Friday, May 27, 2011

The first Pike Armstrong pages

I dug up some early Pike Armstrong artwork. The following is a teaser image I produced which was published in an issue of Comicopia, I do believe. I wanted to keep certain details 'in the dark', as you'll notice:

I can't recall the exact date the following 4 page story was drawn. It was definitely during a break in between animation productions, and is the first 'official' Pike tale. I was still trying to get a feel for the character and his world, and like the energy of the pages. The panel arrangement and pacing needs work, but all in all, a fun little introduction to Pike and one of his rogues, Sweet Tooth.

Drawing Pike always makes me question if my style fits the character; I tend to draw in a clean, 'Silver Age' style with a slight animation vibe. I figure that a concept like Pike requires a bold, exaggerated style, with bombast and dynamic poses (hey, I'm a big fan of Jack Kirby, who almost single-handedly created Silver Age Marvel comics). I decided to have a fresh perspective tackle my character, and I'll display the results in a future blog.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Concept 1: The Adventures of Pike Armstrong (The general idea)

As mentioned briefly in a previous blog, Pike started out as the sidekick of another character. For some reason, he became elevated to star status in my mind; I guess the visual design potential was too interesting to ignore. I've tinkered with his look over the years, and still find myself tweaking his super suit. In the beginning, I considered a fish swimming within the armour; over time, I settled on an electric eel, and have currently decided on a leatherback turtle!

As you can see, I've redesigned Pike quite a bit, and have even considered different drawing styles that would best represent him. Trying to find the right look was a definite challenge, since I wanted Pike to look heroic, and yet different from typical super-heroes.

The overall concept is this: a child is sent back in time from an ecologically doomed future to save the planet. With the companionship of a computer sidekick, Pike grows up to become a super-hero protecting his world from a variety of outrageous menaces. Here's a teaser video I produced a few years back (for an independent contest called Small Press Idol) that sums up the idea (please click on the link to view).

Pike is basically my love-letter to the super-hero comics I enjoyed as a youngster. I wanted a clearly heroic character battling creative villains, with energy and fun exploding from the pages. I think the concept as is can appeal to younger readers. With a different perspective, it can appeal to older readers as well.

For example, I've considered Pike returning to civilization after being missing for many years; his outdated, black and white views of justice and morality would contrast with a hip, jaded world that considers him square and old-fashioned. The simple, good vs evil tales (originally directed at younger readers) would then become his 'history', an homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comics books. I would still veer far away from the gritty and 'realistic' approach prevellant in today's mainstream comics; I think comic books should provide light escapism, providing exciting entertainment with appealling characters.

That's Pike in a nutshell (or space-suit, so to speak). In future blogs, I'll present some pencilled pages that show the concept in development, as well as finished material that will eventually be printed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

So I wanna publish comics books. Really.

I was first inspired to consider the option of self-publishing when I read Dave Sim's thoughtful notes prefacing issues of Cerebus during the late 80s. I respected (and still do) his drive to do Cerebus his way, and stick with it for 300 issues, despite the up and downs of the comic book marketplace.

Comics used to have better distribution, and were readily available almost everywhere. Once the direct market was born (with brick and mortar stores selling only comic books and related product), they became alot harder to find. Over time, readership has dwindled (and continues to drop alarmingly), and most folk buying comics nowadays are adults with fond memories (and plenty of disposable income) of collecting comics in their youth.

There was a period in the 90s where speculators flocked into the hobby, and artificially drove sales to amazing levels; once they abruptly left, the resulting crash demonstrated how low the percentage of faithful readers actually was. The truth of the matter: a big percentage of the audience for comics had grown up and walked away from colorful super-heroes. Publishers relied on lame gimmicks to keep old readers, without any concern for attracting new ones (a mindset that continues today).

Self-publishing was a cool option in the 80s, when certain properties achived great success (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example); small press comics are still kicking today, but remain extremely difficult to track down for any casual reader. Lisencing seems to be a popular option; why create something new when a comic based on some property can be churned out to a built-in fanbase?

I decided years ago that I'd prefer to do my comics my way. Self-publishing is borderline insane, but my goal is to produce quality material, try to get as much exposure for my concepts as possible, and release product at regular intervals without fail in order to build a loyal group of readers. A simple recipe to launching a successful comic series, right?

The few readers of mainstream books hanging around demand 'sophisticated' product; most of these 'adult' books are simply violent for the sake of being hip, and crap on the work of creators who built the comic book universes. I believe strongly that the future of comic books rests with the young, and young at heart. My concepts are taylored for all-ages, and I aim to attract younger readers, not only collectors of comic books.

I have faith in my concepts, and a strong desire to finally have them see the light of day. Selling them in a dying market may be an uphill battle, but I think that smart decisions, hard work, and creativity will help win the day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Where I'm at so far....

I dug through a tattered box stuffed with old artwork, and found the KT story I mentioned last blog (the first-ever collector's item appearance of Pike Armstrong!):

I love the roughness of the pencils, including taped panels and post-its These 4 pages are crackling with energy (although they need work), and reflect my general approach well: fun comics with quirky characters and situations. It's always a hoot revisiting old drawings, and I really should do something with KT the kid from the future!

My fund-raising goal is aimed at helping me prepare a finished 24 page comic book or two. A few years ago, I hired two excellent artists to tackle a couple of my concepts: Grant Perkins turned in some wonderfully wonky pencils for my Pike plots, and Ash Jackson simply blew me away with his pencils for Ninja Baby. I'll discuss these gents more in the future as I showcase their contributions.

I currently have around 70 pages of pencilled pages (including many pages and covers I've pencilled myself over the years). My goal is to ink, letter, and format them all, preparing completed comic books ready to download and/or purchase. Donations will allow me the luxury of spending the time to get this work completed, since I can't afford to take too much time off of my 'day job'. At the same time, I still have several concepts (I haven't even mentioned yet!) that I'd love to plot and have pencilled.

To the folk who have donated or will in the future, I offer my sincerest, humble gratitude.

It's only been a few weeks since I've decided to chase my dream of self-publishing; my enthusiasm seems to keep growing, and I realize this is what I've always wanted to do. I'm certain that with determination and a refusal to give up, my projects will finally see the light of day.

Next week, I'll discuss my 'mission statement', and why I believe my comics can thrive in a dismal comic book market.