Archive for the ‘COMIC BOOKS’ Category

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ARMARAUDERS: THE LAST BATTALION

March 11, 2012

This week saw the launch of ARMARAUDERS: THE LAST BATTALION a web comic and toy line featuring awesome giant robots. This is the first project from MECHA WORKSHOP, a group of robot enthusiasts led by renowned Transformers comic book artist, DON FIGUEROA, who received much acclaim for his TF art at both Dreamwave and IDW.

In the last year, there has been much talk of the rise of do-it-yourself franchise building. While creator-owned content is nothing new to the world of comic books, up until a few years ago, artists were still reliant on making deals with middlemen for distribution. The internet has changed much of that. The World Wide Web is indeed worldwide and content can now reach all four corners of the globe either through strong marketing or word-of-mouth. This is easier said than done since the increased ease in creating and distributing content naturally results in increased competition. The two biggest issues facing the world of online comics are: 1. the glut of content (the fight for eyeballs is fierce) and 2. a sound business model (figuring out a price point that allows creators to remain competitive but also earn worthwhile revenue.)

Armarauders deals with these two concerns in interesting ways. First and foremost is that Don Figueroa brings a lot of cache to any project he’s involved with. The Transformers comic books in the last ten years or so saw some very high quality art. Many talented artists demonstrated outstanding mech draftsmanship and rendering, none more so than Mr. Figueroa. The acclaim for his work is completely justified. His robot designs are always not only beautiful, but functional – ready to be produced as toys. He has a profound appreciation of the modern history of mech design and designers. Mr. Figueroa is really a kind of mad scientist of robot drawing, with insane detail that obviously is correctly existing in three-dimensional space.

With Mecha Workshop, he has surrounded himself with people with similar appreciation and understanding of not only of robots, but of robot toys. The quality of the comic will certainly be matched by the quality of the toys that go along with it.

And this leads into the way in which Mecha Workshop looks to solve problem #2. Creating a franchise and monetizing it are two different things, especially if artists are concerned about retaining ownership and control. Both the web comic and the motion comic of Armarauders: The Last Battalion will be completely free. Moreover, it is being released in English, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The business model for the project is to essentially use the comic as advertising for the toys. I find this very interesting. History is filled with tales of artists going unrewarded and being taken advantage of for characters and content they created. The internet makes it so that this can largely be a thing of the past.

I want to see Armarauders and Mecha Workshop become successful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the bigger a hit it becomes, the more awesome toys will be made from the series. Second, it will demonstrate, even cement, the notion that artists wield much power in the modern age.

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ART OUTSOURCING

November 5, 2011

A few weeks ago at COMIC BOOK SUNDAY, I was talking to Russell Nohelty, creator of ICHABOD JONES. He was explaining his process of finding comic book illustrators online. There are numerous websites where writers can solicit illustrators and Nohelty was mentioning that most of his illustrators come from outside of the US. The simple reason is that their page rate is cheaper. Countries that have a lower cost of living yield artists who can do the same quality and amount of work for less. This makes perfect sense, but it still opened my eyes a bit. I think this trend is bigger than I realized. Earlier this year, I picked up the giant robot graphic novel, MORAV and the back of it describes the process of selecting the Indonesian illustrator Budi Setiawan. I’m sure there are lots of others if one examines creator-owned properties over the past few years.


The process of writers hiring foreign illustrators does not come without drawbacks. Language can sometimes be an issue and illustrators outside of the country generally cannot promote the product at US comic book conventions and whatnot.


I know some people are scared by this trend. It makes landing illustrating gigs even harder and it creates a price-per-page marketplace that is even more competitive. However, I do think it would be cool to see a superstar artist be born from this system – some amazing talent plucked from obscurity in a country where it’s very difficult to scrape by. Moreover, I think this trend does underscore the advantage that writer-illustrators possess. A lot people are trying to get into the sequential-art-storytelling game to peddle their ideas. If you can take care of the drawing part yourself, it’s probably as big a plus as it has ever been.

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COMIC BOOKS

October 10, 2010

Was reading some old issues of the WEST COAST AVENGERS from the John Byrne run and, in the middle of this wonderfully complex multi-issue story, came across a page of which I’m quite fond.

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While I’m impressed with Byrne’s pure drawing ability, what gets me here is the sense of motion in the panels. One can almost hear Iron Man’s “suit seals” activating as we see the eye panels closing up in the center panel. The sense of motion and depth in the following panel as Iron Man dives into the ocean as the US Agent swims to shore is very strong despite very limited detail. I also like the feeling of scale of the Mole Man’s monster at the top by the way the panel is cropped. There are probably lots of comic book panels out there just as good as this one, but I was really struck by it as I read the issue.

Even more fun was how the whole storyline ended. One thing that comic books (especially Marvel Comic books) do well is get away with heroic speeches at the end of issues. With the exception of the Silver Surfer, no character in the Marvel universe is as well suited to make a big speech as Thor. Although it’s probably overdone, I still really like it. And I’m always a sucker for an asterisk that references issues that are ancient history*
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*like the asterisk at the end of the Kree Skrull War in Avengers 89-97 which references Fantastic Four #2!