‘The Mercenary’: “Tebeos” No More

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

bottom-mercSome interesting circumstances got me into comics. In the middle of the 1970s, at the beginning of Spanish democracy, there was a repeal of many prohibitions from the dictatorship in Spain that affected culture. This prompted a kind of revolutionary movement in the comics world that led intellectuals to investigate what was behind this curious thing that now was called “comics” and used to be called “tebeos” (silly, nonsense). The media talked about them and soon this dying genre revived itself. Editors with new magazines and illustrators appeared. Competition grew which led to “full color” pages which was more marketable although at the beginning it was only a few pages out of the magazine.

mercmachineAt that time, I had switched illustrator agents and the new one, in addition to selling our work, had become an editor of comics magazines. I liked comics and, seeing that there was demand for color stories, I proposed to my agent that I do some sample pages for free, with the intention of expanding my field of work. Naturally, the agent-editor said yes. I painted covers in oil paints. This technique was completely unusual in the comic world, but it was a way of working that I felt very comfortable with and I wasn’t going to change my system. I wasn’t sure how this might be accepted, particularly due to the absence of the classic black ink lines and the novelty of the technique, but despite my doubts, I couldn’t just stop doing what I knew best.

To have some guarantee of success, it had to be something remarkable, but given the circumstances, it also had to be easy and comfortable to do and for that reason, better to do it all from my imagination. I did not want to start a period piece that would require me to research tedious documentation about clothing, buildings, furniture, and settings.

The most practical would be to pick a fantasy topic and invent everything. I have always been a big fan of the middle ages with their armor and dragons, as well as weapons, castles, aircraft, the female form, and, especially, orientalist fantasy, so I got down to it and mixed all of these ingredients.

merc

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We’ve Got It Covered

When working on the interior pages of Pride Of The Decent Man, I’d take a day or two and work on potential covers for the book. Here are a few alternates and rejected version of the book cover for PRIDE. ( you can click the images to see them at a larger size ). It’s always a nice change of pace to concentrate on single image after working on sequential pages for so long. I’d say some were more successful than others. There were elements taken from a few of these that made it onto the final design. There are things I like about each one, and definitely some things I could’ve done better. It’s a process, like anything else. It’s not wasted time, because in the back of my mind, I think – “this could end up being a good cover for a foreign translated edition!” If that were to happen, though, I’d end up wanting to redraw it anyway.

To find out more about Pride Of The Decent Man, including ordering info, go here.

Thanks for reading!

T.J.

The Inevitable Cartoonist Process Post

Process sharing among cartoonists has become somewhat demystified in the digital age. With the advent of social media, artists can easily ask or share with others the way in which their art is created.

“What pen do you use?”

“What computer program is good for drawing?”

“What kind of ink is best with a Hunt 102 pen nib?”

Before the internet, questions like these were more difficult to figure out. Sure, you could’ve written a letter to Charles Schulz or Jack Kirby and asked what eraser they used after inking, but you may not get a response – for several months, if at all.

These days a young cartoonist can type in ‘best inking brush for comics’ into google, compile the top five, and have them delivered to their doorstep in a day or two.

It’s a different world, this age of information.

Having said all that, if there are curious people out there wondering how a page from PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN evolves, here are a few examples – and yes, I work digitally using Manga Studio 5 and Adobe Photoshop. Lettering is done in Adobe Illustrator.

PRIDE 2

PRIDE 3

For more information on how to order PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN, click here.

Thanks for reading,

T.J. Kirsch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing It Down & The Origins Of PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN.

Ideas for books come and go, but I’ve learned that if you don’t write them down, they’ll fly away out of your head pretty quickly. If you don’t write it down, it just doesn’t exist.

Every idea I’ve had for a comic, I first wrote down in a small, simple notebook.

My favorite place to exhibit ( and buy ) comics is the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. I like to have something new every time I go – to be excited about showing people your new work is a great feeling. When it came time to exhibit in 2014, I wrote and illustrated a small eight page quarter-size mini comic called TURNPIKE. It featured a nameless ‘homeless guy’ and a lonely teenager named Julie. The story evolved from those few scribbled down notes into a story.

color 1

I received a lot of good feedback about that minicomic. One cartoonist I respect a great deal told me it was very good and ‘indicative of a larger story.’

That got my wheels turning in the weeks afterward, and in 2015 I put together a proposal for a graphic novel called NEVER FORGET TO REMEMBER.

rough cover

 

It connected the two main characters in TURNPIKE and expanded on some of the themes and visual elements. I included the first ten finished pages of the book, as well as a synopsis, character descriptions, character designs, and a cover mockup.

It all started as a few hastily-scribbled sentences in a notebook, and soon evolved into a real project. NBM responded favorably and the title was eventually changed to PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN.

 

pridecover

 

 

 

 

My Tools and Process

FAQ1

I do almost everything in Manga Studio! (it’s actually called Clip Studio Paint nowadays) It’s pretty cheap but it can’t do everything I need it to. It doesn’t have the best text system, so I still do that and all other design type stuff in Photoshop. I played with Krita once and it seems like a good Manga Studio alternative that’s totally free and probably worth a look!

FAQ2FAQ3

I draw with an old Wacom Intuos 4 that I got used for around $300 like 8 years ago. They take a bit to get the hang of but with some practice there’s nothing you can’t do on them.

FAQ4

Even if you’re not an artist yourself, I hope it was interesting to see how I do things! Don’t hesitate to ask if you’d like me to into greater detail about any of this, I love talking about this stuff.

Until next time!

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

How to Paint Space


Truly, my enthusiasm for stars holds no bounds. And, now, you too can become a star enthusiast!

Follow this quick star-painting tutorial and you’ll be bestowed the illustrious rank of Junior Star Enthusiast, a noble title secretly desired by all.

And be sure to share your efforts! I’d love to see what you do with this.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

Where Do You Find The Time?

The short answer is: I don’t do much else!

Another short, but hopefully more helpful answer: you can’t find time, you make time.

But seriously, I don’t really do much else. I don’t watch TV and I don’t play video games (or, at least, not nearly as much as I used to.) When I’m not at the day job and while my children are asleep, I write and I draw. I work.

Maybe that makes me a workaholic, but if that’s true, it’s done wonders for my creative output.

And that’s what I mean by making time. If this is what you really want to do — what you need to do — you make time. Something else has to give. Maybe you don’t want to give up watching your favorite shows or perusing your favorite memes on reddit, and that’s fine! I’m not suggesting you give up all of your favorite past-times and devote yourself entirely and exclusively to your craft, but I am suggesting that maybe you take a look at how you spend your time on a daily basis. Maybe, as a random example, you spend some time each night checking Facebook. Let’s say two hours of Liking pictures of newborns and arguing with distant reletives. What if you were to limit yourself to an hour-and-a-half instead, and do a little drawing or writing with that free half hour you just made? Anything at all, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. In fact, go in knowing that it won’t be. And that’s okay! Plenty of my drawings fail to meet my unrealistically high expectations and never see the light of day, but it’s never a waste of time.

I know this is all easier said than done. Time management and self-discipline don’t come easy and take a while to build, but this is how you do it. You start slow. Don’t be too hard on yourself by trying to do too much too fast. Try and do at least a little each day, even when you’re not feeling especially creative. Making that initial effort, however small, makes all the difference.

And let me tell you, that knowledge that at the end of the day, you made something that didn’t exist before? That feels pretty amazing.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.