Saturday, December 15, 2018

"Stella's Story": The First-Person Narrator in Megaton Man #5

It had completely slipped my mind until now, but I realize I did an unusual thing for the fifth issue of Megaton Man (Kitchen Sink Press, August 1985): I told the story entirely from Stella Starlight's point of view. Throughout the issue (except for "George Has a Gun," a "back-up feature that features Stella but takes a more objective view of her and her affair with Martian Anton Drek - yes, you read that right), we see events, including flashbacks, from her perspective.

I was always inordinately proud of that issue; it still seems rather complete and self-contained, and I was proud particularly that I could write from the perspective of a female character without making a fool of myself. I also felt the artwork took a leap forward, toward more realistic proportions (I also struggled with finding the right balance between caricature and serious superheroics, given the satirical nature of the series).

Unfortunately, I always considered the coloring of the issue a bit too "tangy" - too much orange and green, most of which was attributable to the colors shifting on the printing press, but also due to some of the choices the colorists (Pete Poplaski on the cover and Ray Fehrenbach on the interiors) made. (Pete also inked the dinosaurs on page 22.) Looking back on it, however, I don't mind the coloring as much; I particularly like the dusty blue or steely grey that Stella's "Q" uniform acquired.

I never got as much feedback on the issue, positive or negative, as I would have liked; I like to think that fans of Border Worlds might like this issue best of all the early Megaton Mans, since it foreshadowed both Jenny's first-person narration and a more dramatic approach to the artwork in that series, particularly in the use of high-contrast shadowing (Border Worlds in fact would begin as a back-up feature in the following issue, Megaton Man #6).

Herewith are some of the key pages from "Stella's Story" (the title appeared on the inside front cover, which is not included here). All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.

All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 1985, 2018, all rights reserved.


New: Clarissa James tells her story in the first person: The Ms. Megaton Maxi-Series!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Megs Takes a Swipe at the Culture Wars!

Proving once again I utterly lack the subtle touch for editorial cartooning of my social betters (although the threshold has been lowered in recently decades), I offer my half-baked commentary on a current controversy in comics. Namely, should we kick the crap out of bigots, or ask for their autographs at cons?

Clarissa socks a White (and presumably) Nationalist penciller as Megaton Man, X-Ray Boy, and Gower Goose ponder the impact a pencil sketch will have on our civic discourse. ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

In case you don't recognize the inspiration, it's from an image by a couple of Jewish guys (who can never be replaced), punching the schnozz out of Der Führer (dictators seem to love flowing ties, don't they?!). Maybe the idea would be clearer if I caricatured more Neanderthal comic book creators calling for Whites-Only entertainment, or included more Nazis (is there a distinction?). But I'm too lazy, although I reserve the right to add more Nazis if and when I bother to ink this (you can never show enough Nazis getting beaten up).

Simon and Kirby beat up Hitler before Pearl Harbor, a reminder that cartoons can't always prevent actual war.
Here's another page from the sketchbook. Sorry these are only roughs -- I'm supposed to be grading art history papers this weekend (exploited adjunct is my secret identity when I'm not being a Social Justice Warrior), so two full sketchbook pages is really playing hooky.


More art on the Ms. Megaton Man blog!
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For more on the Culture Wars and Comics!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Megaton My Day: Some Fall Break 2018 Sketches!

I'm busy grading papers, but I took some time out to let off some steam with these sketches - mostly to remind my new, improved left-brained self that I can still draw! Sketches are in light blue Col-Erase and graphite pencil with Sharpie liner pen colored in Photoshop.





Note: Text is rough draft only; the views expressed are not necessarily those of the management, and are protected by the First Amendment, freedom of speech, journalistic integrity, and Artistic License™.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hembeck's Man of Molecules and the Boys of 'Summer'!

Fred G. Hembeck has been a presence in the comic book industry since the 1970s, when his distinctive interpretations of every single character ever created began appearing in fan publications and trade journals like the Comics Buyer's Guide and Amazing Heroes - he also destroyed the Marvel Universe, as I recall!

I'm leaving out a lot, but more recently, Fred flattered me with a rendition of my very own Megaton Man online, and since employed the Man of Molecules in his own inimitable fashion for the cover of the Comic Shop News Summer Special 2018 (in which Megs appears as one of the letter "M"s!).

Last week Fred sent me a personalized Megaton Man trading card, which makes me now a prized Fred Hembeck collector! Herewith the images of those works:

This was the original card Fred sent me - I pointed out in my own graceless way that the yellow shape on Megaton Man's torso is actually supposed to be a letter "M" (a fact that apparently escapes a lot of people!), which prompted Fred to respond ...


... by using Megaton Man in an illustration he was at that very moment creating for the Comic Shop News Summer Special 2018! (Can you name 'em all?)

Finally, Fred was kind enough to do a redo trading card and send it to me! Voila!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dont' Snitch: Megs Swallows the Cosmic Cue-Ball!

As I've discussed elsewhere, I've had to suffer for years the charge that I "ripped off the Tick" (even though Megaton Man predates Ben Edlund's character by two or three years). As I work up more Megaton Man material (which, yes, has taken forever!), I fear I'll be accused of one or two other non-existent rip-offs. Among them is the "Time Turntable" from Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, December 1984), which bears a startling textual similarity to J.K. Rowling's "Time Turner" device (from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 1999, and more recently, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, 2016) -- I've discussed the Tick and Turner here.

