Thursday, December 30, 2010
Although FEEDING GROUND has been gestating for around 2 years, it was 2010 where it became a reality and an all-consuming part of my life. Below are some of the ways the book defined 2010 for me:
THE WORK ITSELF:
Given the nature of drawing comics, I have easily drawn more in this past year than I have in the previous 10 years combined. And, I don't love drawing. I like designing and the act of rendering surfaces and textures in ink but it's been a long while since I've doodled for pleasure.
That's the work of it but the real thrill for me has been arriving at color combinations to communicate the feel of our story. More than a single drawing or paint-by-numbers reality I'm looking to bring something new to the table and a finished product that is more evocative than illustrative.
And, even more than executing the art, I was stoked by the opportunity to collaborate with Swifty and Chris on creating the problems and solutions, the imagery and arcs, of our story. It has fired up another part of my brain that I need to keep exercising.
THE BOOK ON THE SHELF:
It's humbling to finally be on a shelf next to work by peers that I enjoy and influence me as well as those legendary creators that built the comic language. The medium is both young enough to see the beginning and small enough to gain a foothold and yet old enough to contain depth and broad enough to include an ever-widening expanse of talent and material.
Now, we're somewhere in that too.
The landmarks for me were our launch party at Bergen Comics in Brooklyn (a well-appointed and managed store/ salon I very much see as the future of comic retail), our release at Vector Books in Bayonne, NJ (my local comic shop of 20+ years), and the book selling out multiple times at Forbidden Planet in NYC (my first NY comic shop). Issue 3 should be out soon, and the rush of seeing our work in stores hasn't gotten tired yet.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE:
The thought and time that we've put into every panel and every page has its own value but really pays off when strangers are reading it and offering their feedback. Of course, the most gratifying ones let us know that we've struck with the reader and our intent was communicated on multiple levels. Others have pushed us to work out kinks in our craft. Reactions take the form of comments on message boards to articles and blog posts and interviews but it's been the face-to-face conversations at Conventions like San Diego, NYCC, and King Con that stand out for me. I've always dug meeting strangers and it's been cool to connect with people if only for a few minutes.
As a fan and newbie, the Con moment that made the greatest impression on me was meeting SCALPED artist, RM Guera. He came off as a mellow guru when I showed him FEEDING GROUND and he encouraged me to loosen up and "Let it flow." His own linework is alive and his compositions are consistently inventive. When he penciled a sketch of one of the lead characters for me, it was so spontaneous and lively that I thought… "Don't ink it…don't ink it." As if on cue, he asked "Do you mind if I don't ink this? I like it as it is."
I can't leave the office without having to put a tissue box on my laptop to prevent my cat from turning it into a bed and overheating it… It's also been frustrating to not be able to trust release dates and the shipping schedule, mainly due to issues with the overseas printer although I suspect my cat is responsible for that too… I hunch when I'm on the computer and unless I start doing yoga or running again I'm sure my neck will disappear and I'll be a few inches shorter... All said, mostly positive although I definitely did not plan on spending my first year as a married man working with such an irregular lifestyle.
SOME INSPIRING COMICS OF 2010:
This is by no means a comprehensive list as I haven't even been able to pick up much of what has been topping other year-end picks. I just wanted the chance to shout out the work of artists who made me take note this year. I keep their work close by and they're my current yardstick of the level of quality and energy I need to be hitting.
- For big, bold, superheroics John Romita Jr./ Klaus Janson/ Dean White on Bendis' AVENGERS and Jerome Opeña and Dean White for their uncluttered detailing and fresh staging on UNCANNY X-FORCE. Archangel's knife wings never looked cooler, and, as knife wings, they were pretty cool to begin with. Notice Dean White as the equal collaborator and common denominator on both books as an action colorist that finishes the art with the right amount of texture and punch.
- I've admired the work of David Aja for a few years now and this year I discovered Jason Latour working in a similar school. Both use gestural brushwork to convey an impressionistic reality and make really strong choices in their page design and pure visual storytelling.
- Jaimie Hernandez on LOVE & ROCKETS New Stories #3. Never has such a raw story looked so pretty. His first tale in the book is one that hits you in the gut but then lingers and demands multiple readings to appreciate his pacing and structure. The ending tale then has an uplift that rewards both the lived years of the characters and the years spent reading them.
- Urasawa on PLUTO, can do it all. Massive battles, majestic architectural layouts, and intensely human moments portrayed by robots. I became invested in it this year and it's some of the best Comics have to offer.
We've delivered Issue 4 to the printer and I'll be wrapping up work on FEEDING GROUND in the Spring. From there, I look forward to the chance to experiment with new styles and tell new stories in 2011. There's still work to be done and skills to be learned but I aim to trust my instincts, doodle more, and "Let it flow." You'll see the first signs of this in Issue 4 whenever it finds its way to the shelf.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Since the first two issues of FEEDING GROUND have hit the stands we've have the great fortune of complete strangers reading our work and offering their feedback. In Generation "i" and especially in the comic field, there are many fan critics and criticism on every level. We've gotten glowing five star reviews like this one at COVERLESS, some constructive criticism like this one on THE OUTHOUSE, and some, who will remain nameless, that trashed us. Swifty has said, and I agree, that in reading every review there's the duel risk of inflating or crashing one's ego and that it's ultimately the doing of the work that matters. We just delivered Issue 4 to the printer (!) and we've already learned volumes since Issue 1. But, I'll detail below one area where the constructive criticism reflected our learning curve.
I'd be the first to say that we bit off a lot for our first long-form comic mini-series. We crafted a story that transitions between three related plot-lines, features a leading family of five characters, and walks a delicate balance between real-world horrors and myth. One common piece of feedback to the first two issues is the degree to which we reveal the goings on of our world - does our goal to build mystery and disorient the reader succeed or simply confuse? Now, a few responses showed some issues in reading comprehension on the part of the reader but the lesson that Klaus Janson drilled home for me was that as artist, I need to take full responsibility for the success or failure of a page. This leads me to the central issue in my education as a comic artist - film language vs. comic language in clear visual communication.
This means presenting visual information in each panel and in the transition between panels and pages in a way that is cognitively and emotionally resonant for the reader. Characters need to be staged in space and in relationship to each other and their actions need to proceed in a manner that is consistent with the understanding of the scene.
I mentioned in another post that comic artist Eddie Campbell has his own set of rules on his blog "The Fate of the Artist," the first being:
The entire drama of a given situation must be contained within each panel of the sequence of that situation.
The key is context. Film transitions provide cuts and movement and all of the context that a viewer needs in digesting a film. Part of my instinct has been to focus on isolated moments and close-ups as a film would. This is due in part to a desire to heighten emotion and, in part, to the feeling that my drawings would be too small and cluttered otherwise. But, the solutions of a comic artist require more context in each panel that ideally delivers on the information of the previous panel and points ahead to the next. A close-up of a gun may be an emotional beat that's not pulling it's weight on a given page.
Rather than go on in text I'd rather share some examples from Will Eisner's "Comics & Sequential Art" that continue to make an impression on me as I digest their craft and meaning. This and its companion book are essential reading for comic artists.
I will include more examples from my own work in future posts. Keep in mind that my sequence at the top of the post was intended to play out as staccato beats of accumulated information in order to intensify drama of that scene in Issue 2. Whether or not that succeeded is up to the reader...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
FEEDING GROUND #1 is officially in stores and I wanted the chance to acknowledge some people whose inspiration, talent, and support helped make this possible.
We've included a THANK YOU section at the back of the book. You can read the whole thing here, but this is my portion below:
As a group, we benefited greatly from the insight andAdditionally, I was remiss not to include John Siuntres and his Word Balloon podcast. His extensive and candid interviews with comic book professionals is the comic creator equivalent of a director's commentary on a DVD. This past year has been "comic book college" for me and John's podcast and the gracious information offered by guests provided me with the context to appreciate the craft, business, lifestyle, and shared enthusiasm of the comic industry.
experience of Thomas Peyton, the counsel of Suzana
Carlos, and the encouragement and camaraderie of artist
Juan Doe. Great thanks to everyone at Archaia not only
for taking a chance on us, but also offering advice and
support that recognized what we were doing and then
made it stronger.
MICHAEL LAPINSKI would like to thank the following
people: Cartoonists Rick Ritter, Mike Dawson, GB Tran and
the guys of MAMMAL, their art and dedication convinced
me to get back into making comics. Paul Zdanowicz,
horror guru and Lapinski-booster with a keen critical eye.
Klaus Janson, whose professional instruction came just at
the right time to bring structure and rules to what I had
been discovering on the page. Brian Michael Bendis for
providing the Jinxworld message board and its posters for
keeping me company in the solitude of my man cave. To
my parents and family, whose generous affection has
always allowed me to thrive. And, to Lindsay, thanks for
adding sweetness to my life and for riding this wolf with
me to Bayonne and beyond.
Big thanks to everyone we've met since starting down this path and to my co-conspirators Swifty Lang and Chris Mangun, buds and creative partners who've shared in every step.
And, here's a handy link on where you can find the series. I'm inking Issue 4 (of 6) and will post something crafty in my next blog post.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Last year, Swifty and I attended King Con comic convention in Park Slope, Brooklyn and immediately took to the community of artists it assembled. We set a goal to return the following year and join them as creators. This past weekend, we did just that. Although we carried pins and T-shirts based on FEEDING GROUND art (see below) the real benefit was reaching across the table and talking with hundreds of people (readers, editors, other cartoonists and writers) about our story and connecting with a room of professionals and fans who dig the same stuff.
Over the last year we've become friends with members of the Act-i-vate website and Deep Six Studio and have gotten tighter with friends and Con regulars GB Tran, Fred Chao, Mike Dawson, and Jeffery Burandt (whose band Americans UK transmorgrified the Brooklyn Lyceum into a comic dance party the night before). I didn't have the chance to leave the table all that much, but I just wanted to shout out a few new discoveries I made this weekend:
One of the many Don't Look! co-conspirators, I'm a big fan of Nelson's cartooning and I discovered that, like myself, he's got the other foot in the world of animation. A one-man studio he's recently designed and animated show opens for The Food Network and for Nick Jr.'s "Role Models" campaign.
RACHEL FREIRE: A few months ago I was tipped off to the clean-line grace of Rachel's work through a preview of her book FCHS with writer Vito Delsante. I mentally checked it, eagerly awaited its release, and then, nada. Turns out, they didn't meet the minimum order for Diamond distribution. BUT, they are now self-publishing and I was fortunate enough to be diagonally situated across from her at the con.
FCHS (Forest City High School) exists in some netherworld that at first feels like Happy Days but is posited in a 1990s with a 90210 libido. Every line of Freire's work seems to be formed in the exact right place but breathes in a human way akin to the work of Xamie Hernandez and the best of Archie comics. It is the marriage of lucid cartooning and soapy subjects that gives FCHS its compelling frisson and I'm on board for whatever Rachel chooses to do next.
Here is a guileless sketch she did for me of Xaime's "Maggie" character (one of the greats):
And, you can download the PDF Preview of FCHS here.
THE INK WELL FOUNDATION:
I was already a fan of Rami Efal's spontaneous-seeming linework when we had a chance to chat for the first time at NYCC but I did not realize he was also the director of The Ink Well Foundation. The group organizes professional artists who would like to donate their time to draw with and for hospitalized children. What a great way to share your talents. I've been looking for a new volunteer opportunity and I will be looking towards future Ink Well events. You can learn more and donate to the cause at their website.
"BILLY DOGMA" MOTION COMIC:
Up until now, the "motion comic" has been a Frankensteined beast. It was conceived as a way to deliver comic material to new audiences on digital platforms but, often cobbled from pre-existing comic art and puppeted animation, the hybrid betrays both media and is barely alive. To my taste, the closer a motion comic aspires toward full animation, the more it reveals its shortcomings.
Enter: the Billy Dogma motion comic, based on Dean Haspiel's comic short and animated by Daniel J. Kramer.
For me, this is a step in the right direction. More like a guided pop-up picture book than animatic, it plays to the strengths of the comic design and most of the animation acts as motion graphic story reveals instead of acting or moving figures in space. Other environmental movement gives the piece a little more life on the screen. And, maybe most importantly, it's punchy and to the point.
It plays better on an iPhone screen but you can watch it here. Note: it's called "Sex Planet" and, depending on your job, not safe for work.
Friday, October 29, 2010
One of the great challenges of making FEEDING GROUND has been juggling the multiple factions of the world we have created, particularly the lives of the 5 family members who provide the core for this tale. We hope to have created living characters and, in doing so, made the risks they face more striking.
Here's a new review of Issue 1 that points directly to the role of family in the book, celebrating their humanity. In honor of Halloween, I'll then follow that up with some grisly glimpses of the gauntlet that awaits them.
COMIC RELATED - "Why I Love Comics" by Eric Ratcliffe
Eric has written some of my favorite reviews of some of my favorite comics (Hawkeye & Mockingbird, Sweets) and now he puts words to FEEDING GROUND #1.
REVIEW - (excerpt) - "My verdict is that if you enjoy books that explore the human condition as well as add plenty of mystery and a little bit of suspense/action I really think you'll enjoy this. I can happily say I have no idea where they are taking this but I sure as hell am in for the ride! "
Thursday, October 21, 2010
AIN'T IT COOL NEWS
The premiere website for fan culture gave an amazing post-NY Comic Con review of Issue 1, calling the book "one of the cooler books of the con" and "unique in almost every way."
I really appreciate how feedback is suggesting that readers are "getting" what we were gong for. The above sequence was one of the first images we developed for the story and a technique that the reviewer hits on in his comments. Laying out comic panels is entirely about controlling the flow of time and space for the reader, a tool we look to develop throughout the series.
You can check out the link to the full review and an excerpt below.
REVIEW - (excerpt) - "What I liked most about this first issue is the attention the makers of this book take toward small moments. Multiple panels showing minuscule moments embrace the reader and pull one into the scene."
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I've only recently started attending comic conventions over the past few years and this was my first year behind the table at big cons. The thing that jumps out at you, the thing that I believe this medium has over any other, is the sense of community. At a con, every niche has a fan group. In comics, every novice has a mentor. There is a patient and generous exchange between fans, pros, and aspiring creators. And, for me, NYC was the place to find so many of my friends and co-workers doing their own thing and supporting each other in the process. Here are a few of my highlights and insights from NYCC 2010.
DON'T LOOK BACK!
The LAST MINUTE COMICS table was our second home at the Con. We were proud to be a part of the DON'T LOOK! horror anthology and to be able to chill out with editor/artist Rick Ritter and artists Paul Zdanowicz and Dan O' Conner. Along with THE GATHERING anthology, this was a year of friends striking out and creating despite dreary day jobs and a saggy economy. A review in Wired magazine communicated the "We've got a show to put on!" spirit of new creators.
THE SWIFTY LANG EXPERIENCE
Sure, it's pretty cool that there's a Michael Jackson dancing game. But, I'm the one hanging with the guy rocking the wolf hat AND dancing to "Smooth Criminal." I'm lucky to be partnered with him on this and with Chris Mangun we make for an unstoppable two-limbed Voltron. See also, Spider-Wolf.
MY BEST/WORST COMPLIMENT
A woman at our signing table was staring intently at a number of FEEDING GROUND pages, flipping back and forth through them. When I asked for her reaction, she stated that the art was incredibly depressing but she couldn't stop looking at it. Turns out, she has traveled through towns much like the one depicted in our book and that the color and character of my art communicated their spirit. All along, we've tried to create a comic that is more evocation than illustration and her feedback let us know that in some part we hit the mark.
Beside many creators, there is a support team that allows them to do their thing. At the Con, many a wife, boyfriend, and pal sat for hours on end and helped facilitate table work and manage crowds. So, cheers to the unsung heroes. I love it when I can pay a compliment to a favorite creator and there's that wash of pride over the face of their significant other. Cheers to our own lovely ladies as well as Scott (Gail Simone), Michael (Jim McCann), Colleen (Sean Murphy), and Big Bird's wife.
Over a year of working on the comic, I have amassed a virtual school of advice and anecdotes on the craft and creation of comics. At the Con, I was psyched to be able to personally thank a number of these influences.
I've been listening to the interviews of John Siuntres' WORD BALLOON Podcast for years now. Even when I am unfamiliar with the work of the guest, they never fail to reveal the humanity behind a creation and the nuts and bolts of getting it done.
While Stan Lee may be the literary godhead of modern superhero comics, Jim Steranko is one of the medium's greatest visual linguists. Beyond his cool surface style, he created a language for the medium that isn't mere cinematic storyboarding. In person, he evokes every bit of the escape artist, secret agent, cool-coiffed guy of his work. His flattering two-word (and a shoulder slap) review of my work: "It Moves."
Thanks too to CB Cebulski who has scoured the globe shepherding new talent and was still up for a quick hello at the tail end of a long Con weekend. And, RM Guera, artist of Scalped, whose advice needs a whole blog post dedicated to it.
I cannot stress how fortunate we were to meet the guys at Archaia when we did. Editor-in-chief Stephen Christy said in our panel that at every Con there is one property they want to sign on the spot. In 2008, that was us.
Now, as part of the family, I am in awe of the directions they are growing in. They are simultaneously enlivening major franchises like those of the Rodenberry and Henson universes while founder Mark Smylie also continued to meet with new talent for hours in their snazzy booth lounge.
They publish an out-of-the-box classic modern fairy tale like THE RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN while also pushing the boundaries of genre fiction with work like horror books MOON LAKE and THE AWAKENING, or sci-fi like CRITICAL MILLENNIUM. Stephen said (I'm paraphrasing here) that their goal is to publish books that are events in themselves, artifacts that are crafted to justify their purchase. And, the energy, talent, and good will of their creators and production team were in full effect for the duration of the Con.
Tomorrow, FEEDING GROUND #1.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
It has come full circle. We initially pitched FEEDING GROUND at NY Comic Con in 2008 and now we return as first-time creators. Swift, Chris, and I will be on display at the Archaia booth where they will be selling advance copies of FEEDING GROUND #1.
In addition, we'll be talking up the book at one of their panels. Archaia has a swanky reading room of a booth and an impressive and expanding line of books and creators. Check out the info below.
Saturday, Oct. 9, 10:45-11:45am
ARCHAIA ALL ACCESS
Get updates, previews and new information on current and upcoming core Archaia titles as the publisher spotlights: AWAKENING VOL. 2 with artist Alex Eckman-Lawn; CRITICAL MILLENNIUM with writer Andrew E. C. Gaska and artist Daniel Dussault; FEEDING GROUND with creators Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski and Christopher Mangun; and THE GOD MACHINE with creator Chandra Free! Moderated by Archaia editor-in-chief Stephen Christy. Panel Room 7 (1A22)
Signing Times at the Archaia Booth (Booth #2031)
FRI OCT 8th
Featured Table 3PM - 4PM
Signing Table 5PM - 7PM
SAT OCT 9th
Signing Table 12PM - 3PM
SUN OCT 10th
Featured Table 2PM - 5PM
Come find us and you can also pick up CON-Exclusive T-Shirts (based on the cover to Issue 3)!
Our short comic FROZEN DARK is also included in the Horror Anthology DON'T LOOK!, also making it's debut at the con. Check out the genuinely chilling cover art by painter David "hubba hubba" Palumbo.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
For those of you who are unaware, Feeding Ground #1 will not be released today due to unforeseen issues with the overseas printer. The new release date is October 13th!
BUT, for those in the NYC area, we will be selling Advance Copies this Friday at 8PM at a Launch Party at Bergen Street Comics, a well-appointed comics salon in Brooklyn!
Come for the comics and stay for the posters, original art, tequila, and Negra Modelos.
We'll also be appearing at NYC Comic Con and will be announcing our schedule soon.
Lastly, this is ostensibly a process/ experience blog. One lesson that the whole experience of creating my own business/ comic has burned into my soul - expect the unexpected. I haven't allowed myself to get excited until the book is actually in my hands. Given the odd snafus and sidetracks (as well as much good fortune), it's worked for me so far. I also won't be too surprised if the ink somehow spontaneously combusts.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
You may have noticed that FEEDING GROUND #3 is not on the roster for Archaia's November solicitations. Instead, our editor, Paul Morrissey, has created a release schedule that better reflects our 2 month-per-issue production schedule but avoids going bi-monthly.
Issues 1 & 2 will still be released in Sept and Oct and then Issues 3 & 4 will come out in December and January. February will be another break month and you can get the final two issues in March and April, respectively.
In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at the cover to Issue 3. As an inverted version of the traditional Mexican "Sugar Skull," it speaks to the true nature of one of our principal characters.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I'm currently wading in ink trying to finish up pages for Issue 3 but I thought I would share links to our first bit of press for FEEDING GROUND.
Both come from the Comic Box column in The Jersey Journal and NJ.com written by William Kulesa. When I was living in Brooklyn, my dad had been cutting out columns of William's reviews for me and it was surreal to talk with him and be featured in the paper.
The first is a personal profile/ interview (complete with picture!). So cool to be able to share some early influences and talk a little more about the pitch process.
And THIS, is one helluva well-written review. It's our first one and such a relief to hear that someone understands what we are going for and that we are delivering on the page. I realize that we will be getting some negative and middling feedback but this one certainly speaks to our intentions and is a warm welcome into the world.
Get a load of this excerpt:
"True horror is far greater than the fear of a monster or even something so simple as death. It is this encompassing of innumerable meanings of horror that "Feeding Ground" does so well, even in the first issue."
Thanks to William, the Jersey Journal, and my partners Swift and Chris!
Also, below is the ad we ran in the program to Casey Safron's 2010 Animation Block Party. Always a fun summer event - thanks Case!