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The Secret Sauce – The More Things Change

posted on March 29, 2017

When Crankshaft graduated from Funky Winkerbean and I was looking for an artist to illustrate my cantankerous bus driver’s story, the first and only person I sought out was a fellow art student from Kent State University named Chuck Ayers. He turned out to be the perfect choice and Chuck and I have shared a lot of adventures together riding Crankshaft’s bus. Later, when I decided I could use some penciling help on Funky to help me get a jump on both Funky and Crankshaft’s calendar, Chuck came on board to pencil Funky as well. The combination of Chuck pencilling, with me inking, lettering and cleaning the studio worked so well, that he just stayed. But, as rewarding as it’s been working together, nothing goes on forever, so when Chuck came to me and said he wanted to leave the strips to do other things…

I wished him well and then sought out the first and only artists I wanted to have replace him.

In fact, they’d been on my radar for quite some time. When my son was little, we used to watch the Batman Animated Adventures on TV together. It was truly breakthrough work and I soon became a fan as well of the the art in the comic books that spun off from the show. Two of the artists in those books in particular stood out to me, Dan Davis and Rick Burchett. Both artists are Eisner Award nominees and Rick is a three time Eisner Award winner, Haxtur Award winner and Eagle Award nominee. Dan was the one I tapped to be the new artist on Crankshaft and, as you can see from the Sunday page included in this post, he’s making me look pretty smart. Dan has picked up on Crankshaft without missing a beat, and, if it didn’t say Batiuk & Davis instead of Batiuk & Ayers under the logo, I sincerely doubt that anyone would know that anything had changed. Dan’s work first appears with the April 2 Crankshaft Sunday.

Once again I’m working with a southpaw.

Similarly, Rick has moved right in on Funky and, again, as you can see from the enclosed Funky daily strip, made it seamlessly his own.

As before, Rick is only doing the pencils after which I jump in with the inking, lettering, studio cleaning and, of course writing both Funky and Crankshaft. Actually, Rick has already appeared in Funky having been onboard for two of the comic book covers that later this year will be auctioned off to raise money for the Lisa’s Legacy Cancer Fund. Rick’s work first appears with the May 28 Funky Sunday, and I’ll have more to say about working with him and our process as we get closer to that date.

And, as it turns out, Chuck isn’t leaving Funky altogether. Apparently, you can take the artist out of Funky, but you can’t take Funky out of the artist. So Chuck and I will still be working on selected story arcs down the line. This is one of those rare examples in life of being able to have your cake and eat it too, and I couldn’t be happier as I move forward on Funky and Crankshaft with these titanically talented artists. I’ve always loved comic books and having a couple of comic book pros to work with is going to bring a renewed energy and will help me take the work to a new level. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and as Crankshaft would say, there’s a lot of history ahead in the future.

John Darling – Take 56

posted on March 26, 2017

Batty Batom Bullpen – Ron Frenz

posted on March 25, 2017

When I was talking with Ron Frenz about creating the Amazing Mr. Sponge cover, I told him I wasn’t looking for a humorous or camp cover. I said that this character was totally serious and that’s how I wanted the cover to be. He said he understood. So when I got the cover there were a couple of surprises. First, Ron had added a sidekick for Mr. Sponge… Absorbing Junior… and, in spite of what I had told him, I loved it! In fact, I wish I’d thought of it myself. The second surprise was that he’d asked Sal Buscema to ink it. Sal’s inks had graced some of my favorite books (Kree-Skrull War anyone?)  back in the day and it was a genuine thrill to see the Spider-Girl art team reunited. Top it all off with the fact that the cover is an homage to the “Robin Dies at Dawn” Batman cover and you’ve got yourself a real gem. Ron wouldn’t be the last artist to use a Batman cover as inspiration, but that info will have to wait that other cover is revealed.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, check out the gallery on this site and click on the covers to enlarge them. You’ll be in for a treat and we’re only getting started.

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