Making the Wolverine

I’ve always liked the playfulness in Normal Rockwell’s paintings. This particular piece is a parody of the painting that appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post from May 27, 1944 titled “The Fireman.” The story for the original painting is that Rockwell found the frame that is illustrated in the painting and incorporated it into a painting. Note that the frame has various equipment that would be used by firefighters.

The Fireman – Oil on Canvas (33.5 x 26.5 in) – Norman Rockwell

Before jumping into the painting I did some quick layouts and studies for practice and to build up enough confidence that I could produce something resembling what I envisioned. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to paint or illustrate at a level that matches my visions but that is the fun and the challenge of art. In this case I knew I did not have the skill to render the subject at the same level of detail as Rockwell, but I didn’t want that to deter me from producing the art at a skill level that would push me to further my abilities. You can see that even my sketch is much rougher than the study that Rockwell generated.

Rough composition – Graphite on newsprint – Felix Yin (2015)

Though wolverine’s brown suit would have been a closer match to the color composition of Rockwell’s original painting I wanted the image to pop more so I selected the yellow, black and blue suit to make it pop in the center of the composition.

Color Test – Colored pencil on newsprint – Felix Yin (2015)
Detail Study – Graphite on newsprint – Felix Yin (2015)

Note the facial expression, in particular the mouth. I would struggle to capture this in the acrylic medium and ended up with something that was more cartoony than I desired. Something to work on in the future for sure.

Facial Detail Study – Graphite on newsprint – Felix Yin (2015)

Rockwell’s original painting was done in oil on canvas at 33.5 in by 26.5 in. I chose to use a smaller 20 in x 14 in canvas board, which at the time was the largest acrylic painting I had tackled. The first step was doing a rough layout in pencil. On the bottom, near the mantle you can see there are some markings from an earlier composition that I abandoned.

Rough Layout – Red & blue pencil on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)
Blocking in colors – Acrylic on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)
Tightening up colors – Acrylic on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)
Early Lighting and details – Acrylic on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)
Claws and frame – Acrylic on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)

Looking back on this piece I can see where I could have added some more x-men specific ornaments within the frame and perhaps worked a bit more on the facial expression for wolverine, but other than that I’m satisfied with how this came out. If I ever decide to tackle this on a larger format I’ll claim this one as my study!

the Wolverine – Acrylic on canvas board – Felix Yin (2015)

Story Xperiential with Pixar – Week 0

The Story Xperiential landing page (10/9/2022)

Late last year I saw some posts on social media about a storytelling course being offered by a startup (X in a Box) but taught by Pixar employees. At the time I believe it was limited to students and educators but ultimately I could’t fit it in my schedule had I wanted to take it then. However, as the world gradually re-opened this year I found myself looking into more formal development opportunities and was happy to find that the program was now open to adults. I registered for the 9 week course about a week before the first class (October 3rd). The course contents follow a weekly lesson and assignment. I’m not sure I’ll post after every week, but I plan to have a course summary post when the 9 week class is over, just in time for the holidays.

For this post I’ll give some background about the course and some of my early thoughts.

X in a Box is a new startup (I have no stake in it, nor do I know anyone that works for them) that looks to be developing a new business model that combines community outreach as well as vocational educational for the benefit of all parties. The company lists a slew of tech and entertainment companies it is partnering with but the Pixar Storytelling course seems to be the only one publicly available at this time (I would be very interested in any Imagineering programs or perhaps a video game company).

The instructors for this cohort are Derek Thompson, Chris Siemasko, Esteban Bravo, Margaret Spencer, Hannah Roman, Christian Roman, Jeff Pidgeon & Connie He (10/9/2022)

The course is currently free for students and educators but requires, in my opinion, a fair, $250 registration fee for adults that do not fall into the educator category, though I really don’t know details about that application process. Ultimately, for adults this is like a paid internship in storytelling at Pixar where you don’t really produce anything for the company and you pay them for the experience. Hm, maybe that’s not the best analogy! If you’ve ever attended the Animation Academy at a Disney theme park, I expect this will be a 9 week equivalent in storytelling. What’s cool is that it’s a great opportunity for anyone participating and it’s also a great way for the company to be a catalyst/nurture the future talent pipeline. It seems like a win-win for everyone involved and I’m excited to participate and watch the program grow. Onto the early impressions!

Once you register and create an account on the website you are ushered to an Orientation page where you can watch some videos about the course format and what to expect. Part of the Orientation work is creating a short narrated video introducing yourself with stick figures. I thought this was a nice, easy assignment, that served multiple purposes, the most important being testing out that participants have the hardware/software/knowledge to submit weekly work in the requested format (I used a combination of Clip Studio Paint which has an animation capability, Windows Recorder and Video Editor but the course website has a Google Docs shared file with many PC/Mac alternatives, including free options) .

My Week 0 introduction Animation (10/2/2022)

Once I posted my video I was able to view the videos from my peers (which seemed to be in the hundreds if not more). This is when I realized that while I had been most excited to learn about the Pixar Process from the Pixar intructors, it was clear I would learn the most from my peers, and that was essentially emphasized in our first class. If younger participants learn anything from this course, I hope it is how to give and receive critical feedback in a constructive manner. It’s such an important skill to develop to be successful in life and achieve your dreams. I’m really looking forward to participating and training in this respect, because, like muscles, I think you have to keep exercising communication skills to keep in top form.

Example videos (with user names removed) showing diversity of skills and perspectives from our Week 0 introductions (10/9/2022).

I will say that while the heart of the course seems very strong, the scaling of the course and course platform are still being iterated. Even though the course is only on its 4th cohort, there are nearly 1000 student/educator participants and 1000 adults. For a single course, this is a staggering number of videos being posted in a short amount of time and to coordinate feedback on. To make sure that as many people receive feedback on their work each week each time you submit your work you are required to provide feedback on the work of 4 other peers, which ensures that if you get your work in on time you should get some feedback. In the first week I have found that there is so much good work out there to learn from at all levels of competency that I’ll actually have to figure out how to restrict myself from getting lost in watching videos and giving feedback. The site has a “follow me” feature which I may use to keep track of my own virtual feedback network to see if I can cultivate that further as the course progresses.

Until next time!

Designer Con 2019 : Preparing for An Awesome Time

Cereal Killers Statues (Ron English) – Entrance To Designer Con 2017

Designer Con (DCon) is just around the corner and a perfect convention endcap to close out the year and prepare for 2020. If you haven’t been before, Designer Con is an annual Southern California art and designed goods (toys, clothing & all things pop culture) convention that has its humble roots in the designer vinyl toy scene. The convention was started in 2005, I suspect as a way for the founder Ben Goretsky, to bring together his favorite vinyl toy artists under a single convention roof. To be clear, this isn’t some get rich quick jump on the convention scene money grab. This guy legit loves toys and pop art and wants to promote these artists (Check out the youtube channel for The Toy Geeks Network and his story 3DRetro in Burbank, CA).

Ben Goretsky Vinyl Sticker – Power Quest

The annual convention was held at the Pasadena Convention Center until last year when it moved to the much larger Anaheim Convention Center. While less intimate than Pasadena, and no longer a “just park on a local street and stroll in” convention, it had been growing rapidly in size and was clearly beyond what Pasadena could accomodate.

If you’re going for the first time, here are some tips to maximize your time.

Step 1: What to do today

  1. Finish this blog entry!
  2. Go to Designer Con website and buy a ticket
    • Single Day : Great option if you’ve never been
    • Weekend Pass : Best deal if you aren’t trying to rush for any particular exclusive
    • VIP Weekend Pass (Best Value) : If you want exclusives and need to get in earlier than regular attendees to get to that booth, get this. It lets you in 1 hr early and ALSO gets you into preview night Friday. It also gets you access to the little lounge areas where there is seating to rest (I never saw anyone really checking badges though). If you are into Bearbricks you will want this pass as it includes a free Designer Con Bearbrick! Last year’s Bearbrick is still available for anyone to purchase for $15 on line. The cost has gone up significantly cmpared to the standard weekend pass, but it’s worth it if you want to go Friday night. Do the math that makes sense for you!
    • MVP Weekend Pass : Only get this if you really want the 2 exclusive Mark Hamill Funko Pops included in this pass. Frankly, I think it’s super expensive (but I might get it anyway!).
    • KIDS 12 and under are free
  3. Scour their facebook page, instagram and twitter accounts for announcements.
  4. Start making a list of people you want to meet, products you want to buy or events you want to participate in.
Secret Walls – Art Battle – Designer Con After Party

Step 2: What to do the weekend before!

