Wednesday, November 16, 2011

African-American Classics is coming! First reviews are in... order now!

Friday, October 14, 2011

African-American Classics is coming your way in December, and then...

  • African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22 will present great stories and poems from America’s earliest Black writers, illustrated by contemporary African-American artists. Featured are “Two Americans” by Florence Lewis Bentley, “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt, “Becky” by Jean Toomer, two short plays by Zora Neale Hurston, and six more tales of humor and tragedy. Also eleven poems, including Langston Hughes’ “Danse Africaine” and “The Negro”, plus Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Sympathy” (‘I know why the caged bird sings…’) The book is edited by Graphic Classics publisher Tom Pomplun, and co-edited by longtime GC contributor Lance Tooks, with story adaptations by Alex Simmons, Christopher Priest and Mat Johnson. Art is by some of today’s best artists in the comics and illustration fields, including Kyle Baker, Afua Richardson, Trevor Von Eeden, Jeremy Love, Randy DuBurke, Stan Shaw, Milton Knight, Arie Monroe, Jim Webb, Shepherd Hendrix, Kevin J. Taylor, Leilani Hickerson, Kenjji Marshall, Keith Mallett, Larry Poncho Brown, John Jennings, Glenn Brewer, Masheka Wood, Titus V. Thomas, Mac McGill, Jimmie Robinson and Lance Tooks. FULL COLOR. Look for it December 2011. Click HERE for an all new preview on the Graphic Classics website, as well as links to the contributors' own personal sites!

  • This month I'm proud to share with the readers of "Lance Tooks' Journal," a small sampling of works in progress by the many wonderful creators who made the African-American Classics anthology possible. Click each image to enlarge. First up is Afua Richardson's evocative cover. When you look at her period illustration of literary giants waiting for their respective trains, you can practically hear Duke Ellington swinging in the background as the conductor shouts, "All Aboooaard!"

    Next we have an image from scripter Alex Simmons' adaptation of Florence Lewis Bentley's moving tale of "Two Americans," which features knockout art from comics veteran Trevor Von Eeden with colors by Adrian Johnson.

    The brilliant Randy DuBurke illustrated Jean Toomer's haunting "Becky" from a script by Mat Johnson.

    The delicate "Buyers of Dreams" by Ethel Caution has been brought to life by artist Leilani Hickerson from a script by editor Tom Pomplun.

    Pomplun's script for Leila Amos Pendleton's raucous "Sanctum 777 N.S.D.C.O.U. meets Cleopatra" has been interpreted here by Kevin J. Taylor.

    Masheka Wood provided the playful visuals for James Edwin Campbell's "De Cunjah Man."

    Zora Neale Hurston's playlet, "Filling Station" receives the full service treatment from Graphics Classics regular, Milton Knight.

    And illustrator Shepherd Hendrix has given us the strange brew of "The Goophered Grapevine" by Charles W. Chesnutt from another script by Simmons.

  • These are just the tip of the iceberg... there's more great preview art at the Graphic Classics link above, as well as on African-American Classics' regularly updated Facebook page, which can be reached by clicking HERE.


  • I also highly recommend that you check out this brief interview with African-American Classics' Publisher-Editor Tom Pomplun (please forgive our typo there) at Alex Simmons' fine YouTube page.

  • In addition to these fine works, I'm privileged to have been a part of Seven Stories Press' upcoming anthology, "The Graphic Canon." Arriving in 2012, my comics adaptations of Mary Shelley's "The Mortal Immortal" and Somerset Maugham's "Rain" are featured in the second and third volumes of the graphic trilogy.

  • For more information about that amazing collection of stories and artists, edited by Russ Kick, have a look at THIS, the Seven Stories Press website.


  • Thanks for reading, folks! I'm proud to have been a collaborator in such illustrious company... and I can't wait to tell you what's coming up after all that! 2012 is going to be an incredible year.
    Lance Tooks
  • Saturday, June 11, 2011

    African-American Classics...


  • African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22 will present great stories and poems from America’s earliest Black writers, illustrated by contemporary African-American artists. Featured are “Two Americans” by Florence Lewis Bentley, “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt, “Becky” by Jean Toomer, two short plays by Zora Neale Hurston, and six more tales of humor and tragedy. Also eleven poems, including Langston Hughes’ “Danse Africaine” and “The Negro”, plus Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Sympathy” (‘I know why the caged bird sings…’) The book is co-edited by longtime GC contributor Lance Tooks, with story adaptations by Alex Simmons, Christopher Priest and Mat Johnson. Art is by some of today’s best artists in the comics and illustration fields, including Kyle Baker, Afua Richardson, Trevor Von Eeden, Jeremy Love, Randy DuBurke, Stan Shaw, Milton Knight, Arie Monroe, Jim Webb, Shepherd Hendrix, Kevin Taylor, Leilani Hickerson, Kenjji Marshall, Keith Mallett, Larry Poncho Brown, John Jennings, Glenn Brewer, Masheka Wood, Titus V. Thomas, Mac McGill, Jimmie Robinson and Lance Tooks. FULL COLOR. Look for it December 2011. Click HERE for a look at Afua Richardson's evocative cover on the Graphic Classics website!


  • I'm honored to have been a contributor to the Graphic Classics comics series for several years now. Editor and Publisher Tom Pomplun has from his series' inception taken the greatest writers in the world, from Poe to Twain, Wilde to Lovecraft, and placed them in the hands of some of the most unique contemporary cartoonists. Their approaches range from faithful to irreverent, but none of his contributors has ever been indifferent to their source works, adapting them with personal flavor and verve. (Imitation volumes are springing up everywhere as we speak, not necessarily a bad thing!) So when Tom and I discussed the possibility of a volume adapting never-before-seen-in-comics authors like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. DuBois into the Graphic Classics format, I was thrilled at the prospect that readers of all ages might be exposed to such a brilliant group of writers for the first time. He asked me to share the responsibility of editing the project with him, a privilege I truly couldn't refuse. In choosing both our classic authors and modern artists we each created a pool of names from which we selected a veritable "dream team" of contributors. These artists, all of whom are African-American, have long dreamed of being a part of such a project, and have rendered each tale with great care and respect. Helping to create this book has been a blast for me, and I can't wait for you to see it!

    I'd like to share a little about how my own short pieces in AFRICAN-AMERICAN CLASSICS came to be.
    Alice Dunbar Nelson was the wife of better known poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and a respected author in her own right. A dream project of mine would be to create a biographical comic about the pair, a classic turn of the century literary couple with a difference... and dispersed throughout would be bits of their unique poetry and short stories, to complement the pair's various hardships and victories. So I suggested Dunbar Nelson early on as a favorite candidate of mine. Her short horror tale, A CARNIVAL JANGLE would be one of two pieces I would adapt for the book.
    My first step when adapting an author's prose work is often to create a rough worksheet in two parts, onto which I sprawl on one side, a series of notes and ideas about my approach to the tale and on the other, a grid noting the key visual event taking place on each page. I markup my printout of the original story as well, editing the text down to a workable first draft. (I later edit it more on the actual art files, and my editor usually does an even cleaner job of it when I turn in the finished work.)

    I then choose my cast, which usually involves drawing versions of the character until I feel I've got the look I want... but in the case of JANGLE, I knew I needed to find a particular innocence in the eyes of Flo, my doomed protagonist. So I flipped through one of my old hard-covered "graffiti" sketchbooks until I stopped upon a sixteen year old illustration that I had done of a doe-eyed woman. For my Mephisto character, the story's antagonist, I went even farther back, summoning forth a skull-faced malefactor from twenty years past. (In my LUCIFER'S GARDEN series of graphic novels for NBM, it was a regular occurrence to mix the old art with the new... it's ALL new to 99 percent of the world anyway, and I see no reason to waste a drawing if it still has value to me.)

    Then, because I don't have a traditional art studio, I take to the streets. I used to lament the fact that my place was too small to work in and too busy to concentrate in... but I had a change of heart the day I decided that all of Madrid was going to be my art studio. Now, armed with pencils and pens to draw with and sketchbooks and card stock to draw on, I wander into my favorite bars in Huertas or Lavapies, turn up my Ipod and pick these stories apart visually. I create finished art on the spot, which upon returning home, I scan into my Mac and assemble into viable layouts in Photoshop. (Many of these "bar sketches" have turned up on this blog from time to time, inspired by the energy of young Spanish people... and a wee bit of whiskey, perhaps.)
    Here's a preview of the completed A CARNIVAL JANGLE...


    I was unfamiliar with author Frances E.W. Harper before Tom introduced me to her story SHALMANEZER, PRINCE OF COSMAN, an old Arabian Nights style passion play about a young prince who comes face to face with entities representing Fame, Wealth and Pleasure. I had adapted a similar piece by Ambrose Bierce for my very first Graphic Classics contribution way back in 2003, and my father and uncle once turned the medieval morality play EVERYMAN into a lively musical, so this was not uncharted territory for me. SHALMANEZER was at 12 pages, twice the length of JANGLE, and thus required a larger worksheet. (Here in two parts.)


    I drew the characters the same way I did NARCISSA, which required creating my trademark silhouette people with double lines suggesting white interior highlights and filling in jet black skin using Photoshop's trusty paintbucket. The only significant change I made to Harper's text was a change of gender for some of the abstract cast members. I felt that if all of Shalmanezer's "evil" temptresses were women, the "good" ones representing Peace and Self Denial should be female as well. I chose a more limited color palette because the chiaroscuro figures would be overwhelmed if I added too much color. Here's an uncorrected preview of the completed SHALMANEZER...


    And so, after 30 years as a freelance artist, I finally get to make a color comic book! There will be plenty more preview art by a whole posse of talented illustrators up very soon at the GRAPHIC CLASSICS website. Thanks to Tom Pomplun for making it possible, the many legendary authors for paving the way for us against all odds, and two dozen brilliant contributors to AFRICAN-AMERICAN CLASSICS for creating such a wonderful book! So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy!
    best, Lance Tooks

  • Special Bonus Link... read the Original Short story A CARNIVAL JANGLE by Alice Dunbar Nelson online by clicking here!
  • Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Plagued by Paparazzi...

  • My secret ambition to become the most photographed celebrity since Marlin Perkins continues with this latest Madrid sighting… have a look at Jose Luis’ Flickr page by clicking here!


  • Taken @ the Taberna Encantada, home of the best dish on the planet, "Los Huevos PakaRotos"! (Pictured below, along with a couple more sketches done there last week.)



    Don't hate me 'cuz I'm beautiful!
    Lance Tooks
  • PS.. Extra Special BONUS link HERE! “You know you’re unchained when…”
  • Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Heroes at large...


    One of the funnier byproducts of last Thanksgiving's Alabama visit, was a message sent to me by my 13 year old self, which arrived in the form of a timeworn stack of my earliest homemade comics. Above, you'll notice my recent reply to him... below, some bits of the books themselves. (as always, click to enlarge if you care to.)

    Back in the mid 70's, superheroes ruled the American comic book roost, and there were few real "Graphic Novels" to speak of. I taught myself to tell these visual tales one shaky image at a time, and enjoyed every minute of it! I loved animals, so pretty much every superhero I'd ever created for myself was inspired by my favorite ones. "Write what you know," as they say.

    "He was Desmond E. Andrews... Scientist, Animal Phsycologist (sic... I always had trouble spelling that one), Expert on Mutations. Until a freak experiment turned him into a 'missing link!' A cross between a man and the animal he worked on... A Living MONGOOSE!" (sic) I guess that explains why most Psychologists don't "Work on" Mongooses... it's liable to turn one savage, causing a hairy four foot tail to sprout from one's buttocks. The question posed on the cover was a purely rhetorical one... "Is he hero?! (sic) Or is he the most spellbinding villain of all?!" Lucky for us, he was hero.

    Our friend the noble Mongoose was plagued by unfortunate lapses into feral dementia... which, while enabling him to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity, had the most embarrassing tendency to leave his expensive custom made fighting leotard in shreds. Not that you'd notice the raggedy vines while staring at the hairy four foot tail sprouting from his buttocks.

    By 1977, the Mongoose was too 1975... so a new year demanded a new breed of hero... The JAGUAR!!! (insert roar) Dr. Kevin Kelly was dying of an inoperable brain tumor, (paging Narcissa) and through a series of hoary coincidences, found his DNA fused with that of the mighty Jaguar! (insert roar) He reacted to his newfound agility and vigor by knitting himself a hot form-fitting leotard (complete with fancy leopard skin speedo)... then hitting the streets in a nocturnal adrenaline pursuit, which enabled him, of course, to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity. And other metaphors for sex.

    As any politician could tell you, "real artists steal," so I helped myself to the above image, which likely appeared in a 70's Marvel comic... I couldn't tell you who the artist that I stole it from stole it from, but that is how we artists learn to draw. And to steal.
    So, three and a half decades have passed and I find myself in conference with my younger self. What I learned from him was the importance of doing what you love to do (as long as it doesn't hurt anybody) for as long as you love doing it. And that boasting on the cover of your comic book that it's "destined to become a classic" isn't really such an egotistical thing to have done when you were fifteen years old... actually I kinda admire my optimism (which probably IS a bit egotistical at 48). And if I were to stage a comeback for THE MONGOOSE AND THE JAGUAR in 2012, I'd definitely pair them up in a snazzy downtown condo, from where they might cruise the streets together in a nocturnal adrenaline pursuit, which would enable them, of course, to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity. And other metaphors for sex.
    Happy Hunting, Lance Tooks

    (PS... Below, here's a preview image from my next original Graphic Novel, about which I'll tell you later. Trust me, it's destined to become a classic!)

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    The adventure continues...

    Have a look at some recent unrelated bar sketches and drawings for my current project, an Arabian Nights inspired short story for Graphic Classics. I'll tell you more about it in a bit... I hope the weather's great wherever you are, and that your summer's even better!




    And here's a drawing I did for Madrid's Expomanga in Solidarity with Japan.

    All my best, Lance Tooks

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Sketches of Spring...

    Drawings from last week @ La Taberna Encantada in Lavapies...








  • Happy World Book and Copyright Day! More here:

  • Have a great and productive spring!
    Lance Tooks