Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Light blue pencil on paper
13.97 x 21.59 cm (5.50 in. x 8.50 in.)

Here are color explorations for a costume concept for the Maid of Might. All because I didn't feel like only posting the blue pencil sketch. Yes, I spent about an hour this morning digitally coloring this thing just for monotonae. The twelve year old sketch features a Thor-styled cape a la Jack Kirby which I don’t usually draw on DC characters.

The overall style is based on Bruce Timm’s of his “Batman: Animated” series. It’s a style which has an attractive graphic simplicity, and yet a style with which I struggle because I’m always wanting to either put in more detail or complicate things with more accurate anatomy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TAGS, February 06, 1994

Sunday, February 06: Valen-time! Besides this being one of my friend, Dave’s favorite TAGS strips, there are one or two things that work about this one.

As I had previously commented, the larger format of the “Sunday” full page comics, drawn about 8 inch x 10.5 inch, offered more panels and relatively larger panels from the dailies. The dailies were drawn two at a time, about 8 inches wide, in the top half of a letter size sheet of copier paper. Here, perhaps better than ever before, is depicted a believable “back of house” kitchen environment. See the stainless steel counters and appliances. Note the stacks of plates and glass coffee urns. Observe the ceiling mounted bug zapper in panel two.

Less clear in the last four panels, are the front, serving area of the restaurant with ceramic tiles on the back wall, back counter and the front counter that Polly (penguin, 17th appearance) is cleaning.

In the first panel, Monster approaches a fallen box of broken heart shaped treats with a dustpan in one hand and a junior sized sweep in the other.

Murray (cheetah, 9) and Edie (squirrel, 7) make a connection here, but the thing I find remarkable is that three out of the four characters’ names are used in the strip. Edie is standing on a box in order to reach over the sink edge. But back to the exchange between Murray and Edie, it was written for them to make it a date easily, and from Monster’s point of view, it is unbelievably and unfathomably easy. I can’t say that it’s realistic, but it’s necessary for…

… Monster to formulate a thought, with the electrical circuit being a bit more complicated than it needs be. Then, without fail, he proves that he doesn’t really get it.

Although, not necessarily a milestone moment, I believe the drawings show a level of comfort that just about marks this as the definitive TAGS style.

Also of note, “Googleplex” is an intentional a misspelling of “googolplex” which colloquially is a very large number. Mathematically it’s defined as 10 to the googol power, where a googol is ten to the 100th power. This strip was written four years before the company known for its Internet search engine was founded.

15 years prior to the release of the Disney animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog” is introduced the idea that movie “The Frog Prince” recently premiered in the world of TAGS.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tuff-Girl on the Small Screen

“Unstoppable Tuff-Girl”
Desktop wall paper.
1920 x 1200 pixels.

Of course, I had to do something with the Photoshopped Tuff-Girl, and why not a wallpaper for my computer.

At first I was hesitant about covering up so much of the logo. But then I discovered the miraculous advantaged presented when the words have double letters - namely, you can still read it without relying on the logo itself being as well-recognized as say the “Superman” logo type.

I found the old Vegas Fremont Street image in a Google search, to which I then added specular lens flare effects.

The result has a bit of a movie poster aesthetic. If I had overlaid Matt Crouch’s logo with brush metal texture and had made it appear extruded, it would probably be firmly in that genre. Here with her face framed by long red hair, Janine Turner might be mistaken for the actresses of today, Evangeline Lilly (Lost) or Megan Fox (Transformers). However, I would probably cast a young unknown actress for the lead in a Tuff-Girl movie.


“How to Build a Super-Hero”

According to the Wikipedia entry, the first version of the digital image editing application named Photoshop was created in 1988 by Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at University of Michigan. It has since evolved along with ever more powerful and faster personal computing systems to become the forerunner of digital image editing and creation programs. “Photoshop” is colloquially used as a verb to mean digital photographic manipulation.

With it, I created this conceptual image of Tuff-Girl.

Much of the photographic source material I grabbed from online Halloween costume retail sites. The advantage of this is that the photography is often clear, with fairly consistent camera angles and lighting, and across any given site’s catalog there are thousands of costume pieces.

The strategy is to start with a body posture and blouse or top that works best and add arms, legs and heads as needed. Since Tuff-Girl’s costume is ever changing, certain costume pieces can be different from what appears in her first comic adventure. In this process, skirts are that magic item for a couple of reasons: 1) they’re usually cute; 2) they usually easily hide where cropped legs are supposed to be connected to the hips.

Maggie O’Connell from the 1990 television series “Northern Exposure” played by Janine Turner was a major inspiration for the character of Tuff-Girl, not the least of which what she (a.k.a. Debby) looks like. Choosing actors from television series that are widely available in collections of DVDs or what ever the consumer accessible formats there be, is supposed to improve the consistency of drawing the characters. However, it’s not perfect. I subsequently decided that Debby is only about 5-foot tall and half-Asian.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Maq. it Pretty

Tuff-Girl Maquette.
Grey modeling compound.

by Chuck Williams.

I haven't written about this since 2007, largely because it hasn't changed much - and, sure, other things have been keeping me busy. With a few changes from what you see here, it currently stands on one of my book shelves waiting for the next comic con opportunity to make people jealous that they don’t have one.

It’s a remarkable thing to have another artist recreate something that only existed in your head previously. There’s an up front layer of being critical of it, but when it’s done well and the artist “gets it,” then it’s like getting a Christmas greeting in the mail - no it’s like birthday cake, delicious, home-made, birthday cake with ice cream.

I’m critical of everything. In fact, I describe part of my job as a game of “What’s wrong with this picture?” However, Chuck is pretty close to cake with this figure. I’ll withhold my final judgment until after it’s been cast and painted.

To help communicate to Chuck what my idea of the target for which he should be shooting, I re-touched and colored a photo of the maquette. Among the subtle changes are fuller hair around her face; more "V" shape to the mask; more narrow face, and smaller smile. That’s a lot of stuff when the head is barely an inch high.

Digital imagery makes coloring black and white pictures easy. In essence, it’s the same technique as using watercolors over a B&W print. To help pull it away from that colorization look, I add highlight layers over the colors, with more over the parts I want to look shiny. I’m not saying that I draw white for the highlight layers, because the figure is already lit and the lighter parts are easy enough to select in subtle levels of lightness.

Although anxious to see the finished painted maquette, I’m already thinking of the next sculpted version of Tuff-Girl I want to work on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TAGS February 03 & 04, 1994

02/03: Dare to be stupid.
02/04: That look.

February 03: Who is or was Edie's boyfriend? Who Cares? What matters is that she broke up with the guy. And should Murray (cheetah, 8th appearance) ask out Edie and should Rodney (African Lion, 3) ask out Jeannie (swan)? For the love of Pete, YES! Let's just get on with it!

Per the stereotype, the guys need a little more incentive to make that first big step, even if it comes in the form of a competitive dare session.

February 04: The setting here is looking into the employee cafeteria (noted in panel 1) which has big glass picture windows around it (as suggested by the partially lined characters and diagonal lines which are cartoon iconography of glass). If you were a Disneyland employee who worked on the west side of the Park (New Orleans Square or Bear Country) up until 2008, you might see that strip and say, "ah, I get it." If not, I guess it might look like the girls are trapped in a block of ice in the rain.

Edie (squirrel, 6), the same as is mentioned in the previous strip, (yes, I should have fitted her name in the dialog) probably shouldn't be looking for a new boyfriend so soon after the break up. On hind sight, it kind of makes her appear cold to her ex-boyfriend, what’s-his-name. On the other hand, I do want to keep the story lines moving.

Jill (reindeer, 2) makes her first appearance where she is named. The design question for anthropomorphic reindeer and other hoofed animals is whether or not they should have hands with fingers. The answer is that no, it is not required that they should. As long as the hoofs behave like fingered hands, it works in the cartoon as is evident in "The Powerpuff Girls." If it still bothers you as the designer, remember that Porky Pig wears gloves.

Oh, and for the sake of story, Edie is referring to Murray. If I were going to write about a love triangle, I would have created an ex-boyfriend for Edie.