Monday, 17 June 2013

The Year is 2013

OK, it has been a while since I updated this blog! The last 12 months have been a dizzying rollercoaster on the comics front. I am continuing to work on Transformers Regeneration One for IDW until we reach the final EVER issue at issue 100. I am also currently working on Insurrection for Rebellion's Judge Dredd Megazine. Oh and I'm writing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Panini here in the UK. Slightly more frequent updates abound on my twitter and art updates appear frequently over on my deviant art page here: More news on all those fronts soon... Also, just a heads up that I will be at Botcon, the world's largest Transformers convention from 29th June signing and sketching, but also at IDW's booth at San Diego Comic Con. I'm VERY excited to be going to my first SDCC! Here's one of several prints accompanying me on the convention circuit this year!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

It Never Truly Ends...

I can still remember the day the final Transformers UK issue came out. Getting to the end of the issue to discover that that was it, the end. No more. Imagine my surprise 21 years later when I heard that they would be continuing the book I grew up on, with the writer and the penciller AND the inker that worked on that defining book. Imagine my even greater surprise when I learned that I would be the one working with them on colouring the interiors!

Its no understatement to say that I look up to the Simon Furman (writer), Andy Wildman (penciller) and Stephen Baskerville (inker) as it was Furman's run on the book that made we want to tell my own stories and I think of the countless hours I's spend trying to copy and/or trace the artwork from those books, only to discover that I wasn't very good at drawing! What they did has stuck with me, and has stood the test of time well, and to be in the same company as these gentlemen is nothing short of an honour.

Chris Ryall put this page up earlier so its now safe for me to show too. Needless to say getting the feel of this book right is a priority for everybody, and with that wonderful classic pencil and inkwork its hard to deviate too far from the classic colour schemes without it looking wrong. Striking a balance is hard as people have such expectations of what a TF book looks like now, and indeed what it looked like then, and great pains have been taken to get a look that fits somewhere in the middle. So when you read the issues you can see the DNA of the original books and yet see the modern era, almost as if this is the "missing link" between those points.

As a huge fan of the original book, all I can say is that from what I've read and what I've seen you are in for a treat like no other. Seriously, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Review

I won't lie - this is the first TF film I've been excited about. The first two I've been anxious about more than anything. But this one I had the opportunity to see a preview of this in California earlier in the month where I was blown away with the spectacle of it (for one made more enjoyable through the use of 3D) and that the tone seemed darker after the silly hijinks of Revenge of the Fallen.

I hate getting excited for a film, because I always get let down.

But I loved the hell out of this installment. From the start the tone takes a shift toward more real, though the film does indulge the more improvisational and anarchic comedy used in the second film particularly during Sam's hunt for a job, but its fair to say that the light stuff only makes way for the dark as the plot unfolds. The plot and many of the characters introduced are scattergunned across the screen a bit carelessly but most get a few good moments to shine, and even a couple of the robots actually get a bit of time to display some personality (about frickin' time) though still none are totally fleshed out. But when some of them die you will feel it this time. You either like or hate Shia Le Bouf, and this film won't shift you one way or the other. I like him. His bit of stuff in this film is actually better than I thought she'd be, hardly ward winning, but she feels real despite that mouth. Their relationship works well and a bit more grown up.


Part of the problem I had with the previous 2 films was that the plot was "don't let bad robot get bad thing or bad things will happen". Then the end battle with the impossible to kill baddy would take about 5 seconds to resolve. In this film not only do the bad guys have the thing from early on but the shit hits the fan by half way and victory is hard fought. The tone of the film gets darker, and the stakes get higher throughout. Again, about time.

Now, the 3D. I've watched quite a few 3D films and I'm firmly of the opinion that it's all a gimmick that adds little to anything. Avatar's day glow 3D did nothing for me, nor anything I've seen before or since. Until this film. The set pieces and action scenes are incredible and the 3D actually adds to the experience because those kibbly robots have perspective which makes following the action in Bay's busy movies that much easier and much more fun. He's staged the scenes to make the most of the effect with only a couple drawing way too much attention to themselves. Indeed looking back at his previous films a lot of the action is staged in planes, the camera always in motion which translated to 3D works pretty well too.

So there it is, the review I never expected to make. Michael Bay seems to have acknowledged his mistakes from the second film and delivered something a bit more meaty. He's still the king of explosions but somehow you care a bit more about the stuff blowing up.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Bots of Hono(u)r Begins!

