Tuesday 8 December 2015

...Bring on the Bad Guys...

They say that you can measure the appeal and success of a superhero by the quality of his or her super-villains. You only have one hero in the strip but you need a veritable rogues gallery of bad guys to keep things interesting each month. After a brief discussion regarding super villains, we quickly got into designing arch villains for the two superheroes we created last week. 

We created LORD OF LIGHTNING to be the arch nemesis of BLIND NINJA, and 
the bane of SPIKED AVENGER'S heroic life would be BLOOD SAMURAI!!

The images of the two new villains must remain TOP SECRET for the present- or until I can get a new SD card reader for my camera. PICTURES TO FOLLOW!

...and here they are - bring on the bad guys...

Having designed a couple of villainous characters ourselves on the easel, the class got down to possibly their favourite assignment - 'Design a Super Villain! And who better to overlook and provide inspiration for such an endeavour than the blood-curdling Prince of Darkness himself - DRACULA!

Here are two new characters from Zac and Finn. The creations of Toby, Cole, K.C., Jack and James on their way... (SD card reader again).

Zac's multi-coloured villain.

Finn's 'Mystery Man'

Toby's 'Captain Nuclear!'

Finn again - 'Lightning Guy'

...begin again...

Apologies to K.C., Cole, Jack and James - unable to recover photos of your characters - will add to blog after 1st session Module 2.

Along with the Shadow and Zorro,  Dracula was inspirational
in the creation of teenager Bob Kane's Batman! 


...and last but not least...

The second installment of the 'Bite-Size History of Comics!' 

The first appearances of Superman in 1938 - and Batman in 1939 - heralds the birth of the Golden Age of Comics! From then on a veritable deluge of colourful costumed characters poured onto the newsstands as publisher after publisher jumped onto the lucrative comic book bandwagon. Not the least of which being Martin Goodman's Atlas Comics' with their Human Torch and Captain America. Atlas comics would go through a series of successes, crises and calamities before it would publish comics decades later under the name Marvel Comics! 

I listened to one student recount the origin of the Silver Surfer - being that the world-devouring GALACTUS had consumed and destroyed the planet Zenn-La, but chose Norrin Radd - the only survivor - to become his planet seeking herald. I had to interrupt, and explained that the Silver Surfer origin I read in 1968 showed a heroic Norrin Radd on a decadent land-locked planet, sacrifice himself to serve GALACTUS in order to save Zenn-La. Norrin Radd volunteered to scour the universe searching for alternative planets to assuage the hunger of the planet eater.

I rather liked the 'survivor' origin myself. Comic book continuity is pretty confusing at the best of times - we agreed that the continuity had clearly been rewritten...

Next week - The man whose lies almost 
destroyed the  comic book industry!

A big thank you to Simon and Becka at Downham first and foremost 
art shop - Framin' Art - for all their help and support!

Tuesday 24 November 2015



If you've missed the 1st session - your welcome to sign on mid - module!

Look forward to seeing you...

...'How to Draw Superheroes (& Villains)!' at Framin' Art...

Well, the first session of 'How to Draw Superheroes (& Villains)!' Module 1 got off to a great start. A hearty heroes welcome to students - and potential comic artists/concept designers - Jack, Finn, K.C., Toby, Zack and James. 

In my efforts to create a veritable Batcave of a classroom with hero sketches, character designs, a selection art books on Jack Kirby, Marvel and DC Comics, graphic novels and comic books - in the brightly lit classroom it probably came off more as The Fortress of Solitude.

The classes first communal creation - 'THE SPIKED AVENGER'

Nonetheless, the room was a hive of creativity as the class and I created a couple of heroic characters of our own. First up was the almost untouchable nemesis known as 'THE SPIKED AVENGER' followed by the dynamic and mysterious 'BLIND NINJA'!

The dynamic and mysterious 'BLIND NINJA'

Once we'd warmed up on the first two characters - and after a brief refreshment break - the students were straight into the nuts and bolts of the class - designing their own heroes! 

Zack Evans creating his latest superhero

In this first wave of new super heroes - the students are using exciting costume design styles, with an additional influence of manga and popular themes such as military weaponry and attire.




...and last but not least...

The first installment of the 'Bite-Size History of Comics!' 

With the first installment spanning 40,000 years or so, and then every decade - it goes without saying that it's going to be exceptionally concise.

I'll be covering a handful of key developments in each period, from the the 1940s Golden Age of Comics onwards. While it's unavoidable that a tremendous amount of information will be left out, I can certainly revisit the period in question and add additional pages as time permits.

In the event that any student has a particular query or question regarding comic history, they can ask me in class or via email or - dare I say - 'google it'.

And thanks James for your question - 'Who came first - The Atom or the Ant-Man?' - watch this space.

Next week - the Birth of the Golden Age of Comics!

A big thank you to Simon and Becka at Downham first and foremost 
art shop - Framin' Art - for all their help and support!

Friday 30 October 2015

...Superheroes over Gaywood...

'Heroes and Villains' - having carried out  a few Superhero days at Downham Market's Upwell and William Marshall schools last June, I approached Downham Library and asked if they would be interested in a Superhero Demo at the library. They not only said yes, but would I be able to hold a Demo Day at Gaywood Library - of course I said yes.

In order to create the appropriate atmosphere and to encourage inspiration, I'd brought along a variety of drawings and sketches which I blu-takked around the library and also a selection of graphic novels and 'How to Draw...' books.

And being almost Halloween I couldn't not bring along my old friend - a huge portrait of none other than Dracula! 

The session was well attended by children and parents alike. We quickly got into designing the first character from design suggestion the children called out. I could see the popular themes popping up - spikes, flames, wings, mohawks and lightning bolts. Many thanks to the young lad in his Spider-Man outfit who came up to the easel and drew his suggestion of three eyes in place on the lightning bolt mask!

It wasn't long until our hero or villain - emerged. Presenting the '3-EYED BEAR MAN!' Oops, clearly no spell-check on my easel this morning...

The unstoppable 3-Eyed Bear Man!

I could see the children were getting itchy fingers and had already started drawing their own characters on the template sheets, it wasn't long before our next character appeared. A super-heroine or super-villainess - long blonde hair, bat-mask, 'Incredibles' eye motif, bat cape, boots of fire and ice and pneumatic 'Falcon' arms - none other than V-WOMAN!

...and the Invincible V-Woman!

Meanwhile...there was silence and pencils drew and crayons scribbled, felt pens flourished and coloured pencils coloured. Following is a sample of the fantastic ideas the children came up with...


What a surprise also to meet parent John who'd brought his family along to the workshop. John and I had a lot in common - turns out he's not only an old time comic fan from the 60s and the 70s, but also like myself - a dyed in the wool Marvel Comics fan! 

We reminisced about the pre-comic shop days when you had to get on your bike and search for your favourite mags at the newsagents, and also the Plus Books and Comic Exchange shops where you could swap the mags you'd read for those you hadn't read. I think the ratio was swap two for one. 

We could scarcely have imagined fifty or so years ago, that the 1/- (5p) comics we were buying and swapping might become an investment commodity in the 21st century, many valued at extraordinary prices. And that comics and superheroes themselves might become an integral and - dare I say it - respectable part of popular culture. 

...and more ideas...


Move over Marvel and DC Comics - I think we've got a whole new generation of comic and superhero artists, concept artists and gaming designers on the way!
A big 'WELL DONE!' to one and all - and a I know a few of you parents designed the odd character here and there...

Many thanks to all the participants and parents who came along to the library this morning to make it a big success, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. A big thank you also to Elena who organised both events at the two libraries and also to volunteer Grace who assisted with administration and hosting at Gaywood on the day.

When you're ready to draw more superheroes - let me know!

Now if only I could find that 'Friends Of Ol' Marvel' membership card from the 70s...

 For more comic drawing fun I'll be carrying out a Superhero workshop at 
Framin' Art in Downham Market in November - look forward to seeing you.

Monday 7 September 2015

...where do those superheroes come from...?

Like every six (and sixteen) year old I copied characters and superheroes  relentlessly from any comic I could lay my eager hands on - TV21, Fantastic Four, Hulk. Pencil, colouring pencils - pots of poster paints when I'd progressed at age twelve to reproducing comic covers and full splash pages up to A2 on cartridge paper which were often often pinned up on the display boards outside the first floor school art room. 

Ahh a warm glow when a for a few weeks only, ascending the stairs from the vestibule to attend classes on the first floor hundreds of young minds were momentarily captivated by the vivid painted image of an angry Galactus raging at the Silver Surfer, or Maximus the Mad glowering over a trapped and frustrated Hulk. 

What marvelous joy.

Almost without fail in those 'best days of your life' if you were caught reading a comic - especially in class or assembly - you were facing comic book confiscation at least until the end of said lesson or in some cases - until the end of time ie four o'clock - home time. 

I almost lost Tales to Astonish #97 this way in assembly, but managed to distract the Deputy Head by dropping and breaking my glasses - yep - made of glass in those pre plastic lenses days - my mag became a side issue compared to my now inability to see the blackboard and learn. Still confiscated until the end of the day though - curses, I wouldn't know if the Hulk survived the terrible threat of the Legion of the Living Lightning for hours now...

Fantastic Four Annual #6 featuring the birth of Reed and Sue's baby boy almost met the same fate in woodwork class. As fascinating as mortice and tenon joints and wooden wall lamp units - shaped like an upside down shoe with a protruding tongue was - it couldn't compare with the majesty and mystery of Reed, Ben and Johnny going up against their newest foe Annihilus in the demented wonderland that was the Negative Zone.

Boy-oh-boy! When the woodwork teacher noticed that I was distracted by a comic when I should have been paying attention - I discovered that dear old Mr Griffin was as implacable a foe as any Stan (The Man) Lee and Jack (King) Kirby could dream up! Luckily he instructed me to put it away rather than have it confiscated here and now. Phew! Did Sue or didn't Sue have her baby???

OK - I've gone back to the beginning to get to the present, but - life drawing! From my first time life drawing at Croydon Art College during my Foundation course - I was 18 and I expect the model was 68 or so - the tutors mantra was as follows - "Draw what you see. Not what you think you see."

Any comic book course I've attended in the past - such as 'The London Cartoon Centre' back in the late 80s could not stress strongly enough the value of drawing the human body from life, and whenever the opportunity presented itself - to get onto a life class. 

Certainly it's all very well referring to and copying from your favorite artists such as Gil Kane and Neal Adams (who know their anatomy inside out) - providing you back it up with a solid foundation understanding how human anatomy works. One editor I spoke to said it was comparatively easy (and fun) drawing superheroes, but the hero has to inhabit a world of real people. Creating the real world environment allows our hero to be who she or he is. 

The more real and more believable the environment, the better.

The two life classes I have attended recently are The Ely Life Drawing Group which takes place on Thursdays at Ely's Babylon Gallery, and The Ouse Life Drawing group which takes place on Wednesdays alternately in a converted church on the River Little Ouse and Ely Community Colleges Art Department - both are highly recommended!

Oh, and by the way - Reed and Sue had a baby boy...