Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heroic Trio

Rick at Manuscript Press needed a quick promotional picture for an upcoming Comics Revue and asked us to draw Lee Falk's The Phantom & Mandrake the Magician, and Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon. We love drawing these old newspaper adventure heroes! We were amazed to find out that all three of these old guys are still clinging to life and appearing in new strips — which you can see over on the King Features website.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Those Meddling Kids!

We usually don't post about stuff like this, but the other day our son told us that he saw Two-Gun Bob turn up in an episode of Scooby-Doo — well, it wasn't Two-Gun Bob exactly, but...

The episode, "The Shrieking Terror," is part of a new cartoon series titled Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. The Scooby-Doo gang goes off to college where they meet Harlan Ellison (who actually provides his own voice for the show).

 In the show, Harlan is confronted at a lecture by a Robert E. Howard stand-in named "Howard E. Robertson" (there's also a writer named H. P. Hatecraft in the show — do you detect a theme?).

Before long a Lovecraftian beastie starts to terrorize Ellison and the campus.

Once foiled and unmasked, the monster turns out to be none other than "Howard E. Robertson".

...and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!

UPDATE: In our comments section, Rick Tucker is absolutely right. Don't watch this cartoon thinking that these characters actually portray REH or HPL. Despite looking a bit like REH (Hatecraft doesn't really look much like HPL), the Howard E. Robertson character is shown as a fannish dolt out to get revenge on anyone who doesn't share his devotion to Hatecraft. And yeah, It's irritating to see the Howard stand-in portrayed this way. Hopefully Scooby-Doo cartoons aren't most people's source of biographical information — but you know they probably are.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Other Gumshoe Drops

Below is our cover for The Robert E. Howard Foundation's forthcoming collection, Steve Harrison's Casebook. This is the companion volume to Tales of Weird Menace — whose cover appears in our previous post. Since together these two books collect all of REH's weird menace/yellow peril stories — subjects that are probably most comfortable in their own era — we decided to create a lurid pulp-style cover for the first volume, and a pseudo paperback-style cover for this one. The original is painted 11¾ × 18", in oil on an Ampersand Hardbord panel.

Thanks for all of your great feedback on our last cover!

  Below is the final cover, with text:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back from the Dead

Sorry for the complete lack of posts lately. We didn't die — we've just been doing commercial work way too boring to post here. Fortunately, we have some fun things coming up in the next few weeks.

With Halloween just around the corner, we've completed a new cover painting for The Robert E. Howard FoundationTales of Weird Menace (click on picture to see larger):

 Below is the final cover, with text:

This book is one of a pair of pulpy covers we're currently doing for the REH Foundation. Now on the easel is Steve Harrison's Casebook.

Monday, July 19, 2010

San Diego Comic Con

We're putting on our dapper best and heading off to the San Diego Comic Con this week. We'll be at our usual booth along with our friends Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz. We'll have lots of original art, as will Gary and Mark — so please stop by and see us.

Gianni, Keegan, & Schultz Booth #4902

We've designed a large, 8 ¾ × 12 ¼, 64 page, limited edition comic book for Gary, which he'll have at the booth — Into the Land of Shadows. We're big fans of Gary's work, and can't recommend the book highly enough (click picture to see larger).

Dark Horse Comics also has us scheduled for a Robert E. Howard Comics signing at their booth (Booth #2615) on Thursday from 6—7pm. We'll be signing a print of our Conan pin-up, and joining us will be Tomas Giorello, Scott Allie, Jose Villarubia, and Darick Robertson.

We hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Onward to Mongo!

We've been working on a lot of stuff that we're not able to post here, so tonight we decided to draw a steampunk Flash Gordon...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Two-Gun Bob and other Texas Adventures

A couple of months ago, we did an Adventures of Two-Gun Bob strip in which REH tells the story of a “gas attack” on San Antonio, Texas, in 1932. He described walking across the plaza in front of the “municipal building” when his eyes started to burn and everyone around him began coughing. He later learned that gas from a demonstration at a local military base had blown down on the city.

It took a little research to find out what REH meant by “municipal building” (there was more than one candidate). After a little digging we settled on the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium as the probable site — which caused Rusty Burke to do a little digging, and discover this newspaper advertisement for the art exhibit Bob was in San Antonio to see:

Since we flew into San Antonio on our way to REH Days back in June, we made sure to stop and see the building itself — which is still there, and essentially unchanged since 1932. We’d done our drawings based on a variety of postcard pictures and it was really fascinating to finally see it in person. It gave us this weird feeling that we were walking into our comic strip!

Here’s a picture we took that day, and below that is the strip as it ran in Dark Horse’s Conan the Cimmerian #21 (click on pictures to see larger):

A couple other quick notes from REH Days — after one of our panels, a guy came up to us and introduced himself as Alan Foster — to which we fannishly sputtered, “Alan Dean Foster, the author?” He was! This was an unexpected thrill for us, since we’d both been fans of his work since we were teenagers. It was also a new experience to meet someone we admired, only to learn that he was familiar with our own work. Mr. Foster, was even kind enough to pose for a picture with us (that's him in the middle). Super cool!

Every year at REH Days, Indy Cavalier brings along a variety of goodies created by the Robert E. Howard Foundation. Since 2007 we’ve designed the special lapel pins that commemorate the event, and this year was no exception. Here’s a look (click image to see larger):

We had a great time at REH Days in Cross Plains. It was nice to see so many of our friends again, and meet so many new people. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the event, and I hear they’re already planning for it to be something special. If you’ve never been to Cross Plains, next June might be a good opportunity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Al Williamson (1931-2010)

We returned home from REH Days this afternoon to the sad news that Al Williamson has passed away. It's not often that your heroes exceed your highest expectations, but that was Al — a warm, sweet, generous man.

John Fleskes has posted a comprehensive obituary on his blog.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Buz Sawyer

We drew this Buz Sawyer cover last week. It will be published on the October 2010 issue of Comics Revue. We love the old newspaper adventure strips and it's always fun to draw something like this, but it was an extra blast drawing this one because we both love the work of Buz's creator Roy Crane (1901-1977). He was the father of the adventure strip and a huge influence on our own work. When stuck for a solution an artist can never go wrong asking, "What Would Roy Crane Do?" (Click picture to see larger):

Thursday, June 3, 2010

CONAN pin-up!

Our Dark Horse Comics editor, Philip Simon, asked us to contribute a pin-up for the upcoming Conan the Cimmerian #25 — so yesterday, we did this! We'd never drawn Conan in our comic book style before, and it was a lot of fun. Thanks to Phillip for allowing us to post it here (click picture to see larger):

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Below is a picture we painted last fall for Del Rey's El Borak and Other Desert Adventures. It was painted in oil, 12 × 16", centered on a 16 × 20" Ampersand Hardbord panel. It illustrates a scene from Robert E. Howard's story "Three-Bladed Doom" in which El Borak is attacked by a screaming yeti! Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with this one (click picture to see larger):

 Not until it was looming over him, the great arms
closing upon him, did Gordon move...

Usually we'll do numerous concepts for any illustration, but below is our very first thumbnail -- done 2¾ × 3¾" in colored pencil. It nailed what we wanted, and as you can see, apart from the color design, we ended up sticking pretty close to this tiny doodle:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

B&W: Part Four

Another set of our greyscale vignettes:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: Atlantean

The comic strip below is a nice example of how sometimes a little first hand knowledge can go a long way when working with biographical material.

In 2008 we were preparing an episode of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob scheduled to appear in Dark Horse Comics’ Kull #1. We’d come across a letter from REH to his friend Harold Preece in which Bob ruminates on the theory that he might be a reincarnated Atlantean. The subject matter was perfect for Kull, but the text is abstract and doesn’t directly suggest accompanying visuals.

Fortunately, in 1999 we’d attended our first Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, and found ourselves invited to accompany REH scholar Rusty Burke on his first climb to the top of West Caddo Peak — a local landmark, which along with its little brother, East Caddo Peak, rises up sharply out of the flat Cross Plains landscape to form the highest elevation for many miles around. The owner of Caddo Peak Ranch was the late Frank Murray, who had heard stories of how REH liked to climb the Peaks (Howard, in fact, even set one of his stories, "Spanish Gold on Devil Horse" on the East Peak). Mr. Murray graciously allowed us onto his ranch, and guided us on our hike.

At the top, we saw what we expected — commanding views of the surrounding countryside in every direction — but we also saw something that we never would have expected had we not gone there for ourselves. It turns out that if you climb to the top of Caddo Peak, and poke around a little bit, you’ll discover that the Peak is practically littered with fossils. Not mammal fossils, either — fossils of ancient SEA creatures. It’s pretty strange to stand at the top of a dusty hill in the dead center of Texas, hundreds of miles from any large body of water, and find something that had once been deep under the sea.

We’re told by local residents that people have been finding those fossils up there for as long as anyone can remember. Although Bob never wrote about the fossils, it’s impossible to imagine that he could have been to the top of the Peak and not noticed them there.

It made the perfect visual to accompany the musings of a reincarnated Atlantean.

Below is the finished strip as published in Dark Horse Comics' Kull #1, November 2008 (click on the image to see larger):

Sadly, Frank Murray passed away in 2003, but each year on Howard Days his family continues to invite REH Days attendees to hike the Peak and join them for a fantastic sunset BBQ on their ranch. It's a wonderful ending to a great weekend. The 2010 REH Days are being held on June 11-12, and we're thrilled to have been invited to serve as this year's Guests of Honor. If you can make it out to Cross Plains, we'd love to see you there.

For more info on the Caddo Peaks, check out Damon Sasser's recent post over at his website — REH: Two-Gun Raconteur.

For more information and schedules for this year's REH Days, please go to this LINK.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Valley of the Worm — unpublished painting

Originally intended for the Subterranean Press edition of Crimson Shadows, this is an unpublished painting of Niord and the "Worm" from Robert E. Howard's epic 1934 story, "The Valley of the Worm."

We painted this large, 30 × 40" in oil on canvas, and had an impossible time finding a local photographer who could make a chrome for us. We eventually gave up and painted a completely different, smaller version on illustration board at 12 × 16", which could be laid on a scanner, and eventually became the version published in the book. Illustrator, Boris Vallejo (who also happens to be a camera buff), was kind enough to later help us take a picture of this large, previously unseen canvas, using a digital camera (click on the image to see larger).

When we lived in Los Angeles, getting large paintings photographed was never a problem, but in Pittsburgh it's still an issue we haven't solved to our satisfaction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

B&W: Part Three

Here's a few more of our ink wash pieces. All done 10 × 15" on illustration board.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This picture was painted in 2004 for the cover of the western collection, The End of the Trail, published by University of Nebraska Press (Bison Books). At the time we painted this, we hadn't been given a final contents list. All we had was the title, and that's what we went with — The End of the Trail. Painted a big 30 × 40" in oil on stretched canvas. Click to see larger:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: Burkett

Here's a quick anecdote about the research gymnastics required for barely noticeable details in a biographical comic strip.

In an undated letter (ca. March 1933) to August Derleth, Robert E. Howard wrote about shooting a gun off the back porch of his house, resulting in his getting chewed out by a neighbor. REH gave no specific details regarding when and where this happened, but he does mention that he was just a kid at the time, and that his family had, "just moved in from the country." As far as we know, biographers had always assumed that the incident happened at REH's house in Cross Plains, Texas — so we drew our comic that way. It wasn't until we'd finished that we suddenly realized the incident couldn't have taken place in Cross Plains, since REH clearly wrote that he'd, "just moved in from the country!" He wouldn't have considered his previous hometown of Burkett "the country," so he must have been referring to his family's move from the remote area of Cross Cut to Burkett in June of 1918.

