Category Archives: Comics

Work that’s either done specif­i­cal­ly for comics, or is com­ic-relat­ed.

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!

Kirby 100, Part 4

This is the fourth and final install­ment in my cel­e­bra­tion of Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month. Which hap­pens to be today!

Like most of the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, today’s draw­ing came my way years back as a pho­to­copy of Kir­by’s pen­cils, from a sketch­book orig­i­nal­ly done for his wife Roz. It was lat­er repro­duced and pub­lished in book form as Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. Like the oth­ers I’ve post­ed, this was a draw­ing that looked to me like it might be fun to take a crack at ink­ing it. So I did. And recent­ly col­ored it up for post­ing here.

This char­ac­ter (Ser­si) comes from a com­ic called The Eter­nals, which was one of a hand­ful of titles Kir­by pro­duced dur­ing his last stint at Mar­vel in the mid- to late-’70s. The seeds of this com­ic seem to have come from a very pop­u­lar book around this time by Erich von Däniken, enti­tled Char­i­ots of the Gods?. The book con­jec­tured that alien astro­nauts had vis­it­ed our world in the dis­tant past, and were mis­tak­en­ly thought by us to be gods. It’s easy to see how an idea like this could be fuel for Kir­by’s vivid imag­i­na­tion. Add to it Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myths and leg­ends, and he cooked up a very enter­tain­ing sce­nario from these ingre­di­ents.

Cer­tain sto­ries from Eter­nals still stand out in my mind. The saga of Karkas and the Reject, for exam­ple, which sub­vert­ed the usu­al assump­tions read­ers made about new char­ac­ters based on first impres­sions. Or “The Rus­sians are Com­ing!” in #11, or “The Astro­nauts!” in #13. Even in this lat­er stage of his career, Kir­by still had the goods.

If you caught onto the fact that each of my “Kir­by 100” posts has been in chrono­log­i­cal order of when the char­ac­ter first appeared, give your­self a gold star!

I men­tioned ear­li­er on that Kir­by’s work is very impor­tant to me. He was one of the ear­li­est com­ic book artists whose name and style impact­ed on me, and I was com­pelled to seek out his work. He may not nec­es­sar­i­ly have invent­ed all the “visu­al gram­mar” of draw­ing super­hero comics, but he cer­tain­ly per­fect­ed it! If an artist want­ed to do super­hero comics that had impact, it would have been a mis­take not to learn from Kir­by’s work.

Super­hero comics were not the only kind of mate­r­i­al he did, though. Kir­by worked in almost every genre of Amer­i­can comics, and brought the same inven­tive­ness and dynam­ic ener­gy to what­ev­er he did. He man­aged to cre­ate vital work in every decade, span­ning from the Gold­en Age of comics all the way up into the ’80s.

If for some rea­son you’re not famil­iar with Kir­by, do your­self a favor, and start delv­ing into the work of this tru­ly unique and impor­tant cre­ator! You are in for a treat!

Hap­py 100th, Mr. Kir­by! And a very heart­felt “thank you” for cre­at­ing so many great char­ac­ters and sto­ries that still live and inspire today. You were tru­ly one of a kind!

Kirby 100, Part 3

Wel­come back to anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out is Thor. Again, the pen­cil draw­ing came my way years back in the form of a pho­to­copy, and I believe the orig­i­nal source was a sketch­book Jack did for his wife Roz, which ulti­mate­ly saw print as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It was yet anoth­er Kir­by draw­ing that caught my eye, and looked like it would be fun to try ink­ing. Fresh­ly col­ored for show­ing here.

When I first got to a point where I had suf­fi­cient funds to begin attempt­ing to col­lect more back issues of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work, I tend­ed to not seek out Jour­ney into Mys­tery (where Thor first appeared) or Thor issues. I just did­n’t like the inks as much as I did the inks over Kir­by on his oth­er strips. How­ev­er, as I read more about Kir­by’s work (and espe­cial­ly his Thor work), I real­ized that I was miss­ing out.

Kir­by’s Thor work is sig­nif­i­cant, because in it you see not only a bril­liant comics artist and sto­ry­teller doing a great job. You also see some­thing of Kir­by the man, and his inter­ests. Just as in Fan­tas­tic Four you can see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with the unknown, what’s out there, in Thor you see Kir­by’s fas­ci­na­tion with myth and leg­end (a touch­stone through­out his career). I feel that while all of Kir­by’s Mar­vel work is great, both Fan­tas­tic Four and Thor are the two main tent posts of his work dur­ing that peri­od which can’t be dis­re­gard­ed.

I tried in col­or­ing this to evoke the kind of col­or palette you see in those old Thor comics. It was fun!

Hap­py Kir­by 100! One more to go, if I can man­age it.

Kirby 100, Part 2

We’re back for anoth­er install­ment, cel­e­brat­ing Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day this month!

This time out, it’s the Chal­lengers of the Unknown. The pen­cils for this draw­ing came into my hands years back as a pho­to­copy. I believe the orig­i­nal came from a sketch­book Kir­by filled for his wife Roz, which saw print (in un-inked form) as a book enti­tled Jack Kir­by’s Heroes and Vil­lains. It looked like it would be fun to take a crack at ink­ing this draw­ing, so I did. And just recent­ly col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

There are a num­ber of inkers who got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to han­dle Kir­by’s pen­cils over the years. I like a num­ber of them for dif­fer­ent rea­sons (though if forced to, I could name a favorite). In the case of Chal­lengers, this strip is one of the rare instances of of Kir­by being inked by Wal­ly Wood. If you haven’t seen the pair­ing before, it’s kind of hard to imag­ine, but you’re in for a treat. Wal­ly Wood was a great artist in his own right, and the com­bi­na­tion of Kir­by and Wood on Chal­lengers (also on the syn­di­cat­ed news­pa­per strip Sky Mas­ters of the Space Force) plays to both artists’ strengths. Check it out, if you get the chance.

Chal­lengers is also sig­nif­i­cant in that it’s also pos­si­ble to view the strip as a dry run for the Fan­tas­tic Four: both are teams of four who go off on a flight at great risk, some­how sur­vive it, then in the wake of that expe­ri­ence, decide that it’s their call­ing to look into the unknown. There’s even an ear­ly Chal­lengers sto­ry where one mem­ber devel­ops flame pow­ers briefly!

There’s more to come, before the end of the month.

Hap­py Kir­by 100th!

Kirby 100, Part 1

This month would be Jack Kir­by’s 100th birth­day, and though things have been busy for me late­ly, I’m going to try to post some things this month by way of cel­e­brat­ing.

Most vis­i­tors here like­ly already know who Jack Kir­by is. I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to over­state his impor­tance as a comics artist and cre­ator. So many of the char­ac­ters we’ve been enjoy­ing in the Mar­vel films, more often than not, Kir­by either co-cre­at­ed them or flat-out cre­at­ed them him­self.

But you can find all that his­to­ry else­where. The point I want to make here is that Kir­by’s work mat­tered a great deal to me per­son­al­ly. I believe he was the one of the first com­ic book artists who I came to rec­og­nize by his name and his work. When I first came across it, it was pow­er­ful. It was, to my think­ing, comics the way they should be.

I went through a phase in high school where I was try­ing very hard to draw like Jack Kir­by. Not the most uncom­mon thing among fan artists back then, but (this is the embar­rass­ing part) my rea­son­ing was that at some point Mr. Kir­by would retire, and there need­ed to be some­one to pick up the baton. I thought (in my naiveté) maybe that should be me. As I said, it’s embar­rass­ing to admit, but I was young, and this shows how impor­tant I tru­ly felt his work was.

Of course, I grew out of this phase of think­ing I need­ed to be the next Jack Kir­by (A change I’m sure Jack would approve of). But there are still valu­able artis­tic lessons I picked up from study­ing his work that I can see in my work even today.

An expla­na­tion of this piece: years back now, a pho­to­copy of a Jack Kir­by Red Skull sketch came into my hands. Dat­ed 1970, as my trac­ing over his sig­na­ture indi­cates. It was clos­er to a lay­out than the full pen­cils we usu­al­ly see, but some­thing about it spoke to me, com­pelled me to take a crack at ink­ing it. I col­ored it for its appear­ance here.

I’ll be back soon with anoth­er piece.

Hap­py Kir­by 100!

Hey, Mister!

Long­time vis­i­tors to this blog might know that I was a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Big Bang Comics back in the day. I had lots of fun being a part of that! On his blog over on the Big Bang Comics site, Big Bang co-founder Gary Carl­son has been writ­ing an arti­cle about each issue that came out, in pub­li­ca­tion order. He just made it up to #8, which end­ed up fea­tur­ing a char­ac­ter named Mis­ter U.S. (co-cre­at­ed by writer Nat Gertler and I). You can read all about it here.

Just so there’s some­thing to look at here, I’ve put up a col­or guide I did for one of the vari­ant cov­ers. Back in those days, I was­n’t using Pho­to­shop yet, so this was all done using mark­ers and water­col­ors, then mark­ing up the page with the CMYK col­or for­mu­lae I want­ed for each col­or. Aside from that, between Gary and Nat, they’ve cov­ered the rest of the sto­ry pret­ty well, and I don’t want to spoil any­thing here. But it’s worth check­ing out, if you’re curi­ous about the “secret ori­gin” of this issue and how it came to be.

