"Weird Al" Yankovic has been one of my icons since the sixth grade, when I was exposed to his "Greatest Hits" album for the first time. Since then I have been lucky enough to meet the man a few times, and each time I come away a little star struck. This is probably because he's not only the greatest comedy artist of all time, but also because he always comes across as a very down-to-earth, rathereasy-going guy.
One of the first times I met him was about ten years ago at a concert at Penn State University. I brought along with me a copy of Spider-Man Unlimited #1 to give him, part of the much maligned "Maximum Carnage" crossover (though it made a pretty good video game, if I'm remembering correctly). The first page of this story features the Spider-Man villain Carnage subdued and being wheeled out to...who knows, prison or something. The character proceeds to sing a violent parody of "Here Comes the Bride", to which one of the guards responds "You're a regular 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Kasady. Emphasis on the 'weird'!" Then Carnage kills a lot of people, as he's known to do.
Al really seemed to appreciate getting to see a reference to himself that he was otherwise unaware of (either that or he was really good at faking it), so this time around, on a concert trip to Atlantic City, I brought with me a copy of 2006's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #13, which interestingly enough had a reference to none other than Harvey the Wonder Hamster, the oft-referenced Weird Al character who even got his own song on the "Alapalooza" album. Yes, another Weird Al reference in a book featuring Spider-Man (with art by Todd Nauck, who drew the Mr. Massive cover to Teddy and the Yeti #2, no less). It's a strange coincidence.
Because I couldn't pass up the opportunity, I stuck a copy of Teddy and the Yeti #1 on the other side of the bag and board, and we chatted about it briefly. I have no idea if Al will flip through it - I know he's said that he grew up on Mad Magazine rather than comics. He might take both books and toss them off a cliff for all I know. But for one fateful moment, I was talking about Teddy and the Yeti with "Weird Al" Yankovic. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that.
If you ever get the opportunity, check out a Weird Al concert. It's got an energy that tops any other show I've ever been to. Sure, I'm biased, but I think that his shows are the greatest you'll ever get a chance to see, with the many costume changes, video clips, audience interaction and overall showmanship he and his band bring to the stage. Even if the last song of his you've heard is "Eat It", you'll come away feeling like you got your money's worth and more. Trust me.
Here's a shot of him that I got during the show. I'm thinking of framing it.
Paul Little has big talent. (DID YOU SEE THAT ONE COMING, PAUL?!) This prodigiously skilled colorist has not only lent his time to recent issues of Teddy and the Yeti, this Niagara Falls, Canadian artist also works on such titles as Image's Bomb Queen and Dynamo 5. Paul was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, the industry, and, rather randomly, one of the television shows I've been catching up with recently.
Below is the first part of the interview - I'll publish the second at a later date. So, without further ado, Paul Little!
JM: It seems that colorists don't always get the credit they deserve when it comes to artistic involvement - and I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Very rarely do I ever see a cover colorist get his or her name in print, where the pencil and ink artist will always be credited. Why do you think colorists are so late to this party?
PL: There's a really interesting argument brewing over which party is more integral to the look of a given comic book in the modern era: the inker or the colorist. In times past, it was inarguably the inker, but that was largely because a colorist's role in the old days was limited to breaking up the planes of an image into foreground, middle ground and background, while also making sure that Superman's costume was red and blue in every panel. The available process wasn't very sophisticated in the pre-digital era, so the colorist's role wasn't as important or distinctive as the inker's.
Once Steve Oliff came along and kicked open the door to everybody's mind with his digital work on the Epic reprints of Akira, however, all bets were off. Coloring as an art form grew up fast, and it's my opinion that the average colorist today has a much greater impact on a finished page of comic art than the inker. Much of the value or tone apparent in a page of finished comic art is supplied by the colorist, and the most visibly dramatic step a page takes on the assembly line isn't when it goes from pencils to inks, but from inks to colors.
JM: Do you think it's just a matter of time before colorists get their due?
PL: There's a sophistication and attention to detail present in coloring today that would have been unfathomable even 20 years ago, and I thnk that's the main reason why attitudes have been slow to catch up to the times. Preconceived notions are often hard to shake. Things are starting to look up, though, due in no small part to Marvel's efforts.
They've been giving colorists cover credit on most of their books for a few years now, and I believe they're also giving them royalties, as well. Of course, I've heard that DC still groups colorists under the "production" umbrella rather than "creative," so it's clear to me that there's still work to be done and perceptions to be challenged.
JM: A few years ago, colorists coloring directly over uninked pencils seemed to come into fashion - perhaps due to Cary Nord's art on Dark Horse's "Conan" series. Is this a fad, or a legitimate step in the evolution of sequential art?
PL: I think it's a legitimate approach, but it's not one I'm keen on myself. It really adds time to the process, since you're forced to bring a painterly touch to the sometimes messy art and ensure that it looks finished. Artists are creative problem solvers by definition, and I think it's natural to want to combine traditional drawing styles that have been available since the inception of comic books with new approaches to coloring that have been made available thanks to technology.
I've seen some really beautiful pages put together in this style - most recently in an issue of Captain America drawn by the legendary Gene Colan and digitally painted by the great Dean White - but even the pretty ones don't scan as "finished" pages to me. I think a lot of it is down to personal tastes - having spent 25 odd years reading inked comic book pages, things just don't add up for me when such an integral component is missing. My brain kicks up the same sort of fuss when I see fully painted comics by artists like Alex Ross and Dan Brereton. They just don't look like what comics ought to look like. That doesn't mean they're bad by any stretch, just that they don't really meet my own sort of Platonic ideal for comics. (laughs)
JM: How does coloring over pencils affect how you approach your job?
When this style was really coming into its own a few years ago, I was actually really concerned about what was beginning to look like the diminished role of the inker in comics - would there still be a place for inkers in the industry if publishers and audiences agreed that colored pencils were the way of the future? In time, though, we've seen this sort of illustrative work fall by the wayside a little, and I think it's simply because it's been explored pretty thoroughly by a wide range of creators at this point, and some the luster has understandably worn off.
The history of comics is filled with this sort of artistic experimentation, from the old school approach of of hand-cutting rubylith to print faded colors on newsprint, to the painted blueline and multimedia books of the 1980s, to the computer-generated colors of the '90s and beyond. Like every art form, comics is constantly evolving, and I think it's generally a good thing to add another tool to the kit as long as it's used sensibly.
JM: What style of coloring do you prefer - traditional or computer mediated?
PL: I honestly don't think I have it in me to create a page of traditionally colored comic art that is of a publishable standard. I'm kind of ashamed to say it, but I came of age in the digital era, and that's more or less how I learned the trade, apart from a few middling attempts at painting with gouache in college (laughs). JM: Are hand-colored comics a thing of the past?
PL: It's looking more and more like hand-colored comics have gone the way of the dinosaur, for sure. I think it's a shame, given that there are so many artists out there who are so adept with watercolors and dyes, but most of the top flight colorists working today are able to mimic traditional media with such accuracy and skill that a layman wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
But I think the rise of technology has largely been a great boon to comics - I don't think I'll ruffle any feathers if I say that the average computer colorist in 2010 knocks the socks off most of the guys who were doing this 15 years ago. The software is becoming cheaper, more diversified (although Photoshop is still the industry standard, as well as the only program I use) and easier to run, the styles more entrenched, and the work itself more sophisticated as a result. There are a lot of advantages to working digitally, from being able to make corrections easily and quickly to receiving, coloring and sending files to publishers without even having to leave your chair!
I recently got a message promoting the upcoming miniseries "War of the Independents" (a play on words, I get it!), which is a big crossover event featuring lots of independent creations. If you look at the image above you'll see some fairly big names on the independent circuit: Savage Dragon, Zot!, Hack/Slash, Kade...oh, and hey! Ms. Monster in the top right. I'm not quite sure how this all came together (or how many permissions the people working on this had to get), but it seems like a pretty cool idea.
The message included a link to the website Kickstarter, which allows people to raise money for various causes - in this case, the creators are looking for funding to create the project and are asking the Internet comic community at large. I'm not sure how I feel about something like this. I mean, if someone wants to ask for money for a project, then he or she is more than welcome, and if someone is willing to drop a few dollars in the cyber hat, then all the better. But I don't think it's something I'd ever do with Teddy and the Yeti. Maybe I just want to keep the creation process as simple as I can, or maybe I just want to focus on putting the book out and not asking for donations.
