Tag Archives: DC comics

Part 4 of the Romano Molenaar Interview: Entrepreneurialism, contracts & the strain on family life

So this is it. The last part of my four-part creator spotlight interview with Dutch comic artist extraordinaire Romano Molenaar! While he was working on Birds of Prey issue 23, page 16, I asked him about the business side of things and how his extremely busy work schedule impacts his family life. Let this be a lesson, from one 15 year comic industry veteran to all aspiring artists: Drawing comics is all fun and stuff, but it also asks for some mayor sacrifices if you want to do this for a living…

Art from Storm #25 (Published by Don Lawrence Collection), pencils by Romano Molenaar, colours by Jorg de Vos.

Art from Storm #25 (Published by Don Lawrence Collection), pencils by Romano Molenaar, colours by Jorg de Vos.

When you look at a lot of big name artists, they are often also smart entrepreneurs…
Yes, that’s something that sometimes seems to be missing in the Netherlands. One artist has a lot of plans, but is not there yet qualitatively, while there are also people who really do top work and who go: “Gee, I can draw, now what do I do?” And I’m always trying to see with the projects I have on standby and in the Art Kings studio, what else can I do with them and what would be interesting now. That’s part of the business side of the trade. Finding a comic to draw is great fun, but what can I do with the name that I have built during the last fifteen years? How do I improve my chances of getting my foot in the door at video game companies? If I tell them I’m currently working for DC that opens a few doors. That’s why I regularly keep myself busy with the business side of things.

Talking about the business side of things, does DC allow you royalty rights?
Yes, I think with DC, when you sell 75.000 units, you get royalties. Only Birds of Prey sells about 17.000 a month, so we’ve still got a long way to go… However, I did receive an amount of royalties from the digital sales of Birds of Prey. That arrived rather unexpectedly, but it was a nice surprise of course. It wasn’t a staggering amount of money. But it does work, DC is very well aware of the sales numbers and it’s further incentive to the creators.

Is my assumption correct that the addition of royalty rights into freelancer contracts reflects an improvement in the way creator rights are handled by the ‘big two’ compared to the nineties?
Even for my Marvel work [in the nineties] I once received a royalty. For my Top Cow work I didn’t because they weren’t big sellers. But they had a similar type of construction. I believe that nowadays every contract has some kind of construction that when you sell above a certain threshold you receive royalties.

So, were you in a position to negotiate hard about your contract with DC?
Of course you’ll make a price agreement for the page rate. And you agree or you don’t. In my case, I was like: I have a studio here, I’ve got Storm,  so I won’t let this opportunity pass. As an artist, you can choose not to go for the top rate -I can tell you, the top rate ain’t bad- but instead do it to build your name. That way you’re investing in your résumé, and the money will come later, when you can sell yourself at a better price.

Storm Molenaar de Vos

When we began talking Romano told me he works from nine in the morning till twelve at night. Only interspersed by driving the kids to and from school and dinner. I asked him how his work schedule influences his family life?
It means it’s pretty hectic and there are some things I just don’t do very often. I don’t watch movies, I don’t watch TV -or I watch the news at half past one in the morning. Now that I work from home I see more of my children than ever before, and my wife of course. So that in itself became a win-win situation. The hard part of this is that I am home but not readily available. With children that’s sometimes difficult: When they want you to play or when they ask you to come play football outside… Then it all depends on my workload and schedule, whether or not I’m able to play with them. Sometimes, it’s not possible. On the other hand: if I’d just go to work in the morning, I would definitely not be able to. That’s tricky sometimes, when they do see their father but he cannot come along.

How old are your children?
I have identical twins, 10 years of age. They are now at an age that they are very curious and want to learn a lot. Of course I’ll answer them, but then I go: “Sorry, I have to continue working.” Being kids, they don’t always understand. But I have a spacious studio, so they occasionally come and play with me or make some music –I’ve also got some instruments in my studio- and sometimes they draw or colour along with me. That’s always a good time. So, that’s nice enough, no complaints there. Only other things… [exhales] ….like, parties… …If I really want to go to a party, I must really plan ahead in my schedule to decide if I can make it. It sounds harsh, but then the party really has to be worth it, to make the time. That’s sometimes difficult for people to understand: I’m constantly under a whole lot of pressure, because of my work.

What’s your general outlook? Is the time you’re currently putting in a temporary situation?
I’ve been doing it like this for something like fifteen years… So it’s become a bit ingrained. But now that I get older –and especially having children- I look at the hours I’ve put in and sometimes wonder whether it’s worth it. How do my career and the things I’m allowed to do relate to the time I spend working and the things I’m constantly giving up? That’s something you have to think about, now and then. This thinking usually leads me to conclude that I’m still having super much fun. Also, my wife doesn’t know any better, she understands that this is my passion. So the general idea is that I can do what I want with my drawings and she’s supportive of that. That support is very important to me. When I find out she’s no longer 100% supportive, we’re going to sit down and have a good conversation. Because to me, it’s not worth turning my personal life upside down. I’ll go pretty far, but we check in now and again to see if we’re still enjoying the ride. Occasionally this leads to the consideration: “Am I going to do this or not?”

Thanks so much again to MR Molenaar for taking time out of his schedule to talk to me. If you missed part one, part two, or three  you can always listen to the whole interview (in Dutch) through the Open Your Geek Mouth podcast, or find a paper version in the Dutch comic magazine Strips2Go. That’s it for now… I’m already busy with my next interrogation victim Boykoesh, of Captain Ultimate fame!

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The Romano Molenaar interview part 3: Creative process, technology & making it as an unschooled artist

Because he just wouldn’t shut up: (actually he shut up just fine, but I kept barraging him with my nerdy questions…) the thrird part of my interview with Birds of Prey (and former X-men and the Darkness) artist Romano Molenaar! If you like this, you might be interested in parts one and two… Additionally, als je dit begrijpt, you may want to listen to the podcast version of the interview

A couple of commissions by Romano Molenaar.

A couple of commissions by Romano Molenaar.

Could you describe your process?
I receive the script, I go through it a few times. Then I work out the layouts on an A4 sheet in a very raw form. Really just squares with circles. Most of the time there aren’t even eyes or mouths. This is just to show DC how I think the pages optimally follow the script. That will either be approved or they tell me something like: “Here should be a word balloon or that should move some more to the right.” That generally moves pretty quick, so you can start working on the pages as soon as possible. To DC’s credit, they say: “You’re the artist and you’ve got the best eye for the book’s visuals. So we’re not going to watch over your shoulder constantly.” Which is a very enjoyable way of working. When the layouts are approved, I’ll start to delineate some details slightly sharper in them. Then I print these again, but only very light. Then I just go over these with a pen and define the pictures even more, like determine the shadows a bit… And I scan these in again, print them at the correct format and throw them on the light box, under the official DC paper. Then I draw all the baselines in, without shadows. That’s all in pencil. And if the line bases are done, I continue to fill out the details. And that’s fun. The basis is already there, you’ve already gone over your angles, your physique and movements, so you only have to look at lighting and shadows, contrasts, expressions and that kind of stuff…

That’s all very traditional, do you do any digital work?
For comics, not really… I do a lot of pencil work, even for Storm. For the studio I do a lot of work digital. Now, I’ve also started to try out digital inking a little, but I’m old school and prefer working on paper. But yes, you have to stay up to date. And especially with our studio we work digital and I keep informed about that. I just don’t use it for the comics and Storm.

Okay, do you use any specific software, like Mangastudio, or is it more general stuff like Photoshop and Indesign?
I have checked them out, and gave them all a try. I’ve been working with Photoshop for about eight years, and that in itself is working very well. Occasionally you receive something new, like today I got Mischief, a vector-based drawing program, that’s quite interesting. It allows you to blow up your paintings on a really big scale. That’s something I’m going to take a look at, perhaps it’s interesting for the future. But now, it’s mainly Photoshop.

When I hear people talking about working digital, they often use speed as an argument. Hearing you talk about your workload, it surprises me you haven’t switched to digital for your comics work because of that…
I’m faster with pencil and paper then with a computer. I have a Syntique lying here on my desk, but I’m always so far into production that I have no time to really master it. In the time I’d invest to work well on that thing, I can complete a full issue of Birds of Prey. I’ll have to do it someday. But to get so far that I can achieve the same with a Syntique as I can with a pen and paper, will require quite some practice. There are many comic artists who have been doing it, so you see that it works fantastically. So I’m sure it would work for me, if I’d spend enough time on it. I’m just not sure if I want to spend that much time on it…

Here’s a look into Romano’s proces, from a cover he did together with colourist Jorg de Jong, for a Conan translation by Dutch publisher Dark Dragon Books (animation courtesy of http://www.stripspeciaalzaak.be).

Has the use of Skype and modern communication technologies changed the international aspect of your work at all?
Not really, I’ve actually worked like this forever. Fifteen years ago, when the internet was just coming up, I believe around 1995/96, I already had the idea of: “Hey, if you have internet you can communicate with each other much easier.” And that was just around the time an American Studio named Lion Comics came to the Netherlands -to Breda- henceforth things went very fast.

What’s your favourite character to draw?
I’m a big fan of The Darkness and I have had the honour to have drawn Wolverine in the X-men. Unfortunately, he did not have such a big role, but that’s a character that I’d want to tackle once more. I’m not explicitly looking for work at Marvel, if that was the case I’d already have knocked on their door. But I would absolutely love to work for Marvel again. I’m not really tied to DC. Again, if DC or Marvel would not be interested, I would like to work for other studios. But there are still a number of characters that I would like to draw: Iron Man, Superman, Green Lantern… You know, all these characters are interesting to work on.

Do you have any particular objects you enjoy drawing?
I’m more in favour of the male anatomy, especially the muscle groups. But it actually turns out that my women are often eye catching. I think that women are artistically my weak point. That’s funny because the studios do not always find that, that’s how I got put on Birds of Prey. Because my women were described as very strong, yet still feminine. It’s just like [Storm creator] Don Laurence, who thought he didn’t draw women well. While actually he his women were exquisite. Interestingly enough, that’s a similarity between us. I think my women are not as good as my male forms. Anyway, perhaps that will change. I’ll always have something to improve on. The female form actually is more difficult to draw than the male form and so I’m always playing around with that.

Okay, but do you enjoy drawing a certain object specifically?
I am always in favour of cars. I actually wanted to be car designer. So I’m always a big advocate of including cars or motorcycles in the script. In Birds of Prey I get to draw Batgirl riding her motorcycle a lot, so that helps. I’m not very much into drawing buildings, but that’s something that has to grow I think. I’m trying to get my buildings on the same level of my men and women. And Gotham City is of course super interesting to give a twist of your own!

You are not schooled in art. How did you teach yourself?
Purely by looking, seeing. Watching others. Take criticism, take it in and do something with it. It is not easy, you have to do it yourself. Nobody will draw for you. You should be open to improvement, you must be open to set a standard for yourself. Ask yourself: “Why are THESE artists where are they now?” Be critical of yourself. Just as I am critical of my women: These aren’t what they should be yet, that’s just an area where I can improve. And there are more things like that. You’ve got to make sure you keep an honest look at your own work. That’s hard because sometimes it becomes a grey area: When everyone says you’re good, you’ll be inclined to stop learning, which is obviously a dangerous pitfall. You have to remain clearheaded and keep looking at other artists to see where you can refine your own art. The urge to keep learning is imperative.

Be back next week for the last part of my talk with Romano, in which we discuss an artist’s entrepreneurialism, industry contracts and the strain on family life…

The Romano Molenaar Interview Part 2. Fruitful collaborations, designing DC characters & career goals

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here’s part two of my Romano Molenaar extravaganza. If you missed any of the earlier stuff, here’s part one and here’s the podcast of our talk.

Can you give an idea of collaborations that worked really well?
Let’s see… …I’m not really that great with names… When I worked at Top Cow, I worked with… …What was his name. I’m sorry, the name escapes me now…
Phil Hester?
Yes, exactly! Phil’s a very good writer, who can also draw particularly well, which is always an advantage. I must also say, that I… …Did I mention I’m not very good with names? [Both laugh] When you work at Top Cow, you often find out who inks your work, after the fact. And they’ve got inkers like Joe Weems who are really great. There are other names as well, but that’s a tricky subject for me as you can tell… Also, I must say that the team I’m working with now, Jonathan Glapeon and Chris Sotomayer, is a dream team. In fact, I used to do more freelance assignments, each six to seven issues and then on to the next thing… But now that I’ve had a year working for DC, those names stick in my head because I’m working with them for longer periods of time. I think that when you work together for so long, you’re going to appreciate their work better and your own work improves because of how great they are. As such, these guys are currently the names that pop up in my head when you ask about great collaborators. That makes it difficult for me to think of other less recent names.

Are there any names in the industry that you would like to work with in the future?
I’d really like to do something with Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee of course. If Jim Lee would like to draw layouts for a new Superman book for me to fill, I would not mind that at all… [laughs] Also, here’s the interesting thing: I’m now entering an area, where my contacts aren’t exclusively horizontal anymore, I may just end up working with someone higher up the chain in the comic industry! Though, overall I don’t tend to look over my shoulder too much, I’m much more interested in the future. Which is why I have to say: I’d like to work with anyone who knows what they’re doing and who can simply excite me with their story. I know, I know, that’s a very politically correct answer…. To me, the names are a little less important. But if you succeed in affecting me with you script, inks, or colours then I’d definitely like to work with you –whether it’s at Marvel, or Dark Horse, or wherever.

Art by Romano Molenaar

Art by Romano Molenaar

Did you ever receive any pro-feedback of big industry names that has been of particular value to you?
The other day I got some from Jim Lee! Jonathan [Glapion] had sent the cover ​​for issue 22 of Birds of Prey to Jim. Later Jonathan showed me Jim’s reply, along the lines of: “Very nice, it looks super good.” At that point you’re like: “Okay. We’re definitely getting closer to the fire.” You also see that a guy like Jim Lee is only human. Jim has obviously done a lot for the industry and achieved a lot. As an artist, that’s the guy you want to get feedback from, so you know you’re on the right track. And that’s something you have to do yourself, you need to strive to get the idea out of your head and onto the page as good as possible. But when a celebrity like Jim Lee says that, or Marc Silvestri ‘likes’ your art on Facebook, you think: “Okay, apparently I’m considered a good artist.” And it’s the same with big names like David Finch, sitting next to you at a convention, or Barry Kitson. When they see you drawing a Lara Croft commission and say: “Wow, that looks very good,” to hear it from their mouths is invaluable. Those are very nice experiences.

Have you done any design work for DC characters?

Yes, I designed a character named Condor for Birds of Prey. You get a description from the writer saying: “There will be a new character, that’s like this and this… …he only needs to be designed.” After that they basically tell you to go for it… Also, the cover of issue 22 shows a new team of villains I designed too. That is insanely cool to do. You get basic information, like one of them is a guy with electric powers, the other one is a big guy. Then you have to figure out how to visually fit these characters in the fictional world and make sure you’re actually designing something new… You have to give them your own twist. And that goes back to the experiences of my younger years, designing my own superheroes as a kid. You actually take some of that with you when you’re designing new characters. Like, when I was about twelve, I drew this guy… You know what; why not give this new character HIS coat? So sometimes you take a ride in the wayback machine, only this time it’s for real. That realisation is super cool.

Please, tell me more about what went into the design of Condor:
The suit was open, so to speak. I wasn’t told to do this or that. But he’s called Condor, so it should somehow have a bird motif. Designing the suit basically took a single sketch. The helmet however… I had given him a helmet that looked too much like Hawkman. Then Jim Lee made ​​a quick sketch of a Roman helmet, one of those things with an eye slit in it. After that, I finalized it in one or two sketches. I also created a number of colour variations in Photoshop and they chose the red, white and grey version.
Uh… I thought the helmet was purple and wanted to say he reminded me of Marvel villain The Wizard a bit:
Does he have a purple helmet? I think he has a red helmet. I often only see my pages back in black and white though. Let’s see… Yes, officially he should be red… It may be that the colourist put a layer of lighting on it, making it purplish… It’s supposed to be a little bit like burgundy.
Okay, never mind… What’s far more interesting, is that Condor is a visual co-creation of you and Jim Lee…
That’s right, I didn’t get to talk to him. But apparently he went around the office with the designs and received a lot of positive reactions… There was just the thing with the helmet, which makes you think: “Okay, that’s very cool. My design is going to my hero, my role model.” I’m actually creating characters that are for ever part of the DC legacy. That makes me think I’m doing something right.

U Decide: Condor's helmet: Purple or Burgundy??? Art by Romano Molenaar, from Birds of Prey #13 (DC comics).

U Decide: Condor’s helmet: Purple or Burgundy? Art by Romano Molenaar, from Birds of Prey #13 (DC comics).

Would you consider working for the Big Two to be your ultimate career goal in comics?
I’ve always been a big fan of Marc Silvestri and Image comics, so that’s where I initially leaned more to. But I’ve never thought: “Now it’s time for me to work for Marvel or DC.” I did say it’d be cool to work for them some time. But I think more along the line of: If it’s a cool character, or a cool story I don’t really care for which company I work. And now that I’m working for DC, I notice that –for me- there is no difference compared to working for Top Cow or Chaos Comics. To me, it’s all the same… Of course, with DC and Batman you have a slightly larger audience, which admittedly is an advantage. But if I stopped working for DC and started working for a smaller studio, I would do it with the same passion. I have to admit though: Working for DC doesn’t hurt your résumé.

And how does this relate to your European comic work?
You know, Storm is also something we have inherited from Don Lawrence. That will never be mine or Jorg’s. So I relate to Storm in the same way as my DC work. Fortunately, the fans are responding very well. We’re positively accepted as the new team at Storm. But it will never be our own thing. That’s the same with Birds of Prey. With Condor for example, it feels like that is actually my character, but it is –and always will be- the publishers’. So I can never say that Storm is closer to me than the comics, because in principle they exist at the same distance from me.

Besides working on Birds of Prey and Storm, Molenaar also runs the Art King studio, where he works on video game designs and other forms of audio-visual entertainment. I asked him if working for the Art King studio gave him more sense of fulfilment:
Yes, there are some projects in there that are our own initiative. When we design our own videogame characters we’re credited as the designers. That’s a big difference. The copyrights of those characters are also ours. Look, I will never get any rights on Condor. I can only say that I’m responsible for his visual design. And that’s okay, it’s good to know that I’ve contributed with my design. That’s more for myself, I won’t say: “Look, that is my character!” To me it’s just a milestone, and I take pride in it.

