Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate: The Dark Knight Rises

I often feel that a highly critical fan base can help ruin the very thing it's clamoring to improve, whether the property concerned is a movie, comic, or tv show. In this instance I'm responding to the upset over Bane's garbled voice in The Dark Knight Rises, but my feelings extend beyond this one particular episode.

I used to work in a independent video store called Starstruck Entertainment, and there I would hear rants from scores of fans of this or that, explaining how their beloved franchise should be handled. One thing I've realized is that no two fans of one franchise completely agree on how they (ie. those Hollywood hacks) should make the thing they love. What's more, I've found that even the individual isn't completely sure of what they want.

They want the titular character to remain iconic and unchanged, yet fresh and compelling. They want it all, and the internet amplifies these conflicting opinions so word may reach someone in charge. Sometimes that can be a good thing. Other times I fear it threatens artistic license. By pandering to a broad audience we risk missing out on bold visions of stories and characters we know and love. We stop taking risks, period.

In the case of the current Batman franchise and its helmer, Christopher Nolan, I have so far been very satisfied. Nolan is not a perfect director. His action scenes are poorly framed and sometimes confusing, but his bold vision of a Batman in a contemporary setting revitalized the character. Admittedly, both films contain flaws, but are so minor it feels petty to complain. The Dark Knight exceeded my expectations and transcended its own genre, becoming not just an excellent comic-book movie, but a great piece of cinema. For a long time after watching it, I honestly didn't want to see another installment. I couldn't imagine another picture hitting all those heights. I was content.

However, now we have the final chapter in Nolan's contemporary Batman saga, and Bane, the main antagonist, is seemingly difficult to understand. Considering the character wears a bulky mouthpiece (supposedly from suffering a near-fatal injury), and his only complete scene took place in a noisy aircraft, it doesn't seem unreasonable that it should be so. There's a chance Bane's impairment and the aesthetic of his voice will help define the character in an interesting way. Tom Hardy's performance, which is assuredly physical, may be thoughtful and nuanced enough to render words moot.

My point is, I have faith in the production of the film, and want to know as little as possible before enjoying it in theaters. When filmmakers have proven they have a distinct and interesting voice, wouldn't you want to hear what they have to say?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warm-Up Sketch: ANDRUS

This began as a loose warm-up sketch that I tightened up and added on to infrequently throughout yesterday. This morning I decided to finish it up with some colour before starting my page duties on Teuton. I used markers and watercolours. I would love to colour all of Teuton this way.

We've hit a point in the story where Andrus is trekking across Lithuania on horseback, accompanied by Jadvyga and Asura. Together they're searching for Perkunas' axe. I took this story beat as an opportunity to freshen up his look. In my mind, Andrus has selected a better class of dress and armor before starting his journey. The fortress of Pilenai was overtaken by the Pagans earlier on, so its halls are open and everything is for the taking. This will be Andrus' third or fourth wardrobe adjustment in the story so far, because I like to imagine these characters doing things off-panel, such as eating, using the outhouse, washing, and changing clothes. In fact, the only time we actually see Andrus change is in issue 3, where he's preparing to duel Vakaris.

It's also a sign of my learning curve. When I started this book I still had a lot to learn about the kinds armor and garb people wore in the 13th century.

As it's now full-blown winter in the story, other characters will get spiffy new duds.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another look at one of the nasty Trolls to come along in TEUTON vol.2, where clubs will be swung, things will be smashed, and someone just might get hurt. Stay tuned...

Here is a piece I'm very excited about. It's been sitting in my inbox for a while and now seems as good a time as any to share it:

Isn't is lovely? By artist Miko Maciaszek, this whimsical portrait of Andrus is typical of Miko's ornate and painterly style. Fred and I had the pleasure of meeting Miko at this past Fan Expo. As neighbors, I spent the weekend admiring his work. Specifically, an extremely fun illustration inspired by The Hobbit. Miko shared an interest in the Lithuanian mythology Teuton explores. Thusly, a fine partnership was struck. Expect to see Miko's contribution in the pin-up gallery of our next printed volume of Teuton!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Upcoming in TEUTON vol.2

Trolls are coming!

