Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Entry 145: Blast From The Past- Part 11

Previously on "Blast From The Past":

"I want to grow up and draw comic books just like Jim Lee." "Wow, my first convention." "Good stuff kid." "Not what we're looking for." "I'll submit my stuff to everyone I can." "Another rejection letter?" "I'm surprised no one has hired you yet." "Will I ever catch a break?" "There's a company that's just starting out. You won't get a page rate but it will be experience and your stuff will get published." " I guess I'll give it a shot..."

And now the continuation of "Dustin Weaver's Blast From The Past"

2001, Dallas TX: We open on a small, dark apartment living room. It's just after 1am. A 22 year old Dustin Weaver enters the apartment still wearing his Blockbuster Video uniform, a 7-11 coffee in hand. He changes his clothes, puts on a movie and gets to drawing. The drawing he starts working on is that of a man standing on the corner ledge of a sky scraper looking up into camera with the city plunging down behind him. With a gun in each hand, no where else to run, he looks into the sky at an unseen foe, who could be god himself for all we know, and the look on his face says, "Bring it."

Have I built this up too much?... Shit. Here's the image.
This is a recolored version of the cover to the first comic book I ever drew, Assassins Guild #1. (Eventually this comic was published and this is not how the cover ended up looking, but this is how I had always intended this image to look. I really wanted to recolor this cover before it was published but I didn't have photoshop. So I used colored pencils on a photocopy to try to communicate to another colorist what I wanted. It was never recolored, but I kept that color penciled copy. This is actually a scanned and cleaned up version of that colored pencil photocopy. You can see the way the published version was colored in my cover gallery.)

Until I did this comic I hadn't drawn anything longer than 10 pages. In this "Blast From The Past" entry I'll be talking not only about this first issue, but also about Assassins Guild #2 and #3. This is going to be a big entry, but it ends with me getting a call from Jim Lee himself and landing an internship at Wildstorm Studios... Spoiler alert.

In my last "Blast From The Past" entry I talked about working for a company that was just starting up. I did 3 short stories for them and now they were asking me if I wanted to do a 4-issue mini series. I was already feeling like this company wasn't where I wanted to be. I was feeling like they were making a lot of promises they couldn't keep. So I wasn't sure I wanted to take on this series.

They sent me the script for the first issue. It was a futuristic sci-fi action story set in a metropolis, like Blade Runner or Akira. I'll be honest, I didn't think the script was great, but it was exactly the kind of comic I wanted to draw at that time. I knew that this was the sort of thing that I could make look cool. It would also be a chance to finally prove to myself that I could draw a whole issue of something, and I'd get a lot of practice at drawing comics. So, I decided to do it.
Randy Taylor wrote Assassins Guild and it was inked by Joe Fauvel. I still consider both of these guys to be buddies and the only reason I feel okay saying that I didn't think the script was great is because I know that Randy himself feels like his writing wasn't as strong back when we did this comic.

Despite its shortcomings, I think that this first issue is a lot of fun. I look back on what I did on this book all the time. It's got a lot of energy. It's not the work of a polished professional. It's more raw. It's full of enthusiasm and experimentation. I still strive for this kind of energy all the time.

I took a lot of liberties with the storytelling in this series. I added lots of panels, extended scenes, changed the way some scenes played out, and even changed the gender of one character. Here's a good example from issue 1 of how I added panels.
Check out this page. It's got 10 panels and one of them is an upside down shot and another one is a fish-eye shot. It's one of my favorite pages from the series.
 Here are some more pages from issue 1.

The move the guy in this next page does to the other guy's arm in this fight scene cracks me up. What kind of move is this?! I think I knew at the time that this wasn't a thing to do, but I thought I could make it work.

 Moving on to issue 2.
 At the start of this issue I was really liking Lee Bermejo's work on Batman- Deathblow and it was inspiring me to start dropping out the outlines of things here and there and let only the shadows define them. 
 Here's a pretty detailed city scape scene. This first shot was referenced from a photo in the photo book "Above New York."

 This sequence is followed by maybe my favorite scene in the series where one of our bad guys is going to be executed by his boss for not doing his job well enough. The bad guy is totally accepting of his fate (to a funny degree, if you ask me) until it's revealed who will be doing the executing, a cyborg guy! At this, our bad guy becomes inexplicably incensed. It's really funny to me, in an unintentional way. It's great!

Here's an experimental layout that I think halfway works. In the first panel on this page is where I invented a way of plotting a vanishing point way off the page by making measurements on the sides of the panel and then connecting the dots. I thought I was a freaking genius. I didn't know till much latter that this is a common method used by artists.
 This issue also introduces my favorite vehicle design from the series.
I actually made a very crude model of this aircraft out of toilet paper rolls and cardboard so that I could see how it looked from different angles.

On to issue 3!

I can remember feeling things start to click into place with this issue. It's hard to explain, but things got easier. I was finally feeling like I knew what I wanted out of the drawings and I knew how to get it.
This guy with the mohawk was a fun addition to the cast. In the first shot of him you can see a picture on the wall behind him. The picture is of Brother Rabbit from the Ralph Bakshi movie Street Fight. I had this idea that I would include a rabbit somewhere in the shot whenever that character shows up. I guess it was an attempt at something subliminal or just an easter egg kind of idea.

Here's another example. Check out what's on the TV, and there's our mohawk guy sitting on the couch.
Around this time I was beginning to post artwork online. Until then I didn't have a scanner. The amazing inker/artist, Rich Friend, was running a yahoo group for aspiring comic book artists to post on. It was a fun and new thing to be able to show my work and get feedback. If you don't know Rich, he's a super great guy, a fantastic artist, and one of the best inkers in the business. I was a big fan of his work from back when he was inking Travis Charest on WildCats. He was working in the Wildstorm Studios, Wildstorm being the company Jim Lee created.

At some point in 2002 Rich emailed me saying that he had shown my stuff to some people at Wildstorm and he asked if he could have my number because someone might want to contact me.

I can't remember how it played out exactly. I continued plugging away and showing my new stuff on the yahoo group. Then one day I got a call and it was JIM FUCKING LEE! I had one of those experiences where I thought for a moment that someone was fucking with me. He asked me if I would have any interest in coming out to San Diego and doing a 10 week paid internship at Wildstorm.

This is my 11th "Blast From The Past" entry on this blog, and if you've read all of them, you might have some idea how much this moment meant to me. Working at Wildstorm was a dream of mine since the age of 13, when I got to go there and meet my favorite artist Jim Lee. Back when it was called Homage Studios.

This would feel like the end of a journey, like coming full circle back to the place where I first decided that being a comic book artist is what I wanted to do. This was the goal that I had set for myself all the way back then, and it took 10 years for me to achieve it.

The internship would start in March of 2003. Fortunately for me, I had grandparents in San Diego that I could stay with. It was perfect.

I was able to finish Assassins Guild #3 before leaving Texas for my internship. Here are some more pages.

Speaking of experimental layouts, check out this page.

Few times in my life have I ever felt so optimistic as when I left Texas to go to San Diego to start my internship at Wildstorm. I felt like I was fulfilling some kind of destiny. The story of my life had a perfect and meaningful structure, and it was about the power of will. My will. I had done it. I felt like I had worked hard to get to this point and that I was perfectly prepared for it... I think I got a little cocky.

Strange to think that I was cocky stepping into a room full of people with so much more experience and know-how than I had, but I was.

My internship wasn't the big break that I thought it was. It's really more the story of my humbling.

I'll get into that story in-- not my next "Blast From The Past" entry, but the one after that. I've still got a few things to talk about from before my internship. Also, there's a 4th Assassins Guild issue and a #0 issue to talk about later down the road.

And a big "oh yeah"- You can buy all of the Assassins Guild issues online. Go to  I hope that still works. Please check them out. I've sold some of the issues to people at conventions and it's always brought me a lot of joy. I worked super hard on this comic and, even though it's got problems, I'm proud of the work I did on it.

I'll leave you with the cover for issue #3 that I did during my internship.
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  1. This was a very nostalgic post for me. It's clear that you were giving it your all when you were drawing this comic and there's something inspiring about the enthusiasm of these pages. I think there's always going to be something special about this comic- any fan of action and adventure could find something to admire, rough edges and all. Looking at this kind of makes me feel like an old man- it reminds me that the page should always be an exciting thing full of possibilities.
    I'd forgotten about that climactic fight scene- it's really well done. I love the tilted page- like the hero is going to have to give it everything he's got to take down that cyborg. And the recolored page came out good, it reminds me of the coloring in those Hong Kong action comics. I hope your fans pick this book up, it's a real gem.

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  3. Awesome to see another blast from the past. These have been a TON of fun to read. Of course, this just makes me want more.

    1. Thank you, Jim. I always wonder what people think of these posts. After I wrote this one I didn't know if anyone would even bother to read all of it. I tend to think of these b.f.t.p. entries as the main feature of this blog. I'm excited to finally get to talk about Assassins Guild. I've stuck to my plan of talking about my career path in chronological order to the extent that I have not once brought up Assassins Guild on this blog, even though it was a big deal for me. I'm excited to start talking about my internship next. I think it'll be interesting. I'll try not to take forever getting to that.

  4. Hey there, great blog Dustin! Brings a lot of memories back. to introduce myself to our followers, I'm Joe Fauvel, Inker of AG. I have to say working on this book was fun and challenging! I would get pages from dustin and be like "That son of a bitch". I mean seeing the penciled pages... incredible. He is right when he says there was just raw energy in them. It was a pleasure to work on them. I still have al to of the originals and I'll pull them out from time to time to look at them.

    Keep up the good work man. I'll keep readings these too!