So, am I correct in assuming you have some creator owned ambitions in the comic field then?
Yes, I have. But because of my workload over the last 10-15 years, I haven’t had time to do a lot with that. But there are certainly a dozen ideas on the computer that I occasionally pick up again. These projects advance slowly, gradually, step by step… And if there’s ever time or an opportunity, these projects will certainly proceed. It’s just that my workload right now… …If I’d currently continue work on these projects I’d get in some serious deadline trouble. Because making your own production -creating and publishing it- that takes a lot of time and energy. But I’m always working with people, just throwing out lines. That’s also a precautionary strategy, for if DC calls it quits. I want to have some things standing by. In that respect, I’m always thinking ahead.

Come back soon for more Romano as we discuss his creative process, technological aids & making it as an unschooled artist

The Romano Molenaar Interview part 1: Current work, reflections on style & the differences between Euro comics and US comics

I was recently asked to write some interviews for the new Dutch comic & manga magazine Strips2Go. For this purpose I sat down with the guys of the Geekstijl Insider podcast as well as current Birds of Prey artist Romano Molenaar. The second one is published in the first edition of Strips2Go, which is currently sold in comic stores throughout the Netherlands. The magazine consists of two thirds of original comic & manga content, the rest being editorial content (columns, interviews and such) and having gone through the whole thing this weekend I must tell you it’s an excellent value purchase (only 1.95 for 71 pages!). The interview with Mr Molenaar was roughly one and a half hour of pure geekery (mostly from my side) and unique insights from a professional comic artist. Because of the length of the interview and the space I’m allowed in the magazine, I had lots of interesting material left which I will be presenting on my blog as a four part interview translated in English. Also, for those who don’t want to read and understand Dutch I edited my recording of our talk into the first instalment of my very own podcast: Open your geek mouth! (In which I open my geek mouth and other people talk back with their geek mouth… …Romano was a pro through and through, though. Little to no geek mouth on him…)

Romano Molenaar at Work

The Netherlands’ biggest export product -at least in the field of comics…

How would you describe your style?
I’m not really very conscious of my style, of course I grew up in the Image era… So there’s a lot of THAT in my style, but I try to add to this with my own sensibilities. Shading, cross hatching, that kind of stuff. At the base of my work is the art of Marc Silvestri. I’m a big fan of his work, there are definitely more than a couple of layers of him in my art. Then there’s also guys like Todd McFarlane, anyone can tell that I’m affected by his stuff. But as you progress, you’ll go and add things of yourself, leaving other stuff, defining camera angles… In doing so, you create a certain style of your own that is going to be recognized by the fans.

Looking back at the launch of the new 52 and the house style that harkens back to the nineties, you seem like a natural fit. Could you have guessed that this new editorial course from DC would lead to a steady stream of work for you?
I must admit that up to the point that I got in touch with Tony Daniel [writer of Molenaar’s first published DC work Detective Comics annual 2012], I didn’t read any comics anymore. I was actually more involved in game development. At that time I was just coming back at Top Cow, where I’ve done issues 95 to 100 of The Darkness. Top Cow’s is also my style, you know: The dynamic, flashy, sharp look. That really appeals to me with them. At that time, I had the intention of quietly trying to set myself up in the comic world again. That went a little further than I expected… And indeed looking at the New 52, that 90s era Image style was really what DC was looking for.

Art by Romano Molenaar, From Detective Comics Annual 2011

Art by Romano Molenaar, from Detective Comics Annual 2011

Looking at the different titles you have worked on in the past, it seems your visual style seems to change slightly on a project-to-project basis. How much of this is the result of working with different inkers and how much of this is you deliberately changing things up?
If I work for Top Cow, or for another studio, I look at the work of the studio and then I –apparently- take something of that style with me in my own work. And I often hear people go: “Hey, your work at Top Cow is much sharper!” Perhaps this is because Top Cow has those inkers, whose line work is very sharp. If you know that, you’re going to accentuate such a style in your pencils. My DC-work, in comparison, has much more of a narrative-driven focus. Also, the current house style of DC uses slightly quieter, rounder lines, with more shadows, more mass in the characters and backgrounds… Knowing myself, I probably picked up something from that. And I think that’s what people notice sometimes. But I don’t go like “let’s throw some DC into my art today”, or something… It goes quite unnoticed.

Can you elaborate on your different experiences with inkers?
Yeah, inkers are an important part of the team, as are colourists. They say the artist is the number one name on the book -although that is actually the author. Comics are foremost a graphic story, and I think that without a good inker and colourist –I’ve been there- the graphic part can go horribly wrong. In principle you work in a team of three and occasionally you have to hope that you are paired with people that you have a good click with, both artistically and personally. When you are tuned-in to each other, you can reinforce each other and learn to read each other’s work. When that happens, it strengthens the whole visual side of a book. This really raises the appreciation for your collaborators. That’s the point we have now reached with the creative team of Birds of Prey. We [Molenaar, inker Jonathan Glapion & colourist Chris Sotomayor] form a cluster of three with which we hope to raise the bar for Birds of Prey. I hope fans too will take notion of this, so we can get this title up and running again.
Yeah, reading the last couple of issues of Birds of Prey, I got the idea that this was a creative team that was perfectly in sync.
Yes, we’ve hit the point where we’re in the flow of delivering the next book, and then the next book, and happily continuing that cycle.

Is the collaboration for DC comics at all different from that on your Dutch title Storm?
I have pretty much a similar working relationship with Jorg [de Vos, colourist] and Dick [Matena, writer]. For Storm I also deliver pencilled pages. The only difference is that Jorg paints over my pencils. So I only have to deal with one person, that’s actually an advantage. Jorg is an extraordinary painter and also a very good penciller in his own right… Because of that, you can hand off something and know that it’ll work out fine. Look, if I ever miss a beat, you can see it through the painting, although I’m sure it will be picked up and handled adequately by Jorg. If you have a good wingman, you can start making speed. That knowledge is very soothing to me. To know that things will work out and look good, that’s the type of cooperation we’ve also got going currently with the Birds of Prey-team. …Just knowing that there are some really good people behind you, who know how to get things done…

Art by Romano Molenaar, from Storm #25 - Het rode spoor

Art by Romano Molenaar, from Storm #25 – Het rode spoor


Seeing as the two products look very different, is it true to assume there’s a big difference in production time?
The difference between the European and American comics is that in the US a book is required to come out on a monthly basis. Of course US comics are a lot thinner, averaging 20 pages. Add to that the fact that you’ve got a bigger creative team, which means that you can make more speed. But at the end of the month, the fact remains that you are expected to deliver 20 pages. Comics usually work with five panels per page, interspersed with splash pages and double splash pages. In European comics acting plays a much bigger role, as well as storytelling. You often see pages with the same face repeated five times to show a monologue in which something is explained. That something you don’t see in mainstream US comics very often. Because it’s a monthly medium, the US comic makes a lot of jumps in the storytelling which makes it sometimes go too quick in my opinion. When you have a European comic album creators really build up a balanced narrative. You get the album once a year and inside is the whole story. This is a longer process, especially for Storm, because Jorg spends at least a week working on a single page. That’s all done by hand, compared to the US comic which is digitally coloured. Nothing wrong with that, but you can still throw in a couple of changes faster than when it’s painted over. In that respect there’s a bit of real craftsmanship going into a Storm album, and that takes more time…

Do you take more time to produce pages for Storm?
Per page I take a bit longer, working on a typical page of Storm. That has to do with the fact that filling out a Euro-comic page works differently than filling a US comic page. In American comics you can play around with silhouettes and large blackened shadow areas, which is not possible on a Storm page. Because all of the backgrounds are fully painted, I also have to render them completely in pencils. So, there’s something of a difference.

That’t it for this part. Come back shortly for part two in which we discuss Romano’s collaborations, designing DC characters & his career goals…

Open Your Geek Mouth! Aflevering 1 – Romano Molenaar

geek mouth 500px

Voor wie op het Kamper Stripspektakel of in het nieuwe blad Strips2Go nog geen genoeg van Romano Molenaar kan krijgen, bied ik nu ook de optie om Romano in je oren te stoppen:

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Gedeeltelijke Shownotes:

40:00 over het ontwerp van Condor in Birds of Prey
41:00 Paars of Bordeaux rood, wie is er kleuren blind? Gerard, Romano of de inkleurder?!?!
43:09 Werken voor the Big Two, het summum?
44:36 Ligt Storm dichter bij je?
47:00: Creator Owned plannen?
48:16: Verdient het Amerikaanse werk ook beter?
49:29: “Je kunt het zelf zo lucratief maken als je wilt”
51:07: Ontvang je ook royalties op basis van de verkoop van Birds of Prey?
53:14: Hard onderhandeld over het contract met DC?
55:15: Hoe ziet jouw werkproces eruit?
57:44: Werk je ook op digitale media?
60:00: Herken je de ontevredenheid van Paul Jenkins naar DC editorial toe?
62:02: Welk personage teken je het allerliefst?
65:00: Over de voorkeur voor de mannelijke anatomie en het stoeien met de vrouwelijke…
76:10: Favoriete voorwerp om te tekenen
77:00: Gotham City en spannende camera hoeken
1:08:54: Wat teken je liever niet?
1:09:28: Paarden tekenen
1:10:02: Tip voor aspirant tekenaars
1:10:31: Hoe heb je het jezelf allemaal eigen gemaakt?
1:12:22: En hoe heb je jezelf de sequential story telling eigen gemaakt?
1:14:24: Effect van jouw werkdruk op je gezinsleven?
1:18:47: Zijn er ook schrijfambities?
1:19:58: Wat doe je nog naast de comics?

Runners up for week 39: Batwoman 1, Sweet Tooth 25, X-men Schism 4

2. Batwoman #1 (DC comics)                    
A flawless continuation of the Batwoman story by Greg Rucka an JH Williams III, showing that Williams doesn’t only have magic artist skills, but also writing skills (not to forget co-writer W. Haden Blackman of course). Art-wise, I would have liked to give this issue a ten, but I found some of the two page panel layouts were a bit confusing. But that’s a minor complaint of a beautiful book. This sees and explains Batwoman having broken off with her father and taking on a side kick, which I totally dig. This may be my favorite of the DC relaunch books, although I really think it’s an unfair comparison as this book has had a yearlong lead in time. Oh, and sometimes I get a bit over-enthusiastic about little art details (like the way I enjoy Yanick Paquette’s rendition of pigeons) and this issue has another pet peeve of mine: breaking glass. This issue has the most wonderful splash of flying glass I have ever seen. But it’s not just glass that looks great, Williams divides the book in two art styles. Detailed and photo-realistic with a thick line and stark color choices, for the out-of-costume scenes and beautiful painterly for the suited-up Batwoman scenes. I am in love with this book.
Art: 9.5           Writing: 9                   Overall: 9.2


3. Sweet Tooth #25 (Vertigo)                               
Jeff Lemire is a cruel Canadian donkey humper. There, I’ve said it. Not only is he evenly talented as a writer and artist, not only does he create one of the most unusual comics out there, but he’s also a cruel man. I’m not talking about the stuff he puts his character through in the book, but what he puts the reader through. For something like ten issues he’s led the reader to believe that one terrible thing has happened, which has influenced every decision made by two of the most important characters in this book. Well, in this issue, we learn that things did not pan out as we were originally led to believe… OMG, this has to be the cliffhanger of the year! I won’t spoil anything but oh what a surprise twist! The art is just as great as usual. Story-wise, the tension between Jepperd and the girls comes to a head. And he finds himself turned away from Gus, the (buck)boy he has sworn to protect. In my opinion, this is the best written issue in this series so far. We learn whether or not Gus survives being shot, then we see the group of survivors make a decision about staying at a safe location or heading further north, and then there’s this great, great cliffhanger!
Art: 9              Writing: 9                  Overall: 9

4. X-men Schism #4 (Marvel comics)      
This is like Marvel’s Civil War cross-over event, only for the X-men. The main point of conflict between Wolverine and Cyclops being whether or not they should put children on the battlefield. Cyclops thinks this is the case, Wolverine disagrees. They argue over this in front of the kids, Wolverine stating that the island nation of Utopia isn’t worth dying over, while Cyclops argues that this is where mutant kind should make their stand. And all the while there´s this crazy powerful super-Sentinel coming their way, with the purpose to destroy their home, Utopia. When Wolverine can’t convince Cyclops (or the children), he places explosives all over the island and threatens to blow it and the Mega Sentinel up, once it’s close enough. The children evacuate and then things get rough as Cyclops says: “She never loved you, you know. You always frightened her.’ At which Wolverine replies: ‘And if she was here right now… who do you think she’d be more frightened of?’ (Best X-men dialogue since ‘Professor X is a jerk!’?). This quip makes Cyke snap and things get physical, very physical as the two main mutants duke it out with a deadly Sentinel looming over them. All drawn very competently by the legendary Alan Davis and written by the writer who really gets the X-men, Jason Aaron.
Art: 8              Writing: 9.5                Overall: 8.7

Book of the week: Batman 1

Batman 1 variant cover by Ethan van Sciver

1. Batman #1 (DC comics)
Again with a Scott Snyder book? Yes, again with a Scott Snyder book. I understand how much it looks like I have turned into a mindless Snyder fanboy as of late (last week his Image book Severed was my book of the week for the second time in a row, and his first issue of Swamp Thing was my third favorite book of the week). But this man has some major story-telling props, he’s a fan of the medium and an accomplished novelist. Apparently, those things make for a deadly combination when writing comic books, whether they be of the horror kind or the superhero ones. But I digress…

I was honestly worried that the DC reboot would interfere with the quality of Scott Snyder’s magnificent run on Batman, which started back in Detective Comics. If this first issue is a good measure, my worries were uncalled for. Not only is this a perfect continuation of the noir-ish story he was already telling, it’s also a damned good first issue for entirely new readers (while small sayings and Easter eggs are there for readers of Snyder’s Detective Comics run to remind them, that this story is naturally progressing). The rebooting stays at a bare minimum in this title, aside from Jim Gordon not having grey hair anymore, I can´t see any changes in the continuity.

Jim Gordon by Greg Capullo

Look who got his hair dyed, it's Jim Gordon as drawn by Greg Capullo in Batman #1 (DC comics).

The story picks up with Bruce returning to Gotham and relieving Dick Greyson of his duty of playing Batman, after traveling the world in Batman Inc. Besides that we see Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damian visiting an elite party, where Bruce unveils his plans for the Gotham skyline. Later we see Batman meeting up with detective Harvey Bullock, to investigate a weird, sadistic, ritualistic murder which reveals a message for Bruce Wayne. The issue ends with a cliffhanger showing DNA traces of the culprit found at the scene of the crime pointing to someone very close to Batman.

Batman rogues by Greg Capullo

It's a couple of Batman's enemies as rendered by Greg Capullo in DC's Batman #1.

It is very smartly written, as a narrative we read a speech Bruce Wayne gives about Gotham, while the issue starts out with a small breakout at Arkham Asylum introducing (and showcasing artist Greg Capullo marvelous new renditions of) Batman’s rogues gallery. Later on in the story we learn about Bruce’s new contact lenses, which have incorporated facial recognition software. This allows for a couple of caption boxes to introduce all of the secondary characters. In an interview with Snyder over at War Rocket Ajax I heard him say that this story arc will build on all his previous Batman work (including the Gates of Gotham miniseries). This excited me to no end, because I really liked the villain that got introduced in Gates of Gotham. In this issue we are already seeing the seeds of how this all may connect to Gates of Gotham (Wayne enterprises is aggressively investing in Gotham’s future architecture).

Batman and the bats by Greg Capullo

This is how good Greg Capullo can make Batman look, art from Batman #1 by DC comics.

And, (oh boy) the art. I’m not very familiar with Greg Capullo, in my mind he was ‘another one of those Image’ artists. But oh my God is he good! He is the perfect successor of Jock and Francisco Francevilla. It’s dark, it’s dynamic, it’s detailed, highly stylized and a bit exaggerated. Capullo was born to draw the Caped Crusader and it looks like he’s having a good time doing so. Especially the scenes where Bruce is in costume look fantastic! In the plain clothes scenes I get the sense that Capullo’s style isn’t really my cup of tea. But notwithstanding my personal taste, this looks ravishing.
Art: 9.5                 Writing: 9           Overall: 9.2

Quick shots for week 37: Space fights, money laundering and vampire whacking!

5. The Mighty Thor #4 (Marvel comics)                                                                   8.7
This issue Thor is packing the funny: ‘Aye, Omnipotence has its down side’. And we get to see that rarest of things in all Marvel comics: a glimpse inside the head of Galactus! Buy this issue for great all-out action between Galactus and Silver Surfer on one side and Thor, Odin and nine other Asgarians on the other. This is how a fight of cosmic proportions is executed, there are high stakes (they are fighting over an object that could sate Galactus´ hunger and thus save untold billions of lives throughout the universe), holes in big purple heads and blows that launch opponents through solar systems. And it’s all drawn really pretty by Oliver Coipiel, who went all out on the designs for Asgardian space suits.
6. The Rinse #1 (BOOM Studios)                                                                                      8.6
A crime series about high finance and low-down greed. Think the criminal part of Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Philips’ Criminal, combined with the procedural stuff from television’s The Wire and that makes for one hell of an interesting and original crime comic. We follow a hustler who’s very good at laundering money. In this issue he gets involved in a high stakes operation as well as, quite surprisingly, the law. The art felt a little like Sean Philips lite, which isn’t really a bad thing. The story was very good. Can’t wait to learn where this is going.
7. Batwing #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                 8.5
I think this is the second issue with Ben Oliver art I’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure I have become of fan of this guy. I picked this up because this spins out of Batman Inc., which I have loved thus far. This first issue, written by Judd Winnick, really is surprisingly good. We follow this guy that has gotten Batman Inc. support in an African country. He works for the police in his day job, which provides him with opportunities to tie his day and night work together. And that’s just what happens in this issue as he stumbles upon the work of one Massacre. Massacre seemingly likes to decapitate and dismember people and build structures with different body parts (hey, to each their own…). So, be warned this is pretty nasty, graphic, bloody stuff.
8. OMAC #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                       8.2
Read this because of all the buzz it got on the Eleven O´Clock Comics podcast, and while I get the cause of the enthusiasm, I just don’t share it. That may be because I’m not such a big Kirby fan as they are, or because I’ve never read any OMAC prior to this. Basically, this introduces OMAC as a kind of mind controlled super strong robot/cyborg Mohawk Smurf, that breaks into the Cadmus laboratory to hack into the mainframe. In doing so he reconnects his ‘master’ with the Cadmus database. It’s a fine comic, especially the art is very strong. Keith Giffen, channels Jack Kirby, while staying through to his own style and puts more details in his pencils than I think I’ve ever seen him do. This results in great dynamic art and exquisitely detailed backgrounds. What was visually most appealing to me is the coloring by Hi Fi studios. The dialogue was okay, but the flow of the story and especially the action was great. It’s just not really my cup of tea. I will pick up the second issue, but I´m still on the fence about continuing after that.
9. The Mighty Thor #5 (Marvel comics)                                                                       8
What happened this issue??? Well, things get VERY epic as Odin and Galactus knock each other out. Galactus got on his feet again, Odin didn’t. Then there’s also Volstag who’s preparing for war with the citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma. And Thor is jealous that Sif is riding on the Silver Surfer’s board… The art was a little worse for wear and Oliver Coipiel (maybe my favorite current artist) got an art assist from Khoi Pham, who is a great artist in his own right and can change his style well enough to match Coipiel, but it’s just not as good as Coipiel firing on all cylinders.
10. Sanguis #0 (DROP comics)                                                                                        7.7
Wow. That was good, that was very good. This short prequel flows like a motherfucker, has some strong Humberto Ramos inspired art, exquisite, rough and moody colors as well as strong, confident inks. This sets up the story for what we can expect in the following issues, a priest with a magical medallion, a hot chick vampire hunter, vampires (of course) and balls-to-the-wall action! I was bummed that the rest of the series will play out in current times and not in the ‘40’s, like this issue. A minor critique is that the inks on the last story page stood out a bit compared to the rest of the issue. That doesn’t spoil the book though, I’m excited to read on and curious as to what I’ll find in future issues.
11. Sanguis #1 (DROP comics)                                                                                          7.7
This again was very good. You get the feeling it’s written in English by a non-native, (which it is of course) however this does not take away from the experience, or the story (which is very intriguing) and makes me very curious for next issue, which is written in Dutch. In this issue we follow Father Fred as he heads out to Switzerland to fulfill the dying wish of his friend bishop Van der Steen. Here he meets the Frauenknecht family who is secretly tasked with the protection of the ‘best guarded secret inside and outside the church.’ A secret that goes back hundreds of years and currently hangs around the neck of the attractive young Frauenknecht daughter, Eve. What this issue lacks in action (especially compared to last issue), it makes up for in flow and smart story telling techniques. The art takes a weird turn this issue, it’s just as good as last issue (though again it looks like the inking is a tad inconsistent here and there with varying line thicknesses), but is different stylistically. While last issue it reminded me of Humberto Ramos topped off with some beautifully rough inks and colors, this issue the colors had a bit of a less rough texture. The pencils however, are still reminiscent of Ramos. Nevertheless, I get a stronger Tony Moore-vibe, with a bit of a Declan Shalvey edge to it… What makes this issue particularly strong though is the acting of father Fred. The grief over the loss of his friend, as well as the amazement of heading out to Switzerland for who-knows-what, are written very clearly all over his face.
12. Sanguis #2 (DROP comics)                                                                                         7.6
I loved the backmatter explaining a little about the artistic process of Dimitri Jansma. I really like to see artist evolve (or just change it up a bit), and that’s just what you get when you read Sanguis. Visually, every issue subtly distinguishes itself from its predecessor. Though I personally enjoyed the styles of the first two issue better (this issue showcased some adventurous color choices in certain panels), this looks top notch too. I especially liked the big splash page of people outside of a silhouetted house. It looks very peaceful, which I guess is exactly what it’s supposed to convey. In this issue writer Gert-Jan van Oosten continues to show his skills as a storyteller. Sanguis #2 flows really good, and in only two and a half issues Van Oosten has created a richly detailed world, which I really want to know more about. In this issue main character Fred Siebelink meets two centuries old, Sanguis warriors (aka holy vampire and werewolf hunters). Just as they’re starting to get acquainted, all hell breaks loose as they are attacked by a coalition of (weirdly familiar) werewolves and vampires. Enter one kick-ass action scene. My only nitpick of this series is that I want to know more about the Sanguis and the world they live in, I understand the need to keep some things a mystery. But I think that when we learn a bit more, readers will be vested in this world more strongly. Understandably, that might not be possible in the format they have for Sanguis. But maybe a future issue could have a prose peace, offering some sweet revelations or something. Come on DROP comics, the people demand more Sanguis!
13. Herc #6.1 (Marvel comics)                                                                                          7.5
Good jumping-on point and cute story about Hermes being ordered by Zeus to find the depowered, former god Hercules who has pillaged the legendary weapons cache of Ares, to continue his journey as a superhero. Fun issue, but that’s a given with Fred van Lente and Greg Pak writing Herc. Not so keen on the Mike Grell art though…
14. The Living Corpse. Exhumed #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)                   7
I bought this because of the super sexy (though really misogynist) cover. Sadly, (well, maybe not) things didn’t get so steamy (rapey) on the inside of the book. The art looked fine, though I was inked a bit too stiff if you ask me. Story-wise it was a fun, action packed issue of The Living Corpse fighting vampires. Also, a good cliffhanger revealing the villain of this book.
15. Static Shock #1 (DC comics)                                                                                     6.2
After having read (and loved) John Rozum’s latest volume of Xombi, I had high expectations for this series. Sadly they weren’t met. They didn’t even come close. The first half felt like a bad nineties comic (everything, from character designs, to buildings, looks like nineties Spider-man). Early on this issue is nothing but horrible dialogues, combined with mediocre art. In the end the quality picks up a little but not enough for me to stay interested. This issue sees Static working as an intern at Star Labs, having moved to New York. Unbeknownst to him, he becomes involved in an incomprehensible criminal plot, which ultimately (SPOILERS) seems to cost him an arm. Hence the name of the next chapter: ‘Disarmed’. (Really??? DC doesn’t think that’s a little on the nose?) I will be back, but only to see how they handle this mutilation…

I guess I’ll be lowering the number of books I’ll be reading the following weeks as I’m busy with both work and internship as well as having just cracked open the original book version of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.

Book(s) of the week 35: Flashpoint. Batman. Knight of Vengeance #2-3

I know that writing about a series, weeks after it’s been published, will not boost clicks to this website. But I have to give credit, where credit is due. Batman. Knight of Vengeance, in my onion, was the best Flashpoint tie-in of them all. But it’s not just a good tie-in, it’s an excellent elseworld tale that can stand on its own just fine if you don’t know anything about the world of Flashpoint.

Let me set it up for you: Issue one shows Batman, with some small visual tweaks to his costume, without his Batcave. Instead he operates from one of his Wayne skyscrapers. He’s the same brooding vigilante that we know and love, and we get so see him take Killer Croc down. But here’s the catch; this isn’t your daddy’s Batman, this is Batman’s daddy. Instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne getting shot by Joe Chill and Bruce donning the cowl to strike fear in the hearts of a ´cowardous and superstitious lot´, Bruce gets shot. He dies and it´s Thomas that sets out to stalk the dark alleys of Gotham city in a quest for revenge. As cool as a concept as it is, this much was given away in the first issue of the main Flashpoint series. So overall, back when I read the first issue I thought cool premise, good art, but otherwise nothing really special. Well, that changed in the last two issues of this series.

The first issue ends with the Joker kidnapping the children of district attorney Harvey Dent at Wayne manner. The second issue shows how James Gordon goes in before Batman and some horrible shit happens both to Gordon and one of the kids. The great, big and very unexpected reveal cliffhanger here is that the Joker is someone very, very familiar to Thomas.  Than the last issue, they fight, run around and ultimately forget about the kids.

That’s one of my (very minor) problems with this series. In the second issue, it looks like one of the kidnapped kids bites the dust, but in the last issue Batman finds out he can still save her. Sadly, he is so busy with the Joker that him saving the kids (I’d have guessed that that’d be the most important goal here) is not shown in this series. In my opinion, they should have spent a couple of caption boxes explaining how the kids ended up (or killed them off earlier).

I’m trying not to spoil anything, so take it from me that this has some solid, lean, atmospheric writing by Brian Azzarello. The art is outstanding too. Again, very atmospheric and while it’s Eduardo Rizzo’s unmistakable unique style, it is also remarkable cinematic. Great dramatic camera angles are used very effectively to enhance the tension. Also some visuals, especially the looks of the Joker and Jim Gordon, seems inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.


So, while this can be perfectly read without any knowledge of the Flashpoint series, the question whether or not Batman should pick a fight to change reality back to where Bruce lives instead of his parents, plays heavily in to this. Giving this series that extra bit of emotional punch, while also incorporating it into the events of Flashpoint. So for a good, short, standalone Batman series, look no further then Flashpoint. Batman. Knight of Vengeance.
Issue 2: Art: 9             Writing: 8.5    Overall: 8.7
Issue 3: Art: 9.2         Writing: 8.2    Overall: 8.7

Runner ups for week 35: Flashpoint 5, The Outsider and Gates of Gotham

3. Flashpoint #5 (DC comics)
Holy shit, was I giddy for this mini-series and this final issue in particular. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited by a mainstream superhero comic. Yeehah! Some background for the casual comic reader: This September publisher DC comics of Batman and Superman fame has stopped all of their series and will start out with 52 new ones, that all start from scratch. It looks like they are throwing away all the previous continuity and introducing the characters in new and exciting ways. In the previous months, it slowly became clear that their blockbuster summer event title Flashpoint would somehow be the catalyst for all the changes that were to come. And that is why I was so excited for this issue, this conclusion forms the creative explanation for what the hell DC is doing! In this issue we learn that one of the heroes is actually responsible for changing the time stream and causing a ripple effect that alters reality into that of Flashpoint. Because this reality is whack like crack he eventually undo’s his actions. However he is not capable of putting things back exactly as they were and that allows for all the stuff DC is doing in their 52 new number ones. I loved this very much, Kubert’s art was a little inconsistent but otherwise this book, in my opinion is the best event series since Marvel’s Civil War. Some quick remarks:
*There’s a great big fight in this issue, but sadly we don’t see much of it.
*There used to be 52 alternate realities in the DC mythology, why did only three get mixed into the new status quo? What about the other timelines?
* How do the time stream alternations make everyone in the new DC younger?
*Congratulations to DC for a very entertaining and hopefully successful transition!
Art: 7.5           Writing: 9       Overall: 8.2

4-5. Flashpoint. The Outsider #2 & #3 (DC comics)
If you just can’t get enough of the world of Flashpoint than the Outsider is a series you should really pick up. Strong writing by James Robinson and solid art by Javi Fernandez make for one hell of a read that will hold up even if you don’t care for Flashpoint at al. Basically it’s the story of an Indian anti-hero/villain/industrialist/millionaire who uses his superpowers to get what he wants. He’s pretty ruthless, is involved with the resistance against Aquaman and Wonder Woman out of business principles and is targeted by either one of those warring parties. This series mainly revolves around the Outsider figuring out who wants him dead and then trying to stay one step ahead of them. If you want cool visuals, this book’s got it: from a fantastic redesign of Martian Manhunter, to a 1970’s Calcutta ligthsaber gang war; newcomer Javi Fernandez makes this book look stellar. In the second issue the art took a small dip, but was still very good, the final issue rocked hard again. Also, this book makes a cool little nod to old DC continuity where there are 52 multiple alternate earths in different timelines, the Outsider has dimension hopping technology and weaponizes it in the third issue. Both issues got 8’s all around.
Art: 8              Writing: 8       Overall: 8

6.  Batman. Gates of Gotham #5 (DC Comics)
Aaaaaaaand the awesome sauce that is Trevor McCarthy returns to grace the pages with his artwork once more. I love this guy’s art so freaking much: from the creases and folds in the cowls, to the architecture and the perfect usage of toner dots. I’m seriously looking at this guy’s earlier stuff. This final issue was a lot better than the last one, both on the writing (Scott Snyder is back on board with this one) and on the art. I can’t believe how many people have been involved with this miniseries, (story-wise three, art-wise, art and layouts four, I believe). This series wraps up pretty good (and much better than I had anticipated after last issue), and was successful in that it provided an entertaining story, introduced a great new villain, delved more into the relations between the different Bat family members and offered a little resolve concerning the changes that are coming with the DC line-wide reboot.
Art: 8              Writing: 8       Overall: 8

My pick of the week will be online tomorrow, if anybody cares.