I recently had a chance to write for a continuityless new Transformers online story called Bots of Honor from the Transformers Mosaic lord himself Josh Van Reyk. I had a lot of fun writing the stories I did and as the theme was sort of Batman Brave and the Bold I went for a Batman themed story and go for a real comic book story for TF, and making some sense of Pretender technology too.

Linework was done by the epic Ger Hankey who I got to work here for the first time here (and hopefully not for the last time) and my words made manifest by HdE's excellent lettering.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Ironhide Exclusive Print available at London Film and Comic Con

I'm pleased to announce that an EXCLUSIVE print of Ironhide will be available from the Apocalypse Comics stall at LFCC. The print has been drawn by the awesome Transformers artist Casey Coller and coloured by moi, as a tie in to Casey's IDW mini-series "Ironhide".

The print is extremely limited and once they are sold out there will never be any more printed, so snap them up while you can.

Only a day to go until the LFCC Last years was amazing and hopefully this year will be even better!. This year I'm there again colouring sketches while you wait. I'll be at the Apocalypse Comics booth where the confirmed artists will be my lovely lady Jess Bradley and and for those that want it I'll be colouring. I'm also happy to colour any sketches brought to me from any artist on the day. If you have colour reference that would be handy!

For anyone who purchases a sketch (or brings me a sketch) an extra £10 will get you a fully coloured version of your headshot sketch, and a full body sketch for an extra £15. Examples from last year are here:

They'll be coloured and printed out high quality on glossy photopaper as fast as my wee hands will carry them and ready for you to take away on the day. If you want them on the day its best to come over to me ASAP as the slots fill pretty quick. Anything not done on the day (or if you don't mind waiting) will be sent in the post ASAP after the event. If anybody has already purchased a sketch and would like it coloured BEFORE the show to collect there then let me know.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Iron Man 2 in Review - SPOILERS ABOUND

Iron Man was an unexpected surprise of a movie. It managed to find surprising depth, suprising warmth and humour and it had inevitable scenes of blowing stuff up. And it blew things up really well.

Iron Man 2 has a lot of pressure weighing on it. Not only is it a sequel to an exceptionally popular movie but it also acts as a big link in the chain of the upcoming connected Marvel Universe of films. If it isn't very good then it bodes badly for the films to follow.

I'm pleased to say that it is a good movie, though unfortuantely it isn't a great movie. One of the most important aspects of a "big" movie like this one is the action and this film has it in spades, and each sequence is enjoyable, frenetic and has a very good pace to it.

One of the main parts where the film fall down relative to the first is in characterisation. The acting is as strong as the first film (with the merciful removal of the pitifully weak Terrence Howard), but the chances for them to shine are greatly reduced by an expanding roster of characters. Robert Downey steals the show again after a bit of a weak first 5 minutes on screen. Unfortunately the excellent Sam Rockwell is massively underutilised and his character doesn't really undergo any kind of journey, and is largely a foil for the plot. The same can be said for the character of Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, Whiplash, Black Widow... Which is a terrible shame. You could remove Scarlett Johanssen's character and it wouldn't have made any real impact on the movie. I'm sure she will be used elsewhere but I have no idea why she's in THIS movie.

Because of the increased cast there is a lot of "laying pipe" going on with the plot being layed out without really feeling like the character is driving it but rather that the plot is driving them. The worst example of this is the plot involving Tony's relationship with his father. Conveniently Fury knows more about his father than Tony does and we discover that Tony's father helped establish SHIELD. This seems extremely unlikely, and chronically convenient. Tony's estrangement issues go almost as quickly as they arrive as within minutes he watches a film of his father who leaves a message for him telling him how important his son is. This is coupled with a very weak stretch in that Howard Stark left a secret message for a new element in the layout of the 70's Stark expo model... It's a bit of a hideous plot contrivance, especially as this just so happens to be the solution to Tony's medical condition. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

There are a few moments like this unfortunately, especially in the climax where the army of Iron Men are brought down within seconds after Tony's been running from them for 5 minutes. Added to this, the final showdown with Whiplash is embarrassingly brief and basically is the "don't cross the streams" gag from Ghostbusters. The strongest aspect is the relationship between Rhodes and Stark which is very strong and well acted.

In the first movie Tony was cocky, realised he WAS the problem, and then changed his ways to make amends. In the second Tony was cocky, realises he WAS the problem, blows lots of things up, but ultimately makes no impact on the central problem of proliferation and is then given a medal. Pardoned possibly, or at least forgiven, but honoured? He brought down Whiplash, but he's proven to be wrong in his estimations and it's proven that his advances are causing problems, so a medal feels very wrong here.

