Three comics artists sat at the signing
table: Kyle Hotz (The Hulk, The Agency, Mosaic,
Carnage), Jason Moore (Crusades, Batman, Haunted
Gotham) and Eric Powell (Star Wars Tales, Angel,
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Goon). They were signing
comics, selling numbered prints of Captain America standing proud
among the wreckage, drawing pictures of favorite characters, and
generally interacting with the fans. There wasn't a line, per se; you
just went up and talked to them. You threw your donation into the open
cashbox sitting in the middle.
But there were three of them, not four. Where was Matt Roach?
I panicked and went looking for an employee. Not there yet, she told
me. He was still driving down from Cleveland.
I sighed with relief and forced myself to go buy a copy of the latest
Astro City collection along with Alan Moore's Tom Strong.
It was my patriotic duty, after all.
After what seemed like an hour, Matt Roach arrived. He spoke in a
very soft voice which made it difficult to hear, at least until later
on when everybody at the table was starting to get silly and he joined
in. I gathered that he doesn't do many signings, though, so I imagine
that being a bit quiet is natural. He seemed to be younger than I am
(I'm 31), but I didn't like to ask about personal stuff like that.
(Makes you sound like a stalker, I always think.)
I did ask about how he got into art. He said he's been interested
in drawing ever since he was a kid. He used to be very fond of Frank
Frazetta and other action/sword and sorcery artists of the seventies
and eighties. He collected Frazetta prints and tried to see how he
did what he did. He also looked at other artists' work, including a
lot of comics artists. He went to an art school (I think he said
Cambridge, but maybe it was Bainbridge) for a year. Then he went back
to teaching himself. But he said (and the other artists said he says
it a lot) that it's very important to keep studying other artists and
new techniques, even after you become a professional. You have to
We also talked about the old pulp magazine artists. He remembered
seeing a lot of old pulps in the local bookstore as a kid, back when
they were cheaper, and regrets passing them up for Frazettas. He
said that the old pulp illustrations were just amazing, and that the
artists had great skills and could do things that people just can't
Action illustration has to have a feeling of movement, but also of
weight and dimension. It can't be static. You can't just pick the
easiest way to draw something all the time, even if other professionals
sometimes do. You have to have a sense of design about what you draw
and not just cram things into the picture.
We also talked about working for Sony/Columbia Tristar. I asked
him what the hardest thing was about his job, and he said it was
driving to work every day through the horrible traffic! The other
hard thing is that you work very hard to draw and understand the
characters in a show, but just as you get to know them the show
ends. So far he has worked on Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
and the first season and 2nd season premiere of Jackie Chan
Adventures. JCA was very interesting and a little frustrating for
a guy as interested in action illustration as Matt is, because it's
a martial arts show (the good news) but Standards and Practices
won't allow much physical contact (the bad news).
The oddest thing that happened was that BG&R originally had different
lyrics to its theme song, which scanned more easily to the music.
However, they were apparently not politically correct enough and were
abruptly changed. I asked if he could remember them and he said no
(not surprising, given the passage of time). I said that maybe I should
write to Mr. Capizzi, and he said that "Duane" would probably be fine
When a show begins, the artists have to work very hard to learn
how to draw the characters and the style of the show. Geof Darrow's
designs were very beautiful, but they also had lots of lines.
Animation art has to be very quick and clean, just by the nature of
the business, and if they'd kept exactly to Darrow's designs, people
would've quit! The hardest character to learn how to draw was Rusty,
because his head is very oddly shaped. (Matt said something very
technical about a deep floating circle, which I wish I could
Being a storyboard artist requires you to draw very quickly and
very sketchily. He had drawn some ideas for sketches the night
before, and in an hour or so had come up with at least ten small
sketches of various Big Guy and Rusty scenes on the back of a piece
of 8" x 14" paper.
(I wish I had a picture of this, because each one was amazingly
lively and also really popped out of the paper at you. Big Guy in
particular looked very rounded. His fist was round. His arms and legs
were cylinders, not sticks on the page. I don't know why this
impressed me so much, but I know that 3D immediacy isn't something
one tends to see these days in even well-known artists.)
Then he showed me the front of the 8" x 14" paper. It was the kind
of paper they use for storyboards: just a piece of legal-sized copy
paper, with three squares, each about 4 inches wide, running
across it longways in a row. Under each square were lines to write
in when and where this scene was in the script. Each storyboard
artist is assigned certain scenes or parts of scenes. The script
tells them what to draw and certain things about camera angles, but
they choose how to draw it.
Some storyboards can get very tricky. Matt did the entire fight
at the end of "Harddrive", and he is very proud of it. It took him
several days and a lot of overtime at home. Another tricky sequence
he remembered was the airplane fight scene in the Jackie Chan
Adventures episode "El Toro Fuerte". This was so complicated
that the director shipped it to a guy who lived in Guatemala -- and so
far out in the boonies that the guy had to collect and turn in his
story at a landing strip! But the sequence turned out very well
(as can be seen in the episode!), so it was worth it
The artists then turn in their storyboards
and the papers are scanned into the computer. The scanned pictures
are run all together, creating what's called an animatic. This lets
the director see if the scene is working well. If it's not, or if
the director decides to try something else, the artist has to redraw
(Btw, he thinks the software they use for this is just Photoshop
or something similar, but he doesn't know for sure.)
When everyone has turned in all their storyboards for an episode,
there is a pile of paper as thick as a big city phonebook. The
papers are shipped to the overseas animation company, which is
supposed to use them as a guide for their own drawings. However,
some companies (the bad ones) apparently just photocopy the
storyboards and color them in.
The Powers That Be don't give the artists tapes of the episodes
(which doesn't surprise me, because we learned over on the SH22 page
that the writers don't usually get tapes of shows, either). So when
the show finally comes on television months afterward, Matt tapes the
shows he's worked on just like we do. He really loved how BG&R came
out. He is a true fan of the show, and we had a good talk about it.
(He even has the Taco Bell/Carl Jr. toys at home.)
Apparently Fox didn't just run out of time for BG&R; they sold back
the rights to Sony. (Which leads one to wonder about the post-Saban
financial health of Fox Kids, frankly.) There have been rumors about
BG&R going back into production, as Godzilla: The Animated Series
apparently is, but nothing definite. (Matt just works there, folks.)
As I said previously, I printed out a good chunk of our fan art
(something from everybody!) and gave it to Matt, along with the URLs
for our message board and fan page. He was very gracious and interested
in looking at everyone's stuff. The sketches were particularly
interesting to him, since he essentially does that stuff for a living!
Matt will probably be working on Sony's upcoming Stuart Little
animated series. He's thought about doing comics. He would like to do
some painting as well, and perhaps sell things at art shows (at
conventions and otherwise). I told him I thought that would be a good idea.
And it is. Matt drew me a really beautiful
picture for the website (yes, I got his permission) and I would love
to see what he could do with more time and color.
So that was how my mission from God turned out. Wish you'd been there!
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