ART LYON: design, editing, writing, illustration, digital coloring, and other arcane secrets.

TOP TEN: THE FORTY-NINERS

A 96-page graphic novel by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Art Lyon, Ellen Starr Lyon, and Todd Klein, published in 2005 by Wildstorm Publications as part their “America’s Best Comics” line. Go buy it now!

THE FORTY-NINERS is wanted for murder! It killed two of my monitors. One of them died as I was uploading the last pages to Wildstorm – I had to call my editor Scott Dunbier to make sure the files got there, because I couldn’t see anything on my computer to check it myself!

Gene introduced me to comic book colorist exemplar Alex Sinclair at the 2001 San Diego Comicon. We got a tour of Wildstorm’s offices. Unbeknownst to me at the time (mostly because I’m dense), Gene already had it in his head to make me into a colorist. Silly Gene!

Around the end of 2002, I started coloring THE FORTY-NINERS. I had taken a Photoshop class in 1993, and by 2002 I was using it for cover design at a print-on-demand publisher. I was tragically bored at that dreary, dreary office job, and I quit in 2003, foolishly assuming that coloring was some sort of real job. On Monday, August 4th of that year, I started my life as a “full-time” professional comic book colorist. I sat down at the computer after breakfast, and stopped for lunch on the back deck with my wife Ellen and one year-old son. I picked blueberries in the back yard for our dessert. Life is good.

To the right is the first bit of conceptual art I got from Gene, and possibly the first thing I had colored–albeit very simply–since 1994 (for a comic called Exile Earth, but more on that later).

Below is the image I put together for the stamp seen on the box containing Leni’s Besensteil on page 20. It’s the old Comics Code Authority seal of approval – in German! We comic artists love our visual jokes and homages.

Unfairly uncredited in the book is my wife Ellen Starr Lyon. Ellen is a very talented oil painter, and she wrestled with watercolors for the sake of moving the pages along at a quicker pace, laying down some background and character ink-washes.  I discussed her being credited with me as a colorist very early on in the process, and I guess I assumed that was all settled, and forgot about it. When the hardcover edition was published and I saw her name was not there, I pointed it out but clearly didn’t put a fine enough point on it, because her name is also not in the trade paperback edition. Grrr. I’m going to see what I can do about future editions.

So, clearly I had almost no idea what I was doing on this book, both as a colorist and as a professional. I mean, colored a third of it on a 13″ monitor with a mouse! Yeesh.

Even my amateur sensibilities and lack of know-how couldn’t ruin another Moore/Ha masterpiece, though: it won the Eisner award for 2005’s Best Graphic Album (New). I went to the 2006 San Diego Comicon despite the expense, and wound up viewing the awards ceremony with the audience rather than sitting at the guest/nominees tables because I wasn’t on the stupid guest list–though technically I wasn’t nominated. That’s what I get for not being more assertive: I missed out on the guests-only dinner tables and had to settle for the audience’s finger-food buffet of weak-sauced meatballs and bread!

Did I mention this thing took about 2 years to finish? Because it did.

I think I got the hang of it about half way through–just in time for the vampire brothel sequence!


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Comments on: "ART! History lesson #1: TOP TEN: THE FORTY-NINERS!" (2)

  1. Hey, I lived that History lesson! I say it IS a real job 🙂 Have to mention, though, that you left out the part about me working on the book! My one only comic book gig- that I did for free! The ladies are always forgotten ;( I still love you.

  2. Guilty as charged. I shall amend my post–there’s a story behind all that…

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ceci says

did I just say that? (adventures in stream-of-consciousness writing)

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