Category Archives: Engen Books

Ariel Marsh @ Hal Con 2012

Ariel Marsh, Hal Con 2012, Black Womb, Xander DrewOkay, as promised, here is Ariel Marsh’s very different take on Black Womb.

So Ariel mainly draws cute things, like the kittens and cats in Super Galactic Space Explorers (review coming soon). She has an anime-tinged cartoon style that is actually very evocative and good at telling the story. It deals with firm lines and set character models, making the story easier to follow than stories in which character designs and proportions change from panel to panel. I actually liken her to John Romita Jr, in that I honestly believe that someday she will be known as the greatest storyteller in comics, even if her pin-up art might be sometimes hit-and-miss (no disrespect intended. All art, really, is hit-and-miss).

All that said, she did an amazing piece for me after reading the prolog of Black Womb last year that proved she understood the tone and intent of the story.

So this year when I was making my rounds, I naturally wanted more from her. I gave the same pitch I gave to all the other artists, comparing the demeanor and look of the Womb to popular characters from comics that everyone knows how to drawn, then explaining why mine is a little different. It works well, I’ve found. Ariel isn’t really into monsters though and was one of the only artists to ask for more information, so we got into the transformation and how he transforms, what triggers the transformation and finally to Xander himself. I often find it hard to describe the personality of early Xander, and swing between “pensive” and “emo”. I should not have said “emo,” but it made Ariel smile and she went right to work.

Not long after she came back with this, which looks frigging amazing. This image of Xander in mid-transformation is so different from anything I would have envisioned yet so perfect at the same time. There’s a whimsey to it and a sinisterness to it at the same time which I couldn’t have gotten if I tried. It fits so well into those scenes where Xander enjoys what he does, like right before taking out someone that’s been plaguing him for some time. And there are details that Ellen really loved: skinny jeans, wallet chain, and the belt buckle. And the hair-flip. It’s just perfect.

And the heart on the chest? Very reminiscent of the Black Womb symbol. All good things.

Anyone looking for great art? Stop by her booth at Hal Con 2013.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew


Larry Hama @ Hal Con 2012

So I’m kicking myself now for not getting a picture, but I did meet famed comic author/artist Larry Hama at Hal Con 2012. He was actually stationed right across from Jay Paulin and Ink’d Well Comics.

My interaction with him was two-fold. As much as I’m not usually a drooling fanboy, I did get a bit flustered around Hama, mostly because I wanted to introduce myself but really didn’t know what to say. I was talking with Jay at his booth about Fearsome Fables with Nick Orme when I noticed there was nobody at Hama’s table. I went over, extended my hand and said: “Mr. Hama?”

He looked up.

I said, “You’re a credit to the industry.”

He shook my hand.

Thus endith the interaction.

See part of the problem is that while I am familiar with his work, I don’t think I have ever owned a single issue of his work. GI Joe, like Transformers, were an 80s property I just wasn’t in the right age-group for. I never got into it so I’m not familiar with what Hama is most famous for. So even though I want to talk to the guy, I have no way of starting the conversation. And he always looked so busy.

Anyway, the next day I walked up to him and did the same pitch that had worked for all the other authors up until this point, explaining that I was collecting sketches of my character that I’d written several novels about to post up on my blog along with a little writeup or anecdote about the artist (ie: this).

His response: “No.”

I think I was visibly confused, because he took the time to explain: “I don’t draw characters I didn’t create, for copyright and legal reasons.”

Which I guess kind of makes sense. I mean, what if he did some amazing take on the Womb and then I build a comic around that design? In the comic-book world writer and artist kind of split the credit for the creation, so if Black Womb took off then it could be an issue. It kind of stops holding weight when you factor in that Black Womb has been around for several years, but he had no way of knowing that. For all he knew the novel wasn’t even done yet and I was just another potential sci-fi fan / writer with a pen and a dream. So I get it.

Still, I’m glad I didn’t ask him first. I may not have asked anyone else if I had.

Hama’s a great guy. I meant wheat I said when I said he’s a credit to the industry. I should have bought one of his GI Joe sketches just to have something by him. Oh well, live and learn.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Andre Myette @ Hal Con 2012

Andre Myette, Black Womb, Hal Con 2012So this was actually the first of the drawings that I got done at Hal Con 2012, and really got the ball rolling. If Andre had said no, I don’t think I would have had nearly so many cool images to deal with. And it all started because of the Nick Bradshaw incident last year.

By “Nick Bradshaw incident” I mean I was sitting next to a great Marvel Comics artist for 2 days and was too shy to ask him to draw the Womb, even though my giant poster of the Womb was staring him in the face for days. So this year when I found out that my table was next to another comic book artist I jumped on.

Didn’t hurt that in addition to peddling his comics, Andre had set up a deal with Hal Con wherein he would draw people in their costumes for $10.00 and $5.00 of it would go to Hal Con itself. That’s just a great deal. I was sitting next to this guy watching him draw people over and over again, producing these amazing-yet-cartoony likenesses. It really let me feel okay about just walking over during a calm few minutes and say: “Hey, would you draw one for me?”

I think in the picture above Andre was very much mimicking my style, which i respect. It’s not always easy to do. There were a few pictures of the Womb for sell as prints, and he was the only artist on this list to have a good view of all of them, so it makes sense. Either was he did a great job a capturing that heroic aspect of the Womb… most of the others focused in on the horror aspects, but this is why I did this: for different takes. You want wildly different? You should see Ariel Marsh’s take… I’ll have it up soon. Whoa-nelly.

Anyway, I’m grateful to Andre for saying yes.

CK @ Hal Con 2012

AndBlack Womb by CK now in the “artist @ Hal Con 2012” series we come to something… totally different. And totally awesome. This version of the Womb was done by an artist I only know as CK. She did some work for the Fearsome Fables charity book over @ Ink’d Well Comics (something I only found out after she did the piece) and is apparently working on a very cool-looking web series called “Colt,” which she provided a character book for.

This picture is beautiful. And I mean that in a genuine, aesthetic way. I think all pictures of one of my characters are beautiful in their own way, but this one actually has a grace and elegance to the tone and the shading and the positioning. It’s not a snarling battle pose or a scary look like other artists I pitched to did… she took my design of the character and make it her own. And it is lovely.

I love what she did with the swirls going around and the musculature… and the eyes, the way they’re correct but unique and somehow look alien. This is a very, very elegant version of Black Womb. I imagine this being what he’d look like in those sections of the series where he’s described as graceful… like when he’s taking on a lot of enemies and instead of focusing of the violence (which gets tiresome for a writer to do all the time) we focus on the grace of the movement of the character… like a ballet dancer.

I’m very glad CK did this. She picked up a copy of one of our books (I can’t recall which one), and I can’t wait to see if maybe, just maybe, some imagery in that book (whatever it is) inspires her to do another piece. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see more from her.

Awesome, awesome art.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Nick Bradshaw @ Hal Con 2012

Nick Bradshaw, Hal Con 2012, Black WombThere are going to be a few of these “artist @ Hal Con 2012”-style posts. This one, and the image to the left, actually represents a big win for me. As I mentioned in my last post, last year I sat next to Nick Bradshaw in the dealer’s room and kicked myself over and over for not getting him to do me a sketch. Any sketch. I mean, how many times will I get in my life to say I spent the day chatting with a Marvel Comics artist? Maybe more than I think now, maybe never again.

Well, this story has a happy ending, because Nick Bradshaw was back. After joking around about how we’d both gone bearded this year (and how people searching his picture amount to a ludicrous amount of traffic to this blog every day) I asked him to do me a sketch. Not just any Wolverine or Gambit sketch either (although that would be great). No, I got Marvel-Comics artist Nick Bradshaw to draw his rendition of Black Womb.

Again, its a testament to how great these artists are that they can get it so right with me giving them so little. I gave all these great artists barely a few words on the look and personality of Black Womb, and just like with Orme, what they gave me was pitch perfect. There’s a perverse pleasure in this rendition of the character that just suits the Womb of the later novels… someone’s about to get it and he’s happy they’re about to get it. I imagine Genblade or one of the Tees on the other end of the camera.

Nick did his piece on these cool little artist trading0cards that I’ve never seen before. They’re basically blank trading cards with guidelines on them in light blue. You can see a little of the blue text in the bottom left of the image, spelling the word “MANGA” in comic sans.

I’ve learned so much about how to draw my own character from these two pieces, as well as all the others, which will be posted soon. The black-and-white simplicity of it is something I’ve always been drawn to (you can see it in the first five covers) but could never quite get right. The cross hatching is great, the dimension lines and muscle tone is great, everything about this is great.

I also appreciate that all the artists colored him in. It’d be so easy to just draw the outline of the character and just say “and he’s black.” The effort that Bradshaw and all these guys put in to make the image what I wanted for a mere $20. These guys are credits to their field.

Anyway, this whole thing is basically to prove two things: to show Black Womb art and to prove that Nick Bradshaw is an amazing guy. And both are true.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Nicolas Orme @ Hal Con 2012

Nicolas Orme, Black Womb, Hal Con 2012Okay, so there’s this thing I’ve wanted to do at every convention I’ve ever gone to and have never really had the stones to do it, mostly because I am, very deep down, a terribly introverted person that hates to hear the word “no.” But this time I got the guts. I went up to the artists that had signs saying they were doing commissions and asked them, politely, if they would do a sketch of Black Womb. I told them about the character and provided, when requested, some reference work that I’d done.

Now I did this last year too, to little success, because I only asked one guy: Nick Orme. Despite having sat next to Nick Bradshaw and kicking myself for not asking him, I had asked Orme, who said he’d be happy to take a swing at it. And nothing happened. So this year I reminded him. He kicked himself a few times, then tried drawing it. I saw the sketch pad after, he’d gotten frustrated a few times… but ended up producing the image shown above, which is simply awesome. I love seeing other artists interpretations on my character. Like the adam’s apple there: I never would have thought of that, and yet there it is and it adds to the image. The smile is just perfect too… it has so much of that personality that the character can get when in the wrong frame of mind. I look at this and instantly think of seven different places in the series this could have been lifted from, not the least of which the final battle between the Womb and the Tees from Becoming. It just looks great to me. Well worth the wait.

Orme actually has a lot on his plate, so I can excuse the delay. He’s working on an as-yet-untitled (I think) superhero book for Ink’d Well Comics starring a character named Ryan Gray, which I find hilarious, because Ryan Gosling is going to be playing Gray in the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Gray. I just think he’ll get a bunch of google hits from people looking for things that aren’t him, and chuckle, because the same thing happens to me with my stuff all the time.

But seriously, he’s given me the pitch for the series and I’ve seen the concept art. It sounds amazing. I actually think it belongs in the Engen Universe, but whatever. That’s just me.

Thanks again for the amazing art, Nick.

Matthew LeDrew
Never Look Back

John Rhys-Davies @ Hal Con 2012

John Rhys-Davies Hal Con 2012

Okay, so when I’m at conventions I try to stay away from “the talent.” First of all I’m not one of those frothing fanboys we’ve all seen, nor am I automatically reverent of this person I have never met. Second… Whenever I am near one I tend to do something inadvertently stupid, and then that becomes the story I have to write about on my blog. And that’s not flattering.

That was not the case with John Rhys-Davies. I met him in the guest lounge, of all places, which Hal Con had dubbed “The Green Room.” It was a great idea: a place where the guests could go and escape the madness that is often the con.

There’s food there. And I was hungry. Also, Ellen’s diet restrictions meant I had to scavenge for her for fruit. This time when I went in Rhys-Davis was there… And the only seat open was the seat next to him. So I had to sit there (and had an excuse to sit there).

One thing to note about me: I am sarcastic, but I will typically try to stay out of other people’s conversations until the sarcasm in me becomes uncontrollable and must be let out.

So Rhys-Davies was already in conversation when I sat down. He was talking about the American economy with two people who I assume were Odo’s PAs, based on their shirts. Which was fine. He said something to the tune of “you can’t spend your way out of debt forever,” which is also true.

Anyway, then he started talking about why Canada isn’t in such a bad economic situation, and brought up our minerals and mines and oil.

Minerals and mining.

Which normally wouldn’t have been a big deal, but given what he is most famous for:

Gimli, LotR

So of course my sarcasm alarm is blaring, but I rein it in… Not out of respect, but more because it’s just too obvious a joke.

Then he spoke about the European economy and how Germany had the finance and the power to fix the Euro but would want control over it, and that for various historical reasons Europe did not want to give control to Germany.

Sarcasm went into overload and I spoke: “Wait, you mean Europe doesn’t want to give control to Germany? Wow. There are so many historical texts I need to reread. I completely misinterpreted a whole section around the forties. Wow.”

He chuckled (thankfully), and we went on to discuss the still-great Newfoundland economy and the always-great Danny Williams in great detail. Fat Apollo joined in. It was a fun talk.

When I got up, I said I wanted credit for not making the mining joke above.

He took a bite of whatever he was eating and said: “Credit Granted.”

Later he came around the Engen booth and talked, even came around behind the table and took a picture (above). He even took a copy of Infinity, bless him. Hope he reads and enjoys it.

Side note: this is a rare picture of me smiling. The reason? John Rhys-Davies tickles you when he takes a picture with you.

You’ve been warned.

Awesome guy, and another awesome memory from Hal Con 2012.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew