Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Believe The Hype!

[For those that might be interested, I have a feature in the new issue of Sketch Magazine #36]

I didn't think my last post would spark that much interest but I see I've touched a nerve, both for good and bad.

Today's post will continue the idea that I started and maybe give a more clear view of my thoughts.  


Public Enemy changed my world.  I was a very young white kid living in a very small town in the midwest so while I didn't connect with the some of the ideas of PE's first few albums (It takes a Nation, Fear of the Black Planet),  the music and passion that bled out of every track rocked my world.  I was 12 years old when "Do the Right Thing" came out on video and I can't even tell you how many times I rented that movie. "Fight the Power" was forever burned into my brain after memorizing that film which is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

My love for hip hop was already at an all time high when I was was in 8th grade (now living in a bigger city in Tennessee) and on a school field trip to Washington D.C. when it was taken to the next level.  We were taken to a little shopping and eating area some where and set free to get some food.  I however broke away from the group hunting for the music store.  I found it and spent my lunch money on cassette sitting in the new release section.  

Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black

HOLY SHIT!  While I might have been starving from spending my food money on a tape (which has been a trend thru out my life), my mind was blown by the music I was hearing.  I dare anyone to say that there is a beat in the world better than "Shut Em Down".  You will grow old searching for one.  "By the Time I get to Arizona" not only had a very powerful message that helped teach me what the southern TN school system wasn't, it had an infectious groove that didn't leave my head for years following.  


I think people familiar with what videos they see on TV today would be shocked to know that "Can't Trust It" (like many other PE videos) were in heavy rotation in '91.  This leads me to what I mentioned in my last post about the difference between then and now.  Let's take the Jester-like hype man of Public Enemy.

Flavor Flav was the softener that made PE's message an easier pill to swallow.  An intentional farse in some ways.  I would never think that 19 years later I would be seeing people look like him but taking themselves serious.  Flav was a clown that knew he was being a clown.  When I see some soon-to-be-has-been with his hat on tilt still dawning the stickers and tag, a giant chain supporting a cartoon size diamond encrusted pendant all while mean muggin' like you better show him respect, I can't help but chuckle.  Clowns.

Now, I know that there was bad hip hop then, just like there is great hip hop now.  I'm not that tunnel visioned.  The difference is that the mainstream was played out much more even back in the day.  Let's take Serious Sat. Radio for example.  Every genre of music on there has 5 -10 channels.  Rock has oldies, classic, moderan, metal, 90's, 80's, and the list goes on.  Hip Hop has 3 (I'm not counting the "R&B" Beyonce playing station as Hip Hop)  One is old school.  And the other 2 play exactly the same playlists of modern "Ring Tone" rap.  

The DJ that backs up the MC is gone and replaced whatever "producer" of the moment quickly taps whatever transposed vocal sample is hot at the moment.  Again, I know it's not really gone, but it's gone to kids only exposed to the mainstream.  

As I grew up, my music tastes expanded to just about every genre there is, so I stopped worrying about if any type of music is "dead".  Hip Hop isn't dead.  The kind of life Hip Hop enjoyed in the mainstream may be dead and replaced by the "killers" and the "gangstas" (it's funny to think about it in those terms isn't it?  They're entertainers that pretend to really be what they're character is.  Imagine that after Tom Cruise starred in The Last Samurai he started walked around with a sword and and Samurai garb talking about the Bushido Code.) There are great artists out there pushing the genre in new directions just like there are clowns out there dumbing it down.  (we'll talk some of those names in a future post)

For now, we'll end on another PE quote.  


p.s.  Guys, I know "good" is subjective and all about tastes.  But 50 cent is probably one of the worst rappers in the history of it.  I'm not even talking about what he raps about.  He could rap about saving homeless babies and protecting the planet and he would still be terrible.  

Friday, September 26, 2008

Business Isn't the Same

I hate to admit that in some ways, I've become the guy who talks about the music of his youth is so much better than what the "kids" today listen to.  But dammit, I'm right!!!!

I can remember running home after school to try and catch the 1 hour of hip hop they would play on tv.  I loved it.  It was so new and different that everything else and I craved it before I knew what a craving was.  I'm not going to pretend that I know why it spoke to me so much or say I was ahead of the curve on anything.  I just loved it.  KRS-One, Public Enemy, Nice & Smooth, Special Ed, Eric B & Rakim, 3rd Bass, Big Daddy Kane... I could keep listing names all day.  It just felt fun, and energizing.  One of my favorites of those days was Eric and Parish...EPMD.  Get the BoZack.  You got to Chill, Crossover, Headbanger, on and on and on and on.  I remember being heart broken when they broke up but got my smile back in '97 when they brought it back.  They really frame the sound that I remember as a kid growing up.  

Now we have a bunch of guys who can't sing but try to thru vocoders and auto tuning.  It's like listening to Max Headrum.  The sad thing is I hear these "artists" talking about how pioneering they are.  The same 4 or 5 recording artists just play musical chairs doing guest spots on each others songs, using the same beats, the same effects, and all saying the same shit.  The sad thing is to listen to guys...scratch that... clowns like LiL' Wayne and 50 cent who can barely find the beat to stay on.  Clowns.  

I don't get too bothered because as popular as they all think they are, I rejoice in the fact that in a year or two they'll be an after thought similar to those other shit rappers who we've seen rise in fall in less than 5 minutes.  Silk the Shocker, Mystical, Mia X,  and just about every other clown from 7 or so years ago are all gone.  Give it another few years and LiL Wayne won't even be remembered enough to be made a joke of.  That's how timeless the current crop of rappers that get airplay are.  

I still put in EPMD and not to remember better days gone by, but because it's good music.  So today, I thru on my Epmd albums and did a warm up tribute to Eric & Parish Makin' Dollars!!

Fun Fact:  Bill Sienkiewicz rendered the Fisherman Hat Duo on the cover of Business As Usual

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can't lose with a Mouse

What is the hell is it about Mice?!?!  It doesn't matter what you do, Mice are always cute.  I could draw a mouse murdering people and it would come out cute and lovable.  

I just finished inks on issue 2 of WWoOz yesterday and was getting ready to layout the cover for 3.  I've been inking for a few weeks now and it was nice to get to draw again.  I fired up the Cintiq and did a quick design for the Field Mice in the poppy fields for issue 3.  

This makes me want to join the club and do a Mouse book...haha.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scaredy Cat!

The is the cover to issue 2 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I'm starting to hit my stride with the feel and characters of this world and having a ton of fun doing it.  

[UPDATE]  The first issue hits stands in Dec.  And here is my penciled version.  The pencils were done digitally in Sketchbook Pro, and the inks done with brush and ink on paper.

When I took on this project, I thought that it would be something that I would get the most kick out of and most would just think it's ok.  In today's comic market it, it's about how dark you can go and how "real" things seem.  I'm not saying that's bad, but it doesn't seem to leave room out there (in the direct market at least) for books filled with whimsy and fantasy.  So I thought to myself "I love Oz, I grab some paychecks while drawing something I love.  Hopefully people will remember when I get back to "proper" comics."  See, even I started to think the same way.  Not in tights, Not real comics. 

It was refreshing to put ink to paper and think "you're drawing this for yourself, man.  Have a blast."  I swear, for the last few months I thought I was drawing a private book for me and my editors only.  I was brainwashed but what I thought the industry has become and figured nobody really cared about this kind of book.  I was just a little bit wrong.

It seems that people out there are very pleased and excited for this release and I'm floored at the response so far.  Retailers, bookstores, fans, companies... any and everybody has been sending their kind words on this project so far and I'm flattered to no end.  It's great to be apart of this and can't wait for everyone to have it there at home!

I'll shut up now!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hero Initiative Hulk Cover

This is a Hulk cover I painted for the Hero Initiative Charity this summer.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the project, check out their site.  100 Hulk covers by 100 artists. 

It's nerve wrecking when you're doing the final on the cover.  I get so used to doing the process thing that when you go back to doing it all in one place at one time it gets freaky.  Just inks and watercolors.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Artist that should make you hate your mother for not installing more skill!: Nathan Fox!

I promise I'll update with some of my own art this week.  I was knee deep in pencils for issue 2 of Oz all last week am caught up now.  But for now you'll just have to settle for another kick ass artist to check out.

I became aware of Nathan's work one day while I was at the comic shop and flipped thru the first issue of Pigeons From Hell from Dark Horse.  I was blown away with in seconds.  As most of you know, that doesn't happen often, but with in a few pages I knew that Nathan must be destroyed and his skills transfered to me like some kind of Harry Potter magic situation. 

Nathan is a great example of what it means to go at with no fear.  There are lines everywhere on the page yet it doesn't ever seem to be too much.  He knows what it's like to make his drawings act. (obviously this is a thing with me!)  

Nathan has done some work on DMZ as well as PfH and he showed me a issue from Heavy Metal...the name escapes me, but it is sick!!!!  I was about 2 inches away from have the pleasure of Nathan drawing one of my short stories at Marvel but the timing didn't work out.  So hopefully sooner rather than later I can make that happen.

I had the chance of meeting Nathan this year and not only is he a great guy but he also was selling his originals.  You would think they are 11x17 like everyone else's, but no... Nathan is no mortal man and must do his pages on like 16x26 or some such shit.  It's AWESOME!  I've added a photo of my 2 pages that sit framed on my shelf.  One from both DMZ and Pigeons from Hell.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Juggernaut: I'm Good with the Bad!

I've had an exciting week so far.  I've penciled some insanely fun pages from OZ, started a new project with an incredible artist that I've just discovered hope to do great things with, and got my first look at pages from my Juggernaut script for X-men: Manifest Destiny.

More on the first two things later.  Let's talk about Dan Panosian and how kick ass he his.  I've tossed emails back and forth with Dan a few times and we showed each other some art that made us both mad as hell! (because it was so good).  When I got the assignment to write a script for X-Men: Manifest Destiny it worked similar to my Divided We Stand story.  They gave me a list of characters to pick from, only this time I wouldn't be drawing it myself.  It would be my first chance to be "the writer" and have someone else handle the art.  My editor told me to give him some names and enter Dan Panosian.  

His style is so fun and best of all, he can act.  I mean he can take a pencil and make the characters act out the scene.  Because of the kind of story I was telling, that was the most important element in finding an artist.  Luckily he was into the story and said yes.  

The pages look amazing.  And for my first time not drawing my own story, it couldn't have went better.  It's strange watching my ideas come to life without me doing the work.  I better watch it or I'm going to get spoiled!!!

Thanks a ton Dan!  Here are some of Dan's prelim sketches.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Artists You Should Love: Alberto Breccia

[update]  Click here for info on Alberto Breccia

Ok, so a few years ago I pick up the "Art of Brian Boland" and crack it open.  Right there on one of the first pages, Brian is highlight some of his inspirations and art heroes.  He showed one drawing of this man and I instantly closed the book and started hunting for him online.  Mr. Boland actually got me to NOT look at his own book.

Alberto Breccia is this weeks artist.  I don't think there is one site for him, so you'll have to go on the same hunt that I did.  One of his most famous works was the tales of MORT CINDER.  An imortal that sits around with a buddy telling tales.  These are the images posted here.  I was lucky enough to find a Mort Cinder Collection a few years back.  About 300 pages of the most incredible black and white work I've ever seen.  Alberto was illustrating in the late 50's and 60's, so be careful, you're going to see where some of your heroes got their ideas from!  If anyone can spot what I'm talking about, i'll give you some kind of prize.

Breccia's black and white line art is amazing.  I couldn't image even trying to put color on this.  Something that he's able to do is "act" with drawings.  In a world of constant furrowed brows and gritted teeth, it's not often you come across a sequential artist that has the chops to take a character thru the full spectrum of emotion.  Breccia doesn't hide behind style.  Every face has lifetime of thoughts behind it.  

Ok, go on the hunt and have fun.  You will not be disappointed.