After keeping it under wraps for far, far too long, Engen Books is proud to reveal the cover to Sci-Fi from the Rock, the anthology collection we’ve been working on for well over a year with the helps of editors, generous contributions from other authors in the field, and artists.
This beautiful piece combining multiple mediums was crafted by Kyle Callahan of Kyle Callahan Photography. It incorporates stunning photography with stylized computer-generated art to bring the themes of classic sci-fi into the iconic landscape of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“Kyle came to me with this amazing concept of one of the classic, long-limbed robots from 60s science-fiction coming down into the Narrows, and I know he understood instantly what we were going for,” said Matthew LeDrew, founder of Engen Books. “We’re exceptionally please with this.”
This piece is by yet another Ink’d Well Comics alumni, Kraig Nicol, once again proving the deep pool of talent that Ink’d Well has. Kraig’s been working with Jay Paulin on his charity anthologies and he does a great job.
Like all the artists in this series, I gave him the standard pitch and he came back with probably the closest sketch to what’s in my mind for the character of anyone yet. Whereas with others I can look at it and think of specific moments within the series when an image might have been captured from, this image really could have happened anywhere. It is the Womb. Not the Xander-in-control-Womb either, this is the full fledged Black Womb. You can see it in the eyes.
The teeth and the claws are great, as well as that one tendril whipping off the arm. It’s interesting how different artists handled the tendrils. Some ignored it completely, some focused on it, Kraig here has split the difference. It seems like this is right after the transformation has taken place, with the ooze having whipped its way around his whole body and then snapping in the join at the wrist again. Really top notch stuff.
I feel the need to thank all the artists, not just Kraig. It’s been a while since I’ve been actively writing Black Womb (not due to block, but due to the sheer amount of time other writing projects have been taking up). Since I got back from Hal Con I’ve been going mad with it, and in the last two days alone wrote almost 10,000 words. I think it’s because artists like Kraig inspired my thought processes back into the character.
This is a great piece, and it’s bigger than it looks here. It’s going on my wall. I’m glad I asked him to draw it.
This is the last post in my Artist @ Hal Con 2012 series of posts, and should be one of my last regarding Hal Con 2012 in general. As much as I loved it and as much as I could devote an entire blog just to the awesomeness of this convention and the people that run it, the ride has to end sometime. It’s amazing every year and I can’t wait until 2013, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve.
I won’t say I saved the best for last. Art is too subjective to say this is the best or my favorite. There were pieces I loved because they were exactly what I would have had in mind, and pieces I loved because they were the opposite of what I had in mind. But this is definitely my favorite anecdote.
So across from me in the dealers room was this one little table with nothing on it but this cool little drawing table. There weren’t any pictures up around it or posters or flashy ads. Just a cool guy in an orange tee-shirt drawing things. I walked past him like eight times because I wasn’t even sure if he was doing sketches. Finally I stopped and asked him if he was doing sketches and he said yes. He was very personable and polite and came over to the booth to study all the art and prints I had of Black Womb. He asked about the character and the story and got all these great little tidbits, really dug in deep, then walked back to his drawing board and got to going.
A moment later I brought over his money and noticed an old battered graphic novel sitting on the table: Men in Black. There were two agents on the cover, and one looked a lot like Kay. The other was a skinny white guy, clearly not Will Smith. I stopped and kind of looked at it for a moment, then went: “Naw.”
Because it couldn’t be, right?
Well, wikipedia proved me wrong. This nice little guy way Sandy Carruthers, and he basically invented Men in Black. THE Men in Black. He did the art for the first graphic novel, the story that launched the entire franchise.
I couldn’t believe it. It absolutely blew my mind. I walked over to him and was like: “You’re YOU. I went to see a movie with your characters in not three months ago. Like, dude.” And he chuckled and was like, “Yep, I’m me.”
I still can’t get over that people didn’t know who he is. That I didn’t know. I mean there were dozens of fools walking around that convention dressed up as Men in Black for the costume contest, not realizing that one of the creators was right next to them. That they were passing him by without giving him a second look. I mean LORD. That’s like someone dressed as Spider-Man walking by Stan Lee’s table and going “Stan Who?” It boggles my mind. I just don’t get it.
So I was excited for this piece. Really excited. The guy is a legend. I read Captain Canuck, he was great for that too. The man is incredible. I stopped over when the day was winding down and asked him how it was going, and he said the craziest thing: “I’m getting there. Would you mind if I took it home and worked on it?”
I think my jaw just about hit the floor. I mean, that’s a commitment right there. Props to all the other artists on my blog here, but most gave their pic back to me in twenty-minutes or less. Nic and Ariel I know for a fact really gave it their all, but it’s a $20 sketch. They’re not supposed to be painting the Mona Lisa. And here was a professional, a legend, asking to take my sketch home to work on it.
I clearly said yes.
He comes back the nest day with the above sketch. Holy lord. It could not be more perfect. Some of it was his insightful questions (looking back, it’s clear he’s worked with writers before), and some a very happy accident. I mean, that looks like Xander. And then the middle character is a great representation of the Womb when Xander is in control (and kind of superheroic, still) and then the top one is full-on crazy Womb-mode. It’s just amazing. He couldn’t have known there were three stages to the character, and yet here they are. The proportions are perfect. It’s electric and exciting and the tones are perfect. He actually took something that was in my mind and made it better. I could never have thought of this pose and image myself.
