Sunday, January 18, 2009

Superhero Sundays

Sunday used to be my favorite day of the week. I lived for Sundays.

As I wrote about here, I joined a role-playing game campaign that changed my life. Seriously, it changed my life. I met the friends in that Sunday Champions campaign that I have to this day. I moved to the area in which I live to be closer to them, so that we can go out and do things together. The campaign has long since gone by the wayside (in 1994, to be exact), but my friends and I still hang out. Even the ones who have moved away hang out when we play City of Heroes on Wednesday nights. And when Champions Online comes out soon, I suspect we'll switch over to that, because it will be the electronic version of the pencil and paper game that we played all those years ago.

There's a certain element missing (no, not your character, Carl) when you create our characters for online games, though. You can create your character using the templates provided in the game itself. You can choose from thousands of costume parts and millions of color combinations, but it's still limited by the game engine. It seems that every group back in those days had an artist, and back in 1988, I was that guy for our group. Whenever someone had an idea for a new character, they would approach me and I would accomodate them by drawing their character the way they wanted them. I would throw in suggestions here and there, and sometimes what I suggested would inspire them to do something a little differently. I would take their order one Sunday and by the next week, I would have a finished sketch done for them on 11 x 17 Bristol board. Sometimes I even got paid! Ten bucks went a long way back in 1988, especially for a substitute teacher who worked part time at Pizza Hut. That was my fun money. I would use it to buy art supplies, comics, game supplements, and the like. My paychecks always took care of bills, but my sketch money was mine.

My problem was that I was a sketch artist. I had no formal training beyond taking one art elective in college. I didn't even take art in high school, since it wasn't offered. I didn't know anything about inking, coloring, painting, or anything other than simple pencil work. I loved design work, but the other elements of comic book art were way beyond me. At that time, though, you could go to a comic book convention and get a professional sketch done by a penciller and have it inked by a professional inker for a reasonable price. We had to have inked artwork so that you could transfer it to a character sheet, and pencil art didn't copy especially well, and this was long before Photoshop. So one of my friends, Scott Burnham, decided to get a pencil sketch I had done for him of his character Quantum inked by a pro. I loved that drawing so much that he gave it back to me for my birthday several years later. It also provided me with the inspiration to have more of my sketches inked by professionals. I have had my sketches inked by a pantheon of comic book artists. I still have it done once in a while, and it's still a thrill.

I think I'll put one of these sketches up each Sunday until I have used them all. There will be a story behind most of them, and it'll be fun for me to remember watching the process, as I was almost always present when they were being done.

Here's Quantum, pencilled by me and inked by Mike Gustovich. Mike was the creator of the Justice Machine and did a lot of work for Palladium Games back in the 80s:

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