Posts Tagged ‘original comic art’

Original Comic Art and Digital Comics: The Common Bond

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A stroll around a comic convention is a lot different today than it used to be when it comes to experiencing original comic art which for me, as a young aspiring comic artist, was the highlight of any show. I would always immediately venture directly towards artist alley where pros and amateurs alike would form a welcoming community of comic art practitioners. To me it seemed less like an opportunity for the creators to market their work and more of a joyous reunion of folks with a common bond: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Maybe it is just a product of comic conventions no longer being the casual events they used to be, held in basement ballrooms of fading city hotels with the most sophisticated displays being a hand lettered card stock sign hung on a pipe and drape background.  Professional comic artists were not viewed as the superstars they are today. They were heroes that we related to more like a favorite uncle who always new how to appeal to our inner child. Their art touched us in a personal way that established a relationship that was respected between them and their fans.

Those were the days when you did not wait in line to meet your favorite creator. At best you gathered around their table and shared as a group, listening to their stories, watching them sketch, and learning from their teachings which, though small casual tidbits of technique, were gems of insight into the magical world of creating comics.

Stacked high on their tables would be pages of original art that could be thumbed through and purchased  for prices as low as ten or fifteen bucks! The opportunity to scan through those pages was a chance to stare into a window of a professional comics bullpen. Each page told a production story that was highlighted by the scents of bristol board and india ink often commingling with odors of white-out and rubber cement.

To be able to view those pages and see script notes in a corner, blue lines behind lettering, pen strokes appearing as a texture on the surface and brush strokes laying a deep wash in large shaded areas with a barely visible “x” etched in pencil beneath was a hands-on lesson in every page.

I always got a kick out of seeing revisions. Panels or words would be cut out with an x-acto and replaced with art that was cut to fit perfectly into the hole and secured from behind with a strip of masking tape. Splash pages had photostat logos pasted on leaving a trail of ever yellowing rubber cement beneath.

Every page was art, yet each was also just a mechanical, a production board from which final films would be photographed on large upright “stat” cameras. Each was a path of history, chronicling the creation of the page through the hands of the writer, penciler, letterer, inker, editor and production hand. Void of color, the line art resonated with a power of its own lending a new found appreciation for comics in black and white that would empower the independent comic publishers of the day.

It is still possible to marvel at original art at conventions but the atmosphere is so much more hurried that it is difficult to be absorbed into each piece. Those “uncles” are slowly passing away leaving a void where once was a nurturing wisdom behind the craft of each page. In its place is a new energy that is equally intoxicating, a new brand of comic artist with an entrepreneurial spirit hawking their own works.

It is  thrilling to see the new, unlimited variety of comics, invigorating to see the community widening to include a wave of talented women that was always sadly lacking in that bygone era. What is missing is the original art, replaced by an ernest need to sell small print runs and assorted related merchandise or to direct readers to a growing web-comic. The art exists, but digitally, and can be panned easily on an iPad evoking a sterile creative process free of the sensory stimulators that fueled a personal romance with comic production in my formative years.

As I sit here at my keyboard, I’m suddenly realizing that I am now one of those “uncles” I came to embrace. Not that I could hold a candle to any of them but I have an opportunity to share from my experiences, as they did, only from the venue of this blog instead of a convention table. The new generation of comic creator, who creates digitally, shares too, through all kinds of forums and social networks on the internet.  An aspiring comic creator no longer has to wait, as I did, for an annual comic convention to experience the knowledge of a comic pro, they can watch a tutorial on Youtube or follow a comment thread on Facebook!

Yes, I miss the sensory experience of the creative process of comics. Yes, I wonder if creators are losing an opportunity to cash in by not having physical comic art to sell.  But it is not worth pining over any of my attachment to these relics while I am witnessing the future of comics as it blossoms before my eyes. The community of comic artists is no longer small and relegated to a musty convention hall. It is vast and continues to grow. It exists at our fingertips any time we wish to access it.

