Thursday, June 26, 2014

Atomic Aftermath XIX: Insecurity State!

Our Story Thus Far: After a disappointing meeting with the Devengers in which his sidekick, X-Ray abandons him to join that team, Megaton Man returns to the Megatropolis Quartet headquarters...

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Overstaying Their Welcome?

New, invasive security precautions!

The new MQ HQ has an innovation or two!

Anti-terrorism protection!

The alert alarm goes bonkers!

An old nemesis from Megaton Man #2!

Next: Curtains for the Quartet!

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Present at a Past Origin: The Golden Age Megaton and Rex Rigid!

This vintage sketch of the Golden Age Megaton Man and Rex Rigid corresponds to a scene from The Return of Megaton Man #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1987). It was created for Mark Martin, who still owns it, and was scanned and a jpeg forwarded to me by Mark's personal curator and sales agent, Michael Beaver just today (June 23, 2014). The miracle of digital technology! Of course, since it was a convention sketch that I drew and never saw again, and prior to the age of convenient digital photography to maintain any record of it, I have absolutely no memory of having drawn it! (Could it be a forgery by aliens? I wouldn't be surprised! Frankly, it looks too good to be mine!)

Collection of Mark Martin.

In the scene, Rex Rigid (Liquid Man) revs up a tired, over-the-hill Farley Phloog (Trent's uncle), restoring him to his formerly robust glory as the Golden Age Megaton Man, and full of vim and vigor.

Cover, showing the Golden Age Megaton Man has Golden Panties, a little fact that I forgot when I created the drawing for Mark.

It's a pretty sweet piece, if I do say so myself, and there is a long and embarrassing story connected to why I probably lavished such effort on a convention sketch for a fellow artist, but I will save that for another time, since neither Mark nor I apparently can recall the exact circumstances surrounding its creation. Suffice it to say that it is sable brush and India ink on Bristol, colored with Dr. Martin's dyes, and was probably drawn at a major convention such as Dallas, San Diego, or Chicago.

Many more examples of Don Simpson art, from both the twentieth and twenty first centuries, can be viewed in my galleries at Comics Art Fans!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Atomic Aftermath XVIII: Roman Man Regrets...

Our Story Thus Far: As Megaton Man learns of the statue honoring Roman Man in the Solemn Hall of Fallen Devengers, his thoughts travel back to the old workplace of his secret identity, Trent Phloog...

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

The offices of The Manhattan Project, back in the day!

Pamela Jointly's secret sweetheart!

Megaton Man's sidekick stays with the team!

Megaton Man reminds himself why he returned to Megatropolis!

Some consolation in the arms of the Earth Mother back at Megatropolis Quartet Headquarters!

Next: The MQ HQ Under Siege!

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Not Brand Echh and Megaton Man: An Impactful Influence

Back in the 1980s, my Megaton Man and Jim Valentino's normalman were often likened to Marvel's short-lived but fondly-remembered self-spoof Not Brand Echh, a curiously-titled and often rushed and sloppy humor book, more often at least than the more highly crafted and consistently funny Mad by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Wally Wood, et al. Not Brand Ecch, presumably a play on "Not Brand X" involving a not-at-all standard transliteration of a retching sound indigenous to the eastern seaboard (why not the more common "yuck" or "ick" of American comic strips and books?) was strongly influenced, if not the brainchild of, Marie Severin, Rose Marie-ish production manager at Marvel and veteran of Kurtzman's EC bullpen. Emulating the sophomoric humor of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, TV sensations in that era (shows that was in fact banned in my house because of their timid political irreverence), Not Brand Ecch would seldom elicit a chuckle from readers expecting the intelligence of Mad, but still had its moments.

Not Brand Echh #12 is personally significant because, although I had seen Marvel Comics floating around the neighborhood and in the possession of some of my friends, a coverless copy of that issue was the first Marvel comic book I ever owned. Consequently, it gave me a rather curious introduction to the Marvel cast of characters, and the completely wrong impression that Marvel had a sense of humor. To the extant that was true at the time (particularly in the case of a compulsively wise-cracking Spidey), this had been completely lost by the early 1980s (with the notable exception of the Steve Gerber Howard the Duck interregnum of the mid-seventies, during which even the most humorless sword and sorcery artists were practically compelled to learn to draw ironic funny animals). Hence the cult popularity (and market niche) of normalman and subsequently Megaton Man at the time.

