Jul 01
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SOMETHING WE NEED TO DISCLOSE

Ever sign a non-disclosure agreement? Confidentiality paperwork is pretty standard these days for artists and writers and publishers. They protect both parties from info being released before both parties are ready to have it put out there. 

That means, as much as an artist WANTS to post art on a blog or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever, it can’t be done until the contracts say so. Sure, sometimes you can ask for specific permission to release an image and the other party will say yes. But if they say no, you have to honor that.

Your signature on the paperwork means something. It means you can get sued if you don’t follow what you agreed to; it also means a project or deal could fall apart if you violate that trust, for a variety of reasons. 

The same holds for client/project names and details, release dates, or anything else you’re to which you’re privvy. You keep your mouth shut and your art to yourself until you’re legally allowed to announce/show it. It’s called professionalism in business.

Here’s a bit more info for those who’ve signed it but don’t understand it, or those of you who may be asked to sign one in the future — which means many of you in the world of business: http://www.bosschicks.com/what-is-a-non-disclosure-agreement

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Jun 30
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GHG AND ME

I’ve been receiving plenty of questions about my 21+-year-old company Glass House Graphics, so here are the answers. 

Yes, 2013 was our best year ever. Yes, we are still adding artists and colorists to our roster. Yes, I still own 100% of Glass House.

We have Glass House Graphics offices in the USA (run by my wife and myself), plus Glass House Graphics Asia (run by Michelle Principe`), Glass House Graphics Europe (run by Richard Boom), and Glass House Graphics Brazil (run by Paulo Teles Yonami), as well as two Glass House Graphics Indonesia offices run by Andre Christian M. Siregar and by Julia Laud. 

We also have partnerships with several art and color and painting studios throughout the world (most notably Mexico, India, and Italy), plus our animation studio in the Philippines.

We’ve over 125 artists on our roster, plus animators — and access to many more talents through our partnership arrangements.

Our client list includes Disney Worldwide Publishing, DreamWorks, Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, Random House (multiple divisions), Simon & Schuster, Sports Illustrated, Rittenhouse, Upper Deck, Breygent, Tri-Forbes, and more.

Our comics clients include Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Galaxy, Grind House, Kingstone, Kymera, Red Giant Entertainment, Marshall Holt, Valiant, Zenescope, and lots of others.

I hope that brings everyone up to speed on www.glasshousegraphics.com

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Jun 04
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IN THEIR OWN TIME

One of the bizarre, sad truths about movies and the internet in general and the investment business in particular goes way beyond “spoilers.”  

Remember when the 1st STAR WARS landed in 1977?  Before it came out, we saw a little bit of news in the sci-fi magazines of the time; a novel ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster; and not much more.  The movie hit theaters, astonished us all, and became a massive hit — a game-changer that sneaked up on us.  We didn’t see the trials and tribulations George Lucas went through to get it made.

Recall Tim Burton’s BATMAN hit in 1989?  There was a bit of buzz for about a year in those pre-Facebook days, a serious trailer that quelled campiness concerns, and then the movie made a big splash.  We never knew that producer Michael Uslan had a decade-long uphill battle to get that movie made.

Today is so far different.  Today a movie gets announced, then every scrap of info is endlessly dissected — every crew or casting choice, every location, every leaked promo photo.  Nothing is left.  Everything is second-guessed and endlessly debated.  By the time the movie comes out, we’re exhausted by it all and feel as though we’ve already seen it seven times.

I’m seeing the same thing happen as new businesses get launched.  Back-seat drivers — whether they be investors, vendors, or armchair analysts — are quick to spin fantasies of swelling success or fantastic failure with every dribble of news, every stumble or delay, every perceived slight, every stock tick up or down.  

It’s all pretty fruitless.  Burton’s blockbuster BATMAN and Lucas’s industry-changing STAR WARS would both been written off a failures, had  Facebook folk or armchair analysts been believed.   

And sometimes, plans change.   Had Michael Uslan caved in and accepted the prevailing wisdom that nobody would accept a serious Batman film so long as the memory of Adam West’s TV series remained in public consciousness, we’d never have gotten seven (and counting) new feature films and countless cartoon iterations.  Several sources documented that George Lucas had failed to get the rights to Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers (I forget which) and only then wrote what became Star Wars and its seemingly infinite spin-offs and tie-ins. 

Big wins — or even small ones — take years, even decades — to happen.   A day, a week, a month, even a few years means little as a movie (or any other business plan) gets greenlit.  They happen in their own time.

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May 05
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COLOR ME EXASPERATED

…So I give a test to another colorist looking for work.  (If the page is good, I’ll pay for it and use it.)  I approve the .jpg and tell him to send the print file.  I open it and am left scratching my head.  I don’t understand what this file is supposed to be.

*  It’s a .jpg.  No publisher can print professional-quality books from .jpgs.  From their very nature, a .jpg is an online format that looks good on a screen but has LOST information, so it can’t possibly print properly.  So nobody can realistically turn the .jpg back to a .tif  or a .psd and expect it to work, because it’s like pouring out half the liquid from the bottle — even if you put a cap back on it, some of it is gone.

*  It’s in RGB.  Basically red, green, and blue light.  Not a single printing press on the planet can print in RGB, because RGB, like a .jpg, was created as something for ON-SCREEN.  Light phosphors create color on a monitor using RGB.  There is no black in RGB.  So even if somebody colors in RGB, then tries to convert it in Photoshop to CYMK — the only format printers can use — the shift invariably prints different from what’s on screen.

Any professional colorist knows this stuff.  The one time a colorist of ours submitted files to Dark Horse in RGB, he was fired immediately and never got another job there.

Even the basic bible of the coloring business — THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO COLORING & LETTERING — which EVERY professional colorist in the biz has to read before getting a job,  explains these things.  So does my own book, STAN LEE’S HOW TO DRAW COMICS.

So there’s no excuse for this.

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Apr 30
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DEODAUGHTER!

From his hometown in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, superstar artist Mike Deodato, Jr. and his wife Paula brought into the world today a brand-spanking-new baby girl — Ana Julia!  Congratulations to the fabulous family!

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DOWN ON THE FARM

Meryl and Jazzy and I had one of the roughest restaurant meals we’ve had in years. Jazzy was excited to receive a postcard giving her a free kids’ meal at the Bob Evans restaurant in Clermont, FL. So we went. She ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a kid’s turkey dinner. Meryl had the fish. I had eggs, grits, sausage, and French toast.

We were surprised it was dinnertime but almost no patrons were there. That should’ve been a hint.

The soup came with dried-out noodles on top and practically no soup on the noodles; we sent it back, and the replacement was clearly someone adding water to the bowl. A third try was marginally better but had an odd smell.

They were out of the biscuits, explaining they weren’t very busy and wouldn’t be making any more this evening, and instead brought rolls that apparently were microwaved — and mushy.

The waitress then informed me that they don’t serve grits after 2 pm….which she neglected to mention when I placed the order.

The turkey was dry; the mash was hard at the edges. Meryl suffered through her fish in relative silence; she remembered liking it on previous visits. My sausage wasn’t browned; the eggs were rubbery; the French toast was cold and hard (but they’d warmed the syrup to make up for it); I don’t tend to eat hash browns, but my daughter, who usually loves ‘em, pushed them away after one bite. She spit out the sausage when she tried it.

The waitress was clearly annoyed we sent stuff back.

At this point, I don’t think I’d go back if the whole meal for the family was free. Bob Evens used to be decent. I don’t know what the hell happened to it….

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Feb 26
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AGENT, TALK TO MY AGENT

An artist submitted a portfolio that was all decent-quality pinups. No sequential pages. Then he caught me on Facebook to discuss it.

ARTIST: I am looking for work at Marvel or DC. Yes, my agent also works for publishers.

ME: You already have an Agent? Then I guess you work with him. When your contract with him expires, contact me.

ARTIST: I can only do any work after that pass through it.

