Showing posts with label romance comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label romance comics. Show all posts

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thom Zahler – An Interview with a BCC mainstay

Zahler at BCC in 2014

by Mike Rhode

Thom Zahler has been one of my favorites working long-term in a  ‘cartoony’ style in comic books. His Love and Capes series in particular used a series of Justice League analogues to tell a long romance story. He’s a regular at Baltimore Comic Con (BCC) and recently answered our usual interview questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write and draw comics. I letter and color most of my own work, too. Basically, I do it all. (I did have a colorist on my recent Time and Vine series, though.)

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

These days, I’m mostly digital, in Clip Studio Paint, coloring in Photoshop and lettering in Illustrator. I still draw by hand when I can, especially commissions at conventions. And when I work on the right project, like My Little Pony, I do work traditionally so I have art for the resale market.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? 

Early Seventies.

 What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I took all the drawing classes I could in high school, as well as creative writing and working on the newspaper comic strip. After that, I went to and graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey.

Who are your influences?

Curt Swan was the first artist I ever recognized. I wanted to be George PĂ©rez like most people reading in the eighties. But Kurt Schaffenberger and Ty Templeton were big influences as I started finding my wheelhouse. And these days, it’s the late Darwyn Cooke.

You've got a very 'cartoony' style (which I love), but has it worked for or against you in getting jobs? Do you have a more "realistic" style?

I used my realistic style on my Raider book, which went nowhere. I think I can pull it off, but it’s like going uphill. And my realistic style isn’t as magnetic as my cartoon style. I’m a decent serviceable realistic artist but a good cartoon artist. So I’m going with my strengths.

The cartoony stuff has worked fine, but I’m also pitching it where I think it works. I’ve drawn Strawberry Shortcake covers, pitched on other cartoony stuff. I know I’m not the artist to draw monthly Superman books, so I’m not aiming for those.

The only difference it really makes is in the stories I choose to tell. I have a spy book I’d love to do, but I’m not the artist for it. But Warning Label, Love and Capes and even Time and Vine, I’m good for. I mentioned Darwyn Cooke before, and he’s who I follow. His stuff works on almost everything, but he also told very Darwyn Cooke stories.

Warning Label is partly about a woman board game designer - are you a gamer?

I play games, and wish I had the time and opportunity to play more, but I’m not hard core. Also, I don’t really play console games at all. It’s how I get things done.

 If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I would take some art history classes. I wish that I had the opportunity to learn more about classic artists. I might have tried moving out to LA to pursue more writing opportunities.

 What work are you best-known for?

It's a toss-up. Love and Capes is what most comic readers know me from, but my work on My Little Pony is by far the biggest title I’ve had the privilege to work on.

Which came first, the Capes webcomic or the comic book?

The LNC print comic always came first. The four-panel beat thing was done for two reasons. One, back then everyone thought half-pages were the secret to webcomics, so being able to have a format that embraced that meant I could repurpose as a web strip if I liked doing the book but couldn’t afford to publish print editions. And two, four-panel beats is a natural comedic metronome to a guy like me who learned so much of his comedy from Bloom County.
How did you get involved with My Little Pony?

I was trying to impress my girlfriend at the time. She was a fan, and IDW was already publishing Love and Capes. So I asked if I could do a cover, because I knew they’d do a few. Bobby, the editor, knew my work and asked if I wanted to pitch the book. Not being an idiot, I said “Absolutely” and went home and mainlined the show to research it.

 What work are you most proud of?

I'm still very proud of the last arc of Love and Capes. It’s heartfelt and really sticks the landing, and part of why I haven’t ever come back to that. But, I feel like every new project is stretching my artistic muscles in new ways. I’m very happy with Warning Label.

Your new book, Time and Vine, is currently being published by IDW. What's it about? How long is it planned to run? 

It’s about a magical time traveling winery, where when you go into the right tasting room and you drink the right bottle of wine from 1912, you go back to 1912 until you sober up. It’s a four issue miniseries, each issue double-sized so it’s like eight issues total, and the last issue just came out. It’s built to do more when I’m ready, and when I have time.

My copies of #2 and 3 from my comics store had the same cover - I assume there was a mix-up in production?

Yeah, pretty much. Mistakes were made, they won’t happen again. The alternate covers, the 1980’s cover on #2 and the 1860’s cover on #3 did print correctly. So only half the issues of #3 are misprinted.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I'd like to write more animation. I’d like to work on some mainstream superhero book at some point. But past that, I am very happy with my personal, creator-owned work.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I take a lot of walks get over story points. And I’ll try to draw something fun to clear out the cobwebs as well.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I think that I’m in a good place, but it should never be comfortable. Things have changed so much just in my short time in the field. There’s no way that I could have done Love and Capes ten years earlier. Computer coloring made things possible that I wouldn’t have been able to afford. And now, webcomics are getting my stories known in ways that I never expected.

My feeling is that the game is always changing. The only constant is that I have to learn to adapt to it.

How was your BCC experience? How often have you attended it?

I’ve been going to BCC for over ten years. It’s one of my favorite shows. I just adore it, and I love the fans and the pros and everything about it. My favorite thing about the show is that it’s still a comic book show. They’re surgical about bringing in media guests, and keep the focus on comics.
What's your favorite thing about Baltimore? Least favorite?

As far as Baltimore itself, I do love the inner harbor. The humidity.

What monument or museum do you like?

The Cleveland Art Museum and the Jefferson Memorial.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

My favorite place here in town, Taco Local, just closed. Right now it’s a place called Brim. And when I’m in Baltimore, Miss Shirley’s.

Where is "here in town?"

I live just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, birthplace of Superman.

 Do you have a website or blog?

Warning Label webcomic
 My website is I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @thomzahler

updated 10/24/2017 with gaming question

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kata Kane's NBM double debut

by Mike Rhode

At  the Small Press Expo, Kata Kane had her own table as usual, but she was also signing books at NBM's table. They have published the first book in a new series Ana and the Cosmic Race by Amy Chu with art by Kata. We caught up to ask how her career was changing.. 

After our first interview, you published Altar Girl vol. 2. Did that wrap up the series, or do you have plans to continue it?

Altar Girl is ongoing, and you can read up to Book 4 online at my website I've also started releasing the series on webcomic sites like WEBTOON and Tapastic. I'm hoping to do a print version of Altar Girl Book 3 soon, but for now it's still going strong online! 

You've done the art for two new series coming out this fall from NBM's Papercutz imprint. How did that come about?

Papercutz reached out to me when they started the launch for their new Charmz romance book line. They saw that my art style and stories were all-ages/tween/YA and asked me to pitch. My first pitch was for GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever with Monica Gallagher [also of Baltimore]. Then they asked if I'd be interested in doing the art for Ana and the Cosmic Race, a story already in production with Amy Chu. I'm so glad I've gotten to work on both series! 

What kind of script do you get? Do you work directly with the writer at all?

I do work closely with the writers when it comes to collaborating and world-building, especially with the characters. As for the script, it varies from writer to writer the level of detail, but I do try to give suggestions if I see a spot where we could do something fun with the art, or if there's a chance to insert some great reactions from the characters. I'm lucky that I've gotten to work with wonderful writers who have given me a lot of freedom and great feedback too. I think pacing is one of my strong points, so in cases where I've been given either a lot or just a little to work with script-wise, I always aim to get a good flow going with the dialog and art.

Will there be more books in the two new series?

I'm currently working on Book 2 for both Ana and the Cosmic Race as well as GFFs! There's still much more to discover, so I think readers of Book 1 for both of these series will be eager to see what's in store.

My online/social media info: | @kata_kane

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rethinking Rascally Roy (Lichtenstein, not Thomas)

Around the time Roy Lichtenstein starting painting his canvases influenced by comic book panels, editor Stan Lee was giving everyone at Marvel Comics a nickname to make the company appear more homey. Since Lichtenstein usually appropriated images from DC Comics, he probably wouldn't have qualified for one, but if he did, he probably should have gotten the 'Rascally' that eventually settled on writer Roy Thomas. Lichtenstein seems to have spent his entire career engaging with other art forms, appropriating them, making sport of them, but also in some odd way, respecting them.

The National Gallery of Art is mounting a large career-spanning retrospective that begins with one of Lichtenstein's first comic-derived images - the Gallery's Look Mickey (1961). At the press preview, curators kept noting that the original image is from Donald Duck Lost and Found, a Little Golden Book from 1960, and not a comic book, but honestly that's a difference that makes no difference. Lichtenstein had come up with a hook, and a look, and together these let him break into the big time. To our eyes, familiar with almost forty years of later works, Look Mickey looks crude. The dots that texture Mickey's head and Donald's eyes are handpainted, and not made by forcing paint through a metal screen with a toothbrush as he would later turn to. The underlying pencil can be seen - something almost inconceivable in his work of just a few years later. Lichtenstein worked by doing a freehand drawing, projecting that piece onto a larger canvas and drawing it there, and then painting that. Examine this painting closely so you're prepared to see his technique evolve and tighten up as he finds his groove.

The Gallery owns 375 pieces of Lichtenstein's art -- one of the largest collections -- and this exhibit has 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures in it. They've borrowed from other museums and the show will travel to England and France after being here in DC. For comics and cartoon fans, after Look Mickey you can skip the rest of the Early Pop Art gallery, and go view the black & white drawing Alka Seltzer (1966) in the next room. To this reviewer, Jack Kirby's influence appears obvious -- and doesn't appear in the rest of the Black and White series. Kirby's Marvel Comics work had settled into its mature phase with the heavy black lines and over the top action that would typify his work. Lichtenstein's drawing of this banal subject produces a glass of Alka Seltzer that would look at home in the hands of Dr. Doom, if he ever stopped trying to conquer the world for a few minutes and looked after himself.

Instead of Marvel Comics, Lichtenstein turned to DC Comics for works in his Romance and War series. 1962's Masterpiece is the first in his Romance series, and he works in a joke about his new status as a darling of the art world. Contrast this work with Ohhh... Alright..., from 1964, and you can see his quoting of the comics medium becoming surer and cleaner, especially after he begins using his technique of painting through metal screens. Unfortunately, looking at the images here produces one of the main problems with Lichtenstein's comic-influenced art. When they are reproduced in a book (or blog) they become the same size as the comic they're taken from and this gives the viewer a false impression. These pieces are big, and the scaling-up while removing extraneous detail, and repositioning graphic elements gives them a... grandeur that insists that you see them in person.

Lichtenstein probably would have been a competent, if uninspiring comic book artist (think Don Heck) -- the original sketch for Ohhh... Alright... is in the exhibit and shows he could have done that, but the path he chose was probably better for all concerned. Bart Beaty's Comics Versus Art (University of Toronto Press, 2012) has a good chapter about the angst that Lichtenstein's work inspires in comic book readers - an angst I share. Lichtenstein was working from then-current comic books like Girls' Romances and Secret Hearts, and titling his works with an attribution such as Whaam! (after Novick)  or Whaam! ( All American Men of War #89) rather than simply Whaam! would have been a gesture of respect to other artists who, although working as commercial illustrators in comic books, still considered what they were doing to be art.

His decision not to do this continues to lead to headlines such as 2011's Connecting the Dots Between the Record $43 Million Lichtenstein and the $431 Comic Strip It Was Copied From, and articles that start "Imagine you drew a comic book for a nominal fee and a world-famous artist recreated in paint a panel from that work and sold it for millions of dollars without you receiving any credit or royalties." Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein is an entire website devoted to tracking the original comic panels that Lichtenstein repurposed / appropriated for his paintings.

His Brushstrokes series began with Brushstrokes (1965), which the exhibit explains came from "The Painting," Strange Suspense Stories #72 (Charlton Comics, October 1964) -- the NGA reproduces the panel, but neglects to mention that the original artwork is by Dick Giordano. This was among his last of this type of work. Instead he began painting large fake brushstrokes over his now trademark dots, or painting the explosions without any intervening war comic scene. The exhibit wall text for Whaam! suggests a reason, quoting him reflecting "If you go through [comic books], you'll find that there are very few frames that... would be useful to you. Most of them are in transition, they don't really sum anything up and it's the ones that sum up the idea that I like best."

Lichenstein then moved completely away from the comics-influenced paintings to do similar paintings with other fine art as the subject, such as a faux woodcut of a Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Picasso and Cezanne and the Laocoon were Lichtensteinized. He painted faux architectural elements and faux mirrors, and did sculptures and paintings quoting art deco. He made landscapes out of dots. All of these can be seen in the show.

But in the 1990s and towards the end of his career, Lichtenstein returned to comic book art and looked back at the romance comic books he had painted from 30 years earlier -- this time, he just left off the clothing for his Nudes series. Without their captions or word balloons, and with a more radical use of dots, these paintings seem further removed from their sources than his earlier works.

A lot has been written on Lichtenstein, and I'm obviously not an expert on his work, but I do think that his 1978 Self-Portrait, in which he depicts himself as a mirror hovering above an empty shirt -- while witty -- may very well also depict a deeper ambivalence about his career.

The exhibit Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective runs from October 14, 2012–January 13, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art. I can honestly recommend it to anyone interested in comic art who is willing to think about art, illustration, comics and where they all crash together. I would have preferred to see more of the original source material in the show -- only two comics panels are reproduced in the exhibit text  -- and buying a 1960s DC romance comic or two wouldn't bust anyone's budget. An excellent catalog by curators James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff is available, and the Gallery has several events planned including ones at local restaurants Busboys and Poets and Ben's Chili Bowl.

UPDATE: Here's some pages that Lichtenstein used from Charlton and DC Comics (thanks to Prof. Witek)-


Secret Hearts #83, Nov. 1962

All-American Men of War #90

All-American Men of War #89

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meet a Local Cartoonist: Monica H. or "MonMon"

101_1978 Monica HI met Monica Horn, who draws as Monica H. or "MonMon" at last fall's Intervention con. Here’s her interview:

Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Monica H: I run a webcomic called Ocean Tides which is on It is a ghostly romance drama about a girl name Lily who Lily meets a spirit named Alex. She has to help Alex realize what’s happening around him and wonder why he hasn't crossed over yet. I update every Friday unless stated otherwise.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
It is a combination of both. Along with my laptop, the materials and programs I use are computer paper, cardstock, Black Faber-Castell ink pens (SX, S, M, B, and F), Prismacolor markers, lightbox, HP scanner, my tablet and Photoshop. I start out sketching a thumbnail based off of the script I wrote for the chapter. Then a larger sketch, I ink using my lightbox. Scan, clean it up and tone in Photoshop.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born 1986 in Monterey, California.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved out here because of my job as a graphic/web designer. I currently reside in Northern Virginia.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I majored in graphic design and minored in illustration. I have been drawing every since I was little, and inspired by many different Artists. I am a graphic/web designer by day and a webcomic artist by night.

Who are your influences?

Walking in the artist alleys at conventions sure does inspire me at times but I have to say many other webcomic artists, Illustrators, my friends, my family and of course my fans of my comic.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I wouldn't change anything about my career, though I am always willing to learn new things and learn ways to improve my work.

What work are you best-known for?

I guess my webcomic Ocean Tides, or my watercolor paintings. If you asked me this 5 years ago I would say my fan art for different anime shows, but I felt that I need to improve my own work and find my own style.

What work are you most proud of?

Since I only have one webcomic at the moment and I can say that I am proud of Ocean Tides, my style has changed in the past three years. I can say I am proud of trying to find my own style as well with in those three years.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I hope to complete Ocean Tides and start working on a new webcomic that I am currently scripting.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I sketch or doodle anything, whether it be characters from my webcomic or just characters from a show and book. I just keep at it until something sparks my interest. I also paint -- painting is also a great stress relief.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I plan on trying to get my work out there for others to enjoy and by the end of day to know that I am placing something out there for others to enjoy, I am happy.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Intervention Con 2011 was my first con that I attended as a artist and I have to say I have had a lot of fun, I learned a lot from the other artists in the artist alley. As for other cons I do go to Otakon as a attendee, I always enjoy going.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival and the 4th of July Fireworks

Least favorite?

The traffic, I can live without it. Haha.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I enjoy the National Gallery of Art, but I haven't been to any monuments recently.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I enjoy the Hamburger Hamlet in Crystal City, they make a great rueben sandwich and the sweet potato fires.

Do you have a website or blog?

My blog is  and my webcomic for Ocean Tides is

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Play based on romance comics opens

My Comic Valentine is the play - here's the Post story about it - "Romance Ripped From The Comics," By Raymond M. Lane, Washington Post, Friday, February 6, 2009; Page WE41.

And here's the play's info: My Comic Valentine: A Comic Book for the Stage Fort Fringe 610 L St. NW. 443-803-1163. Wednesday through Feb. 15. $15, pay-what-you-can preview Wednesday.