Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cinderella

Ashraf Sewailam as Alidoro
As they've done the past several years, San Diego Opera invited me to sketch at the dress rehearsal of their current production. The 2016-17 season started last week with Giochino Rossini's Cinderella (Cenerentola). For a look at what I drew, check out the latest entry on San Diego Opera's blog Aria Serious by clicking here. You can also check out the work of other artists who sketched at the dress rehearsal, too, by clicking on the blog title and scrolling through recent posts.

Lauren McNeese as Cinderella









Looks as though Cinderella will be the final opera I sketch at San Diego, since I'm in the process of relocating. It's been a fun run--twenty-two operas in six years. I've enjoyed sketching performers that I know and getting to know performers that I've sketched. I've stretched my drawing muscles in ways that I often don't while drawing at my studio table. I even participated in a Little Fish Comics Studio gallery showing of opera sketches by several artists in 2014. I've been glad to see the group of us at "Artist Night at the Opera" grow from just me at Turandot in January 2011 to more than a dozen artists through the years, some of whom have come and gone. Now that I'm the one going I want to thank Edward Wilensky of San Diego Opera for continuing to invite me to this project.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New Posters at San Diego Comic-Con

One of the brand new Age of Bronze posters.
I'll be at booth BB1 in Artist Alley at San Diego Comic-Con starting Wednesday evening, July 20, and running through Sunday afternoon, July 24.

Six new Age of Bronze posters will be for sale at my booth. Each of the posters is based on a cover for an issue of the Age of Bronze comic book series, including the image at left, originally drawn for issue #23.

Also available are all four graphic novels in the Age of Bronze series so far, A Thousand Ships, Sacrifice, Betrayal Part One, and Betrayal Part Two. In addition, we'll have Oz posters, the recent Welcome to Oz coloring book, the new large deluxe edition of Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, and more.

Come see me and my partner David Maxine at booth BB1 at the San Diego Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center on Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego, California. For more info about SDCC, here's the link.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Long Time Coming

The character on the right returns in Age of Bronze #34.
Age of Bronze issue #34 will feature the reappearance of a character long unseen in the story. Unseen, in fact, since issue #3.

Recently while doing some research for a completely different project, I serendipitously came across a poem printed in the May 29, 1904, issue of The Chicago Tribune. The poem's viewpoint character is the one returning in the next issue of Age of Bronze. So I thought I'd offer that poem here, along with a penciled panel featuring the character.

The Chicago Tribune failed to credit the author of this poem. But a little research showed that it was written by Ethel Clifford.
Oenone's Song
Here in the dark I sit and dream your face,
   And in the burning darkness say your name;
And wish my life once more was void of you,
   And knew again the days before you came.

So small my kingdom was, and set about
   With walls of limit; but the sun shone in,
That never shines now through the mists of rain
   With which the days end and the days begin.

So short my little singing space in time,
   But very glad the songs that were my part--
My tree of happiness stands brown and dead,
   The birds are flown that sang within my heart.

You knocked a little while at my heart's gate
   Till, fain to give, I opened it in haste,
And through the door so joyously set wide
   You entered in and laid my kingdom waste.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Priam as Proto-Superhero?

Chris Gavaler's recent book On the Origin of Superheroes delves into centuries of western civilization and American pop culture to bring to light the concepts, questions, and coincidences that gave rise to the comic book superhero as we've known it since Superman's first appearance in 1938.

Gavaler's references range far and wide. As proof of the immense net he casts, he includes early in the book a short discussion of Age of Bronze, focused to some extent on my version of Herakles.

I'm happy to be included in this dense-yet-reader-friendly book. I met Gavaler several years ago when I spoke to the Classics Department at Washington and Lee University. He's a professor there and teaches a popular course on Superheroes. If his book is anything like his class, I envy his students. Imagine a university course where you're required to discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tarzan, Clarence Darrow, Neal Adams, and how they might all converge.

