Posts Tagged ‘penciler’

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 for Comics

Monday, April 11th, 2011

There is no doubt that when it comes to penciling for comics the first priority should be to learn to draw as best you can and to become an expert at visual storytelling. Once you have mastered these skills it is time to put the lead to the paper, remembering that comic art is made to be reproduced and that penciling is just one of several disciplines involved in making the finished comic page.

The penciler must be conscious of the script, the lettering, and the inking of the finished work. It is the penciler‘ to produce pencils that will enable the other work on the page to be executed properly. Everything from the type of paper to how final erasures will be made should come into consideration.

The tools are important too. Beginning cartoonists always want to know about the “magic pencil.” There is one but, like a baseball player’s favorite bat or glove, it is a very personal selection for each comic artist as are most of the other tools that will be used to create a comic page.

The space that the comic artist likes to work in has an effect on some of the tool decisions. Some artists like to be mobile and move around their home while they create, others like a studio built to the specifications of the Fortress of Solitude. Regardless of the preference, it is important to have a source of light, a smooth surface to work on and a comfortable place to sit.

The above image is reproduced from The Secrets of Professional Cartooning by Ken Muse-Prentice Hall-1981

Comic artists all begin as young doodlers drawing sprawled-out on the living room floor before graduating to the kitchen table. Those flat surfaces parallel to the ground ultimately cause distortion in the image. To prevent this the paper must be parallel to the eyes of the penciler. The penciler usually compensates for this by either hunching over the work or tilting the work surface.

Lap Boards

The artist’s draft table is the best piece of furniture for the task and comes in many different styles but the beginning cartoonist may not have the space or the money to afford one. This is when a lapboard will come in handy. I’ve seen lapboards that look like small versions of actual drawing boards and I have seen smaller ones made out of masonite. Some artists like to use an oversized clipboard. The board rests in your lap and leans against a table in front of you offering a nice parallel view of your work.

Whichever drawing surface you choose you will want one with smooth strait edge on one side which will be important for ruling the page.

Be sure that wherever you choose to work there is enough light. Many artists like a swing lamp that they can attach to the drawing table. I think it helps your eyes if you can mix fluorescent and incandescent light. Some swing lamps have both types of bulbs just for this reason. It is easy to compensate for the mixed lighting if you can’t find one of these lamps. If your ceiling light is fluorescent you may want an incandescent bulb in your lamp and visa versa.

Take a look at artist studio’s on the web and you will find that they are all very different and very personal. If you plan to be a successful comic artist, expect to spend a ton of time in this space so insure that it is comfortable, inviting, efficient and productive.

In the coming weeks I will look at other tools and techniques that are valuable tip to comic pencilers, please feel free to chime in with your own personal preferences. I think it can become a fun discussion.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco



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