Inktober for October 12th – Showing inks old and new.
This is a close-up of a few panels from a Flash Gordon Sunday page done back in the day. This one is from March 1, 1998. Old school Zip-A-Tone used on the ape creature’s metal bracelets. Also some dry brush used in the shadow in the last panel. Photo reference was crucial in getting the figures in the ballpark.
In 1995 I was hired as the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip (my first Sunday page appeared January 21, 1996). It was my first big freelance gig, and as with all freelance work, you have whatever skills you’ve attained up to that point and then you learn on the job. My first year doing Flash Gordon it was very much about getting a feel for the characters and getting the look right.
Nightfall on Mongo was my second story that first year and I opted for werewolves as being the antagonists. I mean, who doesn’t like werewolves, right?
Flash comes upon Thorne, the wounded survivor of a downed craft.
One thing in this story that sticks out like a sore thumb to me now is the environment and wardrobe. Instead of an alien world Flash might as well be in upstate Minnesota. Also, I modified a helicopter by taking off the propellers so that it would look like a small spacecraft – instead it just ended up looking like a helicopter without propellers…
Realizing I needed some strong feedback to strengthen my work, I sent pages to a couple of syndicated artists I was corresponding with at the time – George Evans and Bud Blake. Shown below are the critiques I got.
As far as critiques go, friends and family tend to pull punches – professionals get the job done. I had the basics down storytelling-wise, but both George and Bud showed me that I needed to amp things up. I can’t stress enough how invaluable their input was.
I’d like to add that for George and Bud to take the time to sketch up short tutorials and mail them out to me was beyond generous – especially with the ever present syndicate deadlines they were under.
As far as my learning curve went, the next story I did I purposely retold Flash Gordon’s origin in order to give myself a refresher course on all things Mongo-esque.
More Flash Gordon Flashbacks to follow…
And if you’d like to see more of my work on Flash Gordon,
King Features is currently re-releasing the strips at FlashGordon.com.
Hope you check them out!
Reference pictures are crucial for me when drawing, especially for action shots or panels that involve a number of characters interacting. It’s the best way to get a proper feel for how figures interact.
For example, here’s the Flash Gordon page I did for March 1, 1998.
Click on images to see larger.
Now this page would have been done a couple months in advance – around Christmas/New Years. So luckily I had a number of models (in the form of in-laws at holiday get-togethers) to chose from.
Here we have my wife’s cousin Louie as Durok (the blue ape-man),
trying to blow off Thun the Lion-man’s head – played by my wife’s nephew, Chris.
As you’ll notice, I don’t just copy the reference, but use it as a jumping off point.
This is CRUCIAL, as otherwise you get a stiff and lifeless drawing.
Speaking of which… Back when these pics were shot (late 1990s) I didn’t have access to any fancy pants digital camera that you could just take a picture then access it immediately. I took the pictures, then had to wait until the film got developed to see if my reference shots were even in the ballpark (much less in focus).
I still have that old album of Flash Gordon reference pics I took.
Lots of family got roped in to doing these over the years.
Some of the ones on the right hand side of the image shown above can be seen on a previous post: Flash Gordon 1/26/2003 – Photo Reference.
I’ll try to post more of these from time to time.
For me they’re a fun trip down memory lane…
For more of my work on Flash Gordon, just check out FlashGordon.com
And for those who love comic strips and can’t get enough, try out…
A yearlong subscription to all of King Features’ comics (new and vintage) plus ten years worth of archives for every single strip is a pittance at $19.99 a year. Unsure? Try a 7 day trial subscription for free.