I was going to post one of my silly little minicomics, but on Friday, quite out of the blue, I received this amazing gift by email, and I could not resist sharing it with all of you.  The artist is Shailendra Singh, who in addition to being an urban planner (sound familiar?) is the author and illustrator of a book called Sacrifice, currently up for one of the last-ever Xeric Grants; let me tell you, it’s a shoo-in.  The guy is a total, and I mean TOTAL superstar, and this piece literally blew me away.  I was just getting back from a meeting with a contractor and was sitting down to write a report, and this knocked me right out of my seat.  I had to pace around my apartment for about ten minutes to calm down enough to write back coherently.  Total awesomeness.

Samples from Shailendra’s book, by the way, can be found at his website, which you can reach by clicking the icon to the left.  And he joins the ranks of a shockingly large group of really awesome artists who have gathered to help cover my posterior on this while I pause to edit this baby for print.  I owe Shailendra and everyone else a HUGE debt for this, and his beautiful piece here gives me an awesome segue to begin the really fun part: Plugging Other People’s Work!

If you’re a frequent reader of 6-Commando, you’ll know that I always do my best to cultivate relationships with artists who intimidate me with their amazing skills in writing and drawing, and the following folks are, to me, the cream of the crop in the webcomics and graphic art world at the moment.  They are all working on guest art for 6-Commando’s Season 1 Hiatus, in the form of, (Drumroll please!) a complete guest story arc, which will begin posting here in two weeks! These amazing folks have gone out of their way to help me out, and I hope each of you will return the favor with the thanks, praise, and attention that their own work so richly deserves!  These artists include:

Chris Wrann, Author, Prisoner of War; Author and Illustrator, Aquarium Drinking.  Chris Wrann is the ringleader in all of this, and wrote the script for the guest piece you’re all (hopefully) going to be reading this summer!  He’s also published short stories and writes and draws the weekly comic Aquarium Drinking, a dark comedy about a group of friends and the many ways they find to ruin their own and each others’ lives.  He’s one of the few people in the comics world I’ve been able to talk to personally (we met at WebcomicsCon last fall) and his constant encouragement, as well as his willingness to go out on a limb to write a story for 6-Commando, leaves me greatly indebted to him!

Emily Weber, Author and Illustrator, May The Rain Come. I found Emily’s work on deviantArt.com, and was immediately enthralled by it – her style and storytelling put amazing depth and feeling into her story, far more than most people might expect from one with animal characters.  Her work is only on deviantArt at the moment as far as she’s told me, anyway (I’ve been telling her to get a website and start putting this beauty in print!), but I urge you to give it more than one look – it’s really quite amazing.

Andres “Drezz” Rodriguez, Author and Illustrator, El Cuervo. Drezz gives new meaning to “high contrast.”  His online graphic novel El Cuervo, which is drawn in sharp black and white, is an engrossing crime drama which draws heavily upon classic cinema and film noir, and his artwork is clean and high-style, and clearly quite unique.  El Cuervo is worth more than a quick look – it’s packed with nuance and detail in the art and story alike, and you’ll need more than one reading to take it all in.

Anthony Bourne, Author and Illustrator, Gen-Eg and The Smashed Infants. Tony’s illustrations take comic art in directions I’ve rarely thought possible.  He manages to make the “cartoony” and the “serious” styles meet in a way that I’ve never really seen before.  I can only really aspire to the kind of mastery his work shows, and I place him on a level with the likes of Spiegelman, without a doubt.  I actually met him briefly at NYCC last year, in my Mortal Guise, and the guy is a class act, into the bargain!

Denny Fincke, Animator, Graphic Artist; Author and Illustrator, Twit-Troo of the Moon.  Yet another class act, and another connection I made through NYCC (see a pattern developing here?  O yes!)  Denny is one of those people whose work millions have seen, even if they don’t know it.  An artist for TV shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Venture Brothers, Denny has also turned his pen to webcomics, with Twit Troo of the Moon, a fantastic adventure satire that I love, and I know you will, too!

Aviv Itzcovitz, Designer, Graphic Artist, Author and Illustrator, Stupid Snake, and others.  Aviv is one of the handful of these fine artists I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to in person, if only via the internet.  Based in Israel, Aviv illustrates an ongoing epic comic titled Stupid Snake.  Massive in its scope, hauntingly beautiful and engrossing, a work of pure graphic mastery entirely without words, two volumes of Stupid Snake are already available in print, and I cannot possibly recommend them highly enough!

Jason Brubaker, Animator, Graphic Artist; Author and Illustrator, reMIND. Jason and I “met” through the Flight Forums and started corresponding on all manner of comic-related things on a pretty regular basis.  I occasionally pitch in to help edit his comics-related site makingcomics.com, and his work is by now well known throughout the indie comics scene – and rightfully so!  Jason’s first graphic novel reMIND made a huge splash last year, and he’s now posting new pages weekly as the second part moves towards print.

James Hohenstein, Author and Illustrator, Stymie. James’ comic Stymie is one of the most unique blends of genres I’ve yet seen.  Other people have taken on the task of doing Noir-style stories with animal characters, but for my money, few have managed to execute it as successfully as James has.  His intimate understanding of the visual and storytelling conventions of the film noir, combined with his heavy, moody, cross-hatching style, have made Stymie one of the most striking comics of its kind I have yet seen.

James Francis, 3D and Graphic Artist; Author and Illustrator, Outsider. James is one of the first people I talked to when I went to set up my website for 6-Commando, and it was his early advice that really helped me get off the ground.  If you read his online comic Outsider, a slick, epic, golden age space opera, you’ll see quite clearly that I owe a great deal of my inspiration to his sharp linework and cel-shaded coloring style.  And his comic has hot blue warrior women in outer space, so what’s NOT to like?

Joost Haakman, Graphic Artist; Author and Illustrator, Semmie the Forest Gnome. Joost, by this point, needs no introduction.  Hell, he’s a character in the story now, for goodness’ sake!  Joost and I connected through the Flight Forums a long time back, and he and we’ve kept in contact ever since.  His book Semmie the Forest Gnome is a personal favorite of mine, and he’s even done some very lovely pieces of guest art here in the past, as well!  His book is now available in print (in hardcover, no less!) and I personally recommend it to everyone!

Tazio Bettin, Comic Artist, Graphic Artist; Co-Author and Illustrator, Rufus, Bren Gattonero, and others.  Based in Padova, Italy, Tazio Bettin is an artist of a level of skill that even the slickest professionals have reason to envy.  I can’t really say anything about it but that you have to see it for yourself.  Really.  Linework, coloring, shading, the whole nine yards – the guy knows his business.  He’s currently working on one or two short comics, but believe me, he’s a talent to watch, and no mistake.

Peter Hon, Animator, Graphic Artist; Author and Illustrator, Malden. Peter Hon is an artist who understands the allure of the bizarre.  His comic Malden draws on his own everyday experiences and mixes them with an underground comix sensibility (and a hearty admixture of street art, anime, and dozens of other influences) to produce a twisted, seductive and unmistakably unique work of art.  I have no idea what’s going on in Malden, but it is so perfectly paced and masterfully drawn that I just can’t take my eyes off it.

Matt Fitzwater, Illustrator, Made In USA. I have been a HUGE fan of Matt Fitzwater’s work on Made In USA, right from the very start.  A war story of a kindred spirit to 6-Commando (I won’t say how – just read it!) Matt’s line and ink work, if you can believe it, is done entirely by hand!  Simply amazing.  I’ve mentioned his work on the blog before, and with good reason.  I do not lie when I say that I covet his level of artistic skill, and I am certain that you’ll all agree that Made In USA is a work of pure artistic brilliance.

Tiffany McLeod, Painter, Digital Artist; Author and Illustrator, Crystal Dream. Tiffany’s work draws heavily on Manga influences, but it is by no means that – she has turned her style into something totally unique.  Her use of light and shadow and her ability to convey enormous depths of emotion with incredible economy of linework belies her self-description as a “hobbyist.”  I could hardly believe it when I found out that Crystal Dream was her first full work – I only wish I’d been as capable when I started 6-Commando!

So that’s the team!  Are you as excited as I am to see this?!  You better believe it.  But does this mean I’m just putting my feet up?  No way!  As a matter of fact, I rode this week’s high, which shattered my previous highs for readership, and plowed the energy into one of the most difficult parts of the revision, first thing: rewriting the opening scene.  Not drastically, just… Sarah seemed so passive, and she got captured so easily, and… well, if you want to, you can check a little feature I’m calling Vote To See What Mr. Average Drew This Week!  I think you know how it works.

So.  Here we are then!  Hope you stuck through this enormously long post this week, and know that there’s a lot of good stuff left to see while 6-Commando is on hiatus!  Until next week, folks!