Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stretch Before You Sketch: Ms. MM Warm-Ups!

I have been doing a lot of penciling and to warm up, I sketched Ms. MM. (Okay, I'm just showing off.) It's important to stretch before you sketch, otherwise you can pull a muscle!

Light Blue Col-Erase and Staedtler Mars Lumograph H pencil on Strathmore Recycled Sketchbook.

Update November 7, 2014: The ink finals, below:

Hunt #102 Crowquill pen and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Hunt #102 Crowquill pen and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Old and New: Seismic Century Shift!

Here is the final (I hope) banner design for the Melaga exhibit opening tomorrow in Brownsville, a collaboration with museum director Patrick Daugherty. It features Megaton Man and Ms. Megaton Man, representing the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, respectively, and symbolic of the pasts and futures for the trajectory of my Megaverse storyline, such as it is unfolding at a snail's pace in my work-in-progress graphic novel. The old white straight male and the young metrosexual woman of color -- will this token political correctness impress anyone as much as it delights me? Only time will tell...


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Which Way to the Beach? Ms. Megaton Man Post-Labor Day Volleyball Tests, 2014

Yes, it's after Labor Day, but there is still plenty of warm summer weather, and the Phantom Jungle Girl and Ms. Megaton Man are still up for some Jungle Rules Sandball (along with the Earth Mother). Here are a couple of ink tests made on Clearprint Design Vellum, completed in September 2014, based on sketches from 2012. The storyline relates to material I am working on for The New Megaton Man #3 and #4 (see the Megaton Man blog for more previews!).

Original sketchbook pages from July 2012. Light blue Col-Erase and graphite pencil.

Ink, summer 2014 (completed September 4, 2014).

Ink, September 4, 2014.

Original sketchbook page, 2012.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

More Traced Sketches: Don's Convoluted New Inking Method Explained!

More Ms. Megaton Man poses, culled from sketchbooks dating back to 2010, inked on Clearprint 1000HP Design Vellum yesterday (June 18, 2014). At this point, I've probably inked about 80% of the inkable images from my old and current sketchbooks, by which I mean tightly penciled and ready to ink with minimal modification. I didn't ink them at the time because a) they were spontaneous, casual sketches, and I had no immediate purpose in mind for them; b) the drawing paper of the various sketchbooks might by fine for penciling but less suitable to ink; and c) the images often were a bit too small to ink comfortably; and d) inking them in the sketchbook, while leaving the sketchbook intact, would have been a bit cumbersome. Still, when I looked over these images, I would say, "Gee, I ought to do something with these!" Through trial and error, I think I've optimized a method of scanning, blowing up, printing out, and using Clearprint, along with Elmer's repositionable glue stick, to salvage these freely-drawn images from the obscurity of my sketchbooks. Are they just clip art now, or will certain poses make their way into future story panels and pages? Stay tuned.

Clarissa gets zapped by some unknown ray. Unlike most of the characters in the Megaverse, who say "Darn!" or "#$%@!?!," Ms. Megaton Man is one that I feel should explicitly swear. She will say "ass" instead of "butt," etc. In other words, she's got a mouth on her, and I can't seem to do anything about it.

This is a shot of the old drawing board and the original Moleskine sketchbook, with the drawing in Col-Erase Light Blue pencil and graphite pencil, next to the blow up and the ink final on Clearprint (the orange pads below are Clearprint pads of different sizes that I prefer. The original image is about 7" tall, which I blew up to 11". Determining the right size is somewhat arbitrary. Most of sketches I've inked utilizing this method have been fairly close to size, so this is unusually enlarged. This photo also gives a good idea of the translucence of the Clearprint material. Note the Pro-White corrections on the final.

Here is something of an awkward pose for Ms. Megaton Man. I may have been looking at Ross Andru again!!

Here is a rather robust and somewhat lanky version of Clarissa. Usually she is more compact, but here she turned out more expansive than usual.

This was a swipe from a fitness image, modified quite a bit since the original source had the left forearm across the bust line, and was cropped mid-thigh. I think the result counts as original, or at least not actionable! (A special Woo-Prize if you can identify the source!)

For some reason, this pose taps into some obscure John Romita-John Buscema-Jim Mooney-Dick Giordano melange of influences. There are a lot of comic books I read as a youth but never consciously studied to emulate as a cartoonist (particularly true of Ross Andru, who was not a favorite at the time, although I can respect certain aspects of his craft nowadays); still, a these influences seem to be burbling up lately as I become less concerned of hewing to a particular style and simply try to get the job done!

One of the pitfalls of my current method is record keeping. I've tried various kinds of scanning, photocopying, and sizing; consequently I have a lot of print outs tucked away in different folders, envelopes, and boxes. In this case, this led to me inking something that I'd forgotten I'd inked before! The first time was mostly with a brush, while the second was entirely with a crowquill. In the first one the linework is a bit fatter, but otherwise I don't discern much qualitative difference. This speaks to one of the advantages this way of inking has over penciling and inking on the same piece of Bristol board: you can always ink it again if you mess up or don't like the first result!
The main advantage of this method, as I said, is that I can salvage some good work from past sketchbooks, but it also comes in handy for making corrections and possibly inking images for which the original is lost and only a reproduction or poor quality photograph remains. Most of my sketchbooks are filled with doodles and scribbles that would require a great deal of further refinement at the pencil stage before they could be inked; in those cases, it would almost be easier to just begin with a new sheet of paper and start from scratch, eyeballing the original doodle for reference. But I have also adapted this method for new panels, tiers and pages -- it saves having to erase the pencil lines from the original artwork, which can sometimes fade the ink lines.

One last pose, reminiscent of Gil Kane inked by John Romita, some of my favorite comic book artwork of all time. Appropriate for Clarissa!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ladies of the Megaverse Revealed!

No, not the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, or the Playboy collegiate special ... just some more sketchbook poses extracted from several sketchbooks stretching over the past few years, all inked last night (Sunday, June 16, 2014). Although they do start out kind of threadbare, then are "clothed" as I ink them!
Here is the development of a Ms. Megaton Man pose, probably from about 2010, running. Left: light blue Col-Erase and graphite pencil; Middle: a tighter version on Pilot pen and Vis-a-Vis Wet Erase Fine Point on canary yellow tracing paper; Right: ink on Bienfang Graphics paper. The last choice was an accident; I usually ink on Clearprint vellum!

Ms. Megaton Man especially is fun to draw, and I have filled many pages of my recent sketches of her to let off steam during grad school and a subsequent year of college teaching, when I did not want to initiate any large-scale cartooning projects that I couldn't complete in a timely manner.


Here is a more overtly Jack Kirby-ish pose for Clarissa, inked on Clearprint 1000HP Design Vellum. Often as warm ups I doodle geometric shapes; this establishes a sense of volume that carries over when I sketch the human figure.
There is always something added and something taken away in the inking process, but that's the nature of cartooning for print. Of course, in the digital environment, there is not real need to ink any more, but I enjoy the craft and am used to thinking and developing the drawing to its fullest in terms of pen or brush lines.

Again, before and after. Somehow Ms. MM tends to resemble Julianna Margulies a bit here!
This selection especially shows how my conception of Ms. Megaton Man's body type and personality has changed over time, or at least it reveals some interesting contrasts. There are also sketches of the Phantom Jungle Girl and See-Thru Girl Android below.

Here I tightened up the pencil sketch in Pilot pen. Six years later, I inked it! Clarissa is a bit to lithe, if not skinny, here.

This is one of my favorite Clarissa poses of all. I've had a jpeg of the pencil as my background on my laptop through the last year or two of grad school. Often, it would show up in classes before I projected my lecture Powerpoint. Odd to finally ink it just yesterday!

Same deal, with the Phantom Jungle Girl. I began inking this quite some time ago, then set aside, finishing it up only last night. It seemed a bit awkward putting a top on her. Perhaps she's at a clothing-optional beach...

These are a couple of rather Gil Kane-ish poses of an indeterminate figure. It didn't feel like I was drawing Ms. Megaton Man, nor did it feel like the Earth Mother (Stella Starlight).

I scanned the above sketches and printed them out to 8.5" x 11". I decided to make them into the See-Thru Girl Android, a mute and immobile version of Stella Starlight's younger persona, and who has been dormant so far in the current Atomic Aftermath continuity. That will change soon as she becomes reactivated and an ongoing character with a mind of her own. What will the real, older Stella do when she is confronted with her younger self? To say nothing of Megaton Man...

The other pose, tightened then inked. This may have been more of a Ms. Megaton Man pose after all, with her stockier, solid frame.

Monday, June 16, 2014

UPATED: Sky People of the Near Future!

Here's another splash page developed from a sketchbook drawing. Like several pieces on this blog and my other blogs, a particular doodle suggests a scene that I have wanted to develop further, sometimes years later. In this case, a group of megaheroes in the near future assemble on a rooftop. It was one of those images I would return to and say, "I ought to do something with this," at least more than just leave it undeveloped and unused in a sketchbook. Recently, I thought of adding Ms. Megaton Man to the scene, who is visiting the future for the first time. I am currently devising a storyline around this scenario that ties up some loose ends from Megaton Man #3, believe it or not.

Here is the original sketch page from fall 2011. At this point the characters are somewhat amorphous, although the guy in the beetle-wing costume seems distinctive (and suggestive).
Here I've scanned the page, blown it up to 11" x 17", and added a strip of drawing paper along the left edge to accommodate an expanded image. I have also penciled in dialogue for the scene and given the characters provisional names. The female character on the rooftop is now a slightly older version of Paleo Girl. I will need to reconcile the names and correct the lettering, since here I have dubbed her Feral Girl; I will also have to change Susie to Jeanie, to make it consistent with Megaton Man #3. I've also indicated names for the two flying characters:Subspace and Lepidoptera.
This is the final ink version on Clearprint Design Vellum. Inking was completed on June 13, 2014, and lettering corrections were implemented a day later.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

World of Tiers: From Pencil to Ink

Here is the evolution of a tier of artwork involving Ms. Megaton Man, Preston Percy, Yarn Man, Rex Rigid, and Megaton Man himself. It began in April as a blue pencil sketch in my sketchbook, subsequently tightened with graphite pencil, then expanded with the addition of another panel, then inked and composited digitally. Each step is explained in the images below:

Blue Col-Erase pencil version in my 11" x 14" sketchbook (bonus: the scanner caught a stray piece of paper on Ms. Megaton Man's left lower leg!). Dialogue is added in pencil. In a flashback sequence, Ms. Megaton Man is being tested in the Megatropolis Quartet's laboratory. Judging from Preston Percy's hair, this probably takes place not long after the events depicted in Pteranoman #1 (1989).

Here the blue pencil is tightened with an H or HB graphite pencil.

The figure of Rex Rigid seemed somewhat cramped in the original composition, so I used tracing paper to draw the character independently, and inked it on Clearprint Design Vellum using a Hunt #102 crowquill and India ink.

Here I've lettered (using a 2.5 and 3.5 Rapidograph) and inked the rest of the composition, virtually unchanged from the original sketchbook layout, on Clearprint Design Vellum (actually, I scanned the sketchbook and printed it out at the same size). I used a repositionable gluestick (Elmer's) to adhere the vellum to the printout as I inked, later removing the adhesive with a rubber cement pick-up.

An additional panel suggested itself with Megaton Man entering the scene. Here are the pencil and inked versions.

The final tier is composited digitally. What will the remaining 2/3 of the page look like? Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

From Sketch to Splash: Robot Crap-Kicker

During the past decade, when I was in college and graduate school, most of my intermittent drawing activity was confined to sketchbooks, and then often Ms. Megaton Man, a more realistic megahero than the satirical Megaton Man himself. She is dynamic and fun to draw, and I would often fill page after page of her, often fighting robot. In this sketch, dated July 6, 2012, she does a ballet landing on her toes while kicking and punching two robots. Today (June 14, 2014), I finally finished inking the page. Here are the various steps:

The original 9" x 12" ringbound sketchbook page, in light blue Col-Erase and HB graphite pencil. I was too lazy to finish the robots.
Here I've scanned the sketchbook page and printed it out at 11" x 17", tightening up the robot figures in light blue and graphite pencil, and adding dialogue. A red Col-Erase pencil was used on the sound effect.
This is the inked version on Clearprint HP1000 Design Vellum. I use a repositionable glue stick to adhere the material to the pencil layout, and later remove the glue with a rubber cement pick-up. I use 2.5 and 3.5 Rapidographs, Hunt 102 crowquill, and a Speedball B4 to ink and letter.
Here is the image, with some flat coloring thrown on in Photoshop. I'm still too lazy to finish the robots, so a final color version will be posted later!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Clarissa vs. the Big Two! Plus: Yarn Man!



Updated June 6, 2014.

This colored greyline with linework on an acetate overlay would have been the cover to a one-shot issue of Ms. Megaton Man. Announced in Yarn Man #1 (1989) as “Coming in April” of that year, the cover was used in a full-page house ad with a Kitchen Sink Press logo. After severing ties with that imprint, I embarked on Don Simpson’s Bizarre Heroes through my own imprint, Fiasco Comics, which ran for 17 issues in 1994-1995. It was at that time that I colored this piece of art, and was contemplating an entire issue devoted to Clarissa James at that time.

Cover to Ms. Megaton Man #1, Cel-Vinyl paints on greyline with acetate linework overlay (unpublished), c. 1995.

The basic composition for the cover had originally been worked out as a Supergirl sample for DC Comics. I have a photocopy of the original layout somewhere in my files, but I can’t recall whether I ever finished the artwork for it or not; if I did, I may have sold it off at a convention. In any case, I always liked the composition, which is why I reworked it as a Ms. Megaton Man piece. It also further underscores the fact Ms. Megaton Man, although originally a female variation on the more decidedly humorous Megaton Man, always had a more dramatic side, and to my mind could conceivably work as a plausibly dramatic megahero.

Although the issue never appeared, and frankly I can't recall having much of a plotline in mind beyond the futuristic War of the Worlds image, I am currently devising a storyline that will involve Ms. Megaton Man traveling to the future and battling the Big Two. What is remarkable about the image, even today, and about Ms. Megaton Man in general, is that she heralded a more realistic superhero style for me that was way ahead of its time in the late 1980s. Drawing the Megaton Man supporting cast always presented a problem for me (should they be drawn in a humorous or more realistic fashion?), and Ms. Megaton Man showed me that I could blend a satirical style with a more straight approach (and by utilizing the Megaton Man costume, no less). 

House ad for Ms. Megaton Man #1, a projected one-shot that was never published, from Yarn Man  #1 (1989), a one-shot that was.

Speaking of Yarn Man, below is the original acrylic painting for Yarn Man #1, the only cover I ever fully painted. I have worked with oils, acrylics, gouache, watercolor, Cel-Vinyl, and digital coloring for a variety of pieces, ranging from personal studies to professional work, but I have found acrylics to be the most difficult medium with which to paint. In fact, unless one specifically wanted to create some wall-sized abstract sofa art (which I’ve done for my own gratification), I’m not sure why anyone would find acrylics useful. But that’s just me.

Cover of Yarn Man #1, original acrylic painting on illustration board, 12.5" x 18".
 
Cover of Yarn Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, 1989) as published.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Giganti-Girl: Preview of a Upcoming Plot Development!

Here is a page that I just finished inking (June 12, 2014), based on a sketchbook page from November 2012. It features two themes that have become quite prominent in my work as I enter middle age: physically fit young female bodies, and beach volleyball. I have been plotting out a storyline involving both recently, and some of my old sketchbook studies have come into play!

Here is the original 9" x 12" sketch page from November 2012: a figural group study. The ghost image from the previous page indicates that I was playing with a beach volleyball theme, although I did not have a clear storyline in mind. Also, the Phantom Jungle Girl appears twice. I probably had in mind the Negative Woman from Bizarre Heroes for the towering figure. Columbia, a Liberty-like icon of Americana, is the central figure with the star above her tiara; she was seen in the CBLDF 2010 Annual story I did with Megaton Man and company.
Here I've scanned and blown up the original sketch to an 11" x 17" page (10" x 15" image area), tightened the figures, changed the Phantom Jungle Girl on the left into the Earth Mother, and added Ms. Megaton Man and Genevieve, the daughter of the Human Meltdown. I've also turned the towering figure into a new character, Dr. Winnie Wertz, who has had a host of names relating to size including Giganti-Girl and Gargantuella. I've also made the figure on the lower right, who was probably intended to be Ms. Megaton in the original sketch, into Connie Carlyle, Megaton Man's new sidekick, and a semi-pro beach volleyball player.
The final art, inked on Clearprint 1000HP Design Vellum. Dr. Wertz, or a virtual representation of her, stands as the threshold guardian to a time portal she has left behind that the group once known as the Devengers have located.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Robots of Futures Past!

Here's an ink sketch I unearthed recently, probably from just before or after the year 2000. As you can see, the three robots are based on relatively basic, primitive geometric shapes and simple, abstract conceptions of the human skeleton, so perhaps I started it as a demonstration for one of my many cartooning workshops I was holding around Pittsburgh in those days. Since Ms. Megaton Man will be battling robots in a storyline I'm currently toying with, I may refurbish and repurpose these fellows to give our heroine something to kick the crap out of!

Pen and ink on Strathmore 400 Drawing 11" x 14", © Don Simpson 2014, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Near Future Now: Looka That Architecture!

Ms. Megaton Man travels to the near future in this sequence from a storyline I am working on.



The grey portion is a photocopy of a sketch from August 2012 that I wanted to develop further.