Marshal Law is one of those books that was always on the periphery for me when I started reading comics. I would order back issues and trades and such from a mail order catalog – usually X-Men or Batman related stuff. But a couple books always stood out in the ads I would see. Things like Concrete, The Tick, The Trouble with Girls, and Marshal Law. I would eventually read all of those books with the exception of Trouble. It took me a while to get around to them, and the first time I read Marshal Law was around 1999 or so.
ML seems to be one of those books that everyone knows but no one ever talks about. It was originally published by the Marvel Comics imprint EPIC, basically a home for edgy creator-owned comics long before VERTIGO. From there it bounced around from publisher to publisher, which may be why it seems to be more “forgotten” than some other books. It’s also a very hard book to describe without making it sounds like an outright parody (which it can be) or a complete rip-off of the sort of late ’80s “gritty” comics which came to be due to Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. But I don’t know that ML is a response to that or not. I do know that it has a certain timelessness which those other two books absolutely do not have. While it can be politically charged, I think much of it’s satire is directed straight at the superhero genre and it also wants to tell more of an emotionally charged story at its core. Which is not say that it is full of weepy sentimentality. It absolutely is not. It kicks your crybaby emotions in their teeth repeatedly.
Marshal Law is the book Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Grant Morrison have desperately been trying to write for 25 years and still not getting there (though their attempts have been great and entertaining). Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill did it best.
O’Neill is an artist whose work I first discovered on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and it never occurred to me that he was the same artist from all those creepy Marshal Law ads I kept seeing. I enjoy his unique and unsettling style a lot. It gives me the same feeling as seeing old Dan Clowes strips from Cracked Magazine. Creeped out, but in total awe of the style. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Kevin O’Neill has the distinct pleasure of having his entire ability to draw rejected by The Comics Code Authority. Not something he drew. Just his entire style.
And that’s amazing.
O’Neill is currently placed under some sort of binding spell by the evil wizard Alan Moore’s finger armour, so the likelihood of more Marshal Law happening is nil. Which is a shame, since I think the superhero genre needs the specific kind of skewering only Mills and O’Neill can deliver. It’s also a shame as the “last” Law story ended in a cliffhanger, and also a crossover with The Mask. That’s not how you should end anything, right, Jamie Kennedy?
The reason it took me so long to read Marshal Law is because – and this may be the perfect summary of my life – I was waiting for someone to give them to me for free. And eventually someone did! It all works out!
Jason Young – my princess – is one of my closest friends and that may have started with him getting rid of his Marshal Law collection. I used to work at a comic shop called “Mavericks” for a few years. Jason has worked there since he was 14 years old. 20 years later, he’s still there, miserably slinging Magic the Gathering to the absolute bottom-scraping scum of geek culture.
Jason is also one of the funniest, finest people I’ve ever met. Not only is he one of my best friends, but he has been the co-host of our podcast Gutter Trash for the past three and a half years, and he is one of my favorite cartoonists. You can check out his artwork and brand-new diary webcomic over at his blog Buyer Beware Comics. Also buy his autobiographical comic Veggie Dog Saturn while you’re there. You’d think an autobiographical comic about a 35 year old comic shop employee who lives with his mom wouldn’t be interesting, but you’d be wrong.
If you took every nerdy pursuit and interest that I have ever had, every opinion and viewpoint that I have ever had about art and people and things and life and wrapped all of that inside of a person who is 100% the exact opposite of me, that would be Jason Young. Skinny, vegetarian, hippie, tolerant, confident, optimistic, active, social, even-tempered, helpful and friendly. These things are NOT me. And I couldn’t ask for a better friend in the world. I am not sure how we tolerate each other. It makes for a good balance on our podcast that you should all listen to.
Jason requested for me to draw Marshal Law long before I even started doing the Sketch-a-Day blog. When I started getting toward the end of the year, I decided that it would be the final piece to go up. Then I expanded the blog by four days. Because “369”. I have repeatedly mentioned this: I am 12 years old.
The reasoning (other than aiming for another cheap “69” joke) being that I wanted to finally pay a proper tribute to Jason on this blog. For the past five years or so, he has been the one constant positive force in my life, and I could not have made it the full year of daily sketches without his support and encouragement. While he threw out various suggestions for topics throughout the year, Law was his only official request, and I wanted to do it up properly. Also because I love the character so much, as well.
You see, this whole daily sketch thing… It’s not anything special. There are hundreds of artists out there doing daily sketches and blogging about it and many of them aren’t giving up after a year, either. But it was all about the personal goal for me.
See, it all started with Adam Hughes and how he almost ruined my life.
Back in June 2010 or so, DC Comics released a coffee table book of all the covers Adam Hughes had done for them since the beginning of his career up to his most recent work at the time. Being a huge fan of his work, I bought the book, and poured over it. And it fucking devastated me.
It’s no secret that I have no self-esteem and am prone to bouts of severe depression and will withdraw within myself at the slightest hint of failure. Studying Adam Hughes artwork for days on end and so closely… it ruined me. I was never going to be anywhere near as good as he was, so why bother? And so, for the most part, I gave up. I still contributed to Ok, PANIC!, but under great effort. Jason and I still did our weekly drawing nights, but I would watch TV or play games. If I did draw, I never accomplished anything worthwhile. I still produced some work, but nothing noteworthy and I hated every single second that I had a pen or pencil in hand or that I stared at a black and white line drawing in Photoshop. It made me sick to even think of art or drawing. I hated it, and it was all Adam Hughes’ fault for being so goddamn amazing. He absolutely ruined my life and took away the one joy that I ever had.
But I know that’s not true. It’s all me, it’s all in my head. I ruined my life. Adam Hughes was just the excuse.
When I suddenly and randomly decided to do daily sketches for the next year, it was my attempt to get over myself. Also to see if I could get better. I don’t know if I did (the better part, but I did get over myself). I guess my personal success in doing 369 days of sketches and drawing actually also happened because of Adam Hughes. So, thanks, Adam Hughes!
Also, a special FUCK YOU to the guy who confronted Adam Hughes at Mid-Ohio Con about ruining my life on my behalf. Just. Fuck you. Fuck. You.
There are a bunch of people I need to thank for all their support, encouragement, inspiration and love this past year. Again, I know I didn’t really do anything special or worthwhile, but every bit of backing I got helped more than anyone could ever imagine. I hope I don’t leave anyone out who deserves to be mentioned, and if I did, you can absolutely call me out and tell me to go fuck myself.
Of course, Jason Young for being in the same room where the majority of all the art I’ve produced in the past four years has been drawn or conceived of at the time. Special thanks to Kathleen Coyle, Matt Miller, Kurt Dinse, James Abels, Jeff and Sarah Potter.
Pat Kain had started doing a daily sketch blog weeks before I did, even though I wasn’t aware of it, and it made me feel good that I had a sort of “brother-in-arms” while it was going on. He quit doing his a long while ago, but he also was working for Titmouse Studios and Adult Swim and going to school, so I can cut him some slack. I will say that my favorite thing that I’ve drawn this past year was for a project Pat is putting together that will be available at SPACE 2012 this spring.
Joe Grunenwald made the majority of requests I received and I had a blast doing every single one of them.
Brian John Mitchell coerced me into drawing comics, a process that I bitched about endlessly while I worked on them, but turned out pretty good in the end. You can find those here and here. Also of course, check out all the other things there, too.
Matt Brassfield conned me time and time again to draw things for him for free or for very little money, and I can’t thank him enough for all his support.
JB Sapienza and Adam Paison also coerced me into making comics this past year. The award-winning JB is one of the guys behind the MY NAME IS JONAH documentary and free comic. Adam put together a charity book for the earthquake disaster in Japan called AFTERSHOCK. It was an honor and a pleasure to work on both projects.
Shout outs to Nick Marino, Dan Greenwald, Keith and Stephanie Stidham, and Margaret Cross. Jim Purcell has been one of my biggest supporters even before the blog and am glad that I internet know him. Thanks to Jorell Rivera, Jason’s cousin Amy whose last name I can’t remember, Sean Leary, Andy Miller, Bill Perry, Stephen Alexander and all of the folks at Terrifying Tales of the Macabre.
Finally, a special thank you to Bruce O. Hughes. I will never forget how he reached out to me this past year and I can’t adequately describe how much all of his encouragement has meant to me.
And a special P.S. Thanks to artist Dennis Culver. Going through his daily sketch blog is primarily what spurned me to do this.
I seriously apologize for anyone who got left out of the shout-outs.
So what have I learned and what is next? Like I said, I don’t think I really got better at actually drawing this past year. I still see all the flaws that I’ve had for years and can’t seem to get over. I do think I have gotten a little better at coloring this past year. I also think that any future pin-ups and illustrations I post on the blog will have a “story” to be told rather than just a dude standing or what not. I learned a little bit about using zip-a-tone patterns and how to love them. Same with brush pens. I love using the brush pen so much, but I have so much more to learn in how to use it properly.
The main lesson I’m taking away from this is how to get shit done. There were times I didn’t have a chance to draw or color and it truly felt as if I had absolutely wasted my day. I learned that there is nothing stopping me except for me, and there are no excuses to not get work done. And in a way, I learned to finally enjoy drawing again. It’s still a pain in the ass (specifically a pain in the wrist and occasionally shoulder, sometimes neck), but I think I get out of my own way now and get things accomplished. For me, this is a huge deal.
I have a few things I need to work on next, including a short comic to draw for the aforementioned Jason Young for a future Veggie Dog Saturn Special. The special is stories Jason wrote for other people to draw, including some names I already mentioned. After that, I was thinking of putting together a mini-comic in time for SPACE this year, but that’s iffy.
I still plan on updating the blog frequently after I finish Jason’s comic. I don’t know that I’ll have a schedule, but rest assured that I’ll be working on something when I’m not posting anything. I think after a year of daily sketches, it’s time to slow down and work on bigger, fuller illustrations and practice some sequential work. I really need to figure how to break into this commissions racket and make money off this thing I’ve been doing.
I guess the future is open, and I’m ready to kick it in the teeth. Repeatedly. If I show signs of wanting to give up, I hope all you folks are ready to kick me in the teeth, too.
Here are some photos. My entire year in art, ready for burning:
It’s time for a break. I look forward to watching some foreign films again and playing some video games. I’ll be back soon, though.
Been a hell of a year and four days.