Wednesday, May 25, 2016

THE MARK IN AMERICA, ISSUE #4, PAGE 24


(Continued from yesterday’s blog) I found myself in an untenable position as a comic book artist. I accepted my fate as an exile in the TV Animation Industry (while making 3 times as much money as I had as in comics) and resolved to take the next step on that career pat. I put out the word that I was looking to become a director.

Ironically, around this time, something Bob Schreck had said in passing finally sunk in: If I got together with Mike Barr and put together a revival of Mike’s “Mage Agency” property, Bob might be interested in taking it to Dark Horse. I immediately called Mike with the idea. He allowed that his ears always perked up when somebody said “Maze Agency” but cautioned things would be different with out working relationship: no more “Marvel Style”. He would write tight scripts that I would follow closely.  Yeah, whatever, I thought to myself dismissively. On the other hand, Mike was a good enough writer that this might be tolerable, at least starting out.

Before things could proceed, however, I got my first directing gig, “Captain Simian and the Space Monkey’s for the start-up studio “Epoch Ink”, founded by one of my best friends, Joe Pearson. Pushing aside residual guilt feelings about pointlessly jerking Mike’s chain, I threw myself into this new life path for the next 5 or 6 years, until I tired of being a monk in the animation production monastery and stepped away. It was around the time that Bob Schreck was hired as group editor at DC Comics. I called him up, threw my hat back in the ring, and soon found myself replacing Darwyn Cooke on the re-launched Catwoman series. But that’s another tale.

In summary, kvetch and carp though I might, I’ll be eternal grateful to Bob Schreck and Mike Barr for, basically, giving me free rein as the penciller and inker on “The Mark”. I was able to do my best, with no excuses or qualifications. If I was not able to reach my influences, it was nobody’s fault but mine.


This is page 24 for "The Mark" issue 4, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in March 1994. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE MARK IN AMERICA, ISSUE #4, PAGE 23


We now reach the end of this story. “The Mark in America” took me the better part of 1993 to draw; 125 pages and 4 covers spread out over Dark Horse Comics #14 and 15, and the mini-series, issues 1 through 4. I’m quite proud of it. I’m not sure that I could better it now, or even match it. I know I don’t have the ink wielding chops I had developed by the time I’d done the page you see here.

 It’s a source of great sadness in my life that I was unable to keep the momentum I had developed here. I could only find dribs and drabs in comics for several years after this. Editors told me flat out that my style was too “old school”. One of them compared me with Eduardo Barreto  (i.e., a solid craftsman with no “sizzle”), implying that they already had him, so why did they need me? I guess I paid the price for not drawing in the “Image” style that was then paramount.

I found myself in the same position I’d been in before breaking in on “The Batman Adventures”; supplicating editors for a chance to prove myself as though I hadn’t been doing so for over a year. I soon realized I no longer had the stomach to submit myself to the disinterested judgment of people for whom I had no respect (I liked almost nothing being published at the time).

Even my “Mark” editor, Bob Schreck, told me that he specialized in creator owned or generated projects. If I came to him with my own proposal he might consider it, but he was in no position to assign me to a pre-existing book. The only niche I might be able to fill was that of a creator. Unfortunately, though I could critique the fuck out of anybody else’s writing, I was totally blocked at doing my own. (To be continued)


This is page 23 for "The Mark" issue 4, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in March 1994. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader

Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE MARK IN AMERICA, ISSUE #4, PAGES 20, 21 & 22

Here it is, what the entire series has been building towards since The Mark, Volume 1, issue 1. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for (LOL), the death match between The Mark and The Archon… and it’s thwarted by Special Agent Pierce, Lisle and Scrub. Talk about fight-us interruptus. And Mike (Mike Barr, the writer of “The Mark in America”) called ME “arch”. There’s nothing I could do to top THAT.




Page 20, panel 1: The Mark bursts into scene, shattering a wooden door with his shoulder, being fired on by a crowd of hostile soldiers.


Page 20, panel 2: a commander orders a soldier to stop firing as it may set off the explosives inside what we now see is an ammo dump. Of course we could see it better if the commander's hand weren't partially covering both the signage on the building facade and the shattered doorway the Mark entered through in panel 1. My bad. The problem could have been easily solved if I had shrunk the commander by a third and moved him slightly left. Perhaps I'll do just that if "The Mark in America” has a second printing.


Page 20 panels 3 & 4: The Mark finds momentary refuge in the ammo depot and immediately sets to work trying to blow the whole thing up, spreading a trial of gunpowder from a barrel of the same, lighting it...


Page 20, panels 5 and 6: ...and runs for the exit, running for the exit misjudging how long it will take the gunpowder trail to burn (he's only human, after all, even if he is super). The flame reaches the barrel and we scan right to the “BA-WHOOM” sound effect, which carry the reader into…


Page 20, panel 7:  the center of the explosion that blows The Mark out of the of the ammo dump through foreground soldiers, whom are also being hurled toward and past camera. I must confess that I find panel 7 rather inelegant in terms of its use of eye-read. We enter the panel at the sound effect, are carried immediately down and right by the f.g. soldier’s leg, jump upward to catch The Mark. That’s all good, but then we notice, off to panel left, on the other side of panel 6, a glimpse of three more explosion-flung soldiers. I had originally, set up panel 5 to go to the bottom of the page and decided including more soldiers was necessary and worth the graphic clumsiness.


Page 21: The exploding ammo dump on page 20 has the beneficial effect of dramatically igniting the back of The Mark’s leather jacket as he demolishes the rest of the Archon’s troops. Mike’s plot outline called for many small panels each one of the Mark dispatching an individual (or small group) of troops in whatever imaginative way I could devise. I was deep in my Kirby phase, so I did it all in one large panel instead. Page  21, panel 1 is my attempt at a Jack Kirby action full-pager. My main regret is that the letterer ran the “CRNNCH sound effect over the foreground soldier’s leg. I tried to compensate by inking through the lettering, which I despise when other cartoonists do it. Oh well. One thing I’ve learned, its never say what you WONT do because, sooner or later (usually sooner) you’ll be called upon to do exactly that.


Panels 3 and 4: Oh boy, there it is, the big fight at last! Quick, turn the page…!


Page 22: …And it’s a bust. In panel 1 The Archon strikes a martial arts pose I learned from Tim Gula (a fellow animation and comicbook artist who studied a new defense method every year). He told us (my fellow TV Animated Batman artists and I) it was Philippine martial arts, possibly called Selot or Sillot or something like that, but I can’t find it online, so either I mis-remember or Tim was pulling our collective leg. Or maybe it’s an Aikido pose (I took Aikido for a few years around this time.)



But I digress. The Archon is fresh and ready to kick the remaining shit out of his archenemy. It might have been an interesting fight, but it is immediately interrupted by warning shots from The Mark’s posse (panels 2 & 3).


Panel 5 is my favorite on page 22.  The Mark’s unconscious, supine body works well with the left-to-right, up-to-down eye read, leading us down from Scrub, looping around to pick up Lisle, then sweeping us back up (that relaxed, inert hand is just TOO tasty) to S.A. Pierce as she ineffectually sprays some rounds at the retreating Archon.



These are pages 20, 21 & 22 for "The Mark" issue 4, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in March 1994. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader

Thursday, May 19, 2016

THE MARK IN AMERICA, ISSUE #4, PAGES 18 & 19



This two page sequence is the climax of the Helda /Dr. Steward story arc.
Parallels with the nativity are too obvious to ignore. I regret placing Helda in a proper motel room; it preferably should have been a linen or janitor’s closet (or the service vehicle garage. Shit! I only thought of it just now; that would have been great!), except there probably wouldn’t have been enough room for the action to play out.
Overall, I like the lighting; sourcing it from a single lamp next to the bed allowed for good dramatic effect, and also helps orient oneself spatially in the room.


I was going for a somewhat incongruous effect: Doctor Steward’s visit is an attack (sort of like Dustin Hoffman’s “visit” with Lawrence Olivier in “Marathon Man” even though, on page one, he is trying to play the role of Kindly Doctor even as he brandishes at hypodermic (staged as threateningly as possible).



The pretense vanishes in page 19, panel 1. Again, the needle was staged for maximum threat. I really like both Helda’s and Dr. Steward’s faces in this panel. After almost 120 pages, I was finally getting the hang of making her appealing.


I’m not so successful in panel 2; I still hadn’t figured out how to ink a beautiful woman in close-up, especially when she was screaming in pain. I shouldn’t feel too bad; the only artist I’ve seen who could really pull that off was Atlas-era Russ Heath.


Panel 3 is cool for the lighting; I really like the way Steward’s shadow divides the panel almost in half along the diagonal. Again, the pre-set single light source lamp next to the bed (here off camera) was used for good effect.


Panel 4. Another cool lighting job; Helda’s face is mostly in shadow, except for her eyes as she mercilessly buries the business end of the hypo in Steward jugular, the blood therefrom squirting across her hidden mouth. The writer, Mike Barr, wrote this sequence as happening tastefully off camera. My attitude was, “Fuck that shit.” I felt Steward had earned the dignity and horror of a brutal on-screen demise.


This made panels 4 and 5 a bit tricky though, getting both Steward’s death and Helda’s desperate phone call as her water breaks to play out in the same composition.


These are pages 18 & 19 for "The Mark" issue 4, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in March 1994. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader

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