Another Harry Potter retroactive similarity that is sure to come up (since I reference the event in some of the new stories I am plotting) is the moment when Megaton Man swallows the Cosmic Cue-Ball in Megaton Man #9 (Kitchen Sink Press, April 1986). This is a crucial moment, since it ultimately results in Megaton Man losing his powers and becoming an ordinary Civilian (see Return of Megaton Man #1-3). I explore this complication further in some of the new material I'm writing, but that's all I'll say for now.

Megaton Man swallows the Cosmic Cue-Ball, Billiard of Great Power, in Megaton Man #9 (1986). Characters and concepts are ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.


So, just for the record, let me recall that sphere swallowing scene from 1986, of which no doubt future fans will accuse me of mimicking the moment when Harry Potter swallows the Golden Snitch in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's [Philosopher's] Stone, 1997. Okay, I confess!

Many have perished in pursuit of the Orb of Omnipotence, including Dr. Braindead (from Megaton Man #9, 1986). Characters and concepts are ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

I've written elsewhere about having come to and read Harry Potter only belatedly, although I've yet to adequately confess how much I love those books (and films and world), and how much I've learned from them from other writers in the burgeoning "YA" genre (whether it's a genre, movement, or just a marketing label that's overused).

So let me just stipulate now, for the record, I used the Time Turntable/Turner to jump ahead to the future and rip off all my ideas from Ms. Jo Rowling! -- Don Simpson, 2018.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Megaton Man #1000: The Grand Extravaganza that Never Happened!

Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, December 1984) begins with the Megatropolis Quartet trying to climb into the cover of Megaton Man #999, a completely fictitious issue from another dimension. The rough draft below imagines the following issue, Megaton Man #1000, featuring the long-awaited wedding of Megaton Man and Pamela Jointly.

Rough fine-liner pen over blown-up print out of the original pencil sketch, 11" x 17".

In the scene, Simon Phloog, son of Megaton Man and the See-Thru Girl, and Simon's neighborhood friend Deirdre crash the wedding, courtesy of a trip on the Time Turntable! With Preston Percy, Stella Starlight, Yarn Man, and the Human Meltdown, with city editor Rudy Mayo presiding.

Original sketchbook rough, blue and graphite pencil, 6" x 9".

Megaton Man #999, from the opening splash page of Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, 1984).

Bonus: See the Time Turntable in Megaton Man #1!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Plot, Script, Comic: Megaton Man #11 Complete!

Maybe the earliest surviving example of my evolving working method is the plot and partial script of Megaton Man #11 (published as The Return of Megaton Man #1 in July 1988 only after a needlessly bruising exchange with my publisher), dating from January 1987 (thirty years ago).

In the first ten issues of the series, I worked more or less in a "Marvel method," based on the way it was imagined Stan Lee worked with his artists: developing a loose plot, then breakdowns of pencils, then final script.

Back and front covers to Return of Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, July 1988)

After my own fashion, and after experimenting wildly with Border Worlds (which seemed to veer wildly between writing the script first one issue then working out the visuals first the next), I settled on a plot-script routine that was still very much homemade and ad hoc.





As noted on the typescript, the plot envisioned a single 64-issue. This material was subsequently expanded into three 24-page issues, which I envisioned as Megaton Man #11, #12, and #13.

Between the plotting stage and the scripting stage, I seem to have either created thumbnail sketches of the page layouts, or actually sketched out the panels roughly (called "breakdowns") on the pages of Bristol board themselves. This seems likely because the typewritten script features only dialogue, with no scene summaries or descriptions (or even directions such as "close-up," "long shot," etc.).





 








 

At this point (page 14), the script ends. The remainder may be lost, or I may have never typed one. It is entirely possible that I may have just written the dialogue directly on the art boards. By the end of the issue, I may have felt "warmed up" enough to wing it. Or not!




One hand-written fragment of script remains, the big entrance of Yarn Man and Kozmik Kat, who arrive in Ann Arbor as a curtain-closer for the issue. It was written on plain bond (typewriting paper), like the rest of the plot and script, but appears to have been hand-trimmed with scissors.



No other script fragment remains. (Note: the white-on-black Spirit T-shirt design on the inside back cover was suggested by me. It was from a Spirit page reproduced in Jim Steranko's History of Comics, Volume II.)


What is evident about these materials is that they clearly demonstrate that I took the time away from Megaton Man to totally rethink the strip, in the hopes of putting any ongoing narrative on a more sound footing. The emphasis on character over action (or slapstick humor), and on a rational basis for the unfolding events, speaks for itself. This makes the publisher's characterization of my hiatus from the strip as a betrayal that deserved punishment, instead of a necessary creative recharge, all the more sad and demoralizing.

The Return of Megaton Man mini-series ran three issues. In the following installment, Megaton Man Meets the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1, I seem to have used a completely different method, breaking down the story in half-size thumbnail sketches I enlarged on a photocopier, light-tabled (traced) onto Bristol board, lettered, and inked. I will scan those soon and post here!

Thank you for enjoying the Megaton Man blog!
Read also: "Whatever Happened to Megaton Man #11?"
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An all-new YA prose novel - new chapter every week: The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series!