Archive for January, 2007

HAM DAY

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ULTIMATE CIVIL WAR SPIDER-HAM CRISIS #1 (that’s a mouthful) hits store shelves today. I have to say that of all the various projects I worked on last year, this one is the one I had the most fun with. I was never a huge SPIDER-HAM fan… but I always thought he was fun character– and he was a lot of fun to draw. There are so many great artists involved with this book– the legendary John Severin, Jim Mahfood, Ariel Olivetti and Skottie Young among them. It’s an honor to be in this book with these great folks. I have been privy to seeing a lot of the work done by the other artists ahead of time– and I think folks are going to enjoy this book if they decide to pick it up.

Some one made a comment over on my DEVIANTART gallery that the silhouette of my SPIDER-HAM looked like CEREBUS. It’s a great observation. When it came time to sit down and start drawing the cover and pages, I felt like I didn’t want to emulate what artists had done before with the character.. I wanted to go in a slightly different direction with him–and Dave Sim’s way of drawing his signature character gave me a bit of inspiration. It’s a trend that I’ve notice over the years that fans want to get sketches from an artist of the books they’ve worked on in their careers. I was never asked to draw commissions of the THING very often before I began working on FANTASTIC FOUR. The same goes for most of the other books I’ve worked on. And I get the feeling that now that this SPIDER-HAM book is hitting today that in the future, I might be asked quite a few times to draw him. That’ll be just fine… he’s certainly a blast to draw.

OK… gotta get back to work– if you pick up the book, leave a comment here and let me know what you think.

This is Entry 333.

ULTIMATE SUPERBOY

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With the recent release of the strange TEASER IMAGE from DC a couple of years back, it seems that the dark days for superheroes will continue. I could see the covers with “NOW WITH EVEN MORE ADDED DEATH!!!” blurbs on them to attract readers. It seems as though with all the death and mayhem going on at both DC and MARVEL combined with the super-heavy continuity element to the stories, the Big 2 may have given up on attracting new readers to the comic book marketplace. I don’t see any 13 year old picking up CIVIL WAR or whatever this upcoming DC book will be and being particularly drawn to all the darkness and death. That’s why I think that books like ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN are such a good idea. Much of the ULTIMATE line is about as dark as anything going on with the original versions these days…. but I think ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has had a pretty big impact not only in the direct market… but also in the brick and mortar book stores where the trades are very popular with new readers.

I was thinking that the ALL STAR line at DC might buck the dark trend… and the SUPERMAN title seems to have done that, but the BATMAN AND ROBIN title is as harsh, if not more so, than other superhero books out now (not that it’s anything more than an annual these days… I think it’s vying for the title for latest comic in the world). I would have loved to see a small line based on their major icons that featured the characters in very young versions. Young heroes coming into their own and discovering their limits and foibles as they grow as people as well as champions is something that’s very appealing to me, even as an older reader… and I can’t help but think it would also be attractive to potential readers as well. I would think that a small line of books, not handled in the ‘ADVENTURES’ manner, could be very popular.

So with that in mind, I did today’s SUPERBOY sketch. Of course, with the legal battles between DC and the Siegels over the ownership of the character, a SUPERBOY title would not be possible, but it could still be titled SUPERMAN, even with the character being a teen. Anyway… it’s not something likely to ever happen.. but it’s fun to think about at any rate.

This is Entry 332.

Mike

DEVELOPMENT

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As I’ve said many times in the past, I tend to need to do development sketches of most everything that’s going to be ‘on screen’ in the books I work on. So for today– which will be just a quick in-and-out because I’ve got so much work to do– I thought I’d post a few of the sketches I did for various things that appeared in the FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD stuff I worked on. From issue #2, there’s Mary Jane wearing a short little night-shirt. From issue #4, there’s Tony Stark and the scientist/lab guys who were doing research on Peter’s new powers. From issue #5, there’s the disturbed young girl who had delusions that SPIDER-MAN was stalking her. And from issue #9, there’s the guards that were trying to keep HOBGOBLIN 2211 from escaping her confinement.

OK… that’s it for another week. Sorry for the quick post–but duty calls.

This is 331.

Mike

JEFF SMITH, CAPTAIN MARVEL and TALKY TAWNY

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One of the comics that I am most looking forward to this coming year is the new SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY of EVIL by Jeff Smith. Jeff has been keeping a running journal about his process over on his BLOG/Web site. I’ve been a HUGE Jeff Smith fan since I first discovered BONE #3 in a small comic shop in Lynchburg, Virginia back…. jeez…. it must be about 17 years or so ago. I had never seen anything quite like BONE– or Smith’s work. It was revelatory, in a way… to see someone with such a fluid, fun animation style creating a fantasy comic that featured a simple cartoon character like BONE in a lush mystical setting. Anyone asking me for my list of the best comics of all time to represent the medium to the world would see BONE listed near the top. Jeff Smith’s abilities and the sensibilities in his work truly thrill, astound and amaze me… and when I heard that he was planning on working on a mini series that features CAPTAIN MARVEL, I was absolutely ecstatic. I can’t think of anyone more perfect to bring the lyrical and magical qualities to the character than Jeff Smith… and to counteract the apparent attempts by Judd Winick to ruin the character. It might be an edict from on high at DC… but it seems to me that Winick has been on a crusade to bring CAPTAIN MARVEL into the already busting-at-the-seams crowd of ‘grim and gritty’ characters populating the long-underwear set. Why anyone would want to gut the charm of a character and cast like that of the ‘Big Red Cheese’ is beyond me.

Which is why I see Jeff Smith as a hero on this matter.

And one of the things that thrills me the most about Smith’s take on the book is his reviving of TAWKY TAWNY. This quote from Smith’s blog rings so perfectly to me:

“Talky Tawny is one of those characters that causes people to roll their eyes. A talking tiger? And I admit he was handled pretty goofy in the 40s, but Captain Marvel’s powers are more mythological than most – - derived from ancient gods and sages – - so wandering spirits and talking animals don’t feel out of place to me. Gods and talking animals are part of our oldest storytelling traditions.”

The things that have always attracted me to CAPTAIN MARVEL and his world is the fact that he’s so different from SUPERMAN. His powers are derived from magic. His rogues gallery is populated by so many odd and humorous characters that it just makes me smile when I see them; DR. SIVANA and MR. MIND (the talking worm) among them… they’re all just so wonderfully odd and fun. And CAP’S buddy TALKY TAWNY was right there with them as a personal favorite. Sure, he was silly… but that’s one of the things that’s so appealing to me about CAP. The brightness and goofiness that stands in stark contrast to everything else comics is offering these days. That’s why even though Smith is tweaking TAWNY into an actual tiger instead of an anthropomorphic ‘tiger man’ … that’s OK. He’s bringing drama and gravitas to TAWNY… but still keeping that mystical quality that infuses CAPTAIN MARVEL as well as his own work.

So a public ‘THANK YOU’ to Jeff Smith for reminding me once again that comics can be fun AS WELL as dramatic. SHAZAM…!

This is Entry 330.

Mike

SLUGGISH MONDAY

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Today was totally backwards for me– which is why today’s post is so late. I got up very early this morning to finish a page I had been working on over the weekend and hopefully get a jump on the next page for this week. Unfortunately, when I finished the page and then ate lunch, I became overwhelmingly sluggish and lethargic. My eyes got completely heavy and I felt like I needed more sleep. It’s a very cold day here– and my cat Charlie has been sleeping all day. He rarely– if ever– does that… he’s usually very rambunctious during the majority of the day. But the cold in the outside air seems to be permeating everything– even the inside of my house, although the heat’s on. It just sort of changed the atmosphere and we’ve both been in a fog all day. Charlie spent about an hour sleeping on my lap while I napped myself… in fact, I had to move him off so I could start sketching again. He’s STILL asleep now… it’s amazing.

Today’s sketch was like pulling teeth. I was planning on drawing a bunch of what are supposed to be young characters and write a commentary on how even teenaged characters in today’s comic books are drawn like steroid cases. To my eyes, even some of the youngest of heroes seem to be depicted as being in their late 20′s, when they’re supposed to be teens. I don’t know if it’s because the artists are not capable of drawing young characters as looking truly young– or if it’s because those artists have an instinctive knowledge that the fan base is so much older than they averaged in the past that it’s entirely possible they wouldn’t connect with characters drawn to look younger than they themselves are. Whatever the true reason– it feels as though that’s another strike against the potential for attracting new and younger readers to comic books. It’s one of the reasons why I like the TEEN TITANS and LEGION OF SUPERHEROES cartoons so much– the characters look like kids… which is cool, and as it should be.

OK… hopefully this sluggish feeling will go away as my body adjusts to this new cold snap running through our state. Hey… it’s not even THAT cold compared to the rest of the country– this is North Carolina, after all. But I’m spoiled. I’m used to very mild winters.

This is Entry 329.

Mike