Thursday, 17 April 2014

ADVENTURE COMICS #5: THE LEGION OF CRIME FINALE

ADVENTURE COMICS #5: The Ongoing adventures of the Legion of Super-Heroes

Here's the finale of the Legion of crime story arc in the Adventure Comics series I'm doing. The original idea was to post one a month, I'll get back to doing that now. 

This is the face off between the Legion's Supergirl and the Earth 3 Ultra Girl (that'd be earth 3's version of Supergirl) and ends the first story arc. It's been an eventful one as Saturn Girl is dead and the Legion have been thrown into a sense of ongoing unease at the realisation that there's another evil version of themselves only a dimension away.


Next up, Superman gets some visitors from the future....

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

KURT SCHAFFENBERGER: INFLUENCES CHAPTER ONE

I received this piece of art in the post today from a good friend as a gift for a sketch I did.


It got me thinking about how much I loved New Adventures of Superboy as a kid. And how it influenced me, maybe not in an artistic sense, by that I mean stylistically, but in a way that it really connected with me, was something that I enjoyed immensely and ultimately played a part in me becoming an artist. 

So, this is the first in an ongoing series of posts about influences, not necessarily the obvious ones like Neal Adams, George Perez, Norman Rockwell etc (although we will get to them) but comics, TV shows, obsessions that led me to becoming a comic book artist, well illustrator really. If you discount the terrible series I drew for Dynamite Entertainment a few years back I've basically just painted or drawn covers-which I have no problem with, it's what I always wanted to do.

(I'd love to do a series of blogs about covers, the good, the bad and the unintentionally hilarious...but I'll stick to the good so as not to upset fans of artists who's covers I enjoy for all the wrong reasons)

So, New Adventures of Superboy and Kurt Schaffenberger. The art is very clean, maybe a little too simplistic for fans of contemporary comics-it isn't- just because something looks simple doesn't mean it is. A lot of artists from the early 90's didn't actually draw backgrounds, they just threw in tons of superfluous lines on the figures and hoped people wouldn't notice*-and it harks back to a simpler time. Part of this was obviously intentional, it was set in the past. The simplicity appealed to me as a kid, it may be slightly Rockwellian in setting, (the idea that Rockwell always depicted the good side of America in the 40's and 50's, he didn't, but it's the perceived view and useful to get across the point I'm trying to make about Superboy) but I liked that as a kid. It reflected my personal ideas of morality back then. 

I also saw Schaffenberger's work in Shazam but it was Superboy that really got me. 

I read maybe 98% DC as a kid, I didn't get into Marvel really until college. Superboy for a few years, was the one I always read first. 

I remember tracing the Superboy figure off issue #20 and (I don't think I've made this up) got my Dad to paint, in gouache, the same figure for me. No doubt I redrew his painting myself in the same way I drew over the top of a dinosaur painting he did for me. I guess I just wanted it to look how I wanted it to look. That's why I don't get mad when my kids draw over pieces I've drawn for them, they have an idea of how they want the art to look and it isn't how I've drawn it!


Schaffenberger was a very consistent artist, his Lois Lane looked the same for decades, you knew what you were getting. Next month's issue would have the characters looking the same, just as the characters did on Dukes of Hazzard each episode (it bothered me when Pigsy changed on Monkey). I've still not found that consistency with my art...Many artists progress, getting better and better, more mature throughout their lives (Rembrandt, Rockwell, Michelangelo etc) until their eyes or minds go, as they master their craft. That isn't really true of comic artists. A lot of them peak pretty early and then often just go downhill. Maybe they burn out. Maybe arrogance takes them...there of course is the flipside, some experiment or become something more accomplished (Sienkievitch for example) or just keep on getting better, Alan Davis, Adam Hughes. But it's very rare for an artist to show such consistency over a career, from beginning to end, Schaffenberger was one, Curt Swan another. 

Schaffenberger was great at portraying emotion too, with just a slight change in expression or body language. 
The above page is the original art for issue #43 page 18. 

One thing I don't think I'll do in this series is a history of whatever I'm talking about. I think digging for info yourself is a great way to learn. I kind of miss the old days when all you had to go off was a 1 inch reproduction of a comic cover in a price guide. Actually finding the comic itself was very exciting. The internet takes that joy away to a certain degree...it's a great tool...but people don't really use it to find out what went before. A lot of comic fans I meet never bother to learn what or who the artists they like learned from. A massive fail. As an artist it's important to look at who influenced your favourite artists so you can see where their style or technique originated from...and it's a great way to discover awesome art (or music) too.

So anyway, check out the book below for some info on Kurt Schaffenberger.

 'Hero Gets Girl!' by Mark Voger published by TwoMorrows. 

And look at the first run of Lois Lane too, it's ace. Fun stories too, a lot of them are good reads even now. I think if you enjoyed All-Star Superman you'll enjoy the original Lois Lane run.

And to Aidan, thanks very much for the piece of art! 

*Detail isn't a bad thing, look at Brian Bolland, Bernie Wrightson, Alan Davis or EC Comics for detailed comic art done properly.







Sunday, 6 April 2014

N.I.C.E. 2014

NICE COMIC CON 13th/14th September 2014

http://nicecon.co.uk

I'll be sketching and signing all weekend at NICE as usual. Looks like a good guest list again! 

As I sketch for free at the con I get booked up pretty quick so come on over early to avoid disappointment. 

And, if you'd like a pre-con commission doing be sure to get in touch in plenty of time (so I can get the art finished in time, obviously). 

A4 are £40, A3 are £80, art is drawn in pencil, ink and Copic marker.

I'll also have a selection of A4 and A3 Copic pieces for sale at the con. I pretty much sold out at the recent LSCC event, which was nice.

See the link below for a couple of examples of A4 pieces done 

previously.http://johnwatsoncomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/lscc-2014.html

Also, I'll be taking part in the sketch roulette again. Despite my initial reservations it worked out really well last time. Good idea, Jeff.






Thursday, 20 March 2014

ADVENTURE COMICS #4

THE ONGOING ADVENTURES OF THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES: ISSUE 4

The next chapter. The Legion are defeated by the Legion of Crime.

 I coloured this one to highlight the uniforms I've tweaked. 

The style of the art is still a kind of Grell, Adams, Davis hybrid...but I think in the next story arc I'll wing it a little more, see what happens.

Next issue, the final part of the Earth 3/Earth 1 battle between the Legions.

The body wearing the green swirly uniform is Chemical King by the way...I think everyone else is pretty obvious. Some of the uniforms will change over time, they're still in transition. As an aside, I loved the Superboy back up stories by Cockrum where the Legion was a mix of the original Adventure costumes and the ones that Cockrum was designing...also, remember the uniform that Element Lad wore for one panel in LSH 243 and again, in a pin-up in the tabloid where Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl got married? No idea why that one was never seen again, very Kirbyesque. Who designed that? Was it James Sherman?

Anyway, here's a pic of issue 4 (that I've just noticed I forgot to number) and also a mock up with a back cover...






Tuesday, 18 March 2014

LSCC POSTSCRIPT

LONDON SUPER COMIC CONVENTION (LSCC): THE AFTERMATH

I'm very tired after the weekend, more on that in a minute. It was a great convention, probably the best I've attended since the glory days of the Bristol Expo. And it was packed. Often people fudge the numbers for attendance but there were seriously double the number of people there than last year. 

Thanks to everyone who came by to say hi, pick up a commission or buy something. I hope everyone who managed to get on the sketch list was happy with what they got. And that everyone was happy with their commissions too. I liked two of the sketches I did at the weekend myself...although that may have been the tiredness.

I have to mention Mike Grell, what a nice guy. He's been my favourite Legion artist since I first saw his work in SLSH 206 (he signed that copy for me, chatted about it, awesome) and to finally meet him was fantastic. We even managed to talk about art a little as Mike is a painter 
too...


Larry with with Mike Grell  

If you want to go to a comic based comic con (let's face it, there are a lot of them that are craft fairs, nothing wrong with that, but comic cons should be comic cons) then LSCC is well recommended. There's expensive original art, cheap original art, cosplay, big name artists and writers, small press, people who sell comic based toys that I can buy for my kids, unlike some, there are even comics ranging from high grade Golden Age to the latest variants...it's a proper comic con. And the staff are helpful, pleasant and visible in their yellow t-shirts.


A photo taken on Sunday, my face is sarcastic, I'm not a mentalist. Russ had just awoken

If you're reading this you'll probably have read the post I wrote recently about LSCC 2013...well, this year was a lot more organised....to a point.

