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The Preacher Project: Fan collects sketches for his father’s birthday

Preacher cast by Steve Dillon

In May 2011, Ryan Ballard began a quest to create the perfect birthday gift for his father, a comics fan with whom he shares a love of Preacher, the acclaimed Vertigo series by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon and Glenn Fabry. So Ryan bought a copper album embossed with Fabry’s cover art for Issue #56 and set off to fill the book filled with sketches of Preacher characters from a range of artists. More than a year later, Ryan finally presented his father with the finished album, complete with art from the likes of Dillon, Fabry, Jim Mahfood, Rufus Dayglo, Ryan Kelly, Leigh Gallagher and Duncan Fegredo.

Ryan’s appreciative father thanked all of the artists who contributed, passing along this message: “This is a heads up to all the fantastic faces who invested their time, effort and skill in Ryan’s quest. My sincere and deepest thank you, it would be true to say that I learned to read from comics but your visuals opened my eyes and imagination.”

For his part, Ryan merely reminds his father he has a herculean task ahead of him: My birthday is in August, no pressure Dad …” See some of the sketches below, and visit the Preacher Project to see many more.

(hat tip to Leigh Gallagher)

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Taking a fine look at Sean Murphy’s original art for Punk Rock Jesus

Like the sound of a gasoline-chugging motorcycle drawing through a sleepy New England hamlet, Sean Murphy has steadily risen up the ladder from small independent comics to critical acclaim with works like Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. And with the debut of his creator-owned series Punk Rock Jesus earlier this month, it seems like Murphy is aiming to make a statement.

This Brooklyn-based artist has become well known for his sinewy and striking artwork, and is one f the few remaining artists in comics whose finished work (sans lettering) is done entirely by hand. With the black-and-white publication of Punk Rock Jesus, Murphy’s entire story is done by hand with pencil and brush on his drawing board. That makes the debut of his original art online even more special and attention-getting, even if you don’t have the wallet to afford the pages. Murphy just released the original artwork from the first issue of Punk Rock Jesus for sale at his art dealer Essential Sequential.

I can’t be the only one who’ll look on this showcase as a chance to pour over Murphy’s pages here and over at his DeviantArt site, to really see the intricacies and honest-to-god ink put on these pages. Take a minute — or 10 — and sink in and blow these pages up hi-rez on your computer screen while we wait for issue 2 to come out on August 8.

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Comics A.M. | Todd McFarlane cover sells for record $657,250

The Amazing Spider-Man #328

Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]

Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]

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Grzegorz Domaradzki’s comic book-influenced snowboards

Polish graphic designer Grzegorz Domaradzki has illustrated a series of snowboards for Endeavor designs that playfully use all kinds of comic book, manga, cartoon and pop-art imagery.  I’m often lairy of other artforms appropriating comic artists’ styles without giving much credit to their sources, and I’ve as much interest in sliding down a snowy hill on my arse as the next working-class Irishman, but these would look great mounted over the fireplace of your favorite bar. While you stay warm and dry inside. Anyway, great shots of these designs, including lots of close-ups (where you can play spot the homage/swipe), can be seen at Gregorz’s Behance portfolio.

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Reading the Internet so you don’t have to

Not every comics artist is at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week; some are at home updating their blogs. Like Paul Pope (above).  For this I’ll forgive his minor part in the Before Watchmen farrago.

Dan McDaid is home in Scotland posting an Easter egg-laden image from an upcoming issue of Doctor Who Magazine.

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Hellboy Library Edition Volume 5 is a red stony hand in a velvet glove

The Hellboy Library Edition Volume 5 is released today, and owning such great comics in such a beautiful black velvety tome is probably reason enough to get excited. I, however, am beside myself — mainly because Duncan Fegredo informed me yesterday that the magnificent illustration below, the pride of my original art collection, is in the book’s sketchbook section. I’ll admit that this news elicited a Keanu-like “woah!”

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Nearly three decades later, Swamp Thing original art is still missing

With Comic-Con International nearly upon us, Stephen Bissette posts a reminder that 27 years after they were stolen from the offices of DC Comics, pieces of original artwork from Saga of the Swamp Thing by he and John Totleben are still missing.

“This is stolen property,” he writes on his blog. “It is not legally for sale, nor legally the property of anyone else to trade, exhibit, or sell. Please contact me if you know anything about where it is or who has it. If you are knowingly selling, buying, or trading this original art, you are engaged in a criminal act involving stolen original art.”

The pieces include the original painting for the cover of Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 (above), the final page of that issue (below), and pinups by Totleben for issues 32 and 33.

“At this point, it would be the property of our children, some of whom are now adults,” Bissette continues. “They know. And we will be reminding the world of this regularly.”

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SDCC ’12 | Marvel, indy character drawings for CBLDF auction

Art by Francesco Francavilla

Things From Another World has posted original sketches of Marvel and independent and creator-owned characters that have been collected for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s annual charity auction at Comic-Book International. You’ll find drawings by the likes of Charlie Adlard, Gabriel Ba, Jeffrey Brown, Tyler Crook, Francesco Francavilla, Roger Langridge, Steve Lieber and Erika Moen, Philip Tan and others.

The auction will be held Saturday, July 14 at 8 p.m. in room Sapphire AB at the Hilton Bayfront, with all proceeds going to the CBLDF. The event has raised more than $70,000 for the organization in the past three years. Check out some of the art below; visit the TFAW website to see more.

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Dave Sim seeks Cerebus original art owners

Flush with the success of his Kickstarter drive for high-end audio/visual digital edition of Cerebus: High Society, cartoonist Dave Sim is busily going about the process of assembling high-resolution images of his original artwork for this impressive collection. Problem is, he doesn’t have most of it.

In a posting on his Kickstarter page, Sim has put out a call for people who own original Cerebus art to send scans to him (see the specifications here). Sim’s intention is to substitute the original, decades-old plates from previous Cerebus printings with these new, high-resolution digital scans for future Cerebus collections both in the standard trade paperback size and the larger books like the audio/visual edition.

“No idea how long it will take to track down and scan all 6,000 pages (there are 3,800 in the Cerebus Archive) or even how many pages still exist,” Sim wrote. “It’s not hard to imagine someone buying an early page for $20 at a convention and later going ‘What was I THINKING?’ and trashing it.  Anyway, any and all help with spreading the word via News site, Twitter feed, re-twee, re-re-tweet Pony Express or whatever IS VERY MUCH APPRECIATED.”

So if you or someone you know has original art from Cerebus, now’s the time to step up. Here’s a beautiful page from Cerebus #114:

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Denis Medri takes Batman and Gotham to the 1950s, rockabilly-style!

On my superhero fashion site Project: Rooftop, I’ve been talking up to the nth degree an amazing set of superhero redesigns by Italian artist Denis Medri. This artist has taken Gotham’s resident bad-boy billionaire and recast him as a 1950s greaser to amazing results. While Medri’s work might not be in line with the New 52, it harkens back to the best of DC Comics’ celebrated Elseworlds line of titles reimagining its heroes in different timelines and settings. Medri’s gone on to reinvent much of Batman’s cast in this model, with everything from a Betty Page-esque Catwoman and a poodle skirt-wearing Harley Quinn to a Rat Fink-worthy hot rod Batmobile.

Although the actual chances that DC would somehow accept this as a back-door pitch are slim to none, it does highlight the intriguing passion artists have for classic characters and just how enamored fans can be when their favorite heroes (and villains) are repositioned to alternative lives. While some might say its insular thinking, I think it broadens the core concepts of these timeless characters and shows just how versatile they can be.

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Sean Phillips reveals his variant cover for The Walking Dead #100

"The Walking Dead" #100 variant cover, by Sean Phillips

Even as Comic Book Resources exclusively premieres Bryan Hitch’s variant cover for The Walking Dead #100, Sean Phillips (Criminal, Fatale) unveils his own painted variant for the milestone issue of the horror series. Better still, the artist has pulled back the curtain on his process, from initial sketch to reference photos to finished work.

The Hitch and Phillips variant covers join those previously released from Frank Quitely, Todd McFarlane, Ryan Ottley and Marc Silvestri, as well as the wraparound cover by series artist Charlie Adlard. The 100th issue, by Robert Kirkman, Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, arrives July 11, just in time for Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Check out Phillips’ full cover below, and visit his blog to get a glimpse of his process.

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Rare Tintin cover art sells for record $1.6 million

Rare original artwork for the cover of 1932′s Tintin in America sold at auction Saturday for a record $1.6 million, BBC News reports. The same Indian ink-and-gouache piece sold in 2008 for $943,000.

Purchased by an anonymous private collector in Paris, the piece is one of only five original Tintincovers known to exist. Just two of those are held privately. The buyer was represented by a friend identified only as Didier, who said, ” “If he’d have been able to get it for less I think he would have been happy. The aim was not to beat a record; the aim was to obtain the work, before anything else. … You don’t come here to beat the world record, to spend money, that doesn’t make any sense.”

By contrast, the record for American comic art was set in May 2011 by a Frank Miller splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3, which sold for $448,125.

Saturday’s auction was part of a larger sale of rare Tintin memorabilia that included early sketches, as well as a copy of Explorers on the Moon signed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

‘Batarangutans’ (And that’s all you need to know)

Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin misread the word “batarangun” on Twitter as “batarangutan,” and now, thanks to artist Mike Maihack, the rest is glorious history.

Rafael Grampá’s Massive variant covers are simply … colossal

Warren Ellis spotlights the gorgeous autumnal cover by Rafael Grampá and Dave Stewart for the third issue of The Massive, the upcoming environmental thriller from Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson, reminding me that I’ve meant to point out just how fantastic their variants for the series are. Seriously even if I weren’t a fan of Wood and Donaldson’s work on Supermarket or intrigued by the concept of The Massive, I’d still pick up the new series just for these covers. (Dark Horse, can we get some posters?)

Grampá, who made a splash in 2008 with Mesmo Delivery, is also working on his own post-apocalyptic saga called Furry Water and the Sons of the Insurrection.

The Massive debuts June 13. In the meantime, check out Grampá and Stewart’s variant covers for the first three issues below.

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Tony Moore pits Popeye against Hellboy

Avengers Vs. X-Men is an epic battle between two storied properties, but Tony Moore has his own ideas for what would make a monumental face-off: Popeye versus Hellboy.

E.C Segar’s spinach-eating sailor and Mike Mignola’s stone-armed demon are a potent pairing, and Moore’s style blends both the cartoony nature of Popeye — forearms and all — with the pulpy Hellboy. Take a look below.

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