Wednesday, February 22, 2012

May 2012 Covers

Here's some of the raw artwork for covers I colored up last month! Each of these covers was kinda' dark and ink-heavy, which was a pretty neat exercise in keeping it simple to let the inking set the tone and do the heavy-lifting.
LEFT: Sonic the Hedgehog #237, penciled by Tracy Yardley with inks by the legendary Terry Austin, is an awesome and bold design. Tracy, as always, is spot-on perfect in his rendering of these characters. The bold design and the strong black on our protagonists really let me keep the colors on the characters simple.

MIDDLE: Mega Man #14, penciled and inked by Patrick Spaziante. Now this one definitely required a bit more planning. The design concept here came in part from an illustration by Hitoshi Ariga (the acclaimed author of Japan's Rockman MegaMix manga) featuring Wily and his massive army of Robot Masters. (This illo is featured in the Mega Man: Official Complete Works art book from Udon, by the way - a must-have for any Mega Man fan and quite possibly my favorite-est business expense ever!) It's very silhouette heavy with alot of great crimson-tones to it, making this quite possibly the most determined and bad-ass we've yet to see of Mega Man! (And Rush looks pissed.)

RIGHT: Stan Lee & The Mighty 7, artwork by Alex Saviuk. I'd had the honor of doing some concept art colors for a number of Stan Lee related projects in 2010/2011, so I was thrilled to get to help out with this cover! Alex's artwork is a huge departure from the more cartoony styles featured in Sonic and Mega Man, so it was alot of fun to work outside my comfort zone with a more traditional comic book super hero aesthetic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

May 2012 Solicits

Hey guys! Here are a few books coming out in May that I've got work appearing in!
"Spiritus ex Machina" Part Two: It’s pandemonium as the Emerald Spears extremist group has taken everyone at the A.R.T.S. hostage! It’s up to Mega Man and Rush to lead Elec Man, Pharaoh Man and Quake Woman to save the day! Meanwhile, Dr. Wily attempts to awaken the power of the mysterious Ra Moon.

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Jonathan Hill, Gary Martin, John Workman and Matt Herms
Cover: Patrick "SPAZ" Spaziante and Matt Herms

Shipping Date: 5/30
On Sale at Comic Specialty Shops: 6/13
32-page, full color comic
$2.99 US.
"Loyalty" Part One: Team Fighters links up with Grand Chief Lupe as they track down the Death Egg. As they deal with the ferocious Felidae Warriors and Dark Egg Legion, a mysterious figure tracks them. Meanwhile, in “Heart to Heart,” Nicole and Mina finally confront each other!

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Ben Bates, Steven Butler, Terry Austin, John Workman and Matt Herms
Cover: Tracy Yardley!, Terry Austin and Matt Herms

Shipping Date: 5/16
On Sale at Comic Specialty Shops: 5/30
32-page, full color comic
$2.99 US.
"Capture and Chaos!" - Stan Lee Comics' “MIGHTY 7” continues! The all-new superhero property from the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men and more heats up as Stan must come to terms with his alien compatriots! Titanic forces collide as comics legend meets alien - but what evil is brewing on the horizon? Villainy looms in this action-packed second installment of Stan Lee's latest and greatest super-heroic tale!

Script: Tony Blake & Paul Jackson w/ Stan Lee
Art: Alex Saviuk, Bob Smith, John Workman and Tom Smith
Cover: Alex Saviuk and Matt Herms
Variant Cover: Alex Saviuk and Tom Smith

Shipping Date: 5/9
On Sale at Comic Specialty Shops: 5/23
32-page, full color comic
$2.99 US.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mega Man 10

Hey guys! Just wanted to share the preview for this month's Mega Man issue from Archie Comics! The "Mega Man 2" adaptation continues with some wicked Robot-Master fights this ish, as well as the first MM cover I got to color!


"Dr. Wily Returns," Part Two. Dr. Wily is back, and this time he has eight new Robot Masters of his own! Mega Man must track down and defeat each one before they complete their missions and conquer the world for their mustachioed master. It's hard enough when each new Robot Master is deadlier than the last, but how can the Blue Bomber succeed with Quick Man tripping him up every step of the way?

Written By: Ian Flynn,
Art By: Ben Bates, Gary Martin, Matt Herms, John Workman
Cover By: Patrick Spaziante & Matt Herms

32 pages, $2.99.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mega Man 13 Cover

Hey guys! Thought I'd share with you the raw artwork to the cover of Mega Man #13! 

...Which, okay, is pretty much exactly like the finished product. With the "tabloid style" layout, nothing really got obscured this month by logo and numbering. So I thought I'd share with you guys some of the earlier "passes" and explain the process a bit.

So at the tail-end of every month, my editor will shoot me an e-Mail to let me know what covers are in the pipeline for me to color - some with fast turn-around (next two days) and others with plenty of time (next two weeks). I'll receive the inked black-and-white artwork in a couple of ways: Archie's inhouse team will scan the cover and send it to me over e-Mail/FTP, or they'll snail-mail me the original artwork to scan in myself. The former is always preferred to the latter - I have a standard format scanner, so I have to scan the artwork in two halves and "stitch" them back together in Photoshop.

Left: My initial pass. This is where the bulk of the work is - where the color theme for the cover is decided and the major rendering is completed. Here, with this magazine/tabloid inspired cover penciled and inked by Patrick Spaziante, everything is kept very simple and clean. The Pharaoh Man and Emerald Spears boxes were even desaturated a bit to add to the look. Rarely is a cover one-and-done, so we then go in for a second pass: Usually to punch up a visual effect or add clarity. It's pretty unusual that a cover will have to be completely re-done from the ground up.

Middle: Second pass. It was felt that the orange background made the image too heavy and detracted from the magazine vibe. Some lettering was added/fixed: "Exclusive" was added in and Pharaoh Man was changed to two words... And the hearts around Light and Lalinde? Not a correction, just something I felt would add to the composition.

Right: The cover as it went to solicits. Not too much got changed here: Just some lettering and FX.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Look Back: Mega Man 02

Hey, it's been awhile! How about another colorist retrospective??

So colors on the first ish of Mega Man were stretched out almost over two months. Typically I get the black-and-white inks (B/W's) for a book at least four weeks before it goes to print. The ideal breakdown of my schedule would be 2 weeks for colors, 1 week for approvals, and 1 week for corrections/separations... But yeah, we've certainly had those crunches where we're pushin' that!

So at the start of Mega Man, Patrick was penciling and digital inking simultaneous to his pencil breakdowns on the "Genesis" storyline starting in Sonic the Hedgehog and all of his numerous covers for Sonic, Mega Man, Sonic Archives, etc that he often pencils, inks, and colors himself! With only about a month of lead time left before the Spring launch of the series, our editor Paul brought the talented Rick Bryant on board to handle the inking work. The new team assembled, we beamed on in!

(Get it? Beamed. Teleported. *snort*)

This opening shot features a couple of Capcom cameos, by the way: The Unknown Soliders from "Forgotten Worlds!" ...And I had no idea. Whoops! Patrick goes the extra mile to slip in Capcom Easter Eggs into the artwork - you might also notice that some of the Robot Master areas are modeled after stages from "Powered Up" or "Power Battle/Fighters." Bomb Man's here was inspired by "Powered Up."

Get ready for action!! These are a few of my favorite pages from this ish, in particular this scene Patrick drew in which Cutman slices open the comic book page! It seems like that sorta' stuff is looked at as too "gimmicky" for modern book story-telling, where everyone and everything is so, so serious. But Mega Man is all about fun - including some hilarious puns Ian wrote for Cut Man!

Working on this first story arc - which is a tremendously faithful adaptation of the original NES game - introduced me to the unique challenge of color design based on 8-Bits. Mega Man teleports here-and-there every few pages so it's very important to communicate to the reader that we've changed locales. Thankfully, Patrick and Rick do much of the heavy lifting there. Mega Man pops off really well against warm colors, so we put the opening sequence into a sunset-y palette. Similar for Guts Man's "stage" - my favorite, in fact - with lots of browns and yellows and a gorgeously clear blue sky. And for Cutman we moved to a dusky, muted green inspired by his NES stage.

Ah, Dr. Wily. You're gonna' get eye strain watching all those computer screens in the dark! So this page pretty much set the standard for Wily's solo scenes. He is almost always plotting behind a computer screen, so we punch up the dramatic lighting and go for a nice sharp contrast to Light Labs', uh, light look. The villains are always more fun to draw, and that goes the same for coloring 'em!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Work-in-Progress: Sonic Anniversary

So last year - for the first time since 2004 - I took an entire year off from conventions. Once upon a time I hit up to twelve anime/comic shows in a year. I had planned my life around them - what I was drawing, what other work I could take, when I would visit my girlfriend in Virginia... They'd been great to me, too - a big part of what got me going in this career and kept me afloat until it was feasible to go full-time.

Mostly this hiatus was entirely necessary: with a freelancing career in full-swing, I just don't have the time or energy anymore to road-trip to different states every other weekend. But a big piece of it was that I was also still dragging the same ol' art from 2008 around.

So it's been awhile since I've gotten to flex my illustrative muscles. But we got a few upgrades to the studio over X-Mas - most specifcially a new drafting table and flat-bed lightbox - and I've been tearing it up! Here's a special (if late) sneak-peek at a little "Happy Anniversary!" poster for everyone's favorite blue blur.

Left: Inititial, super basic thumbnail sketch for this piece. This is a salute to the games' 20th anniversary, so I wanted this piece to be specifically Sega-Sonic cast - still no small feat, of course. And quite a few were still left on the cutting room floor - though I did try and squeeze in a few of my favorites. (Sonic Fighters for the win!)

Right: A more refined sketch with character placement. I love drawing everyone on different layers - some assembly required. This, however, was definitely one of my illustrative weaknesses four years ago. I love big group pics, but never had the patience to plan them out - the results being a congested mess. This time around, I fleshed out each character sketch and scanned them in and assembled my picture, deciding what would and wouldn't work. Some characters got cut, others were rearranged entirely. But I'm very pleased with the results.

Bottom: The completed pencils on 14x17 inch Bristol board. Now for inks!

Look Back: Sonic the Hedgehog 225

It's February 2nd! So how about we celebrate 'Hog Day with a little colorist's retrospective on last year's major milestone, Sonic the Hedgehog #225.

2011 was a whirlwind of a year and marked the 20th anniversary of Sega's speedy, bouncin' blue mascot. And what an anniversary! In perhaps a grand coincidence, Archie's two Sonic the Hedgehog licensed books would be celebrating milestone issues that year: Sonic Universe's 25th, and Sonic the Hedgehog's epic 225th. (Every 25 issues tend to be a "milestone" in the comix biz, usually celebrating the start or end of a story arc or introducing a major change to the status-quo.)
As a colorist, I'm usually last to the party as far as storylines go. I'd known a general outline of things to come from a late and rambly night at Heroes Con one year when writer Ian Flynn detailed to myself and Archie production-er Jon Gray his diabolical plans... But that was, like, nearly 1.5 years ago before this issue landed on my doorstep for colors. Something could have changed.
Over the phone, my editor Paul informed me that this was the issue that we were killing off Princess Sally. ...Sorta'. Actually, to commemorate the 20th Anniversary, this issue was going to launch us into a retro-themed flashback to an alternate reality Mobius for a four issue arc. True to the biz, this milestone was gonna' be the big game-changer leading into the next few years: Eggman's back. The Death Egg is back. Naugus is looking to be crowned king and Sally's fate is...? All would be revealed just a handful of months later.
Production-wise, this was also a game-changer. I had just come off a wicked month in which I was sick-as-a-dog and desperate to meet a deadline. With Mega Man poised to enter the monthly schedule soon I needed to scale back my nit-picking and get fast-'n'-loose. This was Sonic, after all - have some energy in those colors! After nearly two years of doing this, things finally started to click. Sonic was the blue I wanted him to be, and everything else was falling into place just how I liked.

I think there is a noticeable difference - an improvement - from #224 to #225. And I'm fiercely proud of this anniversary issue. 200 books ago I was nine years old and reading Sonic versus Metal Sonic, based on the hit Sonic CD video game that had just come out. Working on the book I grew up reading never gets old.

Sonic the Hedgehog 233

Hey all! Here's a preview of this month's Sonic the Hedgehog #233 from Archie Comics!

Written by Ian Flynn, art by Steven Butler, Terry Austin and various, cover by Ben Bates.

"The Trial of Geoffrey St. John." Fresh from the epic "Babylon Rising" arc in Sonic Universe, Sonic and Tails investigate the fate of their enemies before hurrying home for the trial of their former ally, Geoffrey St. John. How did this international man of mystery become an Ixis wizard? Where do his true loyalties lie? The answers fans have been demanding finally arrive!

32 pages, $2.99.