Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Should Marvel Do?

In the wake of the DC 52 it seems Marvel has been left eating dust and even worse losing the spotlight in terms of headlines and fan interest. Although I think the DC 52 relaunch has been a huge success I still believe with a little better planning it could have rewritten the way the industry works and strengthend the retail community to the point where it would have turned around the slide of the industry. Okay I know that sounds like a job for Superman but imagine if they would have rolled out the books over a 6 month period and allowed retailers to get some wins under their belt and some cash in hand to support these books. The returnable aspect may helped on a certain level but let's face it nothing instill confidence like watching books fly off the shelves and light up the register.

I believe DC put everything down on the one month total relaunch for a couple of reasons. One they wanted to create something so big that it was as they say "too big to fail." Meaning it was such a gigantic "event", "shift" that everybody had to get on board on some level. It forced the hand of a retail community that was standing on the ledge, pushed there by countless crossover and promises. DC had to cut through that mindset and force them into action. On a certain level the bet paid off. It got retailers excited and it moved product that had not been moving for years. I myself have purchased more DC product in the last month than I have in the last 5 years. Call me a lapsed fan if you must but it no doubt worked on me as it did on thousands of others. It shows that if you create something worth reading comic fans will show up. They want comics to be good and even great. Despite the few churping heads on message boards and comment sections the fans want a win as much as the companies and retailers do.

The second reason DC went all in on a single month of relaunches is that they didn't want opinion/excitement to shift if it launched soft and they didn't want Marvel to make any moves to take the spotlight off them. It feels like they didn't have that much confidence in the launch and they figured let's stack the deck on the buzz interest side. It worked but mainly because Marvel made a crucial mistake. They didn't react on any level. They didn't counter program. They let DC dominate the headlines and the minds of comic fans for 6 months straight leading up to the launch and now for at least another 6 months post launch. It doesn't take a marketing expert or an understanding of brand management to see that was an epic fail.

This brings me around to the question.

What should Marvel do?

After sitting with the idea for a while I thought of a few ways Marvel could retake the advantage in the industry and set themselves up to not only control the next decade of publishing but also have a hand in comic based Transmedia. Sure it would take some serious movement and a couple of gambles but when you take it on the chin for almost a year straight from your direct is the time for bold moves and game changing thought.

"Thank you for buying my comic."
Movie Universe: Marvel owns the movie space compared to DC so they must leverage this. Not only because it's how the world experiences their characters it's more importantly how a legion of young people/new readers do. I would do a relaunch of #1s based completely off the Movie versions of the characters and that continuity. Sure they have done an Ultimate line which is really close but I'm talking photo covers and tie ins with all the movies and marketing that goes with it. Play the largest audience possible and stop the confusion that normal people have when they see the movie and come into a comic store and can't find the comic that is exactly what they just saw. Signings with the actors on photo covers alone would generate a whole new level of interest in the printed books. With the new Ipads and the new Iphones having a dedicated chip for video you should have Robert Downey Jr and the other Avenger actors do video intros in character for the digital books. Bridge the media gap in consumers minds. It's seriously long overdue.


Every Toy Should Come With A Comic. I've worked with toys for years. I was also responsible for creating and selling into Walmart and Target the Marvel Authentics Die-Cast toy line. Each Die Cast car was packaged with a comic. Marvel should demand that every toy comes with an actual comic or has a code to download one for free or a coupon to get one from a comic store for free...or all of the above. Kids love comics when they are introduced to them. I know the costs. It will be an extra nickle if that.  Energize your young fan base by leveraging your toy licensing. Associate physical play objects with your publishing end. It's worked for Star Wars on every level. Using the toy aisle to expose kids to your published and larger media is a no brainer that needs to be fixed.

Great for collectors...but what about the kids?

They watch the movies but where are the comics???

Create the Marvel version of Image. Marvel seems to have gone away from having talent create new characters. They obviously want to completely control the catalog and not have to negotiate with creators down the line if they make a movie or use the characters in a video game. I'm sure they have an army of lawyers telling them to do this but...let's think out of the box. If Marvel wanted to dominate comic book media outside of comics they should start partnering with creators on creator owned projects. For a % of the IP they could offer their partnership in the publishing arena and also help them set it up as a movie through Marvel Studios. Five years down the line Marvel ends up with a hand in whatever becomes the next Walking Dead. The creator get's the muscle in and out of the comic publishing world. It's a win, win and turns Marvel into a true house of "new" ideas.

For The Win!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Miller Time

The other week I was thinking about artists I wanted to work with. Frank Miller came in first so I decided to try my hand at coloring this living legend. Below are my first results with a coloring over one of his pages from Holy Terror. I am tempted to color some more of his pages. I just need to find some Holy Terror black and whites.
My idea was to keep it more tonal than full on rendering. Trying to preserve the mood of the spotted blacks. Loads of fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


For those of you that missed the 90's Image era I worked on a book called Bloodstrike. The basic idea of the book was that a government group of superheroes would get killed and brought back to life for each mission. Universal Soldier meets Youngblood.

I had come off of working for the Homage team and I was eager to do my own thing. Extreme Studios was exploding and Rob Liefeld was kind enough to give me a crack at Bloodstrike. He had an idea for a bold new direction for the book. It went from being a team to single character book. With a mysterious anti-hero taking on the name of the Bloodstrike team.

My goal was to out Extreme everyone with the art. I wanted to smash people in the mouth with the layouts and crack them over the skull with the level of detail. The new direction seemed to really resonate with readers and till this day I get asked to draw pictures of this iconic character.

A couple of years ago Rob and I discussed doing a new version of Bloodstrike. I was eager to get another shot (pun intended) at the character but I wanted to bring a modern look and feel to it.

My intention if the idea had moved forward was to go all out with the action and kick up the gore. I wanted to create something that was unlike any comic I'd done. I imagined it as Metal Gear/Ghost in the Shell vs The Authority.

Unfortunately the project never came together. Just this week it was announced that there will be a Bloodstrike relaunch. I was hit with several emails and messages asking if I was going to be working on it. I will not but from what I've seen it looks like a very impressive book. I wish them the best as they add another chapter to Cabbot and his undead super hero bad asses.

Below are some of the designs I did for the project as well as the first issue pitch I put together for the project.

Bloodstrike-Born Again

Pashtun Mountains located on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
Two Months Ago.

Four Blackhawk helicopters fly low and fast through the jagged Pashtun mountains by night. The Blackhawks are delivering a team of special forces operatives to a remote Taliban controlled area. They are chasing down a well know terrorist leader. The lead chopper is piloted by Maria Shawn her call sign is Fourplay. Fourplay notices that something is wrong with the choppers controls and navigation computers. As they close in on their target the chopper in the rear explodes. A NuGene active terrorist has flown through the chopper destroying it and killing everyone on board. The team has been drawn into a trap with Nu Gene active mercenaries. The rest of the choppers start taking on fire from Nu Genes who are firing on them from below!  Fireballs and energy blasts light up the night. A half man/bat flies along one of the choppers and rips one of the soldiers out his seat throwing him to the ground. Fourplay brings her chopper down and delivers her team. She pulls her chopper up and a giant horned creature comes out of nowhere and rips off the tale of the chopper. It spins out of control and violently crashes. Fourplay pulls herself from the wreckage.  She reaches for her pistol and realizes her right arm is missing from the elbow down. She looks up and sees the special forces team getting slaughtered by super human mercenaries. She calls in an air strike on her position. She looks up and sees two Predator attack drones bombing the area. We focus on her eyes as the flames from the explosions move towards her. We cut to a satellite video images of the explosions from above.

Cut to an edited versions of those images on a TV screen. A broadcaster describes how four U.N. copters crashed on a humanitarian mission to deliver supplies to a remote Pakistani village stricken by a flood. A promo for an Entertainment Tonight/TMZ type show focusing on members of Youngblood.

We pull back to reveal a woman and four men dressed in dark Euro/Matrix gear watching the broadcast on a large screen TV. It's 24 hours since the Pakistan attack. They are located in a large loft in London. It has no furniture just a single T.V. and a large table. The room is made up of concrete walls and floors with windows running across the wall facing out to the London skyline. Rain is falling. "Turn those lies off." The female says. She is a large Latin woman. Imagine a Mexican Wonder Woman. The guy sitting at the table has spiked hair. He snaps his fingers and the TV turns off. The three last men smoke and quietly wait for something to happen. They all wear tiny earpieces making them look like secret service Euro trash. A knock at the door. They all look at each other. A bit of fear in their eyes. Suddenly a man wearing a trench coat and carrying a suitcase phases through the door.  He puts the suitcase on the table. "Complements of the Sheik for making sure his son was not given a one way ticket to Getmo." He pulls out stacks of Euros from the case and puts them into even piles. They each take out various duffel bags and cases and begin filling them up with their money. The Woman smells her money and smiles. Suddenly the window shatters and an armor piercing shell rips her in the chest. She flies across the room and through the trench coat man (he phases) and through several walls and out of the building and down to the street below. She hits the ground and crashes down into the subway system. A cigarette falls from the mouth of the spikey haired guy.

Voice over.
Cabbot as Bloodstrike" Rule one: always take out the strong guy on the team first."

We follow the bullet backwards through the hole in the wall and across town to a rooftop (think Wanted) Rain falls on the roof but one spot is dry. Bloodstrike pulls off a camo sheet that gives him electronic invisibility. He has a huge tank buster sniper rifle. He stands up rain evaporating off the barrel of the gun.

"Super teams have a hierarchy. They piss in their pants when the strong guy goes down. When you can leap a tall building in a single bound you can get cocky and sloppy. I'm here to remind them what fear is."

The trench coat man orders them to attack. One of the men turns into the bat/man creature and rips through the window screaming his head off. One of them turns into a horned creature and jumps from the window landing on the ground and jumping like the Hulk. The spike haired guy begins glowing with electricity and the last guy turns on fire burning his clothes off.

"The flyers are usually the first on the scene. They send intel back to the group. Kill the flyer. Blind the team."

Cut to the man/bat swooping in on Bloodstrike. He talks back to the group with his earpiece yelling out Bloodstrike's position. Bloodstrike jumps from building to building and forces the Man/Bat into a tight spot in between two buildings. He turns side ways to fit and as he comes out his wings are cut off by laser wire strung between the buildings. He crashes to the floor. He looks up into the rain as Bloodstike's boot crushes him in the face. Bloodstrike punches a needle filled with anti NuGene nanos. The Man/Bat reverts to his human form.

"The big one will need room to use his size and strength. I'll take that away."

The horned creature jumps onto a roof and charges set under it explode and he falls down through the building to the basement. Bloodstrike meets him there sword drawn. They square off and the Horned creature can't move and can't ram Bloodstrike. Bloodstrike uses his size against him and cuts at him with his sword. He stabs him in the heart and presses the hilt of his sword sending Nanos into the creature turning him back to a human and robbing him of his powers.

The spikey haired electricity user is making his way down a dark alley. He is visibly nervous. He's heard of Bloodstrike and for NuGene Mercs he's like Michale Myers and Freddy wrapped up into one ass kicking package. He hears a noise and stumbles falling into a puddle. A shadow blocks out the moon. Bloodstrike is standing in front of him. He fires an electricity blast that goes right through Bloodstrike and into light pole triggering a feedback of electricity that fries him. Another Bloodstrike comes out of the shadows.
"Good job." he says to his other self. "No problem" says the other self. The other self flickers and disappears revealing that he was a hologram the whole time projected by a device on a nearby wall. Bloodstrike hits spikey hair with the anti NuGene nanos and moves on.

The Trench coat man is hiding holding an automatic sub-machine gun. As he puts the gun around the corner Bloodstrike appears and rips the gun out of his hand tossing it across the room. Trench coat man tries to phase and a current running through Bloodstrike's gloves stops him from escaping. Bloodstrike is about to interrogate him when up from the floor comes the Strong woman who punches Bloodstrike and tosses him around the room. She grabs his arms and breaks it. Twisting it like a broken doll. She grabs his head and is about to crush him when a sound from outside distracts her. The roof suddenly rips off, revealing Shogun! He punches Strong woman freeing Bloodstrike. She jumps at Shogun and they tumble off of one roof on to the roof of a nearby building. She rips off his arm and he hits her with his energy mace. Shogun is about to lower the boom on her and suddenly she is pulled through the floor. Trench coat guy has helped her escape. Bloodstrike stands up his arm dangling. He twists his arm back into place resetting it. He squeezes his hand into a fist. Next time I won't play so nice he mutters to himself.

Maria wakes up violently. Sitting upright in her hospital bed. She rubs her face unaware of where she is. As she rubs her eyes another hand appears brushing back her hair. She doesn't seem to notice. Than a fourth hand appears straightening her hospital smock. She slowly becomes aware of that she has four arms. She freaks out falling out of the bed kicking and screaming. She crawls into the corner of what now appears to be a hospital room.

A voice from across the room comforts her.
"Welcome back to the land of the living Fourplay."
She looks up to see Bloodstrike with his back to her looking over his shoulder at her.

Her screams echo through the deserted hallways.

End issue #1

Friday, October 14, 2011


I recently read the book Robopocalypse and was inspired to do a series of digital sketches based on the book. The first is of the character 902 Arbiter Class Freeborn as he appeared in the final assault. From what I've read Steven Spielberg is making it as a movie. Some great scenes in this book. Perfect for movies.

I also included various other robot sketches I've done over time. A Kanye West Robocop mash up. My quick District 9 sketch and a couple others.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Skeletor Digital Paint Over WIP

Decided to digitally paint over my Skeletor sketch. WIP


Let's take a peek at the progression of this piece.

Digital Sketch. Skeletor or The Taskmaster?

Adding volume and testing out color schemes. Will paint over most of it before it's done.
Getting into designing the armor and beginning to get all the shapes in the right place.

I'm ADD when it comes to painting. Always experimenting. Keeps it fun.

Skeletor Reboot

I've been watching He-Man on Qubo. A lot cheesier than I remember it but still very entertaining.

Of all the characters Skeletor was always the most interesting one to me. That inspired me to do this quick warm up sketch of him. I have some other way out ideas for what I would do with him. This was just more my Walt Simonson does Skeletor riff.