Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's Green Hornet, You Jerks!

I go to check my email and look what I find. I don't know about you, but this kind of ignorance or incompetence or combination of both simply infuriates me. Seth Rogen is playing Green Hornet, not Green Lantern.

How hard is it to tell these characters apart? Green Hornet is Britt Reid, son of a wealthy newspaper publisher. He has no superpowers and fights crime with the help of his driver/expert martial artist Kato. Green Lantern is one of a number of interstellar police officers who keep the peace by wielding power rings, with which they can produce energy fields of various effects.

Wow! I am so, so angry right now! I am outraged! I want to punch something! I'm going to punch outer space, probably create a black hole of some kind! We'll see what happens when it devours our sun, won't we! I'm going to punch recorded history and probably wreck the timeline, so don't blame me if Belgium invents the television or birds evolve into supergeniuses with great big external brains for some reason, although such an adaptation would no doubt run counter to survival of the species. Blame those hacks at MSN!


PS: Congratulations, Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now That We're All Tired of Looking at My Crappy Art...

Here's a magnifique version of Supergirl by Steve "The Dude" Rude. I'm not a big fan of the current Supergirl. I much prefer the old school one when she was largely cheerful and relatively clothed. Steve Rude, however, gives the contemporary Supergirl some much-needed dignity.

Along with my "re-imagined" Cass Cain Batgirl, I thought up a Supergirl who was as conversant about Jacques Derrida as she was about Tokyo street fashion and whose biggest problem was biting off more than she could chew by trying too hard to make the world a better place. But superheroes who like twee-rock and building 100 houses in one day for Habitat for Humanity aren't "in" these days. The kids-- and by kids, I mean the 30-somethings who still read super-comics-- are more into their brooding, depressed heroes and their malt shops and hamburger sandwiches and dancing the Lindy Hop until 9pm like a bunch of hooligans.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When Superman and Hellboy Meet...

What a crop of mummy wheat.

I don't have a clue as to what's happening here. Did Hellboy goose Superman with his Right Hand of Doom, causing the Man of Steel to jump? If so, why does Hellboy look distressed over it? Why are they doing this in front of what appears to be a row of tenements? Where is that commercial airliner going? What kind of birds are those? What city is this? Is it spring, or is it fall?

Writers who claim Superman is impossible to write just aren't trying hard enough. A meeting with Superman should be like meeting the best professional athlete on the best team and finding out he thinks of nothing all day but how to use his fame and wealth and skills to help sick children. Hellboy, on the other hand, has a more blue collar sensibility. He works hard, he plays hard.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Comic Reviews!

Groo #1/Hellboy #1: I love the "#1 for $1.00" books. I mean, paying a buck for a comic is a pure kick, even if the books are just reprints. I haven't read an issue of Groo in years, but have many fond memories of the series, which apparently destroyed as many publishers as Groo has ships. Of course the always-brillian Sergio Aragones provides the story and art, abetted by Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo and former Jack Kirby pal Mark Evanier. This book reprints the 1998 Dark Horse premiere of everyone's favorite nincompoopish barbarian-- no, not Conan. The simple story holds up quite well. It's a treat to see Aragones's artwork, especially in sequential form. His panels are bursting with figures and action and Evanier's rhyming script is playful. The biggest problem is, the story sets up the mystery of why formerly stupid Groo has suddenly become something of a genius, and if there's no "#2 for $1.00," we'll never know why!

Hellboy has a script by John Byrne, and while it lacks the quirkiness of Mignola's own writing, it's still punchy and energetic. The first person present-tense narration is wholly unnecessary (although I'll admit it wasn't as cliche and tiresome in 1994 as it is now, though), but Byrne and Mignola provide ample proof of concept-- Hellboy is hands-down own of my favorite comic book characters. I love when Hellboy kills a hideous frog-creature and snaps, "Well... that's all for you!" Mignola's art isn't as stylized and geometric as it's become in the years since, but it's instantly recognizable--lots of black, page layouts with panels that work almost in any order, little Mignola-esque peculiarities like the wealth of 19th century photographs in ornate frames decorating the backgrounds of ominous Victorian sitting rooms. Oh, and more weathered stone carvings than you're likely to find anywhere outside the British Museum.

Two bucks for these two books is sweet bargain. You can do without a couple Wendy's Super Value Menu items; feed your brain instead.

The Complete Torpedo 1 is not for the squeamish. It's pretty violent and the emotions on display are crude, as is the character Torpedo himself. Sanchez Abuli's anti-hero is a nasty killer-for-hire during the mob days of the 1930s and fittingly, he's pretty amoral. Alex Toth handled the art on the first two stories, then bowed out when he realized he wasn't a match for Arbuli's cheerful cynicism. But the stories are pulpy, briskly paced and expertly plotted. Toth and Bernet do wonders with simple black and white compositions and period details. Arbuli doesn't try to make Torpedo particularly likable or excuse him. He's a horrible bastard.

Our Army at War Featuring Sgt. Rock #1 is not only a one-shot, it's the one DC book I'll probably buy this year. I picked it up for two reasons: 1) a Joe Kubert cover and 2) Sgt. Rock. As exciting as it is to see Kubert drawing Rock, the results are pretty disappointing. The story by Mike Martz splits its plot between WWII action featuring Rock as a supporting character and present-day Afghanistan where a team of GI Joe-like mercenaries help a group of American soldiers do... something. It's really too fragmentary to tell what. The WWII soldiers talk about a "major initiative" and a village, but when the action starts, the village vanishes, while the modern day soldiers suddenly rappel from helicopters with no little clue as to how they got there. And while Bob Kanigher's Sgt. Rock was ridiculously super-competent as a soldier (he once shot down a Stuka with a rifle grenade), his modern-day counterparts are even more over-the-top and jarring in a comic told in this supposedly naturalistic, modern-day fashion using all-too-recent real world events as a plot device. Especially when they're called "Captain Duncan and his Gods of War," and a narrative caption assures us they're as "real as it gets..." Duncan is approximately 8 feet tall, by the way. Artist Victor Ibanez has a nice clean line, it's not particularly suited to the material, something reinforced by Kubert's impressionistic cover. His research could be a little better, too-- the helmets the WWII soldiers wear look really strange, with the proportions of the toy plastic ones we had as kids in my neighborhood. I know Kubert's soldiers look even less accurate, but his work is muscular, with a feel of movement and energy; it captures the violence and butchery of combat in a way Ibanez's static panels can't match. The ending packs an emotional punch, even if the actual story events are somewhat obscured by Ibanez's poor panel-to-panel flow and the script's abrupt timeframe shifts. I'd rather read a prose account about the War on Terror, thanks, or some old school Sgt. Rocks.

The Walking Dead #74, 75, 76: Rick has become the constable of a walled township, but his inability to adjust and heavy-handed ways lead to conflict. It seems our boy has become almost as much a danger to the survivors as the hungry corpses staggering around outside. As always, Robert Kirkman puts much more emphasis on character than horror and the result is compulsively, addictively readable. And when someone does fall-- either to a zombie or a murderous human-- you feel it. It matters. Here, Kirkman gives Rick a dilemma that tests his survival skills and traumatized psyche to their limits-- after the end of the world, we may not all become brothers and sisters living in communal bliss; some of the evils that were cancers eating away at the old society will persist and fester in the new. How does a man so used to violent solutions they've become reflex deal with this? And what if his methods present a greater evil and he's now a threat to peace and security? Charlie Adlard's loose combination of expressionism and realism and his sure-footed storytelling guide readers through an almost cinematic experience. Adlard is a vastly underrated artist and should be recognized as one of the medium's leading storytellers. At once! Cliff Rathburn's gray tones add mood, giving the book a look reminiscent of George Romero's first zombie flick. Very appropriate.

Stephen King The Stand: Hardcases #2, 5: I have mixed feelings about Stephen King, but I have enjoyed a few of his earlier books. The Stand is one I re-read every once in a while, when I'm in the mood to destroy the world. Marvel's adaptation reads a bit like a Cliff's Notes version, hitting all the familiar plot points and introducing all the expected characters-- Trashcan Man, Lloyd Henried, Bruce Spring-- er-- Larry Underwood and the like, and putting them in motion. But it lacks the emotional resonance of King's novel. The characters aren't doing or saying these things because of their inner workings, but because the machinations of the adaptation require them to. It's all too mechanical. Still, there's more for King fans here than the fairly decent 1994 TV adaptation. Mike Perkins's art hews close to photorealism and photo referencing-- sometimes unfortunately so as certain characters can appear inadvertantly grotesque and the poor acting of the models sometimes shows through a bit too accurately in the facial expressions and awkward posing. This also gives certain panels a staged, sedentary look. Laura Martin's colors are vivid and naturalistic if a little too "sky blue/grass green." They make the pages pop, though.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Batgirl... Again!

