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RIP Stan Lee November 12, 2018 19:15

My very first job in LA was at Marvel Productions. I think the building was on Sepulveda Blvd. Once in a while Stan Lee would walk through, as he had an office on the second floor. One day, I was approached and asked if I would dress up in a Spider-Man costume and pose with Stan for a photo shoot with him and his Rolls-Royce. They held up the costume I was to wear and I swear to God it was a little teeny one-piece thing that had a zipper in the back. I think they asked me because I was the skinniest person there. I said no.

Then they said they’d give me $20.

I said okay.

I went to the bathroom and stripped to my underwear, and squeezed into the Spider-Man suit thing. Semi-mortified, I then boldly walked through the studio feeling very naked. But I learned instantly why someone would wear such a thing, as my identity was erased: no one, and I mean NO ONE, knew it was me.

I walked out front and posed with Stan and his car for a while. At the end, right as he was wrapping up, the photographer was struck with inspiration and suggested Stan and I take one more picture, staring at each other, nose to nose.

Stan Lee and Spider-Man (Chris Sanders) stare each other down

 

That last shot was the photo they used.

For decades, I’d see that photo here and there, mostly hung in comic shops with Stan’s autograph. Jess and I even saw it painted on a coffee shop wall in the Turnstyle Market beneath Columbus Circle in NYC.

Once, on TV, I caught an interview with Stan, and I glimpsed a large painted version of this photo on his wall.

I’ll never forget that day. This photo reminds me of my first job in animation, and, of course, of Stan. Excelsior!


San Diego Comic-Con 2018 July 18, 2018 12:16

Here on that most hallowed of holidays, the eve of Comic Con set-up, I'm sipping an old-fashioned and writing this blog post nestled beside the pile of stuff I need to fit into my truck tomorrow morning. Boxes, banners, lights, all to make booth 4616 a great place to visit this year! And this is an exciting year indeed, as we're bringing the latest installment of the the thing that started it all over ten years ago: the Chris Sanders Sketchbook.



Sketchbook 7! Designed by my wife Jessica Steele-Sanders and filled with drawings culled from my archives, Sketchbook 7 is a worthy addition to your collection. Forty eight pages of fresh artwork including witches, mermaids, my first comic book cover, and a few formerly secret lineups from sitcom development. It's been five years since the last sketchbook, so there was a lot of material to choose from!

But that's not all!  Jess has been hard at work producing some terrific new products based on her "Rescue Sirens" characters. A big favorite of mine: CHARMS!!!


Precision printed and cut on crystal clear acrylic, these colorful characters are miniature treasures to collect, display, or wear. Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa and Maris are the perfect size to hang from a cell phone, a zipper, or wear as a necklace. There are not one, not two, but three unique sets of the five Rescue Sirens featuring the art of Kellee Riley, Gabby Zapata, and myself.


All of the charms feature artwork on both sides!  Kellee Riley's Sirens are wearing their lifeguard tops on one side and their mermaid tops on the opposite, while Gabby Zapata's sets show the mermaids in both their human (feet) form and their secret mermaid tail identities. Supplies of these tiny treasures are limited so stop by early!




Last year we introduced vinyl stickers into our lineup. We're happy to let you know that all the stickers from last year are back, and we've added to the lineup!  The same great art from Gabby Zapata and Kellee Riley have been transformed into colorful vinyl stickers as well!

Also new this year are a number of stickers made from artwork featured in Sketchbook 7.








So there you have it - a quick view of the things waiting for you at SDCC booth 4616. And of course, Jessica and I will be there. See you soon!

INKtober Witches October 31, 2017 00:03

Inktober is a wonderful month. You are encouraged to put ink to paper, which is something I never tire of and wish I did more often. There's no substitute for committed lines on paper, both the experience of doing it, and the final, tangible object that is created: an inked drawing, a little piece of art that is both a statement and a signature. A time traveler that you leave behind.

And whilst you are busied by Inktober, bent over your board with pen in hand, the weather is changing outside your cozy warren! Leaves are turning, winter sprites and baby goblins press their noses to your window to see what you might have for them, coffee stores are offering the stuff you really want: spicy drinks topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Suddenly having a hot drink in the morning seems a better idea than ever!

Well, with all that in mind, I didn't want anyone to think I haven't been inking in October. Er, Inktober. I have. Almost every day. You see, I'm boarding again, on a new movie. And the best, fastest way for me to board is to just jump straight in and put ink to paper. I've emptied many cartridges of ink through a couple favorite pens I use for just this sort of job. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the hundreds of panels I've inked, since, you know. In production and all. 

But, I have also inked a couple of witches for the Halloween season that I can post! I love drawing witches, and always want to find some fresh angle for them. In the case of these two, I drew one cheerleader witch on her way to a rally, and a witch in a steep dive with her familiar. The diving witch is a rough I've fiddled around with off and on for a year, and I have several variants I'll be trying. Just the steep angle is interesting to me.

Cheerleader Witch inks
Diving Witch inks


Even here in California it eventually becomes cold, and sometimes we almost have weather! Wind, mostly. But that counts as weather here. My wife Jess is from Florida, so she's used to rain. And I'm from Colorado; I know snow and real fall. So we both spend gloomy days in the studio together, pretending it's snowier and rainier than it really is. And it's here we listen to the most dreadful podcasts we can find. Tales of misfortune and disaster, not unlike the short stories I wrote as a child. These are my favorite days. I draw; Jess writes and edits. Sometimes I even draw Jess! She's the rare person I ever try to draw a likeness of. Someday she may let me post one!

Jess is encouraging about me doing drawings, and helps me keep my characters' eyes straight. I, in turn, dissuade her from trapping the ravens that populate our premises. Not to eradicate them, but to befriend them. Jess, you see, gathers creatures of all kinds, and doesn't limit herself if the opportunity presents. At Skywalker Ranch, she collected salamanders that were in a winter torpor. She ran out of room in her pockets and hands, so the last couple got a ride back to our room in her shirt. It was as good a carrying place as any. Jess isn't happy lest she have buckets and baskets of slithering, snapping, hissing, or furry things. Her ideal situation would be to spend the winter in a mermaid grotto filled with furry blankets, books, candles, and eventually a 'possum that she will name "Pumpkin" that will munch on mint Oreos and clasp and unclasp his paws when presented with a melty brie.

For this month, since she has yet to disappear into her hibernation cave, Jess also edited together a video of me inking the cheerleader witch, and set it to some swell music.



These videos are tedious because of the way I ink: turning the paper constantly and frequently leaving it off-center. As soon as I hand Jess the raw video she has a mountain of color-correcting and cutting, reframing, and music syncing ahead of her. But once she is done, she has created a little gem of a video that's a lot of fun to watch. So I must credit her, and thank her profusely for making these. I'd never, ever find the time to do one myself.

So happy Inktober, and Happy Halloween to all!

INKtober 2017: Katrina Van Tassel Edition October 30, 2017 07:00

It's Fall again, the time when thoughts turn to cider, pumpkin carving, and my favorite Disney featurette, 1949's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

It's also the time of year that my wife Jess dons her amazing Katrina Van Tassel costume and spends the night enjoying the sights and sounds of Halloween-themed Disneyland with me. I dare say, as she floats through the crowds with her pumpkin in hand she really makes the park even more Halloween-ish.

I won't go into my regrets that this most wonderful Disney property seems to have vanished from our collective cultural landscape. People still know all the Disney animated features. The Disney princesses, villains, and core staples fill stores to bursting with mugs, T-shirts, and collectibles of all kinds. Heck, even characters within the rides have become iconic enough to appear on merchandise.

But poor Ichabod, the Headless Horseman, Brom Bones, and the fair Katrina Van Tassel are rarely, if ever, seen. Now, last year Disneyland opened their Halloween parade with the Headless Horseman, and this year he re-appeared, this time accompanied by Ichabod Crane. The Headless Horseman was even on a special Halloween pin for Annual Passholders! So that's encouraging. But Katrina -- the driving force behind the entire story -- is still nowhere to be seen. Thus, I always think it somewhat of a public service that Jess spend the evening traveling the darkened paths from Main Street to Small World, spreading Halloween cheer.



If you read last year's post, however, you'll recall we had trouble getting "Katrina" past Security in 2016 (despite Jess wearing the exact same costume as in 2014 and 2015); rules are tight when it comes to skirt length and width, etc. 

We have gathered through the grapevine that the park's concern is with guests that are costumed so accurately that they might be confused for official face characters. This would be especially odd in the case of Katrina, since she is neither a princess nor is she represented by a face character. Even so, we decided to play it safe this year and not bring the costume to Disneyland.

Instead, Jess suggested that I draw Katrina and we make T-shirts to show our Halloween spirit!

I thought this was a good idea, and I dove in with great enthusiasm. Holy mackerel, Katrina isn't easy to draw! Seems Katrina shares a lot of DNA with Cinderella, who is also hard to draw. Maybe not for some of you, but definitely a challenge for me. She's... subtle. And at the same time I was dealing with her elusive face, the rest of Katrina has some pretty extreme proportions. I actually toned her down a little for my drawing. After many, many false starts, I got a drawing I thought was close enough, and I proceeded to ink and color it. She definitely got a lot better with color, I think.



Jess and I made my drawing into "Team Katrina" T-shirts just in the nick of time, and we proudly represented one of our favorite Disney characters at Mickey's Halloween Party yet again.




This was, I realized, the first time I'd really ever tried to draw an established Disney character (well, outside of the films I've worked on, and those were always in pre-production). I think in the coming months I'll try again with Katrina, and maybe even add in an Ichabod! No promises, but I'll give it a shot! Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone, and don't forget to watch "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"!

SDCC 2017 July 18, 2017 00:00

And in the blink of an eye, it's time again for SDCC! Jess and I will be heading down today but before we go I wanted to give everyone a heads up on the new things we'll be bringing!


First up, enamel pins! The lead characters from our "Rescue Sirens" series - Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris - have been carefully translated into these detailed nickel finish pins, plus a gold-toned "Rescue Sirens" emblem pin. Pins are something I've enjoyed collecting over the years, and Jess had the great idea to make a set of our own for San Diego! Hurry over to our booth (#4616) to see them in person!




Something I recently did just for the fun of it, was to generate chibi versions of the Rescue Sirens characters. They became the basis for the enamel pins, but Jess thought they would also make a great set of stickers. And here they are! These heavy weight stickers have great color and a gorgeous pearl finish. Really, really beautiful. They'll look great on a computer, a lunchbox, the bumper of your electric car, or even the control panel of a super-collider or tail fin of the next Space-X rocket. If they allow such things, that is. 


Once we saw how beautifully the Rescue Sirens stickers turned out, we thought we might grab some favorite illustrations from past sketchbooks and give them the sticker treatment as well. Here's four of my most popular pin-ups, as well as my good friend Ogo, looking quite happy with himself indeed.


But that's not all we'll be bringing. Jess and I are very happy to announce our first children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up." Beautifully illustrated by Dylan Bonner, this 32 page book has a great story all about our five mermaids saving the Miami Beach waters from some carelessly dumped aquarium pets. This is an engaging story for all ages, teaching the younger set (and all the rest of us) about the dangers of invasive species, as well as teamwork and keeping the ocean clean.

Jess's writing is fast and fresh, and Dylan's illustrations have the charm, joy, and vibe of classic Mary Blair drawings. We have a limited number of these advanced copies, so be sure to come by our booth early and pick one up for yourself.

This book is also splash-resistant, due to being printed on special synthetic paper pages. So you can read this "Rescue Sirens" book by the pool, ocean, or tub with confidence that a little water won't spoil it. Just wipe the pages dry if they get splashed and the book is as good as new! - We recommend you not leave the book to dry on its own, as the pages can tend to stick together. But with a gentle toweling-off, it will be ready for another read!


We'll also be bringing some copies of last year's debut, "Kiskaloo: Volumes 1 and 2." If you haven't picked one up yet, it's the collected first and second series of my web comic all about a little girl named Sesi, her older sister Autumn, and Ogo, their wretched little cat. They all live in a fictional town in Northern Alaska named Emergency, where odd things tend to happen.


If you like "Kiskaloo," and are familiar with its lead character Ogo, and wish to take an Ogo home with you, then you're in luck, as we'll be bringing a limited number of Ogo plush with us to Comic Con this year. He's soft, cuddly, and naughty. Don't leave him alone with your chocolate chip cookies or root beer lest they disappear!


One of the most frequently asked questions I get every year is whether or not I'll be bringing original art to San Diego. In the past I've resisted this, mostly because I don't have anything I'd want to part with. This year, however, I'll be bringing a few original inked drawings with me that will be available for purchase. Drawn and inked especially for Con this year, I'll have two to four inked originals with me. They won't be cheap, as I don't like to sell drawings, but I am possessed for some reason to do this. Created purposely for sale, these unusual offerings will likely appear in future sketchbooks, and the inking quality is what I would consider to be perfect. Suitable for framing, brush and Winsor-Newton ink on bristol, these are large: 14"x17".

You can find all this (and us) at booth #4616, in the Artists & Illustrators neighborhood. See you there!