Peeking Inside My Sketchbook, Part 1
Quite a few creators keep a sketchbook... I mean a sketchbook with pieces by other artists, rather than sketchbooks for their own work. And obviously a great many fans keep a sketchbook they carry from show to show, gathering sketches from artists (though it seems like more and more sketches are being done on blank "sketch covers" of comics). There are some legendary theme sketchbooks out there, from Edward Scissorhands to "character on a cliff" sketches.
Despite the fact that I'm a dedicated art fan -- I'll buy a comic for the art over the story every time -- I didn't keep a sketchbook. Chiefly, because it seemed like an inconvenience for artists. But almost a decade into my career, I finally started a sketchbook because Bernie Wrightson told me to.
Or, at least Bernie told me to bring my sketchbook to his goodbye party at Terry Austin's house, and he'd put a sketch in it. This was back in 1998, when we all lived in the Woodstock area. Bernie was moving from upstate New York out to Los Angeles, and it felt a little bit like the band was starting to break up.
When Bernie Wrightson says he'll put a sketch in your sketchbook... you make sure you have a sketchbook. So I dropped by Castkill Art & Office Supply in Woodstock and picked up a 11" x 14" hardcover sketchbook. Terry Austin offered to draw the opening page, identifying the sketchbook as mine, so I handed it over to him.
What follows are the pages from my sketchbook. I've toted it to various conventions, handed it off to old friends and new acquaintances, mailed it back and forth to artists. Virtually everyone I've handed this sketchbook to asks the same question: "What do you want?" My answer is virtually the same every time: "Whatever you want to draw." Many times, the artist in question has replied with an exasperated, "No, really, what do you want?" because the decision of what do draw can be more daunting than the drawing itself. Once in a while, I will make a request, if an artist's rendition of a character is a special favorite. I'll give you one guess who I asked Dan Jurgens to draw.
I am indebted to every artist in this book, for both their artistry and their friendship. Thanks, everybody. And if you're not in this book yet... you're next.
Terry Austin utilized DC-themed boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as the basis for a "title page," then added his own delightful dinner scene that captures Terry's wry sense of humor. A Kraft "sign," clipped from a box and pasted down, unfortunately fell off and was lost.
The Bernie Wrightson sketch that started the whole thing. Bernie's version of the Caped Crusader is iconic... especially to the guy who wrote "Batman vs. Aliens" for him to draw.
The project on Jim Starlin's drawing board at the time was his satirical superhero/political satire "The Wyrd." This piece is a reference to the weekly volleyball games we all played at the time. Someday, I have to talk him into a Thanos.
Ron Boyd, who was inking "Legion of Super-Heroes" at the time, contributed this Gates piece at a small convention... somewhere. I don't remember the show, but I definitely remember the piece.
Tom Raney threw down this quick Daredevil sketch, then decided he wasn't happy with it, and demanded another shot. Tom's one of my favorite people to watch draw.
I met Georges Jeanty through Dave Johnson, when Georges was sharing studio space with Dave. I shoved his work under the nose of my "Green Lantern" editor Kevin Dooley, and wheedled until Kevin gave Georges a fill-in issue as his first DC work after some small-press projects.
A glorious, John Buscema-inspired Silver Surfer by my "Dangerous Artifacts" collaborator Claudio Castellini. Claudio took the book back to his hotel room, and came back the next day with the almost-finished piece. I watched him fill in the Kirby krackle, and use his fingers to delicately smudge the pencil shading for the gray tones.
One of my best friends in the biz is Cully Hamner, someone I've known long enough that we can't even remember how we met. This piece was inspired by our never-realized pitch for an Elseworlds story called "Altered Egos," which I described in an earlier column.
Andy Smith went full color on this spread, and featured his own characters First Man and Penumbra, along with Kyle Rayner and Batgirl... and just maybe the Hulk's bicep.
How cool is it to have Kyle Rayner get the Fred Hembeck swirly knees treatment? Fred started a piece featuring a series of figures, then switched over the to the full-blown gag panel, complete with seltzer and a pie in the face.
The return engagement for Tom Raney, an absolutely stunning Batman piece. Nearly every artist who looks through the book sparks to this piece, especially the drybrushed cape.
One of my favorite projects in my career is the Batman-Tarzan crossover I did with Igor Kordey, who commemorated it with this piece of the Caped Crusader and Lord of the Jungle celebrating a little too much.
I feel like Craig Rousseau is one of the vastly underrated, underutilized talents in the industry. He knocked out this animated-style Robin in a heartbeat.
My partner for much of my year-long "Superboy" run was Spanish artist Ramon Bernado. Obviously influenced by John Buscema, Ramon was perhaps not a perfect fit for a teen-starring book like "Superboy," but I thought the work was kinetic and fun. We've lost touch over the years, but I'd still love to see Ramon's take on Buscema's signature character, Conan.
Return engagement for Claudio Castellini, when he and I were working on the lead story of the first "Star Wars Tales" issue, starring Darth Vader. For my money, Claudio's Vader is still best version of the Sith Lord to ever appear in comics.
This was one of the last pieces put in the book before we left Woodstock to move to Florida for CrossGen. I met Joe Staton at a diner to pick up the sketchbook from him the day before I pulled out for the drive south. Joe and his wife Hilarie hosted a wonderful going away party for us at their house.
A lot of people who see the sketch book ask, "Who is this one by?" The Frazetta-inspired piece by my friend Kevin Ferrara, for whom art is more hobby than vocation. His most extensive comics work is "Dead Rider," a haunted Western published by Dark Horse.
My "Scion" co-creator Jim Cheung started this piece of Ethan of the Heron Dynasty at the CrossGen studio, but never got a chance to finish it. But I still have the expressive, blue pencil preliminary drawing. Kind of like CrossGen itself -- full of initial promise, but unfinished.
A lovely Dejah Thoris by Marvel veteran Paul Ryan. While at a convention in Florida, Paul and I discovered we shared a lifelong affection for the Barsoom books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and obviously the Princess of Mars herself.
Next week, another Shelf Life edition, with more sketchbook art, including pieces by John Romita, Ron Lim, Dan Jurgens, Phil Hester and plenty more.
Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Witchblade" and the graphic novel series "Ravine" for Top Cow, "The Protectors" for Athleta Comics, his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image, and Sunday-style strips "The Mucker" and "Korak" for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.