1.30.2015

The DWIGHT HOWARD SHOW!

I thought I'd have to wait until next week but apparently they're starting promos for the show this weekend so I can officially show it now.
Root Sports had me do up a few illustrations for the intro they envisioned for the Dwight Howard Show, airing Feb. 7. The astounding Rich Ealom and his amazing crew at Root Sports handled the editing, animating, effects and music for the intro. All I had to do was draw and color for a week and then they put their magic to work and the end result is amazing!
This was a great project to work on -- everyone at Root was wonderful to work for and I just can't say enough good things about Rich Ealom.
And a very special thank you to my man Dennis DePrisco for recommending me for the gig. You, sir, are my hero! You have no idea how much that much recommendation means to me and I'll never forget it!
video
S.

9.04.2014

ROAR

Been delayed with some very cool things lately, so today's post is a short detour from MIDNIGHT THEATRE.

My piece on Scottish Independence is currently on display at the Auld Acquaintance Exhibitions in Glasgow and London after a run in France. It's currently selling quite well, apparently, and getting some very positive attention. Take a moment to read the following article and have a think about what Scottish Independence means from both perspectives.

http://forargyll.com/2014/08/the-auld-acquaintance-leiper-gallery-exhibition-of-cartoons-on-independence/

And remember to check out the studio's website as well.

http://scottishcartoons.com

Some of my favorite people in the world do amazing work there.

S.


8.31.2014

ZEPPELIN HEIGHTS, Part II

My last post covered the first part of the heroes of ZEPPELIN HEIGHTS, so today we'll finish that out because to do otherwise would just be rude.

GRACIE SPACE
This fun little gal is GRACIE SPACE, our astronaut of the piece. She ends up going into space to overtake a kinetic bombardment satellite AKA a "Rod from God." The "Rod from God" is basically just a giant tungsten telephone pole that is dropped from orbit. The destructive force comes from the kinetic energy of the giant rod impacting the Earth. It's like dropping a small nuke without all that messy radiation. Moving at at least 9 kilometers per second -- orbital velocities, folks -- the weapon would inflict massive damage. Conceived of as a bunker buster, the weapon has the explosive yield of a small tactical nuke.

These are the things I read about in my spare time.

She originally wore mirror shades until I realized she had no way of taking them when wearing her helmet. But does that really matter in space?

NIGHTSABER
Next up is one of the Nightsabers. These gals are special operations forces dedicated to personal security and special missions. There's only about a dozen of them, but they are scary lethal. This particular NIGHTSABER is the personal security for COLONEL BLACKSTORM (seen in part I) and she has dedicated her life to protecting him in any way necessary. As a result, she's kind of a bitch.
SILVER STAR

SILVER STAR is your basic infantryman, except his body's been turned into organic steel. He's strong enough to lift a city bus, invulnerable, fast, just the perfect soldier in every way. Imagine a whole platoon of these guys fighting a war. How badass would that be? The guy could punch a hole in tanks.

KENSAI
Then there's KENSAI. I had so much fun drawing this guy. I had just got my hands on Manga Studio 5 -- the program I use for comic book inking and production -- and was playing with the new brushes and settings and junk and stuff. Everything about inking him just flowed with such precision and grace ... Ever have a moment when you feel like your actions are guided by a higher power? Well, the bad news is that's not God. That's you tapping into the higher resources of your brain, using a greater percentage then you normally would and pushing yourself through evolution.

There is no God. There is only you on this Earth. And that is wonderful.

KENSAI is Japanese for 'sword saint.' Miyamoto Musashi and Kojiro Sasaki were KENSAI. Musashi once developed the two-sworded fighting style while in combat against dozens of samurai and he won. Later on he killed Kojiro Sasaki with a wooden katana he carved out of an oar on the boat ride over to their duel.

Miyamoto Musashi was real. That man walked our Earth.

My KENSAI is like that, except his sword is carved from an actual dragon's tooth and the spirit of that creature is now starting to overtake his body. So, y'know, drama.

Im including his raw inks so you can see my process and why I enjoyed inking him so much. I'm not sure which version I like better, to be honest.
TALOS

TALOS here was a real pain in the ass to design, mainly because I was making him way too complex originally. TALOS comes from Greek mythology, the first robot, a giant man of bronze who protected Europa from Crete.

I love the Greeks and their mythology.

So I kept over-designing and screwing up the designs for TALOS until finally I stripped him back down and gave him a pseudo-Spartan helmet. Tossed the T on his chest and that was all I needed.

He is, of course, 12 feet tall. And there's a dark secret behind his creation because he comes from Greek mythology. And his illo is, of course, unfinished.

AEROSQUADRON
SKYROCKETS
I have ADD.

See these here AEROSQUADRON SKYROCKETS? I'm gonna re-design them. I don't like them. Well, I do like the jet pack. And I kind of dig the helmet. But there's just too much crap on that outfit. I need to strip them down the way I did TALOS and get back to the core concept of a legion of flying soldiers (screw you, Air Force) who act as air cavalry instead of paratroopers.

And that's it for now. There's a couple other unfinished illos on the big spread, and maybe someday I'll tell you folks about them. For now they're just the beginnings of ideas that I took too far, as opposed to complete ideas that I haven't finished yet.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring. More MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL? More MIDNIGHT THEATRE? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments and let me know what you think!

"Quickly, Robin! To the Bat-poles!"

S.




















8.30.2014

ZEPPELIN HEIGHTS

Another day, another blog post.

So I had an idea ... I've always loved team-ups in comics. I love when a couple heroes get together to fight some united front of villainy. World's Finest (Batman and Superman), Brave & the Bold (Green Lantern and Green Arrow), stuff like that. But even better is when teams get together and we see whole groups of heroes forced to interact. Huge stuff, like Secret Wars or House of M, stuff that affects everyone and shakes up the status quo.

And I love sci-fi. I love mad science ideas and all the crazy stuff that goes along with it. I love sci-fi characters and weapons and gadgets and junk and stuff. I love laser guns and jet packs and power rings and ... Well, it's a long list.

So I had the idea of combining all those things into a big crossover, but I needed an event, something major for everyone to get together over. That meant WAR. But I've already trashed Victory City a dozen times over in the multiple story lines I've got coming up. I wanted to create some place new for things to happen, some place even more mad-science and crazy-idea than Victory City already is.

Don't ask me how -- because I honestly don't remember the actual impetus -- but that led to ZEPPELIN HEIGHTS, the city in the sky, suspended by dirigibles and traveling all around the world, picking up refugees and survivors, creators and scientists, in an effort to create a better world.

Now that I think about it, there's some Flash Gordon in there. Probably some of Star Wars' Cloud City as well (which is just saying Flash Gordon anyway).

So war comes to Zeppelin Heights as the city is conveniently traveling to Victory City. Only this is different, because the invading army is a bunch of Fifth Reich time travelers coming back to our time and aligning themselves with Czernobog and his legion of demons from a hell dimension. The Fifth Reich has laid waste to the planet in their timeline so they figured "Screw it, we'll go back and invade someone else's time and just take all their shit."

Nazis are jerks.

ELECTRELLA EVERSMITH
So the good guys from the future come back in time to prevent the Nazi/demon takeover from happening, enlisting the aid of heroes such as the Victory Knights, the Black Hawk family, Night Shift, and many, many more.

This is planned as a Secret Wars level EVENT.

But enough of that. Let's get down to some characters and junk and stuff!

(I'm starting to think I should've named my blog '... And junk and stuff.')

First up is Electrella Eversmith. How great is that name? She's a wielder of the crimson volta, which is like ... which is a surprise. Tough shit. I loved designing her. I love her style. She's got a great hat and check out that chest! I mean the lightning bolt on the chest, not the chesty part itself.
COL. BLACKSTORM

Perverts.

Next up is Colonel Blackstorm. He's Electrella's battlefield commander, like Robert Duvall in 'Apocalypse Now' but with less surfing and not such a douchebag. He's the guy who has to make the hard battlefield decisions. Electrella gets to say 'Send in the ground troops!' but Blackstorm actually knows who those people are and that they're probably gonna die.

CRIMSON VOLT
Lots of people are gonna die in this story, just FYI. I planning on squeezing the status quo by the nuts and making it scream like a bitch.

One of these days I'll post the raw work I did to make this guy happen. There's so much vector work in his turbine arm that it's silly.

The next guy is the Crimson Volt -- not to be confused with crimson volta or the Crimson Bolt. He's the embodiment of the volta and Electrella's boyfriend -- lucky bastard. He can do some serious damage with those mojo hands of his. Also a fun design.
THE FOG


MISTY
This next guy is The Fog and I just love him. He's cold, cantankerous, bristly, blunt to the point of rudeness and maddeningly effective. Everyone would distance themselves from him but he's just too damn good at what he does. That's why he's got his three devoted sidekicks, Misty, Smoky and Cloudy.

I just realized I never finished Cloudy's illo. Gotta make time for that.

SMOKY
Back to The Fog -- I really dig his look. I'm posting him with and without the helmet because I'm still stuck wondering which is better to use. I could draw someone in a loin cloth with that helmet and they'd be interesting enough, but I also really like the idea of someone seeing that helmet pumping fog out of the sides as it comes at them like a freight train in the dark. Then again, he's not a guy who would care about a helmet because he just kills every bad guy he encounters.

These are my thoughts, folks.

CLOUDY
And what the hell, here's a nice detail shot of that helmet. I looked at art deco trains of the 1930s and 40s for inspiration and I think it's reflected pretty nicely here. That front lower jaw piece? That's a cow-catcher.

I'm not kidding.

KLYDE
Moving on, we have KLYDE. Ten feet tall with a hammer that shoots shotgun shells. KLYDE don't take no crap.

Still not happy with how the texture of his skin worked out, but don't tell him I said that.

I'm not sure how I forgot the most important guy in all of this until now, but here he is: DOKTOR NACHT, the bipolar, hypo maniac, Bavarian, rock n' roll mad scientist creator of ZEPPELIN HEIGHTS.
DOKTOR NACHT
DOK NACHT is everything you love about rock n' roll and absolutely do not want in one of the most brilliant minds ever to strut his bad self across the face of our earth wearing a pair of leather jodhpurs. When I say mad scientist I mean that he really is crazy as hell. He's a drug addict, a drunk, a hyper genius, guitarist in a German rock band and all around lunatic.

I love him.

And with that I'm gonna call an audible. This post ran long, so I'm breaking it into two parts. Part II will introduce you to more heroes, including GRACIE SPACE, the AEROSQUADRON SKYROCKETS and KENSAI. Here's a low res version of a big ass poster to tide you over.

Until that time, Eustace. Until that time ...

S.



















8.28.2014

MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL -- VILLAINS


I love making bad guys. I love crafting up a villain that really believes the whole damn world is wrong and he's gonna show them and then they'll all understand and he'll be the hero. I love crafting the misunderstood monster, the survivor getting by, the thief with good intentions, the hooker with a heart of gold. But more than any of them I love making THE VILLAIN, the James Bond-level baddie who's in the game just to be bad.
Yesterday we saw the HAMMOND HEIGHTS SCRAPPERS, the good guys of our opening story. Today I'm sharing the villains, THE KERES KABAL. Each of these bad guys has his own agenda, plot or scheme, but the main guy, that freaky damn albino, is THE VILLAIN. And he's got a nasty plot of his own.
I'm not gonna say too much more about these folks. Villains should be revealed slowly and plottingly, just like the way they work. So I'm just gonna throw some images down and let y'all enjoy what I'm cooking up with as little reveal as possible.
This is THE VILLAIN, the albino SIGOR SCARAVENGEN. The name is entirely made up, made to sound like some bizarre Scandinavian language that died centuries ago. SCARAVENGEN has an insane plot to take over Victory City and he's using the OCTAGON's activities as a cover for his actions.
And he's got those freaky red eyes.

Then we have BLACKRAVEN. His description is 'Venal little shit.'

The BLACK LAMA.

LE VAMP. Le French.









RED TERROR and the BLOODY BASTARDS. Commie pirates.












BARON VON VELOCITY. Obsessed with speed and creator of the BULLETEER armor.


The BULLETEER armor. I think it looks like shit -- kind of like someone went nuts in Illustrator and didn't know when to quit -- but here it is anyway.

 GUN GHOST -- I actually like this guy's look a lot.



THE MORRIGAN. Mean, Celtic broad.







CRIMSON CHIMERA. Just ... she's getting re-designed, re-drawn and redone entirely.


And that's all of it for the bad guys. Wish I could say more, but I don't wanna give too much away right now.

 S.







8.27.2014

MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL



I've always loved the word 'confidential.' It implies secrets and mysteries and hidden agendas and conspiracy and collusion ... I picked up 'L.A. Confidential' by James Ellroy based on the title alone and I never regretted that.

So when I got to thinking about a side book to run as a parallel to MIDNIGHT THEATRE, the name landed smack in my face. MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL is going to be about the secret stories that never see the cold light of day in Victory City. It's about heroes fighting and dying in the dark alleys and no one but the reader ever finding out how or why. It's about villains plotting and planning, colluding and conspiring in hushed whispers throughout the underworld. It's a beautiful woman with bright red lips hissing a terrifying secret in your ear and knowing you can never share it with anyone else.

So I designed some characters for it! And over the next few days I'm going to share them with you, my eight readers.

Before I get too far into this, one thing you should know is that I love poster design. Love it like a redneck loves shotguns and Schlitz. When I get enough content together for a poster I get to work, going through concept sketches, into design, letting that flow and merge into something new and really thrilling as it happens on the page. I love working in Illustrator and playing with text and copy to see what I can make that's new and reflects the story and characters at the same time.

For MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL, I'd already designed up all these characters. Seven friggin' teams of heroes and villains, all with their own back stories and agendas and missions and plots. But before that it all started with one guy, DEADLINE, the ghost reporter. Not sure how the idea bubbled up in my head -- probably another couple of days without sleep that led to an 'AHA!' moment -- but I just loved the idea of having an almost-omniscient narrator who could barely affect the plot. I wanted someone with personality, a little style and a through-line of his own that could walk us through the first chapter of MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL. Also, MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL sounds like the name of a newspaper, so ... I don't think I need to explain that part.

Anyway, DEADLINE is a great guy to write. He's a loner by nature -- he didn't even realize he was dead until after a full weekend had passed -- and he's been a ghost long enough to have figured out some tricks. He doesn't haunt any place so much as he sort of drifts around, gathering stories and trying to do some good with what little effect he has. In his drifting he comes across the murder of THE PHANTOM AVENGER -- ironic name on purpose -- a crime fighter who's had his head beaten in with a pipe then shotgunned almost in half at the torso. PHANTOM AVENGER is now trapped in limbo, a specter shouting a silent scream until someone can solve his murder and put his soul to rest.

That initially leads DEADLINE to seeking out STREET SMITH for help. STREET's another solo guy -- his description is mad science gun and a bad attitude -- but he's a do-gooder. DEADLINE is able to communicate with him and the two decide to seek out TRAINYARD CAIN, the hobo vigilante. The murder occurred in the train yards, so it's very possible that TRAINYARD either knows what happened or had something to do with it. Course, TRAINYARD isn't exactly ... stable. He's a little off, but he's got a friend who works in the yards, BETHLEHEM STEEL. She kind of keeps him on this side of sanity. She's tough as hell, working the kind of roughneck jobs usually reserved for men only, doesn't take any crap and has a real soft spot for TRAINYARD. They're both outsiders with no other friends in a world that treats them like trash, so they need each other.


DEADLINE and STREET decide to enlist some more help in their search for justice. DEADLINE has been drifting around for awhile now so he seeks out some people he's been keeping his undead eyes on to make sure they don't tip over the line into eeeeevil.

First there's the twins, DEVIL'S DUE and DEVIL'S OWN. They grew up in a family that were servants to Victory City's blue bloods and aristocracy. Something horrible happened to their parents and they've now sworn vengeance on the old money family responsible for it. DEVIL'S DUE is fairly level-headed -- he's coldblooded, calculating -- but DEVIL'S OWN is just bloodthirsty for vengeance. The two make a nice balance for each other.

Corbeau and Renard -- French for the Raven and the Fox -- are two wealthy brats into roleplaying on a level like no others. Corbeau and Renard are not their names, of course. That's just the roles they're currently playing. Renard steals some shiny bauble or priceless gem and then Corbeau has to chase her down and catch her. It's a little weird, too, because they're cousins and he's gay. Also, I don't like the way she's drawn. Her butt looks funny.

DOUBGHBOY is interesting. She took the name from her brother, a WWI vet who came home and fought crime. He was, of course, chewed up by the city and spit out so now she fights on in his absence.

SHAX BANSHEE is our last guy. He's actually possessed by a banshee and has to constantly feed it or it will start feeding on him. He's a good person but his mother crossed the wrong Pikey gypsy and SHAX found himself cursed. Now he's got a friggin' banshee stuck in his chest.

So that's the initial line-up of good guys for MIDNIGHT CONFIDENTIAL. I don't have a subtitle for this on yet. GHOST OF A CHANCE? DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES? I'll keep playing with it until something appropriately pulp-ish pops into my head.

Tomorrow we'll meet some of the villains of the piece.

So, yeah ... I had fun with it.

S.

P.S. Here's the initial background design I did for the big poster. I'm sharing it with you as a teaser.




8.26.2014

Dead Ringers

So I had another idea for a story.

Happens a lot in my line of 'work.'

