Monday, February 28, 2011


As important as  photo research is, I would rather do hands on experiential research. I got my chance while I was working on the second Stormy Tempest story for Femforce # 154. There was a scene that took place in a "Gentleman's Club". I decided to go to one of the local ones - sketchbook in hand. There were a lot of things that I observed that made it into the story.

What I found was that the girls use a scrunchie as a wristband to hold money:

Every single girl who worked there had a tattoo of some kind. Most of them were stars, which was great for the story, because that's the emblem that Stormy has on her costume. Because of this, I decided that Stormy would have several star tattoos in different places and that we would be able to identify her by them ( I also gave her a star necklace):

There were other, more unique ones as well. One girl had a rose on her back. There was a tattoo of an eye. My favorite was the girl who wore her "heart on her sleeve" quite literally. I gave Stormy's friend that one:

In the story, there's a scene that takes place in the locker/preparation room of the club. I knew there was no way they were going to let me see what the room looked like so I didn't bother asking. But, one of the girls was nice enough to draw a schematic of the room and described it for me:

The biggest challenge of the scene that I was drawing was the pole dancing move. It was written into the story as Stormy and her friend both on the pole at the same time. When I asked the girls if they ever did that, they said no, because there wasn't enough room at this particular club, but it could be done. When I asked them about upside down moves ( that I was planning to put into the scene) they did a demonstration of it. I was then told that the best way to learn the move was to look it up on youtube and that the name was "The Gemini".  I had no idea!

Here's how the the finished panel came out:

The girls who helped me out asked for no money in return, nor did they receive any. The were really nice and incredibly generous with their time. I interviewed quite a number of them and got a lot of information about how they started the club, how long they wanted to stay there, and what they wanted to do afterwards. Their back stories were very interesting and will, I'm sure, find a way into a future story.

In all honesty, this story could have been drawn without me going anywhere. However, I feel that the artwork was much richer because of the research. I also feel that there's some realism that's been added that wouldn't have been in the work otherwise.

Friday, February 25, 2011


In the fall of 2001, I started my third and final life drawing class at American Academy Of Art. It was a rough autumn - between some personal things I was dealing with that had happened over the summer and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, I was pretty devastated emotionally. The result of that was I don't remember much about that class. What I do remember, however, was how fantastic the teacher was. David Jamieson had studied at the New York Academy Of Art, and taught us in a way that was different and more detailed than what had been done before. David , in addition to doing multiple poses, also had us work on a single pose over the course of one week. That means that we had the same model and he or she would hold the same pose for 3 1/2 hours a night, three nights a week. This made for some  more accurate drawings on our part, because we were forced to slow down and really observe the figure.

I have 2 regrets about this class. The first is that I feel like I sleep-walked through it and was unable to pay closer attention to what I was doing, and the second is that it didn't go on longer. I think that David was one of the best teachers that I ever had and wish that I could have had more classes with him.

David and his wife, Melinda Whitmore, own and operate the Vitruvian Art Studio where students can learn the same techniques that these two wonderful people taught me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


While I draw, I am always listening to something. Usually it's an audiobook that I've checked out from the library. Sometimes it's music. My all time favorite thing to listen to, however, is various podcasts. One that I really like is Wordballoon, which is hosted by fellow Chicagoan John Siuntres. Siuntres interviews different comic book creators - writers, artists, etc. and the show is not only incredibly entertaining, but also informative.

One night, back in 2007, I was listening to one of the many Wordballoon interviews with Brian Bendis. A question was read about breaking into the comic business and Bendis started listing off different websites that could be used to connect to people, show off work, and get jobs. One of the sites he mentioned was DigitalWebbing. I visited it and there were people advertising for artists. At this point I had already drawn Marie Curie and colored Benedict Arnold for Capstone and was working on a couple of different stories for an anthology that Len Strazewski was putting together. Still, I did have some time on my hands, so I started answering some of the ads.

One of the ads was by someone named Cherie Donovan, who lived in England and had a 6 page story she needed penciled for  Orang Utan Comics. I read the script and thought it was decent enough (to be honest, I thought most of the scripts I read from people on DigitalWebbing were pretty good). Then I found out that Cherie was only 19 years-old! For someone that age, this script was phenomenal! The story consisted of secret government genetic experiments that were used to create super agents ( aren't they all?).

The story appeared in the anthology The Eleventh Hour #2. What makes this work a bit more significant is that Cherie was one of the colorists for some of Markosia's books. Because of that, when Markosia ran into scheduling problems with Heretic, I was recommended as a replacement for the penciler. I ended up drawing well over a hundred pages for Markosia, between Heretic and Kong. Those hundred plus pages changed the way I draw and made me a much better artist. Little did I know that would be the outcome of taking an hour to listen to a simple podcast.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


For my 17th birthday, my Pop got me what was probably the most influential book of my life.

The Marvel Try-Out Book, for anyone who doesn't know, was designed for creative people who wanted to get into the comic book industry. It showed very clearly and concisely the steps that were taken by each member of the creative staff in order to produce a single issue of a comic.

Printed on 11x17 bristol board, it started out as a regular story - written by Jim Shooter, penciled by John Romita JR., inked by Al Milgrom, lettered by Jim Novak, and colored by Christie Scheele. After 3 pages, the story lost it's color, and the reader was assigned the task of coloring. Tips were given and a description of the tools that a colorist uses were listed. 4 pages later, the inks disappeared and the reader was asked to ink the pencils ( printed in non-photo blue). Then the lettering was gone and the reader was given 2 pages of script and was asked to letter it. Then the script vanished leaving only the pencils that were drawn from the plot,  and the reader was asked to script the story ( as well as letter, ink, and color it). After that the pencils were gone leaving the reader with only a plot for 5 pages to draw from. Finally the book just ended and the reader was expected to finish it.

I tried my hand at the coloring, inking, lettering, scripting, and penciling portions of this book. As interesting and educational as this book was, it was also incredibly difficult and overwhelming, especially to a 17 year-old kid with no experience whatsoever. Here's one of the pages that I penciled and inked from the plot that was given.

I ended up putting the book aside for a number of years. I returned to it in the summer of 1992 when I decided to "get serious" about what I wanted out of life. I skipped all of the steps and went straight to the pencils. After completing the 5 pencil pages and I started coming up with pages to draw on my own- in 3 to 5 page increments. Here's the pencils I did from the Try-Out Book in 1992:

Although these pages are very raw, they were a really good starting point for going where I wanted to.

The Marvel Try-Out book was invaluable to me. Because of it, I really learned how these books were put together. I also learned what I was personally capable of. Every once in a while, I toy with the idea of going back and drawing these pages again. It might be interesting to compare what I can do now with what I did back then. Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print, however a copy can be found on Amazon  and on ebay

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Research is a very important aspect of any artist's job, but particularly a comic book artist's. If there is something that is not drawn correctly, like a real life building, it's pretty easy to tell. When I do research, I like to actually see the thing I'm drawing close up. That's not always possible. The first time I did any kind of extensive research was for a scene that took place in the Oval Office of the White House. Obviously I couldn't go there so I had to discover the layout of the office by looking for photos of it. The only problem was that this was back in 1996, and there was no such thing as Google. Today, all the information that I needed was a mere click of the mouse away. This was not so back then. I spent hours in the basement of Loyola University's library looking through bound copies of the magazine Newsweek in order to get an up to date look at President Clinton's Oval. What made this a little more challenging was that Clinton didn't redecorate the Oval Office right away after becoming President, but waited over a year (Barack Obama did the same thing). Because of this there were different decorations in the office depending on when the pictures were taken.  I was unable to take the bound volumes out of the library, so I literally had to make sketches while I was there. It took some time, but I was able to get a fairly accurate layout. These drawings were done in January 1996:

The interesting outcome of this project was that I now pay very close attention to the changes that are made to the office each time a new person becomes President.

It's important not only to be accurate, but it's just as important to remain up to date. The same can be said for clothing fashions and hair styles. Because these are things that constantly change, keeping up with them becomes a job itself.

Friday, February 18, 2011


In 1999, I had worked at Steve Edsey & Sons illustration studio for a year and had helped out on a few projects, but it was becoming clear to me that my artwork just wasn't getting any better. I felt that in order to get to where I wanted to go, I had to go back to school. There was only one choice of where to go - American Academy Of Art. Not only had most of the illustrators at Edsey gone there, but my Dad had as well.

In my first year at the Academy, I had figure drawing 3 nights a week for 3 1/2 hours a night. My teacher was Melinda Whitmore who had graduated from The New York Academy Of Art.

Melinda was great - she took a lot of time to move all of her students in the right direction. She was a real stickler for measuring the human figure in order to get the correct proportions - something that I had never done in my previous art classes. In addition to the studio class work she had us do outside projects, such as doing gesture drawings,  drawing from the work of a great master in order to look at the figure the same way they did ( I drew from a Leonardo Da Vinci drawing), and doing extensive drawings of hands and feet. She was also a an expert on Human Anatomy, and taught that course as well in my second semester. Below are some of the drawings I did in Melinda's class:

Overall Melinda's class was a great experience. She and her husband David Jamieson own and operate the Vitruvian Art Studio where students can learn the same techniques that these two wonderful people taught me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Every year I try to give to various charities if I can. I regularly give to Part Of The Solution, a soup kitchen in Bronx, New York where I had done some volunteer work after undergrad. I have also given to the Chicago Food Depository, The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research,  Catholic Charities, and the Red Cross.

I want to tell you about a special fundraising effort. Jill Pantozzi is a columnist for Newsarama, MTV Splash Page, Topless Robot, and  Publisher's Weekly (among others). She writes a blog, The Nerdy Bird, which is fantastic and, truth be told, inspired me to start this blog. When I did start it, Jill was nice enough to take a look and give me some advice. Some of the content of the posts that I have done were her suggestions.

On March 12, Jill will be participating in the Muscular Dystrophy's annual MDA Muscle Walk, for the New York-New Jersey Metro area. Jill was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy ( specifically Spinal Muscular Atrophy) when she was 2 and a half. She and her family have been involved in MDA soon after and have done everything they could the help find a cure ever since. She talks about it more in depth HERE.

Donations to Jill can be made HERE or to her team " The Nerdy Birds" HERE. She's getting pretty close to her goal. Anything you can do to help out would be appreciated.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Today is Len Strazewski's birthday. Len, former writer of DC Comics Justice Society Of America and creator of Prime for Malibu's Ultraverse universe, is the current writer of AC Comic's Stormy Tempest character for Femforce. I first read Len's work back in 1990's Flash Special #1 where he wrote an adventure of the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. Little did I know that 20 years later I would count him among my best friends.

I first met Len back in 1993. I had known Mike Parobeck, who was Len's artist on DC Comics  JSA and The Fly titles. Mike had been looking at my artwork on a fairly regular basis and was about to move to Florida. He said that Len would look at my artwork and gave me his number. Here are a couple of the pages, out of about 20, that Len looked at upon our first meeting:

Did he love them? No. In fact, he tore them apart. His comments were basically "Why did you do THIS?" "Why isn't anything happening here?" "This stuff need to be more exciting" He said that the character of Chuck ( who is on the second page) looked like he was "deflated" and  talked about what Dick Giordano said about the construction of faces ( that they were made of flesh and should be drawn as if they were unmoving plastic). His biggest complaint was that nothing was happening on the pages and that people were just standing around talking.

The truth of the matter was Len was dead right. My layouts were not overly exciting. Things didn't flow as well as they should. So I fixed it. Below are the pages I drew immediately after my first meeting with him.

At this point, my work still had a very long way to go. I had done no life drawing yet, with the exception of one figure drawing class at Truman College. Still, there was a difference between what my work looked like before and after meeting Len Strazewski.

Len continued to look at my work from time to time. He was the first person to give me scripts to draw from. He was writing Prime and Prototype for Malibu and would pass stories along. It was incredibly helpful. Here are some pages I drew circa 1995-97:

By the time I started grad school at American Academy Of Art, Len had pretty much left the comic book world for greener educational pastures. He started teaching journalism at Columbia College Chicago and eventually rose to the prestigious position of acting chair of the department.

He has gone back to dabble in the comic book world from time to time. Below are a few pages I drew for an independent project that he's been pursuing:

This is for a story titled  TRUE COLORS

This for an ongoing epic called MILOS

In 2010, Len started writing the Stormy Tempest feature for AC Comics, adding depth and humanity to this little known character. I'm luck enough to be the artist drawing it.

It's interesting to think that I started out reading Len's work and ended up drawing it. As lucky as I feel for that, I feel even luckier to know this wonderful person. Happy Birthday, Len!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Heretic: Templar Chronicles was the first project I worked on for Markosia Enterprises, starting back in 2007. The graphic novel was based on the the novel by Joseph Nassise and deals with the adventures of modern day Templar Knights. The knights fight ghosts, zombies and are lead by Cade Williams, who has the ability to cross over into the world of the dead. The following pages show Cade and fellow knight Sean Duncan being shown the Vatican's trophy room where the Spear Of Destiny is kept.

At the end of the issue, there is a huge battle between the knights and zombies on the ground while in the air another battle wages between knights and ghosts.

This story was interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that it was about a year since I had worked on Heretic - I was asked by Markosia to put it aside for Kong, and it took a long time to get this script. In fact, I had already done my first Femforce story by the time I got this script. My artwork had changed quite a bit in that year:

If you look closely, you can see that the faces and the bodies are more developed
in the second page than in the first.

Also, I had just started using a computer program called Sketchup which allowed me to draw more accurate backgrounds. The end result was pretty good, I thought:

Originally planned as a 6 issue limited series, the series was cancelled at issue 3, with the intent to publish issues 4, 5, & 6 along with the first 3 issues as a complete trade paperback. The first artist had left the series after the 3rd issue and I was asked to do chapters 4-6, all of which I had completed ( 85 pages total). Of the 3 issues I drew, this one was the most professional looking. To this day, the trade has not been published and it seems unlikely that it will be. If you're interested in this type of story, it's probably worth it to get a copy of the novel. It can be found HERE