About a month ago, I got an intriguing request from Kevin Eastman. He was penciling a cover for another IDW TMNT-related comic book, this one a thirtieth anniversary special, and he wanted to know if I would like to ink it.
Having just had fun inking Steve Lavigne's penciled cover for another IDW book, a reprint of some old Archie TMNT stories, I agreed. I thought it would likely be a somewhat different experience…
… and when I saw the pencils, I knew I was right. Kevin had crafted a beautiful, very tightly-penciled, montage-style image featuring a complicated cityscape and a bold group shot of the Turtles leaping into action, all dominated by the looming image of the Shredder.
It was so tight, in tact, that I suggested to Kevin that it should just be used as is… but he wanted to see it inked, so I went ahead and got out my brush markers and set to work.
(Oh -- I should stop here and mention that Kevin also wanted me to have the original art for this cover. Sweet!)
So I was faced with a small dilemma -- should I ink directly over the pencil drawing, thus losing forever its greyscale coolness, or should I somehow transfer the image to another piece of paper and ink it on that, preserving the original pencils?
I opted for the latter, via a technique I'd used before. Employing the color laser copier at Mirage, I copied the image onto a sheet of 11" by 17" card stock, using the copier's ability to print a greyscale image in the color of my choice. I tried to pick a hue as close to "photo-blue" as possible (that being a shade of blue which is difficult for cameras -- or scanners -- to pick up).
I made several copies in case I messed up and had to start over, and got to it. And as I did so, I realized what an unusual piece Kevin had created here, with its impressionistic shadows and suggestions of forms. It was a little daunting at first, trying to figure out exactly how to lay down the ink lines so as to best capture the effect Kevin had achieved.
As is my wont, I jumped around from spot to spot on the image. Here are a few shots of the work in progress. I inked with basically two brush markers, and for the really large areas of black, I used a brush and bottled ink. (It's kind of funny to notice in this sequence of photographs that as more ink is applied to the page, the more the paper starts to curl up at the edges!)
One other thing I did -- with Kevin's blessing -- was to make a couple of small detail corrections, things that the casual reader would probably not notice, but which stuck out to my eye. First was the placement of the blades on the Shredder's forearm gauntlets. The way Kevin had drawn them here looked fine as far as this particular drawing went, but having worked on many an image of the Shredder in the comics we'd done together years ago, I could tell that this detail was not exactly the way we used to draw it. So I lightly penciled in the blades to look the way we had established in those old TMNT comics.
The other thing was a stylistic bit that I almost inked as is, because in this drawing the gesture looked just fine. But my practical side just wouldn't let me go there. The detail in question is Michelangelo's nunchaku. Kevin had drawn them with a very dramatic flourish, but also with cords connecting the nunchakus sticks which looked way too long to me. So I shortened them up, and made them chains instead of cords (again, going back to the early days). Fortunately, none of these changes required major alterations to what Kevin had penciled, to my relief.
It was a lot of work, a lot of fun, and took me about four days to finish (taking breaks along the way). Once I'd put the last bit of ink down, and the last little correction with a white-out pen, I brought it to Mirage to scan (the scanner there is better and faster than the one I have at home), and took the scanned file back home with me to clean it up, rotate it into proper orientation and get it ready to send to Kevin.
I was pleased to see that the "blue line" approach had worked quite well, and I was able to clean up any stray remaining areas of blue with no problem, leaving a nice clean black and white image to be colored for the cover.
This was only the second time that Kevin and I had worked on a piece together in many years, the last time being a few years back for the Jake Black benefit print. I hope we do it again, and soon. It was a blast! And it was especially gratifying that Kevin got a kick out of what I had done with his gorgeous pencil drawing.
Wrapping up the last few pages of the Kay-Bee sketchbook, pages 20-22, we first see a rough sketch of Casey's grandmother's farmhouse and barn. I think I did this to work out how it would look on the last page of the story in issue #12 of TMNT Volume One.
On the following page, there is another rough sketch of two of the members of the survivalist group from that same issue.
And on the final page of this sketchbook (at least, the last one with anything drawn on it) are two rough sketches -- one depicting another of the survivalists, and the other the look of the little shack wherein the survivalists have hidden their homemade nuclear device. -- PL
A few weeks ago, I got a call from my pal Steve Lavigne. He asked me if I would be interested in inking a cover he was penciling for IDW, for a reprint of some old Archie TMNT comics stories, I think. Having had fun last year inking a couple of his drawings, I said I would.
Steve sent me this JPEG of the penciled drawing, which he had drawn in photo-blue pencil…
… which I printed out on a piece of 11 by 17 inch card stock, and got to inking. I was planning to do it all with brush and ink, but realized pretty quickly that my somewhat rusty inking skills were not quite up to handling the level of fine detail in the drawing in that fashion, so after doing a little bit -- mostly the foreground figures -- with brush, I switched over to a variety of brush markers. That was a lot more in my "comfort zone".
I scanned the inks…
… and then set about clearing up any remnants of the blue pencils, in Photoshop, eventually ending up with this clean version…
… that I could send to Steve so he could do his computer coloring. And a few days later, he sent me this…
While there are no notes on this page, I have to think that this drawing of a rhino mutant (Rocksteady?) riding a motorcycle was an idea I intended to send to Playmates Toys, as a suggestion for expanding the TMNT toy line.
I can't remember if I ever did send them this drawing -- probably not, as it is not really a finished one -- but I know Playmates ended up doing a variety of motorcycle accessory toys for the TMNT line, so perhaps it would have been superfluous. Did they do one with Rocksteady included? I can't recall, but I wouldn't be surprised. -- PL
On the next three pages of the Kay-Bee sketchbook, I made a bunch of notes about the story Kevin and I were working on for issue #11 of the TMNT Volume One comics. This is the follow-up to issue #10, wherein the Shredder came back from the dead, and he and the Foot invaded April's apartment building, which caught fire during their pitched battle. Casey Jones had appeared at a crucial point in the struggle, fighting on the Turtles' side and helping them, April and Splinter to escape the city.
Again, I''ve transcribed the notes to make them easier to read.
"Everything has changed.
For April: Her building burned down, taking with it all of her worldly possessions… and nearly twenty years of memories. She left in terror of her life, with only the clothes on her back, in the company of four Turtles, a giant rat, and a somewhat disturbed man in a hockey mask.
April's "normal" life has vanished forever. She had an inkling of this fate when she first hooked up with the Mutant Turtles… but now she is involved int heir lives. Their fate has become inextricably connected to hers. Before the Shredder and his ninja attacked her home, she hadn't fully realized or accepted the fact that with the friendship and love offered to her by the Turtles and Splinter, there also came deadly danger.
Along with personal fear comes resentment… of the Turtles for exposing her to this danger… for setting in motion events that have destroyed the elements of her everyday life. She knows they didn't want it to happen… but it did. IN the back of her mind, though, she knows that part of the responsibility is hers -- she accepted them into her life… and her apartment. But the predominant feeling is anger.
(And let's not forget that Casey has a crush on her -- adding to the confusion!)
For the Turtles: The Shredder's attack was a shocking blow in several ways. First, it made the Turtles feel vulnerable. It made them feel like they couldn't protect themselves, let alone April. Secondly, they feel guilty that they've screwed things up for April… perhaps permanently. They've exposed her to a threat which could follow her for the rest of her life… and has already eradicated, destroyed most of the material aspects of her life.
Leo: Leonardo especially feels depressed and guilty. In addition to feeling guilty about not being able to hold up his end during the big fight in #10, he feels that he has failed as an individual by not being able to defend himself successfully against the Shredder and the Foot in the Leonardo micro-series. This is ridiculous, of course -- he was vastly outnumbered -- but he still feels it. (Leo has unrealistic expectations of himself.)"
"What to do now?
April is in a state of flux. She's unsure of what to do… get a job? Because of the savage attack of the Shredder, she's somewhat gun-shy about exposing herself, living in public… even though the likelihood of the same thing happening here in Northampton is slim.
Living out in the woods, in a farmhouse, is also pretty strange for April, who has been used to living in the "Big Apple". The relative isolation of this area may bother her… although the clean air and lower noise level is refreshing.
The Turtles are, in all situations, adaptable. It's part of their nature and training. They know they've suffered a severe setback, a defeat… and that has its effects. To some degree, they are demoralized. But they are also open to enjoying and using the benefits of their new situation. And this is new to them… like April, they were mostly accustomed to the landscape of the city. Some of the Turtles like this locale better than the others (Don, for example).
Revenge is also on their minds. Revenge, and self-preservation. They know now that the Shredder is not, as they thought, only a bad memory. However it happened, the Shredder is indeed back… and the Turtles know that he will not be satisfied until they are dead. So they feel that the have to strike first, and settle the Shredder/Foot threat, once an for all. (Is that even possible?)
Casey lives from moment to moment. He's not one to make lots of future plans. He probably will get a job to help support his new "family".
(Incidentally, while Raphael and Casey are buddies, the other Turtles and Splinter are still somewhat ambivalent about Casey. They cab see that he wants to be friends, and he did help them out… but he is also obviously nutty. So they are a little cautious in fully accepting him so soon."
"For Casey: This whole thing is an adventure… incredibly exciting. Maybe he doesn't yet fully realize the position he's put himself in by helping the Turtles against the Shredder and his organization… maybe he still sees it in the kind of fantasy way that he views his own goofy vigilanteism.
This whole new adventure is also a welcome change from Casey's current lifestyle. As uneducated as he is, even Casey understands in some way that his life is going nowhere… and this change seems to be a way of giving his life some real purpose.
Casey has also been developing a serious crush on April. Since he had started spying on them (back in issue #4), he's been sweet on her. Unfortunately, Casey lacks the kinds of social skills that would allow him to approach her easily… and so will bumble and fumble his way into her heart."
I was surprised when I read that last page, and saw these lines: "Casey has also been developing a serious crush on April. Since he had started spying on them (back in issue #4), he's been sweet on her." I have been asked several times in the last decade by TMNT fans about the identity of the cigarette-smoking person with a telescope pointed at April's apartment, seen in a single panel in issue #4 of TMNT Volume One, and never referenced again. Here's the page from issue #4:
... and here is the panel, cropped for easier viewing:
I have to say that I never had a conclusive answer to the question, because it had been so long that I'd forgotten what our intentions were! I seem to remember suggesting at one point that it might have been some agent of the Foot Clan. But if these notes, very likely written in 1987, and thus much closer in time (and memory) to our work on issue #4, are accurate, we'd originally intended that mysterious person to be none other than Casey Jones. That revelation brings up another series of questions, primary among them is this -- was Casey a creepy stalker-type guy? I suppose it's not too startling to imagine him being that way, at least in part, but I do wonder why we never touched on this in later issues. It's good to finally know who that mysterious person was. -- PL