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The SuperBlog
01-07-2010, 6:42 PM

Long story short, go to Geoweasel.com/streamys and vote for it to win Best Animated Web Series! You can do this once a day until January 22! Every vote helps, so please spread the word, and a big thanks to those who have already been voting!

There will be a video on the site probably sometime tomorrow regarding this, but I also just got a Mac so things are pretty hectic at the moment. There are also a few new episodes I hope to get out soon once I get situated with the new computer.

Thanks everybody!

Got Questions? E-mail your comments and questions. Get a response on the blog.


James, TZ Drawing Board Manager/Illustrator/Writer
08-27-2008, 8:03 AM

Digital Manga Publishing

When I think of Manga, I conjure up images of dark dystopian futures, Japanese mythology, battles with vampires and, of course, most importantly, large, large breasts.

Manga comic Knights really only features one of those traits, and you'll be thankful to learn that it's the large, large breasts.

Knights is one of the new Manga volumes getting a western publication thanks to Digital Manga Publishing. It is by writer and artist Minoru Murao and revolves around an alternate take on the Black Knight of English folklore. In this variant, the Black Knight doesn't refer to the color of the knight's armor, but his skin.

Okay, not exactly a new idea, and it's certainly one that has been exploited in comedy (2001's Black Knight, for example). In this story, though, the concept is played seriously.

Over its one thousand years of existence, the Kingdom of Excludo has seen two hundred years of witch-hunting, much to the profit of the Church and its unwholesome priests. Through the hysteria and finger-pointing comes Mist, a dark-skinned hero deemed "The Black Knight." Along with his accomplice, Euphemia, a near naked witch who appears to have a passion for bonking her enemy and/or throwing herbs at them, the pair wander the land seeking out injustice, righting wrongs and, well, beating bad people up with swords and sex.

Volume One contains the first five chapters in black-and-white glory. While the concept is fairly interesting, there is a question as to just how far the story and art go in carving out a new niche.

The "Black" Knight is an idea that works in the story's favour. It sets up a protagonist who suffers prejudice and isolation in a way that gives the story a contemporary resonance. The antagonists—all of whom are distorted religious types—also work to the book's advantage, with their fetishistic indulgences giving the otherwise flat story a dark depth.

The real problem with Knights is that, try as it might, it doesn't really offer anything new—or at least nothing new that carries substance. For all the effort that has gone into creating a brave new universe, Knights falls for the same Manga trappings that make it feel like the same universes we've walked through before. We have the drippy, overly sweet princess who hankers for the hero; the overtly sexy, confident sex bomb who dominates any panel she can slip into; and of course the hero, whose manifest destiny is to pout and fight with over-sized weapons.

Image It also suffers from being a straightforward Manga staged in front of a European medieval backcloth. The backdrop is quite evocative: an unfair world of religious exploitation and prejudice with a hint of mystery running through it. Unfortunately, the Manga fixation on sex, fights and pouting simply undermines any depth the story and tone muster—particularly the sex. Euphemia, that sexually liberated witch, is a cardboard emblem of teen lust, a platform for puerile bawdy gags. When the giggle of the moment is the titter-ye-not fact that Euphemia keeps Mist's blade to "trim her bodily hair", you really have to question what statement the author is making—if any.

For a contrast, if one looks towards Sláine—a comic that carried similar intonations about the abuse of women and their sexuality by religious groups—we can see a whole host of strong, sexually liberated female characters, none of whom become a foil for teen sexual fantasies. Euphemia seems a very low-brow attempt to draw in teen readers, which is a pity, as her message of freedom is lost between the sexy jokes and flesh-baring splash frames.

Like the story, the art is a little variable (and the cover suffers from the most terrible logo I've ever seen grace a book). On one hand, the artwork is confident, dynamic and quite beautiful in places, but occasionally it is confusing, predictable and lacking the fluidity the sequential narrative demands. On more than one occasion I couldn't distinguish between the female characters. They looked well defined on their own, but not distinctive enough to be recognizable straight away. Put together, the art just misses the mark. The elements just don't hang together well enough to complement the tale.

Overall, Knights isn't bad by any means, it's just not as good as it feels it should be.

Got Questions? E-mail your comments and questions. Get a response on the blog.

"Domesticated Words" - James McLean.net - Stripped Bare: Updated 11.23.06 - NEW STORY!
"Did you know that you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now, somebody's gonna say "I did look that up and its wrong." Well, Mister, that's because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

James, TZ Drawing Board Manager/Illustrator/Writer
05-22-2008, 10:03 AM

Dan Davis is a comic artist for a variety of titles. Currently working on The Simpsons comics as well as penciling and inking Samurai Jack, Dan is also inking a new DC mini-series Family Dynamic by J. Torres and Tim Levins!

