Friday, October 12, 2012


Early this past spring, I was contacted by my long-time client, the awesome Jodie Bernard of Lightbox Visuals, regarding an unusual assignment for an English book titled "Modern Morsels: Selections of Canadian short Fiction and Poetry."  To be featured in the book was a poem about comics legend extraordinaire Jack Kirby, his experiences as a soldier in World War II, and the influences those experiences may have had on Kirby's later characterizations, particularly his villains.  There was no specific concept for the accompanying illustration, so I was asked to come up with one.  I submitted two ideas.  The one which was decisively chosen is the image above.  My idea was to draw Jack in uniform, as he was in WWII, fending off villains with a giant pencil wielded like a rifle.  I also wanted to draw the piece in a close approximation of Jack Kirby's own, unmistakable style.  My other concept was similar, except that it would have shown soldier Jack riding the giant pencil through space like the Silver Surfer.  I liked that idea because it would have given me the chance to draw some "Kirby Krackle," but the chosen concept was a much more literal interpretation of the poem's message.

Little did anyone know that I was a decades-long fan of "King" Kirby's work and was also familiar with his WWII experiences.  That helped make this a very special assignment for me.  I was determined to do a fitting tribute to Jack, so I immersed myself in numerous back issues of The Jack Kirby Collector, some Sgt. Fury comics, and reprints of monster comics from the late 1950's.  When I'd absorbed enough Kirby-isms (such as his treatment of lightning and craggy mountains), I started drawing.  There are no "swipes" in the illustration, just my attempt at capturing the Kirby style, his treatment of anatomy, drapery, dynamic perspective, etc.  For the inking, which was usually handled by other artists during most of Jack's career, I leaned toward Mike Royer's style, which is considered the most faithful to the original pencil art, rather than attempting to ape the style of my favorite J.K. inker, the great Joe Sinnott.  Joe (whom I've had the pleasure of meeting a few times over the decades, including at the 2012 Boston Comic Convention) had a way of smoothing out and adding just a touch more naturalistic sculpting to Kirby's pencil art, but this piece was all about Jack.

The book is finally in print and can be ordered here, with a full description of the contents here.  It's an English Literature textbook, and the Kirby poem is the only comics-related feature in the book.  My special thanks to Jodie for choosing me for this highly enjoyable assignment!  Click on the image for a larger version.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


A few months back, I was contracted to do a wraparound cover for UNO Magazine, the alumni journal for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  It was a complex project, as the art was not only to be used as the front and back covers, but sections of the illustration were to be utilized as interior spots accompanying a number of articles and features.  Several buildings and landmarks from the UNO campus needed to be depicted on the front cover, and slice-of-life scenes would be interspersed throughout the piece.  All in all, a few dozen specs were assembled into one large cityscape scene.  Of particular importance was the style of rendering.  The Design Director of  The Emspace Group, the remarkable Heidi Mihelich, UNO Mag designer extraordinaire, requested I draw all of the characters in this somewhat fanciful Omaha as humanized animals, reminiscent of Richard Scarry's children's books, particularly the very busy "What Do People Do All Day?".  I employed my usual cartoon line art style with color tones and textures added digitally.  It was great fun creating the animal characters.  I chose to stick mainly with mammals and generally naturalistic, human-like proportions to clearly depict the intricate interactions.

Included above are a small image of the entire cover, including areas that were covered up by the logo and mailing address graphics, larger versions of the front and back covers, and a couple of large details to better show the line quality and textures.  All for your viewing pleasure!  The entire issue, including the cover, of course, can now be seen online as a flipbook or a free downloadable PDF file at the UNO Magazine website.  Many thanks to Heidi for finding me at my PictureBook gallery and for her invaluable help with this massively complex visual project.  In closing, here is the image from a 1995 book cover I drew that inspired the whole thing.  As always, click on each image to see a larger version.