Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Elders of the RuneStone...the Early Years Pt. 1

Ah yes, time for a walk down memory lane. RuneStone has been a work in progress for quite a while; since 9th grade, in fact. Those of you who have read the "Story Behind the Story" section of the site already know some of the details, but I thought it would be cool to share a little more of how far the idea has come. (Attached are early sketches from high school)

My first burst of inspiration came when I was in Mr. Browning's physical science class at Butler Middle School (junior high by a different name). The image that popped clearly into my mind was of a large noseless giant (who became Gar), crouching and looking out through a hole he'd just smashed through the wall of a locker-lined hall in a high school. Clinging to his neck and riding on his back was the girl who would become Kat. For whatever reason, this image really got me excited and I started to form a whole team and story around these two.

Originally Dain started out by the name Spencer Mabius, based off a guy I knew in high school who was friends with all the girls and had a rebel attitude. His name later changed to Spencer Hunt, then became Dain Mabius because I liked the sound of it. A cocky hockey athlete (instead of football, since every teen movie ever has the blonde quarterback as the bad guy) known for his physical ability and tendency to start fights, I gave Dain powers that would be the antithesis: he was amazing with computers. This intelligence-based ability would force him into a role he wasn't accustomed to, and therefore make him a more interesting character. These powers also evolved over time: at first he could simply remember everything he ever learned, especially computer skills (under the hero name "Sage"); then he could actually mentally link up to computers (changed to "Haq"); until I made it so he actually transformed into living cyber-hacking energy, able to enter the cyber-world and hack through it, perceiving it as an actual physical realm (now with his present alias "Gremlin"). I also wanted to make his skills in hockey part of his "real world" arsenal (see the early concept image), but changed out his dorky "super-hockey-stick" for an electric staff weapon. I also got rid of an initial idea for roller blades that popped out of his boots (due to nightmarish flashbacks of the 1997 movie "Batman & Robin").

Kat also went through several changes. At first I was going to call her "Fireworks" since she could fly and shoot fire (her real name was even going to be "July Forth"), but decided that was the same power that roughly 65% of superheroes have. So I had to rehaul her to make her more interesting. I thought about her shooting explosive "fire-bombs" out of her hands, but figured that was too close to Jenny's powers. So eventually I made her able to manipulate her own gravity to fly, and to effect the elements in her atmosphere, i.e. pulling carbon out of the air to make shards of lead to shoot at bad guys, combining oxygen with hydrogen to shoot water, use various gases to shoot fire, etc. This was also a cool change because her powers had such potential to evolve as she gained greater control and understanding of how her powers work. So look forward to some really awesome developments as the series goes on!

Thus concludes Part 1. Keep your eyes peeled for the further story of how RuneStone came to be...

(Author's note: He would like to apologize for his inability to draw girls very well, an affliction that continues to this day.)


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Inking RuneStone

I talked alittle about inking over my pencils for the preview, in the last post. And like I said, we decided if this is going to meet any form of a deadline we needed to bring in some help on the inking end of the process.

Da dun da daaaaa! Enter Rick Ketcham (inker extrodinaire) I've known Rick for 3 years now, we are a part of the same art studio. Tsunami Studios . I originally joined after working with Randy Green as a background artist for New X-Men. That didn't last long, but I had moved up to North Carolina and joined the studio. It was quickly apparent that Rick and myself were really the only guys that were up at the studio on a daily basis, and we quickly became great friends.

As Rick would work on various projects for Marvel (namely, New X-Men, New Excaliber, and now Joss Whedon's run on Runaways!) Occasionally I had the chance to fill in on various projects. Rick really tutored me when it came to inking. I learned more from him than he probably knows or would admit, but I can guarantee that I've improved as an inker soley based on his instruction and guidance. To the point that I found myself getting hired as an inker before I was penciling full issues. I never thought that would happen. SO all that credit goes to my good friend Rick.

So imagine my amazement when I had the chance to have my mentor finish the art for my very first work at Marvel! I mean Rick Ketcham ladies and gentlemen....suffice it to say, it was a great experience. When we realized we needed an inker, I brought it up to Rick. Honestly I was kinda beating around the bush trying to ask him, because I didn't know if he would want to spend his time away from Marvel work to do RuneStone. As I was explaining the situation, he interrupted my babbling and just said, "Well, are you asking me to ink it?". I answered
dumbly..."yeah". He said... "well, sure" and that was that.

So from now on the work that will be posted on the site will be graced with the spectacular inking talent of Rick Ketcham...or a.k.a. THE RICK. (thats his wrestling name)

I am currently working up single character covers to use as promo art and covers for the
subsequent issues for the first story arc. Once I'm finished penciling those, I will hand them over to Rick and we will post the images.

"I love it when a plan comes together"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My approach to RuneStone's "Look"

Hey all-

Basically I wanted to talk a little about the "Look" of RuneStone.

Generally, the work I've done before has been an action adventure tale set in the world we live in. I know that sounds pretty broad, but when it comes to comics, that actually narrows it down a bit. I've worked on books that were military, fantasy, and even superhero in nature. What I found in RuneStone was a combination of all of these things and more!

The preview that you can see on the site was my first time doing the penciling and inking myself. Previously, I've either had to pencil very tightly because I didn't have the inker to finish the lines, or I was the inker over another penciler. Having to pencil tightly (and very clean) was due to not having an inker for most of the GI JOE books I did. I was the last say, when it came to the line art. So that made me very detail and line weight concsious.
I will go into the professional benefits of an inker, and being on both sides of the process at a later date.
Only recently with the work I did at Marvel was I finally allowed to pencil a book knowing a very professional inker (Rick Ketcham) would be handling the finished line art. I could trust the process enough to not have to draw every bit of detail, texture and line weight in. It's amazing how much time that saved me!

So, having professional experience in both steps of the process allowed me the ability to do both jobs on the preview. What I learned very quickly about RuneStone, was that we would be better off getting someone else to ink it. Heh.
Towards the end of the preview I was finally letting up in the pencil stage, and doing the details and finishing touches with the inks. But I'm still too set in my ways for that to save enough time.

One interesting effect of inking my pencils, I was alot more free with spotting blacks and finding places for heavy shadows. It certainly helped with the mood of the preview, being at night and the seriousness of the fight. When we have more scenes at the school, I'm sure that will lighten up as needed.

So with a moodier feel to the art through heavier shadows, another major contributor to the art is of course the colors.
By acquiring Bob Pedroza to color the book, we knew going into the preview that he would really be able to handle the effects and mood of the fight. The abilities each character has needed to have their own signature color/design. We wanted them to very much feel like an unique individual, but also keep them feeling like a team. Bob did an amazing job with that. Gar's blue transformation, Jenny's orange surrounding armor effects, Kat's ability to manipulate fire were all rendered in a unique way. However, you never feel like it's out of place in this world we've created.
We wanted a very slick, but dark superhero atmosphere. And through a combination of shadows and texture in the inks, and Bob's many embelishments through great color choices, we've found a great "look" for the series!

At any rate, there is a look into the process. I will be posting more sketches and character designs, so be sure to check out the block regularly!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Art of Runestone

Robert here!

We are excited and pleased with the reception of Runestone so far! We had great success at the Chicago Convention being able to get the Runestone preview books in people's hands and get some feedback from the crowds. We hope to hear from all of you that are reading the blog and checking the site regularly!

So please comment on the blog or email us directly at with your comments on the preview you can find on the site, or you read through the preview book.

As the artist for Runestone, I will first confess that the pages and promo art look as great as they do, because Bob Pedroza has really surpassed all our expectations and makes RuneStone come alive! We found Bob through an ad we posted on ( a great web forum for comic book colorists to showcase their art) He responded with a gallery of his work, and we quickly hired him!

The first art for Runestone began in Quinn's sketches and doodles in high school, and would continue to be refined through his college education at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It was there that we met. We were both Sequential art majors, basically learning to tell a story through art, and we went to the same church aswell.

Quinn told the story to me over the course of a long church trip, and I was facinated by the characters and their struggles with life, and newfound powers. Soon after I was doing some initial character designs of the major characters. This was about 4 years ago.

Since then we talked about putting out Runestone as a book, but I knew I wasn't quite ready to tackle such a cool story. I just felt like I wasn't good enough. Since graduation I went on to work as a background artist for New X-Men, New Excaliber, and JLA. I started getting my first solo work through Devils Due publishing working on GI JOE (namely SnakeEyes Declassified, and Dreadnoks Declassified). I've kept pretty steady working for them over the last 3 years on various titles. Finally this summer I was able to do my first work for Marvel comics! It was a blast, and a lot of fun considering my first story had Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk all in one story!

Starting last November I began work on RuneStone again with revised character designs, and begining to layout the Preview you can see here on the site.

So, finally I felt my art was at a level that I could do RuneStone justice. We are currently in production on the first 40 page issue that will debut here on the site for FREE! Penciled by myself, inked by Rick Ketcham (New X-Men, New Excaliber, Venom, and currently inking Joss Whedon's run on Runaways for Marvel!!!), and of course colored by Bob Pedroza!

Be sure to check out the site as we update art and sketches for the upcoming story.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Human Element in Comics

Today I wanted to write on a topic that I've thought often about and I've tried my best to implement. It's the importance of the human element in comics.

We as humans are so complex; there is so much about ourselves that we don't understand. Case in point: for anyone who's ever attempted dating, there's a lot to figure out and work through. Does that girl like me? What is it about myself that I can change so she will? Should I even try to improve myself, or am I okay the way I am? And when I do get the courage to ask her out, how do I proceed? I've had so many times where things just haven't worked out for one reason or another. I'll like a girl a lot, then after we go out, my feelings for her fade. Why? Am I non-committal? Is it just not right? And perhaps the biggest question of all: Why can't I just find someone who I like, who likes me the same way? And how to make it last? Those of you who have had long-term relationships (I regret to say I'm not really in that category yet) know that there's a whole new slew of challenges to deal with once you have committed to someone. And all this is just on the subject of love.

Just like songs, poetry, paintings, movies, etc., comics are a great way to look at ourselves and our fellow human beings and attempt to explore why we are the way we are, and to learn these lessons in a safe medium (i.e. when the story's over, we shut it and don't have the repurcussions inherent in real life). We also have the luxury of theorizing on the human condition in fantastic scenarios we'd most likely not encounter in real life. This opens the door for some truly rich journeys of creativity.

Some examples: As a lifelong fan of the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series, several stories touched on this. In Vol. 1, Issue 28, the Turtles come up against a dying race of Fish-men. The fight ends when the last remaining female member of this race dies from exposure to a nearby nuclear power plant. As the survivors solemnly take the body of their kin back to the waters, the thought hits April (who is narrating) that just like the fish-men, the Turtles are the last of their race, and one day, they will die and be gone. In a very solemn and touching ending, April takes Casey Jones in an embrace saying, "Just hold me, Casey."

In Issue 9 from Vol. 2 of the Tales of the TMNT series, Michelangelo has to come to grips with the death of his beloved cat Klunk. When offered a chance by a mysterious stranger to sacrifice the life of a local alleycat in place of Klunk, Mikey hesitates, then realizes no matter how much he loves Klunk, he can't make the sacrifice of an innocent soul, even a mangy, flea-bitten one. As the story ends, Mikey finds out that the alleycat is the mother of Klunk's kittens, and hope softens the bitterness as life goes on.

Another fine example is the graphic novel Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel (from Top Shelf). Within the framework of a goofy, action-packed science-fiction adventure involving alien symbiotes, a mantis-man bodyguard, a malevolent ghost and a resurrected space eel, there is the story of a scientist coming to grips with his religious beliefs and convictions -- taking a look at what he really believes and knows for himself, and how that will change his life.

A final example is Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. In the story, an exiled Batman in his sixties must come to grips with a world that claims they don't need superheroes to save the day, even as their society is torn apart by sadistic criminals who don't believe in retirement. He decides to take up the cape once again, dishing out his own brand of harsh justice despite a media-controlled society that brands him as no better than the criminals he's hunting. It's a bleak and dark look at the character that forces us to ask ourselves the questions: When does one let politicians and popular opinion determine our inner convictions? And when do our inner convictions mirror the darkness we are trying to fight?

Now you may have noticed that I've focused on super-hero themed books. There are many, many genres of comics out there, several of which are focused specifically on this human element I've been discussing; some not based in fiction at all (Blankets by Craig Thompson (from Top Shelf) is a shining example of this--recommended reading, as far as I'm concerned). But the reason I have talked specifically about the super-hero genre is because it's what I prefer to write (i.e. Elders of the RuneStone). In this mindset, I've realized that there are two main ways to implement the human element: There are comics that are about super-heroes who happen to be people, and there are comics that are about people who happen to be super-heroes. Personally, I prefer the latter. And in the past several years, mainstream comics have definitely moved in that direction. Thank goodness!

