sketchbook sundays

This week’s edition of Sketchbook Sundays is all about works in progress. Between cranking out research papers at the end of the semester and a sudden influx of writing, editing, and book design gigs, some of our art projects have just had to get aside for a bit. So, here’s what we have in progress here at our little outpost on the martian frontier.

meteor mags gasmask pole dance in progress

Above, this new drawing of Meteor Mags is coming along nicely, but we need a background. Yes, we should probably plan backgrounds first, but we get caught up in inking gasmasks and stockings and then kind of fill in the details later.

Below, our seahorse painting awaits a final phase of rendering and highlighting. Considering that the next Mags story features a seahorse, it might be time to wrap this one up soon.

seahorse painting in progress

Below, our first attempt at painting Mags dancing has proven challenging but fun to work on. She needs her star and anarchy tattoos completed, at the very least, plus some attention to lighting and shadow. And who knows, we might put in some sea creatures before calling it done.

mags dancing in progress

All that, plus we’ve plotted out the next Mags story but haven’t had the mental space to write the dang thing yet. We really thought our break between semesters would be mostly down time, but this has not been the case. Can’t complain though – it’s nice to have the work! Perhaps after this coming week gives us a chance to wrap things up in the business world, we can dive back in and get lost in some artwork.

Keep on sketching!

The Great Meteor Mags Draw Off Features Trey Baldwin!

Trey Baldwin sent us a joyously anarchic drawing of Meteor Mags for The Great Meteor Mags Draw Off! Finely crafted with black Sumi ink and white Liquitex marker, this meteoric masterpiece just made our day.

Trey Baldwin is the artist and co-writer of the web comic Collapsar Comics. Collapsar’s main storyline is a comedic science fiction tale about a lazy, inept space mercenary named X-ray and his disastrous misadventures. And you know what? We love space mercenaries! Trey also showcases his artwork at – so click that linkage and prepare to get rocked!

meteor mags and patches by trey baldwin

BONUS POINTS to Trey for including Patches the space-loving cat – not to mention a UFO with an anarchy sign, striped socks, and soooo many star tattoos. TREY, YOU ROCK!

We’re accepting submissions to The Great Meteor Mags Draw Off all month long. So, artists of the world, just dig our post on how it works and get those pens, pencils, and digital stylus thingies fired up to draw some anarchy. It’s fun, it’s free, and it fills you with glee from your head down to your socks.
Long live the resistance!

Attention Artists: The Great Meteor Mags Draw-Off Has Begun!

Attention artists! Are you looking for some extra exposure for your project this holiday season? Then join us in The Great Meteor Mags Draw-Off! Here is how it works:

We will spotlight your project on our blog this month if you send us an original drawing of our character Meteor Mags. Drawings may be ink or pencil, paint, digital, or any medium you prefer. Bonus points for including her calico cat, Patches!

In return for your immortalization of Meteor Mags, we will plug your website, comic book, podcast, or any other project that is dear to your heart. Simply email your artwork to along with a brief statement about your project and any hyperlinks you want to include.

Artists retain all rights to their work. We will post the image here on our site – with full credit – and repost it to Twitter, but will not otherwise reproduce it in any form without your prior written consent.

For character design and visual elements, you can see our Meteor Mags posts here on Mars or visit the Meteor Mags website directly for even more ideas.

Happy Holidays, and Long Live the Resistance!

meteor mags character sketches_mags24

indie spotlight: Silvertongue 30xx, Space-time District Attorney

silvertongue interior 0 cover

The opening scene of Silvertongue 30xx: Space-Time District Attorney caught our eye and drew us into this book. The coin falling, flipping end over end from heads to tails, in a dramatic beam of light, with short voiceovers: what a visually dramatic way to bring us in and set up the story! In the scenes that follow, creator Nando Sarmiento delivers on the expectation for visually striking settings.