  1. Go to the Designer Con website and checkout the interactive floor plan. you will see the shear size of the convention as well as links (where available) to the vendor sites. Create a list of people and booth numbers you want to hit up.
  2. If there is a particular item you want, reach out to the vendor and see if there are limited quantities or a way to get on a reservation list.
  3. Start getting prepared for the Awesome:
    • Do you have good walking shoes? If not, get some!
    • Do you have a good carrying bag or case that can protect what you plan to buy?
      • Art stores and Daiso carry extendable poster tubes with straps.
      • Re-useable bags can hold alot and scrunch down to tiny sizes.
      • A backpack with padded shoulder straps is handy.
      • If you plan to buy Funko Pops do you have protector cases?
      • If you plan to buy large original art on board (vs poster), do you have an art folio to carry it?
    • Do you have a water bottle?
    • Many of the artists are very approachable to talk about their work and the craft. some will even be willing to sketch in a sketchbook for you (especially if you buy something!). Do you have a good sketchbook? I recommend something with a smooth white surface.
    • Thinking about getting something signed? Consider bringing your own preferred pen so that you don’t get a random pen color/quality. Lots of folks like Sharpies but I’ve had mixed experience with some Sharpies bleeding/discoloring overtime. I prefer acrylic paint pens now that can also be used to sign on vinyl.

Step 3: Day of the Convention

  • Get there early if you want to park at the convention center off of Katella. If you miss that there is a free shuttle off site, but it takes more time and is inconvenient if you want to “drop stuff off” at your car mid-day.
  • Cash is King! You are in a better position to haggle with cash when buying several items. If the vendor says they can’t, please respect that, there is a reason for the term “starving artist.” Many of the artists pour their time and soul into the work and just make ends meet. Most people take square/paypal these days but bring your ATM card if you think you’ll run out of cash.
  • Be friendly to people, you will likely find kindred spirits and can learn more about the art and artists, thus getting more out of the convention.
  • Food. Bring snacks and a water bottle, both of which you can bring into the convention. There is food in the convention hall that is surprisingly decent (much better than San Diego Comic Con). There will also be food trucks available. There are a few restaurants across the walk way at the hotel (Sbarro, Baja Fresh, Sandwich shop, etc…)

Other: Artists

Here are some short profiles for artists that I make a point of visiting to give you an idea of the quality and variety of vendors at Designer Con.

Mini Vinyls (George Gaspar)

George Gaspar – Accomplished toy sculptor. He sculpted a really cool vinyl/plastic version of the Designer Con mascot Vincent and produced them in a bunch of colorways including GID. He also was involved in the October Toys O.M.F.G. figures which are a throw back to M.U.S.C.L.E. He has a ton of industry credit. You probably have a toy that he sculpted! Follow him on instagram @doublegtoys.

Nychos Sketching

Nychos – Austrian Graffiti Illustrator that has work all over the world. Known for anatomical exploded views of characters. Sells clothing, prints, empty sketchbook and last year a Vinyl Jurassic Park TRex collaboration with 3D Retro. Check out the documentary Deepest Depths of the Burrow and his site Rabbit Eye Movement.

Last Days of Autumn (Amanda Vissell)

Amanda Vissell – Cute and dark artwork. Something about her style I just love! Simple, cute, edgy. In addition to vinyl toys she makes stuff out of wood and resin. I love the work she has done with Kidrobot and COARSE to bring her illustratins to life. I’ve only met her once but apparently she loves Disney stuff. I got the feeling that she’s a total bad ass in real life… the kind of person that you wish you were! Check out her site. She has a design brand, Switcheroo, with artist Michelle Valigura.

Prednaut Fang vs Mechanaut Defender (David A. White)

David A. White – Professional designer and illustrator. Travels all the way over from Western Massachusetts and brings his amazing 3D printed and hand finished toy designs. I have 2 pieces from the Mechanauts line displayed with my Transformers. This guy not only has the passion and creative vision but the smarts to keep improving his designs. He has gained quite a following in the last few years and even visits schools to teach kids! Check out his site and follow him on twitter @mechazone and instragram @mechazone.

Nate Mitchell – Creator of the So Analog 10-doh vinyl toy platform which is a throwback to the NES cartridges from the 80s. I love the design and that there are two sizes. Nate updated the figure arms a few years ago to better hold accessories (zapper gun!). I have a dozen or so of the small size figures and a few of the larger… just need more space to display them all. Check out his work at Squid Kids Ink.

Joy Riders (Christopher Lee)

Christopher Lee – Dude is prolific. I met him at the first Designer Con I attended and now run into him at San Diego Comic Con. When I first met him he had done some really cool toy action figure cartoon posters that I picked up. Since then it seems like his career as an illustrator/designer has just exploded. His work is always super high quality and has a certain retro asthetic. He also has an amazing toy collection! He runs Night Cake Press and The Beast Is Back

Sket One – Graffiti Artist and Professional Illustrator Andrew Yasgar. A legend in the vinyl toy scene. A fellow New England to West Coast transplant! His Sket product mashups are amazing. He is probably most well known for his Sketracha Dunny, but he does so much, including recent collabs with Hite Beer and the Dodgers. His low production run resins are on another level. I have a set of resin Dripples… but pln some day to get a Kikko-Sket! Check out his site where there are links to all social media.

Other: Stuff I Look Forward To Discovering

Unique Products – I like buying gifts at Designer Con because in many cases they are very limited/unique compared to Black Friday Big Box Retailer products.

Jason Freeny Sketch

Sketchbook – When I buy something from an artist I try to get them to make a small doodle in my sketchbook. In many cases I value the sketch more than the product itself. The product catches my eye and can serve as a reference for me in my creative endeavors… and likely a display item for my home! But the sketch serves as reminder and a creative inspiration for me. There is nothing quite like flipping through a sketchbook and it bringing back the memories of all the conventions and people met. Try it! I use a Moleskine Carnet Large Storyboard. The small squares provide structure that allows the artists to sketch something very small in seconds and not be guilted/threatened to fill an entire empty page.

Larry Lacto’s Pin (Andrew Bell)

Pins /Patches– Always on the lookout for cool enamel pins. I don’t have a huge collection but I appreciate nice simple artwork that would look good on a backpack or work lanyard. They have an entire ENAMEL PIN MARKET at Designer Con. You can bring pins to trade also.

Stickers – Definitely into vinyl stickers, in particular, those from Graffiti artists.

Custom Blown Away Dunny (Josh Mayhem)

Resin/Vinyl DIY – Love being able to see something visually/tactiley appealing and speak to the creator about it. Brink something to take notes!

Shirts – Lots of unique, custom shirts you won’t find at Target or Kohls. Stand out! Support an artist. I got a hoodie from Nychos (Rabbit Eye Movement) a few years ago and I still treasure it! Outside of Designerc Con I have not seen anyone else wearing it.

Pictures – Love taking pictures. Bring a camera or use your phone. Bring a backup battery and a charger (there are some outlets). Also, take pictures with the artists!

That’s about it for now.

Check back for a post-show dump Thanksgiving week.

2019 Convention Plans

I plan to focus more on creating new comics and toys in 2019 but I have a tentative plan for conventions I plan to attend.

  • Long Beach Comic Expo (Long Beach, CA) – Feb 16th/17th – Potential
  • Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA) – Mar 14-17 – Attendee
  • Wondercon (Anaheim, CA) – Mar 29-31 – Attendee
  • Free Comic Con Day (Manhattan Beach, CA) – May 4th – Attendee
  • Comic Con Revolution (Ontario, CA) – May 18th/19th – Potential
  • Five Points Fest (New York, NY) – Jun 1st/2nd – Attendee
  • San Diego Comic Con (San Diego, CA) – Jul 17-21 – Attendee
  • New York Comic Con (New York, NY) – Oct 3-6 – Attendee
  • Los Angeles Comic Con (Los Angeles, CA) – Nov 11-13 – Potential
  • DesignerCon (Anaheim, CA) – Nov 22-24 – Attendee

Making The Promise

After completing The Damned, Alex and I decided to take a big jump and pitch to an anthology planned for publishing by an acquaintance, Russell Nohelty, through his label Wannabe Press. This was a massive undertaking that involved 30+ creatives teams, contracts, a big Kickstarter campaign and a printer in China. Looking back it was a real crash course in small press publishing. Russell is an amazing publisher and Alex and I really owe him so much for accepting our story and providing this development opportunity. We aren’t much closer to being at Russell’s level but we now have a decent appreciation for what it takes to get something like this done and can claim to be a bit more “professional” wrt making comics.

