Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A couple of months ago I mentioned that I had taken a short(ish) break from Project Waldo to draw a pinup for a real live comic. Well, an official announcement has been made, so I can finally talk about it. My first entry into the world of grown-up comics is this drawing for the upcoming Viking trade paperback from Image Comics (click to enlarge):

Written by Ivan Brandon and illustrated by Nic Klein, Viking has earned some justifiable critical praise over the past year, mainly on the strength of Ivan's hard-boiled characters and Nic's gorgeous painterly style. I especially enjoyed the mini-romance that unfolds between Egil (a bloody-minded Viking version of the Tasmanian Devil) and a stray kitten that shows up after one of Egil's many gruesome head-splitting sessions. For my pinup, I tried to show how a kitten might express its affection for a Viking in terms the recipient would comprehend.

It's hard to fully express how grateful I am to both Ivan and Nic for letting me participate in this enterprise. Hopefully I'll get more chances to work with them both down the road.

Project Waldo proceeds apace, with pages 9, 10, and 11 drawn and page 12 in progress. I can't show any of it here, which sucks because I'm fairly happy with how they're turning out so far. I really only have one more Project Waldo image to post here (the color version of page 8), so I'm going to have to figure out some other stuff to post until the first issue comes out. I may double back and show some development sketches for the first 8 pages... if there's anything else you'd like me to talk about here, I'm open to suggestions.

A few people have asked where things stand with publishers. I'd probably be stricken by lightning if I got into specifics, but I can say that the project has attracted persistent interest from several high-profile companies. I think it's likely that Project Waldo will be published by an established company, though I haven't rushed to sign anything. I'm happy to self-fund the comic for as long as I can, especially as the lack of hard deadlines allows me to learn through semi-directed experimentation (and to try out techniques suggested by commenters on this blog). I'll be running out of cash soon enough, however, and when the music stops I'll have to rush to find an open chair. We'll see how that goes.

Finally, if you haven't seen Avatar in 3D yet, stop reading this and get thee to a theater. Regardless of what you think of the story, this movie marks the firing of a starting pistol, and the race is on. The bang has no doubt been heard by everyone who ever wanted to make their imaginary worlds tangible. I left the theater with a strong desire to be among the first to find out exactly how much else could be done with Mister Cameron's new paint box.

I wonder what Moebius thinks of the film. It's hard to deny that Avatar bears a distinct resemblance to Arzach. Probably just coincidence, right? I hope not. I think we should all be ripping off Moebius as much as possible.


  1. Nate, the pin up is awesome.

    Avatar was gorgeous and a few shots had me thinking of Arzack but a ton of other things aswell. I never saw Titanic :D but I have to say Cameron is doing something special. Apparently a sequel to Avatar is under way.

    Good luck with the project and publishers, the work looks awesome. Take care!

  2. I can't stop staring at these mussels. The details are exquisite, as usual, but of course setting up the scene as a double pile-up of casualties is just wonderful. What a way to inject humor and soften the harshness of the Viking violence, without hiding it. I'm also fascinated by the color palette – you pretty much have the full rainbow in there but it doesn't strike the eye as such. It's an annoying question, but how do you choose your colors?

    Congratulations on getting attention from big publishers! I don't think any of us is surprised :)

  3. I love how cartoony you drew the main guy, bit of a departure from the more realistic way you've been approaching people in your pages. And forget the mussels, the guy with the sword in his ass kind of draws the eye...

  4. Joumana is totally right, your use of the color spectrum on that reef is awesome! Great concept with the cat and viking sharing a silent moment.

    As to your own work, its awesome that you got a big publisher... AND that you got through pages 9-12 (almost). I dont know about everyone else, but without any post updates I was wondering how long you were going to take to get through #9 (factoring in holidays). Whats your average page time for drawing them now?

    On a separate note, as Ive said before, I'd love to hear about HOW you did the writing for it. Did you just start with issue one and go? Did you develop an intricate backstory about the charaters first? Did you have an idea of the environment (flora/fauna) and then build the story ideas around that? Do you even work on dialog early on or just concepts and then work out the dialog details later? Inquiring minds want to know!

    BTW can't wait to drop my $$ to pick up issue 1 of project waldo.

  5. Looks awesome! Glad to hear Project Waldo is getting interest from some publishesrs - it deserves it!

  6. Hi Nate, great to read more news about Project Waldo, best of lucks with the book. And the Viking pinup is great!

  7. Once again, amazing color and detail. Nice use of humor too. Knowing the character makes it extra funny.

    So glad to hear the (potentially) great news about publishing. You deserve good publishing, can't wait for more details on it!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  8. How exciting about the publishers! But I'm sad at the same time. I was hoping you would keep posting pages inspiring a new wave of graphic novel artists online. All good things must come to an end I suppose and I look forward to getting your book when it's in print so I can finally see where the story is going. I hope that you can make this into your full time gig now and get some good money from it too. I know I'd pay to see more of your work!

    Your pinup is amazing as well. I'm glad you could finally share it! Please post again soon!

  9. It looks like Brock Samson's viking son is surprised he killed some people after being bullied all his life and finally unleashing his inner Samson power.

    Also, Avatar was a fun movie. If it wins the best picture oscar on GRAPHIX! alone, it will further decred the oscars as an award.

  10. I friggin LOVE your stuff dude. I think you may be becoming my favourite comic book artist

  11. JP - Thanks, man. I'm definitely looking forward to Avatar 2, though I somehow doubt it'll be as revelatory as the first. Then again, who knows? Cameron seems to have the magic touch. By the way, have you added some new stuff to your portfolio? I don't remember seeing those mech thingies on the top row, and they are so rad that it's hard to imagine I overlooked them last time. Anyway, they are indeed rad. Keep the awesome coming!

    Joumana - You can't stop staring at my mussels? If I were a worse speller, I'd totally be flattered by that statement. Thanks for the kind words, though. As for choosing color -- it's sort of been like learning new chords on a guitar. I really don't know anything about color, but I get such a nice blast of happiness when they accidentally work together that I'm willing to devote huge stretches of time to trying every possible combination. And I like trying lots of overlays with different blend modes -- sometimes, that's like hitting the "random" button on the color machine. Every once in a while, it'll throw you a combination that you wouldn't have thought of, yourself. So I guess in the end it's not so much about inventing color as it's about learning how to recognize what works when you stumble across it. By the way, I just spent some time looking at part 3 of Malaak, and I gotta say I'm stunned by how far you've come. Your stuff is a great encouragement in itself -- living proof that sticking with something can have big rewards. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Stephen - I know I already said this over on your blog, but I can already tell from the first page of "Near Death" that your comic's gonna kill. What a great start. Thanks for saying nice things about the pinup, by the way. I did enjoy working in a slightly cartoonier style. A lot of people have said the guy looks like Brock Samson, which I had to Google (and yep, he sure does). It's fun to draw big chins! As for swords in butts -- you know, I worked that gag in there as a throwaway thing, but it seems to be a real lightning rod for comments. The next time I make a drawing I'm not happy with, I'll just add a guy with a sword in his ass to distract from the badness.

    capt_parsons - Thanks, man. Good to see you around here again. On page speed -- I'm still slow. It really depends on the complexity of the page - it took about three and a half days to get the linework done for page 12, but that was for just six panels. Page 11 has eleven panels, and took close to a week. So there's still plenty of learning to do! As for writing the story -- on my last attempted project (Gordon and the Stareater) I spent years coming up with a richly-detailed world and backstory, only to discover much later that I had neither characters nor plot. I feel like I see this mistake being made a lot among artists -- we're so visual that we sometimes forget the importance of that other stuff. So with Waldo I intentionally worked quickly and I worked from front to back - characters first, story arc second, then let individual scenes grow from that. I started with a step outline, which is something screenwriters often use -- just a few pages blocking out the major events of the story, and then I jumped into scripting page one. The dialogue for the first issue was completely scripted in advance, but it's amazing how drastically it changes once the drawing is down. It's hard to sense what works and what doesn't work until you see the stuff actually coming out of the characters' mouths. In fact, you'll see big changes in dialogue even between what's posted here on the blog and what ends up in the final version. My big goal for the month is to learn how to write characters who aren't snarky. I have this habit of making everybody zing each other with stupid one-liners, and it feels pretty juvenile. I should probably work on that tendency in my real life, too! Thanks for the comment, captain!

