When I started collecting sketches, Shane was getting his X-Men sketchbook up and running and I'm sure Iron Osier was getting Iron Man sketches from anyone he could find who had a pencil. Also, our friend and sketch collecitng mentor, Wayne, was filling a book with Legion of Super Heroes characters so I knew I needed a theme, I just didn't know what theme to go with. I was a huge X-Men fan but Shane was already doing that. Nothing else was really sticking until I got the idea of villains. It gave me room to get all sorts of characters but it was still a strong theme. And it allowed me to be the villain of our group, which I always am :)
Once I started my second sketchbook getting only female characters I also decided there wouldn't be any female villains in the book. It would be all dudes. Well, mostly. I'd eventually add Drusilla from "Buffy" but she's with Spike, at least.
I also decided as time went on that I wanted to try and get all the major heroes represented by their villains. Some were easy - Batman, Flash and Spider-Man have enough cool villains to fill their own books! Some were tougher: Even Superman's rogues' gallery is pretty weak. (But Andy Smith did an awesome armored Lex Luthor for me.) As I'm more of a Marvel guy, it was easy to find cool, obscure Marvel villains but it was tougher with DC. Keeping the balance of power was a challenge sometimes.
Getting every hero represented by their villain became an adventure unto itself. While it started with obvious stuff, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and the like, by the end I had Transformers villains, Masters of the Universe, Buffy, there's even a Scooby Doo Phantom Shadow in there! Every hero has his villains and they're usually pretty cool.
One thing about this book is that artists tended to have fun with it. When they got the villain book, they usually got to draw something they didn't have to draw all the time. My fascination with second tier villains only added to that! I mean, I got most of the Serpent Society in there!
Some anecdotes and what not ...
The first sketch is Two Face by Cully Hamner. I got that sketch at a con in Akron and wasn't entirely sure who I wanted to kick off the book. Cully suggested The Joker but I'm more of a Two Face guy. Two Face it was.
At Heroes Con 2004, the Cranboyz were cleaning up with sketches across the board. I still say, sketch for sketch, it's the best haul we've ever pulled in at a show. One sketch I got there was from Howard Porter, who drew Ultron for me. When he got my book and flipped through the sketches, seeing what other artists had done already he said 'aw crap, now I have to do a good one.' And did he ever. I won't talk about Andy's man crush on this sketch! It was all I heard about all weekend.
Porter slid the book down to Ron Garney who did Captain Cold on the next page, and it's just as awesome as Howard's sketch!
I also got to reignite some childhood memories when I got a sketch of The Hobgoblin from Ron Frenz. The Hobgoblin story in "Amazing Spider-Man" is certainly my golden age of reading Spider-Man and Ron was the artist on all that. Hobgoblin's a favorite of mine and Ron delivered what looks like a panel from the book brought to life.
When Erik Larsen came to Heroes Con in 2006, the show was a zoo. I really didn't expect him to be doing sketches. Still, that Saturday morning I wandered over to his line and waited to see if I could talk him into one. At the time he was EIC of Image Comics and was set up at the company booth. There were a couple guys in front of me who were DIE HARD "Savage Dragon" fans, which is Larsen's creator-owned book. Man, they were all having fun talking to Erik's book and I didn't even really read it. I almost got out of line. I didn't though and when I got up to the front, I asked Erik "how many Image trades to I have to buy for you to do a sketch of Doc Ock" for me?" He looked at me a little puzzled and said 'do you have a sketchbook.' I said, yes, it was all villains. He grabbed the book and went to work, churning out a smart-assed Doc Ock for me. He wouldn't take any money ... but I did buy a couple Image trades anyway, because it was cool of him to do it for me. This sketch always brings a smile to my face.
Sometimes you get a sketch from an artist's artist - a guy that other artists are in awe of. These sketches automatically up the street cred of your book, my friends! Take, for example, this sketch of Kingpin by John Paul Leon. It got to the point that when I gave people the book to work on, I just assumed we'd have to talk about John Paul's sketch when I got it back. Once I came to get my book from Casey Jones and he was sitting with the book open to Kingpin and said 'we need to talk about this.'
This sketch also features what Bob Ross might call a 'happy little accident.' If you see all the white and gray in the background, what happened was John Paul was working on Kingpin's shoulder and his black ink kind of exploded. So in order to fix it he added that entire background! (You can still see the black blob if you look closely at the back of the sketch.)
I also want to call out our friend Andy Bennett, who not only does awesome sketches for us all the time, he's been given some extremely obscure characters to draw for us, and he always delivers. There just aren't a lot of Master Pandemonium, Black Flash or Orb sketches out there, but Andy knocked them out of the park, generally shaking his head at whatever oddball character I had for him this time. (Hm, maybe should have gotten an Oddball sketch from him!)
Speaking of obscure villains, when I was collecting sketches of Flash's Rogues' Gallery, I definitely wanted a sketch of Rainbow Raider but, well, most people like to make fun of the Raider. I went to my friend Adam Withers and said I wanted a Rainbow Raider sketch ... but I didn't want a lame sketch of Rainbow Raider. Adam took on the challenge and gave me a Rainbow Raider who's fed up with being called lame!
I do want to call out this Scarecrow piece by Tommy Castillo. Tommy passed away a little while ago and I was always a fan of his work and his company. He is missed. When I asked him for a Scarecrow sketch, I said I had character reference and he smiled and said 'don't need it!' Love the scalpel in his hand - this is one terrifying Scarecrow!
The last page of the book came from Dave Aikins, who had some friend with our Animated Adventures theme and added Pinky & the Brain, off on another plot that probably won't work out as planned. Thanks, Dave!
Pinky & the Brain are on the last page but the page before that is the last sketch I got in the book, and I picked that up today. I wasn't sure what to do for a last sketch - we always try to do something special when we wrap up a sketchbook. I had a couple ideas but they weren't feeling right. The right sketch hit me in phases. First I decided to get a sketch of The Key because he was JLAdam's favorite villain. As I got to the last page, though, I also remembered that BOTH The Key and Prometheus were Adam's favorite villains, all because of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's run on "JLA." That was it! Believe me, if you knew Adam, you heard him prattle on about those two characters - AT LENGTH. "The League needs more thinkers," indeed.
We've been blessed with friendship from artist Darryl Banks for a long time and Adam loved his stuff as much as any of us. When I reached out to Darryl to see if he wanted to do the last page with Adam's favorite villains, he, of course obliged. It really was the perfect ending to the book.
I know, a rather sentimental ending to a book filled with so many bad guys. Thanks, Darryl, again.
Thanks again to ALL the artists who have graced my sketchbook with their art. I hope you enjoyed drawing something a bit out of the ordinary. Or, in some case, something WAAAY out of the ordinary.
If you want to see the entire collection, it's here: