15 September 2009

The Surrogates fever!

(Steeplejack from The Surrogates. Click the image and watch it grow.) Drawded with pencil, ink and colored in Photoshop by me. Inspired by the comic book art of Brett Weldele and the robot designs in The Surrogates movie trailer which were designed by whoever designed them. (Probably some Hollywood dudes.)
(Steeplejack wallpaper version. Click to enlarge then right click and "set as desktop background" in most modern computers and browsers. Can't figure out how to make it your desktop background? Send smoke signals to the nearest witch doctor and see if they can come help.)

I've caught The Surrogates fever and have been inspired to draw some "fan art". For those that don't know, The Surrogates is a really good comic book/graphic novel and there is also a movie version coming out in a few weeks. The Surrogates comic book/graphic novel is written and created by a pal of mine, Robert Venditti. Rob and I used to work together but I actually first met him through comics around the time he started working with Top Shelf. Rob is a real swell fellow and that is plenty of reason to hype up his books but they are also really really good. I'm a pretty big fan of both The Surrogates and it's recent prequel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone.
If there is any one nerd genre that makes my heart all a flutter it is sci-fi. Now, I'm not talking about post-Matrix-advertisements-for-high-powered-automatic-handguns-thinly-disguised-as-sci-fi or ugly-cgi-robot-advertisements-for-auto-manufacturers-thinly-disguised-as-sci-fi brands of sci-fi. I mean real sci-fi with like a plot and stuff. The Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick kind of sci-fi. The Surrogates falls under that later real kind of sci-fi that I love so much. And that's a special thing in comics because you don't see much of it these days. So, when the first Surrogates comics came out it was a real breath of fresh air. Another thing that made it a breath of fresh air was the art by Brett Weldele. His style is far from what you would see in mainstream comics and not what I would expect in a sci-fi comic but it worked perfectly. The Surrogates is also part crime fiction and Weldele does a great job of setting the tone of each scene with light, shadows and a really clever color pallet. His drawing can be understated and subtle but can also erupt with a lot of kinetic energy in the dramatic moments. He's really good at energy and motion which is probably best displayed in the action scenes featuring the Steeplejack character. I recently read Flesh and Bone and that inspired me to re-read the original comics and that in turn inspired me to start the Steeplejack drawing featured in this blog post. I set up the second image as a free wallpaper because I'm awesome that way. Oh, and Steeplejack is totally the property of Robert Venditti and I have no bidness drawing him at all other than, ya know, it's fan art.

And because I'm a total nerd for "how to" blog posts, here is a look at the pencil drawing for the image. I love Weldele's original version of the character in the comics. His Steeplejack is all about shapes, shadows and motion. The story is a suspense thriller so I think Weldele did a perfect job. I went in a different direction. I guess the vibe I was going after was to re-imagine it as a late 70's early 80's Howard Chaykin sci-fi comic. Not sure I pulled it off but that was the seed planted in my brain at the moment I started the drawing. These things always grow in directions of their own choosing though. I just kind of watch them happen. I still draw in plain old lead pencil. I know, I know, all the cool kids draw with those non-photo blue pencils. I've tried them and I just don't like the feel of them. Too waxy. I think I'm just to heavy handed for them. Some artists sketch their way into the drawing. They build it up in the blue line and then ink the good bits. I just don't draw that way. I don't so much draw as I carve the thing into the paper. Each line I put down is pretty much there to stay. Plus, they don't sell those fancy blue pencils at the local Stop & Shop and when I asked Floyd if he had any at the barber shop he had Barney escort me out of the place. I'm willing to try the blue pencils again if someone wants to give me about a hundred of them for free.
Here are the inks. In retrospect, I probably could have put all the Kirby Krackle in via Photoshop but it would not have been as much fun. I debated not inking the thing at all and just boosting up the blacks on the pencils in Photoshop instead. The main reason I inked it is that sometimes it is easier to ink over your mistakes than to erase them. I'm glad I inked it. The blacks needed to be bold and fluid in a way you can't easily get with lead.

And since I'm in the middle of my Surrogates fever blog post, I may as well brag about how I was the first guy to ever pay for a copy of the comic. It's true. Doesn't that make you think I'm awesome? It should!

Now, as far as this movie goes I'm pretty hopeful. I've seen the trailers and saw a TV commercial earlier tonight during Monday Night Football and it looks pretty good. It looks like a real movie with a plot. I like real movies with plots. I also like Bruce Willis. Especially in sci-fi flicks. Love him or hate him you have to admit that he has that rare quality that allows him to pull off action but also be human. He can be both John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Not a lot of guys can pull it off. And since I'm talking Bruce, I'll just throw it out there that if you have not seen him in Lucky Number Slevin... you should. Good stuff.

The Surrogates comes out on September 25th. I don't get out much and I've not been to see a movie in a theater since The Dark Knight but I hope to catch it as soon as I can.

Further recommended link clicking:
Robert Venditti's blog.
Brett Weldele's site.
Top Shelf Comix. (Currently having a big sale!)
Purchasing The Surrogates and The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone.
The Surrogates movie site.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

p.s. Rob is not the only celebrity I've worked with.
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