Monday, January 2, 2012

Visualizing "The Isle of Blood": The Kaluta Sketches

One of the major selling points of "Challenger Storm: The Isle of Blood"... ok, THE major selling point for a lot of people, I'm sure, is the amazing artwork of comic and illustration legend Michael Wm. Kaluta.  Airship 27's Ron Fortier made the official announcement regarding Michael's involvement at last year's Pulp Ark, and while I wasn't there myself I did hear a recording of that panel over at The Book Cave.  It certainly caused quite a stir and interest rose for the then-upcoming book.  We'd been sitting on this secret-weapon for a little while, and we were happy to have finally been able to start talking about it.

If you're familiar with Kaluta's art (and you'd better be... if not, get on that link up there, stat), then you know his style instantly: an extremely intricate melding of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles; these elements often raise his work above the standard "comic-booky" feel of others in the field and into the lofty realms of high-art.  His work can be very decorative and florid, and his more thematic illustrations can be hyper-detailed and intricate.  It's always been these elements of his art that have long made Michael Kaluta my favorite artist: the fact that he's basically the first guy to visualize my character in publication is just awesome.  He's a consummate professional who brings a lot of dedication to his art, and he certainly didn't skimp on any of these qualities when he did his work for "The Isle of Blood".  I'm honored to have had him aboard Challenger Storm's inaugural flight.

After the jump below are a few of the rough design sketches he did in preparation for the cover and interior illustrations.  Just from these roughs alone, I could tell that he wasn't phoning-in this assignment.  He pulled no punches here, and if you've seen the finished product you know that his work on my book was 100% Kaluta.

J. Gordon Tolliver's pursuers, agents of the nefarious Villalobos Brothers, crash through the front gate at the MARDL compound.

"Hello, front desk?  It seems there's a group of kidnapping guerrillas in my room!  Bananas?  No, I said 'guerrillas' not 'gorillas'!"

MARDL head-mechanic Willy Avis, hard at work in the main hangar.

Mike's composition changed quite a bit over the course of his work on this illustration.  In the final version, we see the same scene but backwards, as though our point-of-view is over by the exploding cars and looking past them toward the airfield.

Challenger Storm crawls through the Villalobos Brothers' war-machine.  As soon as I found out this scene was going to be one of the illustrations, I knew the level of details was going to rock.

An early version of the cover... Mike had fun drawing the prologue's double-gasbag airship, the Goliath.  (While I'm on this pic, I wanna give a big shout out to Airship 27's designer, Rob Davis... I LOVE his Challenger Storm logo!)

There are a few more sketches and bits & pieces that I have from the book's development stages.  If you like these, say so and maybe I'll throw a few more out there...

1 comment:

  1. Quite a team you and Mr. Kaluta make! This is a beautiful book to behold and one of the best adventures I've read in some time.