Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things I Could Have Done Better Vol. II: FOCUS

Hey there Meat-Heads!

So previously on Things I Could Have Done Better I talked about the importance of thinking everything out before you put your pencil to the page, and today I'd like to talk about a related subject, namely how and when to create focus through spotting blacks.


No not that kind of...ugh... anyway.  When I was prepping Dead Meat to be put on sale through (available here, plug plug), I found myself looking at the pages for the zillionth time, and as I scrolled through issue 2, there were a number of panels that felt kind of kind of off to me.  Take a look for yourself at a couple:

Dead Meat #2 Page 4, Panel 2
Dead Meat #2 Page 23, Panel 2
For me, anyway, these panels lack focus.  It might not appear that evident when isolated, but within the context of the page, I noticed the eye doesn't really know where to go, at least without a struggle.  This is where spotting blacks comes in.

Spotting blacks is the practice of filling in areas of your image with black ink in an attempt to push the reader's eye to where you want it to go.  It's a compositional tool, and a very important one that can be easily overlooked.  When creating a comics panel, you have to do 3 things:

1. Create a dynamic composition and camera angle
2. Make sure you the reader sees what the script requires them to
3. Leave room enough for lettering.

But sometimes number two is more difficult that it should be (try more fiber, maybe?) because your panel, though dynamically composed and plenty wide open for lettering and containing all the information you need is not FOCUSED. You can draw all the pretty lines in the world, but if the reader doesn't know where to look, then you're not doing your job.  This is where dropping some sweet, sweet black can focus up your panel.

In the first panel, even though the text clearly shows where the action is happening, I still felt that it was  unfocused, so I went back and dropped some black in some choice areas like so:

As you can see, taking the wall of that building and blacking it out instantly focuses the action to the right side of the panel where all the fun stuff is taking place.  You can see the same in the changes I made to the next panel:

Here, dropping some black into the ceiling instantly stops your eye from veering right out through the top of the page, and reinforces the main point of the image, Walker looking back and spotting Cordy and Galdos.

Being relatively new to inking, concepts like these, though obvious to others, didn't come naturally to me, and I have plenty left to learn as far as this stuff goes, but that's what this is about, right? Learning and continuing to get better at this crazy thing called comics!

If you'd like to learn some more about applying copious amounts of black to a page, please watch these video demos from one of the best comic artists working today, Sean Gordon Murphy.  His work is fantastic, and watching him work is definitely watching a master.  I could watch this video every day, and probably should


Thursday, October 4, 2012


Hey there, Meat-Heads!

It's been so long since I've talked to you all, my how you've grown!  I see you've changed your hair...not my favorite, but who am I to complain?

So recently I completed my third convention this year, the wonderful Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (or MICE) put on by the great Boston Comics Roundtable here in Boston.

Keep your eyes open for next year's!

  Now from what I've experienced tabling at conventions, no two are the same, and this year has been no different.  Things that didn't sell well last year did much better, and things that sold great last year sort of leveled out, and this just seems to be the way things go.


Honestly I'm not sure.  I'd like to say "hey, your sketch cards just did better this year," or "that new print you had came out really nice, so I can see why that sold well," but the fact is, I table at these conventions for one reason really, and that's to push DEAD MEAT, and if sales are down on that I'm probably doing something wrong. 

After the convention, one interaction in particular stood out to me.  A young fellow approached my booth, and after discussing some light philosophy and waxing poetic about the victorious aspirations of the local sporting concern he was heard to remark: "I say! Wouldst you take a cherished moment to relay the delicious intricacies of your illustrated wares?"

Yes he looked like this

In other words, he asked me to tell him about my book, and I was rather dumfounded to realize that I...didn't know exactly how to respond.  One thing I hate is when people decide to take 45 minutes to tell you each plot point for the first 20 issues, so I made sure not to babble too much, but I actually found it difficult to summarize what DEAD MEAT is and is about.

This is a problem, I know.

Looking back on this interaction, something occurred to me: Every convention interaction is its own pitch meeting.  

You're there to get people to buy your work, right?  Well how is that any different than if you were infront of a publisher or a company?  It's all the same thing--you're trying to get someone unfamiliar with you to buy your work.  It's your job to get them as excited about your work as you are, to the point where they can't wait to give you their money, either to pay for your book or to get you to shut up.

In retrospect this is where I blew it--I just wasn't talking enough.  I was trying to let the material sell itself, instead of selling the material, and that's just not going to work.

...unless you have some sort of futuristic, talking sales robot, where part of its sales programming includes selling itself, the sales robot, in which case you can probably go get a sandwich or take a nap or something.

Until Next Time,


Friday, September 14, 2012

So It's Been A Year


Hey there, Meat Heads! Woof, it's been a while since I've written a blog post, but here I am, ready to write you in the FACE! A little over a year ago, a year and 4 months, actually, I launched and started my freefall into the unknown, so what's happened? Did my chute go off? Where am I? Who are you? How'd you get in my house? Well I have to say I had a great first year, and it's all thanks to you guys. Up till now I've updated over 80 pages, 3 and a half issues, of Dead Meat, and that alone is an accomplishment I'm very proud of. I dipped my toe into the pool of comic book conventions and sold out of all my printed copies of Dead Meat, which is fantastic, and to the people who bought them I can't thank you enough.

"Well I've sold like a billion albums, so..."

  Damnit, John Mayer, let me have this! To top it off, I even won the honor of "Best Webcomic 2011" from, which was a fantastic way to end my first year!


  MAYER!!!!! So with all that's gone well, what needs to improve? Well with anyone who wants to be successful in creating an entertaining product, you have to have people who see it! All the work you're doing is for nothing if no one gets to see it, right? RIGHT. So for the next year, I have to improve on probably my weakest area right now, which is marketing and promotion. It's great to talk to people at conventions, but that will only get you so far. You have to get eyes on your work ALL THE TIME if you want to be successful. So that's my goal for this coming year--to get more eyes on my product, and hopefully get more people on this ride with me. I'll be at this year's Boston Comic Con once again (April 21-22), I've got the Daily Alphabeatdown over at, and we've got some really fun new things coming to VERY soon, something I'm really proud of and think you'll all really enjoy, and as I get closer to finishing the first arc, I have the collected graphic novel printed edition to look forward to! There's going to be a lot of great stuff coming this year, and it's up to us to spread the word about it! And if that doesn't work, maybe I'll "reinvent" myself as a blues singer.

That's cold, bro.

 Until Next Time,



Easy, "Strong," Female Characters

  Hey there, Meat-Heads...oh boy...I really should have put some more thought into that headline...that's going to get me in trouble...


  So you're writing your story, coming up with some great characters, but you get to a point where you say "HEY! This comic is a sausage fest! We need some chicks up in this bitch!" Well hopefully you didn't say it just like that, otherwise you have some other problems to address first, before your writing...but want a female character, but you don't want just any female character. You don't want a damsel in distress, or some vapid eye candy, you want a confident female who can stand toe to toe with the boys!
  You want a "strong" female character, right?
  Well she's gonna have to be tough!
  And she's gonna have to be sexy!
  And she's going to have to have been raped at some point in her life!
  "YEEEEEEE--wait, what?"

  For some reason, probably because 90% of mainstream comics are written by men, rape has become sort of a storytelling shorthand when it comes to crafting "strong" female characters, or exploring the backstory and history of pre-existing ones. If you don't believe me, here's a list of female comic book characters who have rape or domestic abuse in their backstory that I can think of off the top of my head:

Catwoman - Batman
Black Cat - Spider-Man
Jessica Drew - Alias
Huntress - Batman
Wasp - Avengers
Karen Page - Daredevil
Ms. Marvel - Avengers
Elektra (metaphorical rape) - Daredevil
Batgirl (metaphorical rape) - Batman
Michonne - Walking Dead
Abigail Arcane - Swamp Thing

  Now I know you're thinking "you really like some weird crap, eh?" but the truth is, most, if not all of these characters appear in mainstream comics published by the top few publishers in the biz, and many of these characters appear in those respective companies' biggest, most widely appealing titles, some written by the best writers and in the best stories in comics' history.

