Thursday, July 21, 2016

[A&E] Chapter 3: Painting Myself in a Corner...


One of this mini series “Achilles’ heels” has certainly been its uneven and protracted publishing schedule.
Mistakes made by all (including me) from the very beginning, contributed to make this series chronically late.
These were mistakes made out of excessive enthusiasm and lots of good intentions, which, as we know, are the stones that pave the road to hell. Here’s what happened:

Following the initial negotiation stage, I had two urgent priorities pulling me in opposite directions. One was completing a story for Egmont I had already started. (8 pages had been completed which left me with pencil and inks for 24 interior pages and a cover to go) The other was producing as much promotional material (poster, covers and interior pages) as possible for this new project. By then, we were at the end of March.


This was the issue I was working on (for Egmont) at the time I accepted the assignment  from Hermes Press.

September 2014 was designated as the release date for the premiere issue of the Hermes mini series. A special presentation was also planned for the San Diego Comic Con, which was going to being held July 21-24. Given my circumstances, these dates were rather premature and would eventually reveal themselves as a gross mistake in judgment and planning. By the same token, these dates had been determined before I even came on board, and didn’t account for some intervening complications with Mr. Herman’s health situation, which delayed the choice of the series’ artist. (Me)

The mini-series was originally scheduled to debut in September 2014.

So, I found myself in a quandary. Had I given my full attention to the Egmont project, I could have completed it in three months. (Yes, I know, I am notoriously slow). This would have eaten all the time I needed to produce the bare minimum material for Hermes Press. Therefore I decided to complete 8 of the remaining 24 Egmont pages during the following month and ask my Swedish editors for an extension on my deadline. (They were not very happy about it, nonetheless they obliged)

Of course, those 8 pages ended up taking more than just one month, and I realized that I had painted myself in a corner even more. We were by then at the end of April, which left us two months before San Diego and five months before the release date of the first issue. In normal circumstances, by then we would have needed all the promotional material already sent to the distributor and the pencils of issue 1 fully done. Instead, we were (I was) still at the starting blocks.

Coming up next: Promotional Material.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BACK TO BLACK!


Here's a pencil commission I did over the blank cover of BLACK PANTHER #1.  It shows three stages of evolution of the character, from Kirby Panther ( a.k.a. "Happy Pants Panther") to my version ( which introduced the tribal motifs on the Panther's costume) to the "Civil War" version ( which adopted some of my designs on the costume)

For those of you who don't know, I worked on Black Panther  (Vol. 3) from 1999 to 2002 ( issues 13-49) and still hold the record for being the most prolific artist on this title. (Jack Kirby was the previous record holder)


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

[A&E] Chapter 2: “Your Mission, if You Decide to Accept it…”

Needless to say, that first phone call from Dan Herman was rather intriguing, notwithstanding the line was having the hiccups or dropping altogether several times. Because of that inconvenience, we decided to get back in touch over the next few days, both by phone and via emails. I was very interested in the project despite being booked solid with Egmont. Dan, on his end, was determined to find the right artist for the job, despite the serious health challenges he was facing at the time. We both decided to put our best foot forward and establish the premises of “The beginning of a beautiful friendship”


Anyway, these are the more salient points of our initial discussions and negotiations, which are also the reasons why I decided to accept what at first seemed a “Mission Impossible”




Here we go:



1) THE STORY WAS WRITTEN BY PETER DAVID!

Peter David’s fame and stature as a writer, by themselves, would  have been motivations enough for any respectable artist to jump enthusiastically on board.  In my case, this opportunity represented a welcomed reunion with “PAD” with whom I had previously worked on “Captain America” (Marvel) and “Justice League Task Force.” (DC) In 1988, PAD had also written the script of a Phantom mini-series for DC. (Read more about it, here.)
[I learned later that Peter had only written half of the series due to some substantial revisions  to the script which initially included another famous character from a different franchise.On top of that he would have been unable to help in the promotion of the project due to contractual obligations with another publisher… but we’ll save all these details for later.]

Sal Velluto and Peter David at the 2014 FanEx in Salt Lake City, Utah.

2) THE STORY WOULD STAR A “CLASSIC” PHANTOM!

Hermes Press had already established itself as publisher and estimator of classic Phantom stories: from the original newspaper strips to the legendary comic publications by Gold Key, Charlton, and King. When their license from King Features Syndicate was extended to publishing original material, it came natural to produce stories which would be faithful to Lee Falk’s  narrative and artistic approach. The story itself was set in the early 1940s and featured as co-protagonists Jimmy Wells and The Baroness, two characters straight out of the very first comic strips (“The Singh Brotherhood” and “The Sky Band”)
The choice of a “Classic” and “Canonical” Phantom was intentionally in contrast with more recent “Spurious” interpretations by other publishers.

The very first panel of the very first Phantom comic strip.

3) THE PROJECT WOULD REQUIRE A “CLASSIC” ARTIST!

Mr. Herman told me I wasn’t the first candidate to be considered for the job. There had been others who didn’t qualify for various reasons, including an unnamed artist who plainly stated: “I don’t like The Phantom!” It was during this protracted quest for the right artist that my friend Pete Klaus suggested my name to Dan and gave my qualifications as an established Phantom artist.  I felt confident I would fit the bill since I had made my living for several years already, drawing The Phantom in a classic style.




4) THE PRICE IS RIGHT... (Well, almost)

When it came to put the money where our mouth is, things became a little more challenging. (So what else is new?)  A flat fee to be divided in monthly installments was initially proposed to me.  If I divided the total amount by 120 interior pages and 6 covers (both penciled and inked) I would have ended up with considerably less money than I was making with Egmont. After some further negotiations, I signed a regular contract  (more in line with industry standards) where I would receive different fees for interior pages and covers and I would be paid 15 days after delivering the electronic files of each single cover and/or each batch of 10 interior pages., which would have guaranteed - in theory - a regular and continuous cash flow. ( Ultimately, things didn’t go exactly this way. More on this, later)
Unlike my contracts with other major publishers (Marvel, DC, Egmont) this contract didn’t include any royalties whatsoever. I was also accepting a considerable cut in pay compared to my Egmont fees, but I was willing to sacrifice some income in order to be back on the American market, working on the grandfather of modern super-heroes: “The Phantom; The Ghost Who Walks; The Man Who Cannot Die.”


Once we found ourselves on the same page, Dan and I signed over the dotted line. Now I was ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll!  About one month had passed since that first phone call.


Coming up next: "Painting Myself in a Corner."

Friday, July 8, 2016

[A&E] Chapter 1: “Guardian Angels”


"Pistol" Pete Klaus and Ed Rhoades (mustache) with Lee Falk and Sy Barry.
Back in 2007, soon after I started working on my first Phantom story for Egmont, I became acquainted with Ed Rhoades and “Pistol” Pete Klaus.

“For those who came in late” these two gentlemen happen to be two of the foremost Phantom historian, collectors and promoters. They were also the co-founders of the “Friends of the Phantom Society” which has sponsored numerous charitable initiatives along with a traditional annual luncheon at Sardi's Restaurant in New York with guests such as Lee Falk (who created The Phantom in 1936) and Sy Barry. (One The Phantom’s most iconic artists)

Ed and Pete quickly became my Guardian Angels. They educated me on The Phantom’s history, his heritage and what he represented for generations of fans worldwide.

Even after the untimely passing of Ed Rhoades (July 30, 2012) “Pistol Pete” kept the “Friends of The Phantom” going by keeping in touch with a lot of creators, editors, publishers and collectors from all over the world.

I was fortunate enough (and still am) to get periodical phone calls from Pete who encouraged me along the way, while sharing with me some rare reference material and even some Lee Falk and Sy Barry originals which are proudly displayed on my studio wall.

In one of these phone calls, ( in the later part of 2013) Pete mentioned that he had recommended my services to Dan Herman, the publisher of Hermes Press, a Pennsylvania company specializing in art books and classic comic book reprints.

Pete and Dan had been long time friends and had collaborated in the recovery of original material to be used in the reprints.

I told Pete that I would be willing to talk to Mr. Herman and I waited for his call for a few months, until that faithful day arrived, in February 2014.

Dan was calling me from his cell phone, on the way back home. That was the reason for the bad connection. “Saaal- bzzz- I heard good thingzz about you from our mutual friend Pete… Bzzzz…Anywayszz- zzzz- I have an offer for you, if you’re interested…”

Coming up, next: “Your mission, if you decide to accept it…”


Thursday, July 7, 2016

[A&E] Prologue: “Jungle Drums”



Many Phantom stories begin with the sound of the Jungle drums.

This story starts about the same way, except the sound of the jungle drums resembled more the ring of my phone.

“Hello –tzzzz- this is-zzzz- Daniel Herman, publisher of Hermes-zzz- Press- zzzzz…”

The connection was pretty bad and the caller on the other side was talking fast.

Nonetheless, I was able to make up the gist of the conversation, since I had already known, for months, this call would eventually come and why.

It was a quiet February afternoon of 2014 but the chain reaction that would bring me to this point, started seven years before, at the time I first started drawing The Phantom.

NEXT : “Guardian Angels”

[A&E] The Phantom: Danger in the Forbidden City




The Phantom: Danger in the Forbidden City  (Hard Cover and Trade Paperback) are now available for pre-order. (Click here to pre-order) The book collects the 6 issue mini series, written by Peter David and illustrated by yours truly. (With colors by Eugenio Mattozzi) Both editions will be presented at the San Diego Comic Con ( July 21-24, 2016)  

For the occasion, I would like to offer a creator’s perspective on the making of this critically acclaimed comic book miniseries. It’s a story  of a long journey through peaks of enthusiasm and valleys of disappointment. I decided to entitle it “The Agony and the Ecstasy” since it sounded more elegant than “Comics are Lke Sausages: It’s Better not to See Them Being Made.”

So, if you don’t mind eating sausage while on a journey through agony and ecstasy, claim aboard, fasten your seat belts and hang on tight, for the next few weeks. See you soon!

(Coming up next: “Jungle Drums”)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY [A&E] : The making of The Phantom miniseries.

COMING UP SOON: A creator's perspective on the making of the critically acclaimed comic book miniseries. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PANDEMIC!

Take a sneak-peek at the cover of my next issue of Fantomen/Fantomet.
What do you think?
Art:Sal Velluto; Colors:Eugenio Mattozzi

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine...)

Here's a sneak-peek of the December 2012 cover of FANTOMEN/ FANTOMET.
Can you guess what the story is about?
By the way, all the original artwork from this issue is available for sale, as a package.
If interested, please contact me.
Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, July 30, 2012

R.I.P. Ed Rhoades

I have just received the sad news that Ed Rhoades passed away, today, as the result of a bicycling accident. (See the news report from WNEP Channel 16 in Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre, PA)

Ed Rhoades was a great  family man, musician, art teacher,  a longtime Phantom fan, and friend of Lee Falk, Sy Barry and several other Phantom creators, editors, and fellow-fans all over the world.

Rhoades was editor and publisher of the newsletter for the Phantom fan club Friends of the Phantom. He has also contributed Phantom-related articles and interviews for several other publications. In addition, Rhoades was integral to the making of the A&E "The Phantom: Comic Book Crusader" special, created for the A&E Biography series in 2000.

As of 2006, Rhoades was a consultant for Moonstone Books and contributed articles under the title "Behind the Mask". Rhoades also co-wrote a story with Mike Bullock for the prose anthology The Phantom Chronicles.

My deepest condolences go to Ed's wife Kimberly and all the Rhoades family.  Rest in Peace, Ed.