Drawn in Quarters

A con­fes­sion: I have a bit of a soft spot for some of the more odd­ball comics char­ac­ters out there. This won’t come as any big sur­prise to those of you who’ve vis­it­ed this site reg­u­lar­ly, but there you go. And they don’t get much odd­er than Ultra, the Multi-Alien.

Ultra was a late arrival to DC’s Mys­tery in Space com­ic. His ori­gin is all but spelled out on the cov­er of his first appear­ance, which I’ve re-cre­at­ed here. DC had some­thing of a tra­di­tion of sci fi/space heroes, and Ultra def­i­nite­ly fit into that tra­di­tion. He starts off in this first sto­ry as space­man Ace Arn, from Earth. These four aliens, from the plan­ets Ulla, Laroo, Tra­go and Raa­gan, each have spe­cial ray guns, designed to trans­form who­ev­er they fire them on into a mem­ber of their own respec­tive alien species. This being will then be under the con­trol of the one who shot them. Don’t ask me to explain why this is a goal to be desired. I don’t know; I’m get­ting con­fused typ­ing this.

Ace Arn is forced to crash-land on the plan­et where these four aliens are hid­ing out. And (by a fur­ther stroke of fate or coin­ci­dence only pos­si­ble in comics) all four fire their guns at him at the exact same instant, caus­ing him to be trans­formed par­tial­ly into being like all of them. Only con­trary to their plans, he retains his own will, and abrupt­ly rounds up the bad guys, some­how instant­ly know­ing how to use all these pow­ers he nev­er had before. Tak­ing the first let­ter from the names of each of their plan­ets (Ulla, Laroo, Trago and Raagan), he adds an “A” for his own name, tak­ing on a new iden­ti­ty as Ultra. I did say this was odd, did­n’t I?

The art for the strip was cre­at­ed by Lee Elias. About 20 years ear­li­er, he had done real­ly great work for Har­vey Comics on their Black Cat com­ic (I took a shot at the char­ac­ter myself here). I have no inside aware­ness as to the think­ing behind the cre­ation of Ultra, but I do have some guess­es about it. As men­tioned, this strip appeared late in Mys­tery in Space’s run. I sus­pect sales were flag­ging, and they were look­ing for a poten­tial new “anchor” strip that would cap­ture enough read­er inter­est to bol­ster their sales.

As DC sci fi strips go, though, this was real­ly dif­fer­ent. On the face of things, Ultra was kind of a mon­ster char­ac­ter, some­thing very unlike most oth­er DC char­ac­ters. Again, guess­ing: mon­ster-mania was still very much in effect in pop cul­ture at the time. You had shows like The Mun­sters and The Addams Fam­i­ly on TV, along with all the late night mon­ster movies, mod­el kits and toys. So per­haps Ultra was an attempt to tap into some of that.

Mys­tery in Space was can­celed with issue #110, so Ultra must not have caught on with read­ers as much as DC had hoped. But there’s often some­thing fun about odd­ball char­ac­ters like Ultra, despite (or maybe because of) their odd­i­ty. I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy ever since the first time I saw him as a kid.

Hence my re-cre­ation/re-inter­pre­ta­tion. As is usu­al with any of these, I’ve made some changes. For me, that’s the only point in doing re-cre­ations, if I can find some kind of fresh spin to put on them. If you care to study it and com­pare it to the orig­i­nal, there’s one big change (that’s kind of a hint), and a num­ber of small ones too.

Hope you enjoy my lit­tle self-indul­gence here. 🙂

More Rabbits, Rhinos, Cats and Foxes

Sea­son 2 of Samu­rai Rab­bit: The Usa­gi Chron­i­cles is now live on Net­flix, which means I can now post some of the sto­ry­board revi­sion work I did for it!

You can read about the ori­gin of the show (based off Stan Sakai’s long-run­ning Usa­gi Yojim­bo com­ic), and how I got the sto­ry­board revi­sion job on the series in my ini­tial post here. I had a real blast work­ing on this show, han­dling the even-num­bered episodes (Go Team Even!). Alfred Gimeno (my direc­tor) and I prob­a­bly drove our poor Pro­duc­tion Man­ag­er Elaine Figueroa nuts with some of our silli­ness in the online chat win­dows while work­ing, but she put up with it.

I’ve men­tioned before that my board revi­sion work often has a tell, which is the non-pho­to blue under­draw­ing you can some­times spot. In addi­tion to what you see here, there’s more over in the Sto­ry­board Revi­sion fold­er on the Gal­leries side of my site. From image #38 on is the mate­r­i­al from the sec­ond season.

Hope­ful­ly the view­ers enjoy this sea­son as much as (or even more than!) the first sea­son. Much love and respect to my Team Even team­mates, and the whole Samu­rai Rab­bit crew!

Turtle Talk

Oops! That’s a whole oth­er IP, isn’t it?

This is not new work; it’s some­thing I redis­cov­ered going through some old files. Lit­er­al, phys­i­cal files in a fil­ing cab­i­net, I mean. It’s a com­ic book cov­er I did, and it was nev­er published.

Before I got into ani­ma­tion, I was try­ing to make comics my career. In the late ’80s/early ’90s, I did a fair amount of work for Don Chin, pub­lish­er of Par­o­dy Press/Entity Comics. Around that time, there was a Teenage Mutant Nin­ja Tur­tles strip appear­ing in news­pa­pers. Don was always look­ing for things he could do to expand his comics line, so he got the idea to license the TMNT strip and put it out col­lect­ed in com­ic book form.

To that end, he had me do a cou­ple pieces of art. The one you see here was going to be the cov­er of (I believe) the first issue. The rea­son the for­mat looks odd is because the cov­er art was going to have bor­ders around it, and a big, offi­cial TMNT logo up top, tak­ing up rough­ly a third of the page. As I recall, the plan was that I was going to be the reg­u­lar cov­er guy for the comic.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they had to pull the plug on the project. Don found out that the one thing they would not allow him to do with the strip was to col­lect it and put it out in com­ic book form. He could basi­cal­ly do just about any­thing but that. Per­haps because then that would put it in com­pe­ti­tion with oth­er TMNT com­ic books. So this is the first time any­one out­side of Don, Lau­ra, any­one else who were work­ing for them, or myself, have seen this cov­er art.

Enjoy, and stay cool!

Of Rabbits, Rhinos, Cats and Foxes

Not long ago, I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing on the series Samu­rai Rab­bit: The Usa­gi Chron­i­cles for Gau­mont. And you can now watch sea­son 1 of it on Net­flix! A lot of work and love went into this series, and I hope the audi­ence real­ly loves it!

I’d guess a num­ber of vis­i­tors here might be aware of Stan Sakai’s long-run­ning Usa­gi Yojim­bo com­ic, which our show is inspired by. Before I inter­viewed for my board revi­sion slot on the show, no one told me what the show was (which is pret­ty stan­dard pro­ce­dure with these things), but I kind of had a hunch. So when we reached the point in my online inter­view where they ver­i­fied my hunch, and I was asked whether I was famil­iar with the com­ic, I was able to reach down off-cam­era and come up fan­ning a thick fist­ful of Usa­gi comics, say­ing, “Yeah, I have some famil­iar­i­ty with it.”

I end­ed up being hired to work on the even-num­bered episodes (Go Team Even!), and now I can post some of that work here. More can be seen over in the Sto­ry­board Revi­sion gallery on the oth­er side of my site.

Much love and respect to my fel­low Team Even mem­bers, and the whole Usa­gi crew! It was a blast, and I hope to work with you all again!

Captain Saturn Giant!

Some of you may rec­og­nize this as the cov­er of Odd Comics’ Cap­tain Sat­urn Giant, pub­lished in the ear­ly ’60s. Odd Comics as a pub­lish­er seems to have been large­ly for­got­ten these days, and it takes a lot of dig­ging to find their comics, but it’s worth the effort.