The approach for this collaboration was quite different than The Damned. For this story I wrote a rough, rambling synopsis, that Alex went and fully thumbnailed. Spoilers ahead !!!!

Night Life (working Title)

Pitch: Suffering from a bout of insomnia, Angelica Ruiz ventures out on a hot August night for a quick fix. But soon after leaving the comforts of home she gets the eerie feeling that someone or something is following her and she’s about to learn that you can’t escape your past!

Story: Angelica is in her mid forties and fit, but on edge (think Linda Hamilton Terminator 2). She is married to Tom, who she wakes up next to at the beginning of the story. They have a child, which we should see sleeping in a panel before she leaves to look for a quick fix for her insomnia. When she wakes she is quite on edge, but her husband is fast asleep and the house is completely silent, save the sounds of a felix the cat clock in the bathroom. We see her watching television, doing pushups and sorting the laundry. During this period the time changes from 10pm to 11pm to 12am. She is out of things to do and still not tired so she leaves a note “you’ll probably be asleep when I get back but in case you aren’t, just went out to get a pack of cigarettes”. She goes out side and gets into a beat up truck. This is the first time you see that they live on a farm. We see the remains of charred building, perhaps an old barn, in the moonlight as she makes her way towards the main road. By the time she reaches the main road, which is only a few hundred yards away, she is already starting to get sleepy… but she is clearly now committed to getting these cigarettes. She turns on the radio and floors it like a woman on a mission! A few minutes later she swerves off the road, into a corn field, to avoid a deer in the middle of the street. The car won’t start. “Shit, I left my phone at home. At least I’m only a half mile away from Earl’s, might as well head there and get a ride back. He better not be out of Marlboro’s.” Now the scary part begins! She hears rustling in the fields, is it the wind or something else? “Who’s there? Must be the wind. I swear if you’re playing a prank I will kill you! The sooner I get to Earl’s the better.” She heads back onto the street and sees what appears to be two headlights slowly approaching her. She begins waving, but the headlights stop about 50 feet from her. She yells out for help and the lights lurch forward and stop. She is seriously freaked out so she starts running. The lights continue to slowly pursue her so she darts into a cemetery. As she runs through the cemetery she begins hearing growls along with voices wailing “you promised” “you broke your promise”. When she reaches the other side of the cemetery the lights are again waiting for her. This ratchets her up even further and she makes a bee line to Earl’s gas station in the distance. By the time she reaches the edge of Earl’s she looks back and sees the light have disappeared. In an attempt to regain composure before entering Earl’s she talks to herself “Angelica, girl, you need to get your shit together, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”  She enters Earl’s, and the attendant clearly recognizes her. “The usual?,” he says. “No, pack of Marlboro’s,” Angelica responds. He pauses and says “Are you sure you don’t just want a cup of coffee?”. Angelica snaps back “do I look like I need a damn cup of coffee!?”. He shies away and she realizes that she’s snapped.” Sorry Earl, my car broke down on the way here. Could you give me a ride back home?” .  “Sure Angie, this time of night no one will notice if I’m shut down for 15 minutes.” “Thanks Earl, I’ll just have a quick puff while you’re closing up.” Angie steps outside, lighting up a cigarette with her eyes to the ground, mid step. The door swings closed as she puts the matches away and she looks up… to be greeted by a young girl with a dog on a leash.  “you promised,” the girl says. Pan back to Angie whose face is in terror. Back to girl, “you broke your promise,” she says.  Back to Angie who is in terror and can barely utter the words “it can’t be… we miss you so much…”. Back to girl but she now appears to have burn marks on her and the dog is missing patches of hair “you promised,” she said.  Back to Angie who is starting to cry “no honey, I’m sorry, I swear I put that cigarette out.” Back to girl and dog who are now fully charred… “You lied to daddy that day and smoked behind the barn when Lily and I were playing there. You broke your promise then and you’re breaking your promise now.” We see the cigarette fall from her hands to the ground as she is lit on fire. There are no screams. Earl pulls up his car from the back and is alarmed by the fire. He jumps out of his car and runs for fire extinguisher…. “Angie! Angie!”. FIN.