I was worried my friend Scott, who was driving down to London and giving us (that'd be me and Russell Payne of the Kirby museum) a lift to the con would be late to set off for the 4 1/2 hour journey. I was wrong to worry, 15.30, he was there. Professional. But was Russ ready to go? No. Instead of packing during the two hours since I'd last seen him he sat around drinking tea...

So it took us an hour to get out of Blackpool. And then we ignored the signs on the motorway telling us that junctions 16 to 19 were basically at a standstill. They really were. I suggested dumping the car and taking the train...panic was setting in. 

So, we get to London about 21:30, not too bad considering the traffic. I'd sent some messages to say that we'd meet people at 21.00 at the latest...so we were in the ballpark at 21;30...We found the hotel, for a change there were no problems, we went to our room to drop stuff off, only one bed. It's ok, there was a pull out. So we're good. Not a bad trip and we're almost where we need to be.

Now would be the time to mention that Russ' daughter Chloe came on the trip with us as she was going to a University open day on the Saturday. I think his words were 'We'll just drop her at her hotel (she only told him about it a week before, hence the different hotel) and she'll get the train home on Saturday'. Another rash statement was, 'her hotel is next door to ours'. 

Both statements were massive lies. 

Scott used his SatNav to find the hotel...it led us to a street that was a hellhole, residential area that was grim, bricks in the street, scary people, we're not used to that in Cleveleys. It's quiet, a lot of dog feces, but quiet. We figured the SatNav had gone bananas so we drove back to our start point and set out again. 

 It was the right place but the hotel was a block down. I was scared. We all were. But Russ checked her in...and then we set off to find the hotel where we were going to meet everyone. 

There were two hotels of the same name around the Excel Centre. Two pubs called The Fox as it turns out too...that's just basics, but anyway...we went to the first one, it wasn't the right hotel. How to get to the other one? The SatNav didn't know. So Scott dropped us at the entrance to the Excel...it was the wrong side. The Excel is massive. And I knew there was  a good chance not all of us would make the journey, Russ is no athlete. (He played 5 a side a couple of times. He didn't get why people were angry with him when he let a goal in the last time he played...he had one hand in his pocket and was eating a Snickers)...We eventually got to the other side and there were railings everywhere...so I just started climbing over them. I have to admit, I got to the hotel a little earlier than Russ and Chloe, as when I saw him trapped, straddling a 4ft barrier I just kept on walking. Was I wrong to leave them? Well maybe. But I had a few grands worth of art in my folder and I had to make a choice. Here's Russ' version of the journey...he's a much more eloquent writer than me since, well, he's a writer...


Scott dropped us off, very kindly insisting on a door to door service despite the fact that travelling two blocks at the Excel Centre in a car means driving in a complex series of one-way spirals.

John had arranged to meet up with people at a hotel that was about 14 miles away from our hotel, so we opted to go for a direct straight line of sight walking route that involved climbing over a line of metal fences. John leapt over them like a gazelle, Chloe managed to dislocate her hip on the third fence and I was left straggling the first hurdle in almost complete darkness as Chloe and John progressed into the distance.

Here's the rest of Russ' blog 

So, 22:40, we'd made it (well I had, Russ and Chloe took another 5 minutes or so). It was great to be sat in the hotel chatting with friends, looking at art. Chloe was safe. But I'd suggested that she should stay in her hotel room. I didn't like the idea of the three of us walking that street back to her hotel at 2am. And also, there was Jeff.

Jeff turned up at 1am. I think Russ, and to a greater extent, Chloe regret that deeply.

Got to the convention about 0830. Set up and then the day flew by. I took on way too many sketches and so I was drawing with my head down for most of the day. Russ was sharing the table. He was getting progressively more scared as the day went on and the time came nearer to do the Kirby talk at 5...George, one of the organisers came over just before 2 and asked if he was ready as he was on in 10 mins...Russ laughed afterwards but it took a while.




Saturday, me concentrating on drawing Captain America, tired, Larry posing

Every so often he'd disappear to find Chloe, get her from the train station, fed her etc. His head was getting progressively redder as the day went on as his blood pressure rose with the combined stress of not having planned his talk and making sure Chloe was ok. 

A big thank you to Aidan and Larry who helped me sell art and chat to people (I can't really talk and draw).

Russ was eventually escorted off to do his talk. He looked like he was off to be executed. I had to stay at the table as there was no-one else to watch over it.  Afterwards he was a lot more relaxed. It went well. Secretly, Russ has a massive ego and so the fear was quickly replaced by the joy of performing to a crowd.

Hopefully in that crowd were some people who would learn something about Jack Kirby. Maybe for the first time. Perhaps they were only there as they were tired and there were free chairs but they were educated nonetheless. Forget the arguments about copyright and everything for a moment, the more people who check out his work and are made aware of the ridiculous levels of creativity he had, the better. No-one created more in comics. The man was awesome.

If you're reading this and haven't heard of Kirby then go and research him. Or buy the Fantastic Four omnibus with his work in. 

So, as I frantically tried to fulfill my sketchlist, Russ went to drop off Chloe. He'd be 'half an hour'. I knew it was a lie. 

One thing about sketching at cons is people bringing over sketches they've had done from other artists...invariably, they're a lot better than what I'm drawing. It really adds to the pressure, nice to see, but sometimes it's like being held at gunpoint. 

The con finished at 7pm, a good, long day. I don't think anyone went away disappointed. The cosplayers, who I don't really see as I'm drawing, were everywhere and all seemed happy, the retailers were happy. The organisers and staff were happy, if a little stressed.

On the way out I was introduced to a reasonably famous person and I asked him an inane question. I'm not going to talk about it. In my defense I was very, very tired. 

Russ went AWOL for four hours. We had to eat without him. He wasn't returning texts, was he dead? No. But I was genuinely concerned. Turns out he had to take Chloe all the way to Euston because she'd forgotten her glasses and couldn't see any of the signs. On the way back on the Tube he got chatting to a guy in a giant green hat who was plastered after celebrating the Six Nations win and he missed his stop. He'd already eaten when he arrived in the hotel restaurant, he bought a pasty for, I believe, £43 at Euston. So, everything was fine. He got back just in time to join the mockery of my Scott Pilgrim hat. I don't care what anyone says, it's the best hat I've ever owned.

Spent the rest of the evening sat in the hotel bar chatting about comics and football (MOTD came on and there were a few points that needed discussing). Russ fell in and out of consciousness, awakening one time to shout out 'is it green?' 

After another night chatting, listening to the birds sing and looking at the pretty cool view of the Thames we had another day that was pretty much as good as Saturday. I spent all day sketching again, stopping only long enough to eat a Jammie Dodger for dinner. 

After a final couple of deals on sketches in the hotel bar (thanks Michael, Russ said I'd never sell the Camelot 3000 Morgan piece!) that once again showed my basic ineptitude as a businessman but made people happy, we set off to find Scott.

Deep down Russ loves walking so despite his begging to use the train (for one stop, no, not happening), I knew he was happy to walk the 20  minutes to the other side of the Excel. 

Went for a meal in Greenwich with Scott and his friend Sam, great meal and company. But, it was 0215 when we got home. 

Still, it was 15 minutes earlier than last year...








LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON 2014

LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON 11-13 JULY 

This is the first time I've attended the convention and I'm looking forward to it.

 As usual, get in touch if you'd like a pre-con commission sketch doing. They're basically copic marker,  finished/detailed convention sketches. I'd like to say they're similar to what Adam Hughes (did) or Copiel does for pre-con commission sketches...but they're clearly not as good as the sketches they do (And the price reflects that!) They do look quite nice though! I'll do some sci-fi based ones for the first time if anyone wants one, Trek, Star Wars etc instead of the usual superhero based stuff.

Prices are £80 for an 11" by 17" (or A3 depending on where you live) and £40 for one half the size (A4)

I will be sketching at the con as well, both Saturday and Sunday but as I'm really slow and also can't talk and draw at the same time, the number I can do will be limited. The sketches I do at the con are free, they're not as detailed or finished as the pre-con ones mentioned above...but they're ok. A couple of the ones I did at LSCC this year even I liked.

As the spots are limited I'll have to ask that you come over on the day and get your name added to the list. This is fair as otherwise, if people get on the list before the con starts, then I'm booked up before it even starts...

Also, a few people have asked about me doing other kinds of commissions for them before the con. These will be increasingly difficult to fit into my schedule as they take longer and I'm getting booked up...so if you'd like a recreation, a full tonal piece or something else then it'll have to be sorted soon!

I'll also have a folder of pre-con sketches for sale. Again, these are more finished and reasonably priced.

Here are a couple of pre con pieces from LSCC 2013...I should have scanned some pieces I did for the con this year but I forgot...but I will add more sketches after people have posted them online and I can acquire them.

Some people may think that this is, for the most part, a cut and paste job from an earlier post...it is. I'm very tired after the LSCC weekend. I just wanted to get something out about the con as it'll soon be July. 







Saturday, 8 March 2014

LSCC MARCH UPDATE

...so there's about a week to go until the con. Most of the pre con commissions are finished. 

I'll be at table A58. Should be easier to find than last year when I didn't have a sign, a banner, or an assigned table. *see below for the story of LSCC 2013

I'm sharing the table with Russell Payne from the Kirby museum. He'll have some posters of Jack and the money from sales will go to the Kirby museum. He's also got a talk on the Saturday at 5pm.

As I've mentioned previously, I've got a limited number of sketches I can do each day at the con. They're free. But as I'm usually booked up way before the con begins, this year, to give everyone who wants one a chance, I'm asking that people come up on the day of the con and get on the list. 

I'll have a selection of sketches for sale, a range of different characters. A mix of A4 and A3, all in copics. I've also got some Marvel painted covers for sale, World War Hulk and an X-Men one. 

So, pop over and say hi. I'll be there all day, both days. 

*I was skiing in Scotland the week before the con last Feb. I gave all my artwork to my friend Russ (see above) so I didn't have to take it skiing. The plan was to get a train from Scotland, meet him in Preston and drive down in his car to Colchester, Russ having brought all my art, booklets, posters etc with him.

So, we make good time, get to Colchester just after midnight. We were going to Colchester to my friend Larry's house (he's the one who people think is Mike Collins, no idea what they think when Mike is with us) and then driving to the con the Saturday morning.

So I got out my folders to show Larry the new stuff I'd done and also give him the pre con sketches he'd asked me to do. Except the folder with all the commissions in it wasn't there. We spent an hour looking for it. Then Russ denied ever seeing it. 

I was panicking now. There was a lot of work in the folder...a heck of a lot. I remembered handing the folder to Russ, seeing it on the back seat of his car before I went skiing. He didn't. One of us was wrong. More importantly, where was the folder?

Russ phoned home, his wife, at 130am, was happy to look for it, behind the fridge, under the couch etc. Nothing. Phoned her again, she had another look, nothing...

Then Russ developed a few theories. One of his daughters' friends had stolen it. Or, it had fallen out of the car into the street outside his house, he hadn't noticed and had been put in a bin...or his favourite, I never gave it to him. 

So, after a few more calls and having a massive laugh about the situation, we went to sleep about 3am. Larry would wake us at 7 and we'd see what we could do in the morning...

Larry came to wake us at 6. But I hadn't slept. Russ snored, the heating was on all night and the central heating pipes banged incessantly all night.

Russ waited until 730 and then phoned home. His youngest daughter told him that the folder was where he put it to keep it safe, on top of the cupboard in the back room. Russ still had no recollection of ever seeing it. Relief. The folder of art still existed.

So, how to get the folder to London? 

I phoned my friend Aidy. He can do stuff.  He went to Russ' house, got on a train and arrived at the Excel centre just after midday. He had a great time pretending the art was his on the way down, upgraded to first class on the way back. Good day out.

So, I only lost half a day, had the art, the commissions etc back! I was at a table where I wasn't advertised as being and had no banner or even a sign. But that's another story.

On the Sunday evening we chatted for a while in the bar of the hotel with some artists and friends and then set off home. We needed to drop Larry in Colchester, about as far East as you can get from Lancashire in the UK. After that we headed North West. We were doing fine until, heading towards Kettering, Russ decided, for no good reason at all, to turn left onto the motorway and head back to London. It's a decision he still can't explain to this day. 

We tried to get off the motorway and retrace our steps. The hour we spent trying to get out of Cambridge was amusing at first. But then it started getting late. There were lots of people riding round on bikes in Cambridge, dressed as old school students. Probably been riding round since the '50's looking for a way out.
We thought of just knocking on someone's door and asking for food and shelter for the night...but eventually we stumbled on an exit from the place. 

We got home at 230am.

This year we planned to go on the train, there's a stop literally feet from the entrance to the Excel centre.

But our friend Scott is driving instead. I'm sure it'll be ok...