Night of the Blank Sketch Variant Cover Comics

A couple of commissions for those fancy blank cover variant comics they make for art monkeys to scribble on. Bless those comic publishers, I don’t quite know why they do it. It’s fun though, and as long as it shifts a few more units we can all pretend it’s some kind of industry. ANYWAY, here’s Calvin Ellis, president of Earth-23 in DC Comics and also that world’s Superman. That sentence I just wrote does make sense to some people. I promise. He’s on the cover of the ambitious ‘Multiversity’ fourth-wall smashing comic.
President Calvin Ellis, Earth-23's Superman in DC Comics

I’m laying this on a bit thick here but since I usually bash these out at cons they’re very quick – these two were done at home so I got to take photos step-by-step.

President Calvin Ellis, Earth-23's Superman in DC Comics

Inking with my Pentel FP10 brushpen. I’d forgotten just how quick it is to work with.

President Calvin Ellis, Earth-23's Superman in DC Comics

So I got out some watercolour for these two. The paper of the extra cover didn’t quite take the pigment or water as well as I would have liked, but it was A NOVELTY so never mind. Actually, as the solution soaked in and bled quickly, it speeded up the whole process, which was handy!

President Calvin Ellis, Earth-23's Superman in DC Comics

And there you have him, looking both Super and super-electable.
Proper old-fashioned propaganda-worthy, I hope.

And next up, here’s your Wolverine, being all savage and living with a pack of wolves – just like any middle-aged man would, given half a chance – he does have to fight off angry polar bears though…

Yellow spandex and tapered fins Wolverine’s cool and all, but it’s the mutant-caveman-soaked-in-viscera look that we all really pine for, right? Failing that, it’s the Weapon-X look which is exactly the same, only with a silver bucket on his head.

I did this one first (just to confuse you) and I wasn’r quite loosened-up enough the ink with the brushpen yet, so I used my Platinum Carbon fountain pen.

Aaaaiiieee! (And no, I’m not talking about how bad the bear anatomy looks.) I always liked the Capcom games look of Wolverine with the splayed claws. Much more interesting than having them lined up perfectly. The bristling hair was good too.

Suddenly, black areas.

And then I made the grey wash in the background worthwhile by painting in some white snowflakes.

Next: more Exalted pieces! (Honest!)

Not Quite 22 Sketches

Just got back from the 22 Panels Comic Art Show in Falmouth (yes, the name is a nod to artist Wally Wood‘s ’22 Panels That Always Work’ reference sheet) – Cornwall’s first comic event, apparently – the cool thing was the focus on comic art. Here are some sketches I did while I was there, hanging out with the region’s best artists…

Convention sketch of Matt Freeman from the Power of FiveMatt from The Power of Five.

Convention sketch ofThere was an Irish pub we walked past in Falmouth town centre called ‘Finn McCoul’s’ – and that got me in a mythological mood – Fionn MacCumhaill is a character from the youngest cycle of Celtic Irish mythology. Roughly, he’s like an Irish version of King Arthur. I’ve been wanting to adapt and draw some kind of Fionn graphic novel for years, but the good news is you’re not going to have to wait for me to get off my arse and get one published, because Will Sliney is doing one! This is a sketch of a young Fionn, when he’s helping catch fish on the banks of a river.

Convention sketch ofFionn’s wife Sadhbh. If you want a bit more detail, read the stories!

zA group drawing the artists at the con contributed to, a gift for Nicholas the con organiser. There’s sketches on here from Jock, Hunt Emerson, John Spelling, me(letting the side down), Tiernen Trevallion, John Burns, Paul Grist and Dom Reardon! Truly excellent company!

Dev-Con 1 Sketches

Some sketches from Dev-Con 1 in Plymouth yesterday, which had an amazing turnout for a regional con…

Batman kiddieLil’ Junior Batman.

Harried girl
Character from a graphic novel I’ll get around to drawing one day.

Matt FreemanLittle doodle of Matt from Raven’s Gate in the front cover of the Graphic Novel.

Deathstroke from DC Comics, who seems to be a bit like a palette swap of Marvel’s Deadpool. I had to look at a comic drawn by Rob Leifield to reference this. Brr.

Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd drawn for top local artist Rob Cross.

Rogue Trooper
A bit of an in-progress Rogue Trooper. Rogue’s one of those characters who got me into ‘Western’ comics (along with some other 2000AD brethren) and I still doodle him every once in  a while, just to try and make his character design work for me.

Judge Dredd pencil sketch
Dredd again, in pencil this time.

Another character from a graphic novel I’ll hopefully get around to drawing one day. This one was snapped up before I’d even finished! Shame I didn’t get a better photo of it.

This is ‘Teal’c’ from the Stargate SG-1 TV show, drawn from memory (and a patchy memory of photos from a sci-fi magazine I cut up to put in a figure reference scrapbook, at that…)

Batsy. Him frown at you good.

Heavy Metal 'Spirit and the Flesh' page
Quick snap I took a Heavy Metal story original page I sold, before it was whisked off with its new owner.

Batsy/Supesy. Have they fallen out and Batman is about to give Superman a wedgie while he’s not looking? Possibly.

Batman Black and White
I was a real fan of Batman Black and White back in the day, so it was good to draw on a copy of it.

Exalted character IExalted character IIThese last two were a couple’s role-playing game characters, which I’m always keen to draw as I’m an RPG nerd myself. Happily, these two are characters from Exalted, a game I’ve actually done for artwork for! The art will be appearing in the new edition of the game book – the third edition – and it’ll be out next month, so I’ll blog about it later on…

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #12: Heart of Gold & Sketchbook Daubings

Evil Star‘s very own Fagin, the grungy old fella Sebastian, is one of my favourite characters in the book. He lives in ‘Ciudad de Veneno’ in the slums of Lima, ‘Poison Town’. He lets local street kids sleep on his floor in return for their earnings as thieves, shoe-shine boys and jugglers. His suit’s so old it’s falling off him, he’s unshaven, there’s an old cigar hanging off his lip and he has a drinking problem. And he’s a goodie!

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

Sebastian isn’t actually in the book for that long, but he commands all the scenes he’s in. By the time of his departure from the story, he’s travelled along his own little development arc and become a real hero with an emotional punch to his character. He really seems like a real human who stumbles into a narrative and then stumbles out again.
I based Sebastian on the actor Ricardo Montalbán. (Yes, he of wrathful ‘Kahn’ fame). I needed an aquiline patriarch with a Latino cast, and he fit the bill perfectly.

Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings

I had a good time drawing Sebastian, Matt and Pedro in the candle-lit dark of the tumble-down slum, it was great fun throwing all the shadows around the filthy surrounding built out of rubbish, wreathed in cheap cigar smoke.

Oh, and here’s a doodle from the back of a page of script of another one of the ‘five’ who have ‘the power’ in question in The Power of Five. Scarlett, the main character of the fourth novel, Necropolis. It’s shaded with a half-working water brush pen with ink dropped into the reservoir.

Scarlett from The Power of Five book IV: Necropolis

She won’t actually end up looking like this, but I like the spontaneity of these.

Next time: Parallel Dimensions!

And while I’m on, I thought I’d show these few pages from my ‘out and about’ sketchbook that’s always at my side in a manbag. I’ve been getting into using my Pentel FP10 Brushpen for sketching in dimly-lit pubs and gig venues, and I’ve been quite liking the results.

Pub and Gig Sketchbook spread in Brushpen

This is friend Lux Harmonium and The Diamond Family Archive playing at The Barrel House in Totnes.

Pub 'n' Gig Sketchbook spread in Brushpen

Since it’s heavy black ink instead of faint pencil you can actually see what you’re doing in the dim light, the bristles get marks down fast, and you can muck about with shapes and textures. Linework’s a bit tricky, but that’s why I’m using it, so that if I’m good at brush-wielding when I’m cramped in a corner somewhere of a hostelry after a drink or two, I’ll be able to turn on the same approach when I’m sitting bolt-upright in the daylight at the desk at home.

There’s an online archive of my wanderin’ sketchbooks up here if you haven’t seen them already.

Return to Page Mountain

Hello again, I come before you with visual evidence of the very thing that’s been keeping it so quiet around here recently.

So this is what all 170 pages of inked original art for the Evil Star Graphic Novel look like.

Yes, I’m willy-waving at you with a bunch of dead trees stained with assorted pigments. But give me a chance, this is the longest single piece of stand-alone graphic narrative I’ve done so far.

I’ll carry on flinging up workings posts of the pencils and whatnot on here rather then showing off the inks, because you can see those in the finished book. What you won’t be able to see in print are all the wobbly bits the top secret blog club are privy to.

Come on Matt, at least try and look excited.

Some folks ink digitally, but I’ve not quite gotten into that yet, it still has to be a physical process for me. At least until I get a new Graphics Tablet that doesn’t play the ‘Guess Which Random Pressure Level I’m Operating at Right Now’ game. If I did make that jump, the pencils would still have to be with graphite on a bit of paper scanned in, I reckon. We shall see.

You can see the strata of the different kinds of board and paper I ended up using. Finding out the hard way that two different batches of Bristol board bleed with Rotring Artpen ink wasn’t fun.

Normal service resuming very soon indeed. The next job is the cover of the book!

Bristol Comic Expo 2012 Sketches

Hello interpixies, here’s my sketch-log of drawings I did for the good people of the Bristol Comic Expo last week…Matt from Raven's GateMatt from Raven’s Gate, with some of those pesky hellhounds in the background. This was a bit of a motif I only used once in one frame of the Raven’s Gate Graphic Novel, but I’ve come back to it a couple of times since.

Zombie SpidermanSpiderman in Marvel Zombies stylee.

BatwomanBatwoman. Stangely enough, not as good as how the great J.H. Williams III draws her. Can’t think why…

Dizzy from 100 BulletsDizzy from the Vertigo series 100 Bullets, because it was an all-girls sketchbook I was drawing in, and because I said so.

Father Dagon from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu MythosI always like to get out a bit of Lovecraft monstrosity at a sketching session if I can, his Mythos is the other shared universe that runs parallel at comic cons, a couple of rungs below the comics one.

Power GirlPower Girl. Never drawn her before. She has, er, a certain reputation. So I made her look the exact opposite; petite and with the most lovely eyes.

ChimpA monkey! Everybody loves monkeys! Well, actually it’s a chimpanzee. Everybody loves chimpanzees!

Tinkerbell‘Tinkerbell’, for somebody’s wee girl who wasn’t at the con. Draw a Disney-style Tinkerbell? Me? No sir.

Alex RiderAlex Rider and another one of his handheld gaming consoles that’s no doubt a clever gadget in disguise…

Commissioner James GordonCommissioner James Gordon. In a bit of a mash-up, because he’s the ‘Jim’ from the Batman comics about to press the button on the phone from the Adam West Batman TV series.

LokiAnd a quick stab at a John Buscema style Loki. Thinking about it, I should be drawing genuine figures from mythology, not fictional characters based on characters from mythology… Hmm. Anyway, John Buscema is clearly a genius. Here ends the lesson.

(Night)Winging It


A little three-page burst sample I rushed out in a week a while back for some lovely people at DC Comics. This concerns a young man in tight clothing called Nightwing, who’s a sort of junior version of Batman. (These pages are drawn to the script of Nightwing issue #138, Nightwing fans!)



The trio of female characters who show up in Bruce Wayne’s garden on the last page deserve, I think, their own ongoing series dedicated to their continuing adventures in pursuit of getting paid and moaning at each other. Apparently, writer Grant Morrison rescued them the old DC archives, y’know. They’re called Tiger Moth, Dragon Lady, and Silken Spider… The Insect Girls! I heart them.

This was my first foray into drawing what you could almost get away with calling ‘American Superhero Comics’ and it was interesting to see what happened when my art work provided the visuals to these muscle-ripplin’ stories. I think some of the frenzied sketches I scribbled on the side came out with a better than the finished art, but aint that always the way..?