If you're keeping up with current pages of TEUTON vol.2, you know that our hero Andrus is at the mercy of a fearsome pagan thunder god, Perkunas, and now must cooperate with his sworn enemies to retrieve a mythical axe. However, the wilderness which they will soon brave is filled with terrible dangers: Trolls.

Above is an early concept drawing for our forest-dwelling trolls. While this look isn't re-defining the mythical creature by any stretch, it fits with my idea of Trolls: gigantic, hairy hominids that have neither shame nor empathy. I imagine them as terrifying mythical hillbillies that are often inbred and oafish, but strong and lethal. They'd be too dumb to make clothes or armor, which is fine since they'd never feel the need for garments. This of course means their privates would show, and might be distracting if they're bouncing from panels to panel, swinging clubs and stomping people. Fred, the writer, asked me show some decency. "Guys (ie. potential readers) hate weiners."

Is that true? Or are scary troll dongs exactly what the industry needs?

Friday, November 11, 2011

TEUTON vol.2, pages 9-11

Times are tough for our hero, Andrus.

So far in our saga, he's been forced to slay his best mate, taken prisoner and beaten by the enemy, nearly killed in battle against a pagan deity, and cornered into suicide mission by a high god. It's all he can do to find footing in a situation drastically spiraling out of his control.

Tending to his wounds is the woman who betrayed him, Asura, and he has some things to get off his chest.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TEUTON vol.2, pages 6-8


The fiend who wants Perkunas' axe, a terribly powerful weapon, is none other than his own brother: Bangputys, god of the sea!

What is Bangputys' nefarious scheme, and how does it involve the mighty axe? Who will find the weapon first? And who is the cunning agent known as Ziburnis?

Yikes! Stay tuned...

Friday, October 28, 2011

TEUTON vol.2, pages 1-5


Brand new lettered pages for all to read.

It's been a while since my last post, but that's not to say there hasn't been much happening. On the contrary! First of all, a second printing of the TEUTON vol.1 TPB is on its way. Fred and I are anxiously awaiting. Hopefully then we'll put it in stores, because I would terribly hate making anyone come to my house for a copy.

Secondly, I've taken on my responsibilities with this new volume. On top of illustrating the whole dang thing, I'm now supervising and editing scripts, as well as lettering the whole comic! That means no more SFX. One thing that secretly dogged me about our last volume were the sound effects, which I don't feel we really nailed. So I' won't be doing them unless I draw them into the page.

Throwing myself at these new challenges is a hoot, although daunting at first. Oddly enough, I've always been behind on the technological aspect of art, especially when it comes to making comics. The fact that so much about the entire process of producing a book was mysterious to me was very bothersome. I like knowing how things are done, even if I'm not doing them myself. Throughout production on Volume 1 we leaned heavily on Andre Fernandes, who busted his hump putting the book together for print.

I really want to thank my good buddy, Kevin Calvelo, for hooking me up with some excellent gear to work with. Big thanks also to Keiren Templeton-Smith, who I'm indebted to for patiently showing me what lettering is all about.

Enjoy these pages! There's more to come.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Showing Your Work

Work on the new volume of Teuton is going swiftly so far. Like The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, Fred and I want to improve every aspect of our continued series. That's right, I just compared our book to Batman.

Part of our mutual improvement plan involves speeding up my page output.

For most of the last volume I worked very haphazardly and didn't do much drafting at all. Many times I made my layouts lightly in pencil on the finished page. Sensible artists complete a series of drafts before working on the finished page. This isn't to say I'm some drafting maverick--more like a fool stubbing his toe in the dark, since I so often worked myself into corners, and either the page came out less than great or I'd lose precious time revising my half-finished page (in some cases I redrew the page entirely on another board.) What's maddening is that I knew better. I paid money to extremely knowledgeable and skilled people for the privilege of knowing better, and still, a good deal of the time I threw myself at the board without a plan. Or if you can stomach another analogy: like playing mini-golf blindfolded.

No more. No sir.