  So why is it used so much? Well, rape is horrible! It's probably the most horrible thing that can happen to a woman, and it takes a great deal of strength to deal with such a tragedy, so what's a more perfect thing to throw in to a "strong" female character's backstory to show that she's tough and can overcome adversity, right?!

  Ehhhhh...not exactly. Remember this clip? I used it in my post about guns, and I think it can also apply to what I'm talking about today:

  Rape, for the most part, is another form of lazy writing. It's the "guns" of psychological trauma. Does it work? Sure. Is it necessary? No, not at all! What's worse is it's actually pretty offensive, and shows a gross lack of knowledge about women in general to assume a character can't be complex without a background of sexual abuse.

 Here's a few strong female characters from movies, comics, and tv that were crafted that way free of sexual abuse:

 Jean Grey of the X-Men
Dana Scully of the X-Files
Sarah Connor of the Terminator films
Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 These are strong female characters who have completely rounded strengths and weaknesses as legitimate and dramatic as any of the most well-written male characters out there.

  Let's look at Sarah Connor for a moment:

  Wait...that's not....ugh hold on....wrong clip.

   Ok, Let's look at Sarah Connor for a minute
**Clip contains some naughty words, beware!**
Best of Terminator: Sarah Connor

  Through the course of 2 movies, Sarah goes from just an everyday girl into someone burdened with a horrible knowledge of the future who will do anything she can to protect her son, and is so consumed with what she knows that she will sacrifice herself and kill others in order to prevent the oncoming apocalypse. Some pretty out-there stuff, but completely compelling and without a shred of cliche backstory to muck things up.

  Now does that mean you can't use rape as a backstory or subtext? No, not at all--look at the movie Alien.
 "But there's no rape in Alien!"
  No? In the original script the character of Ripley was a man, but it was later changed to a female who was famously portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, and became one of film's most powerful women. Why is this change significant? Well if you get past the space monster overtones of Alien, and think about what it is the alien is actually doing to people...I'll wait...ok, got it? Alien has a strong sexual subtext in it that just wouldn't be as effective if the protagonist was a male.

  Writing isn't easy, so when trying to craft relatable scenarios or characters, it's much simpler to throw around something that's as universal as "guns are dangerous," or "rape is horrible," as a shortcut in storytelling instead of taking the time to come up with something much more dense and unique that will make your stories all the more engaging and ultimately more entertaining for your readers/watchers/whathaveyous.

 I hope this was helpful, and I look forward to your angry letters.

 Now don't even get me started on the "he/she killed his/her parents," backstory. Yeesh.

 Until next time, EAT DEAD MEAT!

**Update on 9/14/2012**

I would just like to add that the trend of excessive violence toward females is so prevalent in the Comics world specifically that there is even a term for it: "Fridging," which references a scene from an issue of Green Lantern where GL comes home to find his girlfriend's dismembered body stuck in the refridgerator.  This term was originated by comics writer Gail Simone, who first talked about it here: Women In Refrigerators

While my post deals specifically with rape, I do think you have an entirely different discussion as far as fridging in general goes, as there are plenty of people out there who would say "there have been just as many horrible things done to male characters as well," and while I wouldn't necessarily disagree with them, I still think it's worth a look, a consideration, and even an argument!

Stay Scared!



  Welcome, Meat-Heads! If you remember, way back here, I talked about the importance of having solid breakdowns, because they are the foundation that your page is built on.  Today I'd like to come back to that a bit, and talk about a problem I ran into recently while drawing a page from Dead Meat #3, but first, let's see what the master has to say:


  Now...yes? You in the back with the tri-corner hat on? What does this have to do with anything? Well that's a very good question, so allow me to very roughly horn this clip into the shoe of remote relevance!

   FIRST you get the sugar, THEN you get the power, THEN you get the women. When creating comics, there are three main steps between concept and finished art: the script, the layouts (or breakdowns in this case), and the actual drawing. Each of these are used as methods of communication in a sort of "telephone game" to get the idea of the writer into the hands of the reader, and success is wholly dependent on clarity.

 -The script must clearly depict the story/action, so the artist can break it down visually.
 -The visual breakdowns must be clear so that when the finished art is drawn, there's a an idea of what the page will contain and look like.
 -The finished art must clearly get across all the story and action present in the script, combined with the visual ideas of the layout breakdowns.

  So what happens when one of those three communication avenues breakdown? Well much like the "telephone game," you end up with a confusing and incorrect end product.

   Now from here on out things get tricky because this problem I ran into was while drawing something from a later chapter of Dead Meat, so I'm gonna have to run some images by Headless Eric and see if things might have to be redacted, but I'll be as specific as I can.

  The page in question involved a lot of characters, and some pretty heavy action, and was a lot of fun to draw, and I was pretty happy with it when I finished it. I was getting prepped to start the next page, and it was then that I noticed a very sharp change in the scene between the final panel of the page I was working on, and the page that followed it. The last panel looked like this:

Clearly outside, with Mac probably saying something, with some undead Natives coming at him. No big, right? Well the next page started like this:

  Which is some characters, including Mac, running up stairs? What? Well I went back and looked at the script, and the dialogue and description very clearly has them going from outside, into a building. So where did the undead Natives come from? Well after looking back at my breakdowns, I found my problem. My breakdown for that panel looked like this:

 What the hell are those things in the background? People? Monsters? Englishmen looking to nick some sugar? They could be anything! I realized that given the action of the page, I just assumed they were undead Natives about to pose a threat. So as a result, I had to go back and draw a fix for it to be added later.

  Now I'm not saying your breakdowns have to be super tight, but what they do need to be is CLEAR. They may just seem like rough sketches, but you're going to have to refer to those sketches later when you're doing the finished art to let you know what's going on, and if you can't read your own layouts, you're going to make mistakes and it's going to slow you down. This is why, once again, I'd like to reinforce that the finished art is just the fun part. Breakdowns are where you do the real work. They are the foundation. They are the power.

 And without the power, you don't get the women.

 Until next time, Eat Dead Meat! **Did you like this post? Do you Like DEAD MEAT? Then like it/us on Facebook/follow us on Twitter, and please send me your comments!**

Things I Could Have Done Better Vol. 1: Think It ALL Through!

Hey there, Meat-Heads!! Looooooong time no see!

  I'm so sorry it's been so long since I've had a blog post up--sometimes things get busy and other times I just don't have a good idea of something to say that would be constructive and useful, but I think I've found something that can be helpful to everyone, including myself! With that in mind, I'd like to welcome you to the first part of an ongoing, albeit probably sporatic, series entitled "Things I Could Have Done Better." What I'll be doing here is taking a look at some of my own work, and talking about, as the title suggests, what I could have done better! Vol. 1: THINK IT ALL THROUGH

  I don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't look back on their work and say "hey--maybe I could have thought that through a little more." For me, being relatively new to producing a comic on my own, one of the things I sometimes forget is that comics are more than just drawings of people. Comics are also drawings of buildings, machines, trees, lamps, table saws, etc, and though they aren't always the most fun to draw, many times it's those drawings that can be the most important to telling the story you want the way you want. To let you in on a little secret....I HATE drawing buildings. I HAAAAAAATE it. I've never been good with a ruler (what does that even mean?), and drawing all those lines just makes for a boring day and a cramped hand. What comes in tandem with a dislike of depicting architecture, at least for me, is a decent lack of understanding as well, so when it comes to breaking down my comics in sketch-form, I'll sometimes spend all my time working out positioning of people and just sort of brush off architecture shots as something I can just work out later. However, this can really come back to saw off your thumb.
If there is one panel I would like to have the opportunity to re-visit and re-draw, it would be this one:

Dead Meat Chapter 1, Page 25, Panel 3

At this point in the story (SPOILERZZZZ), Walker, Ashley and Georgie have arrived in Stiltsville--a town which still has people in it, who get around safely by a system of bridges connecting rooftops. Here is the original description from my script:


Panel 1
Establishing shot of the town as they stop at a security check point guarded by two men with rifles, at a makeshift gate made of dead cars.  This check point is the only entrance to main street which leads to the main square of a town.  All other streets have been blocked off, booby trapped or destroyed.  The bottom floors of all the buildings are boarded up, but the second floor and higher of the buildings flicker with life.  In a time where the ground has become like lava, this town lives above it, and there are bridges and paths built to easily connect roofs to each other.   Roofs are adorned with shacks and tents, some even have shoddy additions built on top of them.
There is life there.  What kind is anyone’s guess.

  As you can see....I TAAAAAAAAAAAANKED that one.  Between writing and drawing I changed the placement in the page of the establishing shot and broke some of that stuff up among a few panels I think, but as far as creating a compelling depiction of this I blew it.  HARD.  I mean where on earth would you find a town that looks like that?  It's all boxes!  Oh good, they come upon an ancient pueblo village!  No. 
  On top of the boxiness of the town, there's NOTHING there indicating life, unless you count some of the smoke lines, but that's just cheating.  There are no cars, no people, no nothing.  Now the part of my brain that rationalized this laziness probably said:
"Well that's kind of creepy, isn't it?  There's no one around--it makes it a bit more mysterious!"
  Yeeeeeeeah, no.  You obviously just didn't think this out.  Let's take a look at the ways a few other artists handle buildings and towns/cities:

From Left to Right: Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Pope, Moebius (I THINK--please correct me if i'm wrong)

  These are three very different styles--I'm not saying you have to do it like any of these--but the one thing they have in common is that these cities are ALIVE.  They feel real.  Mine just looks like a crappy, poorly thought out drawing.
Even aesthetics aside, I screwed myself for later drawings because pretty much all the action of the next 2 issues takes place in this town that I didn't bother to spend the extra time plotting out!
I've heard a few people along the way say that "you have to learn to love drawing the things you hate to draw,"  and while I will agree with that to a certain extent, I think a better way to say that is you have to learn to draw the things you hate in a way you love to draw.  I mean look at Paul Pope's drawing--it's almost a sketch at some points!  I'm sure if he tried to draw a city the way Moebius does, he'd want to blow his brains out too!
  So the moral of this story, and something I've been trying to do myself, is to find a way to draw the tedious stuff that is fun, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, allows you to TELL THE STORY.  But hey, that's what this whole thing is about--learning as I/we go, and I hope this has been informative!

Until Next Time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Performance Art Part II: DRAW! **UPDATED WITH PICS**

Welcome back, Meat-Heads! So last time I talked about my experience at the Boston Comic Con a couple weekends ago, and I wanted to follow that up with something a little more specific to the experience. When I got there, and got all set up, I really wasn't sure how I was going to feel about taking commissions from attendees. I'd never really had to draw "on demand" before, and I honestly wasn't super sure that a. I'd like it, or b. I'd be ABLE to do it!

(Man this song is great, isn't it?)

 Once things got going though, I found myself REALLY enjoying it.


  In addition to drawing, I play in a band who are lucky enough to play live shows every now and then. I caught the bug instantly, and playing live with my band quickly became one of my favorite things to do. For most visual artists, 99% of their working time is spent behind alone behind a board, with nothing but time to over-analyze the work they're doing, only to finish a piece, crack some knuckles and move on to the next one with little to no immediate gratification. Being at a convention like this, drawing in front of people, is really the closest thing to performing live that there is for an artist and I really found it exhilarating having to think on the fly and create something much like I would if I were on stage with my band. I really felt like it added some spark to the work that I was doing--I mean imagine a band who only puts out albums, and never plays live! It must be incredibly frustrating!

What are you trying to say?

NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT, OF COURSE! I didn't mean to offend anyone, but even you guys, THE BEATLES, who were famous for the fact that after a certain point your performances were exclusive to the studio, IMMEDIATELY started performing live, within a year of going your separate ways.

Fair enough.

Except for you, Ringo--You apparently started a furniture company--but even you came back to live performances eventually.

I like couches.

