Airbrush art of ALIENS by Den Beauvais

In the very early 1990s, I was fortunate enough to grab copies of the vaunted Aliens book 2 series that were four issues long, illustrated by the excellent Denis Beauvais who has inspired me at the time with such vivid colors and masterful use of lighting. Before that, Dark Horse Comics brought out the first ALIENS comic done in black and white by Mark Verheiden and Mark Nelson which I also loved. But it was the second volume that cemented it as a masterpiece of tone, grit, and horror with ‘cinematic’ flair.

At the time, I didn’t have an airbrush until a very talented neighborhood friend of mine showed me his Iwata brush which opened my eyes on how it worked. He explained to me that Denis’ work was airbrushed and hand painted which perplexed me at first until he demonstrated its use while connected to a large floor air compressor that was silent. I was hooked and eventually got an Iwata airbrush from my parents as a holiday gift which I’ll never forget.

It was to my amazement that Beauvais had a recent interview at an AVP Galaxy site which fascinated me and confirmed the use of his medium of choice while discussing his views on digital versus analog. Not only did he do the series, but was also responsible for the famous Dragon magazine cover showing ‘Bridge of Sorrows’ which I also own an issue of.

And to this today, that very same airbrush I own still works intact, originally made from Japan. I do want to stress that it had been years since I last used my airbrush in the 1990s up until recently earlier this year painting two fencing masks. I had to rebuild my airbrush set up from scratch with a new air compressor and new paint.

I plan on doing more of it in the future since it’s such a fun medium to work with, in my opinion, that digital airbrushes don’t come close to in terms of texture and quality.

Old school never dies.

The very first ALIENS comic by Dark Horse.

The very first ALIENS comic by Dark Horse.

Denis Beauvais’ work from cover to internal pages for ALIENS volume two. A masterpiece.

Denis Beauvais’ work from cover to internal pages for ALIENS volume two. A masterpiece.

A sample internal page. Is this not cinematic or what?

A sample internal page. Is this not cinematic or what?

One of his stunning panels in the first issue. Love it.

One of his stunning panels in the first issue. Love it.

My original Iwata HP-C which is at least over 20 years old and an industry classic.

My original Iwata HP-C which is at least over 20 years old and an industry classic.

Meeting a giant at vermont comic con

Last weekend on August 27th, I had the chance to attend the third Vermont Comic Con in Burlington. It was probably one of the better shows they've had since the last year. Lots of cosplayers that I've seen were very impressive and had a great time themselves. Especially the giant Jack Skellington costume and the 501st New England Garrison was a treat to see. I think there were more stormtroopers and imperial officers than the previous show I went to and their booth was just so much fun to be around at with a bunch of props and goodies on their table.

Especially one of the sith lightsabers that was so well built that I picked it up, just to see if I can fence with it. The saber has a knuckle guard hilt to it which is beautifully crafted. The image below shows the actual lightsaber held by the cosplayer of the Seventh Sister ( I believe ). My hats off to this cosplayer.

Vader' s Fist cosplayI also had the pleasure of catching up with several local creators and managed to get a copy of Oliver Kranichfeld's book Flatlander after being published from his successful kickstarter event. And especially Stephanie Zuppo's Belchville book as well which I've been meaning to get my hands on. Both books were beautifully crafted and bound to which I can't wait to get around reading them. 

But that's not the main reason I went to the Comic Con. That reason lies in the name of Ken Kelly, who's considered one of the old school greats in the field of illustration. And the kicker is he is the nephew of the grandmaster Frank Frazetta. As soon as I noticed Ken's name on the program list, I took a double take and recognized his classic work, especially the famous KISS album cover art that I remembered all so well years ago, one in which my cousin is a fanatic of. 

The Great Ken Kelly himselfThe original drawing based on a certain KISS album cover that any fanatic would instantly know from.His works from horror to fantasy was one I would not forget even the images of Conan, Manowar, Frankenstein, Vampirella, and so on. It's endless. The color palette, vibrant. The paint strokes, purposeful and focused.

In confession, as a child of the 70s and 80s, his work has been an influence on me even during my D&D and gaming days, looking at horror magazines, watching Dark Shadows and the like. And as an artist myself, I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the old school illustrators who still do it to this day regardless of the digital nature of the industry. I think I would view his work as 'classic hardcore' in the most old school manner. 

His table booth had a plethora of beautifully painted illustrations especially some of the originals that hung behind him. It was stunning to see them in person. I wanted them all but they came at a price which is expected. Another fellow illustrator named Matt Sylvester, whom I know, was talking to him as I watched Mr. Kelly show him an original piece, explaining his process which was so fascinating. Matt and I knew exactly who we were dealing with. Standing somewhat taller than me like a giant, he spoke in such a laid back manner and was very open about the nature of his creative work. 

When a giant like Mr. Kelly walks into a local convention, you don't dare miss a chance to meet him. 

I got two prints from him with his autographed. So inspiring.

Eventually, after their conversation ended, I got two prints from Mr. Kelly with the autographs due to a favor I did for him. It was probably the most epic thing I ever did by keeping watch over his booth while he was away for ten minutes.

In the booth of one of the masters!

I chose the two that spoke to me as an artist, fencer and metal music lover. I will never forget this for years to come. 

Thanks to Mr. Kelly for the excellent work as it continues to inspire me. 

A Rush from 1979

" A Rush From 1979 "

After a long time of working on a personal project, I've finally completed it. This two panel piece was my attempt to recapture my memory of being in my older brother's room in the 1970s with rock posters placed prominently which towered over me when I was a kid. It was the Meatloaf: Bat Out of Hell poster that got my attention. It was also at the time Rush became huge in Cleveland, Ohio which my brother was a huge fan of. Even though the illustration is to the best of my memory as much as I could recall. I never understood the music at the time due to being deaf, but it was not until decades later when I started getting into some classic rock such as Pink Floyd where things started to click.

I said to myself, " Man, these guys really knew how to compose their stuff! ". It was still the Bat Out of Hell illustration, famously done by Richard Corben (EDITED), that ingrained itself into my mind all those years. It was one of those various influences that made me want to be an artist. But there is definitely a sense of symbolism involved in the two panel piece, especially the first one.

Especially one 2112 Rush album cover that ties in with the actual pose of my younger self that connects with my creative mission. And I quote from this wiki page as it states this connection quite well:

" In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. By 2112, the world is controlled by the "Priests of the Temples of Syrinx," who determine the content of all reading matter, songs, pictures — every facet of life.

A man discovers an ancient guitar and learns to play his own music. Thinking he has made a wonderful discovery that will be a boon to humanity, he goes to present the guitar to the priests of the Temples, who angrily destroy it and rebuke him for unearthing one of the "silly whims" that caused the collapse of the previous civilization. He goes into hiding and dreams of a world before the Solar Federation. Upon awakening he becomes distraught and commits suicide. As he dies, another planetary battle begins resulting in the ambiguous ending "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." (This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson reportedly "messing around with a tape recorder.") On the "2112/Moving Pictures" episode of the television series Classic Albums, Neil Peart confirmed that he intended the ending to be a happy one as the people of the Solar Federation are liberated. "

The idea of the Starman holding the guitar would be like me awakening to the creativity of visual art as the real world resists the idea of fantasy illustration as not a form to be taken seriously. So instead of the guitar, it's my pencil or brush. And hiding away in my own world until awakening to the harsh realities of condescension that sequential art, back in the day, was considered beneath society's standards. Today, it's become mainstreamed and accepted. 

The shadow of my older brother can be seen lip synching to the music that's playing, even though you can't see him since he's way behind me.

The STOP sign was definitely there in his room as I remember it along with other items, including his denim jacket he used to wear all the time where he could reach for his cigarettes from the front pocket. One could see cigarette smoke coming from the ashtray atop of one speaker, but it's not really a cigarette one which is actually a counter-cultural version of it, stemming from the hippie era.

The second panel shows the present time of being in my studio space working away, surrounded by wall scroll posters of my favorite anime/manga. There is definitely a technological shift between those two panels from the large stereo speakers to that of my iPod being played from the corner. And my original hearing aids from the first panel consisted of chest straps ( which was a pain ) to that of the BTE ( behind the ear ) version of today. It's somewhat subtle but it's there. 

What was interesting is that Paul Pope, a well known comics illustrator whom I follow time to time, created a short story called " 1979 " based on his experiences at that era, and I believe it's long out of print. I did'nt know about its existence until I stumbled across it. This was while I was working on this project in the same time. I think the underlying message is to keep going, no matter what.

The entire project was done on Manga Studio software after I scanned in the original drawings as a foundation. The panels are actually 11 x 17 in size and when compiled together, it's much larger that it appears to this web version.

I've considered making it available as a print on my Society6 store but we shall see. 


Millennium and Mouse Guard review

When I mentioned about the return of Frank Black, I was serious about picking up the first issue at the comic shop which took about a few weeks of waiting. Last Friday, I visited Earth Prime Comics in Burlington, VT prior to heading out to a Death concert ( which is a great band, by the way ) and waited until the manager was done talking to a customer. As the guy was leaving, the manager tossed the comic to my direction with enthusiastic glee stating that it has arrived. 

And while I was there, I decided to pick up a hardcover copy of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe which I've been meaning to read for ages which I'll get to momentarily.

The poor weather actually forced me to stay in at home over that weekend which allowed me the time to catch up and read. Millennium, as I've mentioned, is one of my favorite shows of all time from the late 1990s before its cancellation which bummed me out for years. It was not until recently that IDW Publishing let the cat out of the bag that Frank Black would return. I was so ecstatic about the show's return in print format as I've almost come close to producing my own comic fan fiction of Millennium earlier on. It was such a good thing that they got the license to do it. 

After reading it, I thought it was off to a good start, despite other reviewers thinking it was slow or boring. In fact, it was appropos. I won't reveal too much about it but the way it begins in the X-Files universe was a good starting point in order for Frank Black to make an appearance, thanks to Mulder's presence and insistence in following up on a certain case. In this new 'season', Frank and his daughter are estranged and I suspect she's much older, probably at the same age of the same actress Brittany Tiplady who was in that role in the show. 

The sense of darkness and dread is there which is helped by the art of Colin Lorimer's use of shadows and noir. Especially the latter in which the cinematography of the show is honored in this comic. It is also noted by the fact that Joe Harris is writing it. If what I read is indeed a return to the flavor of Millennium's second season, then I'm a happy camper because it's exactly what the third season should've been, relating to the supernatural. 

It's a nice slow burn and I can't help but think this story is a vehicle to introduce Mulder right off the bat and rope Frank back into the darkness, and thanks to the dark machinations of The Millennium Group's scheme that set things off in motion. Then, eventually the X-Files-verse will exit and all the focus will be on Frank. I think it's a good idea and hope they manage to pull this off. It's actually appropriate considering the way they met before in a crossover storyline in an X-Files episode that concluded the Millennium series, some time after it got cancelled. 

For those who are fans of Millennium, I highly recommend it.  

This Is Who We Are.  

Millennium #1 IDW Publishing

Now, on to Mouse Guard: The Black Axe. . .

Mouse Guard: The Black AxeThis hardcover edition is actually a collection of single issues of " The Black Axe " which is a prequel and origin of the character Celenawe. It is published by Archaia Entertainment and created by David Petersen who continues to amaze me with the longevity of this series. In order to understand The Black Axe, one would have to read the first two volumes " Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 " and " Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 " in which Celenawe appears. The Black Axe has been a mystery at the time until the particular title was released.

Petersen also published " Legends of the Guard " Volume One which I have, although I'm missing the second.

Like usual, his art in the Black Axe is stunning with beautiful clean black lines and stippling effect, including the coloring.But what sets it apart from other anthropomorphic comics like Mice Templar is the sense of story telling and pacing. Every time I open up a Mouse Guard story to read, it has a sense of quietitude and environs of low fantasy without magic. But also the character development is brilliant. They are as real as you and me without the shallowness. The sense of danger they deal with daily is harrowing as survival is imperative, not too different than what the europeans had to deal with in the times of The Black Death. 

And when you see the pain Celanawe puts up with, it hits you. Especially the one scene in this book when he returns to Lockhaven in secret. Being a Black Axe is such a huge responsibility which I can see why he's put in the situation he's in, but I can't but wonder what would happen if such rules were to be changed and how that could affect the society of guard mice. 

The Black Axe is essentially an origin story of how he came to be and the history of this particular weapon. I loved how he added some maps and cutaway diagrams of buildings near the end of the hardcover as bonuses. But what impressed me was in between chapters, he put in medieval styled tapestries with symbols and inscriptions relating to the stories regarding the black axe's history. The world-building in Mouse Guard was well thought out since the creator knew exactly where he was going telling the story. World building, I think, is an important art form to have in order to make something believable without having it fall apart, the latter which I've seen plenty of times in other books. 

And when I say Mouse Guard is unique, it truly is. I think of it as Game of Thrones mixed with Secret of Nimh. How the guard mice interact with other animals is fascinating with various dialects and cultural backgrounds which is not hard to guess if one were to look carefully. For example, the weasels' kingdom is inspired by the Viking culture in this story which I appreciated. Mice Templar, on the other hand, seemed to be of a different flavor that did'nt seem to click with me as it was high fantasy on that spectrum. 

Seeing they are guard mice, they remind me greatly of the Knights Templar protecting pilgrims and fighting off saracens and infidels. Right now, Petersen's doing " Legends of the Guard Volume " Three as individual issues but I want to wait until it's collected in hardcover for a better reading experience. I also happen to have a copy of the Mouse Guard RPG based on Luke Crane's Burning Wheel System which is a beautiful tome ( a second edition is in the works, I hear ). 

For amusement's sake, in the physical world, the Mouse Guard board game called " Swords and Strongholds " which made an appearance in the stories is becoming a reality through a Kickstarter.

And he did mention doing another storyline with Mouse Guard tentatively titled  " The Weasel War of 1149 " which appears to be another prequel to Volumes One and Two but more epic. It just goes to show how much depth Mouse Guard has these days and I don't think there's any stopping it.

Any fan of Game of Thrones or anthropomorphic stories would love Mouse Guard.

Frank Black is Back


Millennium show logo aired by FOX network

Once upon a time, in the 1990s, there was a show called the X-Files which catered to my interests in UFO-ology and conspiracy theories which I shared in common with friends I hung out with when I was living in Cleveland. It was great fun discussing the show and at the same time, the internet was young as a digital 'wild west' as we would log on and chat into the wee hours of the night in old school BBS, or bulletin board systems, or jumping through other old school HTML websites reading up on conspiracy sites. 

But there was something else as I experienced a certain darkness. It was at that era when an old friend and I would chat about things of occultic nature that ties in with the history of humanity, and the feeding of ignorance abounds behind veiled curtains. He mentioned a book called Holy Grail, Holy Blood written by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. 

That book blew my mind which proved my friend right that it was intelligently researched and thought out within that ' cottage industry '. It was also the inspiration behind Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which I'm not quite a big fan for reasons of my own. It pulled me deeper into the rabbit hole, devouring books on the Knights Templar, the Ark of the Covenant, mythology and symbology of the Holy Grail, and so on.

One rabbit hole after another.

Because I was questioning reality around me, that book could not have come at the right time. This was some time after the mid-1990s when I was reading up on the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and other dark tales, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting during her " Servant of the Bones " signing tour, and an experience I will never forget. Another author I should add that I met twice now, in that same time frame, is Neil Gaiman who signed two of my books.

And moreover, when a certain show " Millennium " created by Chris Carter was being advertised, I was intriqued. It was that time, I was in art school, while looking forward to each Friday nights of " Millennium " Season One. I was also reading a book titled " Foucault's Pendulum " by Umberto Eco which tied into the Knights Templar mythos.

By then, I delved into another rabbit hole reading up on " The Name of the Rose ".  by the same author as well. I used to haunt Squire's Castle in Cleveland Metroparks time to time when I tooks pics of the place and it became my spot to hide away from the craziness.

With Season Two of " Millennium ", things got more interesting and best of all, there was synchronicity between the show and the books I've been reading up. At one episode later on that year, it related to the Rosicrusians, which on that same day I was reading up on this very subject matter and I said " Hey! I was just reading about that secret society! ". 

The show 'understood' and spoke to me. Every Friday, I would sit on my father's reclining chair and my siamese cat would jump up and sit next to me, and the darkness of Frank Black would begin with the click of the tv remote. 

What was cool about the show, especially the second season which is my favorite out of all, is the way episodes built up the supernatural elements and how Frank Black, acted by Lance Henrikson, relates to it, in apostolic fashion working with Peter Watts and Lara Means to investigate. He would live in a yellow house in Seattle with his wife and daughter since that color symbolizes the light and of safety. The show was'nt about the " truth is out there " but rather in the conflict of man versus man, or versus himself until things got more involved than what it appears to be. 

It was mostly introspective in that sense and the darkness was also gnawing at Frank at his shoulders. The idea of the Millennium Group employing Frank Black as a psychic profiler like a 'hound' to sort out the events was neat. There were sequences where some Millennium members would utter the secret handshake code " This is who we are ", responded by " This is what we do ". It's especially noticable in the " Hand of St. Sebastian " episode which I recommend. 

Who could forget " Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me " which amused me greatly? Or the well regarded and more famous episode of " Curse Of Frank Black " which I will never forget and it actually aired on a Halloween night. Such perfect timing.

I won't go any further to spoil the show to anyone who never watched it.

It's one thing why I think my studio logo relates to the shape of the Ouroboros, famously shown in every episode's title sequence, beginning with biblical quotes and a flash. But also the symboloism of creation starting with the inner circle and the outer rim of the logo represents the cosmos. See it in another layer and it would also represent the inner sanctum of introversion. 

It was not until 1999 when the show was cancelled which disappointed me greatly because it was one of the greatest shows ever made and I think has more depth than the X-Files, if you knew what to look for. When it ended, I created an original illustration of Frank Black standing in front of his yellow house for a fan site called The Millennial Abyss. I sent it in the mail and the guy was appreciative of the fan art which was put up on there. That site also branched out as Fourth Horseman Press which published Back To Frank Black. I did a four page comic experiment of a scene between Frank Black and Peter Watts which was great fun even though it's been over ten years ago.

That fan site was a continued outlet for the small community of Millennium after its cancellation. There were fans who wrote the virtual seasons in script format to read which was fascinating and I had some ideas of how to contribute but never found the time to. Ideas that would have been controversial that could shake up the Millennium-verse somewhat. I wanted to contribute to it so bad.

And I thought at the time, it needed to become a comic book series despite the fact there were rumors going about that a film version would be produced.

It was not until years later in 2014, news would break out that the character would return in a Millennium mini series by IDW Publishing. I was so excited that I could'nt believe it. This is why I'm writing this blog to those who are fans of the show to support IDW Publishing and demand more of Millennium. 

Oh, and that yellow house he lived in? Well, interestingly enough, since I live in Vermont now, there is an actual yellow house across the street where I reside from. And it looks almost like the one from the show. 

Millennium never died.

This Is Who We Are.

Frank Black illustration I did in 2000.

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