Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 5 Hidden Messages in Comic Books

Whether it is to give recognition to loved ones or to express something that they probably shouldn't, artists are notorious for sneaking secret messages into their work. My personal favorite has to be Michelangelo's portrayal of God and his chariot drawn in the shape of a human brain. Was Michelangelo upset with his bosses? Was this a sneaky way for Michelangelo to say that God only exists in the human mind? During a time when speaking against the Church could have you executed, it's very possible or it could be something else entirely.

The tradition of hiding messages within artwork continues on today. Below is a quick look at some of my favorite hidden messages contained within the pages of comic books.

5) Felix the Spider-Cat

The story goes that Todd McFarlane knew a guy at a local comic book shop who suffered from some form of  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and he'd carry a Felix the Cat doll with him at all times. The man expressed to Todd that he did not buy any of his books because he was not a fan of superhero books. Todd asked the gentleman if he'd buy his book if Felix the Cat were included in them. The Felix fan agreed and the rest is history. Todd began hiding images of Felix the Cat in issues of Spider-Man which he was working on at the time and continued for several issues.

4) Mad About Swiping

Nobody likes a thief and that goes triple in the art community. The first piece of advice you should follow if you're an aspiring artist is to be original. So when it came to the attention of Joe Madureira that fellow X-Artist Roger Cruz was swiping his work he let him have it and right in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. Lesson of the day... if you try to take the easy way and cruise through life, somebody is bound to get mad! See what I did there... cruise... mad... no? Ok let's move right along.

3) Issue with Sex in Comics

If I told you there is an issue of the X-Men with sex on every page, would you believe me? It's absolutely true and it has even been labeled the "Sex-Men" issue by some. It's nowhere near as bad as it sounds as it's just the word "sex" and not the act hidden in various places. Rumors say that in New X-Men #118 artist Ethan Van Sciver snuck the word into every page because it was Sublime's first issue (get it... sublime... subliminal??) and that he was foreshadowing the relationship between Scott and Emma. Sciver went on to say that he did it because he was pissed off with Marvel at the time for some reason he can't even remember.

2) Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Some people tend not to like their bosses. Heck, out of those people some tend to passive aggressively vent about the man (or woman) in charge. The worst way to express your feelings against your boss, especially as an artist, is through your work. That's exactly what artist Al Milgrom proceeded to do when he got the news that his old boss Bob Harras was replaced by Joe Quesada. Milgrom hid the words "Bob Harras Ha Ha He's gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He was a nasty S.O.B." along the spines of books on a bookshelf in the background of the Spider-Man Universe X Special. Milgrom was fired up about Bob Harras and fired for his actions when the insult was discovered.

1) Jim Lee Gives VZA a Shout Out

In late 2013, Jim Lee worked on a one shot Superman story titled Superman Unchained and wasted no time dropping a shout out to yours truly. There it is right smack dab on the Man of Steel's face. This was Jim's way of saying that I am like Superman as I go out and face impossible odds in an effort to give hope to aspiring artists...


Oh man... I totally had you going for a second there... yeah, this is just a series of random rendering lines that I happened to stumble upon when I was searching for Jim's real hidden messages. How cool would that have been though? The real #1 is below...

1) Jim Loves Carla

A lot of these examples have been about anger, bitterness, and revenge so let's finish things off on a good note. Do you remember that crush you had back in grade school? How you used to write "[Your Name] loves [His/Her Name]" in big bold letters all over your notes? Apparently Jim Lee never grew out of that stage as he continually doodles his love and admiration for his wife all over his work. Check it out in the pages of Superman Unchained...

and again in the pages of Justice League...

There are a few more examples that just missed the list like Barry Windsor Smith's Conan coins or Alan Davis' BATHROOM attack that are just as fun. Share some of your favorites in the comments below...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Camera FAQ

A few subscribers to our YouTube channel have noticed a jump in the visual quality in some of our most recent videos and wondered what camera we shoot with.

Allow me to introduce you to the new addition to the family... The Panasonic GH4.

Why did we choose the GH4?

We wanted a camera that could provide 4K capability while still offering beautiful stills. The main contender was the Sony AX100 but in the end we wanted a camera that had the ability to swap out lenses.

What's the verdict?

The ability to shoot 4K allows so much flexibility in post production when downscaling to 1080P. We’re able to zoom in up to two times without losing a pixel of detail in the rendered footage. Very valuable in our situation when we want a close look at an artist putting fine details on their work. The addition of focus peaking ensures that what we are shooting is in focus.

Here's a video that we shot with the GH4 in 4K and downscaled to 1080P:

Should you get a GH4?

The GH4 is a solid camera that is recommended for anybody looking to get into videography. The answer on whether or not to buy one boils down to whether or not you want or need to shoot in 4K.

If you do want to shoot in 4K then you still have a few other options to consider besides the GH4 from Sony but they have a nasty reputation for overheating for extended shoots. If money isn't an issue then you might take a look at the GH5 which offers 4K at 60 frames per second and 10-bit color at 1080P. Definitely worth the extra money if you plan to use any sort of slow motion or you see yourself taking handheld shots but dollars to donuts I'd say go with the GH4 and use the extra money to invest in a decent lens.