Yeah...anyway...I really got a kick out of "performing live," even when people requested odd or obscure characters as it was extra gratifying when I stepped up to the challenge and NAILED them. The art I was doing was looser, less self conscious, and it just felt good to get out and do my thang in front of people who would appreciate it. I don't know how many conventions I'll be getting to on a yearly basis, I haven't thought that far ahead yet, but I'll definitely be doing more, and I will DEFINITELY be doing commission sketches. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by the table at the convention, and to everyone else who's purchased a sketch-cover copy of Dead Meat#1! Until Next Time, EAT DEAD MEAT **PICTURE UPDATE** Hey, hey, Meat-Heads, thought I'd update with some pics of some of the sketch covers I've done so far! First up is Greg, that old scoundrel:

 The high-flyin, acrobats of Galdos!

 And here's two more odd requests: First is 70's Marvel Comics flower-child villain Angar the Screamer:

 And last but not least, what might be my favorite thing I've ever drawn--DC Comics villain Deathstroke, and Marvel Comics villain Task Master...playing pogs!

That's all for now, Meat-Heads! Until Next time...


Performance Art Part 1

  Hey, hey, Meat-Heads! So this past weekend I attended my first comic book convention as an exhibitor, and in short, I really enjoyed it. After years of walking the floor, I decided that with the publication of Dead Meat it was finally time to take the leap over to....THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE!!!!!

(Never shy to shoehorn even the most passingly relevant Simpsons clip into a post, am I)

This marks the first time Doug and I have teamed up on a piece!

  Having never done this before, but having seen many others do it, I KIND of knew what to expect, but there was a big grey area of unknown--would anyone stop? Would I be stationed in a corner next to the bathroom? Would I be sat next to a comic book superstar thus making me irrelevant? Would I sell anything? Would people like my stuff? Did I bring enough stuff?--all these possibilities and questions were swirling around until we actually got there and set up, at which point I realized it wasn't so bad. My table mate Doug and I set up all our stuff, then readied ourselves for the coming onslaught of convention goers, comic fans, art lovers, and people dressed like obscure characters, and found ourselves TOTALLY overwhelmed when the doors swung fiercely open and ushered wave after wave of aboslutely NO ONE past our table. In fact, we didn't even realize the convention had started until one of us looked at his watch about a half hour after the opening bell. This didn't bode well. All of those previous concerns came flooding back, and I prepared myself for a very boring, very stationary weekend, so we resigned ourselves to passing the time doing drawings like these: [/caption] HOWEVER, as the day went on, we actually found numerous people passing by our table, checking out our stuff, and even buying some things. We weren't doing as well as the girl to our left who was handing out free rubber duckies, but hey, that's a genius marketing maneuver on her part and it definitely did her well. Actually, speaking of that, I did find myself in a rather odd position. As I said, the girl to my left had rubber duckies, and Doug, to my right, had beautifully painted Star Wars art ( so needless to say, they both got a LOT of traffic from kids, and the family set, and there I was, right in the middle, with my gritty black and white drawings of people and things in various degrees of intimacy with high-velocity ammunition. It was sometimes a little awkward ("Hey you like ducks? Check this out--it's a drawing of a dead kid!"), but I got over it relatively fast as I started to get a pretty good response, and, more importantly, started to get COMMISSIONS! This is where the real fun started. As I believe I stated here somewhere before, I was selling 2 versions of Dead Meat #1, and one of them had a blank cover which was meant for me to draw on, so I was fully open and ready to draw on command, and I was put through the paces. I had odd character requests, and most interestingly, I was commissioned to do THIS:

Do you ever dance with the devil in the bottom of the ninth?

  Drawing on a baseball is something I'd never done, but it got such a good response it might be something I start doing more often! I also got to sell some sketch cover books, including this one, which was purchased by a very nice guy named Sean:
As you can tell by his shirt and his reading material, he knows what he likes!

He actually requested to be part drawn as part of the team, without even knowing that the characters were created in very much the same way as his request, so that was a fun one to do! Anyway, overall, the convention was a great success for a first convention, and I can't wait to do another. I still have some books left over which are definitely up for grabs (if anyone is interested in one, you can just email me at, and in my next blog post I will talk more about how I felt about drawing in command in a live-commission setting! Thanks again to everyone who came by, everyone who bought a book, and to my table mate Doug--because If I had been doing this by myself I probably would have died from boredom. Please check out his work at's really great.

