Thursday, December 31, 2009


Hey. When did people stop learning how to be courteous about waiting in line? Or, better yet, realizing that people are in line ahead of them and then waiting?

I've had many incidents in the last year with people just walking right past a line and going ahead of others already waiting (myself included as one of those waiting). I confronted one a while back and was accused of being a racist. All is said was, "You do realize that all of us were waiting in line here before you?"

C'mon. Let's try to be nice to each other and find some common decency and courtesy for the new year.

Now, the old man part:
I think that some of this behavior comes from less structure in school that allows people to become even more self-obsessed than they would be otherwise. Too many "entitled" acting folks going around. Most are young.

The older people who behave that way are just jerks. They have no other excuse.

Wow. Two negative posts in a row. What a way to end a year!!!!!!

I'll be in Lacoste by Monday, so more to come ... from FRANCE!!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WOW! Where has this Creep Been?


I've been gone from the blog world for quite a while now. Part of it is being busy as a teacher at SCAD, but a good deal of it has been from a lack of knowledge of what to talk about. I've been at odds with where to go with my work and I didn't want to try and figure it out in public.

I need to be drawing something.

Here's some personal stuff ... and don't get me wrong - I'm not whining. I have felt guided towards my decision as to what to work on for a long time, but I've fought it.

Who knows why? I think mostly the fear of the unknown. Can I draw something new that "seems" new? Those "you suck as an artist" voices have been loud, but not too loud. But I've listened to them and seen my limitations.

And I haven't been happy with what I saw.

So, here's the deal:
I'm going to be in Lacoste, France for the winter quarter of 2010 teaching for SCAD (tough gig, I know, but somebody has to do it) and while there I'll be plotting and laying out the graphic novel that I've been talking about for three to four years now.

Seems about time to work on it.

I need an outlet for Tom and Tom's art and this seems to be the best solution. It also works towards my goal of doing film as I think that this story would make a great film.

Starting in January, I'll try to post some of my work process. In particular, how I work plot form even when writing for myself. I much prefer it.

I already have the basic story arc developed in my head. Now, I have to get it down on paper with the proper pacing AND choose the correct/best stories to use from my life as the stories I'm "telling" within the story of my graphic novel.

I hope you're intrigued. I am. And just a little bit scared. But I'll get over that.

Thanks for being patient with me about my posts.


Btw, here's a piece of art from my solo art show of comic illustration that was at a gallery in Brunswick, GA for the month of November. It was a great show. Pencils and inks are by me. Colors are by SCAD Grad Student, Kate Kasenow - a fine artist in her own right.

The black and white art for this sold at the show opening. Cool.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Questions for Sequential Art Creators (and others)

Angel Hill's comments in the discussion box of the last post got me thinking.

(Btw, thanks to everybody for their posts. It keeps me thinking about stuff and lets me know how you guys are thinking, too.)

Here's one of the things that occurs to me all the time:
Why are you spending so much money on a degree if you're thinking so small potatoes in terms of income with the projects you take on?

I regret that the best money seems to be just in the mainstream. I wish that we had a system more like the European Market where the creators make decent money and are revered like gods. I could stand that.

That said, the realities of the system as it stands is that most of you probably won't make much money in this field UNLESS ... you help to create the change.

What is the change?

I don't know, but I see it in my head as a morphing or transformation of both the material we produce and the public's perception of it to a point that helps us earn what we really are worth for the skillset that we possess as sequential artists.

That puts the pressure on us (I know I'm not you guys' age, but I am still trying to make myself happy as a sequential arts creator, too) to create better material. Not deeper. Just better.

That's why I keep harping on how low the lowest common denominator aspect of most material that I see being created is. I had a very long discussion with a student yesterday about the validity of a zombie blood fest just for the sake of it versus a story with some characters that I give a crap about and scenarios that maybe I haven't totally seen before.

There may be a place for the zombie thrill ride of superficiality, but I think to fall to that option as your first choice (I hear all your ideas as a professor and I must say that most of you have superficial tastes at this point - as I tried to point out in my previous post, so did I at that point) is a mistake. Please shoot higher.

How do you enhance your taste and be more relevant as a creator?

Live life. Read a lot (read more than just what you're used to.) Talk to others with an open mind. Keep your options open, but give a crap about stuff. (That is - BE PASSIONATE.) Know that we all have a place here and that what we do matters - and it does influence others, so be aware of what you put out there. Study all the time. Never get lazy about your talent - it can leave you (or at the very least - deteriorate) if you let it atrophy through not pushing to get better all the time. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Read more. Think about stuff. Think about others. Watch others. Help others.

Wow. I sound really New Age here, don't I?

Look. I'm just pushing for us all to get the most out of our lives that we can. Be part of the change, please. Go out and create stuff. Be willing to change. Be willing to grow. We never have all the answers.

