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):

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Robot Flies Away

Little Robot, the book I started working on last year, is off to the publisher. There are still odds and ends to take care of, but the bulk of production is done and I'm getting that "book-has-flown-off-my-desk-and-into-the-wide-world" feeling. If this had been a construction project I would be clapping the dust off my hands and pouring myself a cold one. (as it is, I'm preparing to head into a construction project, but that's a different story).

It's a weird, gentle little book and I think I'm happy with it.

And so... my best guess is that Little Robot will be a Fall 2015 release. So now begins the great wait between the time a book is turned in and the moment it starts to land in the hands of the readers. (Why so long? Here's a little article about the publishing timeline).

Oh, and big shout of thanks goes out to Louis Decrevel, my friend on the far side of the world, for sailing in at the 11th hour and helping me with some coloring! Louis does some great work, and you can see it right here.

So to help us pass the time, here are a few interesting pictures:

I did not make it out for San Diego Comic Con this year, but I know there were at least two Zita the Spacegirl cosplayers in attendance.

This Zita means business!

And this awesome family had a Robot One floating around with them. This made me want to break out the ol' paper mache myself.

And finally, to bring things back to Little Robot, there's this picture that was sent to me recently:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Green Turtle

Fan art for Gene Yang and Sonny Liew's Green Turtle:

One of the things I've been meaning to do around here is put together a list of recommended graphic novels. Considering the backlog of things I'd like to post about, it will probably be some time before I get to that, but if I did manage to put together a list of some of the great long-form comics that have been coming out, Gene Yang and Sonny Liew's rebooted Golden Age superhero tale, The Shadow Hero, would certainly make the cut.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Julia's House Winners (and a very silly comic)

Okay! It's finally time to announce the winners of our Julia's House for Lost Creatures giveaway! I had hoped to post this earlier in the day but someone here at House Hatke forgot to pay the internet bill.

And, for this announcement, I present unto you a very silly comic:

And there you have it! Winners, contact me by email using the address on my side bar. Send me a mailing address and I will send you your book as promptly as I can.

And now... I am back to coloring Little Robot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Julia's House Contest Closed of Entries

How did a week pass so quickly?

The Jolly Julia Giveaway is now closed, but I think this has been the contest with the most entries so far. Thanks, everyone, for enjoying my work and for all the nice comments.

I will be drawing and posting the winning names tomorrow!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest: Julia's House for Lost Creatures!

One of the coolest things about writing and drawing books is the part where a box of shiny new author copies shows up at your door. And yesterday was the day that copies of Julia's House for Lost Creatures arrived here at House Hatke.

I know I've said it before, but I'm really happy with how this book turned out.

The official release date (September 2nd) is still over a month off, but I'm going to give away two copies now, along with a bit of original art!

Regular readers of this blog, you know the drill. But for the sake of the newcomers, HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

To enter the drawing all you need to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post. Remember to leave your name, or some internet handle that I can announce. You can increase your chance of winning by helping me spread the word about this new book (Julia's House is, after all, only one little book in a great sea of literature). Mentioning the book, linking to, or otherwise spreading the word via social media (twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Google+, blogs, tumblers or any of the other myriad of options) this is worth TWO EXTRA ENTRIES. Feel free to tag me on twitter where I am @BenHatke.

And that's it!

The FIRST person whose name I draw will receive a signed copy of Julia's House along with a little piece of concept art from the making of the book.

The SECOND person whose name I draw will also receive a signed copy of Julia's House, along with a little original sketch or bit of art.

The contest closes ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. And we're off to the races!

PS: Look at my desk. It's atrocious: