Aspiring Comic Artist World Wide; Gemma McCulloch

Collecting comic books and the culture that builds around it has certainly changed over time.  The hobby was once considered a “Geeky” hobby.  The people who collected comic books were treated as second hand citizens. The tide has changed and pop culture has embraced the comic book world.  Movies, T.V., books, politics, you would definitely be hard pressed to find a single aspect of modern life that has not been touched by Comic Books.  Many collectors have taken pride in their Geekness and Internet  sites have sprung up that allow open discussion and sharing regarding established stories and superstar artists/creators.  The new forums have allowed comic work to inspire a new wave of creators and visionaries who hope to use that very same open field to have their work seen beyond just a local environment.

This series will showcase those artists that I have met online and have impressed me. The Worldwide series will hopefully introduce people from all over the world that are interested in creating comics. I will share their stories and showcase some of their work and allow you to visit their respective sites. I hope that it educates us, Unites us, and entertain all at once.

My first Aspiring Artist is Gemma McCulloch( pronounced Jemma)

Originally from Forres Scotland, now living in Edinburgh to pursue a career in art. I met Gemma through the Joe Kubert correspondence course on FaceBook. I saw some of her art and was floored. A highly stylized animation type of art that was full of kinetic energy reminiscent of Disney Animation circa the Beauty and the Beast/ Lion King days. The art seemed alive, vibrant, and at times sarcastic.

    When I started thinking of showcasing creators and aspiring creators I knew Gemma had to be first.

Gemma, I love the sense of life and kinetic energy you infuse in your work. Very animation like. Why did you choose that style?

I’ve always loved fantasy stories, fairy tales and of course, animation- I grew up with the Disney Renaissance (the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, etc) and they just blew my tiny little mind! They were everything I loved in little 90 minute films, and I remember being so amazed that they just started off as drawings! They’re still my favourite movies to this day. I think I’ve watched them so many times that I just couldn’t help have them seep into my own drawings.
How long have you been following an Art career? Do you work currently in the art field? Or like many of us it’s you’re secret passion that you work on in your precious spare time?

I definitely have to have a day job, lol. So by day, I work on a checkout, but by night (or early evening) I draw. To be honest, after I dropped out of art school, my confidence in my skills was so low that I never thought I’d ever even try to pursue an art career. It’s only maybe in the past three years that it’s starting to look like something I can actually start to enjoy again.

After I finished a portfolio course, I was encouraged to study fine art (I had just discovered that not only did I enjoy life drawing and portraits, but I was actually pretty good at doing them). I attended my local college, Moray School of Art. which at the time was trying to make itself a name as a serious contender among the other art schools in Scotland. This meant that it was focusing heavily on conceptual art, and way less on the draughtsmanship that I wanted to hone and base my work on. Basically, I wasn’t a right fit.

Any particular comic books influence your work or that you would like to work on. Are they American Comics or native to Scotland?

I grew up reading the Beano and the Dandy, which are well known British comics- they were what taught me to read, and they definitely made me want to draw my own. Every year at Christmas I’d get the annual, as well as the annual of two Scottish strips; the Broons and Oor Wullie. They’re both strips from the Sunday paper, the Broons being about a large family called the Browns (Broons), and Oor Wullie about a wee boy called Willie. They’ve been around for about 70-odd years now, and they’ve always been a part of my life. One of the reasons I love them is that they speak in a strong Scottish dialect, which means a lot to me, as it just reminds me of my family.
I had never read a graphic novel until I was about 13, and it was around the same time that the first spider-man movie came out. That’s when I fell in love with all things marvel.

What other projects do you work on?

No projects yet, but I have contributed to an independent comic in Australia- the wonderfully titled “Wrestlers in Space”, and I’m hoping to start up my own webcomic soon.

Do you do commissions? 

I will be opening commissions once I’ve settled into my new place, yes. I haveto work out prices though, but keep an eye out on my Facebook page (the Unfinished Art of Gemma McCulloch) or my Instagram (gemmariemcc)

Thank you Gemma!

All work posted is original artwork by Gemma McCulloch.  The characters are copyrighted and licensed to their respective companies and are not meant for sale or commercial use. The Broons is a strip featured in the Scottish Weekly Saturday Post. 

Make Mine Marvel…One-Shots!!!!

Bring Back Marvel One Shots!!! 


   Marvel Studios was intent on recreating the magic of the comic book Marvel Universe onto the big screen. While Marvel has struggled to translate their properties onto the silver-screen (in part due to technology constraints, Legal and Financial issues) There was a glimmer of hope. A little movie that slipped under the radar and almost purposely separated itself from the Marvel banner, Blade. As a moderately successful film it removed the stigma of earlier comic book related films and showcased the possibility of a more mature comic book movie. Marvel now saw the possibilities, as did the individual studios who courted Marvel for their characters and licensed them. X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four each meeting moderate to high success with their releases. The problem remained that this was the Marvel Universe but we were forced to watch in separate sections of that universe because of the separate licensing agreements. Marvel and the Movie companies that licensed the characters had successes yet for every Success there were some setbacks. The Incredible Hulk, The second Fantastic Four. Why would they fail when we have had so many successes? The problem was easy for anyone who grew up with Marvel. The studios were taking too many liberties with these characters. Marvel’s solution, let’s make our own movies. The problem they faced is which characters they could use. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America. Three characters that were not household names but were very popular in the comics. Marvel Studios was formed and it focused on story, character development (to include the right casting) and building a cohesive universe. A shared universe, not unlike the comics. If you buy an issue today there is an oversaturation of characters that are big sellers’ guest starring in other books (almost all) to increase sales. When the Marvel Universe began we had some crossovers but the majority of the shared universe stories were slight cameos or nods to certain situations that occurred in another issue (along with my personal favorite the editor’s note of which issue was referenced so we can pick it up.) Kevin Feige, the producer and one of the brain trust who is responsible for the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, understood this. The after credit scenes, the nods to events in the other movies. The cameos by characters all of this made our little fan boy brains explode. The attention did not stop there. Casual movie goers wanted to be in on the secret and started following other Marvel Movies.  

In creating its shared Universe Marvel also began fleshing out its minor characters in a series of shorts called Marvel One-Shots. The first which endeared us to Agent Coulson and introduced another S.H.I.E.L.D agent Jasper Sitwell in 2011. These One- Shots allowed Marvel to flesh out ideas and test them with audiences. In effect it could have been seen as a pilot for S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter.

I am thrilled that we have a Marvel cinematic Universe that also spreads into the T.V. Universe, and the Netflix original movies started off with a bang with none other than Daredevil himself finding redemption ( one of Marvel Cinematic Universe less stellar performances in theaters) but I would really love to see the Marvel One Shots brought back and used to flesh out the back story for Dr. Strange, The earlier super-heroes of the cold-war era ( as evidenced by Ant-Man’s adventures with the Wasp) Nick Fury’s scar ( My personal theory is that Wolverine Caused it.) and of course continue building up the Mandarin! What if the One-Shots were used to showcase and flesh out the villains?

So, what say you True-Believers? Would you like to see the Marvel One-shots come back? What do you think would be a focus for a One-Shot. 


The Color of Life: The Inspiring Story of Tom Smith Professional colorist

Tom Smith Colors the King Jack Kirby     Life is tough… but as Tom Smith has stated “You can’t give up.” The media today focuses on Bad News. Shocking stories, end of the world prophecies. I wanted to focus on something different. The story I want to focus on is about hope, determination, and drive. It’s not what I originally wanted to focus on. I wanted to focus on how the comic companies have started to forget the people who helped place them on the map in exchange for Hollywood. I changed my mind after my first interview. If I have done my job correctly you will understand why.

Tom Smith, a child of the sixties grew up reading comic books from Marvel Comics. “I was a true fan, growing up right when all of the Marvel books were just coming out and changed how we looked at the genre.” Tom grew up sketching, airbrushing but always as a side job or hobby while he worked in the factories. He met his wife and they married in the 80’s and even attended the night courses of the Kubert School in New Jersey. It was there that he got a chance to hone his skills with some of the same people he idolized from the 60’s and early 70’s. “Neal Adams reviewed my work and was straight up with me. He told me that my figure work and sketching was not up to par but my skillset was in coloring. I had a way of making things pop off the page.” Tom would later get an opportunity to work with his heroes at the height of the nineties comic speculator era that allowed him to get on some key projects.   Tom could have quit after realizing that he was not a strong penciller. Instead he accepted his strengths and followed them.

Tom Smith Colors Neal Adams

Mark McKenna an inker for both Marvel and DC comics during the same time frame recalls his first meeting with Tom Smith. “I first met Tom at a store signing in a mall called Heroes World in New Jersey. It was around 1989 and I was working under contract on LEGION ’89 for DC. Tom had his colored pieces all around the shop and I think had a table at the signing. We got to talking and I invited him back to my house for Pizza after the signing with my wife. I remember the excitement he had for being invited over and remarked on how nice a couple we were. I think I introduced him to my old roommate Fabian Nicieza.”

Fabian Nicieza is the person Tom credits for getting a chance to break into the comic industry. “I had an opportunity through Fabian, to paint a Direct Market Poster for the Atlantis Attacks story line. This helped me get noticed and continue to get work.” Fabian Nicieza concurred and relayed the following. “While working as Marvel’s Advertising Manager, responsible for the company’s promotion to the direct market, I hired Tom to do what was called blue line coloring. Full painted colors over blue line reproductions of a black and white work. The black and white art would be laid over the blue line colors to give it a richer look. (All of which is done by computers now.) Tom did a great job and got lots of assignments from me. His work spoke for itself, since that moment he started getting work from editor’s as a result.”

A 30 th ann poster

Working on color guides and Hand painting and airbrushing the majority of his projects Tom’s next stroke of luck came from the infamous Marvel’s Swimsuit Issue. It was at that time he worked and began a steady collaborative relationship with George Perez which led to the Future Imperfect and Avengers projects. Culminating in the Classic Avengers vs. JLA crossover. A true Fan boys dream if ever there was one. “The 90’s was pretty good for me. Hulk Future Imperfect was a prestige format book that I entirely hand painted. My wife had really supported my art and was the one that encouraged me to make it full time. We even had some insurance policies we could buy into for a few years there. The only problem was that it was always work for hire. We had to sign the back of our checks that stated that every single time. The speculator market, the multiple covers, all of the stuff that was done and created this increase in dollars was the same thing that slowly ate away at our industry.”

The Writing was on the wall. Sometime in the late nineties the edict came down that anyone who didn’t know or do color separations on computer was out. “I was lucky enough to take some courses and was familiar enough to be able to keep my job and keep on working.” Tom’s luck wouldn’t last too much longer. Little by little comic companies began minimizing staff, farming jobs overseas where the talent worked cheaper and because they utilized a studio system with a “house” style they called finish a job quicker. Tom stated “I wish I could say they did poor work. It would be easier to fight it. I just couldn’t. They did wonderful work and with the advent of the internet and the ability send images via the computer the publishers now had access to anyone around the world.” The jobs started slowing down and it was becoming harder and harder to keep things moving. Tom started to focus on the convention scene and commissions, often setting up beside George Perez and coloring his commissions for others.


The stress and the fact that he was dealing with diabetes in 2014 he suffered a stroke.  Losing the use of his left leg and arm. Tom should be devastated but that never say die attitude still has him looking at the Brightside. “I am very lucky. If the clot had formed in my heart I would have died as it is I have to learn how to use my arm and leg again.” I asked Tom how did that effect his art and mentioned another comic artist who suffered a similar event Norm Breyfogle. “I realize that comics is just not in the cards for me anymore. I am not as bad off as Norm. Like me his left side was effected but he is Left handed. I am retraining myself how to do certain things. One thing that has helped me the most has been ballroom dancing.” Tom has been ballroom dancing for years.   “I look at the industry today and I realize, that these aren’t my heroes. It’s a darker aspect and features more of a real world palette of colors. True the real world has brightness in flowers and things like that but most of it is in tones of grey and are very dull. I was taught how to brighten the world, infuse color to make thinks pop. I had to make sure that a cover would jump at you right off the shelves.”

Today Tom still brings color to the lives of his family, friends, most recently to other patients at his rehab gym dealing with partial paralysis. “I have been using the ballroom dancing I enjoyed throughout my life to help me get stronger from my stroke. There was a lady at the rehab center who had been having difficulty with the therapy and I asked if it would be okay if I danced with her. The therapist worked it all out and I was able to help her with a dance.”Rita and I dancing