I haven’t done a cover analysis of a comic book cover in a while so I thought I do one again. I have a spot in my studio where I pile up comic books. Usually they’re ones I’ve recently bought. I put new comics in a magazine holder next to my chair, read them, and then move them a few feet away on top of my printer. There they sit for a couple of weeks until I read them a second time and then they get filled away for safekeeping. Also on top of my printer will be one old comic. A comic I pick out of my collection because I like the cover and want it to hang around for a little while so I can look at it. The comic book I just moved there today is “Creatures on the Loose” number twenty four starring Thonogor Warrior of Lost Lemuria. It has a July 1973 cover date. Forty five years old.

When I looked at this cover this morning it looked to me like the inks were by Ernie Chan and the faces were by John Romita. I wasn’t sure if John Romita drew it as, during this period, he sometimes art corrected faces on comics that other people drew and inked. I looked it up on the Grand Comic Book Database (the entry) and sure enough they have John Romita listed as the penciller and Ernie Chan as the inker. They also have a credit for the cover lettering. It was done by Bullpenner Morrie Kuramoto. That’s good to know because lettering plays a big part in this cover.

Let’s look at all the lettering. We get a logo (Thonogor), the comic’s title (Creatures on the Loose), a sub-title (Warrior of Lost Lemuria), a “Featuring”, and two pieces of hand drawn cover copy (Night-dark wings vs blood-red sword and Attack of the Lizard-Hawks). By the way that’s three compound words in two pieces of cover copy. That might be a record.

I almost like the Thonogor logo. It’s kind of cool with its rock-like look but it also looks a little cartoony and unserious for such a serious looking cover. It’s not bad but seems like it should be the logo for a story about a caveman and not a sword and sorcery logo. Thonogor was a book that was trying to take advantage of Conan’s sword and sorcery popularity. I like the way the two pieces of more mechanical type, above and below the logo, frame the more wild letter forms of Thonogor. I think this makes me like the logo better. It grounds it and makes the logo a little more serious than it might be on its own.

I’m a fan of 1970s Bronze Age cover copy. Cover copy, in general, fell out of fashion a long time ago but I still like it. I like titles, I like blurbs, and I like word balloons. This one has no word balloons but has one of each of the others. The one in the circle is the blurb. The cover copy is the part that’s hand lettered by Morrie Kuramoto. It’s just cool. It’s not perfectly mechanical like today’s computer type but it’s neat, precise, and nice looking.

Over all in the color scheme the red logo over the yellow background really pops. The logo almost leaps off the page at us. The neutral gray background on the bottom of the cover also helps to move the central image forward in space. The green of the lizard-hawk is a little bit dense though. It flattens out the composition a bit but I’m not sure what color would be better. The bright yellow that helps the logo stand out so well is working against figure of the lizard-hawk. Sometimes it’s all a compromise and there is no path to perfection.

The drawing itself is a lot of fun. We get a damsel in distress, a very Conan-looking sword wielding hero, a lizard-hawk, and a neat looking background monster. The orange haired woman, despite not having much to do, is in a nice twisting action pose. John Romita made her look interesting. That’s not something every artist can do with such little to work with. Thonogor himself is also in a good pose with legs and arms spread far apart and in action as he swings his mighty sword. The lizard hawk looks a little weird with his pink spikes but overall does a good job at being menacing. And for some reason I especially like the crocodile thing underneath them. My eye keeps being drawn to it.

The main drawback of the cover is that weird metal boat they’re on. Is it flying? Is it floating? Is it falling? I have no idea. I’m not even sure what the exact shape of the boat is. Is it flat across the back and the woman is shoved over to one corner or does it come to a point in the back and she’s ll the way at the stern? I’m not sure. I think it had a flat back but it could be a teardrop shape. This lack of clarity confuses the composition.

The Ernie Chan inks look good to me. His inks can overpower pencillers but I generally like them. He has an illustrative style with a lot of density to it. You can really see the density in the Lizard-hawk and he delineated Thonogor with a lot of weight, but kept the woman light. There levels of figure inking density on one cover. He didn’t do much with that boat though. It may have been a little doomed compositionally to begin with.

Overall I find this one a solid Bronze Age cover. That’s the era of the 1970s when I was a kid and first discovered comics so there is a little bit of nostalgia mixed in it for me too but I’m not a huge nostalgia person. Everything is of it’s time and this cover is too. I’m happy it also happens to be a pretty cool piece from its time.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics.

  • Kaijumax: Season Three – 6 (of 6)
  • Outcast – 33
  • The Beauty – 19
  • Strangers in Paradise: Volume 4 – 1
  • Uber: Invasion – 11
  • Check them all out here:

    Its time again for me to pull an old painting out of storage and give it a look. I have recently been writing about my current work but sometimes I like to look at old stuff and examine it. For this week I’m looking at and eight by ten inch acrylic on canvas painting from April 24, 2008 called “Stay Ahead.” That name has no special meaning to me so I’m guessing it’s one of the ones I randomly chose. I name things that way all the time. I guess it’s not really random but I look a piece and try to make a name out of the first words that come to mind. Sometimes the names are inspired by the piece and sometimes they’re just words that float across to my conscious mind.

    Though the painting is eight by ten inches it also has some depth to it. It’s a pre-stretched canvas that I bought form Dick Blick. Most canvases are made with stretcher bars that are three quarters of an inch thick but this canvas is made with stretcher bars an inch and half thick. I like the extra heft the thick bars give a painting but I haven’t used them in a while. I remember getting those thick canvases for fairly cheap but then the price went up on them. It didn’t make any sense to me to spend twice the price on a small canvas just for a little extra thickness. Plus they take up twice the room on my shelf.

    The first thing I notice about this painting is the color red. Before I can even figure out what the image is I perceive the red. That’s unusual for my work. Normally it’s the image that I grasp first and then the color. Or maybe both at the same time if they’re inseparable. But with this one it’s that red. In looking at it I think that’s because of the shape of the green man’s body. It’s not a shape that says “Human figure.” It’s more like a triangle. The shape also takes up about half of the painting so it’s the dominant form but it’s visually behind everything making the shape sit back in space but it’s red color come forward demanding to be noticed. It’s an odd combination.

    The bright red of the body almost makes a bullseye. A human figure is usually a positive shape but in this case since the yellow arrow is in front and the red body is in back, plus the body is obscured but the stuff in front of it, the yellow arrow becomes the positive shape. It’s what we see as solid object. This makes the red around the arrow, particularly the red to the arrow’s right, become a negative shape. I refer to it as a negative shape as opposed to negative space because it’s not “Empty” space as negative space normally is. The blue behind him is negative space the red between the arrow, the collar, and the green hand is a negative shape.

    The second thing I find odd about this painting is the lack of face. There is only part of a face here. I like faces and like working with them and I cheated myself out of one here. I don’t know why. The color covering his face has a swirl in it, which is one of my favorite shapes, but is still not the most interesting thing in the world. I want him to pull down that collar so I can see what he looks like. Maybe that was the point. Any way I slice it I still want to see more of his face. I find the mystery a little annoying.

    The second most dominant color, and it’s a distant second, is the blue in the background. It’s a tint of blue, which means it is blue mixed with white, and tinted blue almost always works as a background color. You can thank the sky for that because were used the the blue sky being behind things. The blue behaves nicely with the red. It lets the red be the star of the show but still makes its presence known. I like that about that blue. It’s a bit tricky finding the right tint of blue to do this. Often if there is too much white in the blue it sits to far back in space or if the blue has two much violet in it can move forward in space too much. I can’t remember which color blue I mixed this one from but I bet I mixed a lot of it and used it in a few paintings at the time.

    The green adds a bit of mystery to the painting. It’s a dark color. Not quite as dark as the purple but since there is more green than purple the green is the dark color with the most influence. It draws my eye in as I look at the painting. I think it would be too dark without those light green stokes that are along the edges of the black line. The lines help the keep the dark green from receding too much and disappearing from our consciousness.

    The collar and purple scarf confuse me. I’m not sure why they’re there. Neither the shapes nor the colors are particularly pleasing and they’re obscuring the face. Why? I don’t know. It’s also a different fashion than I usually draw. That part just leaves me cold but I’m not sure exactly why.

    The part that makes me smile is the fake writing along the edges of the red. It’s something I don’t notice at first, it just reads as some yellow at a glance, but as my eyes move across the painting and I discover the writing it brings a smile to my face. I have a fascination with history and read about it all the time and I like ancient art and writing. Even if I can’t read the writing I find ti fascinating that it exists. Seeing the yellow pseudo-writing is like discovering and ancient text. So what if I can’t read it.

    So there you go. This one is a mixed bag for me. I like it but there are parts that don’t do it for me. That’s how life is I guess.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • Maestros – 4
  • Southern Bastards – 19
  • Manifest Destiny – 33
  • Dept. H – 22
  • Empowered and Sistah Spooky’s High School Hell – 2 (of 6)
  • Monstress – 13
  • Check them all out here:

    Today I’m going to take a look at one of my large marker drawings named “Obvious Gunner.” It’s 22×30 inches and is sitting on my easel at the moment. It’s from back in September of 2014 and I finished and signed it on the ninth. I’m not sure if I got it all done in one day. I could have but sometimes these big drawings took two days.

    All of my large marker drawings start out as small drawings. It’s the same process that I always use. I find a small thumbnail drawing in my inkbook, blow it up to about 5×7 or 9×12 inches and then I redraw it. I don’t usually draw it much bigger than that for these large drawings because I’m just going for the bare bones. Changing the scale of a drawing can change a lot about that drawing so I keep it simple and then draw more once I’ve got it scaled up.

    I use graphite paper to scale it up. First I scan in my small drawing and then I blow it up and print it out. I don’t have a 22×30 inch printer so print it in pieces on multiple pieces of paper. I tape the different sheets of paper together and then tape that in place on top of my large sheet of paper. After that I slip a piece of graphite paper in between the printout and the drawing paper.

    Graphite paper is a thin sheet of paper with graphite (the “lead” in a lead pencil) applied to the back of it. Put it graphite side down on a clean piece of paper and then put your drawing on top of the graphite paper. Trace on top of your drawing and the pressure of the pencil transfers the graphite onto the clean paper leaving a line drawing. This is a messy process so try and keep things neat. Also the tracing won’t be perfect so you’ll have to redraw after this step but at least a lot of guide lines will be there.

    After the pencil drawing has been transferred to the large paper is where the real drawing begins. Some of it in pencil and some of it in ink. Mostly ink. As you can see in the “Obvious Gunner” drawing there are lots of little details like the spiked edges of the black shape on his head and the stripes in his facial hair. None of these detail were in the small pencil stage. I add then in as I draw in ink.

    I use my Copic or Shin Han markers to make these big drawings. I also use a lot of French curves, a ship’s curve, circle templates, and my Half hatching machine to keep the ink lines neat and precise. I use mostly the chisel tip and fine tip of the markers and not my usual brush point. I work on it standing up with the paper on the easel but when I make all those parallel lines with the Half machine I lay the drawing board down on the couch or floor. It has to be flat to use the hatching machine.

    In looking at “Obvious Gunner” the first thing I notice is how much of the drawing has to do with graphic design. It’s about black and white and the patterns they make. A lot of my drawings have to do with graphic design but the ones in this large drawing series the most so. That’s the part I add to the drawing when it’s big. Most of the black shapes like the clouds and the various boxes are done right in ink at this stage.

    Years ago I had a teacher remark that my paintings could be a little unsettling because it seemed they were looking at the viewer harder than the viewer was looking at the painting. I think that’s been a theme in my work that’s still with me all these years later. This drawing is looking out as us pretty intensely with two sets of eyes. The eyes on his face are dark with glints of white shining through but the eyes on his chest are large, bright, and looking at us even more intensely than the eyes on his face. They also both have some crazy graphic design eyebrows that disappear into the overall design.

    One of the defining features of this drawing is its asymmetrical symmetry. It sure does look perfectly symmetrical at first glance but upon further review the left and right sides are not reflections of each other. This face has different markings on either side, the collar isn’t centered, one shoulder is sloped more than the other, and all the markings on the chest are similar but not the same. None of the circles on the left side of the chest match the ones on the right. I often find symmetry to be bad but balance to be good. I think I achieved a nice balance here.

    The parallel lines are key to the look of this drawing. They give the illusion of grey among the blacks and whites and add a little bit of an Op Art element to the drawing. The Haff hatching machine I use to help make this lines is a ruler attached to an perpendicular metal rod. There is a little lever on the metal rod that I push down and the ruler moves down the metal arm anywhere from an adjustable one to five millimeters. I draw a line against the ruler, hit the lever, draw the next line, hit the lever again, and so on. It’s easy to use but the key is getting just the right distance between the lines.

    The mountains in the background of this piece are made up of tight parallel lines. The white is about the same thickness as the black so it’s hard for the eye to tell which is the background and which is the foreground. This is the Op Art effect. Compare that to the short parallel lines near the top. With these lines the white is dominant so it clearly looks like black lines on a white background. Not as much Op Art here.

    Graphic design, black and white, Op Art, staring eyes, and lots of lines and shapes. These are the hall marks of this and most of my other large marker drawings. I’m going to have to make some more.