Archive for the ‘ROBOT AESTHETICS’ Category



June 5, 2012

Did I really talk about my theme sketchbook project for almost 2 hours? Yes, I did. On THE DORK FOREST.



May 29, 2012

April marked the 1 year anniversary of my theme sketchbook project. I say “project” since the sketchbook has become two sketchbooks. Once I began bringing the sketchbook to conventions, I found myself occasionally slowed down by artists who were either very busy or not fast. Having two sketchbooks allowed me to get at least twice as many drawings (usually more as I can work around the slowpoke.)

I planned the whole thing as a gift for my daughter – I draw the first page and when there’s only one page left she will draw the last one and then the sketchbook will be hers. When I finished my drawing on the first page last April, the thought that raced through my head was “what now?” I had no idea who I was going to get to draw pages or how. I managed to amass 50 drawings in the first year – from friends, at conventions and through sending it in the mail. It’s all been quite a journey. Although I managed to get sketches throughout the entire month of April, I’m considering the final drawing of year one to be at the Boston Comic-Con. I collected five drawings at the convention and the last one was by SIMON BISLEY. I was allowed to moderate THE SIMON BISLEY AND KEVIN EASTMAN PANEL, but both were mobbed throughout the weekend and I was unsure if I was going to be able to get a sketch from him. Late Sunday afternoon, however, he did draw a page.


It was a huge sigh of relief. I was well aware that this was a rare opportunity, had been looking forward to it for a long time and was very thankful that it happened. When he was done, Bisley went through sketchbook with a boy who had been watching him draw, stopping at the ones that he liked and talking about them.


It was a special moment for me – a kind of surreal experience. It was then that I was struck by one of the reasons I started the sketchbook in the first place. The moment was gone – only existing in my mind and in the way I retold the story to others. The drawing, however, along with all of the others that I had collected – remained.



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.









October 19, 2011

In spending time thinking about the theme of my theme sketchbook, “evil giant robots,” I’ve wanted to seek out some highly regarded examples. Evil Giant Robots are not something that people often think about as a category but, arguably, the master of making malevolent, gigantic bots would be the late manga artist, KEN ISHIKAWA. Ishikawa was part of Dynamic Productions, a giant company which saw great success in the 1970s. The figurehead of the company is the legendary GO NAGAI, known the world over as the creator of MAZINGER Z, DEVILMAN and GRANDIZER. In discussing the creation of Mazinger Z, Go Nagai mentions that he gave Ishikawa the chore of designing the enemy “kikaiju” that Mazinger would fight. These robot beasts were indeed very memorable and Ishikawa’s contribution to Mazinger Z is significant. However, Ishikawa really took center stage with the manga of GETTER ROBO, an idea he came up with with Go Nagai, but one he wrote and drew himself. The manga of Getter Robo really gave Ishikawa a chance to shine, especially in the field of enemy robots.


Getter Robo led directly into a sequel, GETTER ROBO G. The enemy of Getter Robo was the DINOSAUR EMPIRE, led by EMPEROR GORE. Emperor Gore would send “Mechasauruses” against the Getter team – distinctly reptilian mechanical beasts that sometimes appeared to be biomechanical cyborgs. The threat in Getter Robo G was the HYAKKI EMPIRE, aka the “Hundred Demon Empire.” The robots that they would send out against Getter Robo G were called “Mecha Oni,” wonderfully designed demon-robots, which were always horned.

Devil King
The Getter Robo G TV show was translated into English and shown as STARVENGERS in the United States. I saw these episodes as a kid and felt that the Mecha Oni were some of the best-looking evil robots I’d ever seen. The designs were relentlessly innovative, beautiful and scary. The impact they had on me made me recently want to track down some Manga of Getter Robo G. Anime based on manga is often not a direct translation and can feature vastly different storylines, character backgrounds and, yes, enemy robots.

I found a set of three Getter G manga on Yahoo, Japan and won the auction at a reasonable price – which became less reasonable due to a sucky exchange rate and overseas shipping costs.

When they arrived, I was really blown away. I couldn’t read them, but the page layouts truly put the “dynamic” in Dynamic Productions. And there were, of course, tons of beautiful enemy robots. Swarms of Mechasauruses and Mecha Oni appeared with great regularity and it was clear that Ishikawa simply loved drawing this stuff.

For a short while, I felt very wise that I had made this purchase. Then I found out that the entire Getter manga series had already been scanslated (scanned in and then translated from Japanese to English) and was available online for free. This gave me a chance to appreciate the Getter saga on a whole new level – I could actually follow the story. Reading these manga scanslations was a very eye-opening experience for me. The process led me to some interesting conclusions, not just about Getter Robo, but about the internet and media consumption in general.

The pacing of the storytelling in the Getter manga is very different than that of the TV series. Super Robot TV shows of the 70s were very formulaic. A hero robot would defeat an enemy robot at the end of each and every episode, usually after losing to him earlier. This simplistic formula was something that production companies could not only get away with, but was essentially demanded by the viewership. Unlike an age where one can blast through an entire season on a DVD boxed set, older TV shows were viewed one week apart. Even if an episode was a carbon copy of the one that preceded it as well as the one that followed it, this wasn’t a liability because of the full week of life that viewers had between viewings. In fact, if this formula is not followed, viewers would be outraged. An episode spent solely on character development which would make the action to come in subsequent episodes more meaningful is something that was not acceptable due to the specific nature in which TV was consumed when these shows were being made.

Manga is an art which is consumed in an entirely different manner. Many, many pages are read at once and the direction the story goes throughout the course of hundreds of pages is often filled with detours. Numerous pages are spent without a whole lot happening.

In his groundbreaking book “Understanding Comics,” Scott McCloud discusses how manga have far more “aspect to aspect” panel transitions than American comic books. “Most often used to establish a mood or a sense of place, time seems to stand still in these quiet, contemplative combinations.” He explains one reason why: “Japanese comics first appear in enormous anthology titles where the pressure isn’t as great on any one installment to show a lot ‘happening.’”

This is true with the Getter manga, and the pacing is completely different from the TV show. Unlike the anime, there is a strong overlap between Getter Robo and Getter Robo G, with the Hyakki Empire showing up long before the Dinosaur Empire is defeated. Characters go off and do things for many pages that have little to do with the main plot.

The unforeseen result of this pacing is that manga is incredibly, unexpectedly internet-friendly. It was surprisingly easy for me to blast through Getter Robo scanslations, stopping and starting again whenever I felt like it. Because the story wasn’t dense with plot, I never felt confused when I’d pick up where I left off.

This in not unlike podcasts. Prior to the podcast explosion, it was not at all clear that the length of podcast episodes was not a factor. People listen to podcasts whenever they have the time: in the car, at the gym, at work when the boss isn’t looking… Even with DV-Rs today, TV demands that you sit in front of your (probably high-def and very big) TV while you consume programs. Being a captive in that space in order to watch means that people will sit there for only so long.

Reading online manga feels completely unrestricted. The long, but not complex story arcs dovetail in very well with the busy lives people lead today.

When I look at the world of hard-copy picture books, I see an escalation of pictures. Things like THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by BRIAN SELZNICK or THE ARRIVAL by SHAUN TAN, I can’t help but wonder if there will be an explosion of the number of pictures in stories that are told with pictures.

One of the biggest discoveries of my reading the manga of the Getter Saga is that the story did not end with Getter Robo G. In 1990, Ken Ishikawa, wrote and illustrated GETTER ROBO GO which was also turned into a TV series. The TV series has no connection to the Getter Robo and Getter Robo G TV shows, but the manga is a direct continuation of the Manga that Ishikawa had worked on 16 years earlier!

Moreover, while not much is thought of the “Getter Robo Go” TV show, the manga is considered Ishikawa’s masterpiece, spanning seven volumes and featuring over 1400 pages of art. Completed in 1997. It was simply a joy to go through it all.

The art definitely feels different than the earlier Getter work. I think that may partly be due to Dynamic Productions no longer needing a “house style” and that Ishikawa’s art simply evolved. There is more detail in many panels, but some lines also seem more loose and free. Again, the format of consumption feels fitting in that a single story is being told. I’m not sure what the business model will be for online scanslated manga or even faux manga, but that seems to be up in the air for many types of media these days.

I’m looking forward to reading more Getter manga after Getter Go. Ishikawa followed the saga up with two volumes of SHIN GETTER ROBO but then he unexpectedly died in 2006. We are fortunate that he was so prolific.

It was recently ANNOUNCED that a new getter Manga, GETTER ROBO G VS. SATAN DANTE (another vintage Go Nagai creation) will be released this year. Interestingly, the manga will be drawn by Go Nagai himself. This may be the first Getter manga by him and should certainly be a great tribute to his late friend.

Getter Robo is something that Go Nagai has had a lot of interest in developing further. Perhaps this was influenced by the death of Ishikawa or perhaps he simply has great faith in the brand even though it is not Dynamic Productions most well-known property. Here is a snippet from an email I was CC’d on in 2009:

“Actually, Go Nagai’s production really would like to make a feature based on Getter Robo, I would say, their priority is Getter Robo, rather than Mazinger Z and Getter Rpbo’s story itself is much more interesting than Mazinger Z story, however, we can also get the rights to Mazinger Z, as well. For now, GO Nagai’s priority is Getter Robo.”

It is difficult to know what the future will be for the Getter Saga property, but the scanslations should certainly attract new viewership. They can be viewed at DYNAMIC PRO SCANSLATIONS



August 1, 2011

I first heard of the idea of theme sketchbooks a long time ago – before I even became familiar with the term. The idea excited me: a number of different artists – as many as you could get – all taking on the same subject.

Recently, I decided I had to get one going myself – the adventure simply seemed too thrilling to pass up. First, I had to decide on a subject. It didn’t take me long to come up with “Evil Giant Robots.” Second, I had to get the sketchbook itself. I wanted a nice one. I searched on eBay and found a good deal one that was 10.5″ by 13.5,” had hand made paper and an impressive, very ornamental leather cover. It came in the mail very quickly and now I was all set to start it.

The problem with theme sketchbooks is that the more the pages get filled, the more precious the book becomes literally and sentimentally. The grander its reputation and more it needs to be guarded and protected. The story which brought theme sketchbooks to my attention is a sad one. A sketchbook was being built of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I never saw the sketchbook myself, but in it were contributions by such legends Jack Kirby and Moebius and many, many others. As it was dropped off to some artists at Comic-Con, it wound up getting stolen. This was over ten years ago, but if anyone find out about its whereabouts, let me know and I’ll contact the original owner.

My thinking on my own theme sketchbook is that it should be filled over a very long period of time. I therefore decided that it would be a joint project with my daughter and could be something that we share together. The agreement that we reached was that I would draw the first page, she would draw the last and we would see how many great artists – well known or not – to contribute a page. Of course I’d like to get as many pages for free as possible – or at least trade a drawing in the book for a drawing by my daughter or me. I realize this is probably limiting and decided that I was open to the idea of commissioning entries.

Assembling the wish lists of artists for this book is exciting, from good friends who will do it in a secon to pipe-dream, who-knows-how-the-hell-I’d-even-contact-them superstars of art. My list is already very long, but if you have any ideas as to who I should try and get, leave them in a comment below.

It can be tricky in propositioning artists to do a page. It’s like you’re asking them to the prom. You want to make sure you catch them at the right moment and that you present the project innocently. It’s also tricky clearing time for them to do the drawing. I’ve had luck in artists alley’s at comic book conventions as well as the Drink and Draw Social Club, which meets Thursday nights downtown.

Here’s how it’s going so far.















October 10, 2010

My new project, “BOY-BOT & BOY” will images of many robots as well as toy robots. It’s made me go back and look at a lot of different robot drawings and photos for reference. Here’s one that I’m quite fond of: a drawing of an unmade toy from the “Machine Robo” line in Japan, which I believe is simply called “Animal Robo.” There are lots of combining (“gattai” in Japanese) robots out there, but this one has to be at the top of the list in terms of the number of (animal) robots that come together to form this guy. Despite the sheer number of parts that make up the whole here, I still find the combined form to be quite harmonious. It’s a shame to me that it never became an actual toy.