silvertongue interior 1

The opening scenes make it clear this digital manga will address political and cultural conflicts in its two-part story, The Chippewa Vendetta. Silvertongue Hernandez and all his supporting characters have a unique perspective on the central conflict: industrial construction and waste disposal in tribal lands. Each scene explores what they personally have at stake, and this really puts the meat on the bones of the main courtroom drama. We expected more of a straight detective story, but found ourselves drawn into a story you don’t usually see in comic books.

silvertongue interior 2

As with many first issues, it can feel like we need to do a lot of catching up to understand the main scenes. Background exposition takes the form of a news broadcast which reinforces the court case as a spectacle, a form of entertainment. The case takes place in a gigantic court-on-wheels whose laws change as it crosses state lines. This puts pressure on the case and keeps the dramatic tension at a feverish pitch.

The first issue promises an episodic manga with entertaining, dramatic artwork and character-driven scenes. We look forward to seeing how this story continues, and what other thought-provoking scenarios Nando can invent for his space-time district attorney.

View more interior artwork and a short video about Silvertongue 30xx: Space-time District Attorney at Little Nando’s website, where you can purchase the book in several digital formats.

silvertongue interior 3

quarterly report from the martian resistance

We have a few more indie science fiction and manga books to review for you this month here at MWSNM. Between our Master’s coursework and art projects, it takes us a little while to give our review submissions the time they deserve, but we still encourage creative teams to contact us with new work. We’re always happy to hear from you!

Oh, check this out. We found one remaining copy of the thank you notes from last year’s big comic book sell-off on eBay. Many variations of these little creations of the Mighty Men and Monster Maker made it into our early shipments, nearly a year ago this week.

mars thank you notes

To everyone – including many MWSNM readers in the states and abroad – who bought part of our personal collection, thank you! We wouldn’t have made it this far without you. Along the way, we earned Top Seller status on eBay and have 100% positive feedback. This trusted status allowed us to sell a few things for friends and neighbors, which really helped keep the lights on here at the Martian headquarters. Thank you, dear reader!!!

If we had one tip to those who do send us friendly press releases and preview copies, here it is: include in your email just a few interior pages as .jpg files. Pick ones that really showcase the artwork and characters. If we can give people a look inside your work, it generates more interest. And if you choose the images, it makes it easier for us to make a review.

That’s a minor criticism, and we should say the majority of indie creators that contact us have great press releases and helpful descriptions, and URLs where people can buy the books. Even if we don’t use the exact text you send, it helps gives us the perfect starting point to compose what we want to say. So, thank you.

Okay, so normally we do a site review for these quarterly reports. Thanks to discussion forums, Reddit, blogs, and Facebook sharing by our readers, our archives of more than 1500 posts enjoy a steady stream of visitors. Traffic has hit a new plateau above 60,000 tracked page views per month from around the globe, with two of the last six months topping 80,000. Of those total page views, a unique visitor on any given day averages about 10 page views. So, 60,000 views represents more like 6,000 unique, tracked visitors. People drop by, they look around, they flip through some pages. Ellie the Studio Cat wants to show you the historical graph now!

mars monthly stats oct 2014

This quarter, total page views for the site topped 1,800,000. You can bet we put that number on our professional resume now. It does a lot to suggest we might know something useful about building an online presence from nothing, and it makes a good talking point with our customers who want to understand maximizing their use of social media and blogs.

That being said, our most popular posts feature the work of other artists. We cannot congratulate ourselves on anything other than making a useful platform for people to share a common enthusiasm. Our most popular posts reference pop culture artifacts. They have a different role on the web than commercial product-driven sites. Still, administering this blog has taught us much about the importance of tagging posts, posting consistently, labeling images, features of wordpress that benefit any type of content, building solidarity by communicating with others through blogs, and how to mine stats for useful data that can help you improve your search rankings with only minor adjustments.