I think there's a place for the "popcorn comic". Sometimes we just feel like having a good time. For people who want non-stop action without having to think much, I would recommend the early 90's Image Comics. Big muscles, big boobs, big guns, crap gets blown up and everyone goes home happy. Back in the day they sold like crazy. But for my part, it makes me feel empty after a while. Case in point: the movie Blade (I know, it's a movie, but it's based on a comic :) ) was full of cool fights and great action. But it was hard for me to care about a hero that had so little personality. I didn't see myself in him at all, so how can I care if he dies? Whereas what has made the Spider-man comics and films so successful is their blend of action with a deep look at Peter Parker's life as a normal human being: trying to juggle his fantastic powers with holding a job, dating Mary Jane, and paying the rent.

Those who know me will see that the plights of the heroes in Elders of the RuneStone to be very auto-biographical. Some are taken directly from my life: Scott's mother dying of leukemia, his father being remarried, and the subsequent introduction of new brothers and sisters, etc. Another is Jenny's trying to keep her chin up in a school that doesn't easily accept new ways of thinking.

My hope is that as I write these stories I can better understand myself and always be moving forward in my life. If I can somehow help shed some light and help those who read my work do the same, then all the better. And if comics can transcend their sticky label as mindless, childish entertainment and truly help us become better people, well then, I guess it's art after all, isn't it?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Website Update and Sketches

Hey All!

I wanted to say thanks to all those who are checking out the website while we are getting things together. Elaine is working feverously to get the site completed, so we certainly appreciate her hard work and your patience with us.

For the next few weeks we will be adding content and making the website a way to get introduced to RuneStone. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to contact us through email. That can be done through the contact button on the site or email us directly at

We will have the second half of the preview uploaded soon for all to see! Once production is completely underway we will be posting 5 new pages of story every 2 weeks. The first issue is a double-sized 40 PAGER! So expect 8 free updates in the course of the next 3-4 months.

In between those page uploads I will be uploading to the blog new sketches and behind the scenes stories and art associated with RuneStone!

Here is one to get started.

This is Smiley, the leader of a gang that members of RuneStone face in the first issue. He is incredibly creepy to draw....

First post! and the unveiling at Wizard World Chicago

Well it's finally up, the creators' blog for Elders of the RuneStone. I can't tell you how excited I am to be involved in this comic series, seeing as how it's a story I've been working on my entire adult life. To finally see it as a reality--well, it's just something very special. I hope that all of you will be along for the ride as we kick things into high gear!

So a little report on how things went in Chicago this past weekend as we officially unveiled Elders of the RuneStone to the world at the Wizard World Con. I flew from Salt Lake City, Utah to Springfield, Illinois where Robert (the artist on the series) lives with his wife and son, and soon joined by his sister Elaine (our web master) we set about feverishly preparing the last details for the show. Basically, that meant getting all the preview books ready to go with teaser pages of the series and behind-the-scenes character art. Although we had spent the past several months on everything from the artwork (a huge process) to the coloring (from our amazing new ally Bob Pedroza) to lettering (me) to the trademarking process (thanks Dave) to registering and building the website (many, many thanks Elaine), there was still a LOT to do.

And that meant dealing with every possible setback.

We had problems getting the art files to work between our three computers. Then we had problems getting the fonts to work right. Then the ink ran out of Elaine's printer as we printed the books. Then the store didn't have any more ink, so as a last ditch effort, we bought a NEW PRINTER. Then THAT one ran out of ink. And all this being done in the last hour before we had to leave for Chicago. Stressful? Yes. Frustrating? Oh yeah. But rewarding? Well, of the 50 preview books we printed (which after all was said and done came out looking awesome), we gave several away to publishers and fellow artists, kept a few for ourselves, and sold the rest. Robert, who is much more experienced in the convention circuit than myself, said he expected us to sell 20 at most. What a blessing it was that our debut went so well!

A special thanks goes out to Mike O'Sullivan, editor at Devil's Due Publishing, for graciously letting us crash in his apartment for the duration of the show, and for his generous friendship. We had a great (and exhausting) time and are already seeing the results as our site has received numerous hits.

For those of you checking out Elders of the RuneStone for the first time, we're glad to have you along for the trip. More updates coming very soon as we prepare for the launch of the FIRST ISSUE, available for download this fall! Until then, get ready to rock!! And enjoy the features we've added thus far as the story unfolds.