Monday, May 2, 2016


For issue #4, I’ll be posting my rough layouts along with each page. Since the writer, Mike Barr, and I were working “Marvel Style” (in that he gave me a fairly fleshed out plot outline as opposed to a finished script, writing the dialogue and captions to my penciled pages) I suggested possible dialogue to go along with my staging, anticipating that Mike, or the editor, Bob Schreck, would ask for changes in my layouts before I went into the tight pencils. This was how we worked in the animation biz; I had been trained to accept that as a normal part of the collaborative process.

I was trying to be Eisner-esque in my splash pages, and this one was more explicit than many of them. It works better as an idea than in actuality. There are two problems: the lettering on the headlines and the lack thereof on the body type (i.e., the horizontal lines suggesting type so as not have to draw type for the entire front page). I lay the first problems squarely on the letterer doing his usual hack job; the blame for the second rests on me, both conceptually (the paper was too close to “the camera” to allow this type of suggestive drawing passable, and there was no way I or the writer, Mike Barr, was going to actually write a full front page full of lead articles and THEN letter them by hand.  And if the computer graphics technology was advanced enough in 1993 to allow writing the copy, typesetting and then warping it over the surface of a slightly folded newspaper, I didn’t have access to it) and in execution (the lines used in cross hatching the folds of the newspaper contradicts the parallel horizontal lines used to suggested the body type). Not one of my more successful moments.

This is page 1 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 1, 2016


This is the cover for The Mark, issue #4, Volume #2, also known as “The Mark In America”. On the left is my original pencil design for the cover; on the right is the design as printed. The cover was painted by Jim Rhon, creator of “The Holo Brothers”.

 My experience of working with Bob Schreck, my editor on “The Mark” was that he was an extremely hands off editor, almost to the point where I was unsure whether or not he was actually looking at my work. In this instance I was surprised when Bob rejected this cover after I had done a tight pencil. He was quite apologetic but said he couldn’t use this as a cover, that the figure of the main character was lost in the pile of storm-trouper bodies, that it was a big mess. Not to worry; I’d still be paid. Bob would commission Jim Rhon, who had painted all the covers thus far, to do an alternate version so things would look consistent and everything would be cool.
On one hand I was vaguely pleased; his objection to this specific cover meant that he actually liked the other stuff I’d done. On the other… all I can say is, there’s no accounting for taste. I definitely prefer my version to that which saw print.

This is the Cover 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 and Jim Rohn.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

46) April 30, 2016

These are pages 47, 48 and 49 from a story board for a proposed series called “Roxie’s Raiders”, done by Jack Kirby for the Ruby-Spears animation studio, some time in the early ‘80’s. (My set of copies has many gaps; I invited anyone who is able to fill those gaps. I’m missing pages 4,6,12, 14 through 29, and 36 through 46.)

The last sentence of yesterday’s post puts me in mind of something that I hadn’t questioned until writing that sentence: That John Dorman, head director of the Ruby-Spears Action-Adventure Storyboard Department, was also in charge of the Presentation Art Department (or whatever it was called. It was the department in charge of working up ideas for new series to pitch to the networks.) Is this actually true though? Was John Dorman the decider-in-chief who got to commission his favorite comic book artists to come up with ideas for series? I assume he had to answer to Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. 

To quote Wikipedia: “Ruby-Spears Productions (also know as Ruby-Spears Enterprises was a Burbank, California based entertainment production company that specialized in animation. The firm was founded in 1977 by veteran writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. Both Ruby and Spears started out as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera, and later branched out into writing stories for such programs as Space Ghost and The Herculoids. In 1968, they were assigned the task of developing a mystery-based cartoon series for Saturday morning, the result of which was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. They were also writers and producers for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, particularly for The Pink Panther and Sons.[1]
The firm's credits include the animated series Fangface, Fangface and Fangpuss, The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Thundarr the Barbarian, Rubik the Amazing Cube, the 1983 version of Alvin and the Chipmunks series, The Centurions, the 1988 Superman series and the American Mega Man cartoon series.
Only one series, Piggsburg Pigs!, used Canadian voice talent rather than American one like most of their other cartoon shows. Ruby-Spears was also responsible for the animated sequence in the 1988 film Child's Play.
The Ruby-Spears studio was founded in 1977 as a subsidiary of Filmways Television and was sold in late 1981 to Taft Broadcasting, becoming a sister company to Hanna-Barbera Productions. In 1991, Ruby-Spears was spun off into RS Holdings while most of the original Ruby-Spears library (its pre-1991 library) was sold along with Hanna-Barbera to Turner Broadcasting System, which in turn merged with Time Warner in 1996. The Ruby-Spears studio closed in 1996.[2]”

This obituary of John Dorman is quoted from Animation Magazine , February 1, 2011.
“Veteran storyboard artist John Dorman died Saturday at the age of 58, according to a post on The Animation Guild blog. The cause of death has not been revealed.
Dorman began his career in 1974 as an assistant animator on The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. Within a few years, he was working regularly as a layout artist on animated TV series such as Tarzan, Fantastic Four and Plastic Man and a segment in the animated feature Heavy Metal.
In the 1980s, he worked as a story director on such series as Thundarr the Barbarian, Goldie Gold and Action Jack, Rubik the Amazing Cube, Mister T and Foofur.
Dorman’s credits as a storyboard artist include The New Adventures of Batman, Smurfs, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Ripping Friends and the 2005 animated feature Valiant. He also designed characters for several projects, including an animated Police Academy series.
The images in this story are from Dorman’s blog, which you can find at

Wow. John was only 2 years older at the time of his death than I am now.

Friday, April 29, 2016

45) April 29, 2016

These are pages 32, 33, 34, and 35 from a story board for a proposed series called “Roxie’s Raiders”, done by Jack Kirby for the Ruby-Spears animation studio, some time in the early ‘80’s. (My set of copies has many gaps; I invited anyone who is able to fill those gaps. I’m missing pages 4,6,12, 14 through 29, and 36 through 46.)

Now that I’m in my mid 50’s I react to Bruce Timm’s youthful reluctance to hire his heroes from the vantage point of having experienced age discrimination myself. (Or not--- people don’t tell you why they don’t hire you.) However, the question of “teachablity” remains: does being older mean one is no longer willing or able to learn and grow? I fantasize about asking Kirby if he wanted to learn how to do actual production storyboards for animation, not just do inspirational pseudo-boards.

I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, comics storyboards are similar but not the same, and many a comic book artist has foundered on the shoals of the animation industry without knowing why. Drawing for animation is a particular skill, requires a particular mind-set. One needs to be able to draw attractive, compelling still images that are also part of a sequence that, when looked at 24 times per second, depict movement. Storyboarding panels are like snapshots of a future movie, not illustrations in themselves. Unlike comics, left-to-right eye read isn’t normally a consideration, unless one is holding for several seconds on a motionless establishing shot (if there is any movement, the eye will go immediately to that.)  As seen in these samples, Kirby continually makes the mistake of taking 2 or 3 panels, the format of a pan, and treating them as a single image. Would there have been any gain by pointing this out to Jack? Did John Dorman try, or did he just sit back and enjoy the bravura spontaneity of the drawing and storytelling?

It’s possible that, if approached correctly, Kirby might have gotten it. Storyboarding for animation is its own special art form, and, if you get in the grove, can be extremely satisfying on its own terms, even apart from its utility as the template for a future film (but the second aspect is primary). Studying one’s favorite movies and figuring out how to replicate or expand on their effects or even coming up with new filmic ideas, especially in a production environment of likeminded peers, can be a heady experience, and Kirby might have really taken to it.

On the other hand, Kirby was an idea man above all else, and it probably would have been a waste of time to have him toiling in the day-to-day nuts and bolts. His was the grand vision, not the particulars. It may have been that John Dorman (assuming he was in charge in this regard) was exactly right in setting up things as they were at Ruby-Spears.

44) April 28, 2016

These are pages 11, 13, 30 and 31 from a story board for a proposed series called “Roxie’s Raiders”, done by Jack Kirby for the Ruby-Spears animation studio, some time in the early ‘80’s. (My set of copies has many gaps; I invited anyone who is able to fill those gaps. I’m missing pages 4,6,12, 14 through 29, and 36 through 46.)

In my career as a storyboard artist and director of animation, I have often been assigned the task of supervising or correcting other artist’s storyboards, “making them work” as it were. If I were give THIS storyboard to “fix” (sacrilegious as that thought is), the first task would be to re-size every single panel so that it fit within the aspect ratio of the panel, or, which would be easier, simply erase or white out the art spilling upward into the SC and BG number lines, followed by an admonish to the artist to stay within the panel boarders. Then I’d tell the artist to add backgrounds; even if the backgrounds are out of focus, one needs to be out of focus on SOMETHING. One can call out color card backgrounds, but that sort of thing should be used sparingly, like when the camera is pointing up at the sky.

PAGE 13: This page is obviously meant to be a single panel, so all that really needs doing is to make sure the overall aspect ratio is correct. The red Sharpie “x” across the page would seem to indicate that the whole thing was cut, but from what? There was never a pilot made from this storyboard, as far as I know. I would specify in the staging directions that the water and flames need to be animating, maybe draw out a 3 pose cycle for those two elements.

PAGE 30: Again with the artwork bleeding out of the image area into the book-keeping area. Knock it off, Jack! Also, is panel one and two a pan? If so, which direction are we panning? If it’s not a pan, then Xerox it down and redraw it to fit in one panel. Give me at least two acting poses on Demon in both panels one and three. Panels three and four won’t work if the bookkeeping part of the image is erased, so they need to be expanded out to either side. Screen direction on Demon flops for no reason between panels one and three, please fix.

PAGE 31: God, this is too painful. It reminds me of what Bruce Timm said about not wanting to hire his heroes (as in Jack Kirby and Alex Toth): he didn’t want to be in the position of humiliating them by forcing endless changes upon them. I can only imagine that John Dorman was looking for excuses to give Kirby work and accepting the results as inspiration, not something useable in and of itself. Basically, what we have here is a comicbook pretending to be a storyboard. To work as the latter it would have to be adapted by another artist, who would end up having to put more man-hours into it than Kirby did in the first place. It would be a fun job, though.