In any case, there's a tiered structure that awards several "prizes" based on how much one donates. Donations start at $5.00 and go all the way to $350, which gets you a bunch of things including the miniseries, a page or original art from the series and - oh yeah - a cameo appearance by characters of the donor's creation. It's a unique concept. I'd be happy - naturally - to get Teddy and the Yeti in this book (hell, almost any book), but it's not something I want to spend $350 on. For that price I could get a top-rate cover for the book or a bunch of other production work. Now, if I could talk the people putting this together down to, say, $100 for just the cameo, well, that might be a bit different. Ah hem.
"War of the Independents" debuts at the New York Comic-Con in October. The Kickstarter donation page is here.
Here's a preview of some new cover artwork I just received in the mail from none other than the illustrious Joe Sinnott, longtime inker of the Fantastic Four and all around great guy. I met Joe at this year's Pittsburgh Comicon and I've gotta say - what a thrill it was to meet such an industry legend. As you can tell, Joe's still a top-notch artist.
If I had to guess, I'd say that Joe used Phil Hester's cover to the first issue of Teddy and the Yeti as inspiration for this piece - he even drew in the faux ears that you can see on that cover if you look hard enough. It'd be enough just to have this artwork done and in my possession, but I can't pass up the chance to use it in the book in some capacity as well. The plan is to print it right away - I think I'll use this as a special "sketch" cover to issue #4 (in addition to Pat Olliffe's regular cover), due out whenever it feels like going to the printer.
Of course, that means that I might just have to get a sketch of Ted to use as a special cover to issue #5. Oh, the life of a comic book publisher. Such decadence.
My good friend Mario Wytch just sent me a link to his all-new webcomic, Coolsville. Coolsville is about a world where being a superhero is a 9-5 job, complete with all of the office drama contained therein. Coolsville is also about a world where dogs can talk, apparently, as you can read in the above installment just released today!
The site updates twice a week, so I look forward to reading about the adventures of Devon Cole (didn't he play for the Pirates back in the day and also wear goggles? Oh wait, a quick trip to MLB.com reveals that that was Alex Cole, member of the 1992 NL East champions who then got taken by the Colorado Rockies in the expansion draft, if memory serves) and I hope you check it out, too. Heck, I may try and convince Mario to let me write a few strips every now and then.
Check out the series synopsis here, and read the comics here! And be sure to check out the fan page on Facebook, too.
Hack/Slash: My First Maniac (I almost typed "My Pet Monster"), the first issue published under the Image Comics banner, comes out in stores today. This issue features three covers: two standard editions and one exclusive edition from New Dimension Comics. As I've mentioned before, the exclusive includes tiny pictures of Teddy and the Yeti scattered about (look closely, they're there). And really, isn't that enough reason to run (RUN!) out to your local New Dimension Comics and buy a copy today? If not, oh, look! You can buy it online here!
It's like having my characters appear in an Image book without having to do ANY of the work to get my ideas approved by Image. Because...that's what happened, I guess. Hooray!
I wrote a few vague posts recently regarding the short story "Yalta!" that I put together with super artist Leonardo Pietro. I didn't want to give too much away because I wasn't sure if the book I was submitting it to would accept it or not, but I recently got word from none other than Jeff McComsey (of American Terror fame) that this story (with the alternate title "F. D. Arrrgh") will indeed appear in the anthology FUBAR, set to be released this fall.
Jeff posted the page on the book's blog, so I feel comfortable loading it here, as well. Check it out and let me know what you think - and when the book does come out, pick up a copy or two. I mean, it's one thing to read the story on a computer screen, and it's another to actually hold the book in your hands, turn the pages and read it, right? Of course it is.
FUBAR is a collection of stories with the cohesive themes of the Second World War and zombies, and I'm pretty sure that most will not be comedic in nature. Humor just seems to work well in small doses, at least for me, and there's not much I could do to make this story shorter than one page.
Jeff announced this page's inclusion on his blog, where he also wrote a quick blurb about the story. Check it out here, and keep an eye out for the book in just a few short months! I'll be sure to announce a date when I hear one. I'm psyched to have this story published among those of the other talented contributors that are working on this book...it should be lots of fun.
It's not that knock offs of any sort are anything unusual or unheard of; when you're trying to make a quick buck, it's easier to just repurpose someone else's idea than to come up with one of your own. Because of this, I wasn't all that surprised to see what looked like an overgrown jungle gym at the local fair this past weekend covered with images of super heroes. What surprised me, though, was the selection. Let's take a look, shall we?