The Howard's house in Burkett is no longer standing and no photos (that we know of) exist, so we redrew the appropriate panels using a generic house design common to the area. The minute we finished the redo we discovered a small floor plan to the Burkett house, drawn from memory by Deoma Morgan (daughter of Howard family friend, Dr. Chambers).

So ... we redrew the house again, this time following Deoma's plan.

Of course, in the finished strip you barely see any of the house, but, for what it's worth, we tried our best to make what little you do see as accurate as possible, with the door and windows is in the right places in relation to the back porch. Maybe someday someone will find a photograph of the house, and we'll get to do it all over again.

Here's the finished strip as it appeared in Dark Horse's Conan and the Demons of Khitai #2, back in 2005 (click to see larger):

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Two-Gun Bob: Sculpt

In 2006, we made a small Two-Gun Bob sculpt. It stands 5 1/2 inches from the bottom of the base to the top of his hat. It was modeled over armature wire using blue Sculpey (later baked and painted white). Master sculptor and all around nice guy, Clayburn Moore, came through with lots of helpful advice. We'd hoped to make some copies, but never quite got the hang of the casting process.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

REH Days: Cross Plains, TX

Each year in Cross Plains, Texas, they hold a weekend of events to celebrate the life of hometown author Robert E. Howard. This year REH Days will be held on June 11 & 12, and the theme is "The Illustrators of REH." We were surprised and flattered when they asked us to be the Guests of Honor!

REH Days is a lot of fun, with numerous events, panels, tours, and even a BBQ planned. You can see the complete schedule and other information by clicking HERE.

If you send any mail from the Cross Plains Post Office on June 11th, they'll use a custom-made, REH-themed, postal cancellation. In years past, "Indiana" Bill Cavalier created some wonderful designs, but this year he graciously asked us if we would like to provide the design for the cancellation stamp. We did, and the people at Project Pride in Cross Plains were nice enough to allow us to show you the design here on our blog:

If you can make it to Cross Plains, you should check out REH Days. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Silver Age Two-Gun Bob!

To celebrate the new month, this is the cover of the one-and-only issue of DC's 1957 Tales of Mystery, which featured a rare Silver Age appearance by Two-Gun Bob (click to see it larger).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crimson Conan

Today we have a couple of the preliminary drawings we did in preparation for painting the cover of Del Rey's 2007 edition of Crimson Shadows. Del Rey established a cover design that required the image to appear in a very small box, so we tried to keep our picture bold and simple. Below is our first tiny thumbnail and a super-quick color study:

Our editor liked the pose, but requested that we lose the helmet and chain mail shirt:

Sans hat and shirt, we were given the go-ahead, and this is how it appeared on the cover:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Garfield's Heart

Here's a preview of the work we're doing for the planned Subterranean Press edition of Grim Lands (no release date yet). This plate is from the story "Old Garfield's Heart." This was painted 12 × 16" in oil on Ampersand Hardbord.

Silently he extended his hand, and I dropped Jim Garfield's heart into it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: Torbett Sanatorium

One of the challenges of drawing a biographical comic strip is that, unlike a prose biographer, we not only have to know as much as possible about the who, what, when, and where of any given event, but we also have to know what things looked like. This can be particularly difficult when you're talking about remote, rarely photographed places that no longer exist.

A few days ago, Brian Leno made a great post over on the Two-Gun Raconteur site about Frank Thurston Torbett, a one-time collaborator of Robert E. Howard's.

Howard met Frank while taking his mother for medical treatment at Torbett Sanatorium in Marlin, Texas. Of special interest to us was this picture postcard of the Sanatorium that Brian ran with his post:

This picture caused us to remember an episode of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob that we drew back in 2006. The strip featured the Sanatorium, and our reference for the buildings ultimately came from the postcard seen below (as much illustration as photograph), which bore a 1939 postmark (3 years after REH's death):

At the time, we also had a photograph similar to the one Leno posted, and in comparing the two, it was easy to see that several changes had been made to the buildings during the time between when the two photos were taken.

Most notably, the small structure in the foreground is made of wood in Leno's picture, but (what looks like) cement in the picture we had. Also, the building on the left had an upper floor added, and the hotel clearly changed its name from “Hotel Imperial” to “Hotel Majestic” at some point.

Since we didn't know the exact dates the pictures were taken, we agonized over which version to draw in our strip (which took place in 1935). We ultimately went with cement structure and extra floor, probably because of the general vintage of the automobiles shown in the later postcard.

Later, long after our comic strip had been printed (Conan #26), we discovered that at The Falls County TXGenWeb project, they'd posted a 1947 book written by Dr. J. W. Torbett, Sr. which features the illustration seen below — which, we were happy to see, clearly bears the date, 1928, and shows the cement structure in place, and the extra floor added to the building on the left (also notice that the hotel is named “Anne's Hotel”):

Of course, that picture is not a photograph, so it's possible that the illustration Dr. Torbett included in his book is just an architectural rendering imagining what a proposed new cement structure and extra floor would look like — but even if that's the case, it's likely that these changes were put in place before 1935, when our comic strip shows REH taking his mother there.

Below is the finished strip as it appeared back in 2006 in Dark Horse's Conan #26:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering Steve

Today marks a year since the passing of Howard scholar, Steve Tompkins. Several blogs have posted nice reminiscences for the sad anniversary, some of which you can read here, here and here. We never met Steve in person, but we were fortunate enough to have his words elevate several of our projects.

In 2004, Wandering Star hired us to produce a publication designed to act as an introduction to some of the literary creations of Robert E. Howard. We immediately thought of Steve, who possessed an almost surgical ability for precise, clever description. We asked him if he could sum up each of Howard's heroes in a single, short paragraph — and he delivered the goods in his usual style, describing Kull as an, “upstart usurper who lived by the sword and now rules by the axe,” and Dark Agnes as, “Silk strengthened by steel, fire sheathed in ice.” Great stuff!

Steve also wrote numerous blog posts for The Cimmerian, all of which have been archived and can be easily accessed by going here. The last of the wine turned out to be Steve's essay for this year's Del Rey release, El Borak and Other Desert Adventures.

Below is our El Borak illustration from The Illustrated World of Robert E. Howard, followed by Steve's wonderful description from the same publication. RIP, Steve.

European empires are on the march and Afghan hillmen are on the prowl across the Country of the Knife, where treachery and trustworthiness are different edges of the same blade. Of Indian fighting Southwestern stock, Francis Xavier Gordon has found in the East a wilder West, where he embroils himself in the Great Game and the Great War, pitting the legend of El Borak against the Black Tigers of Rub el Harami, the Hidden Ones of Ghulistan, conscience-less English renegades, and the ambitions of Kaiser and Czar. And in Arabia, where Lawrence has fanned the flames of an uprising against the Ottomans, a banner more ancient than Cross or Crescent encourages atavism and atrocity, and Gordon must join with old enemies to bring down a new madman.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

B&W: Part Two

Here's a few more examples of our B&W ink-wash work. These were all painted with an inexpensive Loew-Cornell #6 on 10 × 15" pieces of cold-press illustration board, using Higgins non-waterproof black ink (& water).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

...and B&W All Over

Our friend Marcelo Anciano, the creative force behind Wandering Star Publishing, suggested that we post some of our B&W work here. He feels that seeing an illustration created to appear amid text has an entirely different impact when seen alone, and large. With that in mind, we'll occasionally post some of our ink-wash work. Today, here's a few of our favorites (click on each image to see them larger).