Tag Archives: Modern Age

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.

Art Vs. Artist!

So there’s this thing, and I guess all the cool kids are doing it over on the Twit­ters and the Insta­grams. It’s called “Art Vs. Artist.” You put some of your work togeth­er in this for­mat, along with a pic­ture of your­self in the cen­ter. It seemed like some­thing that might be sor­ta fun to take a crack at, so here we go!

To be hon­est, I’m not entire­ly sure what all the rules are (if there are any), so I’m prob­a­bly break­ing some of them. I did get the idea that this was sup­posed to cen­ter around faces, so there’s at least that. Some of these sam­ples are more recent and oth­ers slight­ly old­er. At the moment, I feel like this works pret­ty well. If I were to attempt this again tomor­row, it’s pos­si­ble I could pick a few oth­er images.

I feel like I might be break­ing one of the rules with my pho­to in the cen­ter. It’s (obvi­ous­ly) not a cur­rent self­ie. Not by a long shot! That’s a 12 year-old me, on my birth­day. If you could see more of the pic­ture, you’d see I was attempt­ing to paint a pic­ture (using oils) of the USS Enter­prise fir­ing on a Klin­gon ship. Why that pho­to? I fig­ure: don’t we all start some­place like that as artists? Every­thing else flows from that.

Captains All!

Some of you will rec­og­nize this as a re-cre­ation/rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the cov­er of Whiz Comics #2, first appear­ance of the orig­i­nal Cap­tain Mar­vel in the Gold­en Age.

This was inspired by a sto­ry a friend told me a few weeks back. Like me, his default set­ting when some­one says “Cap­tain Mar­vel” is to think first of the Faw­cett Comics orig­i­nal. His wife does­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly read a lot of comics, but she’s famil­iar with the char­ac­ter through him. Recent­ly, he and his wife were out at the movies. They were look­ing at the posters for com­ing attrac­tions. One was for Mar­vel’s Cap­tain Mar­vel film. My friend’s wife looked at the poster and was puz­zled. “Um, why is Cap­tain Mar­vel a girl?”

Look­ing around online, there seems to be more than one per­son out there who’s a lit­tle con­fused as to why these dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters have the same name. I’ve seen forums where this ques­tion’s been asked. Peo­ple who know what’s going on try to explain, only to per­haps go into too much detail, caus­ing the eyes of those who asked the ques­tion to glaze over and regret their hav­ing asked. So I’m not going to get into all that here.

This just appealed to my sense of fun to make this swap. It’s not like I haven’t made a char­ac­ter swap like this before! I’ve even swapped pub­lish­ers on this one. In my mind, this would’ve been pub­lished by Timely/Marvel. I even gave the Cap­tain a new/old logo, in line with the kind of logos they used back then.

And like many of you, I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what Mar­vel has done with their Cap­tain Mar­vel in the movie!

Weird Colors

It was recent­ly point­ed out to me that in Sav­age Drag­on #235, Erik Larsen had reprint­ed a bit of my old Big Bang Comics work. This was orig­i­nal­ly part of a larg­er sto­ry­line (I believe called “The Time­bomber”) spread over three issues, where Erik had loaned Big Bang Edi­tor Gary Carl­son the use of his Sav­age Drag­on char­ac­ter, and Drag­on was being bounced around through time, inter­act­ing with mul­ti­ple Big Bang char­ac­ters in dif­fer­ent eras. 

Gary had me con­tribut­ing to this sto­ry in sev­er­al ways, but the one that’s rel­e­vant here is that I pen­ciled and let­tered a three page seg­ment (nice­ly inked by Patrick Tuller), where Drag­on met up with Big Bang’s Dr. Weird. It orig­i­nal­ly appeared in Big Bang Comics #12. I chose to draw it in the style of Gold­en Age comics artist Bernard Bai­ly, prob­a­bly best known for his work on DC’s Spec­tre and Hour-Man strips. I also attempt­ed to match the let­ter­ing seen on those strips, which I’d assume is Bai­ly’s, but I don’t know for certain.

Back when I was orig­i­nal­ly work­ing on this, there were hopes that the issue might be print­ed in col­or, but it end­ed up in b/w. Because there had been that chance though, I actu­al­ly had done some col­or guides for the seg­ment, and I think I mailed col­or pho­to­copies of them to Gary.

Fast for­ward to this three-pager’s appear­ance in Sav­age Drag­on #235: Final­ly it gets to be seen in col­or! Even if any­one had remem­bered their exis­tence, the copies of my orig­i­nal col­or guides were like­ly nowhere to be found, so this was recol­ored from scratch. I thought per­haps vis­i­tors here might enjoy com­par­ing the two ver­sions, see­ing where some choic­es are the same, and oth­ers are different.

Just a cou­ple of comments/observations about the new ver­sion. I appre­ci­ate the fact that the col­orist who did this for re-pub­li­ca­tion stuck with the old school col­or palette. When you’re try­ing to do some­thing that looks and feels like a gen­uine old com­ic, noth­ing ruins the illu­sion faster than a col­or approach that isn’t from that time period!

Also, I noticed that a sort of end­ing cap­tion was added at the end of page 3 that was­n’t part of the orig­i­nal. Who­ev­er did it either recy­cled por­tions of the let­ter­ing I had done ear­li­er in the sto­ry to get what they need­ed, or attempt­ed to let­ter it from scratch so that it looked like my faux Bernard Bai­ly let­ter­ing. Either way: again, try­ing to pre­serve the illu­sion that this was the real deal. So: thumbs up for all of that!

 

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.

 

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!

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.

Qui est Cette Fille?

BandetteI’m con­tin­u­ing with the theme from last time, talk­ing about good comics I’ve read recent­ly. The rea­son this post’s title is in French will become clear in a bit.

This time out, it’s Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Ban­dette. From the moment I first saw art from this com­ic, I knew it would be right up my alley. But it’s only recent­ly that I was able to buy a copy. This is because up until now, Ban­dette did­n’t exist in phys­i­cal form. It was part of the Mon­key­brain line of dig­i­tal comics.

Here’s where I might sound like a bit of an old fogey, but I haven’t quite been able to cross over yet to pur­chas­ing comics that exist sole­ly in dig­i­tal form. I’m not anti-dig­i­tal media by any means! I love check­ing out my favorite web comics, and I love the fact that if I devel­oped a sud­den ran­dom crav­ing to buy mari­achi music at 2 am, I could pur­chase it instant­ly on iTunes. But even so, I can’t quite get past feel­ing a lit­tle odd over the fact there’s noth­ing phys­i­cal to show for those pur­chas­es. Feels a bit like buy­ing air, even though I know it’s not the case.

Any­how, in this case, I knew that as soon as Ban­dette became avail­able in phys­i­cal form, I’d want to pick up a copy. And I was not dis­ap­point­ed! Ban­dette Vol­ume One: Presto! is an absolute blast.

Her adven­tures take place in Paris (hence my post title). You might think from the visu­al that Ban­dette would be a super­heroine, but no! Actu­al­ly, she’s a thief! Albeit an incred­i­bly gift­ed one, (with “Presto!”, as she’d say) who occa­sion­al­ly comes to the aid of Police Inspec­tor Belgique.

Ban­dette is adorable, irre­press­ible, with je ne sais quoi and joie de vivre (and per­haps oth­er French phras­es that go beyond the extent of my lim­it­ed recall of my high school and col­lege French). You can’t help but like her! Some of it is due to the writ­ing (Paul Tobin dis­plays a tal­ent for giv­ing the dia­logue a French-feel­ing rhythm with­out resort­ing to pho­net­ic accents). A lot of it also comes from Colleen Coover’s art, which imbues Ban­dette with so much life and appeal, and spontaneity.

I’d think most read­ers junior high age and up (or old­er read­ers who are still some­what young at heart) will love this book. My only regret is that there isn’t a Vol­ume 2 ready to read right now! I’d def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend check­ing Ban­dette out, if you get the chance.

Before I close, it seems appro­pri­ate (giv­en my tim­ing, and the top­ic) to wish all my site vis­i­tors a joyeux noel et bonne année!

Ban­dette is ™ and © Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover.

Go, Molly, Go!

Molly Danger ColorIt’s occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I talked about any new comics I’ve read that I liked, and there’ve been more than a few recent­ly. So I thought this would be a good time to do that again.

This time out, I’m going to talk about Jamal Igle’s Mol­ly Dan­ger. Jamal is an artist and writer who has done a lot of work for DC, Mar­vel and oth­er pub­lish­ers. Mol­ly is the result of his decid­ing to throw his hat into the cre­ator-owned ring. I applaud when cre­ators do this. Not only is this good for the cre­ators, but we fans and read­ers win too!

Mol­ly Dan­ger is a ten-year-old girl, who just hap­pens to also have super-strength and invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. She’s the res­i­dent super­hero of Coop­ersville, NY, pro­tect­ing res­i­dents from the men­ace of the “Super­me­chs” that crop up from time to time. Mol­ly even has a whole sup­port team work­ing with her, called D.A.R.T. (the Dan­ger Action Response Team).

This vol­ume is the first of a pro­ject­ed four vol­ume series. The book’s for­mat is larg­er than a stan­dard com­ic and in hard­cov­er, kind of like some of the Euro­pean albums I’ve seen. It’s a fun, all-ages ride that Igle has craft­ed here. And “craft” is the right word, as every aspect of this is lov­ing­ly and appeal­ing­ly crafted.

I get some of the same sense of fun from this that I used to get from read­ing my favorite Mar­vel or DC Comics when I was a kid. Not to imply that this book is done in some kind of “retro” style, because it’s not. Igle and his crew are using all the mod­ern tools at their dis­pos­al. There are ele­ments in the writ­ing that you prob­a­bly would not have seen in an old com­ic, but they make the char­ac­ters more relat­able to both young and old­er mod­ern read­ers alike. If any­thing, I’d say that what Igle’s got going here is per­haps some­thing of a sign­post for how peo­ple could approach doing mod­ern all-ages super­hero comics.

Style­wise, I’d put Jamal in the camp of the “com­ic book real­ists.” I sus­pect per­haps artists like Kevin Maguire might have been an influ­ence on him. But for my draw­ing here, I elect­ed to go my own way with it. I was kind of curi­ous to see what Mol­ly might look like with the old school col­or palette.

If you’re still a fan of good all-ages comics like I am, you might want to give Mol­ly a look!

Mol­ly Dan­ger is ™ and © Jamal Igle and Com­pa­ny LLC.