More inking practice. This took about... oh... 2 minutes. It's Cass Cain again. For some reason whenever I'm playing around, I tend to draw her a lot. Usually I do my retro-styled Cass, but sometimes I do the actual DC Cass. Or how she used to be in her glory days.

This drawing looks a little like Paul Pope. If he ever tried to draw holding the pen with his foot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Someone's About to Get Hurt...

Here's a doodle I did of my version of Cass "Batgirl" Cain versus... er... my version of the new Robin. Not the little kid Robin who talks like Frazier Crane after staying up all night reading Sun Tzu; the one before that. Tim Drake? Is that his name?

Doesn't matter. He's not gonna be around much longer.

Lesson learned? I am no inker.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kim Pine Almost Complete...

Getting closer. I need to tighten it up a bit, re-do her nose, which I'm not happy with. Maybe add a background of some kind.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kim Pine Smokes?

Or maybe it's Alison Pill. Whoever it is, this is a quick-n-dirty painting I'm working on now, slopping down the colors.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Batgirl Speaks...

It's my re-designed version of the Cass Cain Batgirl, reading someone the riot act. Probably Robin. She hates Robin and takes every opportunity to beat his ass. Taking a cue from the original comic book Cass's lack of interest in the whole "secret identity" thing, my Cass only occasionally wears her mask. Since she's not interested in having a personal life apart from being Batgirl, she sees no reason-- other than the intimidation factor-- to hide her face. Also, the mask tends to restrict her peripheral vision. In fact, she's often in such a hurry to get out into the city and start breaking heads, she forgets even to take the mask with her. The cape is just an accent piece since it otherwise has no function whatsoever. She also wears the capsule-style utility belt because she doesn't particularly need tools of any kind, much preferring to use her fists and feet. When she does need equipment for a specialty mission, she substitutes the pouch belt.

I put way more thought into that than I did this goofy li'l sketch.

If You've Ever Wanted to See Neal Adams Riding in the Batmobile, Here's Your Chance!

You have wanted to see this, right? You entire life has been leading up to this point, from the time the thought first struck you-- how cool it would be to see Neal Adams riding in the Batmobile from the Batman TV show-- until now, its fulfillment. Go forth now in joy. You are complete.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Completed Capt. Kirk Painting...

And into my portfolio it goes. Not perfect, but it's finished and I'm pleased with the stick-to-itiveness I showed in doing this massive work. Those stars were tedious!

My biggest artistic influence on this was a Japanese movie poster painter. I have no idea what this person's name is, but I got to see some original paintings on exhibition and was struck by how "painterly" they were, with visible brushstrokes and a lot of vigor. I aspire to be that good one day.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sometimes Gold Key Star Trek Comics Are Just Too Weird...

I mean, what's going on here? Mr. Spock never uses words like "FUNKAAAYYY!" As a Star Trek fan, this kind of out-of-character dialogue just throws me right out of the story.

"Scott, If Your Life Had a Face, I Would Punch It."

"I would punch your life in the face." Kim Pine update. Working on the track jacket, having fun. The face makes me nervous. Soon I will begin a painting of Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. The pencil sketch is complete.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clint Eastwood as Superman? Yeah, No Thanks...

If you've ever wondered what Clint Eastwood might look like in Superman's outfit or James Bond's tuxedo, the LA Times's Hero Complex has an interview you have to read. It's also worth checking out to learn Eastwood's views on the superhero film genre and his childhood love for the Sub-Mariner comics.

I love me some Clint Eastwood. I think along with his iconic status as an actor and persona, he's America's best filmmaker, bar none. Who else would have the physical and intellectual vigor to make not one but two war pictures about the battle for Iwo Jima and the universal regard for and interest in humanity to tell it from both sides with equal care? And I have to admit I get a huge kick out of his earlier flicks, too.