 Until Next Time, EAT DEAD MEAT

Sorry...I Don't Get the REFERENCE

Hello, hello, Meat-Heads! I thought today I'd talk about about working from reference! So, all artists really should work from reference, right? Well I think Reverend Lovejoy put it best when he said:     Reference, working from reference, and knowing how literally to use it is something that each artist really needs to determine for him or herself. Plenty of people draw solely from their imagination and are perfectly content to do so, and I'm not here to knock other drawing styles or approaches, so I'll just talk about how working from reference has related to my own work. I've had a love/hate relationship with reference over the years. I've gone from not using it at all, to using it exclusively, finally to what I've felt is a solid balance between the two. Here's a breakdown of how things have changed in Dead Meat over the years:


  a. No reference--BLECH. Very unrefined, very....well...bad. b. SOME reference--Better, but still unsure of HOW to use it. At this point, using reference meant just drawing the photo I had taken. Turning it into a character was difficult. c. ALL reference--This is a look that I don't hate, but I became unsatisfied with. I'll talk about why in a minute d. HALF and HALF--this is my current, and preferred method of working. Some reference, some imagination. The difference between b, c, and d may be subtle, but it's there. I worked EXCLUSIVELY from reference for a long time, and though I'm glad I did, I'm also glad I've started to move away from it. Working so literally from reference really helped me work out some style problems I was having. It helped me with form, with anatomy, and especially with shadows. I would light and shoot everything, and then draw from those photos very literally. here's an example of how little changed sometimes in the transition from photo to drawing:

From Vermillion #2 available at

  However, after a time two things happened: 1. I worked so deliberately from reference that in certain spots where I wouldn't, due to time restraints or lack of a photo, it wouldn't look the same. It made the work look very inconsistent. Even with background elements--If the foreground characters were all referenced, but the background characters weren't, it was obvious and distracting (at least to me). 2. I felt like the reference was becoming a crutch, and also it was making my work very stiff. Every thing felt very staged, nothing had fluidity to it, and I became really dissatisfied with the way things were going. If things were to change, I had to re-evaluate how I was doing things, and luckily, producing Dead Meat full time actually forced me to do so. I realized that working so tightly from photos really slowed down my production time, on top of all those other things, and also the more I was drawing, the more confidence I was starting to get in my non-referential abilities. That's not to say I don't use reference anymore--of course I do, I still light and shoot my reference--but I'm not a SLAVE to it, and I think it's making an important thing happen: my work doesn't necessarily look more REAL, but it definitely looks more TRUE. So in the end, should you? shouldn't you? Well let me put it this way: reference is a TOOL, and using it, even in the most passing fashion will NEVER hurt your work. It may not always make your work look real, but it will always make it look TRUE. Now it'd be unfair to end this post without an embarrassing reference photo, so here you go! Until next time, EAT DEAD MEAT!

Tools of the Trade, or Does Size Really Matter?


   Although this, of course, is a load of garbage, it took me a while to REALIZE it was garbage. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and any number of other books out there may tell you differently, but when it comes down to it (as I think DC art director Mark Chiarello said), the only right tools are the ones that feel comfortable. When it comes to my own comic work, one of the things that makes me feel comfortable is working pretty big. Finding the right size to work, however, has been a pretty long process of trial and error. I started, like most other people, on the standard 10x15 comic page, but as my hand started to atrophy from cramping, I decided I needed a better solution. As my style changed, I made two big changes: I started using watercolor paper, and I stared working on single panels at a time, enlarged to a much bigger size than would fit on a regular comic page, like so:

  As you can see, I was working pretty big. However, as I got more serious about producing work at a professional level, one of the things I really needed to be concious of was speed--and working that big is VERY slow. especially at the start, when I was a lot less confident in my inking, I was essentially drawing every panel twice, as I was filling in all of my black areas so I could see if they'd work or not. There was also a psychological aspect to it as well, where if I was only focusing on one panel, as opposed to a full page, my satisfaction level stayed constant. In other words, since each individual panel felt like a full illustration, if I got 2 panels done in a day, I'd felt as though I'd accomplished as much work as if I'd finished 2 full pages. It made me very slow. I worked this way for the first 9 pages or so of Dead Meat Chapter 1, but I needed to get faster, so I decided to go back to working on an entire page, at the standard 10x15 size. You can see the size change here:

The size of one panel vs. the size of a single page

  definitely sped me up, but I again felt like I was very cramped in the space I had to work, especially since as I got more confident with my inking, i liked to be a lot looser and use a bigger brush. SO, when I started issue 2, i went back to the old method: One panel at a time, enlarged. And It Took Forever. I fell right back into my old psychological habits, and it took forever. So I took a step back to re-evaulate again and this is what I determined: I needed a way to work big, but fast, and eliminate the psychological block of working on one panel at a time. Can you guess how I solved that problem? Anyone? Well after months of trial and error, the idiot switch finally moved to the off position....AND I JUST USED BIGGER PAPER! It's like when you go to an arena for a concert or a game, and your seats are right near the entrance, but you end up walking around the entire stadium instead of 30 feet in the opposite direction. Except now I have a new set of problems, as this paper is too big for my scanner. WILL I EVER WIN???? So there you have it--part of this game is figuring out what works for you, what makes you comfortable, and what maximizes your efficiency and quality of your work all at the same time. There's no right answer, there's no wrong answer, you just gotta try things out till it feels right. If that sounds like too much work, though, there's always this to fall back on: Until next time, Eat Dead Meat!

Is This Post About Cliffhangers?...FIND OUT!

It seems Eric has finally gotten the better of his arch-foe! This could be the end! OR COULD IT???? So this post isn't explicitly about cliffhangers, but more so about the idea of writing for a serial format as opposed to writing a full graphic novel. So as I've talked about before, I only fairly recently came to the decision to present Dead Meat in an online, page-to-page format, and before coming to that decision I had already written the first issue a few times, and had actually already completed most of the second issue. The issues were written as the first two issues of a larger story, and were approached in the way most comics are, with an ending that hopefully strikes enough of a chord to bring the reader back for the next one. This is a perfect example, from Kingdom Come #1 written by Mark Waid, art by Alex Ross. Kingdome Come sets up a world in which superheroes have gone nuts, and Superman has vanished for years, allowing the world to sort of drift into chaos. The body of the first issue is spent setting up this world, and then the last sequence of pages comes: This return of the Man of Steel is fantastic, and completely hits the right chord to draw the reader back for issue 2. Endings like this are common place in comics, and allow you to tell your story for 22 pages, and then deliver a punchline to make sure your readers leave wide-eyed and wanting more--but what happens when you're readers have to wait a week between pages let alone entire issues? You have to really consider the content you're putting up for your audience to view, because even though it's only a page, that page has to sustain them for a week, and be interesting enough to warrant a return to see what happens next. With that in mind, however I'm not saying every page has to end like this: As I said, I wrote issues 1 and 2 before I decided on format, so when I got to issue three, I re-evaluated my approach, and started to be more conscious about telling a story on each page. My biggest regret about the way Issue 1 has played out so far is that there are a couple pages that are half of a conversation about something, and while this in and of itself isn't bad the place it ends on the page may not be totally satisfying to a reader. At the same time, being conscious of this sort of "ultra-serialization" of your comic can actually really let you play with pacing and hanging on things for effect. For instance, there's a page in issue three that is 4 panels depicting a single, quick event that occurs to a main character, and devoting an entire page to it was done to make sure that it lingered. In the end, it's a balancing act you have to be aware of, making sure you can maximize the content of a page in and of itself, but not to the extent that you sacrifice the larger storytelling of that page as it exists inside the entire issue. This is just another thing that I've been learning along the way as I do this--and there are mistakes I'm going to make along the way that I won't shy from talking about here, as the entire point of this is to show people the process, and hope that they can learn from it should they decide to do it themselves! WILL I be successful? WILL I crash and burn? IS there anyone out there who gives a crap? STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT! Until Next Time, Eat Dead Meat! Follow us on Twitter!!