Thursday, October 27, 2011


My boxes of Retrowood books showed up this week from Ka-Blam Printers and I've been busily shipping out copies the last couple of days. Doing comics anymore is a real labor of love, and seeing this one gave me a special feeling of satisfaction, since the initial concept was something I started working on way back in the late '80s. It's good to know that things do eventually happen.

There are still a few copies left of this very limited print run for any of you interested. And I thought I'd post more drawings from the next Retrowood story that is in the works: All Roads Lead to Rome.







For more information go to:


Since this is the eventual fruition of one project, I thought it only fitting that I should post some of the sketches I've been doing over the past year of a strip that I started developing as "The Cat and the Crow".

The central character is  Nefertiti, a young girl caught between technology and mysticism. The cat and crow are the guides that have been sent to help her along the way. One of the things that inspired the drawings was a clip I saw on YouTube about a crow that had adopted a starving kitten, and the two became fast friends.

We'll see how this develops. I've already seen a major shift of characters and location.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coby Whitmore Revisited

Without a doubt the most popular blog so far has been my post on the great illustrator Coby Whitmore. So here are a bunch more scans from my huge tearsheet collection of his work.

In the few conversations I've had with Bob McGinnis, he always talks about Coby as one of his biggest influences from the time. Likewise with Joe Bowler, Whitmore's onetime assistant. I'm sure if you talked with more illustrators from that era, many of them would also say the same thing. While Coby Whitmore didn't have the versatility to handle a number of story types like Al Parker, as the boy-girl romance king, he remains unchallenged.

I've been unplugged the last week since my computer died and I had to replace it. Hopefully I'll have a couple more posts following quickly after this one.

For more images of Coby Whitmore's work you can see the files I've posted lately on the Flickr site:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Those European Guys"

Early in my career when I was discussing my latest work with my editor Joe Orlando, he sighed, shook his head, and said, "You're looking at those European guys too much."  For anyone other than Joe I probably would have taken that remark as the ultimate ignorance, but Joe was a man who understood and admired the finest art and illustration in comics. An excellent cartoonist himself,  Joe had originally worked with Wally Wood, did several of the famous E.C. stories, was a mainstay at Mad Magazine before eventually working as an editor at D.C. Joe was the one who brought to American comics as entire school of brilliant Phillipine artists such as Tony DeZuniga, Alex Nino, and Alfredo Alcala.

The essence of what Joe was trying to say was what he had experienced  firsthand from the fans reaction not only to the Philipine artists, but also to the likes of Alex Toth: in comics, style was more important than substance. And the current style was exaggerated super heroes. Fortunately, I took Joe's advice with a grain of salt. I've told folks many time, as I wasn't the most popular  or skilled comic book artist, no one ever said, "Don't change!"  Success often has a way of stunting your creative growth, but consequently I was free to experiment and learn and move forward as an illustrator beyond just comics. In the other fields of advertising, animation and movies, the skills were more appreciated. 

What I've always admired is draftsmanship, clear storytelling, and dynamic composition. And lots of those European guys were masters at these qualities, because they started out studying the "old masters", as well as the current cartoonists. They were more influenced by the greats of the comicstrip (Foster, Caniff, Raymond) than the current Marvel style.

Two of the earliest examples I saw were two Spanish cartoonists. When my friend Augie Guzman came back from a trip to Mexico he brought back a book with art by an artist named Esteban Maroto; there was another strip called Delta 99 but it was unsigned. The Maroto story  was printed in blue ink instead of black and the work blew me away. His male figures were strong and muscular, but elegant and graceful. His women were just otherwordly beautiful. He was another Al Williamson. And all with an exquisite art nouveau  background. I was pleased in later years to start seeing his work regularly in the Warren books.

Howard Chaykin introduced me to the work of Carlos Giminez, via a wonderfully whimsical strip Dani Futuro. His work reminded me a bit of both Wood and
Eisner, but again with a definite art nouveau influence. And lo and behold this was the artist who had drawn Delta 99. My Starfire pages were full of little bits and pieces (we call them swipes) from Giminez. And I also found his work in Trinca, one of the many imported books Doug Murray gave me as payment for a poster I had did for him.

Trinca was one of Europe's best anthology books, featuring several strips ( among them The Smurfs) and it introduced me to another lifelong influence, Victor De La Fuente. The two strips that De La Fuente had in the book were Haxtur and Matia D'Or, both post-apocalypse barbarian strips. Victor's figures were skinny little wiry guys , but they looked like they could rip any Marvel superhero to shreds in the real world. His gutty penline and sense of realism gave the stories a vitality I'd never seen. Later, I discovered he also worked on any number of Western strips.

Another of the books that Doug Murray passed on to me was Paul Gillon's Les Naufrages Du Temps, an elegantly drawn sci-fi strip. Oddly enough, I didn't respond to the work much at the time, perhaps because it was in black and white with a single neutral tone on it. It was only in later years when I saw his work in full color (La Survivante,Le Plan Aspic) that I really started to examine and emulate the work. Chaykin had dubbed him the French Leonard Starr.

The regular artist on the Warren strip Vampirella was Jose Gonzalez. His work was stunning, and you never knew what to expect. His color work was as alive and vibrant as San  Julian, and his black and white work was always a conglomeration of charcoal, ink, pencil, marker and wash...but all brought together in a cohesive pattern.

When I started sharing a studio with Chaykin in the sleepy LA suburb of Montrose, he introduced me a number of other of my influences. One was Alfonso Font, who did several stories together with Carlos Gimenez about the Spanish Civil War. There was such  spontaneity and life in the drawings, and his use of spotting blacks was masterful.

If "Shanghai" was the only album Attilio Micheluzzi ever did in his short but brilliant career, I'd still have him as one of my favorites. It's the closest thing I've ever seen to competing with Caniff's early Terry and the Pirates work. The man definitely had a movie camera behind his eyes. I'm often amused, noting Micheluzzi's architectural background, to often find him choosing to place words balloons over people instead of buildings. His Air Mail strip is worth hunting down. His last work was on a series called "Afghanistan", and was printed in the European magazine Comic Art. The last story, published unfinished, shows his working style with a combination of pencil roughs, line work, and finished frames.

Ferdinando Tacconi did several of the Un Uomo Un'avventura books along with Sergio Toppi. Tacconi's work was light and breezy and whimsical like Gimenez, but with a wonderfully controlled looseness. Sounds contradictory, but it worked for him. And the use of blacks would make Toth and Kubert jealous.

You can see the influence of Tacconi in Walter Simonson's work, and even more so with Toppi, one of the great illustrators to come out of Italy. The design and penwork is of such facility and confidence. The graphic design breathtaking. I'm not sure if he was influenced by Brad Holland or the other way around.  Whatever, the man just makes me want to draw.

But all of these continentals made me want to pick up a pen or pencil and just doodle away. There were a number of others who were inspirational such as Moebius, Druillet, Palacios, Loisel, Bernet...the list just goes on. While I grew up on American cartoonists and they are my roots, certainly the Europeans were my step toward maturity. I've found a few links to some of these artists, but it would be well worth the time to google them all and study the images.

Carlos Gimenez:

Esteban Maroto:

Victor De La Fuente:

Paul Gillon:

Attilio Micheluzzi:

Jose Gonzalez:

Ferdinando Tacconi:

Sergio Toppi: