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.

Hey, Gabby!

Awhile back, I had the plea­sure of get­ting called in to Dream­Works to help out briefly on a lit­tle show called Gab­by’s Doll­house. Per­haps you’ve heard of it? It was in the Top 10 there on Net­flix for a bit. Kind of an inter­est­ing hybrid of live action and CG, a very cute and sweet kids’ show. The crew were all real­ly nice, and I would have loved to stay onboard for the dura­tion, but cir­cum­stances just did not permit.

Any­way, I thought I’d post a lit­tle bit of the revi­sion work I did on one episode, I believe enti­tled “Kit­ty Cat Cam.” In it, Gab­by, her best pal Pandy and the gang are going on a scav­enger hunt through the Doll­house, and tak­ing lots of can­did pic­tures. This was for the last CG scene of that episode. Enjoy!

The Captain and the King

If you’ve vis­it­ed my site before, you might know that awhile back I was dubbed the de fac­to “cov­er edi­tor” for FCA (the Faw­cett Col­lec­tors of Amer­i­ca), a “mag­a­zine with­in a mag­a­zine,” appear­ing in Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego (pub­lished by TwoM­or­rows). Occa­sion­al­ly, I actu­al­ly do a cov­er myself (like the one you see here). This time, I not only did the cov­er for this upcom­ing issue, I also wrote the article!

The issue of Alter Ego in ques­tion is focused on comics creator/writer/artist Jack Kir­by. Most of you know that he did work for Mar­vel and DC, and maybe you’re even aware that he did a hand­ful of work for oth­er pub­lish­ers too. But per­haps you don’t know that he also did work for Faw­cett, and fair­ly ear­ly on! That’s what my arti­cle is about. FCA Edi­tor P.C. Hamer­linck knows I’m a big Kir­by fan, so he reached out and asked me if I’d like to write this.

When most peo­ple think of the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel, they prob­a­bly recall the work of C.C. Beck (whom I am also a big fan of). But many don’t know that Joe Simon and Jack Kir­by also worked on Cap­tain Mar­vel, and very ear­ly on in his existence.

I go into more detail in the arti­cle, but the short ver­sion is that Faw­cett could see they had some­thing big going on with Cap­tain Mar­vel in Whiz Comics (a title he shared with oth­er char­ac­ters), and they real­ized it would be a real­ly good idea to also have a reg­u­lar ongo­ing solo title fea­tur­ing Cap­tain Mar­vel. Faw­cett’s first stab at this appears to be a book called Spe­cial Edi­tion Comics. They did­n’t do anoth­er one of those, and my guess is that Beck told them he could­n’t do both that and Whiz Comics by him­self sus­tain­ably over the long haul, so they regrouped.

Deter­mined to find a way to make this hap­pen, their next attempt was Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures, and for the first issue, they reached out to the star comics team of Joe Simon and Jack Kir­by. Simon and Kir­by were already work­ing full time for anoth­er pub­lish­er, but they took on this chal­lenge (work­ing after hours) with­out let­ting any­one know about it back on the day job.

The result is some­thing I deal with in the arti­cle, but when it came time for a cov­er for this issue of FCA, I had some thoughts. The real cov­er to Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures #1 strikes me as look­ing odd­ly like an after­thought, as if the edi­tors went, “Whoops! This needs to go to press now, and we for­got to have any­one do a cov­er!” I thought at first that it might be just a pho­to­stat of an exist­ing Cap­tain Mar­vel run­ning fig­ure, but P.C. Hamer­linck was told by Beck him­self that some­one came to him one day in the office, said they need­ed this draw­ing “right now,” and he just did it. The cov­er does­n’t even have a prop­er logo! They just slapped some type­set­ting across the front of it.

So my thought was, “What if instead of being an appar­ent last minute after­thought, they had Kir­by do the cov­er?” One of the sto­ries in par­tic­u­lar seemed to lend itself pret­ty well to the kinds of cov­ers he was draw­ing around this time peri­od, so that’s what I went with. I’ve done draw­ings like Kir­by before (you can find some of them around here on my site). But this cov­er was a real chal­lenge, because in this com­ic, Kir­by and Simon were try­ing hard to do their ver­sion of Beck. So in effect, I had to imi­tate an artist while he was imi­tat­ing anoth­er artist! I’ve nev­er done that before. It was a bit of a brain-bender.

I hope you like the result, and if you’re inter­est­ed in read­ing the whole sto­ry, check out the article! 

Venus Makes a Timely Appearance

When you’re a comics geek, and you’ve also had a few cours­es in Art His­to­ry, I sup­pose you’re liable to occa­sion­al­ly come up with stuff like this.

Some of you know that before Mar­vel Comics set­tled on that name, the pub­lish­er went by a cou­ple oth­er names. They start­ed off as Time­ly, then lat­er changed to Atlas in the ear­ly ’50s, before final­ly set­tling on Mar­vel in 1961 (Though as you can see from this image, they did briefly toy with using the name ear­li­er). While I know a bit about Time­ly’s out­put dur­ing the War, I must admit that my aware­ness of their out­put post-WWII is very spot­ty. It’s not like Mar­vel has often reprint­ed that material.

Once the War was over, gen­er­al read­er inter­est in super­heroes seemed to fade, and all comics pub­lish­ers were look­ing to find new mate­r­i­al that would cap­ture read­er inter­est (AKA sales). Venus appears to have been one of Time­ly’s attempts at this. While I have not been able to actu­al­ly read any of these comics, when you look at the cov­ers, the title appears to suf­fer from some­thing of a mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der. It’s not quite sure exact­ly what it wants to be.

The book starts off look­ing like some sort of comedic romance title, then lat­er shifts into some kind of qua­si-hor­ror/mys­tery title. It was like they start­ed off with an idea, found the book was­n’t quite sell­ing the way they’d hoped, so they tried tin­ker­ing and throw­ing dif­fer­ent things at the wall while still pub­lish­ing it, to see if some­thing else might stick.

Any­way, look­ing at the Venus cov­ers, I remem­bered Bot­ti­cel­li’s “Birth of Venus” from my Art His­to­ry class­es, and it occurred to me that per­haps Time­ly had missed a bet by not hav­ing an artist do some sort of an homage to that paint­ing on a cov­er. So I thought maybe I’d rec­ti­fy that (70-some years lat­er), just for the heck of it. Maybe that was too “high brow” of an idea for them to both­er with. Maybe it still is, but I had to try it out (and get the idea out of my head). Hope you folks like it.