Friday, March 18, 2011

INTERVIEW: Behind the MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection with artist Mike Allred!

Above: One of the images of Wonder Woman drawn by Mike Allred and coloured by Laura Allred for the new MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection. Copyright DC Comics 2011.

The makeup aisle isn't usually the place you would expect to find a popular comics icon, but that's exactly what happened last week on Queen St in Auckland, when my attention was grabbed by a window display in Smith & Caugheys advertising the new MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection.

Above: The MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection. Copyright MAC Cosmetics/DC Comics.

The new makeup range fronted by the DC Comics heroine, launched worldwide on March 4th in all major beauty department stores. But what really caught my eye was the fantastic promotional artwork, provided by one of my all-time favourite comic artists: Mike Allred, creator of Madman and artist of the current Vertigo series iZombie.

One of comics most prolific creators, accompanied by his wife and colourist Laura Allred, who colours all his comics and the MAC campaign; he took some time out from his busy schedule to discuss his work on this high-profile project.

AK: I guess my first question is: how did you become involved in the project, and was Wonder Woman already the focus of the campaign when they approched you?

Mike Allred: I was first approached by someone from DC Comics who described the project, "A makeup campaign using Wonder Woman".
Turns out an art director from England who works for MAC Cosmetics liked my work and suggested me. Sounded like fun so I jumped in.

AK: How much freedom did you have in creating the artwork? Given this was advertising I'm guessing they were pretty specific when it came to the art direction?

MA: I had to come up with several scenarios that could tell a narrative in five illustrations. A big challenge.
Lee Swillingham, the art director, was a huge help in putting that together. Working with him through every step kept things nice and clear and specific, while allowing me to be playful at the same time. Once we got approval on the approach it was pretty easy to do the five illustrations.

They did get pretty picky with certain color elements. Strangely the "dot size" was something we went back and forth on the most. They really like those old school "dots", as you can tell from all the graphics.

AK: Oh, so you came up with the Medusa story? I thought that was a great touch, linking mythology and beauty in a story (and possibly the only way to resolve a plot with make-up!).

MA: To be fair, I think Lee suggested Medusa. I remember coming up with some plot ideas and Lee filling in the blanks. It's all one big whoosh in my brain now. It is really just five main illustrations. I'm amazed at what MAC Cosmetics has done with it all. The animation they made from it blew me away. They asked me to do some of the elements separate from the backgrounds, which makes a lot of sense to me now.

AK: With only five images to tell the story (and to be reproduced in multiple uses), how challenging is it to produce static 'master' images that can stand alone as apposed to regular sequential storytelling?

MA: Very challenging. It was a terrific exercise. It's a great way to practice storytelling and editing.

AK: This is probably more of a question for Laura: on the colouring, I take it the colour palette had to match the products? It looks like Wonder Woman was kept fairly natural and close to the 'classic look'.

MA: She was. Though they did use the extreme closeup and had makeup artists "re-color it" on their website with the makeup colors as demos.

Above: A window display of the MAC Wonder Woman Collection at Smith & Caugheys in Auckland.

AK: With the advertising going worldwide this week, what has the feedback been like? It must be refreshing to see your artwork out there in a non-comics environment for a change.

MA: The feedback as been stunning. We've lost track of all the photos we've received from the varying store displays. That's what has been the most impressive. The many differing uses for display.

Above: A sliding doorway featuring the MAC Wonder Woman Collection at Smith & Caugheys in Auckland.

AK: Now that you've dipped into the advertising waters, any chance you'd be temped to do it again or is comics still you're number one medium of expression?

MA: It's all about comic books for me. I could have gone the commercial route a loooong time ago. I don't know if something like this will come around again. But if so, it's too fun and easy to say no.

AK: Ok I think that wraps it up, thanks again for your time, Mike. Oh, and if you have a message for your NZ fans, I'm sure a shout out would be much appreciated! (Mike & Laura visited New Zealand last year as guests of the Christchurch and Wellington Armageddon Expos).

MA: Our best to everyone in NZ. Love you and your country big time. And our best hopes and wishes to everyone in Christchurch especially.

Once again a big thank you to Mike for taking the time out to talk, and be sure to check out his official website HERE, and his great new art blog for his latest updates HERE. And don't forget his latest comics releases, iZombie Vol.1: Dead to the World is out this week from Vertigo/DC Comics, and the new Madman Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special is out April 6th.


Above: Me, posing for a photo with Mike & Laura Allred at Wellington Armageddon Expo 2010.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

EVENT: Ant Sang: The Making of Shaolin Burning

Above: Ant Sang discussing his artwork and previous comics series The Dharma Punks.

As a part of NZ Book Month, Ant Sang will be giving an illustrated talk on the making of his recently released graphic novel, Shaolin Burning.

It will be held this coming Sunday, March 20th at the Auckland Art Gallery - Art Lounge (on the corner of Cnr Lorne St and Wellesley St) from 3pm - 4pm. Admission is FREE, and there will be copies of the book for sale at Parsons Bookshop next door if you would like to get a copy signed. For more details check out the event listing HERE.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roger Langridge's Muppet Show in Limbo...

Above: A previously solicited cover of The Muppet Show #12, before it's publication was cancelled. Copyright Disney 2011.

Last month it was announced that Marvel would be taking over the publishing rights for Disney's Pixar comics, which had been previously published by Boom Studios. This included titles based on the popular Pixar movies Cars, Monster Inc, Toy Story among others. This move was not entirely unexpected, as Marvel is now a part of the Disney media empire, and it would make sense to consolidate it's licenced properties. But one unexpected inclusion in this deal is the publishing rights to Jim Henson's Muppets.

The Muppet Show Comic Book as written and illustrated by Roger Langridge, was undoubtedly the highlight of Boom's Disney comics line, earning much critical acclaim and a Harvey Award last year for 'Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers'. Roger was in the process of writing and illustrating his last story-line for the series, a four issue arc titled 'The Four Seasons', when Boom cancelled it's previously solicited Disney books. Marvel are planning to publish the Pixar material in a new monthly magazine, but as yet there are no details on the fate of Roger's completed story. So where does that leave the Muppet comics?

Roger posted this statement on his blog on Tuesday (along with some preview pages!):

To be honest, I have no idea. As far as I understand it, the unpublished work I've done for Boom isn't technically Disney's until it's published, and obviously Boom can't publish it without a license. So it's in a kind of limbo right now. In the best of all possible worlds, I'd like to think that Boom and Marvel can come to some kind of arrangement whereby Marvel can eventually release the work. I'm only a cartoonist, real business stuff makes my brain hurt, so I'm not sure how that would work - I guess Disney/Marvel buys the rights from Boom or something. Or maybe they have to go out into the woods at midnight and bury Kermit in effigy with some chives in order to break the curse. Something like that. However it happens, I would very much like for it to see the light of day eventually.

Until that happy day, which I look forward to with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, I guess it can't hurt to share some of the pages here. This arc would have been called The Four Seasons, hence the seasonal theme - these few pages would have been from the Winter/Christmas issue. (Appropriate for pages that are in cold storage for now.)
Above: Preview pages from The Muppet Show: The Four Seasons by Roger Langridge. Copyright Disney 2011.

With a new Muppets movie currently in production, I expect we'll see this in print sooner rather than later. I'll keep an eye on any further developments, until then you can check out new pages from Roger's webcomic, Mugwhump the Great!


Free Comics: Tim Danko's '5 Minute Gulag'

Above: the cover of Tim Danko's previous comic 'Vigl'.

Tim Danko, mastermind of the Deadxeroxpress and the 'Sup-Ho' comics series, has released a new animated experiential comic 5 Minute Gulag, created in a five minute bust of creativity! It's an intriguing mixture of images created to accompany and counterpoint text by Russian author Varlam Shalamov. Is it a comic, storybook or mixed media digital art? Have a look HERE and decide for yourself! (HINT: use your mouse to turn the pages).

Also visit Tim's website for more of his comics work and other animated wonders.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NZ Comics: The 2011 Christchurch Earthquake Response

Above: A Pink Noise art appeal piece by Michel Mulipola featuring Spider-Man.

It's been almost one week since the city of Christchurch was devastated by the largest aftershock yet, following last September's original earthquake. Heartbreakingly, this quake struck in the middle of a busy Tuesday afternoon, destroying highly populated buildings in the city's CBD, taking many lives with it. Today the death toll stands at 155, but sadly that figure is expected to rise. Financial and emotional support for the affected people of Christchurch continues to flood in, from both national and international relief efforts. In these uncertain times it's difficult to register an appropriate response to this scale of devastation, particularly from a distance.