That run-on sentence is a sign we have spent too much time writing academic papers! Oh, so you know we like cats, especially our little Ellie the Studio Cat who posed for the background of this month’s stats image. And of course our obsession with pumas has reached epic proportions. Well, Fort Hays State University sent us a free t-shirt with a tiger on it! Yeah! You know, we have never had a mascot for ANYTHING we could relate to before. At long last, we belong to an organization represented by AN AWESOME CAT. Sweet!

So anyway, they sent their online ‘virtual college’ students a free t-shirt in exchange for sending them a picture of us in the shirt, so they can put it on websites and stuff. Do you think they will actually post this? It’s doubtful. So we’ll post it here first. Mountain Lions Forever! Go Tigers!

matthew howard FHSU virtual college tigers shirt

Indie Spotlight: RETROPUNK

Retropunk cover

Retropunk stars a strong female cast in an action-packed, manga-influenced story full of action, snappy dialogue, and science fiction themes. The bounty-hunting lead character Synthia, who sometimes goes by the alias Muffy, sports a cat tail and cat ears, neko style. Her partner Vern the robot makes a great comedic foil to her character. The two of them exchange some hilarious banter during their escapades.

retropunk interior art

Muffy accepts an assignment to protect a young pop singer with a martial artist bodyguard, both of whom soon join Muffy and Vern as they battle their way to the big bad guy. The four characters have their share of conflict, from rooftop battles to love triangles, as they learn to work together. The fun you have hanging out with these characters is at least as much fun as the actual plot, if not more. At 145 pages, Retropunk tells the entire story in several dramatic chapters.

Writers James Surdez and Matthew Ritter join forces with artist Jhomar Sorian to craft this lighthearted but rebellious cyberpunk-flavored manga. Retropunk’s hip, contemporary tone and references to video game fights has its finger on the pulse of the Pokemon generation. The artwork and production are top-notch. If we didn’t know better, we would think Retropunk came from one of the big studios. This indie team has clearly taken time to hone their craft and produce a work that’s on par with the big names in the industry.

You can buy Retropunk on Amazon for less than $20, or go directly to UK publisher Markosia Enterprises’ website. Enjoy!

sketchbook sundays

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (2)

All we wanted to accomplish this week was capturing this outfit and pose for Meteor Mags. But after making a photo reference and dutifully consulting John Buscema’s anatomical guidelines, we hit a wall. Literally, a wall. What kind of masochist designs an ornate wall for the background of a simple character study? Sigh, guilty.

But her headphones are so cute!

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (3)

So rather than tackle the monumentous task of rendering shadows on a stone wall, we took a break to render a totally different pose with more dramatic lighting. This paper just soaks up ink, taking three or four coats of Sharpie to achieve truly solid black in the large areas.

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (7)

Fortunately, at this point in the sketching adventure, a CD from our new favorite band arrived. Dig this cover to Bigger Cages, Longer Chains by The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Revolutionary rock and roll anthems? With artwork of armed females in gloves and glasses? CRANK IT UP! That’s the kind of inspiration we need.

bigger cages longer chains album cover

Ok, but first let’s play with some color, because drawing thousands of lines by hand for midtones is just exhausting sometimes. It’s kind of a weird hobby to have, if you think about it: drawing line after line after line. On the other hand, with some good tunes, it can be quite the relaxing focal point for your mind.

sketchbook sundays planet rough

Once we knew Mags was listening to International Noise Conspiracy in her headphones, we returned to the wall and started drawing those lines glorious lines. So many lines.

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (8)

Looks good, but should we call it done? Or does that wall need some graffiti?

Let’s go with graffiti.

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (10)

At this point, we realize our dependable little scanner can’t adequately handle these 9×12 pages. It’s a very comfortable dimension to work in, and our results seem to be showing improvements. But the damned things are just too big! They’re HUGE! Okay, not huge, but we definitely need to save up for a scanner that can handle not only the 9×12 paper but also 11×17 sheets of bristol board.

Until next time, happy sketching!

sketchbook sundays meteor mags (11)


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