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Peeking Inside My Sketchbook – Part 2

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Peeking Inside My Sketchbook – Part 2

Peeking Inside My Sketchbook, Part 2

Last week, I showed off a bunch of art from my personal sketchbook. Today, there’s more, including pieces from artists I’ve worked with a dozen times or more, as well as pieces by friends I’ve never had the chance to collaborate with.

I’m in awe of all of these artists. I can’t draw at all, so it’s still a priceless experience when new art pages from one of my stories appear in my inbox. This is where the magic is for me.

If you haven’t checked out last week’s installment, be sure to see all the great art you missed out on before reading on.

At the same Florida convention where Paul Ryan graced a page with Dejah Thoris, Ethan Van Sciver disappeared with my sketchbook and returned it with this jaw-dropping Impulse splashed across two pages. I love the energy of the piece, especially the cropping that makes it seem the page can’t contain the speedster.

Wolverine, courtesy of Kevin Sharpe, who was one of CrossGen’s associate pencilers. The associates were artists who worked in the studio, picking up fill-in (or “relief”) issues and backup stories, and learning in the process. I have to imagine the experience of sharing space with the all-star collection of artists in the studio was equal parts intimidating and exciting.

Derec Aucoin, another artist who pitched in at CrossGen on a number of issues, Hulked out on this piece. Derec, who goes by Derec Donovan now (in part because so few people knew how to pronounce “Aucoin”) is another underrated talent in the business. When Cully Hamner had to bow out of the last chapter of our Poe-inspired “Legends of the Dark Knight” story, I was happy to have Derec step in.

How’s this for special. After MegaCon in Orlando one year, the legendary John Romita Sr. visited the CrossGen studio. He held court at one of the meeting tables in the art quads, telling stories to the gathered creative staff and generally being… well, a legend. Pretty great watching artists who are giants themselves, like Butch Guice and Steve Epting, hanging on every word of a master like John. I don’t remember who was the first to muster the courage to ask for a quick sketch, but it started an avalanche. I asked for whatever John felt like drawing, and face it, tiger, I hit the jackpot.

I first met Mike Perkins at the San Diego Comic-Con, when he was beautifully inking Rick Leonardi’s pencils on the “Green Lantern vs. Aliens” crossover series I wrote. That meeting led to Mike and I striking up a friendship, and eventually the offer for Mike (a Brit) to move to the United States and join CrossGen. Mike did this piece once he was ensconced in the CrossGen studio.

Ron Lim was the first artist I ever worked with in comics, and I was blessed to learn from his superior storytelling and draftsmanship. Ron carried a lot of the burden as I was learning how to do this job. When I caught up with Ron one year in San Diego, this menacing Thanos was the result. A lot of people rightfully think of Jim Starlin when they think of Thanos, but I’m pretty sure just as many think of Ron’s rendition.

Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and especially his Mars novels, are almost like a brotherhood. I interviewed my friend and fellow Burroughs fanatic Rafael Kayanan a few years ago about his work on a never-realized film version of “John Carter.” I knew my book was coming back from Rafael with Barsoom-themed art, but I was blown away by his full-color rendering of Dejah Thoris and a properly-scaled (18 feet tall!) Thark.

When I handed my sketchbook to Lee Moder, my collaborator on so many projects, including “Shinku,” “Dragon Prince” and “The Mucker,” among others, I said “draw whatever you want.” This is what he gave back to me at a con in Philadelphia, and I was immediately both overjoyed at the piece, and saddened that Lee has never had a run on “Fantastic Four.”

I first encountered Greg Tocchini’s work at CrossGen, where he drew a number of issues, including the second miniseries of R.A. Salvatore’s “DemonWars” that I edited. Everybody in the studio recognized Greg as a superior talent, and I was determined to write something him. I requested Greg as the artist on “Ion,” where we created this… well, space princess… who appeared in a few issues. Kyle zips through the background in his Ion costume.

When I wrote the Marvel-Top Cow crossover “Unholy Union,” I included Doctor Strange in the mix for the simple reason that I love Doctor Strange and really wanted to write him. Michael Broussard’s version of Doc in that story was great, despite it being one of Mike’s first comics jobs ever. When I got a chance to get a sketch from Mike, I had to ask him for a Doctor Strange.

If you ask Phil Hester for a sketch of his choice, there’s a fair chance it’s going to involve some sort of swamp monster. Phil kindly took my sketchbook home after a show, and it returned with this gorgeous Solomon Grundy. A few years earlier, I had sent Phil a complete set of full-size copies of my “lost” Batman-Grundy story with Bernie Wrightson and Kevin Nowlan, before it was finally published. This is the best kind of payback.

Comics reader are probably most familiar with my friend Ruben Procopio’s work from his recent “Batman 66” issues, but that only scratches the surface of his talent. A former animator and maquette sculptor for Disney, Ruben also sculpts a wide variety of commercial pieces (including the “Samurai: Heaven and Earth” statue for Dark Horse) in addition to his comics work. His Tarzan is the first Lord of the Jungle in my sketchbook, and hopefully not the last.

My “Magdalena” series with Nelson Blake II is one of my favorite runs. But for my sketchbook, Nelson chose to draw Aaron Chiang from my “Dragon Prince” creator-owned series, in both his human and dragon guises. Nelson and I are thankfully getting to work together again on an upcoming one-shot of “The Ride” for 12 Gauge Comics.

Sheldon Mitchell’s name might not be as familiar as some of the others of this list, but his credits include some beautiful work on Top Cow and Marvel issues. His “civilian guise” Logan makes a great companion piece to Kevin Sharpe’s earlier Wolverine.

I’ve been friends with Peter Krause for years, but we’ve never managed to work together. Hopefully we can rectify that soon. When Pete took home my sketchbook, I had to ask for a Captain Marvel piece, as his work with Jerry Ordway on the “Power of Shazam” series was a ’90s high-water mark. Shazam!

In addition to being commissioner of my fantasy football league, this Dan Jurgens fellow draws a pretty great Superman. This one was another request, rather than “artist’s choice,” as Dan’s rendition of the Man of Steel is one of my favorites, and for me, one of the iconic versions of the superhero who started it all.

Paul Harding is best known for his sculpture work for DC Direct, Sideshow and a host of other clients. But he’s also a hell of a two-dimensional artist as this piece featuring Thanos, Death and Mephisto attests. Other fun facts about Paul: huge Thanos fan, and he usually beats me at golf.

My Croatian collaborator Stjepan Sejic does almost all of his print work digitally, so I feel doubly blessed to have this grand Gandalf in my sketchbook. Stjepan and I grew up on opposite sides of the world, but we both had the same steady diet of fantasy literature.

I owe Richard Clark two big thank yous. First, thanks for this beautiful sketch of Asano, the daimyo of the vampire clan in “Shinku,” in his bat guise. And second, Rich is the one who took on the task of scanning all the pieces in my sketchbook, so I could share them in these columns. Thanks, Rich.

Perusing all this art, it occurred to me that when you’re friends with artists, it can be easy to overlook their talent. You naturally think of them as friends first, someone you grab a beer with, have dinner with, go golfing with. What they can do with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper is not foremost in your mind. But looking through this sketchbook is a humbling reminder of all that talent.

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,

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