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I would have liked to have gotten thirty posts done in the thirty days in the month of J'Onn J'Onzz's sixtieth birthday and relive the days when this was a daily celebration of the Sleuth from Outer Space. However, I had friends surprise me with a visit on Saturday, which meant I buckled down to work about twelve hours Sunday to lock in roughly the first half hour of the Martian Manhunter Anniversary Podcast Special, so something had to give. Besides, the blog was never great about actually getting a post in on a given day-- more like 365 total posts a year with a lot of backdating.
Another thing I had to at least half consider was having Brett Booth draw one of my favorite Vile Menagerie villains, B'rett. However, not only would that have been annoyingly cutesy, but I had a very special quest jam I wanted Booth to initiate. I've been a fan of the guy since he was getting started on Backlash at Wildstorm, where he drew the youngest looking grizzled Vietnam veteran ever. I remember writing a letter to Wizard Magazine way back in the day when they solicited fan choices for creative teams on books, suggesting him for Spider-Man (and he eventually did draw a crossover book with Backlash.) While I like the dude in general, his forte is vibrant rookie heroes, and quite frankly, not every artist can believably draw teenagers. T'omm J'onzz appeared in one silly Silver Age story that came out before the artists I was talking to were born, and it would be easy for one of these guys to not give cares and hack something out. I needed someone who could not only hit a piece featuring the thoroughly silly younger brother of our hero out of the park, but to also set the standard for other artists who contributed after him on the projected jam. I wanted all the characters to be full figures, proportionate to one another, and to be awesome. If you check out Demonpuppy's Wicked Awesome Art Blog, the word "awesome" is right there in the title, and his Twitter feed maintains his high standards of usually doing full figures and always kicking tail while doing it.
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Booth was totally cool with all I asked of him, and gave me a bargain basement quote for a figure. Here's the rub-- he wasn't confident in his inking abilities, as I believe he said he'd only started working on the discipline recently. His pencils were wicked tight though, and he sure enough did the kind of excellent job to put anyone who followed him on notice that they take this jam seriously or look sad by comparison. Now, when you're laying your own line down on the art board, the job was done, but when it came time for me to try to scan this deal for the internet, the pencils weren't hacking it. I tried all sorts of photocopy reproductions and digital filters and such, but my attempts to represent Booth were falling way short. I think I finally put the original 11x17" board on my scanner, which was significantly smaller than 11x17", played with the levels to death, blew out the contrast, and only managed the less than desirable image at the top of the post. And for the record, that black bush looking thing was originally a nice detailed color piece by another artist, so you can see how warped this got to be.
I followed through with the plan I made when Booth expressed concern about his inks-- to simply employ his established embellishment partner from the comics, Norm Rapmund, one of the best inkers in the business. But here, once again, was the rub-- he'd have to keep the piece overnight, and finishes would cost twice as much as the original, which I again have to point out was way below any estimate I could have reasonably expected from an artist of this caliber to begin with. Further, as much as I dug Booth's pencils, I couldn't do anything with them like drop some color in and turn the image into a sidebar icon. Rapmund gave the piece a crispness and clarity that not only made that kind of fun tinkering possible, but also enhanced the details so that I could better see the character with the naked eye. Also, I got a fun story about driving around southwest Houston at 5-something in the morning trying to find Rapmund's difficult to locate & access hotel room before his 7-something flight and my being due at work. That plays into an odd bit of continuity later in the jam. Anyway, it's an education seeing the difference between pencils and inks, and I relish the opportunity to present both to you here. It's the same drawing, yet clearly not the same drawing-- a great demo track followed by the single ready master. Of all the commissions in my collection, this one is among the most clearly ready for prime time/ a publisher could use this in their reference handbooks and be proud to do so works in my possession. This was my first and last T'omm J'onzz commission, because it cannot be topped.