 

Família Marvel no Brasil

First post of 2017!? That’s a lit­tle embar­rass­ing, but so it goes. Any­way,…

I’m pre­sent­ing here the cov­er art (sans copy) for an upcom­ing issue of FCA (the Faw­cett Col­lec­tors of Amer­i­ca). Reg­u­lar vis­i­tors here will know that it’s some­thing of a mag­a­zine-with­in-a-mag­a­zine, pub­lished with­in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego. This issue of FCA (#205) will be appear­ing in Alter Ego #146.

FCA Edi­tor P.C. Hamer­linck had told me that this issue would be about comics fea­tur­ing the Mar­vel Fam­i­ly that were pub­lished in Brazil, and pos­si­bly some oth­er South Amer­i­can coun­tries too. The prover­bial car­toon light­bulb clicked on over my head, and I pro­posed con­tact­ing my friend, the huge­ly tal­ent­ed Aluir Aman­cio, to see if he might be will­ing to do this cov­er for us. Aluir has done a lot of comics and ani­ma­tion work in his career, not only for his native Brazil, but for comics pub­lish­ers and ani­ma­tion stu­dios here in the US. I was very hap­py when Aluir said he was on-board, and I absolute­ly love what he did.

Aluir decid­ed to have the Mar­vels touch­ing down near the famous Sug­ar­loaf Moun­tain in Rio de Janeiro.  While it’s most def­i­nite­ly Aluir’s work, I thought he did a great job of also cap­tur­ing the Gold­en Age sense of fun these char­ac­ters should always have. I espe­cial­ly love his take on Mary Mar­vel here!

Orig­i­nal­ly, I was going to have the cap­tion on the cov­er be in Por­tuguese, until it was point­ed out to me that not all the comics in ques­tion were pub­lished in Brazil. But noth­ing says I can’t use that cap­tion here, so it’s the title of my post.

To be clear as to who did what, this draw­ing is all Aluir. My only con­tri­bu­tion is col­or. Aluir, my friend, again, thanks so much for your great work on this cov­er!

 

What They Shoulda Done,…”

FCA Captain Marvel Adventures #23 Cover Re-creationThis is a re-cre­ation/re-inter­pre­ta­tion of the cov­er of Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures #23, done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with my friend and ani­ma­tion biz men­tor, Lar­ry Hous­ton. You’ll note there are some sig­nif­i­cant changes, if you com­pare this cov­er to the orig­i­nal.

This re-cre­ation came about because of an upcom­ing issue of FCA (the Faw­cett Col­lec­tors of Amer­i­ca), with an arti­cle dis­cussing minor­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Gold­en Age comics. Since the arti­cle’s appear­ing in FCA, the pri­ma­ry focus was to be on Steam­boat, an African-Amer­i­can char­ac­ter who appeared for a while in the ear­ly Cap­tain Mar­vel strips.

Now, fea­tur­ing Steam­boat pre­sent­ed a prob­lem. He was always depict­ed in that stereo­typ­i­cal and racist way that most African-Amer­i­can char­ac­ters were por­trayed in comics at the time. So what were we to do about a cov­er for this issue?

Nei­ther FCA Edi­tor P.C. Hamer­linck nor myself thought it was a good idea to use images of Steam­boat from the orig­i­nal comics on the cov­er, and for the same rea­sons, I did­n’t feel right in ask­ing an artist to gen­er­ate new art depict­ing him as he appeared back then.

Anoth­er thought was to do a new draw­ing depict­ing Steam­boat in a non-racist way. But then that raised the ques­tion of how peo­ple would even be able to rec­og­nize who he was sup­posed to be, since it would be so far afield from his orig­i­nal appear­ance.

P.C. came up with the idea of doing a re-cre­ation of Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures #23, only done in a sort of “what if there weren’t the racial stereo­types in old comics?” kind of way. Look­ing over the orig­i­nal cov­er and its ele­ments, I real­ized this was the way to go. We could make this idea work. Even though Steam­boat would look dif­fer­ent from how he’d been por­trayed in the Gold­en Age, read­ers would still be able to iden­ti­fy him because there was a con­text for it.

I’d also been think­ing of try­ing to get some new and dif­fer­ent voic­es involved in some of these FCA cov­ers. Though Lar­ry Hous­ton is prob­a­bly best known for his ani­ma­tion work, he’s always had a deep love for comics too. And I knew that pos­i­tive por­tray­als of African-Amer­i­can char­ac­ters in car­toons and comics has always been a sub­ject Lar­ry cared a great deal about. So I thought maybe this cov­er could be a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for me to team up with Lar­ry. I asked him if he’d be inter­est­ed, and he agreed to do it.

Lar­ry pro­vid­ed me with a good, tight lay­out, which I took the rest of the way, even adding dot pat­terns and aging.

You get to see it here as the com­ic cov­er alone, sans the FCA copy. This issue of FCA (#203) will be appear­ing in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego #144, out in Decem­ber from Twom­or­rows.

Doc, I’m Seein’ Spots Before My Eyes!”

Little Dot #11 Re-CreationThough it might look to some like I’m pret­ty much exclu­sive­ly a fan of super­heroes, I actu­al­ly enjoy many dif­fer­ent types of comics. And late­ly, I’ve had rea­son to go back and re-exam­ine a lot of the old Har­vey Comics.

I’m dat­ing myself by admit­ting it, but I remem­ber when they still pub­lished Har­vey Comics. The pub­lish­er did many dif­fer­ent types of mate­r­i­al over the years they were in busi­ness, but they’re best known for pro­duc­ing real­ly good comics for kids, fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters like Casper the Friend­ly Ghost, Richie Rich, Lit­tle Audrey, Lit­tle Dot, Lit­tle Lot­ta and many oth­ers.

Like a lot of comics fans around my age or old­er, I have fond mem­o­ries of read­ing Har­veys, pur­chased off the spin­ner racks of the local drug­store or 7‑Eleven. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, aside from a very brief revival in the ear­ly ’90s, Har­vey ceased pub­lish­ing comics a long time ago, so kids today have rarely had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing those char­ac­ters.

I had­n’t real­ly looked at any Har­vey books in a long time, so it was some­thing of a rev­e­la­tion to go back and re-exam­ine some of those sto­ries recent­ly with a more expe­ri­enced artist’s eye than what I pos­sessed as a child. I was pleased to find that the work stands up excep­tion­al­ly well! The char­ac­ters are well-designed and well-drawn. Though uncred­it­ed in the comics them­selves, the tem­plate was estab­lished by artists Steve Muf­fat­ti and War­ren Kre­mer, and the oth­er Har­vey artists (like Howie Post, Ernie Colón and Sid Couchey) worked to main­tain that high lev­el of crafts­man­ship.

I thought it might be fun to re-inter­pret one of the old Har­vey cov­ers and take it in a more flat and graph­ic direc­tion. Lit­tle Dot #11 seemed like a real­ly good can­di­date. I redrew the cov­er on paper first, then used Adobe Illus­tra­tor to com­plete the job. Enjoy! 🙂

What It Was, Now Is

CMA #2 Original Head RestoredIt’s high time I put up some­thing new here! I guess this qual­i­fies. It’s kind of simul­ta­ne­ous­ly old and new, you could say.

For the 200th issue of FCA (appear­ing in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego #141), I was approached by edi­tor P.C. Hamer­linck with a chal­lenge. A col­lec­tor named Har­ry Matesky had bought the orig­i­nal art for the cov­er of Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures #2 (you can see the pub­lished com­ic here.), and made a dis­cov­ery. The head of Cap­tain Mar­vel on the pub­lished cov­er was actu­al­ly a paste-up, and under­neath it was a dif­fer­ent draw­ing! P.C. asked if I would be will­ing to try to com­plete the orig­i­nal head, so we could see what the cov­er might have looked like if C.C. Beck had gone ahead and fin­ished it. Game on!

I was pro­vid­ed with high res scans of both the orig­i­nal cov­er art as pub­lished, and a pho­to­copy of the art with the orig­i­nal head removed. It was a bit more tricky than a sim­ple “con­nect the dots” exer­cise, as the out­er con­tour of Cap­tain Mar­vel’s face was basi­cal­ly miss­ing. I heav­i­ly ref­er­enced the way Beck drew him, try­ing to make it look as much as pos­si­ble like his work. And it had to dove­tail into the exist­ing linework as seam­less­ly as pos­si­ble.

Once I had it inked (dig­i­tal­ly), I had to dig­i­tal­ly paste up the restored head over the clean scan of the pub­lished cov­er art. At this point in the restora­tion, I ran into an unfore­seen dif­fi­cul­ty. As some of you might know, pho­to­copiers can some­times intro­duce a bit of dis­tor­tion or skew­ing into their out­put. For most every­day copi­er uses, you don’t notice some­thing like that, and it’s not a prob­lem. But here, where I real­ly need­ed the two ver­sions to line up accu­rate­ly, it was a prob­lem.

After I was final­ly able to get it sort­ed out to my sat­is­fac­tion, I then had a clean new/old black and white orig­i­nal for the cov­er, which I col­ored to match the orig­i­nal pub­lished ver­sion. It appeared as the cov­er for FCA #200, which I believe is avail­able right now. But here, you get to see it with all the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel Adven­tures mast­head copy intact. It was fun to get to col­lab­o­rate with C.C. Beck a lit­tle bit here, across the gulf of time and space!