Author Archives: Mark

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.

To Boldly Go where No Tastebuds Have Gone Before!

Recent­ly, cour­tesy of Net­flix, I’ve been re-watch­ing the orig­i­nal Star Trek. It’s not like I haven’t already watched all of these episodes mul­ti­ple times over the years, but they’re always enter­tain­ing (even the less­er ones have some­thing to rec­om­mend them). Yeah, I’ll admit it: I was a bit of Trekkie grow­ing up. I prob­a­bly built the Enter­prise mod­el three or four dif­fer­ent times (always hop­ing that maybe this time they’d fig­ured out a way to engi­neer it so the nacelles would­n’t sag out­wards). I even did my own lit­tle home­made 8mm Star Trek movie when i was in ele­men­tary school (but that’s anoth­er story).

Watch­ing the episode “The Cor­bomite Maneu­ver” again for the umpteenth time, I got struck by this sil­ly idea for a retro-styled ad. It was one of those things that gets stuck in your head, and you feel like you have to do it in order to get it unstuck. So here it is! If you’re as famil­iar with the show as I am, you’ll get it.

Though my his­to­ry with Illus­tra­tor goes back quite a ways (Illus­tra­tor 88, any­one?), I tried a tech­nique I haven’t done before on this. I’m used to Illus­tra­tor always look­ing pris­tine clean, so get­ting more of a tex­tured look was some­thing dif­fer­ent. I’d guess in the pre-dig­i­tal art era when peo­ple did illus­tra­tions like this, it was like­ly done using an air­brush set so it would spray in a more tex­tur­al way. Or maybe it was done by paint­ing with a sponge and frisket material.

It occurs to me this also kind of works pret­ty well as a year-end piece! I wish all my site vis­i­tors the best, and may 2021 be a much bet­ter year for us all!

Twistin’ with Frank!

If you’ve poked around my site for any length of time, you might have noticed I have some­thing of a loose tra­di­tion of cre­at­ing some kind of Franken­stein image for my site around Hal­loween, when I have the chance. Here’s this year’s!

I had the good for­tune that dur­ing my child­hood, mon­sters were a big part of the pop cul­ture land­scape. This def­i­nite­ly informed me (or warped me, depend­ing on your per­spec­tive). Mon­sters were kind of every­where! Car­toons, TV shows, books (like How to Care for Your Mon­ster), mod­el kits, toys, games…all kinds of fun stuff! There was even the occa­sion­al nov­el­ty mon­ster-themed 45 record.

That’s sort of where this idea came from. This mid-cen­tu­ry Car­toon Mod­ern type of style is not some­thing I’ve done a lot, but it’s how I envi­sioned this look­ing in my head. You spend years try­ing to get vol­ume into your draw­ings, but you kind of have to throw your brain into reverse and think more in terms of flat­ter shapes and sil­hou­ettes in order to do some­thing like this. I find it a chal­lenge, but a fun one.

When this idea came into my head, it just felt like a record that should’ve exist­ed back then, so I took it upon myself to make it hap­pen. I hope you enjoy my lit­tle illus­tra­tion and design experiment.

Hap­py Halloween!

X‑Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series

Most vis­i­tors here know that my first job in ani­ma­tion was on X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series. I’ve not exact­ly kept that a secret. I learned a lot on that show, not only from my boss Lar­ry Hous­ton, but also from my co-work­ers. When I start­ed, I knew only the basics about how ani­ma­tion was done. I knew more about comics. But that kind of knowl­edge was def­i­nite­ly help­ful on this show.

Some­thing else I’ve learned, as time has passed, is that there are a lot of peo­ple who real­ly loved the show. A lot. When you have co-work­ers who dis­cov­er you worked on it tell you, “Oh, I loved that show! it was my favorite as a kid!”, there are mixed feel­ings. But seri­ous­ly, it’s good to find out that you’ve con­tributed to some­thing that peo­ple have loved that much.

And, to my sur­prise, the love is appar­ent­ly so much that X‑Men Sto­ry Edi­tors the Lewalds were con­tact­ed by Abrams Books, and asked to do a book on the art of the show! Which is now avail­able on Ama­zon.

Of course at first, they attempt­ed to see if any­one knew where the orig­i­nals were. But after all this time, who knows which box in which stor­age facil­i­ty that stuff might live in, for a stu­dio that no longer exists?

