Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Inktober: A Wellspring of Wizards

Well, it's become apparent that I am not going to end the month with 31 wizards, but this has been a very invigorating process nonetheless. I feel like, with this inktober wizard project, I've been stretching my creative muscles a bit. It's a good thing because all my book projects right now are in the writing and development phase -it's all text files and notebooks full of scribbles. So it's good to be pushing in different directions.

Here's the latest batch of characters from my world of Outlaw Wizards:

Crowquill isn't really a wizard at all. He's a government agent in a ludicrous disguise, sent by the nobility to spread dissent among the wizards. For if there's one thing the nobles fear it's that the exiled magic users will begin working together.

Mighty Rael isn't a wizard either. She was a contented ex-soldier-turned-farmwife until the day her husband was killed by crab-like mage. Now she wanders the Outlands hunting down magic users, and wearing the claws of the wizard that took her true love... (so dramatic!)

Emelia the All-Seeing is a professional treasure hunter and dungeon delver.

And finally there is Emerit the Handsome who is a very powerful wizard, but regrets ever starting down the path of magic because every time he casts a spell he becomes just a little bit smaller.

And that's all for this batch.

In other news, here is a link to a fun photo interview that I did with a book club at the Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle.

And here is an illustrated column in the New Yorker, titled The Endangered Bookstores of New York which has stories from the bookstores across the city and makes a brief mention of me at the very end.

Okay! That's all for now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Home From Comic Con

(this view of the New York Comic Con main show floor pulled from the First Second tumblr).

So Comic Con was a whirlwind, as usual. But it was a very encouraging and productive whirlwind this year.

I got to meet up and share a meal in Pennsylvania with Matt Phelan, go on a road trip through Massachusetts with my pal Zack Giallongo, catch up with Cory Doctorow at the First Second table (and thanks to him I ended up buying a Very Dramatic Coat), and have my day saved (or at least one of my events saved) by the amazing Jerzy Drozd. And those were just a few of my weekend adventures.

And of course all this has put me a little behind in my Inktober drawing. But I have one wizard for you. And there are more to come:

This wizard has been practicing magic for so long that he had to grow a homunculus to push him around in a wheelbarrow. Was it worth it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Big NYCC Weekend

Well, as it turns out, I'll be doing quite a lot over this busy Comic Con weekend. More than I mentioned in my last post anyway. Here are a few of the places you'll be able to find me over the next few days:

(this post has been edited).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Inktober Batch 2 and NYCC14!

Here is the latest batch of Inkober drawings. Four new magicians with stories of their own and a world growing out around them...

It is a world on the brink of industrialization and magic is forbidden inside the walls of cities or towns. Magicians are outlaws in the traditional sense -not hunted as criminals, but neither are they protected by the law. Magicians are exiles banished to the fringes of civilization.

Additionally, the practice of magic has a disfiguring effect, making practitioners easy to spot. Older, experienced wizards appear barely human. Here are four Magicians with different levels of experience:

Reynard the Retired: A crafty old illusionist who has since abandoned magic and now lives as a hunter in the wild lands.

The Clockwork Conjurer: A strange wandering automaton that is widely assumed to be all the remains of a once mighty wizard. (in fact the wizard, what is left of him, lives on inside the automaton, powering it with the last of his magic).

The Widow of the Outlands: a young enchantress who was exiled upon the birth of her first child, born with a telltale tail.

The Witch of the Walls: A potions master that is tolerated to live on the outer walls of a great city. She scrapes together an existence mixing love potions, healing concoctions, and political poisons.

More Inktober coming soon...

New York Comic Con News: I will be at NYCC 2014 on Sunday, October 12th! I'll be doing a couple panels but the best time to stop by and say hello will be from 11:30 to 12:30 at the First Second booth (number 2237). Feel free to leave a comment if you'll be attending NYCC this year, and I'll be sure to look for you.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


A few years ago the illustrious Jake Parker came up with the idea of InkTober, a month long celebration of the fine art of drawing in ink and a challenge to artists to try their hand at producing 31 ink drawings in 31 days. (Jake has posted a nice bit of information here).

This year I'm going to give it a shot.

I don't know how successful I'll be. I've got a lot going on in October, including a trip to New York Comic Con next weekend. But I'll do the best I can. Maybe not the full 31, but something. I'll post the drawings on my twitter and here on the blog, in batches, about once a week.

Oh, and I've given myself a theme: Outlaw Wizards. They are Magic users banned from walled cities, scraping together a life for themselves on the raggedy edge of civilization. Here are the first two (for today and tomorrow), the Vagabond Sorceress of the Northern Roads, and the Patchwork Wizard.

Oh! and the other thing to keep a lookout for this month is Zita costumes. I have a pretty big backlog of Zita cosplay photos to share, so I'm planning to start posting those in the weeks leading up to Halloween...

So ...excelsior?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fighter 8

This is a post about a project that never came to be. It's called:

Last year, after doing a freelance job for a small division of a pretty well-known animation company, I was invited to pitch a short animated web series to them. It was a fun, sort of open ended project. Ultimately, though, what I came up with didn't quite fit with the house style and the other things they were producing, and so we parted ways. And that was fine. Not every story, or project comes to full fruition. Life would be too crazy if that happened.

Still, the pitch has been sitting on my hard drive collecting dust ever since. I'm happy with a lot of the art, and the character designs in particular, so I thought, here on the first day of autumn, I would share them in one big post.

Briefly, Fighter 8 is an arena fighting story about a group of middle schoolers with weird super powers. Sort of Pokemon meets kid X-men. The story follows Douglas the Multiple boy as he helps his best friend Jason (the Spin Doctor) form a Battle Stars league for their school. Of course, in so doing they begin to uncover an unsettling mystery surrounding the school's principal.

There's a lot more to it of course, including a ten-episode story arc, but because I want the art to sort of take center stage in this post, I'm not going to include the full synopsis or character bios or anything -though I may paste some of those things into the comments for anyone interested.

And so, without further preamble, here's the art from Fighter 8:

Main cast:

Douglas the Multiple Boy

Jason the Spin Doctor, and the Elephantom

Tracker and Dino-Tail

Big cat and the Rainbowler

(you can click the one above for a larger version)

Some additional characters from opposing teams:

And here's a short comic:

And there you have it. It feels good to finally share some of this with the world. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Missed Events and Whispers of a Short Film

I apologize to anyone who missed seeing me this last weekend at either the Princeton Book Festival or the Baltimore Book Festival. I seem to have run myself into the ground a bit.

The past few weeks have been crowded. A road trip to Indiana to visit my family was followed by the Baltimore Comic Con, which was followed by a whirlwind 3 days of shooting a short film (more on that in a bit), which was followed by SPX. I missed the first day of SPX to something like food poisoning, but I pulled myself together for the second day (and what a second day it was. It reminded me just how nice a show is SPX). After SPX we had some awesome guests for a few days and then I had a day of school visits and car trouble.

Then I just couldn't get out of bed.

The little cough I'd been trying to ignore finally blossomed into Something Terrible and I have nothing but gratitude for the dead car battery that kept me from going to New York this weekend. And now, thanks to a nice doctor and a round of antibiotics, I am just starting to feel like me again. I've made promises to rest a lot this week. Because this weekend is the beautiful Baltimore Book Festival. I'll be speaking there at 2pm (info here) and probably doing a reading of Julia's House for Lost Creatures.

But what's this about a short film? I hear you asking. Well...

My friends over at Mirandum Pictures have been putting together a series of scary shorts for Halloween. I helped them with a couple of the shorts and then, somehow ...I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I found myself writing my own short. And then I found myself directing the short.

It's a small thing, only a touch over 3 minutes long, but it was an absolute blast to make. As you'd expect it leans heavily toward fantasy, and I hope it catches the flavor of Halloween. I ought to be able to share it here in early November so stay tuned for that. But for now here's the title treatment and a production still:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Julia's House Bonus Art

Now that the Julia's House Blog tour has wound down, I thought I'd post the whole little creature collection online in one place, right here. I was thinking of making these into a little collection of prints.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Julia's House is Here Today

Today is the official release day for Julia's House for Lost Creatures. If you've pre-ordered the book there is a good chance it will show up at you door today. If you were planning to pick it up from a local bookstore today is the day they will have it in stock. If you were going to pick it up from your local library then I commend you! ...and it should be on the shelves there as well. (If you weren't planning on reading this one and you just visit this blog for the art and comics, well we are definitely still friends. And I'm sorry I haven't been posting comics lately).

Here are some pictures of some copies of Julia's House that were on my desk recently (they are now signed, doodled in, and en route to Turnrow Books):

In other news, I am quite exhausted. I'm just back from a really nice weekend visit to Indiana where I joined my parents and my sisters and my nieces and nephews in breaking in the beautiful brick oven that my dad spent his summer designing and building. It looks like this:

And it makes the most wonderful pizzas.