Just last night, I watched both Magnum Force and The Enforcer for the umpteenth time. I love the Dirty Harry series. Sure, I deplore Harry Callahan's fascistic and incredibly inept approach to law enforcement-- I'm reminded of the line from David Fincher's Zodiac where real-life San Francisco homicide inspector Dave Toschi as played by Mark Ruffalo dismisses him with sarcasm, saying, "No need for due process, right?"

The series's uncritical endorsement of police brutality and even institutionalized sexism by way of various strawman scenes makes me uneasy, similar to how I can thrill to the storytelling in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns while understanding and rejecting the stacked-deck nature of his political beliefs.

Sure, Harry protests in Magnum Force he may hate the system but he'll work within it until someone comes up with a better idea. That's disingenuous given his track record, to say the least. It's a clumsy way to make his violent approach to justice seem reasonable compared to Hal Holbrook's even more violent approach. He gets Tyne Daly as a partner in The Enforcer, but not before he humiliates a hatchet-faced caricature of a feminist at a trial board.

Ignoring politics, these movies have a visceral impact. It's cool watching Harry take down murderous cops-- David Soul, Robert Urich and Tim "Otter" Matheson!-- and violent Symbionese Liberation Army types. Looked at from a realistic standpoint and given my admittedly limited knowledge of actual police procedures, even I can tell Harry and his various partners are lousy cops. In Dirty Harry, he stakes out a building where he knows a sniper will be hiding-- and doesn't even bother to establish a perimeter, so the suspect slips away out the back door.

From actor to director, Eastwood has grown as a cinematic storyteller through the years and I've really come to admire his later body of work, starting around the time of Pale Rider. Unforgiven is one of my all-time favorite films and Letters from Iwo Jima is heartbreaking. To me, though, his masterpiece is Million Dollar Baby, my model for what a film should be. The only political statement I came away from that film with was we humans are complex, fascinating creatures and our lives are all too frequently tragic. It's hard to believe Million Dollar Baby was directed by the guy in the sport coat staring from behind a .44 Magnum and asking us if we felt lucky.

Can you imagine that same guy in blue and red tights, cavorting with Lois Lane? Apparently, someone at Warner Bros. could, at least in the late 60s or very early 70s. I really enjoyed reading his views on Christopher Reeve's performance as the Man of Steel: "[He] was excellent," and the recognition of the kind of typecasting he might have faced had he donned the cape himself, obviously different from that of playing a cop or gunfighter. Eastwood did-- and still does with a number of people if his and Martin Scorsese's message boards on IMDB are to be believed-- have to overcome a certain amount of typecasting as he moved into directing. Who expected the guy who helmed the violent revenge pic The Outlaw Josey Wales to take on Charles Parker's story in Bird and do it with grace and sensitivity to both the man's biography and his music?

Ultimately, I tend to agree with Eastwood's views on superhero movies, and I'm glad he-- just as Harry Callahan would have it-- knew his limitations. Taking the Superman role would have been a disaster for him, easily the equal to John Wayne's portrayal of Genghis Khan.

Now what I'm wondering is-- what was it about the Sub-Mariner, an anti-establishment knockabout type at war with land-dwelling humanity-- that appealed to young Eastwood? The Sub-Mariner was a wild man back when Bill Everett first created him. An anti-hero who delighted in destroying Manhattan with tidal waves and sperm whale assaults. Maybe Eastwood just liked the action and mayhem, divorced from subtext or even context in the same way I enjoy the Dirty Harry flicks. I want to think about this and see if I can identify a strain of Sub-Mariner mayhem in Eastwood's filmology.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Captain Kirk: The Next Iteration!

"Come back! Come back, you disloyal bastards!"

Kirk's a bit overworked, I think. But I haven't painted in a long while. This is the first time I've ever painted the Enterprise-- still have a ways to go on the ship. Overall, I want this to look like an insane version of something you might see on one of those old Star Trek paperbacks from Bantam, the ones where James Blish adapts various episodes as short stories. Those things were awesome and they had the coolest cover art.

And next a little surprise...


Yeah, it's Alison Pill as Kim Pine from Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. This is the preliminary stage where I'm just laying down colors. I can already see I'll need to fix her left hand. Also, here's hoping I can take what I've learned from Kirk up there and not over-render this. I'd like the finish to be sort of 60s paperback cover style. As if Alan Drury, James Michener or Mary Ellen Chase wrote a bestseller about Kim Pine and it came out in a mass market softcover edition just before the release of the prestige studio motion picture adaptation directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Julie Christie as Kim Pine.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kevin Nowlan's The New Mutants #51... and a Digression Regarding the Previous Issue

I don’t know what’s more surprising—that people sent hate mail to Marvel about Kevin Nowlan’s art for The New Mutants #51… or that Nowlan has apparently kept all of it! Taking a look at the book, I can see some of the issues people had with Nowlan’s work, especially since angry fan David Snyder helpfully included a point-by-point list of all the objectionables, which I’ll reproduce here complete with his unique grammar and spelling:

1) The cover, Cannonball looks like Jughead from Archie.
2) The cover, I didn’t even recognize Magma.
3) Pg 3 panel 4, That does not look like Lilandra
4) Pg 8 panel 3, What happened to Magneto, he looks like a cross between Dick Tracy and Superman.
5) Pg 13 panel 3, Did Mirage gain weight since last issue, she looked a little pudgy?
6) Pg 14, panel 2, What happened to Illyanas lips, they look bloated.
7) Pg 15 panel 1, Come on Professor X would never have an expression like that.
8) Pg 22 panel 3, Has Magneto been sipping into the booze lately?I mean the man has a terrible beer belly.
9) It seems like everybody got a haircut in SPACE since last issue, get real.

I guess people just weren't ready for Nowlan in 1987, despite Marvel putting stylists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Steve Leialoha and Rick Leonardi on the book (the Keith Pollard/Dell Barras issue #39 is particularly pretty, by the way). I wonder how much hate mail their issues generated? I wasn't reading The New Mutants at this time, but I wish I had been. Nowlan's cover looks downright Tothian-- that's the adjective form of "Alex Toth"-- and the interior art is a fun mix of solid figurative realism with peculiar little touches, like extra-sharp nostrils and vanishing eyeballs. Dani in particular seems to have obsidian shards in place of eyeballs, but it works.

David Snyder's first bit of criticism, however, couldn't be aimed at Nowlan's work: “Also just about every time I pick up an issue nobody looks the right age.”

I feel certain he was actually expressing his displeasure with the previous issue, with art by Jackson Guice and John Beatty. Their Dani looks a lot like Patti Smith at times. Now, Patti Smith is awesome, don’t get me wrong. She’s someone I definitely idolize and one of our greatest living Americans. But in this story Dani can’t be any older than 18, so there’s no reason for her to resemble Patti Smith at 41. Physically; we—Dani included-- should all try to be more like Patti Smith, if at all possible.

"Because the Night."

Still, that's nothing compared to what happens elsewhere in The New Mutants #50. While the characters' ages is in question, I really hope beyond hope Illyana’s at least 18, because there's a completely gratuitous scene were a talking space ape attempts to sell her at auction after ripping her X-uniform in such a way Lady Gaga would blush (George Lucas circa 1982 applauds appreciatively, though). And when Illyana objects, space-ape zaps her with some kind of ograzmo-ray that gives her an expression of pure sexual bliss while he fondles her half-naked body and decribes how easy it would be to "condition" her. Yikes!

And Claremont is in such a hurry to get to this sequence, he doesn't bother to show us how Illyana got there. All we know is she teleported looking for Professor X.

This is one aspect of Chris Claremont's work that always disturbs me-- you just never know when a story where the New Mutants kids having a slumber party or visiting the mall will suddenly take on BDSM subtext, or even text. For a writer with a reputation for creating strong female characters, Claremont seems to revel in putting them into bondage situations with barely restrained sexual overtones. There's nothing that isn't gratuitious in this scene. Claremont could just as easily have had Illyana being chased, or fighting city guards and in need of Professor X's help. She didn't need to be groveling, her costume didn't need to be torn and the addition of the pleasure ray is just completely bizarre.

Strangely enough, for writer also known for text heavy panels full of character-building dialogue or internal monologues-- and there are some doozies later in this story where the word balloons look like a badly-erected big top collapsing on circus performers-- Claremont completely tosses out everything we know about Illyana up to this point, too. Remember, Illyana is a character who routinely bosses around demons, casts spells, has magic "soul sword and eldritch armor" and has faced down the end of the world as we know it dozens of times without flinching.

He gifts Illyana with an "objecting delightfully, oh so helpless damsel" characterization right out a spicy pulp tale or barbarian fantasy and makes sure she can manage no more than a shrill, ineffective protest. On her hands and knees. But no real fighting back allowed, once-and-future Queen of Limbo. And this is before the slave trader zaps her with the pleasure ray.

At least she's not tied up, I guess.

There are probably a lot of barely-suppressed fetishes and sexual hang-ups inherent in most superhero stories. They are, after all, largely power fantasies involving impossibly idealized physiques in various stages of undress. But here it's like Claremont's suggesting a parallel scenario for the reader where Professor X doesn't show up and Guice's dull but adequate art gives way to Guido Crepax's spectacular decadence. Especially when Xavier points out later how Illyana, under the ray's influence, is "aware of all that is happening. But she doesn't care." More Gor than Story of O.

If anything, Nowlan’s issue is an improvement in every way over #50. His Dani, Xi’an and Illyana look age-appropriate—in fact, they’re downright cute throughout-- and, amazingly, Claremont’s script is, too. No bizarre teen girl bondage scenarios, thank Kirby. In fact, Nowlan's Mutants look so young, I'm not sure the Comics Code would have passed it otherwise. What does Claremont give us instead?


Just good old fashioned cultural stereotyping! Who could possibly object to that? Under stress, Xi'an reverts to French-- apparently because Vietnamese is too hard-- and Dani talks in rodeo metaphors before concluding, "Heck, it's almost fun!" All that's missing is a leprechaun saying, "Aye, lassie, t'be sure, faith an' Begorah!"

PS-- Thanks to the always entertaining Not Blog X for providing the original link, and Kevin Nowlan for saving his hate mail!

Monday, September 6, 2010

We Need More Star Trek Comics!

Actually, thanks to IDW Publishing, we have plenty. Star Trek is one of those properties that doesn't really lend itself to the comic book medium-- it's too static. Lots of stiff, uniformed people standing around around the captain's chair. Nothing illuminates this difficulty like Marvel's atrocious Star Trek/X-Men books. Gold Key pulled it off by making the stories more Flash Gordon than Gordon Cooper. Marvel couldn't match the success of their Star Wars series when they adapted the first movie into a one-shot and a short-lived monthly. I rarely read Malibu's or DC's versions very often, and when I did, I quickly fell asleep. Strangely enough, I've enjoyed John Byrne's various IDW Trek books-- especially Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor.

Byrne has a loose style that lets him slightly caricature McCoy and the rest of the cast so he's not destroying panel-to-panel flow with portrait shots (like my little unfinished Kirk sketch above; I'll tighten it up a bit tomorrow and add it to the ol' portfolio)-- a common failing in DC's Trek comics. And he excels at hard sci-fi; even during his Fantastic Four days, Byrne worked in a number of science fiction concepts, usually in the interest of debunking common comic book tropes. Frontier Doctor is still full of dialogue sequences with people standing around jawing at each other and explaining things. Kind of reminds me of romance book storytelling, but then Byrne always had a way with quiet, character moments even when doing superheroics.

He obviously knows his classic Trek, too. Byrne's Trek books are what Gold Key might have done if they hadn't aimed their stories at children.

Still, those old Gold Key Star Treks have something all the subsequent series have lacked-- charm. I don't mind the rehashed plots-- ghost planets, space pirates, shrink rays (Kirk even gets tied down a la Gulliver's Travels in that one), de-aging (once by mechanical device and later by radioactivity) and the like-- the blond Scotty, the Kirk who often looks like Hoagy Carmichael or the green shirts on the crew instead of the familiar gold, blue and red. Those books are total fun.

And we need more fun in our comics. Kirk certainly does. He looks a bit stressed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sam "Cannonball" Guthrie Gets No Respect...

Nor does he deserve any.

No, I'm kidding. I kid Sam Guthrie because I love. He's easily my third favorite castmember of The New Mutants after Dani Moonstar and Xi'an Coy Manh. Sam was always so unsure of himself and clumy while using his powers. When he replaced Xi'an as team leader, he was doomed to failure. Dani was pretty unsteady in the early going, but she had more personal force, so it was natural for her to assume command once she got over her flirtations with cowardice and mental illness. But Sam remained the team's heart and soul, a genuinely nice fella who acted as big brother to the other kids.

I bought the first issue of the Chris Claremont scripted The New Mutants Forever the other day. I'd never been especially fond of Al Rio's pencils but after seeing them under Bob McLeod's inks, I could possiby become a fan. The book looks a lot like a classic mid-80s issue of the original series; the only thing I don't like-- and this is fannish of me-- is the strange shape Rio gives to Dani's head and hair. She looks like she's borrowed the top part and bangs from Brice "Wesley" Beckham.

The story reads like an old issue, too. Not only do we get the book's prime cast as teenagers, but Claremont also brings his old school scripter's voice. You know, stacks of wordy narrative captions and every character seems to speak or think in the same awkward, overly-declarative cadence-- frequently while stating something which would be obvious to themeselves or others-- we remember so fondly from when we were junior high kids just re-discovering the new, more mature-themed funny books of the day.

The most Claremont-esque moment is when Doug Ramsey thinks to himself, "I may not have phyical powers like the others... but I can old my own in a fight." During the fight. While kicking a guy. I'm kind of surprised Claremont didn't have Doug describe to himself all the other times he's proven this.

The story just bursts into full plot with no preliminaries, too. I felt as though I'd missed an issue or two of the monthly. Apparently, this tale takes place around the time Magneto took over Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Rio and McLeod put the kids in costumes a bit different than their original suits, but not as ugly as the outfits later artists stuck them with; there's an in-story explanation for it, which actually seems to be something Claremont tossed in after he took a gander at the art for the first time. A kind of "Thank God we invented the... you know... whatever device" moment.

Anyway, this fulfills one of my many comic book wishes-- a New Mutants story with the original team set in the good old days, one not tied into some huge company-wide crossover story where the characters get lost in the mix-- kind of like what's been happening in the New Mutants ongoing. Hell, I bought issue #16 of that at the same time and none of the starring cast even appears in it. It's all about four-star generals in berets and insanely babbling scientists in Hell or something.

An issue without your main cast would be fine if they'd had more than cameos in the previous few issues. Mind you, this issue is the caboose of a massive storyline train that reduced our stars to mere stowaways in the mail car. I was hoping Butch Cassiday and the Sundance Kid would ride up and blow that baby to smithereens. Hmm. Maybe it's not just Sam who gets no respect; maybe it's the creative team for New Mutants. We've seen little glimpses of what they're capable of, but I'm starting to think this title is little more than a vehicle for crap that wouldn't fit in the main X-books with Dani and the rest as afterthoughts. They should change the title to Things That Vaguely Affect Various Mutants Until We Introduce Them as Plot Elements in Our Main Books and Occasionally Dani Moonstar Shows Up to Punch Sam Guthrie in the Face.

Not so with The New Mutants Forever. It's self-contained as far as I can tell. So much so, I'm not even sure of the context, but it doesn't matter because... Dani. Too bad Xi'an isn't in it. That'd make it perfect. I really have to applaud Marvel for putting out a book aimed squarely at a demographic of one-- me. Actually, the biggest disappointment with this comic is it's only five issues. I'd like Marvel to know I'd go miles out of my to buy an ongoing series with this cast, this creative team and unmoored from current Marvel universe narrative. Just a sweet focus on the team I love and want to read about.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Don Knotts Comics & Stories: A Comic Book Series Proposal!

This is what the world needs: a Dell-style comic book series devoted to beloved comedian Don Knotts. It should be an anthology book, too. Why an anthology? Because Don Knotts left us with a legacy of so many high-strung yet well-meaning characters, it's impossible to choose simply one as the focus.

And also because to match the genius of Knotts with the brilliance of this idea, we have to start with his signature portrayal. You know who I mean. After all, Knotts won 4 Emmys playing him!