We can switch genders, have it a monster or demonic instead of a ghost. The idea is that this firs draft should gives you a  lot of classic imagery from scary movies to tell this story.

We took the thumbnails to Russell who provided editorial feedback. I can’t stress enough how good it is to have an experienced editor provide feedback about pacing, character motivations, reveals, etc. I don’t know how much time Russell spent thinking about the feedback but it read very stream of conscious but on point. Alex and I incorporated all his comments and the final story is much better as a result. For this story Alex wanted to go with a quicker, looser art style as opposed to the more photorealistic approach in the Damned. This allowed him to complete the artwork faster and give it a more lively feeling.

In the first week of the Kickstarter campaign we raised over $10k! We ended the campaign just over $27k with 624 backers. Our target was $16k. I’m not that familiar with Kickstarter campaigns but I started to take note and saw several comic book related campaigns exceed $100k. Those campaigns seemed to be supported by a lot more backers. Looking into it a bit more, these seemed to be books that had built a following on-line as a web-comic. For those interested in getting your work funded via Kickstarter, take note!

Here are two banners for my Facebook profile page that I had to update after the 1st week of the campaign! I also had fun and changed my profile pic to a match the theme.

The artwork is a snippet of the cover by Aaron Alexovich.

Mockup of the book. The eyes glow in the dark!

The finished books sitting on pallets at the printer.

Alex and I sitting at a Starbucks pre-signing copies of the book. The signature collection page is a nice idea… but getting them all is going to be an amazing achievement as the creative teams are spread out across the US. If you pick up a book, Wondercon or San Diego Comic Con 2018 may be your best bet to secure a lot of the signatures.

Almost ready for the signing party at the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA. The printer missed San Diego Comic Con 2017 so Russell will have the book there this year (2018).

The great thing about the contract is that the creators retained further publishing rights to their work. The anthology comes in at more than 200 pages and costs $40. That’s a lot of value but some folks don’t have or don’t want to spend that much. We decided that we wanted to provide the story at a different price point for those that wanted just our story. However, we didn’t want to undercut the sales of the anthology by selling a $5 version of our story. We decided that we’d sell a more premium version of the story for $15 that included additional content AND original art on each cover.

Our quick plan to add more content exclusive to the standalone version.

The pristine blank sketch covers ready for numbering and art work!

Last page of Alex’s “famous artists” tutorial as well as the full color ad for the the anthology. I painted the eyes in the ad in one copy so they glow in the dark. I’m not sure which one this was, so check your copy!

I didn’t want to put all the burden on Alex for the new original content since he might end up sketching a lot of covers so I assigned myself duties creating the ads as well as a letters column. We still need to make the FOMM club pins to hand out at conventions. Note that Madame Mystica doesn’t appear at the beginning of the Promise, but we used her here for the letters page. She will be making appearances in our future collaborations.

Sketch cover 6 of 75 in red pencil and beautiful ink brush. Original art by Alex Bodnar for only $15. A steal!

Making The Damned

The Damned was my first collaboration with creator Alex Bodnar.  Alex was my fiance’s former co-worker and we were friends on Facebook. I had picked up some freebies at San Diego Comic-Con and met up with him at a Starbucks inside a Target to deliver the goods. We ended up talking for over an hour and in that discussion he revealed that he wanted to draw comics but didn’t have any stories to illustrate.  At this point I had already completed and was preparing to self publish the first issue of Seamurai and I was confident that I could help him write a simple short story to get him going. I didn’t have any existing stories in my head but I do recall asking him about themes or subjects he wanted to draw. We settled on doing a story in the style of Tales from the Crypt, Eerie and Creepy magazines. That night I wrote two short stories that included notes and page breakdowns. You can see the synposis below:

“First Appearance” – Suspense/Murder

Synopsis: A couple driving down to attend their first San Diego Comic-Con befriends a fellow fan hitchhiking to the show. In return for their kind gesture he offers to be their personal guide during the show, and goes as far as promising to help them experience everything on their “must do” list. But with each passing day he grows increasingly obsessed with, and unconventional in, fulfilling his promise, leaving the couple to wonder…. How far will he go to make good on his promise? And what price will they ultimately pay?

