Author Archives: Guin

Covering Beautiful Scars

Our focus as of late has been sharing with you what lies between the covers of Beautiful Scars. Since our baby’s now a whole week old (goodness!), I think it’s time to take a look at what’s OUTSIDE the book. After all, it’s the face that the world sees first!

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but Durwin and I are both pretty big design/illustration snobs. We have both been known to gravitate towards a book in the store just because of a fantastic font, snappy color palette, or cool spot UV. Once we actually pick it up and look it over, sometimes that pretty face doesn’t have anything underneath it. But, it always makes us look. And when you’re competing for attention in a crowded bookstore, that’s exactly what you want.

Durwin has a lot of experience designing and illustrating some outstanding covers (just take a look at the gallery and see how awesome he can be). His Officer Down series is exceptionally beautiful. (I’m bragging on him because he absolutely would not do it himself!) So, when it came time to illustrate the main image for the cover, Durwin took the lead. We wanted a fairy-tale vibe, in the tradition of the Golden Age illustrators. We’re both hugely influenced by people like Howard Pyle, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Kay Nielsen, and NC Wyeth. We took our inspiration from a fantastic Harper’s Bazaar cover – it perfectly encapsulated what we wanted to reference.

Cover 1 Inspiration

The cover is from 1916, just about the right era for our man Ridley, so it was great material to be inspired by. This piece is incredibly lyrical, with a great sense of scale and playfulness. Just what was needed. And this is what came out!

Scars Mock Up Cover

Of course, we wanted to be inspired, not flat-out copy what was happening, but definitely you can see bits of the original make its way into this version. The cover needed to express a beginning, a sense of advenure about to begin, so cherry blossom branches in the spring are a perfect symbol for that. Ridley and Maddie stand gazing onto both the real world, and Maddie’s imagined world beyond it. It’s hard to tell where one stops and one begins – and that’s just perfect, as one story line flows right into the other as you read through the book.

This version is what many people saw for many years while we were finishing up the book and it was still an ethereal dream. We were lucky to work with phenomenal designers to give us an even better design, which frames the cover and still has that great fairytale feeling that we were hoping to achieve. So, this is what you see when you walk into your local comic book store:


Oh, but one cover was not good enough for us. NOT BY A LONG SHOT. Durwin and I have pretty different styles when it comes to illustration. These two styles merge together to create something pretty great, which you can see in the interior pages. But, we’re both proud of the work we do on our own, as well. So, since the front cover is primarily Durwin, we decided that I should do an image for the back cover in my style, as well. And that’s right here!


I think it makes a great ending to the book, with the fantasy characters flying off to even more adventures. (Although, the image is flipped on the printed cover! It works better, as they’re flying to the right instead.) It’s a good companion piece to the front, which features our real-world characters. Together, they encapsulate what makes our individual styles great, while the interiors show off what teamwork can do. Go team!

Beautiful Scars: Meet the Amazing Amanda Vissell! Plus, new release date!

You have probably seen her work if you’ve ever walked into a Kid Robot, or are into collecting vinyl toys, been to any number of Los Angeles/California galleries, collected Disney merchandise, or are generally a cool person who knows about cool things. Of course, I’m talking about Amanda Visell.

I think the first time I saw her work was at Disneyland. It was the 40th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and the gift shop had all kinds of sweet commemorative merch, including a fantastic ringer with an amazing pirate graphic. It instantly reminded me of mid-century Disney art and especially Mary Blair, who as I’ve talked about before, is basically my patron saint. (I realized that now if you google “Mary Blair Alice in Wonderland” this blog comes up on the first page, which makes me super happy.) The more I learned about this mystery artist, the more I loved her.

Amanda has a deep love for the same things I do, like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. She and her partner Michelle Valigura, who is also an amazing artist working in ceramics and 3D materials, originally came to LA to pursue a career in stop motion animation. You can see the influence from that time in the materials and techniques that she uses in her work, both painting and sculpting. She works with similar characters and themes throughout her work, like alligators and elephants, but what I really love is the figures are not just cute figures, they tell a story. She’s a natural storyteller and is drawn to things with narrative. In addition to limited edition toys and figures, she also does killer paintings and posters. Her current series of pop icon wood idols is particularly interesting; she’s attempting 100 one of a kind idols (55 are finished so far, and they are awesome). I love someone who can think in 2D and 3D, and have continuity between the two. Her work always looks like her, no matter what she’s attempting.

For her contribution to “Beautiful Scars,” we knew we wanted to give her a scene with Scars. I love how she takes an existing character and Amandafies it, so we knew she’d do something great. Scars is such a blocky character in our design, I really love how he gets a bit rounded in this piece. It’s a great moment between the Woodsman and Scars, showing off their now matching scars on their foreheads. How much do you love that five-o’clock shadow on the Woodsman’s face? He looks like he’s had quite a long day (and he totally has).

Check out Amanda Visell’s site here, and the design partytime jamboree she has with Michelle Valigura, Switcheroo.

In book news, we have a new release date! Oh, the joys of customs and shipping. Now, all of our books are safely at the distributor’s warehouse and we can say with a defnite tone of voice that you can buy Beautiful Scars April 2nd at your local comic book store, and April 8th at your local bookstore! And, April 2 happens to be my birthday, so even better! And of course, you can buy it right here from from the BOOM! website.

Beautiful Scars: Meet the Fantastic John Van Fleet!

John Van Fleet is one of the more impressive guys you’ll meet. And I’m not just talking about his goatee. He’s creative and clever, and will keep you in stitches. He’s also an outstanding artist with a huge amount of creativity. (There’s also a professional poker player under the same name, and I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not ALSO John in some kind of disguise.)

He has a really provocative style that combines 3D models with painting to create some really interesting mixed-media paintings. His clients include D.C. Comics, The Walt Disney Company, Mammoth Records, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Electronic Art, and now, little ol’ us!

When we were thinking about the moment to assign to John, our thoughts went right to dragons. Specifically, our dragon. This moment shows where Nightshade the dragon is slain, and plummets to earth (not too much of a spoiler; we won’t tell you how it happens!).  With John’s 3D prowess, we knew he could deal with such a massive form in a really cool way. And we are so, so thrilled with the result. I love the distressed feel of this image, it feels like a cellophane film strip about to burst into flames. His version of Nightshade is truly terrifying – a perfect end to a perfectly evil creature.

Check out more of his amazing work at his site!

Edit: Here’s the obligatory awkward reaction shot, this time from a very sickly Guin! Even with the plague, she’s super excited about this dragon.


Thumbs way, way up.

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Remarkable Robin Carpenter

When we show off the book to anyone, this is the image that people always stop on and squeal a bit. I know I definitely did. This is the work of Robin Carpenter, a super talented young illustrator from Vancouver, BC. After graduating from VanArts in the Game Art and Design program, he came to Emily Carr University, where he is finishing up in the Illustration program. He has already began to make his mark on the illustration and concept design world, and we’re really glad to have his fantastic work in this book!

This scene is where our woodsman meets Karolle, the satyr. We didn’t put him into the graphic novel portion, but he’s a key player in the development of the woodsman’s character. We only had a vague image in our heads of what he would look like, and so we left it up to Robin to give Karolle form. And he did not disappoint! Karolle is is wisest creature in the forest, but I love how his cuddly exterior means you have to look a bit deeper than the surface to see who he really is. Which is really what this book is about!

And if somebody doesn’t make a stuffie of Karolle, I don’t even know why.

See more of Robin’s work here: or follow him on tumblr!

Hourly Comic Day 2014!

February 1st was Hourly Comic Day and I actually caught it early enough in the day that I was able to participate! Of course, it took me til the next day to actually post them…but that’s better than last year’s, which never got posted at all!

I misplaced the adapter to my Cintiq so my friend let me use his Galaxy Note with Sketchbook Pro installed to clean up my drawings. I’ve never used something like that before to do more than doodle on, but it definitely is something I’d consider buying for travel drawing and sketching. The following was using the factory stylus and the Sketchbook Pro app, of which I am a big fan! (No one is paying me to say this, but they can certainly send me one for free if they’d like.)



That was fun! Once I get started with these, I want to make a lot more. It improves my memory, for sure.

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Magnificent Michael Stribling!

Michael Stribling is one of those artists who has such a huge range of style that you’d swear he’s two or three people posing as one. His work can range from painterly realistic to 3D cartoony. And whatever he does, it looks great!

Michael’s worked in illustration, graphic design, mural art, video games and comics, most currently as Art Director of Interactive Content at Leapfrog Games. Personally, my favorite work is what he does for comics. He’s great at capturing the action of a scene or the power of a character. I love what he does with characters like Wonder Woman and Superman, so we knew he would do something awesome with ours. And he did not disappoint!

This is the sequence when the princess gets snatched up by the evil vines and the two heroes must fight them off. I love his take on the vines, the red color makes them look even more vicious and they really pop against the neutrals of the characters. The emotional tone of all of these pieces is different, and I love to see all the different interpretations of each scene. This has a much murkier and dangerous feel to it than what we did in the comics section, and it’s hard to say which direction I like better

(And the woodsman’s hair looks super luxurious, which I appreciate.)

For more of Michael’s great work, check out his website or his DeviantArt page!

Beautiful Scars: Our Favourite Page of the Week

This week’s page is one of my personal favorites. The top panel shows a proud Ridley escorting his lady around in the newly-fixed Panhard. It’s one of the first panels we finished completely, and served as a reference for the styling of a lot of the other pages. The bottom is a dramatic view of the dragon, the first time we get to actually see it in the book! So, it’s a fairly important page to the story and as a reference to the rest of the visual style of the book. I remember having a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to do the bottom panel’s background. It had to be something that wasn’t too busy or overdone, because the focus needs to be on the dragon. Mimicking the style of trees from the top, but simplifying them down to their base elements, ended up being the perfect solution. And now it’s one of our favorites!

We’ve talked a lot about the fantasy side of the book on this here blog, but not about the history side. So let’s remedy that right now!

We wanted Ridley to live through some extraordinary times. And while every era in human history is pretty fascinating, we felt that the early 20th century held a lot of interest for both of us. There was so much happening with innovation in technology, society, fashion, you name it. But, tackling a historical project also means hours of research to make sure our details are correct. Questions like “when exactly were spiral notebooks invented?” (1934, by the way), or “when were crayons available?” (1903!) came up whenever we wanted to put any kind of detail or prop into the story. We both learned a lot, about subjects we hadn’t even considered before starting.

Major details, like the car Ridley is driving above, required some more in-depth searching. We had to find a car that would have been available in England in the early 1900s. Panhard et Levassor was an established woodworking and machinist firm before making their first automobile in 1890, and by 1900 they were one of the largest and most modern automobile manufacturers in the world. No wonder Ridley was so excited about it! When we learned about this car, it jumped out to us as a good fit, and also as a gorgeous machine in itself. It was a little hard to find reference for when we were looking, however. Once, I even found an old advertisement on the wall of a hotel in Victoria, and for a long time that was the best full shot of the car we had. Now, it seems like it’s everywhere! There was even one up for auction recently (although it’s a slightly different model than ours). We ended up finding a video that a car enthusiast had taken during an antiques car show and posted to Youtube as a source of major reference, especially for the engine. Oh well. I guess if we decide to bring it back in another book, we’ll have all the reference we can handle!

Last, the good PhDs at Comics Alternative gave us a shout out on their podcast highlighting the January Previews offerings. At about the 1 hour and 4 minute mark, they talk about Beautiful Scars. And yes, we are both nice and heartwarming! Have a listen

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Dashing Dave Guertin

We’re continuing the series of fabulous artists who contributed to our book with the incredibly talented Dave Guertin, of Creaturebox fame!

In addition to being a generally fabulous human, Dave is an incredibly talented artist and we’re honoured to have him included in this project. He’s the hardest working man in showbusiness, so we say, and it was amazing to have him take time out of his schedule to be a part of this.

We assigned him this particular moment in the story, where the woodsman and the princess are poised to fight these winged creatures. We love his character designs so much, and he did NOT disappoint. That is one of the best things about this part of the project, seeing all the different interpretations of our world. I absolutely adore the princess, especially. Look at the intensity in her face! Dave really captured all the small details that make this moment come alive, like the rings on her dress and the little flower behind her ear.

Dave Guertin is one-half of Creaturebox, along with Greg Baldwin, producing a delightful assortment of robots, monsters, and aliens. He also creates visual magic at Insomniac Games as principal artist, and is responsible for such visuals as Ratchet and Clank. Check out their blog here!

Edit: I have been taking a reaction photo to each piece as it comes in, and posting them alongside the pieces, and this one is a twofer. This is the (probably the worst ever taken of me) photo of my reaction when I saw the piece:

photo 1 copy

Oh yeah, baby, I am ALL GUMS.

I sent it over to Dave and said “This is the face I made when I got your piece!” He replied and said “This is the face I made while I was making it!”

photo 2


Mutual screams of delight. It doesn’t get any better.

Announcing Beautiful Scars, March 2014!

Look out! Our book has a release month!

We got some very exciting news today. The book is so close to the finish line that we can see the ribbon right in front of us, just waiting to burst through. We are totally thrilled to announce that our book has been scheduled for April of 2014! We don’t have an exact release date as of yet, but should have one in the next month or two. The fact that we now have a release month to look forward to is so exciting.

April’s a pretty great month for us. Both of our birthdays are in April (9 days apart!) and many of our loved ones as well. And I feel a bit like I’m writing a birth announcement! This book has felt as close to having and raising a baby as anything ever has (short of, you know, actually having and raising a baby). Now it’s time to let that baby into the world (get a job, baby! start earning your keep!).

When all is said and done, the book will come in a whopping 128 pages. It’ll be divided into two sections, the graphic novel, and then a fairy tale filled with all the best stuff: princesses and trolls, biplanes and dragons, danger and romance. Besides us proud parents doing the art, writing, and hand holding, many of our friends are joining in the celebration! They will be creating full page illustrations which we will show off here during the upcoming months leading up to the book’s release… So stay tuned!

Thanks to you all for following us on this journey. This has been a long time coming. And really, it’s just the beginning!

EDIT: The book has actually been announced for MARCH 11th instead! One whole month earlier. This is great news!

Release month achieved. High fives all around!