Anyhow, here's a look at the process of a page, from thumbnails to finished piece. Fairly elementary to most seasoned artists, but I still get a kick from seeing the development. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Comics That Were, Are, and Will Be...

Last night I attended the launch party for Infinite Kung Fu, created entirely by Toronto artist Kagan McLeod. It is an amazing work roughly ten years in the making. Top Shelf's production on the book itself is slick and stylish, yet the texture is still indicative of printed pulps and manga that no doubt inspired this work, but which it easily manages to transcend. The end result is a beautiful marriage of two cinematic genres (martial arts and exploitation films,) that looks and feels like nothing else on book shelves to date.

The art is energetic and tremendously fun. Despite the fact that for years Kagan's work has been seen in countless magazines and websites, my first exposure to his stuff was on the covers of Kill Shakespeare, another Canadian created comic that delivers a refreshing twist on the familiar. I'm thrilled that I can now dive into Kagan's finished product like the gluttonous art and comic lover I am.

The event was fine enough. A nice venue filled with interesting people that I could hardly hear or understand on account of the great music laid down by live DJ's. I had a chance to speak with the man of the hour as he signed and doodled in my copy. Perhaps it was the alcohol in our veins or the energy in the air, but I dare say he was pleased to see me. I killed a completely different conversation by talking about beards. It was awesome. After lamenting the loss of my beard to a pretty neat comic creator, he, who shall go nameless, nodded and said "O-K guys! I'll see ya..." and promptly lost himself in a sea of people. What can I say? I have the gift of the anti-gab.

I thought to myself on the drive home, "ten years? whoa." Perhaps not ten solid years, but years of work into a creator-owned labor of love. Impressive... inspiring. Although it's startling how time flies. I've worked on Teuton now for two years, and it's funny to count that time in pages produced (not that many: 112). Yet that's nothing compared to a story of my own that I've been harboring since my early teens. It's existed mainly as doodles on scraps of paper, in the margins of homework assignments, and every so often as sequential pages that are soon abandoned and re-tooled.

It began by taking a summer workshop at Sheridan college on the construction of the comic page. I think the year was 2000, and it felt like a big deal. I remember reading comics on the Oakville bus--Matt Murdock was exposed as Daredevil, and he was lying his way to (relative) safety--and watching Making Comics The Marvel Way on VHS.

In the end I had made my very first finished page of sequential story-telling. There it is on the left. I remember thinking, "I could do this every day!"

In fact, I spent the rest of that summer fully-charged and ready to make the comics world mine--by force, if necessary. Luckily it never came to that. I simply put pen to paper and got making what I then imagined was my magnum opus. I called it Century, and it was going to be awesome you guys!

The overall story followed a private organization called Century and its agents who were sent about the business of unlocking the crucial mysteries of the universe. Easy! I drew most of it in sharpie and sent photocopies to every publisher I could think of. I received a very tender rejection letter from Heavy Metal, which I thought was too bad at the time, as I believed it was the very thing they were looking for.

A few years after that, I decided to give Century another go, perfectly certain that "this" time everything would come together, and they should already begin engraving my name on the coveted crown to the comic kingdom. This just goes to show how much you actually know when you're 15. Anything is possible and attainable--which I suppose remains true, but I'm 26 now and am just getting ankle deep in the world of creating comics professionally.

Here are pages from the very first comic book I ever made, and the second comic I ever made:

I scrapped what I had done and shelved it away in my brain, all the while spawning little stories in the back of my head, imagining scenes and depictions of things I found thrilling. Essentially, I've been subconsciously writing a love letter to my very favourite genre: science fiction.

This story usually includes a gruff, animal-humanoid from race of interstellar barbarians; an outlaw space bandit in the form of a mischievous female; and a androgynous amnesiac who just might be the creator of the universe... if only they could remember. I've taken them to places filled with horror and wonderment, have pitted them against fearsome creatures and tossed them in explosive laser shoot-outs. And it almost always begins with imminent doom on a frozen landscape. It's all been terrific fun! Now, if only I could just put it all on paper.

My last attempt (but for from final) was nearly four years ago, when my good buddy John Lewis and I swapped ideas for a line of comics that would collectively be told under one banner: The Crown: A Princely Dreadful.

So What happened? Well John got married, bought a house, and became a responsible citizen with a real job at Pearson Publishing. I worked a handful of dispiriting jobs until I found work on
The Vampire Conspiracy. That imaginary playground still exists, and perhaps some day I will get around to finishing what I started three times already. Seeing guys like Kagan celebrate the fruition of a decades work is certainly inspiring, and I get to wondering what my trio of space-trippers are up to.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It's now exactly a week since Fan Expo started. As I type this it's 10:54 AM, and I remember distinctly driving down a long and winding ramp to the convention loading bay around this same time last Thursday. I felt like a tie fighter zipping down that bright, cavernous tunnel. Pew! Pew!

Anyhow, I'm still flying high off the release of our first trade. I'm well and truly proud of it, as you can tell. More than that, I like the book Fred and I are making. It's grown on me. Several times on this blog I've written about first hooking up with Fred. I think so, anyway--I start entries and delete them after 30 minutes of typing. I've written heart-breakingly beautiful things you'll never read because I suddenly decided to toast Eggo waffles and watch Dragon's Den, but I digress... When Fred first pitched me his idea I was just excited that a cool pseudo celebrity wanted to make comics with me, and would pay me to do it. I was saying yes no matter what. But he said "knights" and a part of me winced at the thought of drawing horses and armor. That shit can get complicated.

That's all to say that I liked it then, but I love it now. What's always impressed me with Fred and his script--and indeed, anyone who hears Fred talk about Teuton concedes--the guy did his homework when it came to researching the history and the obscure Lithuanian mythology that serves as Teuton's backdrop. There's nothing random or arbitrary about the places and names involved in the plot. It's interesting stuff. As we carry on with our story, I would like to give readers a chance to compare our comic with the history and mythology it borrows from.

If you've read the trade, you'll know it ends with the arrival of a new character: Perkunas.

A fearsome and courageous being, Perkunas can easily be described as the Lithuanian equivalent of Thor. His great strength and power are akin to mountains and thunder storms--in fact, he is deity to both, as well as to the rain, the sky, and oak trees. Indeed, everything about Perkunas is elemental and way over our heads. He reigns in the heavens above and commands the trees and mountains that rise up to him. He is bad ass. We hope that was made clear when he lands on the scene in our two-page spread.

Perkunas' name has been dropped several times before his arrival in our story. Issue one opens with the raid on a Pagan village, and it is there the fabled Axe of Perkunas lies hidden in a shrine, protected by Lithuanian worshipers Aras and his foxy apprentice Asura. Charged with retrieving the axe is the Teuton Komtur, who is secretly working for Maras, one of three death gods in the pantheon. It's important to note that Perkunas' Axe is the most devastating weapon in all creation. Imagine wielding an instrument capable of such destruction, it could level mountains with thunder and raise them up again with an earthquake. That is why it's kept hidden from other power hungry gods in a shrine where only mortals can enter.

After the Komtur is unexpectedly killed in the ensuing melee, Olbert assumes command and sends the axe to Konigsberg for political points with his superiors. Aras, however, believes the axe to be taken to the hill fortress of Pilenai, which the Teutons have assumed control of. Believing he is doing the bidding of Perkunas himself, Aras performs a ritual before the Stelmuze Oak (an actual tree in Lithuania where Perkunas was worshipped. It's estimated to be 1500 years old.) and transforms Olbert into one of Perkunas' fearsome Oaken Sentinels. Well, it gets nasty for everyone inside Pilenai, but we'll get more into the plot in later posts.

As for my vision of Perkunas, I modeled him after Tom Hardy in Bronson. My reasoning behind it was simple: I just didn't want him looking much like the Thor we all know. I wanted my thunder god to look blunt and heavy, like a polish butcher. I've debated putting a cape on him, but am leaning towards the negative. Vakiris, one of several antagonists in the first volume, was given a flowy cape. Although I modelled him from 80's wrestling costumes and Flash Gordon. I always intended him to be a bit of a doofus in appearance, but takes himself very seriously. Perkunas on the other hand is the real deal. I'm excited he's here in our new volume, and I think it'll make for fun storytelling.

Stay tuned for more as this story develops, more will be revealed!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


As always, I had meant to post sooner, but then prepping for Fan Expo kicked up to high speed. I was dancing on hot coals until the show finally got rolling. What a rat race though. Here's one of several embarrassing stories I told over the weekend:

A few weeks ago I was creating promotional signs for our booth and I was thinking of ways to hang them to make the most of our table space. I was getting tired of using easels because kids in their manga costumes always knocked into them. It's almost always manga costumes, by the way. Often because of their big, awkward accessories. Anyhow, Fred didn't want to spring for a professionally printed display. They're expensive, and it's his dough, so that's how it is. Suddenly I got it in my head that just buying timber to build an 8'x6' sign would be far easier and more cost effective than paying for large scale printed posters. Was it really? Nope! But like Zaphod Beeblebrox, I plunged head first into a messy situation with blindingly stupid optimism.

I bought all the materials from DeSerres and Home Depot. I designed the text for our sign to read Big Sexy Comics, looking large and mountainous, but had a bitch of a time a time trying to get it on the big wooden boards I bought. I tried rasterbating my image, which was total bullshit. Then I just plain free-handed it: more bullshit. Finally I bought a light projector and was on my way... for about 20 minutes. After setting up the projector, I knelt before one of my 4'x6' boards and began to trace the B when I noticed the projected outline was dipping. The projector itself was stable, so I simply put my pen to where the outline had come to rest... only it sank some more, and was picking up speed. That's when I smelled the fumes of hot plastic and saw ghostly wisps of smoke rise from the lens--only then did I realize that my projector was melting. The bulb was too damned hot! I switched it off and unplugged it, but it was beyond saving. I brought it back to the art store immediately. Staff hovered around me to bear witness to the molten monstrosity I dared exchange for a new projector.

I left the store with a new projector and some nifty spray paint, because I did not intend to paint the thing by hand. With the design traced onto the boards, thanks to the new projector, I masked the letters and broke out a can of blue spray paint. Blue mist hissed, covering bare wood, and I watched with detached amusement in my sealed garage at how the fine blue particles seemed to dance. Their flight was dizzying and I soon felt nauseated, even sick. I put the can down to stretch my tired arms. That's when I noticed the label. My eyes bulged at the very bold, and very clearly printed warnings on the can of spray paint: "Highly Toxic! Use in Ventilated area! Must wear mask!" So I got out of there, having not done any of that shit, and later on painted the letters by hand with acrylic, just the way I tried avoiding. I didn't like the job it did, but I was out of time. I left it to dry and tried to sweat out and shower away all the toxins I had no doubt absorbed.

The next day at the convention, bits of the acrylic paint ripped off my painted sign. You see, I sandwiched the painted sides in my car, and they adhered during the drive. Andre Fernandes, another artist for Big Sexy Comics, did the best he could to cover up the blemishes. Despite having an otherwise fine reception at the show, I couldn't help but notice upward glances followed by brows furrowed with confusion and distaste--but the sign worked! They were caught in their bemusement and in those moments of displacement I sold them a book. Still, it left a lot to be desired. I firmly believe that's what prompted Fred Kennedy, writer and creator of Teuton and Big Sexy Comics, to turn to me and say, "you know, next year I think I'll invest in some printed banners." What a guy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Quantum Probability is a short sci-fi horror comic I drew some time ago. Written by Phil McClorey, the eight page story can be viewed at Furious Comics. It's a lot of fun and I encourage one and all to check it out along with all the other great horror tales available on the site.

I recall first meeting Phil and how I got to be lucky enough to work on one of his scripts. Allow me to tell you all about it...

The year was 2009 and it was bangin'. Life had grown contemptuous of my "takin'er easy" and decided to kick things up a notch: my lady love and I learned we were having a baby. Meanwhile, I was hard at work on The Vampire Conspiracy and attending comic conventions to seek advice from established artists. It felt vital to be told not just what I was doing right, but what I was doing wrong and how to do those things better.

On my quest I met some swarthy gents, but none so swarthy as Phil McClorey, writer of the horror anthology The Book of Methuselah and founder of the Canadian comic imprint, Furious Comics. I was strolling through Artist Alley when I came upon Phil's table. He very cordially reeled me into his stories and I was impressed by what he had to share. Reading Phil's brand of comics, you are reminded of a time when boys read scary stories under their bed covers; when ordinary shadows seemingly reached for your ankles from the edges of your bed. I had no choice but to purchase his comics.

I asked Phil if he would look at my portfolio and share his opinions. That's when I realized my portfolio wasn't in my hands. It wasn't anywhere--I had left it somewhere in the convention. I don't remember what I said to excuse myself before speed-walking through aisles packed with fanboys slouched under the weight of their satchels. Now, perhaps Phil doubted my return--I can only assume his world grew significantly darker and a might bit smaller after my abrupt departure--but before long I was back at his table, huffing and panting, my portfolio square in his face. When it was all said and done, I thanked him and took his card, and ran to a quiet corner to hug my portfolio like a parent after finding their lost child in a supermarket (only more so).

Meeting my deadline for The Vampire Conspiracy was a lot like a jockey being dragged half-dead by his horse across the finish line. To reach it I had stayed up 36 hours straight and drank copious amounts of coffee while, foolishly, a myriad of Alex Jones "documentaries" played on YouTube just so I could learn what the fuss was about. In other words: I was fried. When I had crossed the finish line I was only happy to be alive. Yet somehow, after a few days crept by, I wanted more. That's when I dug up Phil's card and solicited my services.

Initially, the first project I started with Phil was his take on the Cthulhu mythos. I rather liked his script. It was fun and exciting and gruesome. I immersed myself in designing my own Cthulhu and took the Cloverfield route by studying the features of numerous animals. I felt like such a smart cookie. The project stalled on my end however, as making room for my unborn daughter eclipsed all else. When I finally got back on the horse and sent Phil some rough pages, he had moved on with another artist to create The Mask of Cthulhu. Together they turned out quite a good story.

Still, I had great admiration for Phil's writing and wanted to shake a stick at anything he'd be willing to give me. What he gave me was a script then titled QUORK. Our ill-fated plan was to get it up on Zuda to become superstars and the envy of all message boards. All of them, I say. Unfortunately, Zuda folded* due to an overwhelming number of creators who also wanted to be the envy of all the message boards.

[ * Let that be a lesson to you, kiddies: when things get tough, give up entirely and close your website! ]

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and very gradually worked away on QUORK while juggling the first issue of Teuton, a newborn, and classes at the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop. The fun never stopped! All the while, Phil sat at home with his brandy, stroking his roguish facial hair, patiently waiting the completion of his eight page materpiece:

Truthfully, Phil was hard at work on some more interesting and original material with other fantastic artists, this time focusing on web comics. It looked unsure whether Phil would continue printing single issues in the long run, but I convinced him with some smooth talk and thinly veiled threats that not only should he print at least one more issue of Methuselah, but that he should include QUORK in its publication. He politely agreed, and in that moment of weakness I demanded he let me draw the cover for said issue and asked for a huge sum of money. He had no choice but to pay, what with my threatening demeanor and all. Plus, I had taken the precaution of growing a mustache of my own, in case things got out of hand. When it was all said and done, QUORK was renamed Quantum Probability, Phil had himself one handsome cover, a fun read of a comic, and a bank account so empty it rivaled the vacuum of space after paying my ridiculous fees.

While some of that may be exaggerated just a touch, I did really enjoy working with Phil and expected to carry on with QP, but my commitment to Teuton and generally hectic life made that nigh impossible to do at a reasonable rate. In the meantime, Phil's writing just keeps getting better, as you can plainly see by checking out his Meta-Human Affairs or his thrilling contribution to the WWII zombie anthology, FUBAR.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates all month long!