Mike Ploog!

Just going through some old artwork here and came across one of my favorites from a previous project, worth talking about, but I have to back up a little first…

J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS is probably one of my biggest influences. I’ve read the books more than a few times and I vividly remember seeing Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation in the theaters. The film’s promotional artwork was mesmerizing. I stared at whatever scraps I could collect for hours. I think when you’re young, those images you see that really captivate you are absorbed into your artistic DNA, and can affect the way you approach a composition, or draw a leg or a hand, etc., forever. This was definitely one of them for me, and since the promotional artwork was mostly uncredited, it took me years to learn it was drawn by Mike Ploog

Ploog entered the animation industry in 1969, working at Filmation and Hanna-Barbara after completing 10 years in the Marine Corps. After that, he worked with Will Eisner on PS Magazine for the U.S. military. At Marvel Comics, Ploog co-created GHOST RIDER with Gary Friedrich, and worked on MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN, KULL THE DESTROYER (another favorite of mine), WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, and many others.
In Hollywood, Ploog worked on WIZARDS and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Michael Jackson’s MOONWALKER, John Carpenter’s THE THING, SUPERMAN 2, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Jim Henson’s THE DARK CRYSTAL, and others.

My chance to bring my lifelong appreciation of Mike Ploog’s work around full-circle came in 2009 when J.M. DeMatteis and I were working on our LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 comic book series. We were given one variant cover per issue, so I had the great pleasure of seeing our character designs rendered by some of my favorite creators, including Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Kevin Maguire, Don Perlin, and of course, Mike Ploog.

Here’s Ploog’s marvelous rendition of Savior 28 and his sometime-foe The Lemurian, colored by Andrew Covalt, for THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 issue #4 variant cover.

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Where We Live

My copy of the WHERE WE LIVE anthology to benefit the victims of the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting arrived today, and it’s a beautiful book. I was invited by my good friend J.M. DeMatteis to collaborate with him on his story, REMEMBER, a reflection on our lifelong relationship and cultural romance with guns.

The official solicitation reads:
“On October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada suffered the worst mass shooting in modern American history, resulting in 58 deaths and over 500 injured. It broke my heart. Las Vegas is my home. I felt like something needed to be done to help in a unique way.”
— JH WILLIAMS III, Artist & Curating Editor

This “unique way” was the genesis of the WHERE WE LIVE anthology—a riveting collection of both fictional stories and actual eye-witness accounts told by an all-star line-up of the top talent working in comics today. All the creators have graciously volunteered their time and talent to help bring some sense to this senseless act and, in the process, raise money for the survivors and their families.

The book will include a variety of perspectives with key themes exploring gun violence, common sense gun control, value of a compassionate society, mental health stigmatization, aftermath of tragedy and how individuals & communities persevere and an appreciation of Las Vegas as a vibrant community. 100% of the proceeds for the WHERE WE LIVE anthology will be donated to Route 91 Strong, a non-profit organization.

– See more at: https://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/where-we-live-las-vegas-shooting-benefit-anthology-tp#sthash.M0hO1enN.dpuf

Published: May 30, 2018
Diamond ID: MAR180600
ISBN: 978-1-5343-0822-0
Age Rating: T+

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So about that cover…

The cover is almost never ever the first one you draw. In creating the cover for NICO BRAVO AND THE HOUND OF HADES, I worked with the incredibly talented Andrew Arnold at First Second Books. Andrew is a cartoonist himself, a published author, designer, and art director, and an alumni of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

We kicked sketches and scribbles back-and-forth, guided by Andrew’s expert eye. I thought were were almost there when I heard a talk by another gifted designer, Colleen Venables, who noted that many people will first see your cover online at postage stamp-size, and it must work at that scale.

That inspired me to change directions, and helped us arrive at the final art. You can also see the title of the book change somewhere  in the middle of the process, thanks to some clear thinking on the part of a few folks. So, a lot of sketches, some patience, and some great advice are essential parts of the recipe. Here are a few of the roughs we made to get us there, plus the final version:

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NICO BRAVO AND THE HOUND OF HADES cover reveal

Entertainment Weekly has the front cover art reveals for First Second Books Winter 2019 list, including my very own NICO BRAVO AND THE HOUND OF HADES! Check them all out HERE!

I can save you a trip for mine, though–here it is!

Got a problem? At Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop, you can find the magical merchandise to set things right. The seasoned staff—a kid named Nico Bravo, a sphynx named Lula, and a unicorn named Buck—pride themselves on providing “legendary service and expertise in all areas of the arcane.”

But Nico’s world is about to be turned upside down, and it’s all thanks his latest customer: Eowulf, the pint-sized descendant of the monster-slayer Beowulf. Determined to carry on the family business, this would-be warrior plans to slay Cerberus, the terrifying, three-headed hound of Hades.

There’s just one problem—Cerberus is the only thing preventing the hordes of the Underworld from entering the land of the living. Can Nico stop Eowulf from unleashing a zombie apocalypse?

 

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IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED

So lucky to be working on IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED, my new creator-owned series, and the best part is being able to collaborate with my friend, an one of my favorite writers, J.M. DeMatteis. First issue is due out September, 2018.

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Happy 2018!

Here’s hoping for the best in the coming year for all of us!

Sometime over the past few months the title of the book I’ve been working on was changed to “NICO BRAVO and the HOUND OF HADES.” I’m happy about that since it was the title I imagined all along. Even better, just before Christmas I finished work on it: all 186 pages plus a cover! I can’t show that yet but here’s the updated promotional artwork plus a rough cover design we ended up not using. Hopefully I can show more soon! NICO BRAVO will be released from First Second Books in 2019.

I’m writing a sequel because all I really want to do is more of this! Meanwhile, it’s back to work on the 5-issue IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED series with writer J.M. DeMatteis and IDW Publishing. Not posting any of that because the release date is still a long way off. I’ve always loved J.M.’s work, whether his creator-owned stuff like MOONSHADOW, or his Big Two comics like JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, or his tv/direct-to-DVD work like BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD animated series. So far, I’ve gotten scripts for the first two issues of IMPOSSIBLE, and they’re fantastic, of course. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am.

This past November I was invited to the Miami Book Fair. It’s a staggering celebration of all types of books that manages to sweep downtown Miami up into the festivities. I got down there early and spoke to students at a few local schools, and did a presentation at the Book Fair itself. It was great to catch up with friends like George O’Connor, Michel Fiffe, Kat Roberts, Bob Sikoryak, Michael Buckley, Ed Steckley and Joan Hilty. I took in a few panel discussions, including Mimi Pond and Trina Robbins, and another featuring Harold H. Brown, a former Tuskegee Airman!


The auditorium at MBF just before my presentation.


The crowds start to gather.

Mimi Pond, Trina Robbins, and moderator Joan Hilty.


Marsha Bordner and Harold H. Brown discuss their book, “KEEP YOUR AIRSPEED UP: The story of a Tuskegee Airman.”


A shot from the fair.

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TCAF 2017

So, I’m going to check out the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year. Here’s the scoop:

Saturday May 13 and Sunday May 14
Free To Attend – All Ages

Primary Venues:
Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto
The Marriott Bloor Yorkville, 90 Bloor Street East, Toronto
The Masonic Temple, 888 Yonge Street, Toronto
The Pilot Tavern, 22 Cumberland Street, Toronto

On Saturday, May 13th, 12pm, I’ll be signing my new book Decelerate Blue at the First Second Booth (#204 / 205).

On Sunday, May 14th, 2:45pm, I’ll be on the “Pardon My Youth” YA comics panel with Cecil Castellucci, and Kat Leyh, moderated by Eva Volin.

If you’re in the Toronto area, come visit!

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Logomania

Adam Rapp’s script for DECELERATE BLUE required oodles of logos to illustrate the corporate dominance at play in the story. I don’t think I’ve ever made so many logos for a single project, and I’ve never considered it to be a strongpoint in my skill set. I really tried, though, to make each of them interesting and convincing without going down the rabbit hole. Here are a few of them:

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2017 MoCCA Arts Festival

NEW! Decelerate Blue print for sale debuts at MoCCA

April 1st – 2nd, 2017, the MoCCA Arts Festival arrives at the Metropolitan West, located on West 46th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan. The festival runs from 11:00AM – 6:00PM, and I’ll either be exhibiting or wandering around taking it all in, and I’ll have this new DECELERATE BLUE print you see above for sale.

Here’s my schedule–come find me!
SATURDAY, APRIL 1:
1 – 4 pm at the National Cartoonists Society booth (C131)
4 – 5 pm Wacom Demonstration at the Wacom Lounge (first floor towards the back wall.)

SUNDAY, APRIL 2:
12:30pm – ? DECELERATE BLUE signing with Adam Rapp at the First Second Books booth (E 157, E 158)
4 – 6 pm at the National Cartoonists Society booth (C131)

The MoCCA Arts Festival is a 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, drawing over 7,000 attendees each year. With 400 exhibiting artists displaying their work, award-winning honorees speaking about their careers and artistic processes and other featured artists conducting workshops, lectures and film screenings, our Festival mission accelerates the advancement of the Society’s broader mission to serve as Manhattan’s singular cultural institution promoting all genres of illustration through exhibitions, programs and art education.

The National Cartoonists Society is the world’s largest and most prestigious organization of professional cartoonists. It was born in 1946 when groups of cartoonists got together to entertain the troops. They found that they enjoyed each other’s company and decided to get together on a regular basis. Today, the NCS membership roster includes over 500 of the world’s major cartoonists, working in many branches of the profession, including newspaper comic strips and panels, comic books and more.

Wacom provides tools and instruments that let people express their creativity as fluently in the digital world as they would with ink on paper, paint on canvas, light in a darkroom or editing suite. Wacom’s enthusiasm for creativity overflows from the professional sphere to provide the tools and inspiration for anyone on their creativity journey, whether just starting out or well on the way. Wacom invites users to celebrate and explore the human spirit of creativity and what that can achieve in the world around them.

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