So that meant reach­ing out to all us artists who worked on the show, to see what we might still have after all these years. And per­son­al­ly, X‑Men being my first job in ani­ma­tion, and com­ic-relat­ed, I made and kept copies of pret­ty much every­thing I did for the show. So I had a lot. And so did oth­ers. With­out that, this book prob­a­bly would have had very few pictures.

By way of cel­e­brat­ing, I thought I’d share some pieces that very few out­side the stu­dio have ever seen (I’m not sure whether these are in the book or not). Lat­er in the show’s run, after Lar­ry had moved on to oth­er projects for Mar­vel, his for­mer assis­tant on the show, Frank Squil­lace, end­ed up in the Producer/Director chair. At this point, I was begin­ning to do more design on the show, not just char­ac­ter mod­el clean-up, as design­er Frank Brun­ner became more involved in oth­er projects for the studio.

My rec­ol­lec­tion of this is a bit fuzzy now, but I believe it was Frank S. who ini­tial­ly sug­gest­ed we re-design the show. The look of the show had been orig­i­nal­ly based on Jim Lee’s art in the com­ic, and by this time, Lee had long since left Mar­vel to become one of Image Comics’ founders. At this point in the comics, the look of X‑Men was informed by the art of Joe Madureira. Madureira’s work was more ani­mé- or gam­ing-influ­enced. So not only was it the cur­rent X‑Men look, it also seemed like going this route with the show would be more animation-friendly.

With Madureira’s work in mind, Frank S. and I col­lab­o­rat­ed on some re-designs of the char­ac­ters, as well as gen­er­at­ing some who had­n’t appeared in the show before (at least offi­cial­ly). We felt like we were on to some­thing here. In fact, as oth­ers at the stu­dio found out about what we were try­ing to do, they were excit­ed. Will Meugniot, who had a big hand in launch­ing the show orig­i­nal­ly in the first place, told us one day that he loved the idea too. He gave us his bless­ing, and said he was ful­ly on-board with it.

Obvi­ous­ly it did it not end up hap­pen­ing, or you would have seen these. When you work in ani­ma­tion (or enter­tain­ment in gen­er­al) for any length of time, you dis­cov­er that behind the scenes, there are always things like this that would have been cool, but did­n’t end up hap­pen­ing for one rea­son or anoth­er. So this is a fun “might have been.”

I hope peo­ple enjoy the book, and thanks to the Lewalds for reach­ing out and invit­ing me to contribute!

Don’t Try to Con Me!”

Hm. How to explain this? It’s a par­o­dy of the cov­er of X‑Men #4, obvi­ous­ly (with all apolo­gies to Jack Kir­by!). Yes, it’s pret­ty sil­ly stuff. And there’s a rea­son I did it.

Back before I start­ed my ani­ma­tion career, I kin­da thought I was going to make comics my life’s work. I had just fin­ished get­ting as much train­ing at Art Cen­ter as I could afford on my own dime, and set about launch­ing my comics career in earnest. I hon­est­ly don’t remem­ber now exact­ly how we end­ed up cross­ing paths, but I was in con­tact with Don Chin, who was at that time pub­lish­ing comics under the names Par­o­dy Press and Enti­ty Comics. His inde­pen­dent titles were actu­al­ly doing pret­ty decent num­bers. I was­n’t going to get rich doing this work, but every career has to start some­where, right?

As you’d expect from the name, Par­o­dy Press was all about lam­poon­ing exist­ing comics. One of the projects I agreed to do for Don was a par­o­dy of the X‑Men, called X‑Cons. The book had sto­ries from sev­er­al peri­ods in the his­to­ry of the char­ac­ters. I pen­ciled the open­ing chap­ter, fea­tur­ing the debut of the Sil­ver Age ver­sion of the team: Pro­fes­sor Ex, Dum­b­kophs, Beast­ie Boy, the Anglo, Sno-Cone and Jean­nie Okay (AKA Mar­velous Girl).

I did oth­er projects for Don too, but over time the mar­ket for these books began to dry up, until some projects I’d worked on did­n’t even get enough orders to go to press. At that point, I thought maybe I need­ed some­thing that might pay a bit stead­ier, so I put some feel­ers out and wound up get­ting into ani­ma­tion. Fun­ny to think about it now, in this con­text, but my very first job in ani­ma­tion? Char­ac­ter mod­el cleanup on X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series.

Fast-for­ward to recent­ly: Don got back in touch. He told me he wants to do a reprint of the X‑Cons book, with addi­tion­al mate­r­i­al and in col­or this time. He was curi­ous if I might be game to con­tribute some­thing, per­haps a vari­ant cov­er. It hap­pened to be good tim­ing. We talked about it, and you see the result here. Sil­ly, but fun. I did two ver­sions: reg­u­lar, and extra-crispy!

When Don gets his cam­paign up and run­ning for those inter­est­ed in this book, I’ll update and post a link here.

Come Sail Away!

I’m sure many of you out there have heard of Sailor Moon. The inter­est­ing thing is that this char­ac­ter has been around for longer than most peo­ple real­ize. Back in the mid-/late-’70s, Mar­vel Comics licensed the rights to the char­ac­ter, and Jack Kir­by did a com­ic. Col­lec­tors who know about it often have a hard time turn­ing up copies of this book. This is a scan of a pan­el from that rare comic…

…Not buy­ing it? Okay, I con­fess; I just told you a big, fat, stinky lie. Jack Kir­by nev­er drew Sailor Moon (at least, not to my knowl­edge!). This is me. There’s appar­ent­ly this inter­net meme that all the cool kids are doing, where you take this one par­tic­u­lar image of Sailor Moon and draw it in your style. It occurred to me that it might be fun to put a spin on it and do it Jack Kir­by style.

One oth­er con­fes­sion: Sailor Moon is a bit after my time. Grow­ing up, the Japan­ese ani­ma­tion that I got to see on TV were things like Speed Rac­er, Kim­ba the White Lion and (my favorite of these) Tobor the 8th Man (I often get a lot of blank looks when I men­tion that one). Even though I’m prob­a­bly late to this par­ty, I thought it might be fun to get in on this meme.

I Dare You!

There’s a sto­ry behind this one. Of course! Isn’t there always? 😀

But first; there are prob­a­bly some of you scratch­ing your heads, going, “Huh? That’s not Dare­dev­il!” It’s under­stand­able that you might only know about Mar­vel Comics’ ver­sion of Dare­dev­il, from the comics and the recent Net­flix series. But back in the Gold­en Age of comics, there was a dif­fer­ent Dare­dev­il, pub­lished by Lev Glea­son. The char­ac­ter’s title sold very well, run­ning for about 16 years, until sales fell (like many super­hero titles did post-WWII). This Dare­dev­il had a kid gang who hung around with him called the Lit­tle Wise Guys. The boys had tak­en over his title by the time the book ceased pub­lish­ing, Dare­dev­il him­self hav­ing gone MIA about six years pri­or to that.

But I should get back to the sto­ry behind this re-cre­ation/rein­ter­pre­ta­tion. Ear­li­er this year, I was chat­ting with direc­tor Dan Riba (known for his work on Bat­man: the Ani­mat­ed Series, among many oth­er car­toons). In the course of our con­ver­sa­tion, he men­tioned that he’d recent­ly had an online inter­ac­tion with movie pro­duc­er Michael Uslan, via the Book of Faces. Some­where out there on the inter­net, Mr. Uslan had stum­bled across my ear­li­er re-work­ing of Mar­vel’s Cap­tain Mar­vel #1, replac­ing the Kree ver­sion with the Gold­en Age Faw­cett orig­i­nal, as if Mar­vel had bought the rights to the char­ac­ter from Fawcett.

Dan told me that Mr. Uslan liked my cov­er, but did­n’t know where it had come from (The inter­net some­times has a way of strip­ping us cre­ative folk of cred­it for our work). Dan informed him that it was my work. In reply, Mr. Uslan won­dered if I had ever con­sid­ered doing a sim­i­lar thing with Dare­dev­il #1, rework­ing it as if in some alter­nate uni­verse, Mar­vel had bought the rights to the orig­i­nal Gold­en Age char­ac­ter instead of invent­ing their own new ver­sion. (Some­where, I read that this was actu­al­ly con­sid­ered briefly).

I told Dan that I had­n’t thought of that, but it was an inter­est­ing idea. The con­ver­sa­tion moved on from there, and I did­n’t think about it again. At least not for a lit­tle while. But this thought kept peri­od­i­cal­ly cir­cling back into my brain. And as occa­sion­al­ly hap­pens, it got lodged in there. When that hap­pens, I’ve found the only way to get it out is to actu­al­ly do the thing. So here it is!

Re-cre­at­ing and re-imag­in­ing this cov­er was a much big­ger chal­lenge than my Cap­tain Mar­vel #1 was. In the process of dig­ging in and work­ing with a cov­er image like this, you come to real­ize cer­tain things about it. One is that for a Mar­vel Comics cov­er of this vin­tage, it’s a very busy cov­er! It’s almost more like a DC Annu­al or 80-Page Giant cov­er of that era.

I have a the­o­ry about the rea­son why this cov­er is so unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly busy for Mar­vel. It’s only a guess, mind you, but I sus­pect that orig­i­nal­ly the cov­er was going to be just the pri­ma­ry image at left. That part looks to have been drawn by Jack Kir­by, while there are oth­er hands in the rest of the art. Three of the Fan­tas­tic Four heads are just the paste-up art they used in that comic’s cor­ner box! I can’t help but won­der if some­one (per­haps Stan Lee, or maybe Mar­tin Good­man) felt like this new title need­ed more of a sales boost than just the one image, so the main piece of art was reduced and shoved to the left, and all the addi­tion­al text men­tion­ing Spi­der-Man and the Fan­tas­tic Four was added in that col­umn on the right.

Adding to my sus­pi­cions are all the tan­gents that exist­ed on the orig­i­nal, which I made an effort to fix here. They feel like the sort of thing that hap­pens when art is re-worked after the fact by oth­er hands, in ways the ini­tial artist did­n’t plan for.

There are a cou­ple addi­tion­al things I should men­tion, because of course there are sto­ry bits about this new/old ver­sion that I worked out in my head while doing this cov­er. I fig­ure Mar­vel might have giv­en Dare­dev­il fold-up boomerangs that he could store in his belt (see dia­gram). And at first I was­n’t sure what to do with the spot at low­er right where Fog­gy Nel­son was on the orig­i­nal cov­er. Who could I put there? But as I thought about it, the idea of aging up the Lit­tle Wise Guys to teenagers (ala Rick Jones), and hav­ing them form a band seemed like a good way to go. They’re rep­re­sent­ed here by Scare­crow. It was­n’t too hard to take his hair­cut from his Gold­en Age look and turn it into more of a Bea­t­le cut.

Thanks to Mr. Uslan and Dan for plant­i­ng the bug in my brain!

Call the Nurse!

This is a bit dif­fer­ent, in that I don’t usu­al­ly do a lot of top­i­cal, cur­rent events-relat­ed things.

It’s impos­si­ble not to know about Covid-19. I’m aware that we have front­line work­ers, espe­cial­ly in the med­ical pro­fes­sion, who are deal­ing with it on a dai­ly basis. And for some rea­son recent­ly, I was think­ing about nurs­es and super­heroes, and thought of this odd­ball old Gold­en Age comics char­ac­ter called Pat Park­er, War Nurse.

Start­ing off as a straight strip in Speed Comics #13, about the adven­tures of a British nurse in WWII, appar­ent­ly it must have been felt by Har­vey Comics that she was­n’t dynam­ic enough in that form to help boost sales. So they end­ed up giv­ing her super­pow­ers and a cos­tume. At one point, she was even the leader of a group called the Girl Com­man­dos. Her last comics appear­ance was in March of 1946.

My brain start­ed to think about what would hap­pen if you updat­ed Pat Park­er, send­ing her into bat­tle against Covid-19. After all, she was a “war nurse.” She looks a bit dif­fer­ent here, because it did­n’t seem prac­ti­cal she’d bat­tle this with her orig­i­nal out­fit: bare midriff, short shorts and no facial covering.

And after the fact, I real­ized what I’d done was prob­a­bly also sub­lim­i­nal­ly inspired by anoth­er draw­ing I saw on LinkedIn by the very tal­ent­ed Thomas Perkins.

So this is my slight­ly sil­ly, but no less sin­cere, trib­ute to those med­ical per­son­nel on the front­lines. Thank you for your super­hu­man efforts. You are superheroes.