Despite these aspects of the film being lacking it is still an exceptionally enjoyable movie. The trademark humour is there, the charisma of the actors is there, it's just a shame that the story and writing is a tad on the weak side. It has flashes of great potential, with Tony's self destructive tendencies in how he deals with his life-threatening condition hinting for a time that this would be the dark middle film, the Empire of the Iron Man movies, but it all gets neatly wrapped up. It shows that Marvel can make good movies but so far they've only made one GREAT movie - the first Iron Man.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Logic Dictates Commentary

Okey dokey there girls and guys! I've decided to start posting the odd (very odd if you ask me) commentary of things I have either written or coloured. Sometimes it'll be about the writing or the thoughts behind it, sometimes it'll be about the colouring techniques I've chosen and sometimes it'll be about how I did it. This time it'll be a mix of all three.

Before I begin I want to send an enormous amount of props to Rui Onishi who was the penciller and inker for this. The artwork was stellar and made my work a whole load easier when it came to colouring! I would very much like to pimp Rui's DA page here:

The fully lettered version of this story is available here:

The Story

The story started as an inkling of an idea that tinkled in my head after a conversation probably a year ago with Josh Van Reyk of TF:Mosaic, but that never turned into anything concrete. After admiring Rui's work I asked who Rui's favourite character was: Shockwave.

One thing that always made me intrigued about Shockwave was that he was cold and logical, more robotic than the others. The origin of the story was, why did he become that way, he surely hadn't always been that way, what would be the the thing to make you shut down like that? The answer for me was grief and pain. Shutting down his emotional centres and pain receptors was/is his only way to survive. Revenge is what drives him but in order to get close to the one who did this to him, killed his friend, the thing he cared about the most, he needs to be methodical. He needs to be able to get close, and if he felt rage he couldn't do that, he'd get sloppy and killed. The notion that he was in disguise, appearing loyal and working to undermine and destroy Megatron seemed an interesting unexplored avenue to go down. It's a bit more "real" that just making simple grabs for power. In addition it doesn't undermine any established IDW continuity.

The key thing with one page comics is that you have to either reveal something about the character or tell a story with a twist, there's no room for waste. When I write a Mosaic I try and ensure that the story lives beyond the one page. At the end of this story you have learned something new, something that has deepened your understanding of the character and something that informs the next story you read about Shockwave. If that sounds easy, it isn't, and I don't always get it right, but that's what I'm aiming for.


Here's the page without words:

The Mosaic begins without letting you know who it is is narrating, but whoever it is they're stepping out of hell. He's all emotion, the first panel is all fire, though somewhere far away the two still moons of Cybertron are icy cold. When we get to the second panel, Shockwave is out of focus - lost. Behind him the fire illuminates him but the colours as we look down on his lost friend are all cool and cold, lifeless. Everything in front of Shockwave has a cold hue, and the colour scheme on the fallen comrade is also deliberately cold. Normally colour schemes are set on TF's but I had a chance here to choose colours that suited the story best. Whoop!

As the story progresses we get closer and closer to the stages of his transformation, more foreshadowing of who he is going to become. As we see the transformation the colours get cooler, the colours get colder. The final image has Shockwave cool in colour against a warm background, the only heat coming from his cannon arm and single, logical eye, a sign of what's lurking behind it. The only other hint of rage we see is his POV of his attacker and the murderer of his friend - Megatron. This panel is very deliberately not like any of the others. Red isn't really used anywhere else on the page and makes this the most angry panel, a sign of his mental state at this point and the beginning of his change. Even the panel borders are different in colour at this point. i think of it like a very quick cut in a film, just a few framed flash, a spike of pain, before returning to the main scene. Everything after this panel though becomes more logical, more matter of fact until we see his purpose and plan spelled out in cold logic.


A few folks have asked about some of the techniques I've used. At some point I may do a tutorial but until then, the smoke was done by lassoing the smoke linework, increasing the selection radius a bit and then putting the smoke all on a layer above the linework. Then I use a lot of rough, speckled brushes to do shadows and highlights which I then apply a light Gaussian blur. After that I do another few specks of black/grey/white on the smoke layer, using orange and yellow linear dodge on any fire elements.

As for the starry sky, I get asked this a lot and its very difficult to explain. I start by using some star brushes until there are too many stars, and add some coloured haze depending on the mood I'm after. I then use the burn brush to make some of the regions of space darker than others, and making it look like specific clusters of nebulae stand out. Then I pick a different sized star brush on a linear dodge to make some very bright stars and keep all the stars from looking uniform.

Well - there's a lot in there, hope it helps with either the writing or colouring of your own project or adds to your enjoyment of the story.