February 27, 2014
January 2, 2014
Going back to old policy of posting links to individual articles I publish this year. Let’s see how long this lasts…
READING / INTERVIEWSAaron Becker takes children on an illustrated Journey
Posted by Zack Smith @thezacksmith on Wed, Jan 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Aaron Becker has worked on such big-budget CGI-animated films asThe Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. But for his first picture book,Journey (Candlewick Press, $15.99), he turned to a simpler, old-school format. Although he uses computer models of his landscapes to help figure out the look and lighting cues for his dream-like landscapes, the final results are less digital than manual.
“The computer tends to be the beginning of the process, when I’m figuring out compositions, laying out scenes and stuff,” says Becker on the phone from a visit to his family in Chapel Hill. “It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.” The end result of his process are simple pen-and-ink drawings painted over in watercolor—though the world he creates is as deep and vivid as anything seen on screen.
December 20, 2013
Here are the most best things I wrote this past year. I think this averages out to one great piece per week. I am pleased by this.
A look at the musical MARY POPPINS and P.L. Travers’ original books (done in Feb., before SAVING MR. BANKS came out)
LOCAL NORTH CAROLINA ARTS
COMICS I WROTE:
MISC. ESSAYS/ORIGINAL COMPILATION POSTS
November 21, 2013
The conclusion to my ADVENTURE TIME story with artist Brad McGinty, “Grocery Time,” is out in stores this week in ADVENTURE TIME #22!
You can buy an e-copy on ComiXology here.
To answer two possible questions:
1) Yes, Part One ran two months ago in issue #20. No, I don’t know why it didn’t run on consecutive months. The story WAS finished when we turned it in, but there are a limited number of pages for backups and it can be very tricky to figure out how to use the space. I appreciate KaBOOM! letting us do this story and have no ill will over this.
2) No, I probably won’t be doing more AT stories in the future. KaBOOM! has made it clear they have a large number of writers and artists doing such tales and don’t have room for more material at this time. I have some more pitches to them being considered by Cartoon Network for approval, but it could be a while before there’s room for any of them. Again, it was a great opportunity and I have no bad feelings — it’s just how the business works.
Additionally, Brad McGinty ALSO has a story in REGULAR SHOW #6, which is out today. He is a brilliant, brilliant artist and we’re working on a creator-owned miniseries pitch for another publisher. At this point, I’m trying to deliver a polished full script for the first issue along with a full miniseries pitch, and Brad’s finishing up a few other projects before doing character designs, so it’s going to be a while before it can even be CONSIDERED for publication. But I truly hope to get this or another project together, not just for the career boost (no shame in my game), but for the excitement of seeing my weird ideas being brought to con’sid’ra’ble life by Brad’s Brobdingnaggian talents (look it up, I was tired of saying “Herculean”).
A few notes on the story, though this is more of a “What NOT to do” when writing a script.
1) Out of all the pitches I sent KaBOOM!/Cartoon Network, this was the one they took, and once I sat down to write it, I realized I’d hosed myself, as I had to introduce new characters, new settings, a plot with a beginning/middle/end AND an action sequence in a mere seven pages (they gave me eight, bless them). So is this story rushed, and did I take a few shortcuts? You bet your bippy I did.
2) So first, it was great fun writing the fight sequence. Fight/action scenes are just about trying to find unique ways for the characters to act and react, and Brad did a very fun job pitting Billy against the Ham-Pire. I had fun thinking of things the Ham-Pire could do, but I wish I’d thought of more unique ways for Billy to fight back using the materials of the Grocery Kingdom.
3) I also feel great, great shame for resorting to the cheapest dues ex machina in the book — the hero finds a MAGICAL REMOTE CONTROL to take over the evil robots. Now, if you read both parts of the story in one sitting, I did try to establish this back on Pg.3 by introducing the cereal box display, but man, I wish I’d thought of something better to get to the denouement. I ran this by a number of friends, including a few cartoonist who work on ADVENTURE TIME, and they said to stop worrying, but I NEVER STOP WORRYING.
4) In a random bit, the Royal Tart Toter is a check-out clerk in the Grocery Kingdom, because I keep encountering tragically old, sometimes demented old people as greeters at big-box stores whenever I go there. Brad wanted a few more clerks for the background, so we went with the Squeez-E-Mart clerk and Choose Goose, who presumably had a slow season in his trading business or needed health insurance.
5) The last page is PACKED, which is a sure sign of a novice comic book writer. Kelly Sue DeConnick had a semi-seminar at a comic shop earlier this year where she made a point that you should try to wrap as much as possible up BEFORE the last page, so you have some room. Given the hole I’d dug myself with this script, there wasn’t a lot of room. I tried to have a short story type twist for Billy’s quest, but it got MORE cramped by the final-final image…
6) So the story ends with the revelation that it’s a tale being read to Baby Finn and Baby Jake by Joshua the Dog-Dad. I wanted to do this to give the story a cute moment amidst all the silliness and propose an addition to the show’s mythology — Finn and Jake learned about Billy because Joshua read them stories as kids, and this probably helped inspire them to grow up to be heroes themselves.
Acknowledging the page was already cramped in the script, I initially wrote this scene as optional, but regular AT comic writer Ryan North said that as the writer, I should say whether something was in the story or not, and that the scene was good and deserved to be in there. I still like it, but wish that I’d found a way to give it more room to breathe and sink in. I did like having a nice, placid moment to end all the craziness of the story.
Brad wanted an extra panel to contain Joshua’s final rant and suggested an exterior shot of the house. In the episode “Memory of a Memory,” Finn’s childhood home is depicted as a different place, but there’s no exterior shots of it. We figured that since “Dad’s Dungeon” showed that Joshua had built a dungeon near the Tree Fort and hid a holo-viewer in its attic, perhaps the Dog family had moved there or leased it from previous owner Marceline (that’d be a fun story to tell). It’s a cheat, but the story does play fast and loose with AT mythology in the interest of including cameos anyway.
So now you know…too much of the story. Hope you liked it, and hopefully I’ll have a few more comics finished in 2014, with both Brad and others among the Finest Artists Known to Man!
October 27, 2013
Doing a clean-up and wanted to link some recent work. I got to talk with some really brilliant people for a couple places. My ego is inflated!
September 26, 2013
As anyone who knows me knows, I’m sort of a sociopathic fan of Cartoon Network’s series ADVENTURE TIME. It represents something truly imaginative, inventive and spontaneous — not to mention fun!
Having recently gotten to do AN ACTUAL ADVENTURE TIME STORY for issue #20 of the KaBOOM! ADVENTURE TIME comic (order it here!) , I thought I’d share with you some of the best pieces from my collection of ADVENTURE TIME art. My full collection is online in this gallery.
Here are some of the best pieces, with commentary.
First, I’ve been lucky enough to get some art from many of the talented people who work on the show, including creator Pendleton Ward…
,,,Andy Ristaino, who’s done many of the character designs and now writes for the show….
…and a couple pieces by Jesse Moynihan, who’s written/storyboarded many of the most surreal episodes and does the FORMING webcomic. Here’s a piece Jesse did of the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant, one of my favorite one-off characters from the show.
I also did a trade with Jesse for one of the most unique pieces in my collection. With each new episode that airs, the writers/artists on the show do a unique drawing they post on the show’s Tumblr that relates to the events of the episode. This is from “Reign of Gunters” (originally “Gunthers”) showing Finn reading the pick-up artist book “Mind Games” by “J.T. Dawgzone” (later changed to “Jay T. Doggzone.” This includes the only known appearance of “Dawgzone” to date, on the book’s back cover.
And here is Marceline the Vampire Queen by Rebecca Sugar, who wrote/storyboarded many of the best Marceline episodes (“It Came From the Nightosphere,” “What was Missing,” “I Remember You,” “Simon and Marcy”) and also wrote many of Marceline’s songs. Sugar has left the series to do her own show, the upcoming STEVEN UNIVERSE, but it was a great thrill to get a piece from one of the creators who helped define this character and created some of the show’s most emotional moments. This is also signed by Olivia Olson, the voice of Marceline.
Marceline has been one of the characters artists most want to draw from the show. One of the first pieces I got for my collection was a drawing of her by Kate Beaton, the genius cartoonist behind HARK! A VAGRANT. It is also signed by Olivia Olson.
Here’s a walnut-ink commission of Marceline by Ethan Nicolle, creator of the webcomic and animated series AXE COP.
And here’s Marceline by Brandon Graham of Image Comics’ PROPHET and such surreal SF delights as KING CITY and MULTIPLE WARHEADS.
A very nice piece of Marceline and Jake by Nathasha Allgeri, who created Fionna and Cake for ADVENTURE TIME and did the amazing short BEE AND PUPPYCAT for Cartoon Hangover on YouTube.
And I just got this stunning commission by Robbi Rodriguez, where Marceline rocks out big time.
In addition, it’s been great fun getting artists with a wide variety of styles to bring those styles to the different characters from the show.
For example, Chester Brown, whose tales often deal with very, very dysfunctional looks at relationships, did a dynamite job with this melancholy Ice King.
Brown’s good friend and contemporary Seth, who beautifully captures a wintry sense of melancholy in his work, brought a nice dignity to Ice King’s human alter ego, Simon Petrikov.
James Harren, who does more horror/fantasy type work, blew me away with this terrifying take on Marceline’s Dad, Hunson Abadeer.
Ramon Perez did an unforgettably gross variation on Ricardio, the Heart Guy.
Here’s a wry Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant by Jennifer Hayden…
…and a super-adorable Buff Baby Finn by Katie Cook, who writes the MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC comic.
Becky Dreistadt, who does the amazing TINY KITTEN TEETH comic, did this beautiful Fionna and Cake, and has gone on to do a number of stories and covers for the AT comic.
And Lucy Knisley, who’s done some Fionna and Cake comics, did this very sweet piece.
Jeffrey Brown did this take on BMO “playing with itself”…
…while Andy Runton of OWLY did this piece of BMO playing with Jake and Lady Rainicorn’s offspring. PUPPIES!
Tom Fowler, who does all sorts of surreal fantasy characters, did a hulking take on Billy the hero.
And Jeremy Bastian of CURSED PIRATE GIRL did this nasty Ice Queen, which was colored by Beck Seashols.
Janet K. Lee of RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN brought her dapper style to Peppermint Butler, her favorite character from the show.
And Pen Ward himself praised this piece of the Earl of Lemongrab by Jeff Lemire, who did a most ACCEPTABLE! job.
The Lich (or the Lich King, as originally pitched), is very popular with creators who have a more horror-based style, as his countenance of PURE EVIL really lets them do some nightmarish work.
This is by Charles P. Wilson III of THE STUFF OF LEGEND.
This one is by Nathan Fox, and hews closer to the character’s animated design.
Duncan Fegredo, who’s done many of the Hellboy comics with Mike Mignola, combined a few different looks for this grayscale commission.
And Ted Naifeh of COURTNEY CRUMRIN did one with its roots in classic mythology — there’s sort of a folktale, Middle Ages quality to this one.
And finally, here’s Finn and Jake themselves by the Spanish cartoonist Liniers. This just makes me happy!
I’ve gotten a lot of great pieces, though I might stop soon — my personal goal is 200 different artists, and I’m already up to about 180! (there’s a few repeat artists and a couple updated/colored pieces in my gallery)
Again, you can check out my full collection of stuff here!
September 16, 2013
Glob be praised! I have ANOTHER comic book story out this month, following up my tale in REGULAR SHOW #3 with “Grocery Time” in ADVENTURE TIME #20!
Here are some fun facts about this tale!
1) It was written nearly a year before “Sombrero World,” my REGULAR SHOW story, but got held up because KaBOOM! didn’t know Cartoon Network had approved it already.
2) It was one of 10 pitches I made to KaBOOM! for ADVENTURE TIME stories. Coincidentally, it was also the pitch I had developed the least.
3) The pitch was, “in a tale told in hard-rock narration, Billy goes to the Grocery Kingdom to get stuff for a party, but finds himself pitted against the Notorious Ham-Pire and his Avocadobots.” I had no idea who the Ham-Pire and the Avocadobots were when I pitched that. They were just weird names I’d written down in my file of ideas that sounded like ADVENTURE TIME characters.
4) When writing the script, I had to come up with a quick way of explaining the Ham-Pire. After debating whether he should be an adorable pig with fangs and a Dracula cape, I hit on a very quick explanation: AN EXPIRED HAM BACK FROM THE GRAVE.
Here’s the design by Brad McGinty:
5) Ryan North, the regular writer on the ADVENTURE TIME comic, joked that Ham-Pire should be the new Big Bad of the series. I of course jumped WAAAAYYYY too hard on this and came up with a backstory for him, which I share EXCLUSIVELY here: