I left my tearful family in England for a second time after the holiday. My children were a little sad to see their Dad disappear again after a lovely time in Wales the week previous, but I told them it was only for two weeks and I would call them everyday before they went to bed, as I had the first week out in New York.
I had the easy bit I was going to work again in, what I now consider to be the best city in the world. Margaret, who at the time could not drive had to look after the kids and get them to and from school and go to work herself at the day nursery. My Dad and Margaret’s sister would help with the driving bit, but the rest of it lay squarely with Margaret, to which I will always be indebted.
I arrived much the same as I had on my first trip out to New York. The weather was still gorgeous and the route into the city was the same. The limo dropped me off at the office had it had the first time and I entered the offices with my suitcase, considerably more heavy this time around and my Portfolio and art materials in my hand luggage.
Once inside and settled I made a quick telephone call home to let them know I had arrived safely and then I showed the pages to Janet and Joe that I had completed whilst away. I returned to the Jolly Madison Towers hotel, this time in another part of the hotel. I unpacked my clothes and then returned to the offices, having taken a shower. It was late afternoon when I arrived in the USA and it was now time to eat.
We ordered in and chose to eat Mexican, something we hadn’t done on my previous trip there, so it was something new for me. I like spicy food and this was a welcome treat for me and would remain so, once a month, or so, for the duration of my stay in New York. I told everyone all about the exploits of the missed flight, the convention and the wonderful holiday with my family as we ate and then there was just a little time left to put down some further washes on the next couple of pages before retiring to bed.
As I lay in bed in the hotel room, I have to admit to it feeling a little like returning home for me. Something about it all felt right, like I truly belonged there, the only thing missing being my wife and kids. There was a loud bang from below, but this time I knew what all the commotion was about, it was simply the refuge truck removing the rubbish from the previous day. I smiled and wondered how much work I could get through before leaving again in a fortnight’s time?
I awoke to another gloriously sunny day in Manhattan. I decided I would try some Bagels, which I would buy on the way into the office, once I had had breakfast.
The guy in the hotel restaurant recognised me and we chatted for a while, before I went to work. Yes I had begun to look on it as a job again and not just a PR exercise. I was there to get the book on track with their deadlines, so I expected to be busy.
The office seemed even busier now, upon my return and there were about to be some new faces added to the fray. That day I was told a guy was flying in from Sacramento in California and another was flying in with his agent from San Paulo in Brazil. It really was starting to look a whole lot like the United Nations inside the Bullpen. Another guy had been added to the pencillers, as well Adam Pollina and he was due in that week also for a brief trip into the city. I would meet Dave Lapham and his wife as well this first week back as he too paid a visit to the offices.
The schedule now looked more full too – it’s surprising what exactly can happen in a two-week period. There was Plasm both the comic book and the card set issue zero, Dark Dominion the comic book and card set issue zero, The Good Guys, although this was unfortunately becoming increasingly late, Charlemagne, which Adam Pollina would be drawing and a whole slew of other titles being worked on by Jim and the others, which were at different stages in their development.
It was late summer, the weather was great and the books were looking great too. Joe’s pencils on our book were getting better and better, as he continued to work on issue one. Everyone was talking about the book in the office and how they loved the way Joe and I were working so closely together, each adding our own unique touches to the book and yet melding together so perfectly as we did so.
There was still a long way to go though before we had the first issue under our belt. I found myself working long hours on Dark Dominion as we strove to give it a really different look from all the other books in production at Defiant. These hours would get longer and longer, as the time went by. I was used to working the candle at both ends back home in the UK so the schedule was nothing new for me.
I always tell young artists and students, that you need an incredible amount of determination, stamina and staying power to be a successful comic artist, as well as being able to tell a story. You need to be able to work incredibly long hours and get the book out on time, often without sleeping for over 24 hours and in some cases for a few days, just to meet a deadline and I like to think I am quick.
I sat at the drawing board once more, armed with a cup of coffee and a fresh Bagel and continued with the next pages, working closely with Joe as he pencilled others. We were almost extensions of each other by this stage, even though we had been working together for a relatively short period of time. But this symbiosis was vital in achieving the look we wanted for the book, to set it aside from the others in the Defiant Universe, but to also set the style for the book.
Janet brought out the cover she had painted over Joe’s artwork for the same issue. It was fantastic and helped to make it feel the job was now well on its way.
Below: Detail of Michael Alexander's "Glow" SFX:
The topic of conversation that morning was the way I had painted the SFX on Michael Alexander to show the transitions between him being in the “real” world and that of the Dark Dominion, the other side of the world in which we live, the hidden world dominated by the Demons that tempt and direct our every lives, if we allow them.
It was a clever concept and one I had been looking at in a similar story idea, which I was later to submit to Jim, as a possible extension to the series plotlines.
I had chosen to utilise the glowing effect, which was already established in the card series, which had been produced first, before the comic, which had been drawn by Steve Ditko and Coloured by Marcus David and take it one step further.
The concept behind Michael, who was an unlikely candidate for the typical American comic book, as an aging guy, who could see and also walk between the two worlds, was one, which showed him normal in the “real” world, but glowing in the Dark Dominion. Michael’s appearance becomes a metaphor for what is actually happening to him within the Dark Dominion. To some he is the glow that must survive in the darkness, because of his abilities to tread both worlds. To others he is a last glimmer of hope. To others he is merely a glint in the grander scheme of things.
With all this happening I decided to really go to town with the painted art and show him go from real to glowing by developing a look for the SFX and used a stippling effect on the outer edges of the character when transforming between worlds and using the existing glow effects when in the Dark Dominion. This really worked and made the transition smoother. It certainly had the desired effect amongst my fellow professionals in the office and also with the fans of the book, who instantly seemed to jump on the look of the book and its different appearance to the others in the Defiant Universe as much as the story content and concept.
Whilst there were obviously people disappointed that Steve Ditko was no longer on the book that was soon put out of folks minds, as the book progressed and gained momentum. We were all pleasantly surprised at how well the new book was accepted by the fans and the trade press at the time, which was great, especially after all the effort that was being expended in the production of the artwork, on a gruelling monthly schedule.
Later that day, towards lunchtime, I was introduced to the guy from Sacramento, Charles Yoakum, who has remained a great friend to this day. We quickly hit it off and he was put to work inking, after a brief trip to his hotel to shower and unpack. We would soon find we had similar interests, and a love of certain comic books and their creators.
As we spoke more and more I realised this was me, a mere two or three weeks ago. Charles had one weeks worth of clothing and he also had an apartment back home in California, which he was supposed to go back to in a few days…Should I have mentioned it to him in a more expanded way, no way I was having fun and Charles would too, in a few days.
As early evening approached we were joined with yet another artist this time it was the guy from Brazil, Oclair Silverio, with his agent. I would soon become his interpreter. There must have been something of a similarity between his Brazilian and my Lancashire accent. I could speak no Brazilian and he could speak only an odd word of English, yet the office was soon laughing at how he and I managed, somehow to interpret for each other, through signs, mime and a great use of imagination. These next couple of weeks looked like being fun.
The office was quite electric with creative juices overflowing in all its little nooks and crannies. Everyone was bouncing off each other creatively and the Defiant Bullpen was everything I had imagined the Marvel comics one to have been back when I was a kid reading them in the sixties and seventies. Although most of what was documented in the comics of the time was exaggerated and fictitious, this one was there in front of us all, acting as both a mutual playground and a source of mutual inspiration.
Below: Detail of the Ectoplasm SFX used on all the denizens of Dark Dominion:I have not had that repeated during my career to date and it was special. The nearest thing to come close to it was my association with Morpheus Animations in the early part of the new millennium, following my initial involvement with Theme Park Conceptualisation, when I was inspired to new levels. It was a special time and one I shared with some special people. It was a time when I was so busy and it went so fast there was hardly time to look up from the drawing board to see what was going on, before I was hit with the next pages.
Yet throughout the time at Defiant everyone seemed to be enjoying it, just as much as I was. It certainly prepared me for my new venture when I decided in March of 2005 to set up a new company. Once you have experienced such a great working environment, everything else, even well paid jobs, pale into insignificance and make one crave for more of the same.
Below: Defiant Publicity shot of me, working on Dark Dominion Issue #1 Page 4
That evening we ordered in food and as part of the working day anyone working after six o’clock was provided a meal paid for by Jim’s company. He really looked after his people. I was using two pages of Dark Dominion payments as expenses. All that was happening was I invoiced for the two pages, I was given money from the petty cash and when it was gone I took along the receipts and received the money back. So in effect I was going to be paid back for everything I spent the money on to survive during my stay there for the two weeks period.
When I returned to my hotel room, I lay ready for sleep and once again wondered could this get any better, I was one lucky Brit. Tomorrow would bring more of the same zany, manic, creativeness.
But I’ll share that in my next Blog.
Until next time have fun!
May 26th 2009