Victor Glover is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Comic Artist Mount Rushmore

Scrolling through my Instagram feed today I came across a cool topic by Edwin Huang AKA ironpinky. He asks who you would place on your comic artist Mount Rushmore? He goes on to name Stuart Immonen, Adam Hughes, Chris Bachalo, and Joe Madureira.

My personal list of favorite artists would include Adam Hughes, Jim Lee, Michael Turner, and Joe Madureira but this question goes beyond my very own personal favorites. Mount Rushmore represents those presidents who reserved the Republic and expanded its territory. Several names come to mind when it comes to having a huge impact on comic books... John Romita, Arthur Adams, Jack Kirby, John Byrne, Gene Colan, George Perez, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Neal Adams, Jim Lee, John Buscema... I could go on and on. When you picture classic comics featuring your favorite characters it is the artwork of these gentlemen that most likely dances through your heads. Whittling this list down to just four is no small feat but here's who I would place on the Comic Artist Mount Rushmore...

Jim Lee was the artist that made me start collecting comic books on a regular basis so there may be a bit of bias with this choice. I still remember the day I walked into that old comic book store and saw a copy of X-Men #1 sitting on the shelf. The art between those pages was leaps and bounds better than anything I had laid my eyes on before. That book went on to sell 8.1 million copies which still stands as the number one selling comic book of all time so clearly it wasn't just me. That is a major feat in itself but it is also the impact that Jim along with several other popular artists (Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, and Jim Valentino) made that lands him squarely on this list. These men went on to form Image Comics which has served as an example for independent creators to stand on their own two feet and not depend on major labels to get out there and make their dreams come true. The industry has seen several upstart artists and companies follow in the footsteps of these men and the comic book world has never been the same.

Notable works:
X-Men Jim Lee Omnibus v.1
X-Men Jim Lee Omnibus v.2
Batman Hush Absolute Edition
Superman Unchaned

John Byrne is the guy that nobody wants on this list but his influence on comics is undeniable. Along with writer Chris Claremont, Byrne went on a run with the X-Men that shook up the world. During his run, Byrne penciled two of the series most popular stories, Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of the Future Past. Let's not forget his unforgettable work on Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, She-Hulk, and Superman where he served as a writer as well as an artist on many of his runs. However that's not the reason he made the list. Next time you go to a convention, ask your favorite artist who their favorite artists are and I bet you John Byrne makes their list. No matter what anybody thinks or says about John Byrne, nobody can take away the impact he has had on comic book art throughout the years.

Notable works:
Fantastic Four John Byrne v.1
Fantastic Four John Byrne v.2
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus v.1
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus v.2

I went back and forth with myself on who to include in this slot. Neal Adams, John Buscema, Arthur Adams, John Romita Sr., Frank Miller. So tough to decide and I easily could have created an argument for any of them based off of their contributions but ultimately one book put John Buscema above the rest... How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've sat through an artist's panel and have heard that book mentioned. Talk about having an impact on the comic book art world! His "How To Draw" book is sitting on the shelf of every artist in the game. The book doesn't go in-depth on any particular subject but everything you ever need to know about drafting a comic book is there. Oh, did I forget to mention all of the books he worked on throughout his career? Go look him up... I'll be here when you get back.

Notable works:
Marvel Visionaries: John Buscema
Wolverine: Madripoor Nights
How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Last but not least... Who else but Jack "King" Kirby? Jack's impact on comics can still be felt decades after he crashed onto the scene. His wonderful sense of storytelling and the vast amount of characters he has created throughout his career still hold up to this day. Don't believe me? What was your favorite comic book movie? Whatever your answer, Kirby most likely created those characters or influenced the creator who did. My words can never do this guy justice so I'll keep it short and sweet.

Notable works:
Jack Kirby Omnibus v.1
Jack Kirby Omnibus v.2
Fantastic Four Omnibus v.1
X-Men Omnibus v.1

Agree... disagree? Let me know. Who would you place on your Comic Artist Mount Rushmore? #ComicRushmore

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Album Cover Art Challenge

Marvel recently announced that they are paying homage to classic Rap album covers and that got me thinking "Not everybody is a fan of Marvel and/or Hip-Hop. What if we expand on that idea a bit...?"

For this art challenge I want you to choose characters from any license (movie, comics, anime, etc.) and use them to pay homage to one of your favorite album covers.

Each entry will be featured in a video on our YouTube channel along with a link to your website or social media handle. A winner will be selected based on the level of creativity and craftsmanship you bring to your artwork.

To enter tag me through your preferred social media outlet along with your entry and use the hashtag #VZAAlbumCoverHomage by September 1st. Here's where to find me Instagram - Twitter - Facebook

The winner will receive a copy of the sketchbook Deadlines Vol. 4 by Sanford Greene who is the artist for the X-Men variant cover which pays homage to De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising album. The sketchbook contains a signature from Sanford along with a sketch of his favorite character Power Man.

** Anybody can enter but I can only deliver within the lower 48 states of the USA. **

This contest has ended. Below is a video showcasing all of the entries and the winner: