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!
I 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!
Sorry 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!
I 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.
Here’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.
“And 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.
I 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.
It 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.
Hey, 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.
It’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.