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The Secret Sauce – Batman’s in the House

posted on May 20, 2017

As I discussed in a previous post, Batman animated artist Rick Burchett is coming on board at the end of this month to work with me on Funky. I thought I’d dig a bit deeper this time to give you a peek at the process involved in our working together. This is where I should probably insert a spoiler warning because we’re going to check in on an upcoming Funky Sunday where the Starbuck Jones crew is kicking back at the Del Coronado hotel on Coronado Island following their Hall H rollout of the Starbuck Jones movie at Comic Con.

Things kick off with Rick and I going over the script and discussing the setting and tone of the piece. This is a particularly packed one as the actors Mason, Marianne, and Cliff, the director Martin Johns, and the writer and story board artist Pete and Darin are kicking-back after their Comic-Con experience, but Rick showed that he could take on a crowd with ease. I tend to prefer working from personal experience so I did a lot of writing and photo research for this when I attended the Eisner Awards at Comic-Con last summer. Armed with all of the information from our discussion of the script as well as my photos, Rick then lays-out and pencils the Sunday sequence. When that’s finished, it’s my turn to jump back in and ink it into a Funky Sunday. The lettering is then done on the computer after which it goes off to colorist Rob Ro who proceeds, as he always does, to turn it into a totally beautiful Funky Sunday.

Much like Chuck Ayers did, Rick brings an experienced and informed skill set to the work resulting in things like the beautiful establishing shot of the Del in the logo panel. With the crowning addition of Rob’s colors, the work is then digitally shipped off to King Features where all of my spelling gaffes get corrected. The end product is the strip that you see below which will run later this summer.

As I mentioned the earlier post, I’ll still be working with both Rick and with Chuck from time to time moving forward, and I count myself as pretty lucky to be able to work with these two titanically talented artists. In a future Secret Sauce, we’ll take a walk together through my writing process on Funky.

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.

The Secret Sauce – Roses in December

posted on March 15, 2017

Just about the time I thought I was finished with Roses in December, I realized that that there was still one more shoe to drop. There was the letter from Eugene to Lucy that had been intercepted by Lillian and kept from Lucy. From time to time I had thought about dealing with that, but I never found a particularly elegant way to bring closure to the story. Then one summer Saturday morning I went out to a derelict and shuttered amusement park just south of town to wander through and take some pictures, all the while not quite knowing why.

As I walked past the melancholy detritus of the former playground, I came upon a collapsed building which held in its rotting remains a bit of concrete lattice work that was similar to what I had seen in pictures of the Wisteria Ballroom at the long gone Summit Beach Park.

All at once I knew how the story was supposed to end and why I had taken time off from a working Saturday to visit the blighted remains of an old amusement park. I found it interesting when I later learned that Crankshaft’s artist Chuck Ayers had been through that park himself gathering illustrations for a magazine article. Another one of those happy accidents that become a part of the process.