Gaveler includes some info that I must have mentioned directly to him--about my experience inking Curt Swan's pencil art in the 1980s. It was actually an Aquaman comic, not a Superman comic as Gavaler writes. But the part about me correcting Swan's perspective is accurate.

On the Origin of Superheroes is published by the University of Iowa Press and is available here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hot Alien Flexes

Today I made a presentation at the Comics Event of the Gay-Straight Alliance/Equality Club at James Madison High School in San Diego, CA. I spoke to a group of students gathered from several high schools in the area about my cartooning career. I showed examples of many of my projects with an emphasis on Age of Bronze. The second half of my presentation was about creating comics, and I asked the students to help me create a two-page comics story as part of my presentation.

I gave them a general outline of what the story would be about:

Character 1 is being chased by Character 2 in a specific environment. Character 1 ducks into hiding as Character 2 runs past. In the final panel Character 1 turns around to see something surprising. (This is actually a variation on a project that Joe Kubert used to assign at the Kubert School.)

I used a document camera so everyone could watch as I wrote and drew following the suggestions the students came up with. It seemed like they were all having a great time. I know that I was having fun.

First we designed the characters.


Character 1: Nelson, an immense musclebound figure with both female and male attributes, jewelry, gloves, and a tiny alien head.




Character 2: Baab, a sheep with a top hat and six legs.

After we decided the story would take place in a supermarket, we wrote the script.

PAGE 1

PANEL 1 (Nelson flexes. Baab sees Nelson from a distance. They’re in a supermarket.)

Title: Hot Alien Flexes

Nelson: Noice!

PANEL 2 (Medium close-up on Baab, glaring.)

Baab: How dare they!

PANEL 3 (Baab chasing Nelson.)

Baab: Notice me, Senpai!

Nelson: Never—I’m getting out of here!

PAGE 2

PANEL 1 (Nelson ducks into a Women’s Restroom.)

Nelson (thought): The CIA has found me.

PANEL 2 (Baab runs by the restroom.)

Baab: I love you, my muscular plankton!

PANEL 3 (Inside the restroom, Nelson turns to see a huge herd of sheep dressed as CIA agents.)

Nelson: Oh, no—the queers!

Finally I drew these two comics pages, following the script, with some further input from the students. I was racing against the clock to get these pages drawn, since the group was scheduled to Skype with Georgia Congressman John Lewis about his graphic novel series March, published by Top Shelf Productions. So my artwork is a bit rushed.



Make of that what you will. I disavow responsibility.

In the interests of privacy I haven’t posted the students’ names, but they were true collaborators on this comics story and I acknowledge their creative contributions. I'd like to give a big thank you to Mick Rabin for inviting me to make this presentation. It was a blast!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Scott

Joyce Al-Khoury as Tatyana Bakst.
A few weeks ago I sketched at a dress rehearsal for a new opera, Great Scott, by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally. My sketches are posted on the San Diego Opera Facebook page: click here.

Great Scott is about a famous mezzo at a crossroads in her career. She's had success doing what she loves, but she's not exactly sure about where she's going. I loved it.

As San Diego Opera's official unofficial cartoonist, I've been sketching at dress rehearsals of their productions for six years now. Some of the operas they've presented I've liked, others I haven't. Great Scott I loved. It's right up my alley. A woman plumbs the depths of her soul in one scene and jumps as a human sacrifice into the crater of an erupting volcano in the next. Substance and sensationalism combined will usually grab me every time.

I'm also proud to say I've previously worked with several people in the cast. Not the stars--Kate Aldrich, Nathan Gunn, and Frederica von Stade. But chorus member Joseph Grienenberger was Musical Director of my 2014 production of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. Chorus member Laura Bueno played Betsy Bobbin in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. And dancer Shawn Burgess performed the Cavalier in Del Mar Ballet's 2015 production of The Nutcracker in which I played Drosselmeyer and Mother Ginger.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Smells Like Teen President

Do you find the current USA presidential campaign to be a little bizarre? Well, it's nothing compared to the campaign and presidency of Prez Rickard, the first teen president of the USA.

The new graphic novel, Prez, recently published by DC Comics, collects the whole of that strange, excessive, and well-meaning-but-unfocused saga that began in 1973. And when I write "whole," that's what I mean. All four issues of the original series are contained here, but so is the fifth issue, which was only released for legal purposes in the very limited Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. The Supergirl story that prominently features Prez is here, along with the issue of Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, et al, which repositioned Prez in the DC/Vertigo universe.

Also included is the reason I'm mentioning this book: Prez: Smells Like Teen President, the 1995 one-shot written by Ed Brubaker with art by yours truly. This story pays homage to all the Prez material that preceded it--including the Supergirl story. I had to fit the Supergirl reference into it surreptitiously. There were two obstacles to this. First, at the time, Supergirl had been written out of comics continuity. And, second, the DC superhero universe was separate from the universe of DC's Vertigo imprint--no crossover allowed.

My first attempt to include a connection to Prez's encounter with Supergirl was to draw an issue of the Daily Planet newspaper from Superman continuity into a panel showing a bunch of newspapers. But the editor of the DC Universe wouldn't let this fly, so I changed it to an issue of the Daily Orbit.

I'm not going to reveal how I successfully worked in a reference to the Supergirl "Prez" story. You'll have to find it yourself. It didn't violate any of DC's rules, but still I never mentioned it to my Vertigo editors Lou Stathis and Axel Alonso. I think I mentioned it to writer Ed Brubaker, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't remember it now. (Although Ed's got a great memory.) Once spotted, however, I think it's pretty evident.

The publication of this story had unfortunate repercussions. Ed Brubaker had punctuated his script with a few four-letter words. But editor Lou Stathis told him to add more. A lot more. The f-word doesn't appear on every single page, but the pages where it appears multiple times probably make up for that. Reviewers gave Ed a bit of heat for this. I even had a phone call from Harlan Ellison who told me in no uncertain terms he thought it was too much. (As if Harlan Ellison would ever say anything in uncertain terms.)

When I drew this story I followed Ed's script, which included a few scenes where the main character is nude. I made no attempt to hide any genitalia. No one at DC/Vertigo had any problem with this until very late in the process when Axel broke the news. Word had come down from on high: no genitalia. The penciled art was complete, so I had to figure out how to deal with this editorial direction.

My partner David suggested that I just paste the DC logo over every instance of genitalia. Funny--but I didn't think that would fly. I didn't want to redraw figures in contorted positions to hide body parts, and I didn't want to just slap down shadows in places where nothing would be casting a shadow. My solution was to "blur out" all the genitalia. When I inked the art, I just cross-hatched over what I'd penciled. I figured it was like what they do on tv when they blur a person's face to protect their identity. Aesthetically I found that the most comfortable solution.

After the book was published I got a stern phone call from editor Lou Stathis. He reprimanded me for leaving in genitalia. I assured him that I hadn't. While on the phone he and I looked at the published comic. What I had intended as scribbles Lou insisted was clear genitalia. To this day I insist they're scribbles and anything else they are is in the mind of the viewer. However, I was sorry to have this disagreement with Lou.

He had been dressed down by Karen Berger, then editor-in-chief of DC's Vertigo imprint. Mattell, the toy company, had complained to DC Comics. Mattell had taken the back cover for a toy ad and was unhappy that the interior, in Mattell's view, had pictures of genitalia. I was pissed off that anyone thought my careful, considered artwork could somehow be a reflection on their tasteless ad for a bunch of ugly monster dolls.

Last in this new Prez collection is an excerpt from Frank Miller's DK2 and a Multiversity Guidebook entry that includes Prez.

I was surprised to learn of this new Prez graphic novel collection. My comp copies arriving in the mail were the first I was aware of it, although it seems to have been published in 2015. Back in 1999 or 2000, hoping to get a little more mileage out of Prez: Smells Like Teen President, I submitted a proposal for this very project to editor Shelly Bond at Vertigo. She turned it down then. I don't know whether someone came across my proposal more recently or whether someone remembered it or whether someone thought this up independently. But here it is at last in all its curious, excessive, bizarre glory--Prez, the First Teen President--just in time for your election year enjoyment. Ask for it at your favorite comics retailer.

If only Prez Rickard were running now.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Iphigenia in Aulis, the Einhorn Translation

Poster image I drew for the show.
New York playwright, stage director, and author Edward Einhorn is a friend of mine and a collaborator. I illustrated two of his children's books (Paradox in Oz and The Living House of Oz). We also worked together on a project closely related to Age of Bronze.

Several years ago Edward and I were discussing the Greek tragedy by Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis. I'd used the play in Age of Bronze as a major source for the "Sacrifice of Iphigenia" episode, as seen in volume 2, Sacrifice. Edward had previously translated Aristophanes's Greek comedy Lysistrata and was considering translating more Greek drama. Our discussion got him interested in Iphigenia in Aulis.


In 2013 the theater company of which Edward is artistic director, Untitled Theater Company #61, produced Edward's translation of Iphigenia in Aulis. Edward directed it, too, and wanted me to be part of the show. In a nod to the tradition of classical Greek theatre, the actors wore masks--masks based upon my character designs for Age of Bronze. Panels from Age of Bronze were used in the scenery for the show. And Edward asked me to design the advertising poster for the show, an image of the Mask of Agamemnon eclipsing Iphigenia.

Recently Edward Einhorn's English translation of Euripides's Iphigenia in Aulis was made available for digital download. You can access that by clicking here. You may read the script for free. Payments are
due for performance.

I saw the show during its New York run and enjoyed it very much. Unlike many contemporary productions of Greek drama, the chorus actually sang rather than simply reciting their lines. The rock score by Aldo Perez is dramatic and affecting. This play has as much power today as when it first wowed audiences in 405 BCE.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Age of Bronze #34 Pencil Art

Pencilled page from Age of Bronze #34.
As I promised a few posts ago, here is a page from the upcoming Age of Bronze #34. It's at the pencil stage, not yet lettered and inked. This scene concerns a group of Trojan women on Mount Ida, south of Troy.

Click on the image to see it larger in a new window.

Those who know the story of the Trojan War might realize this page leads up to the episode of Helen meeting Achilles on the peak of Mount Ida. The earliest reference we have to this episode is in Proclus's summary of the Epic Cycle--near the end of the Kypria to be exact--which is probably from the middle of the first millenium BCE, maybe the sixth century, although no one knows for sure. Later authors treated it in more detail, but it's still one of the less well known parts of the Trojan War story.

It's part of Age of Bronze, of course, and this issue will present my version of Helen and Achilles meeting.

The Colorful World of Oz

In addition to Age of Bronze news, I'll occasionally post about other projects of mine. Here's a recent non-Age of Bronze one.

Over the years I've written and illustrated many comics, books, and other publications concerning L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz. My latest is an Oz coloring book titled Welcome to Oz, published by IDW last month. It features thirty black-and-white Oz images just ready for you to color. Some of the images have appeared elsewhere and some are new for this book. One bonus feature is a four-page fold-out of a galaxy of Oz characters.

You can find Welcome to Oz at your favorite bookseller, both actual and online. You can also order it from Hungry Tiger Press by clicking here, where each copy ordered will be signed by me.

Oz is for the young and young-at-heart, so I find the subtitle "Adult Coloring Book" amusing. Yes, the current coloring book craze is being propelled primarily by adults who find coloring with pencils, markers, or crayons a perfect way to relieve stress. But labeling Oz as "adult" seems odd. Nevertheless, the artwork in the book is suitable for non-adults and brings you the Oz characters--from the Scarecrow to Ozma to the Patchwork Girl and even to Rinkitink--as generations of Oz fans of all ages have known and loved them.

Paris and Oenone in Vier Heuvels

Recently Age of Bronze played a small role in the creation of a unique musical project, Four Hills—Love in Wartime (‘Vier Heuvels–Liefde in tijden van oorlog’), presented by the Belgian orchestra Il Fondamento, together with the Conservatiores of Amsterdam, Ghent, and Brussels. Four Hills was a sort of opera, consisting of four sung episodes on stage, each involving a couple on a hill during wartime. These four settings were ancient Troy; Les Éparges in Verdun, 1916; La Loma de la Malagueñas, 1936; and the Temple Mount, 2015. The production featured the work of four young composers on a libretto by Jacob van Cauwenberghe. Gillis Sacré composed "Ilion," the Paris and Oenone scene. The other composers were Tihmen Van Tol, Nikos Ioakeim, and Nina Fukuoka.

The artistic director of Il Fondamento, Dr. Bruno Forment, approached me to license an image of Paris and Oenone from Age of Bronze. He felt it captured the sense of Four Hills and wanted to use it in advertising and on the program cover. I was happy to make the deal.

I didn't travel to Belgium to see the performance of Four Hills on February 21. But Dr. Forment informs me that it was an exciting success and that the image from Age of Bronze had a small influence on the production—it inspired the stage director to use headbands to identify characters.

Below is a video from the rehearsal period of Four Hills—Love in Wartime, featuring the Paris and Oenone image from Age of Bronze with color by John Dallaire.


vier heuvels rehearsal day #4
yesterday final rehearsals for vier heuvels. today premiere at the muziekgebouw ’t ij, 3 pm. thumbs up to all participants in this huge project!
Posted by Il Fondamento on Sunday, February 21, 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

"Seen" No More

Title page of Age of Bronze "Seen" app for iPad.
Digital comics publisher Throwaway Horse is ceasing operations in April 2016. Since Throwaway Horse has been the publisher of the digital edition of Age of Bronze--titled Age of Bronze "Seen"--readers have the rest of this month to access the first four issues of Age of Bronze "Seen" as an app for iPad in the iTunes store. After that, Age of Bronze "Seen" will no longer be available.

I really liked having a digital edition of Age of Bronze published. It was colored by John Dallaire under my approval. Every page was annotated by Tom Beasley, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Bucknell University. And each issue was just 99 cents.

Unfortunately only the first four issues of Age of Bronze "Seen" were published. The digital edition didn't receive the volume of readership that the publisher had hoped for. Throwaway Horse's other digital comics don't seem to have warranted continuation, either, since Throwaway Horse is shutting down as a company.

Page colored by John Dallaire with annotation by Tom Beasley
Colorist John Dallaire finished the color on several issues beyond what Throwaway Horse published and is continuing to color Age of Bronze. In due time I'll find a new publisher for a digital edition of Age of Bronze and it will continue to be available in color. And I plan to eventually publish print editions of the graphic novels in color, too, through print publisher Image Comics.

If you want to sample Age of Bronze "Seen" on your iPad while the app is still available for a short while, click here to access the iTunes store.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Age of Bronze

Welcome to the new site for Age of Bronze news!

Here's a brand new forum to keep up with everything new and exciting that's going on with Age of Bronze and with me. First of all, I want everyone to know that I'm well into the artwork for issue #34 of Age of Bronze. This issue presents the meeting between Achilles and Helen on Mt. Ida.

For years I posted news on the Age of Bronze website in a sidebar, keeping readers up to date on new Age of Bronze comic books and graphic novels, as well as all my latest projects and doings. But recently the host of the site, Godaddy, made adding new entries so burdensome that my news became sporadic.

But now all that's changed with this brand new forum for Age of Bronze updates and news. I'll post some in-progress artwork from issue #34 soon. That's one of the advantages of this new forum--it's much more flexible and easier to show stuff!

But don't worry. The main Age of Bronze website is still there, and so is the web-store where you can find and order Age of Bronze graphic novels, comic books, and t-shirts--along with a generous selection of other projects I've worked on, books, comics, and posters.