The Acid Ram is back this week with the cover to issue number eleven. Since it’s one of my faux comic book covers there is no actual issue but I’ve got a cover. It was one of the half dozen covers I penciled and set up to be inked and colored a couple of weeks ago and the only one of those that was a “The Acid Ram” cover. What is an acid ram you ask? I’m not sure but it’s something very weird. I imagine all sorts of weird stories revolve around it. Maybe it’s some sort of object that people revere. Or maybe it’s a title. A person could be the Acid Ram and that person could be the center of a strange world. It’s a title that makes me contemplate stories. It’s reserved for my most mysterious images. If I’ve got something that’s really out there it’s going to become an Acid Ram cover.

Of the six covers I had set up five of them were “Dreams of Things” covers and the sixth was this “The Acid Ram” one. Over time I inked them all and then they sat around waiting for me to color them with markers. Number eleven was the trickiest one to color because it has the most complex space of all of them. There are three different horizon lines and three different landscapes in one image. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with all that when I started out.

The first thing I colored was the main figure. That’s one of my Mod Man figures that I’ve been drawing for years. He’s both modular and modern as he’s made up of shapes of color. I have no set design for him and I vary the shapes on his body each time I draw him. I also vary the color. Most often I use the three primary colors, as I’ve done here, but if there are more than one Mod Man figures in a drawing I’ll add in some secondary and tertiary colors.

The second thing I decided on was the very bottom bit of water and sun. One of the things my set of markers is missing is a variety of blue greens. I’ve got plenty of blues and plenty of greens but not enough blue greens to really give me satisfying water. I even mixed my own blue green ink and put it in a marker so I could have a base color but one day I’m going to have to track down some more blue greens. I kept the water simple with three different colors and did the same with the sun. I knew I wanted the sun/sky to be totally orange without any blue and ended up laying down three low contrast oranges. You have to look closely to see the three different shades but they still vibrate a little even if they can’t be seen distinctly.

The next color I dropped in was the pink sky behind the Mod Man. This took some pondering. It is the biggest piece of real estate on the cover and I had to get the color right on it. I didn’t want it to be a blue sky, because that would make the piece too normal, so I opted for a hot pink, a light pink, and a really light pink that’s so light that it’s almost white. I use that really light pink a lot because it changes the tone of the paper just a little bit in an almost undetectable way. It’s a subtle change. I also like how the sky acts as the whitest white on the page and moves forward in space more than a background should. It surrounds Mod Man quite well.

With that pink sky done my next move was obvious. I had to color the third sky and make it blue. Plus the land had to be colored and I went with green. Two blues and two greens. A simple and harmonious pairing that grounds the picture in a kind of reality that we know. I find that it’s important in a picture that’s all about weirdness to have a small anchor in reality. Some place for the viewer to relate to and let them enter into the picture. A little bit of fencing and a landscape can help with that.

The hardest part of this coloring process was deciding on the colors of the giant face. It was foreground, middle ground, and background all at once and that gave me a bunch of trouble. The first color I chose was the lighter purple for his nose and eyebrow. Then I brought some bright orange into the picture up top in the hair. That lead me to add more of the purple on the jawline and in the hair. I didn’t want the orange too dominant so I needed more of the purple. That made the dark purple of the chin/ground an easy call because I needed something heavy and dense there and it couldn’t be more orange with the sun right below it. One choice leads to another.

I went with a greyish blue for the left side of the face because I needed a neutral there. I had to settle down that part of the picture so that the pink sky could come forward a bit. The orange marks under the eye add a little exclamation point to the face. The last choice in the face color was the eye. I went with bright green to make it stand out. With neutrals surrounding it the green looked extra bright so I dulled it down slightly with lines of darker green so it wouldn’t fight too much with the pink. The pink has to be the master.

The very last color choice in this piece was the building behind the Mod Man. I had no idea what color to make them. I didn’t want them too bright but I also didn’t want them to be a neutral and blend in with the blue/grey of the face. I eventually settled on a light yellow. That’s a color that normally moves forward in space as it’s so bright but I dulled it down with some light purples and oranges. It ended up more of a gold color than a yellow and it stays in its place well.

So there is a color walkthrough for you. A little bit of my thought process to chew on.