Following on from his interview with Toon Zone, Dan speaks to Cartoons, Dammit! about his digital artwork on his new pet project, Captain Luck. He hopes readers will vote for Captain Luck at Zuda.com! The poll closes 31st May!

Cartoons, Dammit!: What research did you do to generate such a classic comic strip template for Captain Luck?

Dan Davis: Well a lot of it is just ingrained up in my head from years of reading strips and comic strip reprints. I've kind of absorbed the story pacing of a daily comic strip and it seemed natural to write Captain Luck that way.

I did analyze a few styles in particular including Tintin, Terry, Annie, Dick Tracy, Captain Easy and Alley Oop. I wanted Captain Luck to kind of slot in there on the funny pages with a familiar yet new look. In particular I wanted to use "cartoon eyes" for Cap and Wink to ground them firmly in that comic strip tradition and it seems to be one of the first things people notice.

How did you approach the design of the characters?

Dan: I wanted Cap to be the hero type, but with a little bit of a tussled hair look. He's a good guy who might get knocked down on his seat at times, but will figure out a way to win in the end. Wink's the nervous tech guy, a little smarter with that stuff than Cap is but Cap's got him beat on practical horse sense. They work well together.

Your website features a video that shows Dan Davis hard at work on an entirely digital set-up! Can you give us a little technical detail to your new digital entourage of tools?

Click to view

Dan: I had been sliding towards digital for the last 5 or 6 years and went all digital with a Wacom tablet about two years ago. But recently I was able to get a Cintiq drawing monitor and can draw right on the screen. It really feels like drawing on paper now, more than when I used a tablet, and I'm completely happy with it, except I don't have any more original art (sigh).

I notice on the video you are left handed - did that ever cause any problems with smudging before going digital?

Dan: I would adjust on paper by inking the right side of the page first and as most inkers do working on two or three pages at a time to let ink dry. Because you're constantly rotating the page around I think it's about the same as working right handed and both ways can result in smudges and accidents.

But early on I learned Milt Caniff drew left handed, so I never worried about it after that!

How long does it take you to finish a single news strip page for Captain Luck, and has switching to digital decreased the time it takes to finish a piece of art?

Dan: Digital is definitely faster. No erasing and filling in blacks and corrections are a breeze! A Captain Luck page takes me about 2 days which is really a good chunk of my work week, but I'm expecting it to go faster as I do more of them (Subtle hint to vote for Captain Luck to see more!).

What problems have you suffered with digital? Are there any cons?

Dan: As I mentioned, no more original art. In every other way it has been perfect for me.

Do you think more comic artists will be following your footsteps to an entirely digital set-up?

Dan: I hear from guys everyday who want to get a Cintiq and are close to taking the plunge so I expect they'll become much more common. And I expect like all tech stuff the prices will drop. I should be a salesman for them!

Who's sexier, Rita Castro from the Captain Luck or Supergirl?

Dan: Rita of course, she has a bit of the bad girl in her!

Thanks Dan!

Discuss this interview further at Cartoons, Dammit! Drawing Board!

Cartoons, Dammit! and the Drawing Board thanks Dan for his time. Learn more about Dan at dandavisart.com. Vote for him Captain Luck at Zuda.com!

Got Questions? E-mail your comments and questions. Get a response on the blog.

"Domesticated Words" - James McLean.net - Stripped Bare: Updated 11.23.06 - NEW STORY!
"Did you know that you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now, somebody's gonna say "I did look that up and its wrong." Well, Mister, that's because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

James, TZ Drawing Board Manager/Illustrator/Writer
01-26-2008, 2:03 PM

Jason Hanks is an animation storyboard artist who has a prolific career working within the art department on such shows as Dr Strange, The Invincible Iron Man and Ultimate Avengers.

Jason, thank you for speaking to Cartoons, Dammit readers!

click image to enlarge

First of all, for the benefit of the uninitiated, could you explain the roles of a storyboard artist?

The main role of the storyboard artist is to effectively convey a script into pictures to tell the story!

Could you tell us a little about your artistic background and by what route you fell into working as a storyboard artist?

I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil! I started to seriously study art at the age of 12 and fell in love with comics.

At the of age 17, my middle school teacher (whom I still keep in touch with) had me meet a friend of hers who loved my portfolio and got me my first job!

I stepped out of the art scene from ages 19 to 22 for one reason or another - but then I met up with my teacher's said friend again and he put me to work on a show called Roswell: Conspiracies for BKN! The rest is - as we say - history! I am very lucky with the work I have had in such a short amount of time. I am very grateful for all of the wonderful people I have met and worked with.

So the motto is to make sure you network as much as you can, right?

Absolutely! Networking is the key in this business! You can be the next Michaelangelo and all but if you don't get your stuff out there for everyone to see and make acquaintances... it just won't go anywhere.

click image to enlarge

What equipment to you use for storyboarding? Do you always use the same approach?

As far as equipment it's pretty usual stuff. The company gives me the paper, I use a 0.5 Pentel red-lead followed by 0.5 regular lead for the clean-up. Sometimes I will use a thicker lead for close ups (for instance, face-shots) and FG [foreground] elements. I use Prismacolor markers and AD markers for colors and effects. If requested, I'll occasionally use pen and ink. All of this stuff can be found at art supply stores. Oh, and I also use circle and oval ellipses and templates.

You've worked on several animation shows doing storyboard work - how has the work differed between shows, and how does discipline vary from studio to studio?

Every studio has a difference of opinion on how [story]boards need to be done and they most certainly have differences on how tight or loose they want those boards finished! Not to mention how "on model" things need to be. The most recent example of studio differences I have experienced is just how the sheer number of board pages can drastically change your life! Prepare yourself up for a lot of sleepless nights and almost alienating you family [laughs].

Sounds like it can be a little stressful! Could you take us through the process of one of your storyboards assignments?

There was this one time I was working on a show for about 15 episodes and things were working out great, but it was hard work. I was just finishing one storyboard when it hit me - I had just drawn 350 pages in less than a week!! A storyboard artist should understand that a story act of any show will be around 150-200 storyboards.. I wasn't expecting it to be 350 storyboards!

The problem was that if I took any stuff out of the script to cut down the amount of storyboards required I would have been probably booted from the show, so I just sent this monster workload after cleaning up the images the following week. They liked it so much that was I basically told to keep doing large page counts! In short, I had about 10 episodes to go with anywhere from 250 to 400 pages every 2 weeks! Needless to say that drawing was definitely my LIFE on that show! [laughs]

click image to enlarge

Was your work for the studios more often a lonely experience or a group one?

Oh definitely a group ordeal! We are all in the project together and if one guy slacks the rest of the group feels it! With deadlines to meet, if someone doesn't pull their weight it shows! If quality dips it also puts a lot of strain on the relationship with upper management and then the next thing you know, you don't have a job next season! It can be really scary like that!

Could you give us a quick run down on a day working as a storyboard artist?

First we get the scripts in, then we have a meeting, say, around 10 am to discuss the scripts. Soon it's lunch! After lunch, we finish the meeting on the script. Then we start working on the storyboards. We are pretty much left alone to work after the meeting and the assignments are given out. However that's just the process at the places I have worked. I know other studios can be different.

How do you find work as an animation storyboard artist

Well I work for TAG [The Animation Guild] now which helps me find any work I need, but in the beginning it was WHO I knew that helped me find the jobs. However being lucky with useful contacts can take you only so far because those people won't always be around. The best way is to call around the studio job hotlines and submitting a portfolio. It is a tough job to get into, I won't fool you on that, but if you're good, and you're determined, nothing can stop you doing becoming a storyboard artist!

click image to enlarge

Does being a storyboard artist mean you have to live near studios?

Well, I am always reminded by one person or another that I should move out to where the work is! A lot of the guys I know have apartments in Los Angeles and fly home on the weekends to be with their families. I did it for a while when I worked for the WB - very grueling at first but, you get use to it. I have been working at home for most of my career and love it. Sure, I would probably get more work If I were closer to the action but I have too much as it is and I am not complaining! Like I said, I am very lucky!

Is it worth it becoming a storyboard artist? Are the hours, graft and stress worth it at the end of the day?

It is!!! I can't think of anything better than telling stories with pencil drawings!

What advice would you give someone interested in storyboarding?

Advice? Hmmmmmm.

  • Carry a sketch book - draw everything you see.

  • Study your butt off with anatomy and fluidity of movement

  • Don't care what others say or think about your work (unless it's your boss!)

  • Take the critiques (good AND bad) well. Learn from them. Don't take feedback personally!

Do you need a natural ability to draw fast and accurately or do you think it can be learned?

Drawing fast is only part of it! Making things look like they have form is the important part. I was very slow when I started in storyboard clean-up - 2 pages an hour! [laughs] Now I am up to about 10 pages on average, but I can often draw 12 pages an hour! I'm not bragging, I am just demonstrating that with work, you will improve. It just takes time.

I think anyone can learn to draw. I haven't always shared this opinion, but as I see it now anybody can but it takes certain individuals to LOVE the work and dedicate themselves. Not everyone has that.

I would just like to add that you can do really want to become a storyboard artist - if it is really what you want to do, please, please, PLEASE don't cater to the style of the week disease we see so often in comics and art in general! Please, be yourself! That's not to say you shouldn't learn to adapt elements of what you like about another artist's work. There is a difference between copying and learning. Don't be afraid to try new things and always keep a positive attitude!

If you love to draw - nobody will be able to stop you, no matter what!

Cartoons, Dammit! and The Drawing Board would like to thank Jason for his time.

Click here if you wish to comment on this article at the Drawing Board Forum

Got Questions? E-mail your comments and questions. Get a response on the blog.

"Domesticated Words" - James McLean.net - Stripped Bare: Updated 11.23.06 - NEW STORY!
"Did you know that you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now, somebody's gonna say "I did look that up and its wrong." Well, Mister, that's because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

01-03-2008, 4:15 AM

Visual Story Telling With Iain McCaig 2: Cosmic Mermaid Character Design

Publisher: Gnomon Workshop
Featuring: Iain McCaig
Running Length: 120 minutes
Format: DVD
Resolution: 740x420
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Extra Features: Feature, Lecture Notes.
ISBN: 1-59762-986-3
MSRP: $49.95


Creating unforgettable and iconic characters is the goal of character designers everywhere. In the second DVD of this series, veteran storyteller and concept artist Iain McCaig (Peter Pan, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars: Episode One, Star Wars: Episode Two, and Star Wars: Episode Three) shows you how to create an unforgettable leading character, infusing your design with the power of visual storytelling in order to give it life. Join McCaig as he begins creating the title character for his science fiction adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid.".


While this is a very informative instructional DVD, it is not geared towards the novice artist, as it does not delve into anatomy, perspective, or other beginning drawing skills. What is shown is how the Artist approaches the creation of character design and making them iconic in a visual storytelling sense. Iain uses traditional media for sketching and PhotoShop and Painter for digital painting.

A nice feature is not even on the DVD, it is the ability to view an excerpt from the DVD at the Publisher’s website to decide whether to purchase it or not.
Note: This is the second in a series of tutorial DVDs.

There are seven chapters on the DVD:
  • Introduction – A quick recap of the first disc and a short project goal of crafting a ‘hero’ character.
  • Character Line-Up – Discusses the creation of a character line-up and the visual silhouettes and colors to help identify the characters from each other.
  • Body Design – Goes though the creation of the Cosmic Mermaids’ character from start to finish pencils, stressing on keeping the visual silhouettes introduced in the previous chapter.
  • Head Design – Iain sketches the close-up of the head while giving insight on the process. He points out some good tips for keeping the character young and is not afraid to erase and sketch repeatedly to get the identity for the character right.
  • Head Painting – This step showcases Iain’s background in painting as he uses PhotoShop to paint the close up of the head. He advises not to ‘paint by the numbers’ and jumps between different areas of the Mermaid to paint. Color theory and light sources are also discussed.
  • Body Painting – Here he paints the body in Photoshop until he realizes that something is wrong with the pose, it’s not keeping in line with the Mermaid’s character. Booting up Painter, he redoes the body of the character and keeps playing with it until all the elements finally line up. Also discussed are the elements of the process including using live reference to keep the pose correct, and the art of keeping the character’s look consistent.
  • Final Thoughts- Quick segment on the overall image.
Overall: I was genuinely impressed with the title. Iain McCaig is a wonderful artist and this DVD really delves into the thought processes of how he creates an iconic character. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone wanting to learn or check out this process.

As with all special interest programs, if one is not interested in the subject matter, they would be bored really fast, so keep that in mind if you plan to watch it with your significant other.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Twinkies.

Technical Issues: I would have preferred a background soundtrack, unobtrusive and complimentary to the content because the only music is in the DVD menu section. Having the DVD at a 740x420 resolution was very nice and picked up the pencil and blue pencil sketches nicely.

Reviewed On:
HTPC w/ Vista Media Center
Westinghouse 42” LVM-42w2 1080p LCD
Onkyo TX-SR575 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver

Notes: I have not seen any of the other discs in the series. When this first came out sometime ago, it was for $69.95. I got this one from Amazon for $29.95 + shipping. For me, it was money well spent.

"Bic" is a specialist in digital artwork and frequent contributor to Cartoon's Dammit! Drawing Board forum and website.

Got Questions? E-mail your comments and questions. Get a response on the blog.



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