“Survivor” – Horror

Synopsis: A shipwrecked man wanders an island in search of food to survive. After several days without success he awakens to find fruit and berries by his side. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that there are others humans on the island but eventually discovers his companion is a monkey, which he quickly befriends. Unfortunately, after an unusually stormy night wipes out the vegetation on the island, he doesn’t see the Monkey for days. Then one morning, he awakens to find fruit and berries by his side again, but quickly notices the body of his companion lying in the sand. When he goes to retrieve his friend he is ambushed by other monkeys who capture him with clear intent to use him as food.

After agreeing on the “Survivor” story I worked to flesh it out further. I wanted to add detail that could provide Alex a fuller story but that might not be represented directly in the illustrations.  Over the course of the next month I would revisit the story for a few hours at a time, resulting in the fourth and final revision below.

Synopsis: A shipwrecked survivor of mankind’s self-inflicted Nuclear Apocalypse desperately searches for food in an unknown land. He quickly stumbles upon wild berries, but errs on the side of caution, ultimately turning in for the night on an empty stomach. The next morning he awakens to find an assortment of fruits and nuts by his side. As his body selfishly devours the surprise meal, his mind begins to wonder who is watching out for him. He quickly discovers his savior and soon to be companion is an inquisitive little monkey.  In exchange for its kindness, the  man gifts the monkey his watch, which he has held onto as a reminder of his humanity, despite it having stopped functioning weeks prior. Full of joy, the monkey leads him into the jungle for what seems like a full days journey across exotic lands. By the early light of the moon, the two arrive at what appears to be the monkey’s home. Once again, the monkey feeds him well and the man has his first good night of rest since becoming shipwrecked. In the morning the man awakens to find the monkey gone. He waits all day for the monkey to return, growing ever more hungry with each passing minute. At dusk the monkey re-emerges from the dense forest carrying something, which the man is eager to sink his teeth into! But he is shocked to be presented with bones wearing his watch! When he realizes his companion has been killed and eaten it’s too late! Descending from above are carnivorous apes intent on following up their appetizer with him as the main course!

Though much more descriptive, I wasn’t sure how well Alex could translate this into pages and panels with proper placing of reveals and pacing of the story. To help him along I provided page breakdowns which he in turn generated thumbnails from. I then turned around and incorporated his comments and thoughts into the next revisions. You can see I struggled with the narrator’s introduction. I wanted it succint with a cliffhanger pun. Ultimately the final version differs from these but they are provided to show how many iterations are made. The point is, don’t spend too much time holding onto ideas and sentences as they will surely be refined through collaboration and an editor.

Page Breakdown (updated based on Alex’s first thumbnails)

1 right page title) Top of page with Gypsy introducing story.

Version 1: Since the dawn of humanity, man’s path to the top of the food chain has been littered with Mother Nature’s children.  But after civilization’s self inflicted nuclear apocalypse, the remaining few souls struggle to survive against Mother Nature’s vengeance. One of these unfortunate souls is Frank Corben who now finds himself shipwrecked, alone and hungry. Will his instincts be enough to save him or will he be the next to join… the Damned!

Version 2: Since the dawn of humanity, man has littered its path up the food chain with Mother Nature’s children.  But it is this wanton disregard for others in its quest for dominance that has ironically led civilization to a nuclear apocalypse. Now, the remaining few souls on Earth struggle to survive against Mother Nature’s vengeance. One of these unfortunate souls is Franics Corben who finds himself shipwrecked, alone and hungry. Will his

 Version 3: Since the dawn of humanity, man had needlessly laid waste to Mother Nature’s children on its journey to the top of the food chain. But civilization’s hunger for power was not satisfied  led it to a self-inflicted nuclear apocalypse with the remaining few souls struggling to survive against Mother Nature’s vengeance.

 Nuclear apocalypse that brought man to near extinction!