Anyway, I wanted to create a group of villains that would be ... I suppose bespoke is the best term. Some baddie grabs a group of nefarious types, powers them up specifically with the skills needed to counter the Victory Knights, then cuts them loose on our good guys. So this is as far as I've got to designing.

I'm placing our good guy images next to their villainous 'mirror' so you can get a sense of how they match up.

The biggest thing was that I didn't want to do the opposite of our good guys. My guys' powers aren't really suited to that. Jack Bandit has a bulletproof suit and half a dozen guns. And a hand grenade. What's the opposite of that? So I didn't go that way. Instead I created 'black mirrors' of all the good guys, dark reflections that are kind of coming from the same perspective but with an eeeeeevil twist. It's sort of like the Jedi and the Sith: they both use The Force, but in different ways and for different results and man, those Sith guys all look way cooler, don't they?

I mentioned my favorite Knight, Jack Bandit, previously, so we'll start with his 'mirror,' Jesse Hell. There's two things to understand about why I went the way I did with this guy. First, he had to have a lot of style. Jack's got style and his reflection needs to be stylish as well. Second, I fucking hate most rockabilly types. They're usually assholes with too many tattoos, they play at some ridiculous posturing and they get some gorgeous girls. I kicked around quite a few ideas for Jack's opposite before internalizing a bit and asking my id what would really grate on my nerves. The answer: a rockabilly greaser that Lana Lash would probably have the hots for.

So it made drawing him kind of tough. I had to put aside that chip on my shoulder to make sure I still did the character justice and got a cool design. Jesse Hell is invulnerable himself, instead of wearing a suit like Jack, and as a result he can be more of a hand-to-hand guy, getting in close to Jack and really delivering some damage.

What an asshole.

Next up is Miss Fortune, the anti-Dani Danger. Another tough one, she went through a lot of sketches and designs before I settled on this look. Dani is a very carefully precise woman, very ordered out of necessity, and her reflection is that order and drive to perfection taken to a domineering level. I then gave her a flexible electro epee, a fencing foil, that would work well in battling Dani's ricochet boomerangs. Miss Fortune also manipulates bad karma to counter Dani's good luck, essentially nullifying the one powered trick Dani has up her sleeve.

Then we have Blackout, Silvershade's mirror. I wanted him big and bulky, line a linebacker, and I think that worked out well. He's got some body armor to get him past Silvershade's guns, but most important is that he is batshit crazy. When Silvershade drops a canister of terror gas, Blackout runs in and starts snorting it. If Silvershade is someone trying to do right and bring balance out of chaos, then Blackout is the frothing lunatic in the corner looking to get high and cause damage to everything around him. Wack-a-doo.

Finally there's Sabra Sting, the doppleganger for Lana Lash. She's got taser glovers and some other tricks, including wall-crawling and agility. And she knows Jack's gonna be hot for her because she's wearing very little clothes, which is gonna drive Lana nuts.

Y'know, Jack and Lana really would be a good couple if they weren't both so damn self-destructive.

Anyway, Sabra's really gonna give Lana a run for her money. The more I write the Knights the more I enjoy delving into the little nooks and crannies of their personalities. I really enjoy getting those moments when the characters 'speak for themselves' and tell me what they want to say or do, and Lana is really starting to shape up into someone special. I've got a very personal story lined up for her when I get around to everyone's origins and I can almost guarantee that hers will make you cry, just a little bit and only for a minute, but cry you will indeed.

Or at least get a little misty.

Coming soon are the other 'mirrors' for the Knights and their extended crime fighting circle. Corset's mirror is Cobalt Corsair, a pirate, and her sidekick Blue Bowman will be targeted by Deadeye, a sniper. Yellow Jacket and Fetish are going up against Silver Bullet and Kink, respectively. Fetish is another gal who's got a great background story and Kink is a connection to that. Furious is going up against a guy named Edge -- that may change -- a massive body builder-type who's resistant to the trembling hand of rage. And we'll see the return of Crucible when his counter shows up, the Inquisitor. Ever heard of the Spanish Inqusition? Condense that all into one woman.

Those last folks have been sketched up some, played with, kicked around a bit, but nothing's come to fruition yet. I'm not even really ready to post the sketches just yet. I know Edge looks like an accountant with muscles like Schwarzenegger and a baseball bat, and I have some good ideas for Kink now, but the rest ... Art is hard sometimes, folks. Rewarding when it works, pure joy when it flows, but total frustration when it jams up.

So, yeah ... there's all that.

S.