Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quaking In My Seat

We had a moderate size earthquake (at 5.6 it was apparently the largest we've had since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989) Tuesday evening. But if it weren't for the fact that I'm married and have kids I may not have noticed it at all. I was sitting at my computer working when it hit. I was really concentrating on what I was doing (some design work on the upcoming Gargoyles trade collection). I mean really concentrating. I think growing up in a big family (7 kids) squeezed into a small house forced me to tune out my surroundings when needed. So, there I was intently staring into my computer screen when my chair abruptly lurched to one side. I continued to work for a moment or two unfazed by my spastic seat but the rumbling sound eventually registered (weakly) in my brain. I looked over to my wife's desk where she was sitting seconds before to ask her if she "felt something" and discovered that she had disappeared. Well, not disappeared exactly, more like transported from one end of our office to the door frame that leads from the office to the rest of the house. I never saw her move. At that point I realized we had a quake but by then the shaking had stopped. I checked in on our son (also in a door frame) who thought his first quake was "cool" and my wife went to the "granny flat" to check in on her mother who was also fine. Our daughter was at school rehearsing a play and most definitely did not think that the noise and the shaking was "cool" nor did her classmates, some of whom collapsed to the ground weeping. Once we retrieved our daughter the next couple of hours were spent reliving the two seconds of shaking, talking about the Loma Prieta (now that was a quake), and making sure everyone had flashlights with fresh batteries. Then, of course, I went back to work.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Broken Baby

My just-turned-15-year-old son has recently started his own strip blog, Broken Baby Studios. His first couple of strips are inside jokes for his friends and his most recent strips involve a pyromaniac (unfortunate timing given the fires in SoCal where most of my family lives). Still, he's been making mini comics and selling them at school and is now putting his work out to the world and I couldn't be more pleased. Give 'em a peek.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Free (and Worth Every Penny)!

About a year ago I was trying to come up with an interesting way to update my then-moribund website. The gimmick I came up with was to create art that reflected my skills but referenced ads from the comic books I read as a kid. For the homepage I was inspired by the ads for the Monster Fan Club with the "free" Giant Life-Size Moon Monster (for more info, see a post I did on the club here). This is what I came up with (I replaced the Moon Monster with something equally frightening: me):

One of the "features" of my Monster Club redesign included free monster masks (they were even cheaper than the ones offered by the original Monster Club, you had to print them out yourself).

There was the Zombie:

Cruel Helga:

And a ghost:


Since Halloween is just around the corner, I've put together a pdf for anyone who may be desperate enough to need a cheap mask. You can download the file here.

Unfortunately, I never did find the time to flesh out the concept any further and produce other segments for the website. Some months later I did update my website but opted for a more restrained approach.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Midnight Sun

Some months ago Dan (Vado, Brave and Gallant Leader of the SLG Publishing empire) and I were looking over the end of the year publishing schedule to see if there were any books (series collections or graphic novels) that might need design input from me. Ben Towle's Midnight Sun was the one title that most grabbed me. Even though I hadn't read any of the comic book issues yet, it looked like an intriguing story from a talented artist. However, Dan didn't think Ben would need my help and he was right (see Ben's cover to the first issue of Midnight Sun pictured above).

Happily for me, a few months later Ben did ask for any ideas I might have for the trade paperback collecting the three comic book issues of Midnight Sun. The first thing I did was get myself up to speed on Ben's story (I don't go into the SLG offices very often and can easily miss a release if copies aren't directly in my path from the parking lot to Dan's office). I also did some research on the historical facts behind the non-fictional parts of the story.

Ben felt that his strongest cover design was the one from the first issue (true). Even though the collection was to have a different size than the comics he was planning to use a variation that first cover for the book. I didn't really see a need to mess with this plan too much but I did want to throw a couple of notions his way to either shake or stiffen his resolve about the look of the cover.

Here's what I came up:

I took out the figure to heighten the sense of desolation plus I darkened the newspaper clippings to help play up the historical nature of the story. I also made Ben's name bigger (and did so on all the covers) to make it more "book-like."

This one didn't go over too well. Too much white (white covers don't survive handling well). Putting the art in a circle was intended to visually reinforce the "Sun" in the title. Making the figure smaller made him seem even more lost and in danger.

This one is most like the original but I changed the balance of sky and snow-covered ground.

I liked this one (though it still needed some work) because it really pushed the factual background of the story and its place in time. Plus I liked using the old newspaper-inspired type and it was fun to write and research.

Ultimately, Ben came up with a modified version of the first design suggestion. He reinserted the figure into art returning the humanity lost when I took the little man with the radio out. A good call. You can learn more about Midnight Sun, get a free preview, and see Ben's final cover design here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sherman's Way

One of my younger brothers had a preview showing of his new movie, Sherman's Way, last night. I was unable to get to the preview with my wife and kids because we live too far away but I just got off of the phone with my mom who did attend. She said the movie was "very funny" and that everyone laughed when she fell down (my mom has a small part in the film, she plays a lady who gets violently knocked to the ground in a gift shop -- she proudly tells all that the part was written just for her). I'm looking forward to seeing more than just the bits and pieces I've viewed when I get the chance but until the film actually gets released you may care to check out the handsome website devoted to the project (I think my brother, the film's director, created the Sherman's Way logo -- we're such a talented family).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fate of the Spaceman

I was poking around my backup hard drive and stumbled upon the above drawing I did a year or so ago. It's a slightly different version of one I used as a place-holder for my then-abandoned but now fully functioning website, The spaceman also became the basis for a proposed, but never completed vinyl toy for Monkey Fun Toys, a division of the mighty SLG empire (MFT is still in business but the website I designed is horribly out of date). We made it as far as the prototype stage (I wrote about it here and here) but it went no further. I was pretty sad to not get an actual toy out of the deal but I did get to hang on to the painted prototype so that was pretty neat. Anyway, I still like the drawing that started it all and thought I'd share it here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Welcome, Foolish Mortals Pt. 4

[The first three parts of this series can be found here and here and here.]

After fooling around with several cover ideas that where going nowhere it occurred to me that I was maybe going in the wrong direction. If I was designing the book to look like it belonged in the Haunted Mansion (and I was) maybe I also needed to design it as if it were owned by the mansion's once-living residents, the Gracey family. What better way to show that you were people of means and breeding than by having your own family crest embossed on the books in your library? After doing a bit of research I discovered that there is an actual Gracey family crest but I found it kind of boring so I created my own (pencil rough on the left, final art on the right):

What is the creature supposed to be? Well, I'm not sure exactly. It began as a griffin as a wink and a nod to SLG Publishing's Dan Vado (for his comic book series, The Griffin) but I was taking bits and pieces from historical shields and, well, I don't know what I ended up with. But in my continued research I came across a photo online that someone had taken of a painted crest somewhere on the Disney attraction (I've since lost the original photo). The shield had a surprisingly slapdash quality but since it was part of Disneyland I thought it took precedence over my design. I did add some details however like the skull and batwings plus I altered the shape of the shield as well. As a finishing touch I added the Latin words "Stultus Letalis" meaning, I hope, Foolish Mortals.

Dan thought that it was a bit too cute and wanted the family name "Gracey" placed in the banner instead so I made that change.

With the cover now set, I turned my attention to the book's spine. I wanted to use some of the mansion's spooky wallpaper design (originally intended for the front cover as I mentioned in the previous post). On the far left of the image below is a detail of the mock-up I did for the look of the spine. Unfortunately, the printer was concerned that the art had too much detail for the embossing process they were using. They asked that I simplify the art and so I did...twice (see the middle and far right parts of the image below). The printer was extremely helpful about leading us through the process -- but my first experience with embossing was a bit frustrating coming as it did a couple of weeks after I thought I was completely done with the book. Still, if it ends up looking great, well, I'll be pretty danged thrilled.

In addition to my work on the book cover and slipcase I did a couple of spot illustrations and the design and production for the interior. I also wrote an unflattering bio of the publisher (hey, we're pals, I'm sure he'll think it's funny eventually) and a bit of the text on the back of the slipcase. The more I get to do the happier I am and this project made me pretty happy.

Disney, by the way, came out with their trade paperback collection of some the SLG Haunted Mansion material a few weeks ago. I picked up a copy recently and discovered that, what do you know, I had a hand in the design of the paperback after all (compare the cover below to the cover in this post):