  13. I need to get to work now -- I'll answer the other comments in a bit. Back in a jiffy!

  14. As everyone's said, gorgeous colours, no matter their accidental arrangement.

    The ghastly humour is great fun too.

    Aubrey-Maturin is definitely where O'Brian shines his brightest, too. Thanks muchly.

  15. naaaatteeee,

    That pin up is amazing.

    Your love of Avatar might actually get me to go see it. Maybe it'll still be playing when I'm in your town next and I can get it with your comentary.

    I feel like Moebius is one of those dudes that had some influence on just about anyone who was paying attention.


  16. Brent - Thanks! It is nice to have options, I must admit! Keep up the nice work on your 3D models. I especially like the castle gate you're working on.

    Diantres - Thanks, Rodrigo! I am a big fan of Abraham Superlincoln, so your kind words are much appreciated. I've been trying to put my finger on who you remind me of, and I think I've got it -- have you heard of Guy Davis, the guy who illustrates BPRD? I really love the looseness of his style, and I see many of the same great attributes in your work (though your color is especially good, and your paintings are more expressive). Great stuff, man.

  17. bykamon - Thanks, man. I take it you read Viking and liked it? I'm glad that you think the pinup seems to mesh with the book -- I was a little concerned about the divergence of styles (but there was just no way I could compete with Nic on his turf, so I went as cartoony as I could). Anyway, when are you going to post some new stuff to your blog? What gives?

    Jason - I'll keep posting online, I promise! If only because I like the attention. I may not only post a couple of other random pages from issue one -- if things shape up right, I'll do the beginning of issue two the exact same way. By the way, I stuck you in my blog roll -- I hope that's okay. The more people see your stuff, the better! And if there's ever a t-shirt with Victuals on it, I'm buying it.

  18. nate, your love of viking (and this pinup) may actually get me to read this book. as always, your art is superfriggin stunning. and your colors make me wanna just throw my copics away and cry some more.

    not that you need more distraction, but where's the part where you follow your flattening tutorial with a color tutorial? and then turn that tutorial into a book? because your colors are literally some of the most amazing in any format.

  19. oh beauuuuuuutiful man! And for one of my favourite books too!

    Still not seen Avatar...may end up not...just ot be the odd one out on purpose.

    I mean, I've never read Watchmen. I like telling people that.

  20. Here I am, just itching to see it, but bowled under too much work to get out of the house, even for groceries, and Ben fricking Templesmith has to go and not see it, just to be that extra edgy little bit more awesome.


  21. I wish I was edgy enough to have not seen and read things.

  22. Michael - You're the guy who got me to look up Brock Samson online. And whadda ya know, he totally looks like my version of Egil. So I suppose I should shove my sofa up against the front door and wait for the army of lawyers with my shotgun in hand? But dude, you still haven't posted anything new on your blog! I challenge you to put up something new by this time next week... by next Sunday, there's gotta be a character design for your new graphic novel. No more loafing -- this is it! We're gonna do this thing! Up and at 'em!

    Dominic - Thanks, man. I've been meaning to leave a comment about how great Bad Beat City is -- I don't get how you can turn in something like that and still do all those professional illustrations at the same time. Being a pro artist seems to be all about nailing down a killer work pipeline. I hope you get paid in wheelbarrows full of Benjamins.

    PanicAttak - Wow, that's a nice thing to say. I'm not sure I've ever been anybody's favorite anything before. Well, I do like to think that my intestinal flora like my guts better than anyone else's, but who knows -- I've never given them a chance to move out. Anyway, thanks very much for the compliment, Darren. Your website's got some very nice graphic design work, but I can't find any examples of your illustration -- do you have any links to any of it? I'm always especially impressed by people who manage to keep making stuff while having a full-time job and a family. They do exist, and they're the hardest of the hard-core.

  23. Eagle (I'm taking the posts in order, so I'll get to your later drollery in a bit) - Thanks, dude. I'm glad you're digging O'Brian. He's awesome, right? The problem is that he'll get you hooked on historical fiction, but you'll never find anybody else anywhere near as good.

    Brandon - I've already seen it twice, but I'd see it again with you just to hear what you think of it. It's been so long since somebody made a new big sci-fi movie out of whole cloth -- it's so novel for something not to be either a sequel or based on a comic or a toy line. I mean, you gotta go way back -- I guess Children of Men counts, and before that the Matrix? I hope this starts a trend.

    Ben - Thanks! I think you'll like Viking, especially if you like lots and lots and lots and lots of violence. Just about any activity, no matter how mundane, leads to mayhem. I'd love to do a post about coloring, but I'm not sure how to present it... I suppose I could post individual shots of the layers being added? I think there were like 200 on the Viking drawing. Maybe an animated .gif is the way to go... By the way, where can I see your art? I don't even know what a copic is, so there's a new thing for me to Google.

  24. Templesmith - Thanks, Ben! Congratulations on Choker, by the way! And all the other super-huge stuff that's been happening to you (including not becoming the gooey center of a Mini-sandwich). I sort of relish the thought of you at a con, surrounded by fans, and saying you've never read Watchmen. You can probably actually HEAR all the forehead veins throbbing. Woh-woh. Woh-woh. It's hard to find a word that means sound-of-vein-throbbing. I wasn't smart enough to get tickets to San Diego before they sold out, but I still think I'll come down and try to wheedle my way in somehow. I look forward to seeing you there.

    Eagle - One suspects Ben might have not seen it for reasons similar to yours. Which means you can go ahead and take credit for being edgy, too! Because in both your cases, "edgy" seems to mean "swamped by a tsunami of work."

    Stephen - I guess we'll have to win our edgy points some other way. I'm going to undercook my toast a little bit this morning. That's about as far as I'm willing to go.

  25. I better get busy designing a T-shirt then! You just got to promise me to get out of the house once and a while when you wear it. It doesn't count sitting in front of your computer.

    I'm glad you'll still be posting pages if you can. It's a real breath of fresh air to see new stuff of this quality online. And thanks for adding me to the blog roll! I'm honored and don't mind the extra exposure at all!

    Saw Avatar but not in 3D. I have my reasons too. My brain can't handle the awesomeness of 3D for more then 15 minutes at a time. But even the 2D version was amazing. I think James needs to buy the movie rights to Avatar!

  26. You're Welcome as always!

    Avatar: I think much like LOTR, it's more profitable if you reuse all that work. As far as being revelatory, there's a lot about that world that could be shown. The idea of a sentient ecosystem is a fascinating can of worms.

    Some have theorized that a biocomputer could be made from a contained ecosystem. Processing for solutions would be slow, but for complex problems the solutions could be potent.

    I did update my site with some work that I did when I was at Mcfarlane. I don't know if it's interesting folks, but thanks. I figured I may as well show it since I am using it to find a new gig, though I don't know who's after that kind of work.

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  28. I do believe Nate, you need a message forum since you have yourself a decent sized following - and its probably easier to track comments and reply to them. As if you didn't have enough work to do already.Hah!

    I did a feature post on your work and Jason's. Checking out some of the comments on here, I'm going to definitely do a followup, seeing as there are other inspired and aspiring graphic novelists among us. Myself included.

    Great pinup - and yeah, I saw the Brock Samson for a millisecond, until I was quickly distracted by that sword in the ass. Great escape plan. I'll have to try that one day.

  29. Jason - You know, I have had issues with 3D in the past, too. But in the case of Avatar, I'd still give it a try. It's just a completely different animal in 3D -- I sort of get depressed when people tell me they've seen it in 2D. It's like you just watched Spirited Away on a nine-inch portable black and white television. Very sad.

    JP - I hope a lot of people are after your kind of work! Good luck finding a new gig. Shouldn't take long.

    Drezz - You're probably right about that forum thing -- though I almost don't have enough time to answer the comments here. I imagine a forum would just about bring Project Waldo to a halt. Thanks for the feature, by the way! Jason and I were both quite excited about it. Much obliged, and good luck with your own comics!