Tag Archives: Silver Age

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.

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!

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.

What Have I Done??”

So back when I first start­ed this site, I had in mind cre­at­ing a tra­di­tion of doing Franken­stein-relat­ed art for Hal­loween, when I had time. It’s been awhile since I did one. So here you go!

Mil­ton the Mon­ster is one of those car­toons from my child­hood that I’ve always looked back on fond­ly. Cer­tain car­toon prop­er­ties are well-remem­bered and seem to come back for revivals every so often. Mil­ton is one of those car­toons that seems to have slid into obscu­ri­ty, unfor­tu­nate­ly. Most car­toon fans either don’t remem­ber it, or have nev­er heard of it.

For those who don’t know about the show, the con­cep­t’s right there in the show’s theme song! Take a look. I had­n’t watched the show in a long time, so doing this cov­er was an excuse to watch some episodes and refresh my mem­o­ry. Yes, it’s def­i­nite­ly lim­it­ed TV ani­ma­tion, and the jokes can get a lit­tle corn­ball, but I still get a kick out of it. If some­one were to actu­al­ly do a revival of this show, it would be a blast to be involved!

Search­ing for actu­al char­ac­ter mod­els to draw from, I could­n’t find any. I have a sense that TV ani­ma­tion in the ’60s some­times had a much broad­er inter­pre­ta­tion of “on-mod­el” than what it does now, or even when I start­ed work­ing in ani­ma­tion in the ear­ly ’90s. It’s sur­pris­ing to see how much the look of the char­ac­ters on this show can fluc­tu­ate from episode to episode, depend­ing on the animator.

And of course, this had to be a Gold Key cov­er. They actu­al­ly did pub­lish one issue of a Mil­ton the Mon­ster com­ic back in the mid-’60s. If you were a kid in the ’60s and want­ed to buy a com­ic book fea­tur­ing your favorite ani­mat­ed character(s), Gold Key had the rights pret­ty much sewn up to all of them!

Any­way, I hope you enjoy this. And Hap­py Halloween!

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 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.

 

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! 🙂