern as a background element to convey movement and flow. On the left, the spots and background yellow are darker and saturated, both fading towards the right. The coloring on the kids is also then treated more surreal fashion on the left (as a darker violet knock-out) becoming more natural and representational as we flow to the right. The kids are topsy-turvy and in close up at first, then shown in full figure moving across, as they become less disoriented, two of the boys grounded to their surroundings with simple shadows. A small portion of a  fence (established earlier in the story) is shown in the lower right to indicate place. Yep, all that thought and planning for but one simple cartooned comics panel. Whoa! From a series I draw of comics for Jewish kids.


Columbo à la Colan

With the news of the passing of two creative gents yesterday, comic artist Gene Colan and actor/artist, Peter Falk, it dawned on me they would have made a great pair. Wouldn't a Columbo comic drawn by Colan have been great? So, as best I could sketched up what that might've looked like, with apologies to both men. Both men had a distinctive style about them. Their personalities came through in their work, real passion and character. They were, each of them, one of a kind. Peter Falk was a great character actor for some time, somehow finding a long career as a leading man as seemingly bumbling and fumbling detective Columbo - my favorite fictional detective, followed closely by Chandler's Marlowe and Chesterton's Father Brown. I'm not a big fan of the mystery, solving the puzzle of the Whodunnit. I don't really care to solve a riddle, preferring to go along for the ride with a Why'd-TheyDoit? or How's-He-Gonna-Figgerit-Out? This approach focuses instead on the cat-and-mouse dance, the characters and situations, philosophies, ethics and world view. Peter Falk as Columbo was the best. And who could forget his fine turn as the grandfather in The Princess Bride? Marvelous and pitch perfect. Gene Colan was a superb comic book artist, handling superheros in a unique fashion, but really found his niche in the horror genre, with his long run on Tomb of Dracula, his black & white Blade tales, and his Creepy and Eerie stories for Warren. After those of Alex Toth's, Colan's just may be my favorites from these series. Nobody created mood, movement and drama on a comic book page like Colan, with an illustrative style and flamboyant sense of page layout. Here's to ya', Peter and Gene. You did it your way, and well. A larger version of this drawing can be viewed at the Saturday Sketch Day blog. Just click the small image there.


Sketch: J.K. Simmons

Whether on Law & Order, as the dad in Juno or J. Jonah Jameson in the Spidey movies, or where ever he shows up (the Coens' Ladykillers, Raising Hope, Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking, Burn After Reading, etc.),  J. K. Simmons is great character actor. He can be funny, serious, scary and warm, all while not appearing to be acting at all. After 4+ years with my Cintiq, I like drawing digitally more and more, this one done completely on the computer.


TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 4

In this installment, we'll focus pages 10 & 11 of Alex Toth's adventure adaptation of The Land Unknown, in which the crew deals with mechanical difficulties and faces a T-Rex. As always, one can read the story in its entirety on line, or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series.

Having crash landed, the crew discovers broken parts on the 'copter, establish camp and try to make contact with the ships, to no avail. Toth sets up a very nice page, balancing medium shots of in the upper left and lower right, and a shadowed head of the radio man in the 'copter in upper right and lower left. Throughout the rest of the page are smaller figures in long shots, grounded by the four corners.

Each shot is carefully chosen by Toth to tell the story clearly and smoothly. Panel 1 is from a vantage point slightly below so we see the mechanic holding the bent rod, and past him look up into the workings of the main rotor mast of the helicopter. Toth is known for having had a formidable visual library in his head, but I'd be hard pressed to believe he didn't have reference for the incredible detail shown here. The shadows from and on the figure and objects give the pictures and depth.

In panel 2, he moves us inside the cockpit as the radio man tries to establish contact. Hal and Maggie exchange engaging banter and exposition, Hal framed by the 'copter window.

Back outside and from below again, we check out the crew unloading supplies from the helicopter, reminded of its broken parts. Toth uses lots of great diagonals  again here, leading the eye thru the frame and to the two figures. Then, camp set, they hear something from above, looking up, Mr. Radio rushing to his unit. The reader's eye is led from the balloon to the crew then back up towards the sky by black area of the tent, then across with the dark horizontal of the 'copter, reinforces the movement of Radio Man.

With panel 5, we're back inside the cockpit for a classic Toth silhouette, couching the head of the smaller figure just outside. In frame 6, Toth's balloon tail makes us hear the sound from inside then around the 'copter, to the turned face of Maggie, looking on to the mechanic in concern. His down-turned expression tells us all we need to know about their situation. Man, I love those faces, the rendering of the smooth surface of the 'copter and thin lines of the foliage. Toth really mixes it up in interesting ways.

I should mention the coloring on this page is basic, but solid and effective, telling us their locale, balancing warm and cool.

With page 11, just when they might figure they have enough problems, a roar soars through the jungle (across the page), sending critters skittering. Our eye shoots across the page, over the two panels, then back again by half, as Toth smartly send the creatures against our natural reading flow, a jarring effect to prepare us for the debut of the T-Rex.

