Sep 12
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Interview by Vijay

My series Pandora’s Blogs premiered on May 3rd’s Free Comic Book Day as one of two features in Red Giant Entertainment’s GIANT-SIZE FANTASY #0, with an impressive circulation of 125,000 or so copies — more than a typical issue of The X-Men!  A lot of female readers picked up on something different; the book is a supernatural romance, a genre big in bookstores but lacking in comicbooks.  With the actual series launching in a few months — moving into the GIANT-SIZE THRILLS title — interviewer Vijay cornered me today for an online interview:

So the name  (and story) Pandora’s Blogs seems like a play on words Pandora’s Box.  Can we expect more parallels between the two ? 

Yeah…the title Pandora’s Blogs is, indeed, a play on “Pandora’s Box,” about the girl who opened and unleashed a box full of horrors onto our world.  Pandora’s Blogs — and it is Blogs, plural, for those who thought it was some sort of typo, because she writes both a personal blog and a school blog — is all about Pandora Sargent, who opens up a grand story about monsters in her midst in the aptly-named town of Legends.  I think the parallels in discovering and learning about the unknown, and the loss of innocence, are always there.

For those who are new to this book, can  you tell them what Pandora’s Blogs is about?

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Sure!  Pandora Sargent is from a pretty modern family.  She lives with her sister from another father and her single-again mother, who has lost her job as a publicist for celebrities.  Her Mom Teresa lands a job doing publicity for a progressive medical facility in Florida, so she schleps her brood cross-country to start a new life.  Social media maven that she is, Pandora starts posting all about the weird things she begins seeing.  And, in Rashamon storytelling fashion, other people begin posting about their bizarre experiences, and a fuller, even more shocking, story unfolds involving medically-based monsters.

You mentioned recently that the lead character Pandora was based on a real person. How did that happen? 

Teresa Lynch is my company Glass House Graphics’s West Coast consultant who originally worked with me here in my Orlando office.  Not coincidentally, she was a celebrity publicist.  She, and her daughters Tiara and Myam, are wonderful, amazing ladies who I promised would become comics characters.  I’m pretty great at holding to my promises.

Issue #0’s “No Stone Unturned” introduces the lead characters and ends on a very interesting note.  Would issue #1 be a good jumping point for new readers if they missed the #0 issue?

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Of course!  In fact, issue #1 IS the jumping on point, as well it should be.  When [Red Giant CEO] Benny Powell surprised us with the idea of doing Free Comic Book Day issue #0s for all our series, our story editor Brian Augustyn was pretty insistent that the #0 adventures NOT be origin stories.  His reasons were sound; even if 100,000 people picked up the FCBD issue, that’s only 10% of the readers the #1’s would have.  “Don’t bury the lead!”…as they say in journalistic writing.  So I took Brian’s good advice and made the #0 story an adventure taking place maybe a year into the characters’ lives in Legends.  So it gives you a lot of hints what the relationships will be that far down the road.

What’s your most interesting character in the story for you?  “Pandora” seems interesting and “Hugo Bourbon” seems sympathetic figure so far.  It says a lot about writing when the most vile character so far is the one that is missing from the action completely “Marty Leiber”?  

I can relate a lot to Pandora and her family moving to Florida.  My wife, daughter, and I moved here three years ago!  (Laughs.)  The most interesting character in the story for me is probably Dr. Bethany Pike, because I know what’s in store regarding her.  Marty Leiber’s not missing — I just didn’t want the readers to see him in the issue #0, so I sent him on vacation!  (*chuckle*)  Editor-in-Chief David Lawrence had this goofy, wonderful suggestion that we NEVER see Marty Leiber, that he’s always off-panel.  That would’ve made for some fun, quirky, humorous storytelling, but we only have 14 pages per month to tell our story.  That means I have to select carefully what stories are more important to tell.

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Can you talk about the creative team behind this book?

Well, I’m not so sure about that writer guy David Campiti.  He’s been writing and producing comics for a long time.  Is he a writer of more sexy babe type projects as Exposure and Jade Warriors?  A writer of super-hero stuff like Superman, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and Hero Alliance?  A writer of TV and movie tie-in stuff like Beauty and the Beast, Dark Shadows, and Lost in Space?  And adapter of best-selling novels into graphic novels, like Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse?  Or an author of supernatural romance like Pandora’s Blogs?  Or is he all those things?

Jinky Coronado is much easier to talk about — and much easier on the eyes.  She attended my very first Creating Comics Seminar in Manila some 15 years ago and learned a lot.  She went on to be writer/artist of Banzai Girl, artist of Meg Cabot’s Avalon High, artist of Exposure, and now Pandora’s Blogs.  If the fashion sense in this series seems quite genuine, that’s all her — as her own closet full of Prada purses and Louboutin shoes attests.

Larry Tuazon is an amazing artist partner for Jinky, having adapted as a finisher for her style quite readily.  He’s an old soul in the classic Filipino style sense who made an amazing jump in professional skills.  I’m so very proud of him.  He’s been working solo on an upcoming series called Silverwolf for another company.   He’s worked with Tina Francisco on a series called Knightingail, and with Jinky on Exposure and Banzai Girl.   Pandora’s Blogs was their next logical project together.  This book is a wonderful stylistic departure for both of them.  I’ve got to thank artist Vincenzo Cucca for sort of showing us how this would be a great style in which to depict this book.

Katrina MaeHao, also from the Philippines, is a wonderful, adaptable colorist.  She “gets” the style.  She worked with Jinky and Larry and Tina across all the projects I’ve mentioned, so she’s in tune with it all.

Zach Matheny’s a terrific letterer with lots of experience at Top Cow and many other companies.  What more can I say?

A shout-out to Brian Augustyn our story editor.  And editor-in-chief David Lawrence, who helped me with problem-solving by helping script on issue #0 and lobbed a suggestion that made #1 better.  Great talents.

How was the reaction to Issue #0 at the Free Comic Book Day ? 

Even better than expected.  We thought maybe we’d get orders for 60,000 of each book — and we got around 100,000.  Plus we printed extra for Comic-Con.  About half a million total Red Giant Free Comic Book Day GIANT-SIZE #0 titles are in circulation!  That means advertisers got above and beyond what Red Giant promised.

On an unrelated note, for the fans of  comic book Exposure, any update on Volume 2 ?

Yes!  Exposure Volume 2 — written by Bill Yu and me, drawn by Jinky and Larry — goes to the printer next week, for release in time for Christmas sales.  In fact, I’m taking a break right now from editing the book’s files tonight to do this interview!

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Anything to say to the fans?

Four things, actually:

First, I’ve been troubled for years by how much of a shrinking market the comics industry has become.  When I was growing up, there was a drugstore up the street a block away that carried practically everything from Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Fawcett, Archie, Harvey, Classics Illustrated, Tower, Warren, and more.  Four or five stories carrying comics were less than a 10-minute drive to downtown.  Comics were everywhere.  More recently, I did a Parents Day at my daughter’s school and handed out some X-Men comics my artists drew. A kid said, “X-Men!  You mean there’s a comic book, too?”  He knew the movies, cartoons, videogames, action figures, and other toys.  He’d never seen a comic.  Except for my daughter and two of her friends who’d been to our house, no children in the classroom had ever held a comic book in their hands.  Red Giant’s plan, to get comics out into the world, a million free comics a week into exactly the people who may love comics, might help to restore that balance.

Second, If you walk through a big bookstore — Barnes & Noble, for example — you’ll see a whole section devoted to supernatural romance.  Not just stuff like Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, but dozens of series with a monster or supernatural element and, of course, romantic entanglements.  I was surprised to find a dearth of that in the comics industry.  Why the hell not?  So part of Red Giant’s effort is to expand the ranges of genres of comics being offered.  Certainly we have GIANT-SIZE ACTION, ADVENTURE, FANTASY, and THRILLS, yet in each book we have two stories often hitting opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of genres that fall in those categories.  Let’s expand the reader base as much as possible, with as wide a variety of stories as possible!  I find that pretty exciting.

Third, I plan to return to the lost art of having a full-fledged letter column in each of these upcoming comics.  So if folks want to write and send in letters on the #0 issues, please do so!  Write me at
David@redgiantentertainment.com.  Or snail mail letters the old-fashioned way to our shipping address that’s on our 
redgiantentertainment.com website.  And I’ll try to include as many great letters as I can.  It’s all about encouraging reading and excitement over the stories!  

Fourth, If you wanna see us in a short video about the series, check us out on YouTube — http://youtu.be/LIOWtYVQhW8

Thank you, everyone!

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Aug 21
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THE “NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!” ROUTINE

You probably know Italian artist Milo Manara’s work from his way-sexy erotic European graphic albums — CLICK! and its sequels„ BUTTERSCOTCH and its sequels, WWW., GULLIVERA, and so many others.  He’s drawn several Marvel female character covers in recent years and even a full-on X-WOMEN one-shot with Chris Claremont, chock-full of patented Manara women with their slack-jawed-passion expressions.

So I’m a little surprised I’m seeing so many folks worked up over this variant SPIDER-WOMAN cover, drawn by Italian artist Milo Manara.  

Some object to its blatantly-sexy “presenting” pose; others to the idea that it’s clearly a nude figure colored over, rather than a costume; some to the very concept that an artist so well known for his erotic art actually drew an erotic-pose cover. 

And still others note that it’s far from Manara’s best work and wonder why a Marvel editor would approve a piece showing such a flattened face and minuscule nose. 

Existence of the variant cover market is all about selling additional copies of the book; I suspect this cover will sell to its intended market.  For those questioning why Marvel bought this cover at all, from this specific artist, that’s the answer.

Also consider the possibility that the booty in question may well be covered up by a logo on the printed book, and the release of the image without the logo in place was meant to capture attention (and, therefore, more sales). 

One thing touched upon here without context is the concept of hiring a high-profile, long-established veteran artist — be it Milo Manara, Neal Adams, or anyone else of that stature. If they turn in a piece like this that may be lacking in some way — note those comments about the flattened face and too-tiny nose — most editors hesitate to ask for revisions, for fear of pissing off that artist. It could lead to the artist being unwilling to work for that publisher again; or a too-public response from that artist; or to any of a number of other things that could go wrong. Some top artists, such as Mike Deodato, are always open to revisions from their editors; others are not. And some editors would simply rather not rock the boat.  It’ll sell either way.

And yet — while some folks seem up in arms over Milo Manara’s SPIDER-MAN variant cover, I’m far more bothered by this Greg Land SPIDER-WOMAN cover, which is the primary cover for the book —

— a cover in which the character’s left leg is amputated at the left knee, and her right leg is a horribly deformed stump that ends at her thigh.

This will show up in my future Seminars as an example of how NOT to do foreshortening on legs. 

Because Greg Land is too talented an artist to be turning in stuff like this, I find this FAR more objectionable.

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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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