Thursday, June 30, 2011

Home Archaeology for Fun and Profit

While helping my mom move to a new place last week, I discovered a portfolio full of old drawings. Most of it was pretty iffy stuff, but I did find this unfinished Captain America sample (please excuse the smudginess and crappy scan quality):

The year was 1995. I'd just driven back to school in Chicago after having my portfolio shot down by the Marvel editors at San Diego Comic Con (that story is told here). As soon as I got my drawing table set up, I funneled all of my embarrassment and anger into this new page. I wish I could find the sample I'd shown at the con, because it would make a nice contrast -- this version is sort of a watershed moment in my development as a draftsman.

It's definitely got some problems (Cap's musculature is... creative), but it was a giant leap forward in quality from what had come before. For the first time, I told myself to forget about speed and to just work on a drawing until it felt right. Until that point, I'd prided myself on my speed (you can stop laughing now), but the San Diego Smackdown forced me to reconsider my priorities. The front of that chopper is probably the noodliest thing I've ever drawn. I kind of like some of the hatching, too -- after Nonplayer is done, I think I may want to try moving away from the clean line stuff and back toward something a little more hatchy.

Other stuff I like about this page:
  • On the leading edge of the canopy in panel one, the seam is serrated to reduce radar signature. This despite the insanely-reflective gun assembly only inches away. I'm not sure if this was a joke or if I was too in the zone to think about the design rationally.
  • I'm pretty sure this is the first time I thought of attaching a motorcycle-style radiator to a piece of equipment (aft of the gun mount). I still use this trick (see penultimate page of Nonplayer #1).
  • Cap's boot in the last panel. Feet are always challenging for me, so I get really excited when one comes out right.
Some current events: 

I'm working very hard on issue 2, and progress is being made. I'm still not close enough to make a confident estimate about a release date, but I feel pretty good about how it's coming along.

Also, I got nominated for a Russ Manning award! The other nominees are amazing, and I expect that my Eisner journey begins and ends with this nomination. That said, I haven't been back to SDCC since the 1995 portfolio debacle. I can't imagine a better way to reconcile myself with mid-'90s Nate than by walking back into that building with a Russ Manning nomination. 

Well, I wouldn't mind also pouring pasta sauce down that Marvel editor's pants. That might speed the reconciliation process a bit.


  1. I had a sobering experience at SDCC also. Met with a couple folks at Harris comics who loved my work. The writer for Vampirella gave me a script so I could send them some panels. I sent them off within a month following the con and got a form letter from the mailing room saying I need to work on my storytelling. Bah.

    I have to say that I love watching your progress on this journey. It's always one I wanted to make myself. And when you pour pasta sauce down that editor's pants, please take photos and post them here! Good luck on the Russ Manning award :)

  2. Josie - You've got to use that sting you felt at SDCC to goad you to new artistic heights! Revenge is a powerful motivator, as Khan Noonien Singh demonstrated. Good luck with round two, Josie!

  3. Good lord, man! The mad noodliness!

    I just did a test page for a colouring gig and got turned down. I gotta do this sort of thing now and paint something.

    Right after I get done flatting these pages...

  4. Also, of bloody COURSE you got nominated. Pffft. That was a given.

    So, um, congratulations on inevitability? Bah. Bugger.

  5. I've always prided myself on my speed, the ability to bang out... acceptable - but in no way brilliant - drawings in the matter of minutes, but it's taken me 'til this year to set about trying to break that habit.

    It's now taking me hours to put down a single, solid sketch, and it's the most infuriating thing ever, but also the most rewarding when it comes to the final product. I'm still young, but wishing all the same that I could go back and visit my ten year-old self and tell him to stop practicing speed over quality. Speed can always come later.

    And, of course, congrats on the nomination! Can only hope it'll be followed by an award.

  6. Nonplayer #3: Helicopters with Guns

    ("Putting Darrow out of business!")

  7. Sorry about the rejection, but Man, that's such a boss Vehicle design!

  8. Congratulations on the nomination!

  9. Whoa this is badass for 1995. My stuff in 95 wasn't at this level. I love that helicopter design. It's Darrowific!

  10. Please don't abandon the Clean Line style. It is so hard to find it done so well. Nonplayer is the first comic I have bought in a long time, in large part due to the art style grabbing me right away. I absolutely love it.