Tag Archives: Adobe Illustrator

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! 🙂

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.

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.

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,…” 🙂

Hey Franky! I’m Seein’ Double!”

Frankenstein 23 ReworkedWe’re com­ing up on anoth­er Hal­loween here, and it seems I’ve devel­oped some­thing of a tra­di­tion of doing some kind of Franken­stein piece when that hap­pens. Instead of doing just one this time though, you’ll see I got ambi­tious and actu­al­ly did two com­ic cov­er recre­ation­s/rein­ter­pre­ta-tions. Which seemed appro­pri­ate, giv­en the sub­ject mat­ter. I’ll explain.

If you ask most comics fans around my age which comics artist comes to mind first when they think of Franken­stein’s mon­ster, you’ll prob­a­bly get names like Bernie Wright­son or Mike Ploog. But fans whose aware­ness goes back a bit far­ther might give you anoth­er name: Dick Briefer.

Briefer­’s asso­ci­a­tion with the char­ac­ter in print was not only longer than any­one else’s (run­ning from issue #7 of Prize Comics through #68, as well as 33 issues of his own mag­a­zine), but he did three dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the char­ac­ter! He start­ed with a straight hor­ror ver­sion, spin­ning right out of Mary Shel­ley’s orig­i­nal Franken­stein sto­ry. Kind of a gut­sy thing, to do an ongo­ing hor­ror fea­ture in a com­ic in those ear­ly days. From what I’ve read on the sub­ject thus far, there’s a good case to be made that it was the first of its kind.

Frankenstein #1 ReworkedThen lat­er, in 1945 it was decid­ed to retool the fea­ture as a humor­ous strip. The new, humor­ous Franky hit news­stands in Franken­stein #1. You might think it would be hard for some­one so involved with a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the char­ac­ter to retool their vision so dras­ti­cal­ly, but Briefer did it. And the fans bought it.

That ver­sion ran its course in 1949, then in ’52 (when the ’50s wave of hor­ror comics was under way), Briefer was called to bring the mon­ster back to life yet again! Pick­ing up after the last issue of his pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion with #18, Briefer brought back a more seri­ous ver­sion of the mon­ster. This new ver­sion though was not sim­ply a revival of Briefer­’s ear­li­est ver­sion of the char­ac­ter. For one thing, the art I’ve seen thus far tends to be much more open for col­or. And the few sto­ries I’ve seen to date seem to play up more of the mon­ster’s pathos than Briefer did back when he first worked with the char­ac­ter.

I must con­fess that only recent­ly have I been learn­ing about Dick Briefer and his version(s) of Franken­stein, but it’s been fun learn­ing (I hope those who are more knowl­edge­able about this strip than I cur­rent­ly am will for­give any inac­cu­ra­cies here). Thank­ful­ly, though we no longer live in comics’ Gold­en Age, we do live in what could be con­sid­ered the Gold­en Age of comics reprints! Many old strips (like Franken­stein) that were pre­vi­ous­ly inac­ces­si­ble unless you had lots of dis­pos­able funds to buy back issues, are now being col­lect­ed and reprint­ed in qual­i­ty hard­cov­er edi­tions and trade paper­backs. A Briefer Franken­stein book is one of those that I would hope to lay hands on soon.

Oh, before I close, I guess I should get to specifics about what I did here. My Franken­stein #23 is a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Briefer­’s, and you can see his orig­i­nal here. Briefer­’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of Franken­stein #1 can be seen here.

Hap­py Hal­loween!

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.

The Mighty…Motor Scooter??

Thor on Pink ScooterNot long ago, I received an email from my friend and men­tor, Lar­ry Hous­ton. He’d stum­bled across the exis­tence of this toy motor scoot­er from the ’60s that had a fig­ure of Thor rid­ing it. Marx Toys had appar­ent­ly licensed the rights from Mar­vel Comics to man­u­fac­ture and sell these.

Oh, and I should­n’t for­get to men­tion that they made the motor scoot­er pink. Why Thor would even need to be tool­ing around on a motor scoot­er in the first place is one ques­tion. But why some­one at the toy com­pa­ny made the con­scious deci­sion that Thor’s scoot­er ought to be pink is one of those big ques­tions in life that I just don’t think we’ll ever have an answer to.

I had been aware of the exis­tence of this toy pre­vi­ous­ly, but had kind of for­got­ten about it until Lar­ry’s email remind­ed me. In response, I was able to show him evi­dence that not only had they done this with Thor, they’d sold toys of Cap­tain Amer­i­ca and Spi­der-Man on motor scoot­ers too. Spi­der-Man’s was also pink, but for some rea­son they allowed Cap to have a yel­low scoot­er. You can see all three toys here, if you’re curi­ous.

Any­way, the men­tal image of Mar­vel’s god of thun­der on a pink motor scoot­er stuck with me. Some­times these things just have to come out, so there you go! Per­haps this could even start an inter­net meme, of peo­ple draw­ing Mar­vel super­heroes on pink motor scoot­ers! I mean, why not?

Zita’s Back!

If you’ve checked in on my site from time to time, you may have seen my post­ing about the graph­ic nov­el Zita the Space­girl last year. My last com­ment on the sub­ject then (direct­ed at author Ben Hatke) was “…I hope you have plans for more Zita in the future.” Thank­ful­ly, the future is now!

I’m a lit­tle late men­tion­ing it, but Leg­ends of Zita the Space­girl (book #2 in the series now) came out last month. Based on the first book, Ben set my expec­ta­tions pret­ty high for this new one. And he did not dis­ap­point! Pret­ty much all the things I said last time hold true of this new book too. I don’t want to just repeat myself, but I would like to make some fur­ther obser­va­tions about Ben’s work here. The book also spurred some thoughts about comics in gen­er­al, which fit this dis­cus­sion.

I’d men­tioned before how much charm Ben Hatke’s art­work has. There’s a nice, organ­ic loose­ness to his approach. He is unapolo­get­i­cal­ly a car­toon­ist (and I don’t under­stand why in some fan quar­ters, “car­toony” is a pejo­ra­tive. Per­son­al­ly, I’ve always grav­i­tat­ed towards artists who are strong styl­ists). I had­n’t made this asso­ci­a­tion pre­vi­ous­ly, but this time out I real­ized his work was remind­ing me a lit­tle bit of the com­ic Mars by Hempel and Wheat­ley, pub­lished back in the ’80s. While I can’t go so far as to pro­claim Hempel and Wheat­ley’s Mars was an influ­ence on Ben, it seems like visu­al­ly he’s com­ing from a sim­i­lar place. Or per­haps they have some influ­ences in com­mon. Whether there’s any con­nec­tion or not, in both cas­es, the visu­al approach allows for a much wider and more imag­i­na­tive range of char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions than per­haps a more real­is­tic take would allow.

And the uni­verse Ben has cre­at­ed for Zita is quite imag­i­na­tive! Lots of strange crea­tures and wild con­cepts going on in this book. With­out giv­ing any­thing away, there are a cou­ple of ideas in there that I think would even do Jack Kir­by proud.

Anoth­er thing I was more con­scious of this time is the fact that Ben is not afraid to do whole sequences with­out any dia­logue or cap­tions. He’s will­ing to let his art­work car­ry the whole bur­den of telling the sto­ry at points, through the action, facial expres­sions and pos­es. I think that’s great, and real­ly kind of brave. Doing a book like this (even as writer/artist), I imag­ine there’s a temp­ta­tion to fall back more on the words to car­ry the weight of your sto­ry. While it might be more of a chal­lenge, it can be much more sat­is­fy­ing in some ways if you can get as much as pos­si­ble of the sto­ry across using just your visu­als. The bot­tom line is that comics is a visu­al medi­um. It is quite pos­si­ble to do a com­ic with no words (in fact, it’s been done sev­er­al times over the years). But it’s not pos­si­ble to do a com­ic with­out pic­tures.

There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about there not being enough comics that are appro­pri­ate for kids. Often the way peo­ple attempt to address that is to do spe­cif­ic “kids’ comics.” In my opin­ion, that’s a risky way to go. The poten­tial pit­fall in that approach is that there can be a temp­ta­tion dumb things down, and talk down to the kids. Kids aren’t stu­pid. If you think back to when you were a kid, you knew it when peo­ple were talk­ing down to you, and I’ll bet you did­n’t like it any more then than you do now. Per­son­al­ly, I believe the bet­ter approach is to attempt to do “all-ages” comics that work on mul­ti­ple lev­els at once. Bring­ing this back on-top­ic, the Zita books are a good exam­ple of that. A younger read­er will appre­ci­ate them on one lev­el, while old­er read­ers will find themes and aspects that res­onate with them on a whole oth­er lev­el. Much like the best chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture has always done.

I guess I should talk a lit­tle about the illustration(s) I did to accom­pa­ny this arti­cle (since this site’s sup­posed to be about me draw­ing!). This image is kind of riff­ing off some visu­als and sit­u­a­tions in the book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot and spoil any­thing. But I thought it would be fun to take the poster idea from the book and real­ly do it up, like a full-blown silkscreened poster (inspired by the work of Strongstuff, AKA Tom Whalen).

Any­way, if you like real­ly good all-ages comics, I rec­om­mend you get your hands on this one. If you haven’t already picked up the first vol­ume, Zita the Space­girl, get ’em both!

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!