Monday, January 10, 2011

Five Minutes with Bluewater Illustrator Todd Tennant

Last week Bluewater Productions announced two additions to their biography comic book line, the first on Lady Gaga in their Fame series and the second about Betty White in their Female Force series. The Female Force series includes features on Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton and Ellen Degeneres among others. And Betty White, who has won seven Emmy awards in her long career, seems to have been a nice complement to the line. Her Bluewater comic sold out in less than a day.

The Betty White story was researched and written by Patrick McCray and illustrated by Todd Tennant. Because I enjoyed the Bluewater comics I'd read, I contacted Tennant. Comic books are just one more way that artists are using their gifts and leaving their mark.

Ennyman: Where are you from? That is, where born and raised, and where are you now?
Todd Tennant: I was born in Harrisburg, PA, but remember nothing about it as my family shortly relocated to Charlotte, N.C., where my memory kicked in. There I saw many movies with my parents when still very young, which visually inspired me to start drawing and making little "books" of the films I saw. I also recall Elvis performing a concert in Charlotte the same year we moved to St. Petersburg, Florida ('59). During the trip down to Florida, my mother bought my brother and I a bunch of comics. I went straight for the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby monster comics (which predated the later Superhero comics, which I also loved later on).

EN: How many comic books have you illustrated?
TT: I have a huge collection of unpublished comics stories. The majority of those were co-created with writer Mike Bogue, some of which can be seen here:

I have illustrated one "Female Force" bio-comic (Betty White), and one graphic novel (It Came From Beneath the Sea... Again!) for Bluewater Productions. For the latter, I illustrated the second half of the graphic novel (Chris Noeth illustrated the first). Both publications will be released this year. Right now I'm working on another bio-comic on the life of Ayn Rand.

EN: What attracted you to doing this kind of illustration work?
TT: Simply the challenge of creating new worlds & environments in a convincing story-telling manner.

EN: What did you learn through doing this project that you did not know beforehand?
TT: I learned a great deal of Betty White's past struggles and accomplishments.

EN: Where do you envision yourself in five year?
TT: Hopefully, illustrating comics and graphic novels on a full-time basis.
Also, I would like to complete and publish some of the stories I co-created with Mike Bogue (i.e: King Komodo.) I'd also love to see Mike's short story Atomic Drive-In illustrated & published as a graphic novel.

For the record, a portion of the proceeds from sale of "Female Force: Betty White" will be donated to the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association of which White was named chairman in 2010.


Anonymous said...

Four years from now the U.S. comics industry will be no more. Hardcopy publishing is dying a swift death even now. Digital will have wiped out the earning potential of the Big Two, and they (and others) won't be able to pay pro creators enough to live on with such a low price point digitally and with soaring office space---and staffing---costs in NYC.

Comics simply cannot compete with movies; the new super-hero movies (along with 3-D animation) ARE the comic books of the 21st century. Comic panels on paper are simply too quaint and too limited for today's generation who want post-MTV rapidfire, in-yer-face editing and FX. The party's over. Comic books and strips belong in the antique realm of Big Little Books and Pulp Fiction---in the 20th century. R.I.P.

ENNYMAN said...

When I first saw the emergence of the Bluewater comics I was impressed. I hope, therefore, that you are wrong but I do understand the economics of the matter.

On the flip side, many people thought television would elminate radio and at this point internet has not interfered with television to the degree predicted. The future remains unwrit...


Anonymous said...

I love comics, but call me old fashioned. Kids today don't think like we did. When comics went to direct sales and in specialty shops instead of newsstand distribution, twenty-five years worth of children went without comics at their fingertips. They grew up on video games instead, and don't appreciate the form.

Publishing in general is in huge trouble, and the global economic downtown only makes things worse. That, and China and Japan own 44% of the U.S. national debt. Now that's scary. Big changes on the horizon for the red, white, and blue. We won't even be discussing comics at that point, with other, more immediate priorites---like survival---taking precedent.

ENNYMAN said...

It's hard for me to say with certainty what tomorrow will bring with regard to comics, but yes, the concerns about our national debt and the future place of U.S. in global economics is legitimate. For now, there are huge quantities of boats (millions), powersports toys, amusement parks (still full) and sports (quarter trillion dollar industry) all actively supported by Americans as pasttime interests. Lots of money floating around still so it seems comics are not on their deathbed for a while yet.

Anonymous said...

Three years later, I have to agree that comics are still here. In fact, there are more titles (with low print runs) than ever, and more creators than ever---which creates a different problem. In the '70s there used to be 3 TV stations in the USA: NBC, CBS, & ABC - as well as ETV and one or two UHF stations. That was it. So having a hit series on one of the Big Three networks was a big deal---and often a cultural zeitgeist changer, at least temporarily. Now there are so many stations and so many shows vying for attention that many just fall through the cracks.

Likewise with comics: now there are so many indy titles that fandom has been stretched to the limit: the core US comics audience of 250,000 people of the past 10 - 15 years is still there, but stretched out across all these titles and companies. The result: very, very few sell over 100,000 copies per month any more. Even the average DC title sells only 20,000 copies (and that's considered 'good' now - wow!).

And many indy publishers like Oni Press offer creators only TEN DOLLARS per page, and these saps (new artists) are doing it! That only lowers the bar all around, getting a lot of work for nothing. That, and the low sales figures make it evident that most experienced artists will not be able to get the same page rates they did 20 years ago. Not even close. And that's sad.