Well, enough of this for now. Later, folks.


(Btw, the image above is a "tight thumbnail" that I did for the Chickasaw Adventures people for a book called JUSTICE CASE FILES. I have been brought in as a storytelling specialist for their project. They were having camera angle difficulties. This art was created digitally using the Cintiq. Interesting way to work for roughs and thumbs. Try it out some time. Take note that I allowed space for the word balloons. Do you see them in the blue line art? )

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Something a Little Less Sweeping

I've been writing about stuff in really broad strokes lately. That's a habit I've gotten into in class and I need to watch out that I don't sound a) too old-farty, b) inflexible and c) tunnel-visioned. Now, look, I know that tastes change. I was not able to watch all the films that are available today when I was in college because VCR's were still not around for the general public. At least, not where I was.

I also had the taste of a horny 19 year old. To Steve Gellar's dismay, my main recollection of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (which he did the screenplay adaptation for) is Valerie Perrine running around naked. Yep. Class. That's me.

I'm really pushing my students and myself to see what we can do to raise the bar and get our medium looked at differently, but I really don't think that it can happen in our lifetimes. Too much already ingrained into the American Psyche (not psycho).

I think that we can produce some quality (in all genres of story and art) material in the next few years and help that goal, but I don't think we'll be revered like the European artists are.

I am constantly being told how much "extra time" that the European artists take on their projects because they take "a week a page." Again, as I've said in class, if I were to write, pencil, letter, ink and color a page - it would take me a week, too. The American studio division of labor was created to circumvent that.

Do we need to go to a "one person did it all" type of genre in order to be taken more seriously as an art form? Why cannot collaborations be taken just as seriously?

Now, I admit - the majority of mainstream stuff out there is pure crap.

That's not helping matters, either.

So, I do my job the best I can and hope for the best? Or do I work towards a loftier goal and end result and help "create the change?"

My main attraction to doing mainstream work at this point is two-fold:
1) the money is good (not great, but good) , and
2) I am addicted to the accolades that you get from fans of that medium.

I also am petty in that I wanted to prove to the mainstream publishers that I still have it in me. I'm still viable.

I did have some fun doing the VIGILANTE stuff, but the schedule was grueling and the end result was not satisfactory on many levels. Rushed work is just that - rushed work. I did a great job within the painfully short deadlines given, though.

Well, enough about me. I'm rambling as I figure out where to go from here.

I think I'm going to do the mainstream samples that I mentioned and then see where I go from there.

What's everybody working on this summer?

More later.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Discussions? Hey. Where'd Everybody GO!?!?

We still need to talk about this issue of expectations and how I think the recent grads have been raised with lower expectations in certain areas and a sense of "entitlement" in other areas. These lower expectations have resulted in more crap movies and TV shows than used to be made. They make slick crap now instead of crappy crap. Take GRIND HOUSE, for instance. It looks bad intentionally, but that style of movie used to be made on the cheap. Now -- we have MICHAEL BAY!!

The king of slick crap.

Well, this is all coming up as part of this "discussion" because of Derek Diaz's comments from two posts back. Here's part of what he said:
I think part of the reception (referring to my concern and amusement over being dated because of background use - Tom) comes from the fact that your team-up with Hanna is a throwback and causes people to think its "dated" simply because they haven't seen your name in so long. Comics are just as nasty as any other media when it comes to moving on. Hardly anything is considered timeless. In one day, out the next. And I think that it doesn't have as much to do with the artwork as when you saw the guy last. Its a topic I've wondered about concerning my own work, wondering if I'll be able to stay "current" and "relevant" throughout my career. I would definitely assert that the guys who stay working as popular conventions evolve, have it much easier, they adapt naturally as time goes by. You're coming back into the game at a time when the focus has shifted from storytelling to "pretty pictures". Which is a bummer. And it leaves people looking at your work through blurred vision. I think there's just a different expectation now, good or bad as it might be.

Yep. If you stay busy, you morph as yo
u go along. I think that I'm mostly concerned with some dated layout stuff that I do. As far as dropping backgrounds ... I don't know. I might try it. I just happen to like detail.

You should all be concerned with staying "relevant" and "current" in any industry, but as Derek points out, comics has a short memory unless you stay active. John Byrne is almost unknown at this point and he was the "KING" of the industry in the late 70's and early 80's.

Come on. Let's hear some more on this kind of stuff.

Why are you recent grads so willing to absorb, accept and even "embrace" crap? There's a lot of bad stuff out there. I know I'm petty, but I'm glad that Miller's SPIRIT movie did poorly. It was someone else, not the Spirit, stuck into his already existing Sin City universe.

SPRING QUARTER is over!! Long live summer. I am teaching this summer.

Good luck to all t
he recent grads of SCAD and anywhere else.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

More ART Discussion

Hi -
This thread of conversation is making for an interesting run on the blog, so I'm going to copy pieces of a couple of the comments from the previous post and add to them. Here goes.

