Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Megaton Man Has Evolved In Thirty Years and Why I'm Still Drawing It/Him

In my previous post, I discussed the Megaton Man graphic novel on which I am currently at work (I have some 94 contiguous pages in the can, with all but a handful inked at this point). I also discussed how I see this new material simultaneously as a comic strip (particularly a certain language or idiom that I identify with the classic newspaper continuity strips such as L'il Abner and Steve Canyon, among others), a comic book (both as a printed page and as a 30-page installment or issue), and a graphic novel (the only financially viable print format I see today). I would like to elaborate a bit on that and also take a longer view and discuss how I see Megaton Man as having evolved since his published debut in December 1984 (the 30th anniversary of which being only days away).

In terms of strips, books, and graphic novels, I am thinking of the new material I have generated recently (and really since The Megaton Man Weekly Serial that I created online c. 1996-2000) as needing to work in all three ways. When I was doing the serial, which amounted to half a comic book page in full color per week, I quickly had the realization that each installment had to give the reader some incentive to return for the next episode' there had to be some "payoff" to reward their effort. I did not always achieve this goal, but I realized that this was what I should strive for. I recognized that in too many cases in the past, when I was preoccupied merely with filling comic book pages with dazzling (or even adequate) art and making deadlines, any given page might lack that incentive. In other words, by drawing comic books, I had, over time, become somewhat flaccid in my storytelling, and lazy as a cartoonist. Thus, the comic strip served as a model in my mind to tighten up my cartooning and storytelling, compress my pacing, and strive to make each episode or half-page count for something, and meaningfully move the narrative along.

At the same time, these half-pages obviously had to function as full pages in the print environment, since I always had in mind repurposing the episodes as printed comics (the Serial in fact ran in a local Pittsburgh magazine for a brief period in the late 90s, and subsequently Erik Larsen was kind enough to offer me the slot as the back-up feature in his Image title The Savage Dragon, where Megaton Man ran for numerous issues). For the new material, I am creating full (splash) pages, half-pages, and sometime three-tiered pages, and this sometimes requires a bit of negotiation to make it all even out. It would be easier if one only had to consider one or the other formats, but I don't think it has resulted in any major traumas to the storyline or material; only more clever planning on my part.

The Savage Dragon vs. The Savage Megaton Man #1 (Image Comics, March 1993), embossed gold-foil variant (most of which were imperfectly manufactured).





While the online format of the Serial made me more aware that each half-page had to deliver something substantial to the reader, much like a daily newspaper comic strip (whereas in a comic book one can pace oneself more leisurely with "payoffs" coming less frequently, say every two or three pages), I also recognized the advantages of tighter scripting. In the old days, I worked approximately "Marvel style," which is to say, I would visually thumbnail an entire comic book issue, then draw it, adding dialogue and text only after I had penciled and before I inked. The only writing I did was a series of notes on a legal pad. Such a method produced no end of problems for me; I could thumbnail and entire issue in an afternoon, and while the inspiration was still fresh, for the next several days, the five or so pages of art I would create would be the best. But a week or two into production, as the thumbnails seemed to grow stale and I forgot what I had found so fascinating in my initial ideas, it became harder to churn out pages. This problem hit home when I thumbnailed the entirety of Yarn Man #1 in 1989, then traveled for several weeks and handled other freelance assignments. When I sat down to draw the book, I looked at the scribbles I had produced and could not figure out for the life of my what I had had in mind! I was forced to entirely rethink the entire story, and while I succeeded in conforming to the original thumbnails very closely, it was exceedingly difficult.


Now I find that a full script works best. Describing a scene or a panel in words is far more efficient even than a quick stick figure or thumbnail sketch. "MM leans in from the left of the panel; we see The Contraptoid, distal, full-figure, over his shoulder, about to attack. This panel is wide and takes up the full tier. Megaton Man is surprised to see his enemy recover from the previous blow so quickly." Such a description calls to mind a visual image and sense of the scene for me much more reliably than a quick doodle (which risks either devolving into an incomprehensible scribble or being overworked, spoiling the fun and spontaneity of actually drawing it later). And I should add that I have no problem deviating from the script, improvising, or modifying on the fly (or cutting material out entirely) if it is not working on the drawing board.

Megaton Man #0 [Bizarre Heroes #17] (Fiasco Comics Inc., June 1996).

I hasten to add that I was also painfully aware that doing half a page a week was not like doing a daily comic strip, and that because I had other obligations away from the drawing board, my slow production was not going to gain much in the way of a regular audience. Nonetheless, I used the comic strip model to make the improvements that I could, in the belief that this would lead to stronger material and greater success at a later date.

In addition to the 94 pages or three issues worth of unpublished Megaton Man material that I have stockpiled, I have completely scripted a fourth issue and am in the midst of drafting a fifth. I intend to script a good deal of material, perhaps several issues, before I begin drawing it. I do not have a particular endpoint in mind, except as I mentioned in the last post, approximately 160 or 200 pages total, which I feel will make a substantial book or graphic novel.

This brings to mind a recent experience. At the 17th ICAF (International Comics Arts Forum) held in Columbus, Ohio November 13-15, 2014, I got to see Tom Spurgeon interview Jeff Smith. I asked a rather silly question (I noted how Bone, Rasl, and Tuki were all four-letter titles, and if you removed the "A"s from Shazam!, you'd have SHZM!), and I wondered if Jeff had a conscious philosophy about this. It got a laugh, especially when Jeff revealed his fascination with Jaws, Spielberg's four-letter titled film, but I wish I had gotten the chance to ask a more substantial question. Jeff said that he always had the end of Bone in mind, but felt free to improvise on his way there. This sometimes caused him trouble when he would follow a sudden inspiration and find himself painted into a corner.

Jeff created Bone issue by issue on a quarterly basis, and had the practice of revising certain moments in the story (especially foreshadowing later developments that he wished he had the presence of mind to do initially) when he compiled his paperback collections and later his Bone compendium. What I would have asked him was whether now, when he has the leisure to create a several-hundred page story all at once prior to serialization or publication, whether he works smarter, or whether he is still creating each installment as he goes. Does he still need serialization as an incentive to produce, even if it means he will have to slightly revise later? I have no idea how Jeff is working these days (perhaps he has discussed this somewhere). But my interest is in relation to my own work.

I have always created Megaton Man without a clear endpoint in mind (this was slightly different in the case of  Border Worlds). The way Megaton Man unfolded, it was always a matter of what happens next? As I discussed previously, this often resulted in situations in which a humorous moment I concocted for a laugh would have far-reaching implications going forward, such as the departure of Pamela Jointly and Stella Starlight from Megatropolis. Another example would be Clarissa James discovering that she is Ms. Megaton Man (at the time erroneously attributing it to sexual transmission from Yarn Man).

Obviously this is a very different way of working as what Jeff describes on Bone. Nonetheless, I have increasingly seen the virtue of scripting out longer and longer stretches of storyline, to be able to better anticipate plot entanglements in advance, and to rectify them (along with inserting proper foreshadowing and preparation for key developments). The issues that I am now scripting represent the largest quantity of script I have ever attempted before drawing. At forty or so pages, this is nowhere near the 160-page average that many graphic novelists now consider a minimum.

A friend of mine who is accustomed to writing such long-format works recently commented to me that he thought creating "more Megaton Man" was not necessarily the best career move I could be making. He advised me to develop something more cutting edge that would give the public a new look at my career. This was unexpected advice since any number of people over the years have advised me to stick to Megaton Man while I stubbornly insisted on pursuing other ideas (in fact, I have been a particularly negligent creator when it comes to my most famous property). After all, harkening back to ICAF 17 once again, I recall Bart Beaty's remark that autobiographical memoir is held in the highest esteem among comics scholars, most of whom are ensconce in English departments, and thus bring to bear a certain literary snobbery to their analysis of comics (at the expense of more popular genres). Doing something entirely un-Megaton Man would seem to make a great deal of critical and perhaps even career sense.

Thus it is worth reflecting on why I have considered it important to draw "more Megaton Man" recently. In the first place, as I mentioned, I am coming off a long layoff from the drawing board (being preoccupied for over a decade with school). I set aside the 9/11 storyline I began in 2002 in part because of early reaction from creator colleagues who considered it "too soon" to deal with such material; I have a strong desire to finish what I start. Further, I see possibilities in Megaton Man and the supporting cast of characters that I did not see thirty years ago, or even twenty.

When I created Megaton Man #1 (December 1984), it was intended as a one-shot in which I would purge myself of the myriad influences that came from all of the comic books I read as a youngster. So cleansed, I planned to try out several other story ideas. In fact, I wish I had done so; if I had it to do over again, I would have drawn a space comic book, a straight superhero comic book, an underground comic book and so on. I would have taken two years or so to try my hand at different single-issue ideas and find my voice. Instead, Denis Kitchen requested that Megaton Man be a regular bi-monthly series, and I tried to exploit that opportunity as best I could at the time. Still, I always felt my conception of the character and series, as a superhero parody, was limited, and could only be a minor work in my career. I subsequently did a space comic (Border Worlds), a straight superhero comic (Bizarre Heroes), and an underground comic of sorts (the Anton Drek comics), and returned to Megaton Man only intermittently, when I felt I had new ideas.

Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, December 1984).


I always admired the career of Sylvester Stallone, whose Rocky, we tend to forget, was an obscure film rescued by the critics that went on to great commercial success. Rather than immediately begin Rocky II, which Stallone also wanted to direct (he wrote and starred in the first film), he cut his teeth on a couple of flops: F.I.S.T. and Paradise Alley (two low-budget productions that did not garner good reviews or make any money, and which I have yet to see). Only then did he write, direct, and star in Rocky II (although this seemingly interminable film franchise and now Broadway musical has long since become a joke to many of the same critics who championed the first film). Anyway, I've often wished I had done something like this with Megaton Man, rather than attempt a series right away.

In any case, intermittently return to Megaton Man I did, usually to diminishing sales figures (except notably for the Savage Dragon and normalman team-ups). Paradoxically, as fans seemed less and less thrilled with what I was doing with the character, I was discovering deeper meaning in the Man of Molecules and the supporting cast. It was the late Dave Schreiner, my editor at Kitchen Sink Press, who was the first to point out to me that Megaton Man wasn't about superhero cliches and funny fight scenes, but about a genuinely likeable cast of characters. I did not realize this all at once; it was only when the cast of Megaton Man took over Bizarre Heroes, the series I had begun primarily to showcase ideas for characters I first had drawn as far back as junior high school, that I began to recognize them as old friends.



Originally and conventionally, Megaton Man is the over-muscled, under-witted macho jock who blunders his way through life. Over time, I've realized that Megaton Man is not so much stupid as hemmed in by his own preconception. He's the most powerful character in his universe, but he never asked for that; other people expect him to fulfill a certain role or perform a certain function (most obviously Preston Percy, copy boy-cum-government agent who manipulates the Man of Molecules in the early issues). Megaton Man's predicament is that he is convinced that Megaton Man is something he has to be while failing to realize what he is. Thus, over time, Megaton Man has been less and less about directly parodying the superhero genre, comics industry excesses, or mindless trends running rampant therein (this is beyond my capability anyway, since I have increasingly have less and less interest in keeping up with the business), and more and more about the relationships among a tight cast of characters.

The Megaton Man strip (and here I am thinking of it as an open-ended, newspaper-styled serial) to me these days is no longer a parody but the thing in itself. I like to think of it as my attempt at the Great American Comic Strip, a kind of cartooning that has not been prevalent in more than a generation. No longer am I pastiching the styles storytelling language of 1971; I am emulating them. Because, in part, they just aren't making American comic books like that any more. A crucial scene in the new material comes when Megaton Man and X-Ray Boy survey Ground Zero, only to see that every other hero in Megatropolis has been killed in the collapse of the towers. This will strike many as a tasteless, disrespectful, and mean-spirited, and one can argue about the various ways such a moment might be toned down or elided altogether. But it is not intended to be gratuitous; it was important in my mind to establish that, no, Megaton Man is not a parody of a comic book character, he is a real comic book character, and Megaton Man is a real comic book (or comic strip or graphic novel). This is my fictional world, and it won't do to take a back seat to other fictional worlds, regardless of what criteria is used. (Whether I obscure the clearly identifiable characters shown in the rubble with dark colors, or substitute generic superheroic costume elements, or cut that tier altogether, it will remain a necessary gesture to have performed in my mind.)

As I mentioned previously, there are a number of temporal and narrative problems that I have to contend with in doing more Megaton Man, especially the lack of aging in my long-running characters. But these seem relatively minor. We don't think of fictional characters as aging because we don't perceive our own aging for the most part; in any case this simulated aging is compensated for by a more complex, adult view of the relationships between the characters, and a more fraught view of the world.

In summation, I am doing more Megaton Man (or still doing Megaton Man, or returning to Megaton Man, whichever you prefer), while at the same time revamping, updating, and progressing the characters and storylines), first and foremost because I find the cast to be useful vehicles with which to comment on the world in the twenty-first century, and on life in general. I prefer to let the work speak for itself in that regard, as it unfolds, but suffice it to say that I find I have much to say about global and societal challenges we all face, and I hope that some of that will emerge going forward. I did not see all of these possibilities thirty years ago, and for that I apologize to longtime fans; they have only dawned on me over time, and I hope there is time enough left to realize a little bit of that potential.
Don Simpson
Pittsburgh PA
Thanksgiving Week 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The New Megaton Man Graphic Novel: A Work-in-Progress Year-End Report

2014 has been a year of twists and turns for me. I received my PhD in History of Art and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2013, which was followed by a summer and school year of nearly full-time teaching in that department. I also had a major falling out with the same over several very honest remarks I made on social media about my academic experiences, resulting in several professors who know best what a diligent and dedicated instructor I am insinuating that positive letters of recommendation on my behalf were not to be expected. As a consequence, since April 2014 I have been back at the ol' drawing board scraping off the rust of more than a decade of college, and have been putting more energy into that than an academic job search. More recently, I have put more energy into lining up both academic teaching and cartooning work, although it remains to be seen which (if either) of these paths will bear fruit, let alone whether I can find some perfect balance between the two. Stay tuned!

Of all this tumult and difficulty in adjusting to post-college life, by far the best development is in my rediscovery of Megaton Man and related cast of characters. In spring I dusted off several drawings, sketches, story fragments and other minor projects I had set aside during my academic decade, and brought nearly all of them to completion. I also dusted of a large chunk of Megaton Man material that I began in 2002, and inked dozens of pages that had been penciled and lettered around 2005. I have since added to that amount with new material, and am currently scripting even more. At present, I have some 94 pages of contiguous Megaton Man material, all but about 17 pages of which are inked, and more than 40 pages of script beyond that. Certain of this material dates as far back as 1999 or so, and more are ideas I have had in mind for quite some time; still more is all new material. (Much of this material has already been serialized on my blog as Atomic Aftermath.)

I created Megaton Man in November 1982, at the height of Reagan's Neo-Cold War arms build-up in competition with the secretly-foundering Soviet Union. "Minute Man" missiles, "dense-pack" warheads, Neutron bombs and other terms were frequently in the news, including the term "megaton," a unit of explosive force (a million tons of TNT; the average thermonuclear warhead, for example, is about 20 megatons)). Megaton Man alluded to such depressing prospects, coupled with a satire of "Silver Age" comic books, particularly of the Marvel Comics Group of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and others in the 1960s. In many respects, Megaton Man was inspired by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood's Superduperman parody from Mad #4 (April-May 1953), which was reprinted countless times in Mad paperbacks and specials, as well as P.R. Garriock's Masters of Comic Book Art (Image Graphiques, 1978), a remaindered book I picked up around that time that profoundly renewed my flagging interest in comics (just as I was outgrowing superheroes) in high school. Superduperman rates not only as the best Superman parody ever done, but perhaps one of the best Superman stories ever done in comics form, official or not, so penetrating was Kurtzman's analysis of the superhero genre. Megaton Man was also inspired by Marie Severin's late-1960s Not Brand Echh (a reprint of which is happily forthcoming in 2015), Marvel's landmark spoof of itself. Sillier and less substantial than Mad, Not Brand Echh proved that Marvel had a sense of humor about itself, something it lost not long after the demise of the equally landmark Howard the Duck phenomenon in the mid-70s. At the time, Marvel was straining to reinvent the magic of the Silver Age, to very little success in my view under the likes of far less creative talents than the original pioneers.

Megaton Man, from that point of view, was thus a much-needed updating of superhero parody in general (although Jim Valentino's normalman was a contemporary entry into the field that beat my by about a year), and a rebuke of the current regime of Marvel trademark perpetuators. In fact, Megaton Man could be thought of as Superman trapped in the Marvel Universe (as someone long ago pointed out), with the overdone cliches and overwrought absurdities of the genre lampooned for good measure, with a few allusions to current events and culture thrown in. (Whether this amounts to satire, as I flatter myself to think at moments I achieved, I leave to other to say.)