First off, we have an oddly-colored Spider-Man, and if that one guy would move, a claw-wielding Wolverine, who apparently has busted through a brick wall. Those are your standard heroes for montages such as these; Spider-Man and Wolverine are on all kinds of rip off stuff. Spawn, though, is an odd choice, one that leads me to believe that this wall was painted around 1995, back when Spawn was AWESOME! and the Pirates were just a few years away from their three NL East division titles in a row.
The heroes on the right give the impression that the airbrush artist knows a little more about comics than the average person, or perhaps he/she turned on a cartoon marathon one day that included the Justice League show with the John Stewart version of Green Lantern. The Human Torch completes the flying duo, and is another odd choice. No Superman? No Iron Man? No Wonder Woman? Any of those would seem to have a bigger recognition factor. Heck, what about the Thing? He's a much better choice if you're going to pick out a character from the Fantastic Four...though perhaps I'm biased. And really...what kid out there doesn't love a hero who can set himself on fire? That's not a terrifying thought or anything.
Lastly, we have...this guy. Looks like a mix between Superman, Batman, the Flash, and...I don't know, Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe. Seriously, who the heck is this guy, and why did the artist of this compilation decide to toss in an original character with so many other copyrighted ones? Maybe the artist thought that he/she could create an iconic image on par with other Marvel and DC superheroes...or maybe this character does actually exist, and I've just never seen it before. But probably not.
The past week of my life has been spent preparing to move from Wilmington, NC back to the Pittsburgh area for the summer. Moving is a stressful event for anyone, but I find myself in a situation that makes it even more interesting: I really don't know where I'll be when the fall rolls around (hey, maybe I'll be dead or something), so I'm stuck in that place in-between moves. Most of my ever-growing stuff is packed away (floor to ceiling) in storage for a few months, but I had to decide what I'd need to take with me and use for three months as I stay with family for that time.
I knew this was coming, so I planned ahead and brought stuff back home the last few times I visited; all of my Thing statues came with me on one trip (and almost all fell on my dog as I made a sharp turn), my Rusty painting came up on another, etc., but the final trip is always the most contentious - it's when decisions on what stays and what goes have to be made. Needless to say, I've accumulated quite a stack of comics since arriving in Wilmington, and even though I was diligent in transporting them back home after I had read them, I still had a couple of tall stacks in my room when it came time for the final packing.
It was never a question of leaving my comics in storage; I have the unfounded image in my head of wild animals breaking the door to my storage locker down and tearing my comics to pieces and leaving the more mundane items - coats, furniture, flower pots - just as they found them. But as I packed the car to make the 600-mile journey to Pennsylvania, I realized that there was no way I was going to fit in everything I had wanted to take. I suppose it wouldn't have been 100 percent impossible, but I'd imagine the bottom of the car would have been shooting sparks and my reliable Toyota Camry would have averaged about six miles to the gallon along the away. Oh, and I'd have had to steer from the roof.
As I made a mental inventory of all that was in the car and realized that some hard decisions had to be made, I realized that my boxes (and boxes...) of comics weren't as important as things like clothes. Or my dog. So I sucked it up, taped the boxes shut, and took them to the post office.
Media mail is a great thing - it allows you to mail things like books, DVDs and CDs for cheap; I ended up mailing three boxes, the heaviest of which was 27 pounds, and the cost for it came to about 13 bucks. I am, however, terrified that they will get lost or shredded in some...I don't know, shredding machine or something. Even though I could look at a picture of any comic ever and tell you if I own it, I have absolutely no idea what books were in the boxes I shipped. So if one gets lost, I'm going to have a heck of a time replacing those books.
I bought insurance and tracking for each box, but I'm still fretting the disaster that will hopefully never come. The boxes and their tracking information are each listed on the United States Postal Service's website, and you can follow along with me (hours of fun!) and see their progress by going here and entering in the following numbers:
The first sketches have arrived for the one-page extravaganza that is "Yalta", and boy! Do they look great. Artist Leonardo Pietro is putting in some fine work, I'm sure you'll agree. More to come on this story in a bit - we'll see where it lands. In the meantime, who doesn't like undead Lincoln? Besides those he feeds on, of course.