Although I didn't possess any issues of Not Brand Echh at the time I was drawing the early issues of Megaton Man for Kitchen Sink Press, I clearly had one page for NBE #12 in the back of my mind as I drew this scene for Megaton Man #2. In John Buscema's original, the Avengers are sitting around their headquarters with nothing to do, a sly riff on the usually hyperactive exploits seen in superhero and particularly Marvel comic books (and in stark contrast to Buscema's later How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, a book that I studied exhaustively when it came out in 1977). This page is kind of a Rosetta Stone, if that is the right metaphor, that shaped my dual parody-straight sensibilities regarding superheroics. In my scene, where I am clearly recalling that moment, the Megatropolis Quartet (with a newly-costumed Captain Megaton Man) sit around with nothing to do, bereft of the See-Thru Girl, who has left Megatropolis to go back to college. The dead space in both Buscema's and my pages suggest the vacuum, quietude, and melancholy of the moment. This similarity alone demonstrates how much impact the original had on forming my sensibilities.

Left: The Buscema page caps a five-page Avengers parody by Tom Sutton. Right: my version shows an anti-climactic moment after Captain Megaton Man joins the Megatropolis Quartet. Sad to note the the supposedly superior, whiter Baxter paper stock used by cutting-edge Direct Sales comics in the 1980s has browned as badly if not worse than the cheap newsprint of newsstand comics of the 1960s,)

It is rather one of the oddest disappointments of my life that humor in general, and the legacy of Not Brand Echh in particular, has been so thoroughly rejected by the comic book industry in recent decades. It is a major symptom, to my mind, of the death of the American comic book, a phenomenon that has taken place slowly over my adult life, for a number of technological, sociological, ideological, and aesthetic reasons. While the work of Not Brand Echh is spotty an erratic, there are still a few laugh-out-loud moments, and especially Buscema's profoundly thought-provoking moment, at least in issue #12 (the last comic book I ever bought at a comic book convention, now over a decade ago, for cheap and with a cover!). There may never be an Essential Not Brand Echh collection put out by the humorless powers-that-be in New York, but it will still be essential to those of us it touched, and whose sensibilities it formed as young comic book readers and older cartoonists.

Correction: There will be a collected Not Brand Echh in 2015, and here is the Buscema page, beautifully remastered:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Atomic Aftermath XVII: The Solemn Hall of Fallen Devengers!

Our Story Thus Far: Megaton Man and X-Ray Boy continue their post-9/11 business meeting with the Depleted Devengers, in which a sudden, stunning change of leadership is announced...

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Rallying around a new leader?

An invitation extended!

One final bit of business!

A fallen hero honored!

A protest is lodged!

The Man of Molecules ... rebuked!

Next: The Roman Man Flashback!! (Plus...Pammy!!)

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Have a Winner (and Jeremy Has an Old Envelope!)

Congratulations to the winner of The Mighty Megaton Man Yellow Envelope Contest: Mr. Jeremy Bridges! Jeremy is now the proud owner of an old, worn out yellow envelope that held unfinished portions of Atomic Aftermath (now completed and currently being serialized on this blog) for years and years! The envelope was customized with an original ballpoint pen drawing of Jeremy's favorite Don Simpson character, Cowboy Gorilla! Yeehaw!! (Warning: old yellow envelopes that once contained unfinished Don Simpson projects are not certified by the U.S. Postal Service!)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lost Serials: New Sketches Unearthed!

Here are some more sketches for The Megaton Man Weekly Serial c. 1999 that instead became the beginning of Atomic Aftermath. More sketches here.

The top tier shows Megaton Man carrying his son Simon and his sidekick X-Ray Boy from the end of the previous adventure. The bottom tier shows Paul Nabisco gassing up the VW van, and Agent Jerry spotting Nikki Robertson still inside the comic book convention. Neither of these strips were ever drawn.

These sketches were translated fairly accurately in early installments of Atomic Aftermath.

Atomic Aftermath XVI: Devengers Depleted!

Our Story Thus Far: It is now several months after the terrorist attacks in Megatropolis, and Megaton Man and X-Ray sit in on an important business meeting of the Man of Molecules' erstwhile if occasional teambook, the Devengers...

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Municipal recognition!

Just the right words to faux pas!

The legendary "D" table!

Reduced in ranks!

An emaciated employment history!

Qualifications unmet!

Next: The Solemn Hall of Fallen Devengers!

[Read the pulse-pounding Devengers backstory from the Enervating Eighties!]

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IXX | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV
Vintage episodes of the Megaton Man Weekly Serial!

Flashback: Devengers Dissembled!

Megaton Man decides to drop in on his sometime megahero team, the Devengers, in a classic spread from Megaton Man #8 (Kitchen Sink Press, February 1986). (This backstory will turn out to have Megaverse-transforming implications in the current Atomic Aftermemath continuity.)