Above: Page one of Roses for Christchurch by Sarah Laing. Copyright Sarah Lieng 2011.

During this past weekend, Auckland writer/designer/cartoonist Sarah Laing produced a touching and beautifully understated 3-page comic strip Roses for Christchurch, which for me (and many others I imagine) perfectly captures that feeling of detached sorrow, watching this tragedy from a distance, and just how very fragile our civilisation really is.

The cartoon image of the Christchurch Cathedral with 'invisible dashes' (a favourite visual shorthand in the language of comics) to complete it's fractured facade, is by itself an incredibly powerful image.

You can read the complete story on Sarah's blog HERE, and please be sure to visit the Roses for Christchurch Facebook page to make a donation HERE.

Above: The Funtime Comics Collective logo ((RAHG!)).

One cartoonist who has experienced the earthquakes firsthand is Isaac Freeman, editor of the Christchurch comics collective Funtime. In response to the latest earthquake, Funtime will be releasing a special Earthquake Relief issue, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

They would like to get a really wide selection of New Zealand and international artists on board for this, so if this sounds like you
, no matter what your level of experience or how far removed you feel from events, now is the time to get involved!

So now I'll turn thinks over to Issac for the
submission guidelines:

• Submissions are due 21 March 2011.
• Comics should in some way address the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, even if peripherally. Original work would be preferred.
• We'd prefer each piece to be 1-4 pages long, so we can fit in plenty of artists. This is flexible if the work demands it, but longer pieces will be harder to fit in.
• Funtime is published in an A5 portrait format (148 mm wide, 210 mm high) format. We can take submissions in other sizes and shapes, but they'll be shrunk to fit this size. Be careful that your lettering will still be readable at this size - people hate having to use a magnifying glass to read their comics.
• Black and white only. We won't have time for close control of tones, so it's best if your artwork have plenty of contrast.
• For digital submissions, make sure the file names include numbers to show their order. Scan to at least 600dpi. We can handle most bitmap formats, and PDF or Adobe Illustrator CS3 or earlier. Email to:
• For paper submissions, write your name on the back of each page as well as a page number if your contribution is longer than one page, so we don't get the order wrong. Post to 15B Lothian Street, Ilam, Christchurch 8041. At the time of writing the postal service isn't operating in Christchurch, but we expect it to be back soon. Please don't use our PO box, as it's inside the security cordon and we can't access it.
• Please try not to send any work that might get us arrested. Nudity and adult themes are acceptable within reason. We usually aim to be suitable for mature teenagers and older.
• Include contact details, and biographical information with your submission. A small self-portrait is also handy.
• Submission of artwork is taken to imply that the contributor gives permission for their work to be published, and that short excerpts may be used for the promotion of the anthology as the editor sees fit. If you have specific requirements for how your work should be used, please let us know.


Funtime Comics is a loose non-profit collective of artists. We're based in Christchurch, New Zealand, with contributors from around the world. We've been publishing the Funtime Comics Anthology on a semi-regular basis for twenty years. We gather for monthly workshops, where we drink tea, draw comics and make somewhat civilised conversation. We publish work from people of all ages and levels of comics-making experience, and we make lots of shared jam comics.

Ōtautahi/Christchurch in New Zealand's second largest city. On 22 February 2011 it was hit by a devastating earthquake, causing massive damage and many deaths. At the time of writing, large parts of the city are without drinking water, power or sewerage outflow. Military, police and aid agencies from around the world are assisting with relief and rescue efforts.

-Isaac Freeman
Funtime Comics

For more information, visit the Facebook page HERE.

Above: A Pink Noise art appeal piece by Ant Sang, featuring The Monk Who Doubts.

Auckland non-profit art community Pink Noise have also mounted their own artistic response effort, organising an online art auction on Trade Me. Featuring diverse artworks from the group's members for sale, with all proceeds from the auction will be going to the Christchurch Red Cross. Amongst the great artworks on offer is a print by Michel Mulipola featuring Spider-Man swinging from the Christchurch Cathedral (see the picture at the top of this post), and an inked original of 'The Monk Who Doubts' by Ant Sang from his bestselling graphic novel Shaolin Burning! So check out these auctions and get some great artwork for your wall while donating to a very worthy cause!

These life changing events are never easy to deal with; but perhaps you'll find something in this report that helps you express how you feel about it in a creative way, or inspire you to aid others by purchasing some of that creativity yourself.