I also played paintball for the first time this weekend and I discovered that I'm not terribly good at it. Or, rather, I'm particularly good at the part where you get ambushed and pelleted by 12 and 13 year olds.

And so I spent last night driving from Indiana back to Virginia with my two oldest girls, arriving back at House Hatke at about 9 am. Hence the exhaustion.

I plan to celebrate this book release day with a nap.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Julia's House Travel Schedule and Blog Tour

Friends! Julia's House for Lost Creatures will be released in less than one week! Somehow, even though I thought I was "Mr. Organized" this still managed to sneak up on me.

People have been saying some nice things about the book so far, and that's been encouraging (if you're into reading reviews you can find some here, here, here and here).

I was a little nervous about Julia's House at first. After all, picture books are a less forgiving format for storytelling than are graphic novels. A picture book is shorter, for one thing, and so every moment, every beat, has to count all the more. But I think the book will find its readers.

To help Julia's House on its way, I have put together a series of bonus illustrations for the book and the good people at Macmillan have helped to arrange a sort of online traveling bestiary. The idea is that between Sunday August 31st and Saturday September 6th you can visit the sites on the list, take a look at some of the bonus art, and read some of my thoughts about dragons and mermaids and goblins and the rest. Click on the banner below for links to the various sites:

I will also be attending several events in September, October and November. Here is a list, with links, of the places where you will be able to find me signing, drawing, speaking or high-fiving in the coming months:

* September 6th: Baltimore Comic-Con
* September 14th: Small Press Expo
* September 20th: Princeton Book Festival
* September 21st: Brooklyn Book Festival
* September 27th: Baltimore Book Festival. Speaking at 2:00 pm
* October 9th: Children's Book World
* October 11th: Odyssey Kids Books, 2:00pm event
* October 11th, McNally Jackson Books
* October 12th: New York Comic-Con!
* October 26th: Over the Moon, 3:00pm (I believe this one's a costume party).
* November 21st-23rd: Miami Book Fair

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Top o' the Summer

Summer is winding down now, isn't it? I'm always sad when summer starts to fade. Even though Autumn touches my soul with its beauty, I think its Summer that I was born for and where I am most at home.

It's been a quietish summer this year at House Hatke, and we've tried to be more like Ants than Grasshoppers for a change. Still, the summer has had its moments. The video below shows one of my favorite moments of this summer: spinning fire poi at Cristina's Cafe 6th anniversary party:

20140819 213333 from Ben Hatke on Vimeo.

Here's to summer!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ball and the Cross (or: GKC and Me)

There is a new edition of G.K. Chesterton's crazy odd-couple fantasy novel The Ball and the Cross, illustrated by me! It looks like this:

You can find the book online here.

In a 2004 speech, Neil Gaiman gives a wonderful account of his first discoveries, when he was still quite young, of the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton. Of Chesterton he says:

I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.

I didn't discover G.K. Chesterton, his wit and his works and his larger-than-life figure, until I was in college, but I had much the same reaction as Gaiman. Probably because, as Gaiman points out, Chesterton is an artist's writer.

I found my first Chesterton novel in the quiet basement of the college library. The book was The Man Who Was Thursday and I didn't even take it to a table; I just sat there on the floor in the aisle and read this weird nightmare story about anarchists and spies. I returned to the same spot over the course of a couple days to finish the book. I was hooked.

And so last year when my friends over at Chesterton Press approached me about drawing a set of illustrations for The Ball and the Cross, well, I wasn't too hard to convince. The book, thanks in no small part to the wonderful friendship that develops between the two main characters, remains my favorite of Chesterton's novels.

In fact, I already had character designs, dating back to 2006, for the two leads (the humorless Catholic-born Evan MacIan and the scrappy, lovable atheist Turnbull). At that time I had briefly held the opinion that this book would make a good graphic novel. I was wrong about that. But as a novel-with-pictures I think it works!

The book also features a fair number of sword fights, and a lot of fat Victorian police running around with helmets and billy clubs. Both of those things are fun to draw.

So without further preamble, here's a look at a few of my favorite interior illustrations from this edition of The Ball and the Cross:

Oh and did I mention there's a flying ship?

And as I said at the top of the post, you can find the book here:

Finally, here's a goofy picture of me dancing with Chesterton (it's a cover illustration for an upcoming issue of Gilbert Magazine):