CCC09: Alex Maleev's Digital Pencils

From the lines of comic book and "Twilight" geeks that stuffed Chicago Comic-Con's halls Saturday, one other cross-section of fandom showed up for advice at Alex Maleev's Digital Pencils panel - the art geeks.

Maleev offered an hour of detailed advice to his audience on artwork-related processes and software choices, explaining how he streamlined his workloads to make his schedule for Marvel's upcoming "Spider-Woman" motion comic possible.

"I have three weeks per episode," the former "Daredevil" artist explained. "I've got to draw the whole thing in three weeks, color it and do it in letters as well."

The motion comic, which reunites his Maleev with writer Brian Michael Bendis, will feature animated sequences with sound and voice acting, available through iTunes starting in September.

The episodes, which Maleev is digitally producing artwork for, have created a demanding series of deadlines, but the digital tools, such as his Cintiq pad and software including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Bridge, and Google SketchUp have sped what would otherwise be an impossibly demanding timeline.

"It's a lot of work," Maleev noted. "This convention is my only break that I have the whole summer." He believes the new project could be worth the effort, though, as a stepping stone into the next era of his medium.

"This could be the future in comics," Maleev said. "At some point, we have to move to the digital format. "

If the "Spider-Woman" episode creates a successful model, Marvel may follow it up with another hero very familiar to Maleev. "I think they're going to do Daredevil [as an] animation soon after they're done with [Spider-Woman]," he said.

The artwork Maleev's now generating builds on techniques and tools from his pen-to-paper work, too. And that includes bringing in models to pose for the "Spider-Woman" action sequences. Maleev uses professional models to pose for more complicated scenes. He said that although he did not use her for "Spider-Woman" this time, one of his favorite models is his wife.

"Most of my models are very stiff," he explained. "My wife has learned to be a good one." According to Maleev, she has appeared in both his "Daredevil" and "Halo" work. "She was Mila in 'Daredevil,'" he recalled. "Any female character who shows a little more flesh is her."

Maleev also revealed the secret behind many of the textures he uses in his artwork. Asked by one audience member how his Photoshop brushes were created, he surprised some listeners with his answer. "I graduated printmaking in Bulgaria in '94," he said. "While there, I stockpiled physical etchings and for textures. I brought all of these etchings to the States, and I scanned them in." Those scans were then used to grade the digital brushes he now uses.

Maleev has come a long way since that his first major computer investment, which he cited toward the end of the panel as 9600 model Mac. "I didn't even know how to get the Internet, and I thought Yahoo! was an Internet provider," he admitted. "So I called Yahoo! and I asked them Can I get Internet? But slowly you start learning-very slowly."

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