Category Archives: Animation

Ani­ma­tion-relat­ed work.

Black Panther’s First Cartoon Appearance?

Like a lot of peo­ple, I’m look­ing for­ward to the release of Black Pan­ther, the lat­est Mar­vel movie this Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 16th. This last week­end, I had an email from my first boss when I start­ed work­ing in ani­ma­tion, Lar­ry Hous­ton (whom I also con­sid­er a friend). Lar­ry was the producer/director of the orig­i­nal X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series (as it seems to have become known now). I did char­ac­ter mod­el clean-up on the series, and a fair amount of char­ac­ter design too, along the way.

Lar­ry point­ed my atten­tion to a video on YouTube some­one had assem­bled, of Black Pan­ther’s var­i­ous ani­mat­ed appear­ances. Right up front was his cameo appear­ance on an episode of X‑Men.

That sparked a mem­o­ry. I went back to look, and sure enough: I’d had the priv­i­lege of being the one who got to draw the mod­el for that appear­ance, which I’ve post­ed here! If I’m not mis­tak­en, I think it might well be Black Pan­ther’s first ever appear­ance in a car­toon.

I can’t take cred­it for the idea of putting T’Chal­la in there. It was Lar­ry’s idea. Lar­ry felt very strong­ly (as did the rest of us on the show) that, tak­ing place in the Mar­vel uni­verse, we would like­ly see oth­er Mar­vel char­ac­ters from time to time. Because that was always kind of a Mar­vel Comics trade­mark! Occa­sion­al­ly the pow­ers-that-were got a lit­tle anx­ious over who might hold the rights to var­i­ous char­ac­ters, so some­times things got labeled a lit­tle… dif­fer­ent­ly. In this case, the script we were work­ing on at the time required we show some African mutant refugees, and we felt this was as good a time as any to give T’Chal­la a cameo. Hence, “African Mutant Refugee #3.”

With­in the con­fines of the style of our show, I tried to get some hints of Kir­by in there. Because, why not?

Update – Feb­ru­ary 28, 2018: It’s fun­ny how things work. Aaron Couch, Heat Vision Edi­tor for The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, did an inter­view with Lar­ry Hous­ton about Black Pan­ther and the X‑Men car­toon. Lar­ry point­ed him here to my site, and Aaron want­ed to ask me a ques­tion or two also. The end result wound up part of this arti­cle. Thanks again for your inter­est, Aaron!

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!

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.

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.

Heads Up!

Heads 1A sug­ges­tion was made to me recent­ly that it would be good if I were to do some kind of a post here that dis­played a num­ber of dif­fer­ent styles togeth­er, all at once. So this is what I came up with: a series of head shots, of dif­fer­ent types of char­ac­ters in dif­fer­ent styles.

It’s a pret­ty good exer­cise for an artist, I found. It makes you stretch a lit­tle bit, and it can be fun to see what you come up with. I think I may try this again at some point. Or maybe even a vari­a­tion on the theme: one char­ac­ter, dif­fer­ent styles. There’s a whole lot you can do with this idea.

She’s a Wow!

Wow Comics 12 ReworkedHere’s a recreation/reinterpretation of the cov­er of Wow Comics #12, fea­tur­ing Mary Mar­vel. You can com­pare it with the orig­i­nal here.

Mary debuted in Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures #18, where Bil­ly Bat­son dis­cov­ered to his sur­prise that he had a twin sis­ter, from whom he’d been sep­a­rat­ed at birth. It turned out that the mag­ic word that turned Bil­ly into Cap­tain Mar­vel also worked to turn Mary Batson/Bromfield into the super­pow­ered Mary Mar­vel.

Mary’s “visu­al father” was artist Marc Swayze. I was hon­ored to be asked to do an FCA cov­er fea­tur­ing Mary, as a trib­ute to Marc Swayze for what would’ve been his 100th birth­day. It was post­ed here a while back.

Reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to this site have heard me say before that when doing these recre­ations, I like to have some kind of fresh take or approach, so that I’m not just repeat­ing exact­ly what was done before. So imag­ine this, if you can: some alter­nate world, where Faw­cett did­n’t cease pub­lish­ing comics. Instead, they kept on pro­duc­ing new four-col­or adven­tures for Cap­tain Mar­vel and the Mar­vel Fam­i­ly. Maybe at some point in the late ’50s or ear­ly ’60s, Faw­cett licensed Mary to an ani­ma­tion stu­dio for a series, and Wow Comics was relaunched in sup­port. It was kind of what was play­ing in the back of my mind when I did this, at any rate.

I can almost hear the announc­er’s voice: “Boys and Girls! It’s time now for the adven­tures of Mary Mar­vel! The Shaz­am girl!

Four Bananas Make a Bunch

Let It SplitI’m sure most of you remem­ber the Banana Splits. They were that famous and influ­en­tial rock band that changed the face of the ’60s with their music; songs that have stood the test of time and are still with us today. Late in the band’s career, things had begun to get hec­tic and stress­ful. The mem­bers’ lives were head­ing in dif­fer­ent direc­tions. They were grow­ing apart; no longer the same wide-eyed kids they were when they start­ed out. But before they called it a day, they put out one final album: Let It Split.

Okay, not real­ly. I just made up all that stuff. Knowl­edge­able vis­i­tors will real­ize that what I’ve done here is a riff off the cov­er of the Bea­t­les’ last album, Let It Be, only recast with the mem­bers of the Banana Splits. Going clock­wise from the upper left, you have Droop­er, Flee­gle, Snorky and Bin­go.

Yes, when I was a kid, I would watch The Banana Splits Adven­ture Hour. Fun times. I’ll even admit to hav­ing sent away for the Banana Splits Fan Club Kit. No Sour Grapes Bunch for me! No sir! Sing it with me now: “Tra la la, la la la la,…” 🙂

The State of Careifornia

Careifornia FlagApolo­gies up front. This was anoth­er of those visu­al ideas that get stuck in your brain, and have to come out. This one’s been lodged in there since one of my rou­tine morn­ing jogs some weeks back, see­ing a Cal­i­for­nia Flag stick­er on the back of some­one’s car. For some rea­son, my brain envi­sioned replac­ing the Cal­i­for­nia griz­zly bear on the flag with a Care Bear. And Grumpy just always seems to lend him­self to things like this.

So why am I draw­ing a Care Bear, this long after hav­ing worked on the prop­er­ty? Well, all I can plead here is that I worked with these char­ac­ters for two sea­sons’ worth of an ani­mat­ed series, as well as on sev­er­al direct-to-video fea­tures (in both 2D and CG). Plus Care Bears also has the dis­tinc­tion of being the only prop­er­ty I’ve done work on for more than one stu­dio. Maybe spend­ing that much time with it, per­haps the lit­tle guys are bound to be still some­where in the nooks and cran­nies of my brain, and they just have to come up for air some­times.

Plus, the fact that some of the oth­er Care Bears posts I’ve put up here get a fair amount of hits prob­a­bly does­n’t hurt either. 🙂

The Forgotten Ones: Bee-29, the Bombardier

Bee-29There’s prob­a­bly a lot of ground I should cov­er to explain this one, so I’ll get right to it.

In doing research for a recent project (which you’ll find out about at a lat­er date), I was point­ed towards a web­site fea­tur­ing com­ic book char­ac­ters that are now report­ed­ly in the pub­lic domain. While going through all those char­ac­ters, it struck me that there was mate­r­i­al there which might be worth min­ing for future blog posts. As a result, this will be the first of a series of posts on “For­got­ten Ones,” which I may do from time to time.

For this inau­gur­al out­ing, I chose Bee-29, the Bom­bardier. Bee-29 is unique because so far as I know, he’s the only bee super­hero! He only made a few appear­ances back in 1945, but one of them was in a com­ic named for him. In the inter­ests of sav­ing col­umn space, if you’d like to read the entry for Bee-29 on the Pub­lic Domain Super Heroes site, you can check it out here.

If you’ve vis­it­ed this site much, you’ve prob­a­bly picked up on the fact I often like to try to find an angle to approach a char­ac­ter like this, some kind of a dif­fer­ent spin I can put on it instead of just repro­duc­ing some­thing ver­ba­tim. So I thought, “What if in some alter­nate world, Han­na-Bar­bera had picked up the rights to this char­ac­ter?” Going down that path lead to my attempt at an HB ver­sion of Bee-29 on the faux Gold Key cov­er you see here, since Gold Key han­dled most of the car­toon-based comics back in the day.

Let me go on record here and say that I am def­i­nite­ly a fan of the clas­sic Han­na-Bar­bera look. Yes, I grew up watch­ing those shows, but it’s more than that. Years ago when Han­na-Bar­bera was locat­ed on the 14th floor of the Impe­r­i­al Bank Build­ing in Sher­man Oaks, mul­ti­ple times a day I would walk by these great framed cels from shows like The Flint­stones and The Jet­sons, hang­ing on the walls in the hall­way. I saw how well-designed all those char­ac­ters were, and how strong­ly sil­hou­ette-ori­ent­ed they were. The HB design­ers took the restric­tions of lim­it­ed ani­ma­tion and small TV screens, and actu­al­ly turned them into strengths.

I’ve not had a lot of oppor­tu­ni­ty to attempt that clas­sic HB look, so this was a chance to ven­ture onto that play­ground a lit­tle bit. And I’d be remiss if I did­n’t tip my hat here and say thanks to my good friend Mark Chris­tiansen, who is tru­ly a clas­sic HB mas­ter.

We’ve Got You Covered!”

Per­haps some of you read­ing this might be famil­iar with the Cov­ered Blog. If not, it’s a site where artists are chal­lenged to take an exist­ing, pub­lished com­ic book cov­er and rein­ter­pret it. The results can be inter­est­ing, and I thought it might be fun to take a shot at doing one.

I chose to rework the cov­er of Dell Comics’ Dick Tra­cy Month­ly #13, cov­er-dat­ed Jan­u­ary 1949 (If you’re curi­ous to com­pare, you can view the orig­i­nal side-by-side with mine over on Cov­ered here). But I did­n’t do it in one of my usu­al styles. Instead, I real­ized that Chester Gould’s style on Dick Tra­cy was pret­ty 2D and graph­ic to begin with, and that it might be fun to push it just a lit­tle fur­ther into look­ing some­thing like a Flash ani­ma­tion style.

I worked on a Flash-ani­mat­ed direct-to-video fea­ture, Hydee and the Hy Tops, and enjoyed it very much. The look of Flash is fun, and I would wel­come the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work on anoth­er project in that vein. I have a lot of respect for artists like Craig McCrack­en and Lau­ren Faust who do that kind of work very well. So it seemed like this would be a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to stretch some artis­tic mus­cles and try some­thing new.

The BG por­tion of this cov­er was done using Pho­to­shop, but the rest of it was done in Adobe Illus­tra­tor. If you’ve vis­it­ed my site before, you know I’ve used Illus­tra­tor for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent projects. But this project required car­ry­ing out the final image in a dif­fer­ent way from how I’d done before.

As far as why I chose to rein­ter­pret a Dick Tra­cy cov­er in the first place, I think it might be because I’ve been fol­low­ing the reg­u­lar Dick Tra­cy strip these last sev­er­al months, so Tra­cy was in the back of my mind. The strip’s been reju­ve­nat­ed by Joe Sta­ton and Mike Cur­tis, and I’ve been hav­ing a blast fol­low­ing it. If you get the chance, give it a look!