Deputy Bernard Milton Fife. Or, occasionally, Barney P. Fife. Or even, in one memorable episode, Bernard Oliver Fife. Whatever his name, we can certainly call Barney Fife an incredible character, brilliantly played and certainly deserving of his own comic strip. That's why our lead feature is entitled "Andy and Barney," an 8- to 10-page strip, running bi-monthly. The main character is, of course, Knotts as Deputy Fife of Mayberry, North Carolina, with Andy Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor and the rest of the show's cast-- including Aunt Bee, Opie, Helen Crump, Floyd the barber, Otis the lovable alcoholic, Rafe Hollister, the Darlings and others in supporting roles.

As per the TV series The Andy Griffith Show, these stories revolve around Barney's overzealous attempts at enforcing the law, with Andy using his homespun wisdom and intelligence to restore order. In one script I've taken the liberty to prepare, Barney attempts to procure a stop light for Mayberry's main street, despite Andy's protests that not only isn't traffic heavy enough to warrant one, but also they don't even have an intersection. While trying to prove the necessity of his idea, Barney causes all sorts of traffic headaches, leading Andy to declare, "You beat everything, you know that?"

In another, Barney runs afoul of Ernest T. Bass and Andy is chosen by the town to referee a wrestling match between the two while also trying to prevent it from occurring in the first place!

The back-up stories would vary in length and in these, we'd showcase Knotts's other comedic characters-- Roy Fleming, the reluctant astronaut; Hollis Figg, the bumbling bookkeeper's assistant who constantly tangles with criminals; Dr. Jesse W. Hayward, the shakiest gun in the West; and Abner Audubon Peacock IV, the love god. If we can secure the rights, I'd love to also do some shorts featuring Tim Conway as Knotts's partner in crime, as it were.

On alternate months, when the lead doesn't run, the book would feature full-length adaptations of Don Knotts's many films, such as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Incredible Mr. Limpet (I believe this was already adapted once and could simply be a reprint) and most especially-- the two Apple Dumpling Gang flicks (with Conway) and their 1981 classic, The Private Eyes. In fact, the latter might also become the lead after we've exhausted the rest of Knotts's filmography. The two characters, Inspector Winship and Dr. Tart, could easily sustain a variety of Les Aventures de Tintin-like stories, with occasional detours into horror around Halloween each year as they pursue the terrible Wookalar.

I recognize the licensing aspect of this series may be something of a deterrent to the more timid publishers. But a company with the derring-do to match my visionary creativity would jump at this idea, with me in charge-- editing and scripting-- and reap the vast profits. How about it, publishers? Any takers?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jurassic Dork: A Comic Page...

This is the final page of a 3-page comic I did way back in 1993 as a Christmas gift for friends in lieu of spending money. A few years later, after learning Photoshop, I went back and added gray tones. Really went to town on them, too.

The end result is an awkward, muddy mix of styles, realistic images slavishly rendered from stills (actually Topps Jurassic Park bubblegum cards), terrible anatomy on the semi-cartooned protagonist, absolutely no panel-to-panel flow because of an over-reliance on reference, some tangents, poor word balloon placement. Just about every no-no, and the first 2 pages are no better; they're mercifully lost. If I were reviewing this as part of an actual comic book story, I'd slam the bejeezus out of it. Wait... I just did!

Hopefully, I've learned a lot in the last 17 years. Anyway, enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cavorting Comic Characters Meet Anton Chigurh....

When I taught English in Japan, I sometimes had downtime between classes or at the tail end of my dinner break. I either read or sketched. One incredible thing about Japan is the wide variety of pens available-- to make a generalization, the Japanese love to write. And draw.

These are little doodles I did with a cool little pen I found at BellMart (a kind of mini-convenience store) at Hamamatsu Station. One tip was black, the other gray. I immediately put it to work making faux gray wash drawings. You might spot a few DC and Marvel favorites mixed in with some originals of my own. My favorite is the poor man's Alex Toth Batman hallucinating Dan Clowes's beloved Ghost World character Enid Coleslaw. I believe if Batman and Enid went toe-to-toe, no holds barred, Enid would kick the Caped Crusader's punk ass into the sun.

Oh yeah-- these were done on a spare lesson plan I had lying around. Sometimes students didn't show and my boss would forget to reclaim the lessons. Most of them ended up in the filing cabinet for possible future use, but a few ended up decorated in this ludicrous way!