Sunday, May 31, 2009

From The Closet: Batman

Another piece I found while digging everything out of my closet. Just a photocopy of the pencils, unfortunately. No idea what happened to the original art. I drew it for Mark Chiarello at DC to show him that I could draw traditional, slick, superhero art when I sent my mind to it. At the time, I was still heavily influenced by the work of Mike Mignola, but I wanted to add in some other art approaches I'd picked up from guys like Joe Quesada and Ed McGuinness. It was an interesting mix. Never drew a book in this style, which is probably for the best. It took me days to pencil this one piece. That's about four times as long as I usually take.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Now Playing

by Stephen King

Long week of work. Longer week of work ahead. And my writing muscles are itching for a long stretch of work on FADE. But the writing marathon will have to wait until I get caught up with the art assignments I already have.

In the meantime, I'm trying to immerse myself in more audiobooks to keep the writing part of my brain awake. This weekend it's another one of the Stephen King books I never finished -- LISEY'S STORY. Finally got through the CELL audiobook, which picked up in the last act. I suspect this one won't come together until the last act as well. It's a dense book (even on audio) with a lot of flashbacks, so we'll see where all these little details lead.

Monday, May 25, 2009

From The Closet: JACKSON KING, part 3

And here's the third and final STORMWATCH: PHD pinup from my closet. I found these with the original art from the issue they had me draw -- #5. Still have all the art from that issue. I think I'll pick a couple of the better pages and put them up for sale along with the pinups.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

From The Closet: JACKSON KING, part 2

And here's the second of the three pieces I did while preparing for STORMWATCH: PHD #5. This time, I drew Jackson King in his various incarnations over the course of the Stormwatch books.

From The Closet: JACKSON KING

And here's the first of the pieces I came across while cleaning out my closet. It's a pinup featuring Jackson King from STORMWATCH that I drew as a sample for Wildstorm a couple of years ago. They wanted me draw an issue of the new (at the time) STORMWATCH:PHD series, so I did three pieces with King to show them what I could do.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I've been meaning to go through my old files of original art for a while now, but I didn't get around to it until this afternoon. Probably just the usual Spring cleaning urge, or the fact that the closet in my office is starting to get a little cramped with all the boxes of art and books.

As I started to sort through the boxes, finding old art and comics that I barely remember drawing, I suddenly realized that I've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pages of original art collecting dust there in the closet. I now have four stacks of art sitting on the guest bed. One is old stuff, one is SUPERNATURAL: ORIGINS artwork, one is MIRROR'S EDGE artwork, and one is pinups and other odds and ends.

Yeah, it's definitely time to get rid of all this stuff. Still not sure the best way to start selling off my original art, but for now I think I'll have to set up an 'Original Art For Sale' page on my website. Look for that in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I'll post scans of some of the pieces I've discovered as I go through all of it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jim Royal, 1970-2009

Living where I do in Upstate New York, I'm pretty well out of the loop of the comic book world. Most of the news I get comes from my close circle of friends in the industry, and most of that news is about some really great new artist they think I should check out, or a new website for some really great artist from the 40s or 50s.

So, almost four months after it happened, I'm only now learning that one of my oldest friends in the business has died just short of his 39th birthday. You may not have heard of Jim Royal, but he was an inker who worked for almost every company in the business, from Caliber to DC to Marvel. But for me, he was the guy who single-handedly got me in the business.

After college, I was down in Birmingham, AL where my father was running a television station. I hadn't had a stellar college career and I was stuck in a succession of retail jobs while working on my own comics and dreaming of a chance to break in. One night, a lanky guy walks into the record store where I was working and asked to speak with someone - a friend of his who worked for the record chain - that I'd never heard of. Turns out his friend worked at one of our other stores and the lanky guy had shown up at the wrong location.

While we sorted out where his friend was and how to get there, the lanky guy and I got to talking. Turns out he was a comic book inker by the name of Jim Royal. When I told him I was a wannabe comic book artist, he asked if he could see any of my stuff. In those days, I always had something with me, so I showed him zeroxes of my latest pages there on the spot. He loved them.

Before he left, Jim gave me his phone number and invited me down to Montgomery to hang out with him and his studio mate, Andrew Robinson. I went down a couple of times to sit around, drink beers, smoke, and talk about comics. I always brought whatever new pages I was working on and showed them around. One night, Jim asked if he could send some of my pages to a guy he knew at Caliber Comics.

And that's how I got my first comic book work. Jim sent the pages, the guy at Caliber called me, and I got invited to do a story for NEGATIVE BURN.

I haven't talked to Jim in a while, but he's never been far from my mind. Every few years one of us calls the other and we spend a few hours on the phone catching up, talking, and laughing. I've always looked forward to those re-connecting phone calls.

The horrible thing was that in trying to re-connect with him now (last time Jim found ME, so this time was probably my turn), I came across the news that he'd died. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the fact that he's gone. He was always there with a big grin and a story, and beer or cigarette if you needed one.

I'm not a religious man, but Jim, I hope you're out there, and I hope you know how much I'm going to miss those phone calls. Thanks for everything you did for me, and I hope wherever you are, it's a good, happy place.

From The Files: UNTITLED

And here's another old piece from the files, colors by Ryan Robbins. I did this one as a sample for a 1930s Noir detective book that never got off the ground. Too bad. I'd love to do a crime book one of these days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From The Files: FAIRCHILD

On deadline today, racing to finish a chunk of my secret project, and working on some samples for yet another potential secret project. So here's another one of my superhero pinup experiments, once again featuring a character from Gen13 -- Fairchild. I was planning on doing all four of the major characters and blending the pinups together into one larger piece, hence the stone background motif in both the pieces I've posted. Again, the MIRROR'S EDGE project came up and I didn't get a chance to finish. Maybe I'll do the other two characters -- Grunge and Freefall -- the next time the need to draw some superheroes comes over me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Facebook Fan Page

And my web presence grows...

My friend Ellen Williams has created a Matthew Dow Smith fan page on Facebook. I'll try and put news and updates on it from time to time for anyone interested in following my various projects.

From The Files: BURNOUT

After my run on SUPERNATURAL: ORIGINS, I was really in the mood to do a superhero thing. I go through phases where I get the urge to draw something slick and superhero-y. Doesn't happen often, but it happens. Since I hadn't drawn any superheroes in a while, I tried my hand at a couple of the characters from Gen13 to show my editor at Wildstorm. This one features Burnout, the team's 'fire' character. I had a lot of fun tightening up my lines and playing with more dynamic shapes, but the MIRROR'S EDGE gig came up before I got a chance to ink it. No complaints from me, but I'd still like to try my hand at a straight-up superhero title someday.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Work In Progress: FADE poster

I put this together as a sign for my booth at the last Albany comic book convention. I'm always a little jealous of the guys with big posters and banners advertising themselves. My answer was a possibly too subtle poster featuring the adult version of my Evan Fade character. It was an interesting experiment, a variation of a little piece I did while working on the Fade Young Adult novel. I'm still figuring out how to do useful things in Photoshop, but every time I try, I learn something handy.

There's another Albany convention coming up in November. Hopefully by then I'll be able to work up something a little more adventurous. I've been looking at a lot of Ashley Woods art and the graphic design work of John Honor Jacobs, picking up ideas. We'll see what I come up with.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From The Files: ZEALOT

One more piece from the photo reference experiments I did while waiting for Mirror's Edge to start up. I was a big fan of Joe Casey and Sean Phillips' run on WILDCATS, so when I started playing with using photos as the basis for a drawing I tried the technique out on a couple of Wildcats characters, including Zealot. It turned out well enough that I posted it in the gallery on my website, along with a Grifter piece done in the same style.

I never did find good photo reference for this background, so I drew it without reference and kept adding shadows until it fit visually with the figure.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From The Files: Photo Experiment

Over the last year or so, I've been playing around with new approaches to my art. I always like to mix things up, whether it's a different way of laying out a page, or nudging my art style a bit to suit the tone of a story. During the hiatus between SUPERNATURAL: ORIGINS and MIRROR'S EDGE, I tried a few experiments with photo reference. This is the first of those. Not sure it's something I'd want to do for every story, but it was a fun experiment.

These days, having drawn three projects in a row with fairly similar styles, I'm itching to try something even more experimental. Just have to find the right project for the look I have in mind.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From The Files: MR. HOOD

Been under the weather the last couple of days, but trying to keep up with all the work. I hope to have an announcement about a few projects over the course of the next few weeks. In the meantime, here's an unseen cover from a project called MR. HOOD. Several years ago, NFL football player Darian Barnes approached me about working on a comic with him. It was a great little idea, and Darian's enthusiasm is hard to say 'no' to. We did 2, maybe 3, issues before Darian hurt himself in training camp and we had to put everything on hold. He's better now, and the last I heard he was playing for the New Orleans Saints. Nice guy. Hope we get a chance to finish the project some day.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Had a chance to get caught up with Todd Dezago at last weekend's signing. We've known each other for years, but never gotten a chance to work together. Todd recently moved his creator-owned title THE PERHAPANAUTS over to the Image banner and he gave me a stack of the latest issues. It's a great comic book, everything that I've been missing in comic book these days. It's been a long time since I read a comic that was just out and out FUN and more or less kid-friendly. And the art by Craig Rosseau is really sharp.

Todd and I are now talking about having me draw an 8-page backup story for them. I pretty much jumped at the chance to finally work with him, now we just have to find the time to work on it.

In the meantime, a big thank you to everyone who turned out for our FCBD signing at EXCELLENT ADVENTURES. It was great to see so many kids excited about comics again. And thanks to John and Matt for setting the signing up and running things so smoothly, not to mention all the coffee, soda, and pizza they provided. I had a great time. Thanks, guys.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Now Playing

BBC Radio Collection

Having listened to several audiobooks in a row while I've been wrapping up this issue of my secret project, I needed a break from big, involved stories, so I broke out one of my many audio collections of the classic British radio comedy show, THE GOON SHOW.

I've been a huge GOON fan since high school, which probably explains a lot more about my childhood than I'd care to admit. I was an 'odd' kid. More interested in British science fiction shows and radio comedy than sports and yet somehow I managed not to get beaten up. Still not sure how I avoided that.

If you don't know the GOONs, you certainly know the British comedians they inspired. Without the GOONs, we'd never have gotten MONTY PYTHON, HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, LITTLE BRITAIN, or pretty much any of the British comedy created over the last 40 years. They influenced everyone that came after them, and changed the tone of British comedy forever.

And while you may not have heard of Spike Milligan (though if you know anything about comedy, you probably have... and more than once) or Harry Secombe, you certainly know the third GOON, Peter Sellers of THE PINK PANTHER fame.

I've listened to these old shows over and over again, but they still crack me up every time. Their smart, literate, and zany brand of comedy still holds up well today, and no matter how many times you've heard these shows, the jokes fly so fast there's always some nugget of comedy you've missed.

And just to show you how much of a nerd I was growing up... I had three pictures taped up in my locker: Lalla Ward as Romana from Doctor Who (My first celebrity crush), saxaphonist Sonny Rollins, and an old black & white photo of the GOONS.

Again, I have no idea how I didn't get beaten up on a daily basis.

On The Nightstand

KISS OF LIFE: A Generation Dead Novel
by Daniel Waters

One of the nice things about having so many writers as friends is that sometimes they send you stuff like advance readers copies of their books. It makes you feel just a little cooler than average mortals, and when you've got a friend who is as good a writer as Dan Waters, it also gives you something really cool to read.

As anyone who's ever met me probably knows, I'll talk about how much I love Dan at the drop of a hat. I know a lot of people, am friendly with a fair number of them, but I've got a short list of people I count as true friends. Dan's high on that list. So it should come as a bit of a shock that I sort of hate him. Why?, you might ask. Well, because of books like KISS OF LIFE.

It's good. God help me, it's really good. The guy makes writing look so damn easy. And considering that at least on the surface it's a teenage zombie love story, there's no reason I should love it as much as I do. But like everything Dan writes, it's so much more than just what you see on the surface, which works so perfectly in a book about teenagers on some metaphorical level that it makes my creative brain hurt more than a little.

I was around when Dan came up with the idea for GENERATION DEAD, and the fact that there's a sequel now, and more sequels to come, is just too cool for words. But the fact that the sequel is as good as the first book, if not a little better (there's even a nerdy writing mechanics thing in the first section of the book that would drive me crazy if it wasn't handled as masterfully as Dan does it), is just another reason to hate the guy. And the facial hair. I can't grow a goatee to save my life, and yet Dan has one, proving once and for all that if the two of us are twins separated at birth, he's the evil one.

KISS OF LIFE hits the shelves May 12th in the States. I don't want to give away any of the story, but I really admire the choices Dan makes in this one. There's an easy way to tell a story, and there's a more nuanced, textured way, which usually turns out to be more interesting in the end. Dan always picks the more challenging way, and this book is no exception.

I never hesitate to shill for my friends, but Dan makes it really easy. I really enjoyed this book and its predecessor, GENERATION DEAD. And I can't wait to read the next one. Maybe by then, I'll be able to grow a goatee. I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.