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

  • Kill or be Killed – 11
  • Divided States of Hysteria – 3
  • Manifest Destiny – 30
  • Shadows of the Grave – 7 of 8
  • The Wicked + The Divine – 30
  • Check them all out here:

    My art tends to be odd. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what is popular and can’t tap into the zeitgeist of whatever is happening at the moment. That makes people look at my stuff sideways. I’m no good at plugging into the power of pop culture either. Whenever I try to make something with pop culture in mind it ends up somewhere in the realm of mediocre. I don’t know why. I’m a little envious of people who can do that because it means that more people will look at their work. Make a mash-up piece of Star Wars and My Little Pony and you will get a lot of eyes on your drawing. Even if someone uses a pop culture piece as a lure to look at their real work that’s still a good thing. They came for the thing that they know and maybe some stay to look at what else you’ve got. That how careers can be born.

    I mention this because sometimes I make something that even I find really odd. But I like that. My art is all about trying to find images that have not been seen before. The whole development of my spontaneous ink drawing technique came about because I wanted to find a way to mine my brain for images. Now I have seventeen years worth of small ink drawing to look through to help me. That’s about 10,000 little drawings.

    So what I did this week was that I pencilled some stuff and prepped it to be made into one of my “Dreams of Things” faux comic book covers. I made three six by nine inch drawings and then scanned them in, put them in my “Dreams of Things” template, and printed them out on eleven by seventeen inch paper to be inked whenever I got the chance. That’s how I’ve been working on that series lately. I draw a few of them, ink a few of them, and then color a few of them. I can work on whatever stage of them that strikes me.

    Today I could not get much done. I tried. I puttered around with starts and stops on various projects but nothing interested me. I hate being in that state. It’s a limbo of wasted time. It’s not even wasted time where I’m enjoying myself. I finally stopped trying to figure out what I wanted to do and pulled out a cover to ink. That can pull me out of a funk.

    Of course most of my “Dreams of Things” drawings have a dream-like quality to them. It’s in the name after all. They’re filled with odd creatures, strange landscapes, and people who don’t look like they’re living the same life that the rest of us are. That is the point of them. But sometimes I draw something and then when I get to the inking stage it makes me stop and have to figure out exactly what it was that I drew. This was one of them.

    I think I made some sense of it. It’s only in black and white at the moment but hopefully it will make even more sense when I eventually color it. Looking at it now it’s hard to even recreate the confusion I had when first looking at it. It just seems weird but not nonsensical.

    I leave a lot of room for myself to draw in ink when I’m penciling one of these covers. I use a lot of pattern and texture in my “Dreams of Things” drawings but I don’t draw them in. I know I can do that stuff in the ink stage and it’s better to work it out there. Sometimes I have to break out the pencil again for a brief time but that’s okay. When I first looked at this one I though I left myself a bit too much room. I mean what was it that I was drawing? I left myself a lot of thinking to do in the inking.

    The first thing to notice is the face. That’s easy to see. But what was the face on? A box headed thing? It has no arms or legs showing. It has a weird long neck so what is it? I still have no answer to that but at least I made it into something. I kept the box head because I figure that must be what it’s about but added the multiple lines for the cheek bones. That made the face a little more interesting to me and less flat.

    Usually I’m a fan of flat but this piece was way too flat. I couldn’t tell the foreground from the background. At first I worked on the foreground. The figure. I worked out the line thicknesses of all the various shapes involved in making the figure and that was not enough. I knew I would need some textures. I put some hatching lines in the neck first. They round the neck just enough to not be flat but no so much that is would like like a illustrative cylinder. I went with the line texture in the stripes after that and it almost worked for me. The last thing I did was to blacken in the triangles on the left side of the “Zipper.” That brought the figure together for me but the background was still way to flat and involved with the main figure.

    I knocked out the four circles first. I knew they had to be objects rather than just circular designs so I gave them a striped texture. They were easy but then what was I to do with those diagonal lines emanating from his head? Those checkered squares, which were my solution, weren’t even there yet. I had to get to them and what lead me there was the desire to add little dimension to the background. I put those textures squares in and drew them in one point perspective. This helped separate the figure from the background. After that it was pretty easy as I kept the rest of the background flat and looking like a frame. The last little touch was the black mountains. A little hint of a landscape.

    I think it came out well. It’s only in black and white so far but it makes visual sense to me now. But what is it? That’s the question I have no answer for. I stare at it a bit and wonder what the heck that thing is supposed to be. Even I don’t know.

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

  • Hillbilly – 7
  • Injection – 14
  • Love and Rockets Volume 4 – 3
  • Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses – 26
  • The Walking Dead – 170
  • East of West – 34
  • Check them all out here:

    I posted a video last week looking at a friend’s copy of “Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Artist Edition.” It’s an excellent book. The idea behind the “Artist Edition” books is to give us fans a publication that duplicates looking at comic book original art that we will probably never see in real life. The original art is drawn in black and white and when printed in a comic book only the black line prints. But in reality there are all sorts of things on the original art that don’t show up in the final comic. There are non-photostat blue guide lines that are on the page, hand written notes outside the panel borders, correction notes, and occasional white-outs and art patches. So in these Artist Editions they take a full color scan of the original art and print from those scans so we can see all of the stuff that drops out in a finished comic. It’s also printed at the same size as the original art. This book is 11×17 inches. That’s pretty big.

    I haven’t read any Jack Kirby and Stan Lee Fantastic Four in a long time. As a kid in the late 1970s it was not a comic that was a favorite of mine. It was ten to fifteen years old at the time (I read it in reprints) and the Stan Lee writing was too old fashioned for me. I liked the Jack Kirby art but there was plenty of other Kirby stuff at the time that I liked better. In general I prefer Jack Kirby’s 1970s work that he wrote himself to his 1960s work that Stan Lee wrote with him. So this was not only the first time I had seen this work in a long time but also the first time I had seen it in original art form.

    Though the book is named for Jack Kirby, who is the plotter and penciller of the book, it’s really the work of four people. Jack Kirby, Stan Lee – who wrote the dialogue, Joe Rosen or Artie Simek – who did the lettering (depending on the issue), and Joe Sinnott – who did the inking and embellishing. For those who don’t know inking is a step that was necessary in order to print a comic book. First a drawing would be made in pencil and then it wold be redrawn in ink over top of the pencil. This was done because an ink line reproduced better than a pencil line. Usually in Marvel and DC comics the penciller and inker were two different people. In this book Joe Sinnott is credited as the embellisher rather than inker. That means that he did more work than a normal inker. The pencils may have been a little incomplete and Sinnott did some of the drawing work on them that a penciller might usually do.

    The book is filled with beautiful drawing. Jack Kirby was a master and that shines through on every page. Some highlights for me are the crazy designs that go along with the villains Annihilus and Maximus. Annihilus is this crazy armored bug-like person who comes from a place called the Negative Zone and he has all sorts of fun Kirby machines around him. Maximus is wearing an incredibly designed complex suit of royal clothes/armor that’s so amazing it has to be abandoned after a few pages. There is no way he could be drawn in that outfit indefinitely because that would take too much time but it was glorious while it lasted. Kirby’s large panel drawings and splash pages really have a lot of power when seen at their full size.

    Jack Kirby also wrote notes in pencil on all the pages. At this time Kirby was plotting the book himself, writing story notes in the margins, and then sending the pencilled pages to Stan Lee for Stan to dialogue. Most of the pages have had their edges trimmed during the printing process and some of the notes have been cut off but others can be read all these years later. It must have been fun to be Stan Lee and get these pages in and lay them all out in front of you to absorb the story and then start writing the finished words. He was the first one to get to the Kirby wonders on the page.

    Joe Sinnott’s inks are amazing too. His skill shines through. Since the inks are the finished product it’s actually Sinnott’s line we are looking at on the pages. He’s using a brush and pen to make these finished drawings and he’s well known for his polished finishes. Everything is clear, precise, and as it should be. He is especially good at technique. There are certain ways that an inker does things like hair, folds in clothing, clouds, motion lines, and countless other items that Sinnott has down pat. Nothing seems wrong or out of place. Sinnott was also making the faces of some of the characters prettier. That was part of his embellishing role. Some people thought Kirby’s faces could be a little ugly so Sinnott made them pretty as needed. In going though the book I could sometimes say “Sinnott Face” or “Kirby Face.” The finished pages are flawless in a way that most comic pages aren’t.

    The final thing to mention on the pages is the lettering. Lettering usually isn’t noticed much when reading a comic because we’re too busy reading the words but in an Artist Edition a person can really look at the lettering and appreciate it. It’s so well crafted. Almost all lettering done in modern comics is digital and there are certainly a lot of good letterers around today but to see masterful lettering on the page is amazing. The ballon shapes are all individually drawn to suit the panel they are in making for a tight and intricate design. The letters themselves with their bolds and varying sizes depended on what was written look beautiful. This is some of the best lettering in the business and unlike a lot of today’s digital lettering it is inseparable from the art. That’s interesting to see.
    Meanwhile here is the video.