Okay, I con­fess: the above was a lie! It’s just a fake com­ic cov­er, by me. I’ll tell you the truth as to how this came about.

Over on LinkedIn, the very tal­ent­ed Thomas N. Perkins IV post­ed a draw­ing he’d done on the first page of a copy of his book If…. Thomas does a lot of cool stuff, but some­thing about this draw­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly caught my eye. It had a sort of Sil­ver Age-look­ing super­hero char­ac­ter, with a big mon­ster behind him. I com­ment­ed on how I liked it, and in Thomas’ reply, he said it was “Cap­tain Sat­urn and his pet Gulglammakus.”

Some­how, their being named plant­ed a seed in my brain. And sud­den­ly, I was envi­sion­ing Cap­tain Sat­urn fea­tured in a Sil­ver Age extra-length Giant com­ic. I told Thomas about this, and with his bless­ing, I went to work on this cover.

Thomas’ orig­i­nal draw­ing was in black and white with gray tones, and he want­ed to fig­ure out the col­or scheme for Cap­tain Sat­urn for me first, which I then trans­lat­ed into the Sil­ver Age comics col­or palette.

His response when I gave him a pre­view of the fin­ished cov­er was, “I won’t lie, I am sure this is a book I would’ve read as a kid.” I’m very pleased to get that kind of reac­tion. And I’ll con­fess, this is the sort of thing that would’ve caught my eye too. And prob­a­bly still would!

For a time after grad­u­at­ing col­lege, I used to have this recur­ring dream: I’d walk into a comics shop I’d nev­er been in, and dis­cov­er all these real­ly cool comics that I’d nev­er seen before! The sad part though is that I could nev­er remem­ber any­thing about them after I woke up, or maybe I’d have tried to cre­ate those comics myself. Maybe one of them might have been some­thing like Cap­tain Saturn!

Cap­tain Sat­urn is ™ & © Thomas N. Perkins IV. Thomas, thanks much for let­ting me play with your toys for a minute!

All It Takes Is a Little Will Power

Bet­ter late than never!”

—said no pro­duc­tion per­son ever in the his­to­ry of animation.

This is one of those weird ideas that popped into my head, and I felt com­pelled to get it out of there and onto paper, then final­ly into dig­i­tal form. It came to mind just before St. Patrick­’s Day, but cir­cum­stances pre­vent­ed my being able to act on it until now.

Most vis­i­tors here will know DC Comics’ Sil­ver Age ver­sion of Green Lantern. And pret­ty much every­one knows Lucky, the Lep­rechaun spokesper­son for Lucky Charms cere­al. The idea of a mashup of the two char­ac­ters just struck me as some­thing that need­ed doing. And now, I final­ly did it!

Hap­py Belat­ed St. Patrick­’s Day!

Exhibiting Craft in Mining

Here’s some­thing different!

It’s not new (done back in 2013, appar­ent­ly!), but I was recent­ly look­ing through some old files on my com­put­er that I had­n’t exam­ined in awhile, and it occurred to me that some out there might find this interesting.

This came about because my old­est nephew (Michael) reached out, told me he and his best bud were want­i­ng to do a pod­cast togeth­er about Minecraft, and he asked if I could do some cov­er art to rep­re­sent it. My nieces and nephews rarely ask any­thing of me; what kind of an uncle would I be if I said, “no”?

Michael sent me images of their in-game avatars (his is on the left). I know very lit­tle about games, but I thought it would be a fun chal­lenge, and some­thing dif­fer­ent to do. So I did some research into dif­fer­ent approach­es to art done for Minecraft, and fig­ured out a direc­tion to go with it that I thought would be fun. This was the result.

What hap­pened with the pod­cast? I hon­est­ly don’t know. But that’s not the point. The point is that I got to be the cool uncle!

Love you, Michael!

Seven Santas

Illustration of Seven SantasThis was an idea I’d had since last year that I want­ed to try out, but did­n’t quite get around to mak­ing it a real­i­ty. Too much else was going on. I’ve exper­i­ment­ed with this for­mat before, and liked how it was capa­ble of show­ing sev­er­al styles in one piece. I guess this end­ed up as kind of the same for­mat grid as those Art Vs. Artist images, and I could’ve done a new one of those, but I decid­ed I want­ed to do this instead.

For those who have a bit of inter­est in process info like I do, this start­ed off as pen­ciled, inked and let­tered on paper, then it was scanned and processed fur­ther in Photoshop.

There real­ly isn’t much more to say about it, except that I wish you all a Mer­ry Christ­mas, and Hap­py Hol­i­days! I hope 2022 is good to all of us.

The Boop! of Frankenstein

Long time vis­i­tors to this site may recall that come Hal­loween, I have some­thing of a loose tra­di­tion of doing a Franken­stein draw­ing to celebrate.

This year, I was kind of wrack­ing my brain for inspi­ra­tion, look­ing at var­i­ous old comics cov­ers, movie stills and things, and none of the ideas I was com­ing up with were real­ly grab­bing me. Then I stum­bled across a two hour block of Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios car­toons air­ing on TCM, done by way of cel­e­brat­ing the stu­dio’s 100th anniver­sary. Watch­ing one of the Bet­ty Boop car­toons, an idea final­ly struck me that I had to do. It grew from there. This is the result.

Orig­i­nal­ly, I was just going to do the black and white image, but while work­ing on it, the thought struck me that this could also work as a com­ic book cov­er. Some of you may be won­der­ing: why make this a Gold Key cov­er par­tic­u­lar­ly? Because back in the Sil­ver Age, if you want­ed to read a com­ic fea­tur­ing a car­toon char­ac­ter, you were going to end up buy­ing a Gold Key com­ic. They had the licens­es to pret­ty much all of the char­ac­ters. Though (so far as I’ve been able to deter­mine) they nev­er actu­al­ly did a Bet­ty Boop com­ic, if any­one had pub­lished one back then, Gold Key would’ve been the publisher.

I’ve always had a gen­er­al soft spot for the “ball and rub­ber hose” school of ani­ma­tion. And more specif­i­cal­ly, I’ve always got­ten a kick out of the Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios car­toons, because they have their own per­son­al­i­ty that’s noth­ing like Dis­ney’s, Warn­er Bros., or any­one else’s. The Fleis­ch­er car­toons are chaot­ic in a fun way, where almost any­thing can hap­pen. Inan­i­mate objects come to life at a momen­t’s notice.

If you don’t know about the Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios car­toons, you real­ly should do some­thing to rec­ti­fy that. You can prob­a­bly find a num­ber of them on YouTube. They’re a real treat (no trick!).

Dad joke” free of charge. Hap­py Halloween!

Just Some Bits…

It has been awhile since I post­ed any­thing, so it seemed a good idea to get some new work up here. I just fin­ished work­ing on a quick and really…unusual project. I’m not free to say too much about it yet, but it was def­i­nite­ly some­thing dif­fer­ent! There was a bit of a MAD Mag­a­zine sen­si­bil­i­ty to the project, and I was doing, for lack of a bet­ter term, what might be con­sid­ered “prop elements.”

It’s been awhile since I did props, and the last time I did it some years back, the work was still done on paper. For this project, the work came to me in dig­i­tal form, and stayed that way through the whole process.

Most of the ideas were very quick­ly roughed in for me in advance, and I fleshed them out and brought them to a fin­ish. But there were also some cas­es where I gen­er­at­ed ideas myself, sub­mit­ted them and was told, “Go for it!” It’s always good when you have projects where you’re encour­aged to impro­vise and con­tribute creatively.

What you’re see­ing here are a few items I came up with, divorced from the “char­ac­ter ele­ments” they’ll be paired with, I guess we could say. And the col­or here is all mine, too. I don’t know what the actu­al items will be col­ored like in the fin­ished prod­uct, but I am curi­ous to find out!

I apol­o­gize for hav­ing to be so vague about this, but I will explain more when I can. Mean­time: I hope you enjoy these odd bits and pieces.