ME: When does your contract expire?

ARTIST: I don’t know yet.

ME: You signed a contract but don’t know when it ends?

ARTIST: I’m gonna stay with them until I get into DC or Marvel.

ME: OK, so it will be a few years then. Who are you drawing sequentials for, right now?

ARTIST: No one at this moment.

ME: OK. So…you don’t have a TRACK RECORD of meeting deadlines to impress Marvel and DC with your dependability. You don’t have a great portfolio RIGHT NOW of amazing sequentials to impress them into even giving you a test script. And the portfolio you DO have is pinups — not covers — and they almost never buy pinups. So, my question is: How do you expect any agent to get you in to Marvel or DC? I’m trying to understand your plan, your thought processes.

ARTIST: OK, man. Thanks.

ME: Oh…I was hoping for an ANSWER, so that I could understand.

ARTIST: Speaks with my Agent, please, he will explain it all better. He will give you all the informations.

….So let me get this straight: He’s already repped by an Agent and has no sequential pages or career dependability to prove his competence, yet he wants to get into Marvel or DC, and plans to leave his current Agency as soon as they get him in to one of those companies. So much for loyalty.

I don’t get it.  Could someone explain it to me?

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Jan 13
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MANNEQUIN MONDAYS

I had a conversation today with an artist who likes using Poser to help him create his panels, and he would draw over those compositions; the results, while good enough with foreshortening and such, always come up lacking in life. 

The illusion of life, as they say, comes from bringing as much MOVEMENT and CHARACTER PERFORMANCE into each panel as possible While it’s fine to use Poser — or Google Sketch-Up, or Manga Studio, or any tool, for that matter — as a TOOL, it’s wrong to use any of them as a crutch.

Here, let me walk you through an example. Let’s say an artist creates a scene in Poser — a Kryptonite girl, glowing green on a rooftop, grabbing two super-heroes who are helpless in her grasp. Usually, you only end up with something like this. (I found this on Heromorph.com. I have no idea who did it.)

That Poser image is stiff, much like staging mannequins in a store window.  Using this as a starting point is perfectly fine, but it’s the THINKING behind adding MOVEMENT to bring it to life, that really counts in the final drawing.

Below, Glass House Graphics artist Jinky Coronado shows you how to make that happen. She changed one of the figures from the reference to Superman (which makes sense with a Kryptonite villain) for this example.

*  For Superman, she’s added his expression, his helpless pose, the head movement, the bits of debris around him, the flowing of his cape. 

*  From Kryptonite girl, the expression, better pose, movement of her hair, and more dramatic arm poses. 

*  From the dangling Supergirl, the flowing skirt, expression, hair and cape whipping around. Even the “sexy panty shot” comes off as more cute than clumsy and blatant as in the Poser image. 

*  What’s more, she’s added damage and billowing smoke to the buildings behind them, telling a story about the battle that got the characters to this point.

That’s how a professional comics artist goes from a starting point reference to a finished image, bringing it to life on the page.

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Jan 10
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SO MUCH BLEEDING!

Decades ago, when comics were printed on letterpress, no pages except the covers bled images off all four sides; each page had a nice white margin around it, except for the rare double-page spread that was still a bit of a nightmare to get lined up on press. Pages were drawn 10” x 15” on 11” x 17” art board, and that meant a clean 6 x 9” image area on a comic page.  It also meant a page, or a spread of two pages, was pretty easy to follow.  Like this —

Over the past few decades, comics shifted to offset printing which meant better paper and FULL BLEEDS were possible, with images going to and past the trim area.  That’s when the problems started. Some artists decided, because bleeds were possible, they were necessary. That was fine on occasional pages, but suddenly EVERY page was a full bleed, and that became confusing to comics readers, particularly to new ones.

Reading a comics page already involves a set of learned skills.  We discover that oval balloons signify spoken word balloons; bubbly balloons and tails are thought balloons; jagged balloons are yells or screams, unless the tails are also jagged, in which case they are electronic, such as from a radio or TV or bullhorn; broken balloons are whispers; wavy balloons indicate wooziness; double-thick or dripping balloons indicate evil or eerieness; rectangular boxes are captions; double-bordered captions are usually voiceovers.  Words or letters outside any balloons or caption boxes are sound effects.  Wide panels stretch time; narrow panels are smaller slivers of time.  And on and on.

Children are also taught from an early age to read from left to right.  So if two comics pages full bleed and butt side-by-side, the tendency is to want to read them all the way across, just like a Sunday newspaper strip.  That results in a visual MESS, such as this —

Further complicating things is the realization that, sometimes, a spread is MEANT to be read across as a spread, rather than as individual pages. A good artist, of course, makes it clear —

Too many artists don’t bother thinking out what the pages will look like when printed. So you get confusing pages across many, many of today’s comic books looking like this —

I was horrified to pick up the DC’s BATMAN ODYSSEY hardcover and see the legendary Neal Adams fall into this trap — as with this set of two single pages where even the panel borders on both sides practically line up, forcing you to read the pages across — incorrectly.  Knowing that these comics bleed pages will end up collected in a book, where the binding swallows up another 1/4” off each side, makes it read even worse —

Today’s artists who actually pay attention usually do it right — such as this set of pages by Mike Deodato, Jr. He has the first page full bleed, but the second page has plenty of white gutter space, making a clear visual distinction between the two pages. There’s no question how to read these —

In this one below, Mike Deodato makes intelligent, judicious use of bleeds and of white space. 

On the left-hand page: Shang-Chi’s foot and hair bleed off the edges, emphasizing his kick is too powerful for panel borders to hold. The villain in the bottom two panels bleeds out of those panels, stressing his larger-than-life evil. 

On the right-hand page: Deodato takes a boring “conversation” page and gives a 3-D quality with the female figure in the bottom right panel.   It makes sense that a figure with such foreshortening of her right hand would bleed off the bottom and right edges of the page to further emphasize dimensionality, all without needing to add superfluous background detail. His use of white space on both these pages gives the images “room to breathe” so they read better, and have far better effect, than sets of pages with too much jumble.

So best advice:  No two consecutive side-by-side pages that full bleed.  If pages or panels DO bleed, make sure you’ve a good STORY reason to do so, so they don’t lose their impact.

Simple enough?

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Dec 17
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EMAILS FROM THE PLANET SNARK

I’m sort of sick of snarky amateurs who think they have all the answers but are so clueless that they don’t even know the questions.

Back in September, someone sent me a proposal for a SF project; it contained a very dark, clumsily-made cover done in Poser, some space ship art, some spare text, and a slowwwwww preview video of the same art.  I spent probably 25 minutes giving him a detailed reply of what worked, what didn’t, and how to make it better.  More time than I would have otherwise, but one of my top artists had recommended that this guy check in with me.

He wrote back asking me to rep the property and help him make it great; he even had a publisher on board.  I wished him luck, was glad he had a publisher already, then explained that publishers have editors who can help him shepherd his project into the best possible shape.  I think a total of eight Emails went back and forth — more time than I should have spent, but I striving to be helpful.

Today he wrote to tell me he got this Email:   “The artwork for the cover of [your project] looks beautiful.  Congratulations.  Stan Lee”

I typed back, “And…?”

"It’s enough, for us!" came the reply.

Wha—?  “I’m glad it’s enough for you,” I typed back, shaking my head.  “Stan never says a critical word about anyone or anything…that’s against the public image of Stan….Now, if Stan’s POW! Entertainment has agreed to PUBLISH your project, then great!”

"Then you know that Stan nothing can to do for us (Marvel)."

I tried to explain that Stan is only a figurehead at Marvel and has no power there.  And the replies and comments to me from the sender just kept on coming and coming, some of it worded in a snarky way.  “It’s a hard life, buddy.  No one to hear you in a deep and lonely space!”

What’s the point?  Why his need to argue with the same person who claimed he wanted representation and editing services from?  And if he already has a publisher, why was any of this necessary?

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