Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Femme Noir: A Gruesome Twosome

Another peek at the new graphic novel-in-progress. Introducing two new additions to the Femme Noir rogues gallery: Wilhelm Skreem & E.C. “Ghastly” Gaines. (Actually, Ghastly’s appeared once before….) And both of these guys work for Madame Morella MaCabre’s “Ghoul Squad,” of course!

Art by Joe Staton & Rick Burchett, with colors by Matt Webb!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Killmaster Art by George Gross

When I was a teenager, I was semi-addicted to the "Nick Carter: Killmaster" paperback spy novels. Written by a vast army of ghost writers, the series chronicled the adventures of American AXE agent Nicholas Huntington Carter, codenamed "N3" with a "Killmaster" rating, who routinely armed himself with a "stripped-down" Luger pistol he called Wilhelmina, a stiletto knife called Hugo, and a gas capsule named Pierre. He carried out missions around the world for his boss, David Hawk, in over 250 slim novels, published between 1964 and 1990 for Ace (later Jove) Books.

The Killmaster capers were generally action-packed, and liberally spiced with graphic sexual encounters that went far beyond anything I'd read in Ian Fleming. The quality of the individual novels varied widely, depending on which of the publisher's many ghosts were at the typewriter, and a number of different artists contributed the lurid cover art over the run of the series.

Of these artists, my favorite was George Gross, an old hand at men's adventure art, who had worked extensively for the old pulp magazines and the later, "men's sweat" periodicals. He was the primary Carter cover artist from the late 1970's and through the 80s (he also painted many covers for Warner Books' "Avenger" series around the same time). Here are a few of his Carter covers, all featuring the same unnamed model....

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sneak Peek: The New Femme Noir!

I'm pleased to announce that the Femme Noir team - Yours Truly, artist Joe Staton, inker Rick Burchett, and colorist Matt Webb - have begun production of a new Femme Noir miniseries, "Cold, Dead Fingers."  I can't say when it will be finished, but I'm hopeful that it will be completed this year, and probably see print in 2016. No publisher yet, but I have been having some encouraging discussions.

To celebrate this new beginning, I thought you folks might like to take a look at the first page of our forthcoming supernatural crime saga. To make it more special, I'm going to share with you the process that we employ in making our Femme Noir funnybooks.

I. It Begins With The Word: In this case, I wrote a detailed plot, breaking down the storytelling in some detail. No dialogue or captions as yet - I write those after I have Joe's penciled pages in hand; as I am the letterer as well as writer, I basically do both at the same time. Here's how the plot described this first splash page:
PANEL 1. And here we go…. We begin with a movie poster-styled splash page. In the center of the image is a full-length shot of Le Femme, hat pulled down low, guns in hands, trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Behind her is a sketched in Port Nocturne skyline. On the left, there’s a huge, spookily-lit “ghostly” head shot of our brutish killer – in this iteration, he’s called “Crusher” Corrigan – and below him, a full-length image of mad scientist Dr. Karl Boroff. On the right hand side of the page, opposite Corrigan’s scary melon, is an equally spooky “ghost” head of Madame Morella MaCabre. Below her, opposite of Boroff, is a full-length figure of plainclothes dick Lt. Rod Riley, pistol drawn.

Below that, room for the title lettering – ‘COLD, DEAD FINGERS’ - and a breathless introductory caption.
II. Joe's Deadly Pencil: From this florid description, Joe draws the page in pencil, employing his considerable talent and experience, working his magic:


Joe then e-mails me a lo-res jpeg to review. Once I've looked it over, and am sure that we're both happy with it, Joe then e-mails the page as a hi-res image file to...

III. Putting The Noir In Femme Noir: ...inker Rick Burchett. Joe and Rick have worked together numerous times before, perhaps most memorably on the 1980s incarnation of E-Man. In this case, Rick is applying his atmospheric blacks digitally, using his Cintique tablet.


Once completed, Rick sends jpeg files to both Joe and I to see if we have any notes. If everything's cool, as it is here, the image is then sent on to our last teammate.

IV. Dangerous Hues: Colorist Matt Webb gets his hands on the page next, and with the original script for reference (and having colored several Femme Noir adventures before), Matt digitally - and dramatically - colors the page.


Nice, huh? Once again, a lo-resolution copy of the colors is sent out for approval of all and sundry. Then, it all comes back to me.

V. The Final Words With the finished page in my e-mail box, I take it into Photoshop and fit it into the appropriate page template. Having scripted the dialogue - or in this case, caption - when I got the pencils, I then do the lettering in Illustrator. Finally, I drop the text in on the page back in Photoshop...  and voilĂ !


So that's how we do it. Repeat for pages 2, 3, 4 and so on... until the book is complete.

Stay tuned here for future Femme Noir updates, sneak peeks and announcements (which will always appear here first!).