Opening up that shot to a 2/3-page splash is just right, although the dinosaur is static; he could have more movement and be more menacing. No excuses, but I betcha kids reading it in 1957 thought it was super-cool!

A detail of page 11, panel 2, comparing color to line art. By cropping the heads and tails, Toth conveys movement and action, as well as mystery as to just what creatures inhabit this Unknown Land.

Okay, eleven pages in, we're about 1/3 through the story. Keep reading with Part 5 as Toth really starts heating up! Or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series.


Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man

Seriously, I'm not in a bad mood. I just went grubby for a few days, so had my daughter snap this pic with a double light source, me in a new shirt, behind me the block glass in our art studio. A change of pace from my cheery Bedbugs author photo, anyway!


TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 3

For part 3, I'll cover story pages 6-9 of Alex Toth's adventure adaptation of  The Land Unknown! As always, one can read the story in its entirety on line.

During the next section of the piece, the crew surveys the warm pocket within the Antarctic, tries and end run around a storm, get hit by a flying object and are forced into a rough landing. Some members of the party deal with repairs to the 'copter while others take in the warm climes and surroundings.

In this first panel of page 6, the 'copter drops down for a closer look at the terrain. The panel and composition couldn't be simpler, but how interesting and effective! Toth splits the frame with a diagonal, balancing the land and snow with mirrored shapes, actually further clarified by the basic flat color (only four: land, 'copter, snow & shadow).

This next frame probably looks better in the original art, but the reprinted black & white version doesn't much change the effect from this color version. After a few close-ups in the 'copter, Toth employs another long shot (the last frame from the same page) which establishes their position and predicament: finding a way through or past the storm. The simple colors work well here, too (again but four), especially the snowy crags in the foreground in deeper blue, complete with rim lighting from the lightning. Not bad for an old four-color comic for kids on crappy newsprint!

Their trip back to the ships is stymied when the blades hit a flying object, obvious to the reader as a Pterodactyl. Though striking in B&W, Toth no doubt designed this frame to read as silhouettes against a single, soupy color of the fog/storm, save for the white/yellow at the point of impact. Very cool.

That page also features the panel which I've covered on this blog previously, in which the pilot has trouble steering.

The next page (eight) is the weakest of the story - Toth could have done more with it, especially the final three panels as the 'copter approaches and lands. The color on the final panel actually improves on the B&W art, separating the foreground, middle-and-background. And still, I love Toth's bold, cartoony sound effects.

Over that page, the next and throughout warm colors are applied to contrast with the subdued, toned-down and cool colors of the first quarter of the story, making the reader nearly feel the heat, none more effectual than in this panel...

Check out Part 4 for some brilliant pages and panels as the crew encounters - DINOSAURS! For an overview and insta-links to all separate other 13 parts of this blog series, visit our handy Land Unknown page.


Bedbugs March In Madison!

The Blue Moon Crew hit the road on April 1 (no joke!) so the Bedbugs and I could visit Westfield Comics in Madison, Wisconsin on April 2 for a reading, cartooning workshop and signing. I begin each event such as this showing children how I created and evolved the Bedbugs characters, then we explore various ways to draw the main features of the face: eyes; nose; mouth. With these tools, anyone can mix & match on any face shape to show a multitude of expressions and emotions. It was great to see the kids there drawing and creating their own characters. I read the Night of the Bedbugs book as a slideshow on a TV screen, large enough for everyone in the room to see. What fun to hear  kids laugh at different parts of the story - how gratifying! They also loved the Bedbugs Boogie and Bedbug Lullaby music videos. After the presentation, I juggled Bedbugs beanbags and juggling pins, chatted with those who purchased books, signing and doing sketches, and mixing it up with old friends who stopped by. Good time! Thanks to our pals, the Carani family for helping set up the appearance, being fine hosts and taking pics & vid. Everyone at Westfield was great - thanks, to Bob Moreau & Co!  


FREE Bedbugs mini-sketch & temporary tattoo

A Facebook friend commented on one of my blog posts this week, and I noticed he had a small boy, so asked for his address and sent this small Bedbugs sketch and a temporary Bedbugs tattoo. I'll do the same for you if you send a photo of your child with their copy of Night of the Bedbugs, comment on the Blue Moon Studios blog or send me a link to a review of  my Bedbugs book at Alert me at Of course, new and long time Bedbugs fans have a chance to win a larger sketch and prize package when you LIKE the Bedbugs Facebook Fan Page. Spread the word!


Happy Anniversary, Mary!

Happy anniversary, Mary, my sweetie! Twenty-two years ago, I was fortunate and blessed such a smart, funny, thoughtful, creative, pretty, nurturing, talented, true blue, frugal, tenacious, honest and caring woman agreed to marry me. You've stuck by me, truly, in sickness and health, rich or poor, for better or worse. I love you!