Categories
Artist Spotlight

Jim Keefe

A graduate of the Kubert School, Jim Keefe started his career as the head colorist in the King Features Syndicate comic art department, coloring such world-renowned strips as Blondie, Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible.

From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of Flash Gordon for King Features Syndicate.

Teaching and speaking engagements include the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs in Long Island, New York, the University of Minnesota – and most recently as an Adjunct Teacher at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Keefe currently is the artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, written by Francesco Marciuliano. Sally Forth is syndicated worldwide by King Features and appears in nearly 700 newspapers.

To follow Jim on social media, just click on one of the icons below.

Categories
King Features

Coloring the Sunday Comics

From 1989-98 I was on staff at King as the head (and only) colorist for the King Features Comic Art Department. From 1999 on I did coloring for them freelance.

Jim Keefe - Portrait of a young colorist.
Jim Keefe – Portrait of a young colorist.

Pic from Funny Papers – Behind the Scenes of the Comics.


For my entire run coloring for King I worked “old school.”
Here’s the process…

King Features down in Florida does the color separations, so my job was to provide them with a color guide.

Here’s the color palette I used.

Using watercolor, I colored the black and white art and then put in the color indications using the numbers from the color palette. The actual watercolors didn’t have to be exact, that’s what the numbering was for.

Color guide for Blondie 7/1/2012.

And here’s what the finished version looked like.

Blondie 7/1/2012

It’s a very conscious decision to keep the coloring simple and not over render so the color is not competing with the clean line of the artwork. Here’s some more examples of my work…

Beetle 6/10/2012
Popeye 7/22/2012
Hagar 7/1/2012

And as of November of 2021, a little over 30 years total, I’m calling it a day. It’s been a good run, but time commitments with my current work schedule just made it impossible to continue.

Wrapping up with a pic the great Dick Hodgins Jr. (1931-2016) sent me awhile back. Something I’ll always treasure.

Categories
Business of Cartooning

Portfolio

Sally Forth Comic Strip
Artist – Examples on the Comics Kingdom website


Flash Gordon
Writer & Artist – Examples on the Comics Kingdom website


Pen and Ink Drawings
Sketchbook Studies


Comics Revue
Cover Art for Adventure Strip Magazine


Company I
Snapshots of an Infantry Company in WWII
Sketchbook and Notes

Categories
Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon Story Index

Flash Gordon by Jim Keefe

  • 1. Demon From the Dark Dimension: 01/21/1996 – 4/21/1996
  • 2. Nightfall on Mongo: 4/28/1996 – 8/25/1996
  • 3. The Way it Began: 9/1/1996 – 9/29/1996
  • 4. The Return of Ming: 10/6/1996 – 12/22/1996
  • 5. Durok’s Revenge: 12/29/1996 – 5/11/1997
  • 6. Lair of the Damned: 5/18/1997 – 7/13/1997
  • 7. Wartog: 7/20/1997 – 10/12/1997
  • 8. Alania Under Siege: 10/19/1997 – 5/3/1998
  • 9. Traitor In Our Midst: 5/10/1998 – 10/18/1998
  • 10. The Way It Began: 10/25/1998 – 11/1/1998
    (a condensed version of 9/8/1996 – 9/29/1996)
  • 11. Shadowland: 11/8/1998 – 1/3/1999
  • 12. Return To Syk: 1/10/1999 – 3/28/1999
  • 13. Back to Earth: 4/4/1999 – 10/31/1999
  • 14. Garden of Evil: 11/7/1999 – 12/19/1999
  • 15. Gallery Page: 12/26/1999
    (Spotlight of Flash Gordon artists throughout the years)
  • 16. The Way It Began: 1/2/2000 – 1/9/2000
    (Reprinting 10/25/1998 – 11/1/1998)
  • 17. To Melt a Queen’s Heart: 1/16/2000 – 6/18/2000
  • 18. Operation: Escape: 6/25/2000 – 8/6/2000
  • 19. Peace Offering: 8/13/2000 – 11/5/2000
  • 20. Secret Agent X-9: 11/12/2000 to 6/17/2001
  • 21. Nesting Ground: 6/24/2001 – 8/12/2001
  • 22. Flashback: 8/19/2001 – 10/28/2001
    (In depth retelling of Flash’s origin story)
  • 23. Slithers: 11/4/2001 – 5/12/2002
  • 24. Crowning Glory: 5/19/2002 – 8/18/2002
  • 25. Hatchlings: 8/25/2002 – 9/22/2002
  • 26. Tournament of Death: 9/29/2002 – 3/16/2003

Categories
Sally Forth

Drawing Bikes

Sally Forth DVD Extra!
For the week of April 12-16 in the Sally Forth comic strip the Forth family ventured out for a bike ride. Bikes can be a headache to draw so here’s a little behind the scenes on how I attacked it.

I had my daughter Tessa take pictures of me from the 2nd floor to help me figure out the aerial shots of bikes. Hard for me to visualize otherwise. I then mashed up the different pics to figure out what worked for the layout.

Usually the staff at King Features down in Florida handles colors for the dailies, but in cases like this where I have specific colors in mind I’ll do the color separations in Photoshop myself and send that file to them as well.

For more complex shots I get the basic layout down then do pencils and inks concurrently as I figure stuff out.

Digital gives me one more run through to tighten things up (like the bike lane symbol on the pavement). Then on to coloring.

For the April 16th strip eagle-eyed people from Minneapolis may notice the Forth family is on the banks of Lake Harriet (with the bandshell visible in the distance)


Side note: I’ve noticed that whenever I include masks in Sally Forth it tends to rile up commenters on the Comics Kingdom message board. Here’s my recent post there in reply.

Thoughts on masks while I was drawing this:
These strips are drawn over a month ahead of time so you never know whether they’ll be a surge in Covid cases when it sees print (where I live there currently is). Whereas mask wearing is generally recommended by the CDC when people are out and about, I also go by what I see people doing in public. They’re wearing masks in the April 15th strip because they’re biking on city streets where there can be more people. The following day, when they’re off their bikes and a good distance from others, they have their masks off. I am by no means the authority on this and recommend following CDC guidelines. That said, I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and wishing you all the best!


Unabashed plug time.
For more Sally Forth, just head on over to Comics Kingdom.

Comics Kingdom has subscriptions available for $19.99 a year where you then have access to ten years worth of archives to all their strips – a pretty great deal!

-Jim Keefe

Categories
Sally Forth

Sally Forth – April 8, 2021

The second panel on this strip was one of those panels where if you don’t sell it the whole gag falls apart. The following is a little behind the scenes look at what goes into a drawing like this.


With an idea in my head of what the panel should look like, the first step in drawing it is referencing the shot. In my case that means going down to the basement and taking a whole bunch of pictures – then creating a Frankenstein Monster like collage of them in Photoshop until I think I’m in the ballpark. (And yes that’s me posing as both Hil and Faye.)

The next step is roughing it up in pencil on bristol. Nothing is traced verbatim as all the objects will need to align to a perspective point. Hil and Faye’s faces will also need to be simplified as this image will be reduced to the size of a postage stamp in print. I also wanted a circle of light around the light source with everything else in shadow and not quite discernible.

Next up – a combination of tightening up pencils and inking. When you’re inking your own work you can be much looser in the pencil stage as you’re not handing it off to someone else to ink who doesn’t know what’s intended. It can also lead to some revisions in the drawing, like the spider’s web I added in the upper left hand corner.

After the strip is inked I scan it as a 600 dpi bitmap and do any touch-ups I think it needs. This is also the stage where lettering is placed (granted not for this wordless panel).

Last up is color. Usually the staff at King Features down in Florida handles colors for the dailies, but in cases like this where I have specific colors in mind I’ll do the color separations in Photoshop myself and send that file to them as well.

And that’s it in a nutshell.

For more Sally Forth strips just head on over to Comics Kingdom.

Unabashed plug time: Comics Kingdom has subscriptions available for $19.99 a year where you then have access to ten years worth of archives to all their strips – a pretty great deal!

-Jim Keefe