Ms Megaton Man and Megaton, epitomizing the more "serious" and "humorous" aspects of the current unfolding continuity.


I created the art and story of Megaton Man #1 over a period of thirteen months, from January 1983 to March 1984, with several stops and starts, and almost pitching the project at one point. It was conceived as a one-shot, and the twist ending, with Megaton Man's two female romantic interests, Pamela Jointly and Stella Starlight, leaving Megatropolis in an act of feminist defiance (for Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be exact). This was intended to be nothing more than a humorous reversal of the typical comic book ending where everything reverts to normal so that the next issue can start all over in the same place again (everything is calm in the fair city; an evildoer disrupts the natural order, the hero restores that order). But when Denis Kitchen actually offered to publish the book and requested an ongoing series, it created a narrative vacuum that I've had to deal with ever since. What was Megaton Man going to do in Megatropolis without love? (In the final issue, #10, he decides to follow the girls to Ann Arbor and has been more or less floundering around the Midwest ever since.)

The sporadic appearances of Megaton Man that followed over some three decades (ten issues from Kitchen Sink; a 3-issue mini-series, The Return of Megaton Man; three more Kitchen Sink one-shots; a preponderant presence in my later Bizarre Heroes series; three more issues from Image; and a couple of team-ups with normalman and The Savage Dragon; the online Megaton Man Weekly Serial published in hardcopy as a back-up feature in dozens of issues of The Savage Dragon; The CBLDF Annual 2010 3-pager and forthcoming War of the Independents #4 just about covers it) can be attributed both to the ups and downs of comic book publishing and personal careers as well as negotiating the strange storyline I had inadvertently set off with the ending of Megaton Man #1. To make a long story short, Megaton Man has been in exile from his fair city of Megatropolis for almost thirty years.

In terms of narrative, what is important about the current block of unpublished material, which at the moment I am calling Megaton Man: Return to Megatropolis, is that I am at long last attempting to rectify all of that. In the new storyline, Megaton Man and company establishes their home anew in New York City. To accomplish this feat, I am using the horrendous September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a tasteless and craven plot device to induce my heroes back to the city (early response to this material, that it was "too soon" for such craven appropriation of a real-life tragedy for comic book purposes, in fact contributed to me shelving the pages for many years).

In the meantime, the comic book industry has been transformed almost beyond recognition. The paperback or hardcover, termed "graphic novel," is now the dominant unit in comics print publishing, not the single stapled issue. Print itself has been demoted in favor of online serialization (the aforementioned Weekly Serial amounting to an early pioneer in this category); and finally, there is the comic strip tradition that resurfaces in that serialization.

In fact, I have all three formats - comic strip, comic book, and graphic novel - in mind as I am working on this new Megaton Man material. Each tier or half-page unit, to my current way of thinking, has to function much like a comic strip, inducing the reader to the next installment. In this case, the major difference is that while daily newspaper continuity strips essentially repeats the first panel of today's strip from the last panel of yesterday's, hyperlinking to the previous installment has largely eliminated the need for such repetition in online strips today. Thus, I think of the new Megaton Man as "the great American comic strip" in the mold of L'il Abner or Steve Canyon (two strips extensively reprinted by my old publisher).

I also think of Megaton Man in terms of the comic books I read around 1972, when titles such as The Amazing Spider-Man were frequently referred to as "strips," in honor of the dominant and more prestigious newspaper serial form (although at that time no Spider-Man strip yet existed), the term "book" replacing that only years later. John Romita, my favorite artist growing up, was clearly in the school of Caniff, and many of his pages of civilian characters (Peter Parker in the offices of The Daily Bugle, for example, rather than as Spider-Man in a fight scene), tend to look more like Sunday newspaper pages rather than comic book pages.

"Civilian" pages like this from the late 60s and early 70s seem to owe more to contemporary newspaper comic strip narrative conventions than the more innovative, integrated comic-book page designs of Neal Adams and Jim Steranko.

I also still think of the new Megaton Man material as individual comic book issues. As such, I have almost three complete issues drawn, each of 30- or 32-page chunks (I always took advantage of the lack of advertising at Kitchen Sink to provide as many pages as I could, sometimes to the detriment of the over-all quality of the book, but in any case I still find it difficult to think in terms of shorter issue-lengths). I also think of the new material as a graphic novel, the likeliest form of its eventual print publication, which I hope to total about 160-200 pages (publishing individual issues in the current climate seems not worth the time). Thus strip, page, issue, graphic novel are all format paradigms floating around in my head, sometimes conflicting and negotiating with one another as I now draw more Megaton Man.

I say "more Megaton Man" intentionally, for in terms of continuity, I am not straining to provide some fresh new "jumping-on point" in the narrative for new readers, or relaunching the series as such. Much to my surprise, given my own revulsion toward comics obsessed with continuity over creativity, I find myself nonetheless beholden to my own sense of loyalty to the storylines I have already established, and bend over backwards (sometimes) to honor them. Return to Megatropolis begins where The Megaton Man Weekly Serial left off, with Paul Nabisco, Gower Goose and company, in their VW van, saying so-long to Megaton Man, his son Simon, and X-Ray Boy (these are the tiers that date from 1999 or so). The only abrupt departure is the actual terrorist attack that comes while Megaton Man and X-Ray Boy are attending class in high school (because of an error in his transcript, the Man of Molecules is compelled to repeat his senior year). As such, this hardly amounts to a cheerful new beginning for the storyline, and a dark cloud hangs over much of the twenty or thirty pages following. The tone lightens considerably by the middle of what I term the second issue, as X-Ray Boy is invited to join The Devengers while Megaton Man is snubbed. There follows a humorous sequence in the old Megatropolis Headquarters, the likes of which have not been seen since Megaton Man #2 (February 1985). Slowly but surely thereafter, Megaton Man and company begin to find their feet in their second-time-around home. But nowhere do I intentionally violate any of the story elements I have already established, and indeed am discovering old plot threads I left dangling and intentionally tasking myself with wrapping a few of them up. It is quite a challenge!

In other words, I am trying to remain faithful to past continuity even while progressing the strip, series, book, or whatever you wish to call it into the twenty-first century. At the same time, I am cognizant of the fact that the characters have aged little if at all since the 1980s, but have made no attempt to disguise this fact. Simon, son of Megaton Man, is only about eight when the new material begins, although he quickly jumps to about twelve even though no more than two years have passed over the course of a couple of issues. Similarly, Ground Zero will become the Freedom Tower in an equally implausible span of time. A strict chronometry is not a particularly strong attribute of the current work. The new Megaton Man is carting around a lot of old baggage, as it were. (Aren't we all?)

At the same time, I am also nudging the characters away from parody and even humor to something a little more melodramatic if not dramatic. This seems a natural progression for me. Many of the characters, often originally introduced for the sake of a momentary joke, have evolved into real people in my mind, with grown-up problems and concerns, even if they retain garish costumes and outlandish abilities (my preferred term is "megapower"). Most of my megaheroes still tend toward the lighthearted, with Megaton Man in particularly largely responsible for most of the comedic moments (the title character reduced to comic relief in his own megaverse!). I will probably never include a psychotic "grim-and-gritty" vigilante character (but you never know). Part of this impulse comes from my attempts as a freelancer over the years to convince Marvel or DC to give me mainstream penciling work on one of their major titles, pitches that have fallen flat. If they won't let me revamp their stables, at least I am free to revamp my own. Consequently, a number of cast members of Megaton Man and Bizarre Heroes can be expected to show up in storylines more like the dramatic late Silver Age comics I read in 1972 than either the spoofs I drew in the 80s or the more stoical sober fare of recent years. Consequently, for example, The Devengers become The Doom Defiers, and The Earth Mother becomes a more take-charge character as leader of this new, hybrid team.

The downside of all this is that the more serious Megaton Man might become, the less there might be to distinguish it from the rest of the industry. After all, if all a reader wants is melodramatic superheroes, there are at least two hundred titles that come out more frequently, and are probably better written and drawn, to satisfy that urge. Nonetheless, I remain confident that the new Megaton Man, in whatever form or format, is even more as it should be: a mixture of pathos and absurdity, soul and idiosyncrasy that is on offer nowhere else.

Although I am very proud to have compiled 94 pages of new material, work on the series is necessarily slow. A number of fans are already demanding I launch a Kickstarter or otherwise publish what I have compiled. I have various personal reasons for holding back, which I will discuss at another time. At the moment I have trying to resolve a number of different challenges, career as well as creative. What has been particularly gratifying is the number of private commissions for drawings from fans and collectors and freelance assignments that have arrived from various quarters, which has provided me with both encouragement as well as funds to continue to keep a roof over my head. If you want to see more Megaton Man, please give me more work! And stay tuned. If my current string of good luck continues, the 2015 or 2016 Cartoon Crossroads Columbus seems like a likely and an appealing target for Megaton Man: Return to Megatropolis in printed form.

As Ron Frenz always says, "Thank you for your support!"
Don Simpson
(Donald E. Simpson, PhD)
Pittsburgh PA
November 23, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Email to The Earth Mother: Stella's Momentous Decision!

Updated 10/22/2014: Inks now posted.

These are pencils for a short sequence I created to insert into the new Megaton Man storyline I am working on. In it, Stella Starlight, once the air-headed ingenue The See-Thru Girl but now as The Earth Mother the default leader of the Megatropolis Quartet, receives an unexpected query from Megaton Man's former sidekick X-Ray Boy who is now default leader of The Devengers, to merge the two teams to form The Doom Defiers!

Yes, I realize I am posting all this stuff out of order (in part because it is not coming off my drawing board in proper sequence), but hopefully it will all be straightened out when published eventually as a graphic novel -- or approximately the third issue if we're thinking in twentieth-century terms, which I confess I still do.

Hunt #102 Crowquill and Rapidograph and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Blue and graphite pencil rough on bond layout, October 12, 2014.

Hunt #102 Crowquill and Rapidograph and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Blue and graphite pencil rough on bond layout, October 12, 2014.

(Here's a fun activity: click around this blog and try to read all these fragments in the right order! Collect 'em all!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Two Times Two: Megaton Man and Ms. Megaton Man Limited Edition Prints!

Here are the preliminary designs of the two 9.5" x 13" limited edition prints that will be offered for sale at the opening of Megaton Man: Rebirth@Half-Life this coming Saturday, October 11, 1 to 5 pm, at the Frank L. Melaga Art Museum in Brownsville PA (about an hour south of Pittsburgh). I will remarque upon them (a fancy word of drawing in the blank spaces so as to personalize them -- and probably ruin their value!) during the opening. The prints feature Megaton Man and Ms. Megaton Man (metaphors for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in my Megaverse continuity, respectively), and I will also be previewing the Megaton Man: Return to Megatropolis graphic novel, forthcoming in 2015! This is addition to sketches, original art, and other fascinating objets d'art from Megaton Man's (and my) 30-year career. Hope to see you there!



Monday, September 15, 2014

Unfinished Bidniz: What Ever Happened To WOTI #4?

Update: Below is art from 2011 and 2012. See the Don Simpson Freelance blog for several postings on the new art I am doing for this issue in the summer and fall of 2014!

War of the Independents is an ambitious six-issue crossover project involving nearly every independent comic book creation you can think of. Three issues have come out thus far. I was invited to do a cameo appearance of Megaton Man for the fourth (all-humor) issue a couple of years ago, followed by a back cover (below). Now, guru Dave Ryan is planning to run off to the Bahamas (or somewhere) and get married, so it looks like I may end up drawing the rest of the issue! I've been provided with a plot and script for the first five pages (and if the rest doesn't show up soon, I may just have Megaton Man and The Tick beat the crap outta each other for 15 pages)! Publication details will be announced later, after artwork for the book has been completed -- an innovative practice completely unheard of hitherto in the comic book industry! Stay tuned...

Milk and Cheese, Zippy the Pinhead, Flaming Carrot, Cerebus the Aardvark, Bone, Too Much Coffee Man, Yarn Man and Megaton Man frolic in War of the Independents #4. Characters are ™ and  © their respective creators.

Felix the Cat and Mr. Spook join the fray. Characters are ™ and  © their respective creators.
Note: If you open the graphics in a new tab (rather than click on them), you can zoom in and see some nice high resolution!

(New sketches and rough layouts here.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Megastang Man: Ed "Big Dandy" Don Goes Hotrod!

Here is a recent commission idea that got completely out of control: a request for a Megaton Man pin-up in the manner of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (Ed being my middle name anyway). Takes me back to second grade when all boys draw cars, whether they had any interest in drawing or were into cars or not (I drew, but despite my dad being an auto mechanic, had no interest in cars per se). It doesn't take a practiced eye to note that all the chrome and engine parts are faked (although the basic underlying phallic symbolism couldn't be more obvious)!