Today’s comic artists are creating much more than original art. They are creating the future of the medium. Support them any way you can if you love comics. Go read their web comics. Buy their print on demand books. Order their merchandise. Join them on forums and share ideas. Learn from them and teach others. We are all part of the same comics community that began in those old convention halls. Embrace that past and build the future.

Bill Cucinotta and I, here at CO2 Comics, are committed to both and are excited to be part of this growing comics community of artists with a keen eye on the future. No matter how comics are made we intend to maintain that common bond we always had with those comic creators in artist alley: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

Comic Art, Trash or Treasure?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

You sure wouldn’t know that the world is in an economic crisis by looking at the prices that have been paid recently for original art. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses, who’s  recent auctions collectively tallied $266,591,000, established record sale prices for pieces of art including the most expensive work ever sold at auction, Edvard Munch’sThe Scream’ which garnered a whopping $120 million!

Fans of comic art began to scream themselves when Roy Lichtenstein’s painting, ‘Sleeping Girl,’ sold for $45 million, a record price for any of his works. Lichtenstein is often criticized by comic art enthusiasts for not having credited the long list of comic artists whose work he used as subject matter for his paintings. Comparisons of ‘Sleeping Girl’  and the Tony Abruzzo panel which it is derived from, as well as dozens of other comparisons,  can be seen here. David Barsalou deconstructs Lichtenstein with a vengeance and it is well worth following his crusade on the internet and in his facebook group.

The good news is that, though comic art has been generally viewed by the fine art community as “low brow” and is still not in a position to command the kind of money that Munch or Lichtenstein’s pieces do, original comic art is beginning to command some very respectable prices. It has long been known that there is value in collecting comic books. The highest price paid so far for Action Comics #1 being $2.16 million. The same comic book is estimated to be currently worth about $4.3 million.

Original comic art, on the other hand, is now gaining in value as well. The most expensive piece of comic art ever sold is reportedly a full page panel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson from ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ The piece sold to an anonymous collector for $448,125 as part of Heritage Auctions’  Vintage Comics and Comic Art Auction in 2011.

In the past week Heritage auctioned two more significant pieces that collected big bucks. Contradicting the earlier report Heritage claims that a Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott original from Fantastic Four #55 featuring a half page splash of the Silver Surfer and signed by scripter Stan Lee achieved the highest price paid for a page of panel art selling for $155,350, roughly one third the value of the Batman piece.

Another work of original comic art that proved its muster was the first ever drawing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that fetched $71,700.

Forbes recently ran an article on their site that lists good reasons for investing in comic art  but neglects the obvious: Supply and Demand.

Though it may seem that there are tons of original comic art proliferating in the market, and there are, how many show significant images of major characters drawn by masters of the industry or are pages from historic works? Not as many as you might think and now that a lot of art is created digitally, the chances of hard copy future original art surfacing for sale are dwindling.

The idea that there are over seventy years worth of original art numbering in the millions of pages trafficking around the collectors market is false. Most comic art that was created prior to the mid sixties was simply destroyed by the publishers, considered by them as nothing more than waste once the printable films were made.

Flo Steinberg

Flo Steinberg, secretary at Marvel during the early years of the ‘House of Ideas,’ was quoted in David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW #17 saying, “We used to throw it out …when the pile got too full…it was like ‘old wood’ to us.” Likewise, there are stories of Neal Adams dashing across the office at DC to rescue original art that was about to be destroyed in a paper slicer! Any art that survived that slaughter was generally given away as gifts or just managed to filter its way out of the office as random souvenirs. The scary part is that most of the artists just accepted this practice as the norm!

By the late sixties when fandom started to prove that there was a secondary market for the art through the establishment of comic conventions and comic shops, artists began to demand that their art be returned. This was a tricky process since several people generally worked on any given issue. The art would be split up among the writer, penciler, inker, and even the letterer. Colorists usually would get back the color guides that they made for the color separator.  Because of this practice entire issues are nearly impossible to acquire.

By the 1980’s the independent movement gave creators many more rights and more creators were responsible for their work in its entirety but still, usually, would sell off pages at conventions, one at a time,  to support themselves economically.

Today more and more comics are being created digitally and hard copy originals don’t even exist. The work and creative talent  that goes into creating a comics page is once again being trivialized as an unfortunate part of the process. Instead of ‘old wood’ it is now just a collection of magnetic data hogging up a hard drive, facing obsolescence with the next wave of new technology.

The printed version may remain as the only collectable hard copy of future comic works and even that is challenged by digital delivery of comics. The art of making comics is finally being recognized as something of value yet its new found respect is threatened with its own potentionally temporary creative process.

Criticize Lichtenstein as much as you’d like, but his copy of a single panel, swiped from a forgotten romance comic, will exist for a long, long time and will only become more valuable while the original line drawing it was lifted from has probably been trashed for fifty years. How can we come expect the art world, or anybody,  to respect comics as more than source material for pop art parodies when we continue to allow the originals it to be disposable.

Is comic art trash or treasure? As comic artists, we need to decide for ourselves.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

The Process of Penciling: Part 3

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Truth be told, comic art can be drawn on just about any surface imaginable so long as it is able to be reproduced. With today’s digital technology a lot of comics are drawn using a digital tablet and a stylus.

The images exist only on a computer screen and may never see the surface of paper until it is printed.

Graphics Tablet with Stylus

There are still plenty of comic artists however that prefer the relationship of lead to paper.

The key thing to remember when choosing your paper how the final image will be inked if it will at all. Some comics, like Raine Szramski’s HEAVEN And The DEAD CITY that can be found here at CO2 Comics, are painted and may require a different type of surface.

Bristol Board

The most popular paper used for comic art is multi-ply Bristol board. There are a number of brands available all of different quality. In general though, there are two types of surfaces. Smooth, which can often be called hot press, machined, or plate finished and Rough which may be considered as cold press or vellum.

The smoother surface is great for inking but has little tooth to the surface which makes it not too fun to pencil on. Vellum surfaces are much easier to pencil on but it is important to find a brand that has a finer tooth and is dense enough that ink will not bleed on the page.

X-Acto Knife

Most original comic art created since the Silver Age has used a 10″ x 15″ image area. 11″ x 17″ paper is a good size to work on and can easily be purchased in pads at a local drug store or art store. Some artists save money by bying larger pads and cutting the pages in half with a ruler and x-acto knife.

Many publishers provide paper with preprinted guides to their artists which makes it very easy to rule panel borders. Pre printed paper can also be bought online. One great source is

Work with your printer or editor to determine your exact bleed areas and image areas and be sure that the image size you are working with is proportioned exactly to these measurements. This means that when your art is reduced it is the exact size it needs to be to fit the printed page. Comic art generally gets reduced to 60% of the original size for reproduction.

Non Repro Blue Pencil

Using rough layouts as a guide panel borders should be ruled in using a pencil. Some artists like to use non-repro blue lead at this point to avoid erasing unnecessary stray lines. If your page is preprinted you can just use a ruler and draw lines using the guide markers on the page much like connecting the dots.

T-Square & Triangle

If your page is not preprinted you will will have to line up the paper yourself using a t-square and a triangle on your drawing board which should have a smooth strait edge on the side opposite your drawing hand.

Your t-square should be long enough to line up the entire width of your page in the center of your workspace. Line up the bottom of the page with your t-square and tape it to the surface using small pieces of masking tape. Use tape with a light adhesive so it does not ruin your paper surface when it is removed. Cheap tape usually has very sticky adhesive so be careful to find a brand you like.

Centering Ruler

Measure your paper from the center of the page. A centering ruler is a great tool for this and will become your best friend. Avoid measuring in from the edge of the paper. Paper is often not cut exactly square or exactly to measurement and you will discover inaccuracies every time you open a new pad of paper.

Use your t-square to rule all of the horizontal lines on the page following your measured marks as guides. Vertical lines will be ruled by using a triangle sliding along your t-square. You can use a either 45 or
60 degree triangle because it is the 90 degree side that is needed to guide your pencil The bigger the triangle the better. I recommend at least a 12″ height.

Go back and rule in all the panel borders. Generally the gutter space is about 1/4″ wide but should at least remain consistent throughout except when a different spacing may be required to emphasize a visual as part of the story.