From my illustrious former student Andrew Sides, this was said:
I don't buy the argument for a lack of backgrounds though, and especially using Manga or any other non-American comic art as influence. As sad as it might be, the level of expectation is probably a lot lower than we expect. Manga art has lack of backgrounds? Some of it might, but a lot of has as much detailed effort put into it as anywhere else.

Andrew's comment about the lower level of expectation is one of the things that has been on my mind the entire time that I've been teaching. I think that the low level of pop culture influence has had a "lowest common denominator" influence on the current generation to where they settle for less and get enjoyment from that lesser material that I just cannot find.

I love certain Manga material, by the way. GON is extremely fun and fun to look at. There are others, but that is my current fave.

I am constantly striving to raise the bar of expectations from students, partly so that the material will become consistently better and then maybe we can all make what we're worth.

I have some comments on Derek Diaz's post from my last one, but I've got to finish grading, so more on that later.

In the meantime, here's another layout page.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More stuff about ART!

I've got some lively commentary going here.
Thanks, Melanie. Nice comments. I'm going to comment in detail about one comment post and I hope he doesn't mind, but I'm going to paste it into the body here. So, here goes:

I think the lack of backgrounds is really attributed to the influence and influx of manga over the last decade, and you coming up and making your career in the hayday of the "american/image" style comics puts you on kind of the other end of the spectrum. You said something to Cornell today about how he wanted to do something so bad he didn't see it was hurting him. I know your playing one side hard because of the review so I'm just playing devil's advocate as you do for me, but as I mentioned - "dated" does not imply bad, just not-modern. All your mentors/idols would probably like your work because they holds similar values to you when it comes to sequential art, but if those same artists that influenced you (that I know of) made comics today they would be considered dated too. I saw a addendum mini-issue that james has in the new printing of BWS weapon-x and its digiatly colored. His style doesnt work with the times, its great in it's element but seeing it now a days is a little "fish out of water" for me. Still like your art Tom, and get where your coming from, these are just my thoughts. Even major players around the same early-90's point like McFarlane, Joe Mad! and Miller were influenced by Manga/Anime so more than a decade later and with Manga giving American Comics a run for their money, and market - even a different demographic entirely - and the fact that your marketing to at least one entire generation after your 90's work - this is the "Manga generation." Any negative connotation with "dated-look" probably comes from all the hacks who got jobs using all those "American" pseudo-Jim Lee rendering techniques everyone got burnt out on. I get that much of their "style" comes form cutting corners and that aspect you should stay away from, but there are some powerful things you may be missing out on by not letting it influence you. But backgrounds are a small thing in the overall scheme of "east vs. west" and I dont see them as being distracting or detracting from your art, so... Phew.

I think that he makes some good points here. I keep pushing my students and it's nice to be pushed back. I'm really tired of drawing the same stuff, so I am trying to modify what I do. I think also that Xaq makes a cogent comment that maybe the reviewer didn't mean "dated" to be as negative as I took it. 10 years doesn't seem like much to me now at 55, but it's an eternity in the publishing business.

There are things about layouts and drawing that I do garner from looking at the eastern influence (and, oh yes, I do look at it despite my reputation as a Manga-hater), but I'm still very cold on many aspects of it and lack of backgrounds is my biggest pet peeve.

So, I'm actually trying to decide if this is all pushing me to try and work on something that would challenge me and help me to change ... and what is that project, eh?

I still have never started my slightly fictionalized memoir/autobiography story even though I've planned and plotted a great deal of it out. Does that challenge me ... to do something with "normal" people?

Well, keep the comments going and in the meantime I'll post another page of layouts from issue #6 of Vigilante.

I do know, by the way, that some of this angst that I'm feeling is the result of getting older and feeling a bit like a dinosaur. I do think I have something to offer still (as do my students, thank God), but I feel a little like I need to raise the bar and figure some stuff out.

It'll all happen. I've had nothing but good in my life for a long time now. I just like playing the devil's advocate and it's kind of fun to have a student do it back at me.

Later, folks.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


I figure you've all guessed that the visit to DC was more successful (so far) than the visit to Marvel. I just had issue #6 of VIGILANTE come out from DC this week and it was okay. I must admit that I think my layouts looked much better than the finished piece, but everything was SO rushed I am surprised it looks anywhere as close to good as it does.

Here's my rant for this post. I've read the reviews for 5 and 6 (my two issues for now) and I am irritated and amused that in one of the recent ones my art was classified "dated" because of the amount of background detail I have in the panels.

Yeah. Heaven forbid we should actually be able to tell where we are in the story.

I'm kind of torqued that you guys settle for crappy storytelling and lazy, pin-up art instead of a solid, well-drawn story.

Now, I admit, I think that there are aspects of my storytelling that need updating, but BACKGROUNDS!!

Gimme a break.

I'd love to hear about it from you.

I'm posting a layout for you to compare to the finished art.

See ya soon, I hope.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Still alive!!!

Hey. I'll put up the rest of my NY story tomorrow and also give a career update.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

OKAY ... the details of Scott and Tom's NYC Adventure!!


Well, here goes:
You've seen the pictures of my ROBIN page layouts in a previous post, but I'll post three pages of the inks/finishes that Scott did over my work later on this post.

It's been since 2003 since I've been to New York, but as always I felt very at home there. Sue and I left on Saturday, the 13th of December with freshly deposited SCAD Presidential Fellowship money in the checking account making this trip possible at all.

We stayed in Petersburg, Virginia the first night. Very uneventful trip so far. I-95 is extremely dull to me. Traffic wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

Using my brother-in-law's TomTom (how appropriate for me to use that GPS device), we drove a lovely path around Philadelphia into rural Pennsylvania on the way to Scott Hanna's house in Reigelsville. Those old, stone farmhouses are beautiful. It was great to see all of that after two days of mostly concrete and crap to see.

A good friend and major fan of both Scott and me, Doug Resnick (with his lovely wife, Chris, whom I finally got to meet) was kind enough to treat Scott, his lovely and talented wife Pamela Ptak, myself, and my lovely and talented wife Sue to dinner at a really nice Inn in Riegelsville. Good conversation and good friends with a beautiful fireplace glowing nicely in the background. It was a great start to a fun trip.

That evening, Scott and I prepared for our Monday assault on Marvel Comics' offices by copying and assembling the remainder (his ink pages ... I already had my breakdowns copied and ready) of our sample page packets to hand out. Our names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses on the back of each page of the sample packet. Take note, Tom Lyle students!!!

Here's the splash page finished by Scott:

Well, on to bed and getting ready for our trip on Monday, the 15th of December. Our first appointment is at 10:30 am, so we need to leave by 8:00 am in order to drive and get into Manhattan in time.

After a busy drive (I can't believe that people make that commute every day of the week) with no big problems, Scott, Sue and I arrive in NYC ready to rock.

Having never been to Marvel's new offices, I relied on Scott knowing about where Marvel is on 5th Avenue and he says we can walk there easily. Well, it's further than he thinks, so we arrive at the lobby of Marvel just in time for our first appointment.

We need not have rushed. Chris Allo is no where to be found. I have appointments with at least 10 people at Marvel and 10 at DC for the next two days, but this is not a great start to our mission. I even call Chris' personal cell phone number (I'm special!!!) and get no answer. I find out later that he had a family emergency to deal with, but at the time we were majorly disappointed. Chris is fine in our books, though.

Here's another of the pages he missed seeing in person at the time (just kidding, Chris!)

After that, we had three of our five pre-lunch appointments not see us at Marvel, plus we were not taken into the editorial offices. Instead we were interviewed in a conference room near the lobby. Odd.

I think it was a matter of the work day being nuts and no one wanted to really have to deal with us because of that. I knew we were pushing it coming to NYC so close to Christmas, but I had to push the trip to a week later in order to accomodate a meeting with Dan DiDio at DC and also to wait for the money from the Presidential Fellowship get deposited. It all worked out great, but it was hectic.

In the afternoon, things got better and we were taken down into the editorial offices and had all the meetings that were scheduled and more. Good responses from everyone about our pages. We were also really intent on selling the fact that we can produce a finished book together in one month - two weeks for me to do breakdowns and two weeks for Scott to do finishes. This is unheard of in the day and age. Lots of extra interest because of that.

Not being shy, I saw Joe Quesada in his office, so I stuck my head inside, apologized for interrupting his lunch and just said HI and told him that Hanna and I were in the offices selling ourselves as a breakdown/finishes team. He was gracious and said HI back and we chatted a moment before I moved on with a nice parting.

Here's the last page of finishes that I have a copy of at this time. Scott did page 5 (mostly) as well, but I don't have a copy of that.
All in all, our time went fairly well at Marvel. The coolest difference from when I used to go there in the past is cell phone technology. While we were stuck in the lobby of Marvel waiting to see about appointments that might or might not happen, I was on the phone calling to see if we could get new or revised appointments. That is so cool.

No one offered an assignment, but we left with a good feeling. The weather was gorgeous. It was almost 70 degrees on Monday. Very unusual for New York in mid December.

Tomorrow at DC Comics. I haven't worked there regularly since 1993, so it is interesting to return.

We drive back to Scott's house to stay for Monday night. Tuesday we (Sue and me, that is) will be staying in town and Scott will take the bus back home.

After a Monday night dinner, Scott and I get the sample page packets together for the assault on DC.

Tuesday arrives and I'll give you details about that in my next post. In the mean time, here's another photo from our trip: