X” Marks the Spot

I think I’ve men­tioned this here before, but my first job in ani­ma­tion was work­ing on X-Men: The Ani­mated Series. And recently (due to inter­est expressed by some of my cur­rent col­leagues at work), I’ve had occa­sion to dig out the box con­tain­ing my copies of some of the work I kept from that series. This led to my re-encountering a sto­ry­board sequence I’ve always thought of as “Wolver­ine down in the Sub­way.” I thought per­haps it (and the story behind it) might be of interest.

My boss on X-Men was Producer/Director Larry Hous­ton. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bet­ter first boss in ani­ma­tion to teach you the ropes. Larry and Will Meugniot co-directed the first sea­son, but by the time I was hired at the start of the sec­ond sea­son, Larry was the one still run­ning with the baton. If you liked the series, Larry deserves a siz­able por­tion of the credit for that. He was a big time comics fan him­self, and was com­mit­ted to doing the absolute best job he could with the time and resources that he’d been given.

To get back to this sto­ry­board sequence, this was part of an episode in which Pro­fes­sor Xavier suf­fered some kind of psy­chic schism, and a sort of dark ver­sion of his psy­che broke loose and was run­ning free, cre­at­ing prob­lems for the X-Men. It’s long enough ago now, I for­get some of the specifics. Larry found he needed a sort of addi­tional bridg­ing sequence that wasn’t called for in the script, so he set about to cre­ate it him­self, sto­ry­board­ing it on the fly. It started off with Wolver­ine down in the sub­way, unknow­ingly encoun­ter­ing this dark ver­sion of Prof. X. As Larry boarded the sequence, it kind of grew and took on a life of its own. He couldn’t stop!

When he finally fin­ished, Larry asked me to do the cleanup over his pen­ciled board. The art­work was very clear, but in comic art terms he had what might be con­sid­ered break­downs, and I was being asked to embell­ish them. Fun! And that’s the board sequence I’ve posted here. “Wolver­ine down in the Sub­way.” Except for the next-to-last page (122, inked by Frank Squil­lace, because we were com­ing up against the dead­line), it’s all my embell­ish­ment over Larry’s board­ing. We were all pretty happy with how the final board here came out!

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Captain Marvel is 75!

Captain Marvel at 75I was just given leave to post this draw­ing. This year’s the 75th Anniver­sary of the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel. FCA Edi­tor Paul Hamer­linck (for whom I’ve done sev­eral cov­ers over the years, a num­ber of which can be found here on my site) was writ­ing an essay in honor of Cap’s 75th for Jon B. Cooke’s Comic Book Cre­ator mag­a­zine. Paul asked if I would like to con­tribute an illus­tra­tion to poten­tially accom­pany his essay, and left it up to me what to do. A 75-year-old Cap seemed simul­ta­ne­ously like both an unex­pected and yet obvi­ous way to go.

I wasn’t sure if either Paul or Jon would go for this idea. Maybe it would be a lit­tle too weird for a trib­ute. But I guess their senses of humor must some­times go a lit­tle towards the weird too.

Paul’s essay, accom­pa­nied by my illus­tra­tion, will be appear­ing in issue #10 of Comic Book Cre­ator, ship­ping in Novem­ber to your finer local comics shops everywhere.

Thanks, guys! This was fun!

Happy 75th, Cap!

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It’s the “S!”

FCA Elliot S! Maggin CoverSorry it’s been so long since I posted any­thing new here! It’s time to do some­thing about that.

Here’s a pre­view of the cover I did for an upcom­ing issue of FCA, appear­ing in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego. This issue fea­tures an inter­view with comics writer Elliot S! Mag­gin (he was includ­ing an excla­ma­tion mark after his mid­dle ini­tial in those days). Mr. Mag­gin was one of the writ­ers who were called upon to write DC’s revival of the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel and the Mar­vel Fam­ily, in the early ‘70s.

Those with an astute eye will real­ize that this illus­tra­tion forms some­thing of a book­end with the Denny O’Neil cover I posted some months back. Keep­ing that visual asso­ci­a­tion was at the FCA editor’s request, since both O’Neil and Mag­gin were the main writ­ers for the Cap­tain Mar­vel revival.

The back­ground art I’m using here comes from sto­ries Mr. Mag­gin wrote (just as the art I used on Mr. O’Neil’s por­trait cover came from Cap­tain Mar­vel sto­ries he’d written).

Though the cover date says May, this issue should hit the stands some­time in April. I’m look­ing for­ward to read­ing the arti­cle myself!

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Oh, the Pain…”

PainI hadn’t planned on post­ing this one espe­cially, but things have been busy here, and I didn’t want to let another month go by with­out post­ing anything. So here you go!

I was asked to do an editorial-type illus­tra­tion visu­al­iz­ing “pain” in a par­tic­u­lar way, and this is what I came up with. Style­wise, for some rea­son I grav­i­tated towards want­ing this to look like it was done as a poster, per­haps some­what in the style of David Lance Goines. It remains for oth­ers to say whether or not I achieved that, but I was happy with the end result, not pained. :)

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Denny O, AKA Sergius O

FCA Denny O'Neil CoverHere’s a pre­view of another cover I did for FCA, appear­ing in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego mag­a­zine. Though the cover date is Sep­tem­ber of this year, I believe the mag­a­zine will actu­ally be avail­able in August.

For those who don’t know, DC Comics brought back the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel in the early ‘70s. The Big Red Cheese had been miss­ing from the spin­ner racks for sev­eral years by that point, so his reap­pear­ance was greatly looked for­ward to by a num­ber of fans. Includ­ing some younger fans like myself, who had seen very lit­tle of the char­ac­ter pre­vi­ously, but knew that they really liked what they saw.

Denny O’Neil was one of the writ­ers tapped by Edi­tor Julius Schwartz to write this revival. In fact, Mr. O’Neil wrote the story in Shazam! #1 which brought the Mar­vel Fam­ily and com­pany back into the mod­ern age. FCA #187 fea­tures an inter­view with O’Neil about his work on the title.

Using what ref­er­ence I could find online, at Edi­tor P.C. Hamerlinck’s request, this was an attempt at a por­trait of Mr. O’Neil as he might have looked around the time he was writ­ing the comic. The back­ground art (I has­ten to add) is not mine! It’s scans of actual pan­els from some of the Cap­tain Mar­vel sto­ries Mr. O’Neil wrote, drawn by C.C. Beck him­self. Scanned straight from my own per­sonal copies of those comics, of course. :)

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Jeff Bonivert’s Atomic Man

Atomic-ManAnd now, for some­thing com­pletely different!”

I’m dig­ging deep for this one. The ‘80s saw a lot of inter­est­ing, fun, odd, inde­pen­dent comics. Jeff Bonivert’s Atomic Man Comics was one of them.

I don’t remem­ber just how I first encoun­tered Jeff Bonivert’s work, but it most def­i­nitely caught my eye. It’s unique for the abstract geo­met­ric and graphic way he approaches his draw­ings. I pick up a bit of an art deco or stream­lined feel to it in places. There’s no mis­tak­ing his work for any­one else’s.

I believe that like me, Jeff is from the Bay Area. There was a time in the ‘80s when we even worked at the same place, but unfor­tu­nately I never got to meet him and talk comics (it was a pretty big place).

I some­how man­aged to get all three issues of Jeff’s Atomic Man Comics back when they came out, and there’s a def­i­nite sense of fun to the pro­ceed­ings. Atomic Man is really kind of a classic-style comics hero. He has super-strength and invul­ner­a­bil­ity, but doesn’t appear to have any other super­pow­ers beyond that. Jeff added some fresh ideas to the mix, in that Atomic Man is hap­pily mar­ried, with two kids, liv­ing in San Fran­cisco. Being from the Bay Area, that last part sort of mat­tered to me, because it seems like the tra­di­tional default for most super­heroes has been to base them in NYC (or some fic­ti­tious NYC surrogate).

For my Atomic Man salute, I thought a styl­is­tic exper­i­ment using Adobe Illus­tra­tor might be a good way of attempt­ing some­thing that could evoke the look of Jeff Bonivert’s work.

Atomic Man is ™ and © 2014 Jeff Bonivert.

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I’m Not Batman!”

Golden-Batman-for-Web-by-Mark-LewisI know what you’re think­ing. You’re look­ing at my draw­ing and going, “Hey! He goofed up! He col­ored that draw­ing of Bat­man yel­low!” Nope! It’s because it’s not Batman.

Some­time back, in cruis­ing around the inter­net and fol­low­ing var­i­ous links, I stum­bled across an arti­cle on a pop cul­ture site called Top­less Robot, talk­ing about a num­ber of Korean car­toon char­ac­ters who might hit the viewer with a sense of, mmm, déjà vu, shall we say. One that some­how stuck with me was the Golden Bat­man (or sim­ply the Golden Bat, as he was some­times referred to).

Dif­fer­ences between Bat­man and the Golden Bat­man don’t start and end with their cos­tumes. They gave Golden Bat­man the power of flight (which sort of makes sense for a char­ac­ter named after a crea­ture who flies), as well as super-strength (shades of the old Bat­man story “Bat­man– The Super­man of Planet X”!). And that’s not all! Golden Bat­man can fire laser beams from his fin­gers. What do you think of that, Caped Crusader?

You can actu­ally find the Golden Bat­man car­toon on YouTube in five parts, if you’re curi­ous enough to see it. Dubbed into Span­ish though, oddly enough. Seem­ingly not avail­able in Eng­lish, for some reason.

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The Captain That Split the Scene

Captain Marvel Split! by Mark LewisIt won’t come as any sur­prise to long­time vis­i­tors of my site to hear this, but most of my friends know that when you say the words “Cap­tain Mar­vel” to me, my default set­ting is to think of the orig­i­nal Faw­cett char­ac­ter. How­ever, this ain’t him!

This Cap­tain Mar­vel is an android. His comic debuted in 1966, pub­lished by M.F. Enter­prises, 13 years after Faw­cett pub­lished their last adven­ture of the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Marvel.

So what does this Cap­tain Mar­vel do? He seems to have a lot of the usual super­hero pow­ers: strength, flight, etc. But his real call­ing card is that when he says his magic word (“Split!”), he can detach parts of his body at will and have them fly around and do his bid­ding. A unique power, to be sure, but more than a lit­tle odd. To rejoin, he speaks his other magic word, “Xam!”

In look­ing for a fresh take on this Cap­tain, I thought it was such an odd­ball con­cept that it might have been better-suited to Sat­ur­day Morn­ing car­toons. So I started to re-imagine it as the kind of semi-comedic super­hero adven­ture car­toon that back then would’ve fit in well along­side Hanna-Barbera shows like Franken­stein Jr., The Impos­si­bles, or Atom Ant. Since those shows appeared as Gold Key comics, that seemed a good place for my re-imagined Cap­tain Mar­vel too.

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Now That’s Just Darling!

Darling Romance #1 ReworkedHey, every­body! It’s another comic cover recreation/reinterpretation. This time, it’s the cover of issue #1 of Archie Comics’ Dar­ling Romance. You can see the orig­i­nal cover here.

I’ve per­son­ally never been all that big a col­lec­tor of romance comics, though the best of them have had some really great artists. An inter­est­ing bit of his­tory: the guys who pio­neered the genre? None other than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby! Those who are only famil­iar with the more two-fisted, action-packed side of their work might be sur­prised to hear this, but it’s true. They launched the first romance comic, Young Romance, in 1947. And in the wake of its sales suc­cess, many other pub­lish­ers fol­lowed suit with their own romance titles.

Simon and Kirby’s work in this genre is unsur­pris­ingly ener­getic and lively. Many of the sto­ries go places one wouldn’t typ­i­cally expect a romance comic story to go. If you get the chance to see some of these sto­ries for your­self, it’s worth the time. I’m told it can be hard to track down the orig­i­nal comics, but thank­fully, there are reprints avail­able in books like Young Romance: the Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics, and it looks as though there might be other sources on the way too.

Maybe I should talk a lit­tle bit about this Dar­ling Romance cover. I know noth­ing at all about this comic, but the cover image spoke to me. I thought it would be fun to take the orig­i­nal photo cover and do a draw­ing instead, push the model’s looks even more in the direc­tion of Bet­tie Page. Also, I felt like giv­ing the whole thing a pulpier, harder-edged look. Just for fun. :)

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20 Years

Kirby WatchmenIt’s come to my atten­tion that today marks 20 years since the pass­ing of Jack Kirby. That brings a lot of things to mind.

I know where I was when I got the word. I’d started a new career, work­ing in ani­ma­tion, and was not quite into my first full year at it. I was work­ing at Graz Enter­tain­ment on X-Men, for my first boss in the busi­ness (who I also con­sider a men­tor and friend), Larry Hous­ton. In those pre-internet days, Larry was the one who first got word, and passed it to us. Obvi­ously, for those of us on the crew who knew and loved Kirby’s work, our minds and our con­ver­sa­tion were occu­pied the rest of the day.

When I got home, I had a sud­den com­pul­sion to go to the long­boxes, and pull out every comic I had that Jack Kirby had worked on. Then I sur­veyed what was left. There were a lot of big holes! I could have gone even fur­ther and pulled out all the titles that he’d had a hand in cre­at­ing, and that would’ve left an even big­ger hole. There would prob­a­bly be fewer comics in the boxes than out of them.

Jack has most def­i­nitely left his mark on comics, whether peo­ple want to see it or not. And he’s left behind a great legacy of work in all kinds of gen­res that we can still enjoy today. I can say he cer­tainly enriched my life with his work.

RIP, Mr. Kirby. Your work lives on.

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