Thank you, Sandy Carruthers. You are a true gentleman.
I gave him a copy of Black Womb in thanks. I hope he reads it and gets back to me. He’s such a nice guy.
And 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.
Okay, so while I was at Hal Con 2011 I met this great artist name Ariel Marsh. She works with my friend Jay Paulin over at Ink’d Well Comics on titles like Infastany and What the Wild Things Read, and has this great kid-friendly, cartoony style that is just amazing in its simplicity and ability to convey story in a great manner. That’s what her art is great for: telling a story. It’s not the hyper-detailed what am I supposed to be looking at -style that dominates a lot of big comics publishers. It serves the story well, and that makes her a great comic book artist.
So as I said, I met her at Hal Con. I don’t get to see Jay and Heidi much, so afterwards the four of us went out for a frate (friend date). Had some great laughs, lots of fun.
Apparently Jay lent Ariel his copy of Black Womb, because a few days later I got this message:
Jay and Heidi lent me their copy of Black Womb #1. I started to read the
book on the train ride home. I’m really enjoying the book!
As soon as I had finished reading the prologue, I had to draw something
from it. It was so intense! It’s a pretty messy sketch but I do want to
properly ink and colour it soon. Working on this has been a lot of fun.
The subject is so different from what I usually draw (bright colours and
cats everywhere haha!).
Hope you dig!
It was great to meet you and Ellen at Hal-Con. What a blast Sunday night was!
Isn’t that awesome? I think it’s awesome. I was on her website ( http://happyraccoon.com/ )and it says she does commissions. I think this proves she’s got more in her than just cute stuff, though there was nothing wrong with the cute stuff. This just proves she’s a versatile artist.
I can’t wait to see what other images the book might inspire.
Ever since last October with the release of Ignorance is Bliss and Infinity, Engen Books has been an international small press publisher. That term seems oxymoronic. Oh well.
Since then we’ve released four titles: the two listed above as well as Becoming and More Sci-Fi from the Rock. Two more are coming out at this year’s Hal Con: one new one (Inner Child) and one re-release (Compendium).
The move to the international stage meant a lot of changes for us. It put pressure on us to refine our editing process now that the whole world was watching. It made us more willing to expand our stable of authors so that we could produce more material on a regular basis.
It also meant we had to change our covers.
Our new printers / distributors do not print covers at the size our books were at before (pocket paperback). The smallest size they will go to is 5×8. We experimented with just keeping the cover design the same and enlarging it, but I’d been feeling insecure about the covers to the Black Womb series for some time, and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to rectify the situation. So, we hired an amazing young artist named Zach Aboulazm to paint the Infinity cover, and I set about designing the new standard for the Black Womb series. This is a very long introduction to a very short concept, but basically I’d like to share the way I design my covers, because I think it’s cool. Maybe you will, too.
So this is the first stage. This is just a sketch. We’re going to be looking at the cover of Ignorance is Bliss, which features Julie Peterson. I suppose from a marketing standpoint I should be doing Inner Child, but I like Julie. She’s one of my favorite fictional people. I like this sketch of her, she looks great. Very rarely do I feel I’m able to capture with a pencil what I create with words, but this is an example where I was pleased. Anyway, this is the original scan.
Next we clean up. Yah clean up! Let’s do the ten second tidy! Lol. I use two main programs for image exiting: Nero Photo Viewer (in edit mode) and Adobe Fireworks. For this stage I open the original scan initially in Fireworks and get rid of any grit or pencil lines along the edges, then I save and open in Nero and use the brightness/contrast to darken the lines and improve the quality of the image. It also brings out shadows that were there in the original sketch, but for some reason are lost in the scan.
(Edit: I should point out that in reality, there would be more than two images at this point. I re-save as a new file for every change I make, so that if I mess up I can easily go back.)
Okay, here’s the weird part. At least, I think it’s weird. It might be a normal method for image design, I don’t know, but I was never taught it. As far as I’m concerned I made it up myself.
First you need to decide what colors are going to be in the final image (in this case flesh tone, red, white, blue and brown). You open the second image in Nero and, using the duo-tone tool, create a version of the image for each color where the only colors are black and it. That’s a confusing sentence. There’s an example to the left. I’m only uploading the flesh tone version because to upload them all would simply be overkill.
So now you open up Fireworks and you create a new file with each of these colored images as a different layer. Then starting with the top layer you peel away any unnecessary image. For example, on the red layer I deleted everything except her lips. When done, you should have a flat image with all the colors where they should be, like this.
What’s the point of doing this? Well now I can remove each layer at will, creating artsy versions of the cover easily. I especially like a version where it’s just her hair and mouth, it looks great.
But from a more practical standpoint, I can now edit each color without affecting the other. I can shade each until I’m happy with it without harming the other factors. So here’s where I shade it and try to make the image come alive.
After this, it’s all practical. I love the image as is, but we’ve made a stylistic choice to keep some black and white element in from the old covers. I feel it harkens back to the old days of horror, those good old Twilight Zone episodes. So, we open the newly-shaded image file in Nero and convert to gray-scale.
Now we just open it up in Fireworks again and, using the blur tool, get rid of those obvious lines around her head. I feel this also gives it a painted look.
From here it’s simple. Once we’d decided on the new cover format (different color each time with a vertical window instead of the old horizontal ones), we just created a standard template for that and add it into it. The result is, in my opinion, a fairly cool cover to our first international title.
Let me know what you think, or if this method has a name.