Once your page and panels are ruled be sure to label the title of the project and the page number. Now you can begin penciling in your final art. Remove the tape from the board so you can work freely.

Light Box

If you are using a light box to transfer pencil roughs, line up the roughs on the back of the paper, tape them down loosely then turn the page over and trace up the images.

Next week I will go over pencils and erasers and other tools that can help you complete a penciled comic page that is suitable for sending to lettering and inking.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

Encouraging Comics: Pros and Cons

Monday, March 14th, 2011

My experience attending comic conventions began in the late seventies. Cons made me realize that comics was much more than a medium, comics was a community. When I would walk into a convention hall, wether it was in Philadelphia, or New York, it was easy to recognize the relationship between fans, vendors, and industry professionals.

Gerry Giovinco at a Creation Convention

As an aspiring comics artist, what I looked forward to the most was meeting the pros. In those days cons were a lot different than the extravaganzas that they have become. It was a lot easier to meet and actually get some quality time with the writersartists and editors. It wasn’t necessary to wait in lines corralled by stanchion ropes. Artists would sketch in your program book and ad a signature free of charge!

Best of all, they would take the time to look at your portfolio and offer constructive criticism and encouragement. If you had real talent, they’d happily refer you to an editor.

Comic conventions were always a great place to learn technique. Artist Alleys were often populated by pros and aspiring amateurs, alike. Many artists would bring work along with them and during down time, they would work on a piece. Most of the professional artists also sold original pages and had stacks of original comic art that could be thumbed through and examined.

There would often be an opportunity to ask an artist how they achieved a certain effect. I always enjoyed talking to the inkers because they had great tips on tools and techniques that resulted in the final line art that we would see when the comic was printed.

There is still the opportunity to have this experience at conventions today but I don’t get the sense that the atmosphere is anywhere near as warm, and relaxed as it was thirty years ago.

A few artists that stood out as supportive when I was a rank amateur were Josef Rubenstein, Bob Wiacek, Ken Landgraf and Dave Simons, these were all guys that could tolerate a pesky kid asking dumb questions and hovering…endlessly.

One guy that was a complete saint to me was the great Filipino artist Rudy Nebres. Rudy was often seen with his family in tow. His wonderfully supportive wife, Delores and their two young boys Edwin and Melvin were regular fixtures behind his table.

Rudy Nebres

To say I marveled at his work would be an understatement. Rudy had a way of illuminating pencils with ink that made the originals appear to glow with with an unmatched radiance. I spent so much time at his table that I became friends with his family and would often keep his kids occupied for a while so mom and dad could catch a break.

Rudy would give me tips on feathering and washes that I wish I was better equipped to fully absorb. He showed me how to graft a number 3 Windsor Newton watercolor brush with a Flair felt tip to make a more comfortable instrument and how to cut india ink with water to get it to flow better. That stuff I could grasp!

Rudy must have had more faith in my talent than I did at the time because he gave me a drawing of Vampirella that he did and told me to ink it, just for practice. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin that beautiful pencil sketch with my rudimentary inking skills, but after much cajoling on Rudy’s part I took on the challenge. It never dawned on me at the time to ink an overlay or to lightbox the drawing so now those beautiful pencils are forever buried beneath my timid inks and muddy washes.

Vampirella penciled by Rudy Nebres inked by Gerry Giovinco

It was a tremendous lesson learned, however. I gained an entirely new perspective regarding inkers and their responsibility to the pencils that they ink. A good inker can make any penciler look better but a bad inker will ruin the best pencils every time.

The opportunity to ink Rudy’s art made me much braver when I inked, especially my own work. I’ll never come close to being the artist that Rudy is but I did learn to put down decent tapered lines and was much more brave when applying ink to another person’s pencils.

Rudy also taught me the value of pros encouraging young talent that they meet at cons. It is a lesson that I always remember when I am on the other side of the table at conventions. Plenty of great talent can be discovered at conventions if given the opportunity, some patience and a fair dose constructive criticism.

Making Comics Because I Want To!

Gerry Giovinco

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