If you would like a Dandy Don sketch, drawing, pin-up, whatchamacallit, please peruse the handy Dandy Don Commission Price List.

Original blue and graphite pencil layout on bond. "Schwing," indeed, as The Man of Molecules goes bonkers over the curvaceous See-Thru Girl.

Pen (Hunt #102 Crowquill) and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum, approximately 11" x 14".

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Fabulous Doom Defiers Beach House!

Here's a sneak peak at what I'm working on for The Next Megaton Man #4 (although I may call it Doom Defiers #1): the first rendering of the Doom Defiers' beach house in Bayonne, New Jersey. The Doom Defiers Warehouse (formerly the Devengers Mansion) is in the background. The Megatropolis Quartet and Devengers have joined forces, and the new team will have a clear view across the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.

While the Doom Defiers get started on their holiday weekend, let me wish you a great Labor Day weekend in whatever universe you inhabit. I hope it is a safe and happy one, and best wishes for the fall of 2014!

Ink on Clearprint 1000HP Design Vellum, Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Original pencil rough layout, complete Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

My hope is to issue this material (The New MM #1-4; see previous posts on the blog for more previews) in print, either as individual issues or a complete graphic novel package.

Original colored greyline for the cover to Bizarre Heroes #3 (Fiasco Comics Inc., July 1994), featuring Stella Starlight (formerly the See-Thru Girl) in her new incarnation as the Earth Mother. Later, her costume would change from blue to green.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

E is for Earth Mother: The Half-Round Table Transformed!

Never has a furniture alteration had greater implications for the fate of the Fiasco Megaverse! A preview of a work in progress that I am tentatively calling The New Megaton Man #4 (or should that be Doom Defiers #1?), first pencil roughs then inked versions.








See previous posts for more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Bronx Bombers: The Yankee Street Gang!

No sooner do the Doom Defiers declare themselves a group (see previous posts) than Yarn Man's old nemeses show up! Sneak preview pencils of The New Megaton Man #3 (with inks added as they are completed).














Monday, August 18, 2014

Half-Life of a Half-Brother: The Human Meltdown Returns!

More pencil roughs from the New Megaton Man #3, a work in progress. In this sequence, a new megahero team is formed of the remnants of the Megatropolis Quartet, as old acquaintances arrive to join the Doom Defiers. See previous posts for more.








(Note: The Human Meltdown and Felicia were last seen leaving Megatropolis for Europe in Megaton Man #2,  February 1985. Both were featured on the cover.)

Cover  courtesy of Grand Comics Database http://www.comics.org/issue/39683/

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning at the Ol' Drawing Board: Layouts for the New MM #3

A mega-sneak preview of The Next Megaton Man #3, layouts for which cover the ol' Don Simpson drawing board this weekend. (See previous posts for more work in progress.)

Spoiler Alert: In this sequence, The Human Meltdown and Felicia (last seen in Megaton Man #2, February 1985) return from France with their young daughter just as the remnants of The Megatropolis Quartet and The Devengers are forming a new megahero team in Bayonne, New Jersey! Stay tuned for further developments...

Rough layouts in light blue Col-Erase and graphite pencil on bond layout paper of pages 14 and 15 of the momentous issue.

The tools of the trade adorning the erstwhile Fiasco Taboret. (The red cup on the right is from a Birdseye Thick 'N' Frosty shake from the early 1970s, and has served as my water container for all of my comic books -- Antiquarian Don!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Return to The Manhattan Project: More Roughs from The New Megaton Man #3

Here is the latest batch of roughs for The New Megaton Man #3 (see also previous posting). In this sequence, Megaton Man (actually his alter-ego, Trent Phloog) decides to drop into his old newspaper, The Manhattan Project, to see what's up. Featured in the sequence are the returns of Pamela Jointly, Kevin The Columnist (from MM #4, 1985), the Sawdust Dummy, Bad Guy, and -- just to show that I do have one or two new ideas -- the first appearance of Connie Carlyle, here an unnamed protester in the crowd, but soon to become a major character in the ongoing storyline. The original roughs are in light blue and graphite pencil on bond layout. The grey versions will be printed out at full size and inked on translucent Clearprint Design Vellum. (Examples of my new inking method abound on this blog and is explained in mind-numbing technical detail on the Ms. Megaton Man blog as well.)