Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Adventures of...

Odd as it may seem, the concept that eventually became The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob didn't start out with Robert E. Howard in mind. The idea of creating a purely anecdotal biography (in comic strip form) occurred to us without a specific subject in mind.

For a while, we considered doing a series about the life of Edgar Allen Poe, or maybe George Washington, but neither seemed quite right. It wasn't until our friend James Van Hise introduced us to the work of Robert E. Howard that we knew we'd found our man.

Every once in a while someone will suggest how interesting it would be to see us give a similar treatment to a different historical or literary figure -- Beethoven was suggested once. Recently, when Spectrum Fantastic Art publishers Arnie and Cathy Fenner posted a Two-Gun original to their ComicArtFans page, they added the following note, "I'd love to see them do the same thing with Lovecraft or the Futurians or maybe even Harlan!"

Once they mentioned it, we were ashamed to admit that we'd never imagined Harlan as a subject -- God, what a wonderful hoot that would be! Maybe someday, with his permission, of course.

On the other hand, H. P. Lovecraft has appeared as a character in occasional episodes of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob, but there's only so many hours in a day, and considering the other comics and illustration work we have on our plate, it seemed unlikely that anything more specific would ever happen.

As fate would have it, Dark Horse editors Brendan Wright and Sierra Hahn happened to be doing an all Lovecraft issue of their B&W horror anthology, CREEPY, and asked if we would be interested in contributing a one page biographical Lovecraft strip, somewhat in the style of Two-Gun Bob.

They asked us to submit two sample ideas for them to choose from, and decided to choose BOTH -- even offering us the full-color back cover for one of them!

So, for Arnie & Cathy, and everyone else who asked for it, CREEPY #10 hit the stands last Wednesday, featuring our two Lovecraft strips, titled "The Runes of Ec'h-Pi-El" -- "Ec'h-Pi-El" being a mysterious-sounding, phonetic spelling-out of "HPL" that Lovecraft occasionally used in signing correspondence with friends.

It should also be noted that the name "Two-Gun Bob" likewise comes from Lovecraft, being the alias HPL first gave to Howard in the farcical 1934 story he wrote with R. H. Barlow, "The Battle that Ended the Century."

We can't say if there'll ever be more episodes in of "The Runes of Ec'h-Pi-El," but you never know.

I'm sure Dark Horse would prefer if we didn't post the entire strips here, so these jpgs will have to give you a taste until you are able to check out CREEPY #10:
We based this little opening panel on a silhouette HPL posed for during his life.
A few panels from our interior strip.
A panel from the color strip on the back cover, based on a dream HPL described in a letter to author Robert Bloch.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Yes, it’s completely pathetic that our site still had a Christmas post topping the page on Cinco de Mayo.

The problem is that although we’ve been busy every day working on an intensely complicated illustrated book, none of the work we’re doing is anything that our agreements allow us to post just yet. The book should be finished and published by next year, but that’s left us without much to post in the meantime.

It also turned out that our schedule didn’t allow for us to paint the cover to the newest book from the Robert E. Howard Foundation. We’ve been happy with the pulp-look we established for the library, and would have been sorry to see a cover that didn’t fit into that mold. But, spectacular good luck saved the day when our friend Mark Schultz turned out to have an opening in his schedule and created this incredible wraparound cover for the just released ADVENTURES IN SCIENCE FANTASY (click on any of the images to see them larger):

Check out what it looks like when it’s folded open (we've left the crop-marks in place so that you can see where it folds and cuts):

Mark wanted to capture the romance of a 1920s-era pulp cover, and in keeping with that theme asked us to design the title treatment in a way that suggested those of J. Allen St. John -- tricky to do, since St. John was one of the greatest, most recognizable, and unique title designers EVER -- but we solved the problem by appropriating the letter "S" from a St. John dustjacket for "The Saddle Wolf," and designing the rest of the treatment around it. Did the trick!

The book is limited to only 200 copies, and can be ordered from the REH Foundation at this LINK.

And for process fans, here’s Mark's preliminary sketch.

Just before we disappeared under our latest project, our buddy Gary Gianni had us design his Dark Horse collection MONSTERMEN AND OTHER SCARY STORIES. The book collects all of Gianni’s Monstermen stories (to date) along with a number classic prose stories (by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson, and others) all beautifully illustrated by Gianni. We’re very happy with the way it turned out, and highly recommend it.

In other book news, we were thrilled to see that our Weird Menace painting was given full-page treatment in SPECTRUM 18. These annual collections are priceless to any fan of contemporary illustration. Great stuff from cover to cover.

And, speaking of Spectrum, if you can get to Kansas City on May 18-20, please stop by our booth at SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE! Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz will also be there with our friends at Flesk Publications (Flesk has also created the official book for the show). Mike Mignola is one of the special guests, and a number of our other art buddies will also be in attendance: Greg Manchess, Scott Gustafson, Thomas Gianni (whose work you’ll also see on the cover of an upcoming REH Foundation title), and lots and lots of others.

So, we may not have too many new paintings that we’re able to post for a few months, but we’ll try very hard not to let so much time pass without posting again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day!

Avast! We be admittin' to bein' lax in our drawin' an' paintin' o' pirates, but here be a not-so-jolly Roger we slapped paint to a few trips 'round the Horn ago, for the bindings of Grim Lands.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Stuff!

We've recently completed another new dust jacket painting for the REH Foundation. This time it's Spicy Adventures!

(click on image to see larger)
Here's how it will look on the cover of the finished book:

(click on image to see larger)
We painted the picture in M. Graham Oils on an 18 × 24" piece of Ampersand GessoBord primed with acrylic ultramarine-tinted Floetrol. For those interested in this sort of thing, we took a few pictures as we went along, showing a little of the process on the painting.

(click on image to see larger)
We'd like to thank our great model, Lizz—who also posed for our Weird Menace cover. Check out her work on Facebook. She's amazing!

Model Lizz
Comic Con was a madhouse (what else is new). It turned out that, unfortunately, Ruth wasn't able to make it to San Diego this year, so I did the show all by my lonesome (well, except for Gary Gianni and the great guys from Madefire, who joined me at the booth).

I saw lots of brilliant art—including about a dozen original Frank Frazetta paintings that were on display for only 4 hours at a nearby Hard Rock Cafe. It was awesome ... and very weird to find them there, in the dark, at the back of a bar. I also met a lot of cool people, but without a doubt the highlight of the show for me was meeting one of my artist heroes—Jordi Bernet, who stopped by the booth! Yes, I gushed like the fan I am!

left: Jim, right: Jordi Bernet
If you're not familiar with Mr. Bernet's work, give yourself a treat and check out one of the new Torpedo collections that IDW is publishing. The best of the best! —Jim

Torpedo by Jordi Bernet

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

San Diego!

If you're in San Diego next weekend, and can somehow force your way through the crowded aisles at the convention center, please stop by and see us (and our booth-mate, Gary Gianni) at booth #4902!
SDCC 2010 (left to right): Mike Mignola, Mark Schultz, Ruth Keegan, Jim Keegan, Gary Gianni.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rankin

Each Year in Cross Plains, the Robert E. Howard Foundation presents awards for the best contribution to Howard studies. In past years, illustration wasn't among the categories eligible for a specific award, but that changed this year with the addition of "The Rankin." The award is named for Weird Tales illustrator Hugh Rankin (1878-1956). Howard himself cited Rankin as among his favorite illustrators, and actually collected some of his original art.

In 2009, one of our Adventures of Two-Gun Bob strips was devoted to Rankin — and, except for the hand in panel 2, it was entirely composed of Rankin's own illustrations from Howard's stories.
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We weren't able to be in Cross Plains for the awards presentation this year, but we received a pleasant surprise package last week from the Foundation. Along with several wonderful new books, the box included ... the first Rankin Award. We were both really flattered to have won — especially with such amazing artists as Tim Bradstreet and Tom├ís Giorello also in nomination.

Another great Rankin nominee, "Indiana" Bill Cavalier, designed the handsome award plaque. He tells us that it's laser engraved into bamboo!

Very cool. Thanks to all involved.