1 right page) A shipwrecked man on beach wakes up, sits on beach, decides to get up and wander

2 left page) The next morning he wakes up on the beach thirsty & hungry. He goes looking for food/water and finds berries. But he isn’t sure if they are poisonous so doesn’t eat them and goes hungry the rest of the day.

3 right page) The next morning he wakes up and finds fruit/berries by his side. He is so hungry he devours the food and doesn’t stop to think  about who left it until he’s completely stuffed.

4 left page) The next morning he is awoken by noises and catches a glimpse of a monkey playing with the fancy wrist watch that he’s left by his camp area. He yells in excitement but the monkey is startled, drops the watch, and runs back into the forest

5 right page) The next morning the monkey returns with food only to find a small gift waiting for him wrapped in leaves as the man seemingly is sleeping.  He unwraps it to find the man’s watch. The monkey realizes that the man is watching him. They eat together (and you see the monkey wearing the watch). After eating, the monkey is eager to show the man something in the jungle.

6 left page) They travel all day on an amazing route (swinging on vines and crossing rivers) and by night reach what seems like the monkey’s make shift home where they eat by the light of the moon and the two fall asleep on one another.

7 right page) The next morning the man wakes up after a good nights rest but the monkey is gone. He looks around and he’s in a densely forested area with very high trees and thick brush. He wonders where the monkey is and waits until dusk when it re-emerges from a bush holding something. The monkey hands the man what looks like a bone (but you can’t see the details because the shot is from the man’s back and you just see the monkey and part of the bone over the man’s shoulder).

8 left page) Large splash image, worms eye view looking up into the tree canopies from the ground. The man is at the bottom (corner?) of the page facing the reader in awe at what he is holding… we see him holding a small skeleton arm and hand with a wristwatch on it… he is unaware of what is descending/leaping out of the trees behind him… a gang of cannibal apes ready for their next meal!

Alex’s initial digital thumb nails and my suggestions in color markings. You can see where I planned to place our Gypsy and as well as providing guidance in green as to which pages would be visible together when pages are turned. You can see my notes for the final page include the subject looking towards the reader with a bubble of puzzlement and the indiginous species jumping down from behind. In the final comic book we chose to have the characters facing towards the monkey to provide some immerssiveness from the reader.

As the artwork progressed we planned out the location of word balloons. In hindsight we probably could have planned this out a bit better, but were pretty lucky that Alex left space in his artwork to accomodate the words.

Below you can see the final page. Notice how we continued to make adjustments as we refined the lettering. On this story I also added the borders between the frames. Did you notice that I chose to flip the lower left panel?

With the story done it was time to work on the cover. Alex is a tremendous watercolor artist. Before putting brush to paper (or in this case I believe Vellum), Alex whipped up a bunch of compositions at thumbnail size. You can see the influence he’s had from movie posters.  I particularly like the playfulness he employs working the skull into the composition as a shadow or in the wake left by the boat.

The final cover was done in marker and guache on marker paper, then scanned and digitally modified for contrast. The original art is just under two times as large as the printed comic book.

The Damned was self-published as a stand alone comic book in 2016.

Sept 16 & 17 SpX 2017 Bethesda, MD Booth D11B

This is super late, but I’ll be attending my first Small Press Expo this year on Sept 16th and 17th in Bethesda, MD. If you like indie comics that are self-published or the types of comics published by Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics, this is supposed to be the premier show for you! I’ll be tabling with my friend Jason Porath who will be signing his amazing gender empowering book the Rejected Princesses based on his website

Come by booth D11B and say hi!

I’ll have copies of SEAMURAI, The Damned and the Monsters and Other Scary Shit Anthology Hardcover with Glow in the Dark Eyes as well as a very special Artists’ edition of The Promise with extra content, indivdiually hand numbered with original pencil & inks by artist Alex Bodnar!

Show info:

Marriot North Bethesda Hotel & Conference Center

Saturday Sept 16th 11AM-7PM $15

Sunday Sept 17th NOON-6PM $10

Weekend Pass $20

Children 12 and under enter free


The hotel apparently has some construction going on with its parking garage so there will be limited parking. Instead, you can park FOR FREE at the White Flint Metro Station across Rockville Pike and walk over. For more travel info check here.