Monday, July 22, 2019

Kiss Me, Deadly: A Retro Reject Returns!

This is a cover concept I had that went unfinished for a number of years. It dates from probably the early 2000s, and I was apparently pondering taking the Megaton Man Weekly Serial strips and collecting them into a print comic (newsflash: print has been a problematic prospect since the late 1990s!). For whatever reason, I inked only the Megaton Man and moll figures and completed the lettering at the time; I left the generic bad guys on the periphery uninked until just recently.

Brush, pen, and India ink on Bristol board, 11" x 14".

The idea originated as a rough sketch in my sketchbook, which measured something like 9" x 12"; I photocopied this and blew it up and lightboxed (traced) it onto the Bristol board. (I should mention that the Megaton Man and babe figures were inked with a brush; the early 2000s was about the last time I messed with that tool, finding it too difficult to find reliable brushes, either Kolinsky sable hair or synthetic. Now I just ink with a Hunt #102 crowquill (as the villains were inked with, here), or use fine-line pens on tracing paper.

Photocopy of sketch, with blue pencil and further pen elaborations.
To complete the illusion, I finally inked the villains, scanned the art, and superimposed it on a sheet of Marvel Comics cover Bristol board stock (one of two sheets I still have among my supply of drawing paper, probably sent to me by Kurt Busiek when he was then assistant editor on Marvel Graphics' Open Space, a short-lived anthology I contributed one or two stories to).


I should note that back in the twentieth century, I did a lot of freelance assignments for DC, Marvel, and other companies, and generally was supplied with more Bristol board pre-printed with the company's specifications than I needed for the job. Quite a few of the early Image Comics drawn by former Marvel artists, for example, were drawn of Marvel Bristol board. The only difference with the Marvel covers stock here is that it is black line, whereas most pre-printed Bristol featured non-photo blue guidelines.

Enough technical history! Hope you enjoy the drawing.
_______
Read my YA prose experiment, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series - new chapter every Friday!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Timeless Beach Scenes: Ms. Megaton Man Flaunts It!

Back in the days when Amazing Heroes published an annual swimsuit issue, the cast of Megaton Man figured in two out of three of my contributions. In both of these, Clarissa James (Ms. Megaton Man) figured prominently.

Below is the first pin-up from 1989 in both rough (now in the collection of cartooning connoisseur Greg McKee) and final form. (Here is the second pin-up, from 1990. A third, featuring Jenny Woodlore from Border Worlds, didn't include a swimsuit at all).


Final version, as published. Bad Guy (in the triangle shorts) gets obscured for some reason, probably because I needed to shorten Clarissa.

Rough layout, marker on tissue (Bienfang Graphics paper, as I recall), now in the collection of Greg McKee.

Thirty years later, what is striking to me about this scene, although it's a fantasy that never takes place in any actual Megaton Man story (and aside from being one of the sexiest depictions of either Stella or Clarissa ever published), is how consistent my conception of these characters remains, to this day.

Pamela Jointly, hard-bitten, world-weary journalist and media savant, sits in the foreground, smoking a cigarette to remain skinny, completely self-absorbed (although on some level observing everything around her to put in her book). Stella, too, is blithely self-absorbed, but in a different way (she's almost bored with her own gorgeousness). Clarissa, among the women, is the only one who seems to be thrilled and totally enjoying herself in the moment.

It's also interesting that Clarissa is the only character I needed to correct in the rough (long legs just didn't suit her). Today, the only change I'd make would be to draw her breasts somewhat smaller. But her basic body type--the body types of all my characters--seems hardwired to their respective personalities. A Stella pose (or a Phantom Jungle Girl pose) wouldn't work with a Ms. Megaton Man costume. I flatter myself to think this is somewhat unusual for artists, most of whom have one ideal male and female figure, and simply change the hair color.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that, when I turned to writing the Megaton Man narrative in prose, that I would ultimately elect Clarissa to the become the first-person narrator. She offers the unique perspective of being in the middle of it and enjoying every minute--she starts out as a civilian and gains megapowers only later--while retaining an ironic distance from the events the other characters lack. None of the other characters could tell (or retell) the Megaton Man stories with the same combination of humor, perception, wonder, dismay, and critical snarkiness all at once.

(This piece is also interesting because I don't think I ever drew Kozmik Kat flying until much later.)
______
Read the Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series YA experiment - new prose chapter every Friday!

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!
_________
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.