Posts Tagged ‘Mars’

Curiosity for Mars

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The first time I was conscious of the red planet was when I was four years old and watched the movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians which featured a very young Pia Zadora as a Martian child. I’m sure I had already been exposed to plenty of other extraterrestrial worlds from having spent countless hours scanning the comics section of the newspaper, drawn to the futuristic likes of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but the inclusion of Santa, of whom I was a firm believer, captivated my young imagination. The concept of Martian civilization was as real to me as the elves at the North Pole.

Needles to say, I was fortunate to have grown up during the Space Race and could not have been more impressionable as American astronauts set their sites on the Moon. Like most boys in that era I surrounded myself with space paraphanalia. My brothers and I had all kinds of space related toys, my favorite of which were the Major Matt Mason action figures and his giant friend from the Moon, Captain Laser.

Though I was in the midst of recovering from open heart surgery that summer of 1969, I was as captivated as any person on the planet when when Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon. Hanging above my bed as I watched the scratchy videos on a black-and-white television were several paper models that I had built of the Lunar Module (LEM) from a Gulf station promotional giveaway.

My fascination for extraterrestrial life was heightened by a stories of alien abductions and the books by Eric von Daniken, most notably Chariots of the Gods?. Of course there was no shortage of science fiction from TV, film, books, and comics to fuel my interest. I spent many a day building and launching model rockets. Earth is great but my head was in the stars. Comic books ultimately gave me my greatest escape to other worlds where adventures in another galaxy were just a panel away.

As a nation we seem to have lost interest in space exploration. There have been no more “manned” trips to the moon since 1972 and all human space activity has taken place on the International Space Station which orbits the Earth about 16 times a day at a low altitude of just over 200 miles above the planet. Launches of the space shuttle had been the most spectacular events that have included actual astronauts since the Moon walks. Perhaps our interest in space travel has been marred by the two space shuttle tragedies as we watched the crews of Challenger and Columbia lose their lives in dramatic catastrophes.

Comico Challenger Memoriam by Gerry Giovinco

Robots are the new pioneers as they venture to other planets guided by Earth bound technicians. Orbiting satellites,  probes, landers, rovers and telescopes have given us the opportunity to witness the surface of other planets, experiment on the content of their atmosphere and soil, and view the outer reaches of space, effectively looking back in time to the beginnings of the Universe.

This week, the rover Curiosity landed on Mars to much jubilation. Maybe the country, which was enjoying a burst of nationalistic pride garnered from the successes of Team U.S.A.’s olympic athletes competing in London, is feeling adventurous again. I got a special nostalgic thrill by looking at the tracks left in the soil by the rover, reminding me of those first footprints on the Moon over forty years ago.

The crystal clear 360° photos from Curiosity of the Martian landscape are intoxicatingly inviting and conjure images of Alan Moore’s  Dr. Manhattan walking naked across the terrain in the most successful graphic novel, Watchmen.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Curiosity sent pictures back of the blue doctor’s giant glass palace? I guess that would be a huge stretch of the imagination but hey, I still believe in Santa Claus. Maybe we’ll see photos of those Martians that kidnapped him and those two little kids.

Hmmm… curious.

Gerry Giovinco

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The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 2

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Gray-Line System that I described in last week’s blog helped us to achieve a look that we had always hoped for our comics when we first considered evolving to color.

The fact that most of the alternative independent publishers were taking advantage of the ability to print processed full-color images on the better, whiter paper was not our inspiration or motivation at Comico.

Captain Canuck by Comely Comix

Long before we had even printed our first book we had already fallen in love with how the color appeared in Captain Canuck comics published by Comely Comix and illustrated by George Freeman. The soft processed color printed on newsprint had a quality that was unique compared to the limited 65-color palette of traditional flat-color comic books.

We were not interested in the slick color of the glossy new comics and we definitely did not care for the glare that shown off the pages of the glossy paper stock.

Mage By Matt Wagner

 

Our preference for the more muted color production was evidenced in the fist two issues of Matt Wagner’s Mage.

Matt, who had attended college with Bill and me at the Philadelphia College of Art, had been involved in many discussions concerning how we all thought color in comics should look. We were all on the same page when we made the decision to print Mage on a high-grade newsprint. Mage was a more urban setting and was supported by the grittier look of the newsprint. Besides, we wanted it to look like Captain Canuck.

Evangeline by Chuck Dixon & Judith Hunt

 

Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt’s Evangeline was a different story. We could see how the finer line quality and more delicate colors would be better served on a whiter stock and though we were reluctant to go to a fully bleached stock we upgraded to a Mando stock which had a creamy quality to it and did not suffer from the glare issue that the more machined paper stocks offered.

Our early color books were printed in Florida at the same press that was printing Bill Black’s Americomics line but we quickly switched over to Sleepeck in Dixon, IL so that we would have more centralized shipping and warehousing of our runs. Once at Sleepeck we decided that our standard comic line, including Mage, would all be printed on the Mando stock.

Wheatly & Hemple's Mars

Around this time we were also introduced to a new coloring system. Mark Wheatly from Insight Studios was producing Mars with Marc Hemple for First Comics. He had told me about a guideline system he was using that employed the use of chemicals from a Fluorographics Services kit. A brief description of how the system works can be seen here.

This system was very similar to the gray-line system in that you had to produce a positive transparency of the line art. The grey line required a negative to produce the grey guide-line on the layer to be painted. The Fluorographics system let you use the film positive to create the non-repo blue guide which eliminated an extra step and expense. You could coat any paper stock you wanted with the chemicals allowing you to paint much more naturally than on the polymer based photo paper of the gray-line.

Blue-Line instruction from The Illustrator's Bible By Rob Howard

Note that though the color was considered non-repo blue this was only effective when shooting in black-and-white. The blue line did appear in the color separations for full-color.

Initially we would coat a paper stock with the sensitizer, place the film positive on top then cover it with a plate of glass to keep it flat then take it outside to expose it to the sun then run in and develop the image. It didn’t take too many rainy days to convince us to purchase a UV sun lamp so that we could do all of this inside and avoid blowing deadlines.

The only problem with this system was that the paper stock was less stable than the photo paper and would shrink when the paint dried, often distorting the registration.

Matt solved the problem by using pre-stretched watercolor blocks of paper that were sealed on all four sides keeping the top layer “stretched” until it was dried and removed. Matt would buy large enough paper so that four pages could be exposed at once. He usually had two blocks set up so that while one block dried, he could be working on the other.

This new blue-line system was a home run but it was not going to help us with our next two projects.

Elementals & Macross Covers

We knew that when we signed on to publish Bill Willingham’s Elementals that we were going to want it to be more like traditional flat-color superhero comics. Down the line would also be a little project called Macross that would press all of our expectations for color in comics. We still had a lot to learn.

To be continued…

Gerry Giovinco

Making comics because I want to!


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