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 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 winged 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 Spirit T-shirt design on the inside back cover was suggested by me.)

 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!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bad Guy and the Gamble Universe!

One of the more interesting character odysseys in the Megaverse has been that of Bart Gamble, the all-purpose villain known as Bad Guy! Quickly evolving into a combination of Marvel's Kingpin, a notorious New York real-estate developer, and a generic gangster, Bad Guy has bedeviled the Man of Molecules in fight scenes, land grabs, underworld schemes, android takeovers, comics publishing, and other evildoings! You name it -- Bad Guy is probably behind it.

Bad Guy first appeared without origin or secret identity in a two-page fight scene that turned into a dream sequence involving World War III in Megaton Man #3 (Kitchen Sink Press, April 1985).

The opening splash page for Megaton Man #3, wonderfully colored by Ray Fehrenbach.

Batholomew Gamble (named, finally) next appeared in Megaton Man #6 (October 1985), having “served nearly five years of [his] ten-lifetime sentence—for countless murders, robberies hijacks, and world takeover attempts as the Mega-criminal Bad Guy.” He is dressed as inmate #613123 at Megatropolis State Penitentiary.

Spread from Megaton Man #6.

Because he was a “model inmate,” he was forgiven “seven-eighths lifetimes” of his sentence. He recalls his last battle with Megaton Man in Radioactive Tales #326 as a “Fiasco.”

Gamble is described by the liberal bleeding-heart Green Mellow thus: “Bad Guy has had a very lucrative career in crime… he’s managed to sock a lot dough away in investments in all sorts of capitalist enterprises. He plans to tear down this entire neighborhood to build a munitions plant to handle big Pentagon contracts! Churches, homes, schools, businesses…a whole world swept away for the sake of corporate tax write-offs and weapons in outer space!” (page 4).

In the following issue (#7, December 1985), Bad Guy appears in a limousine with another elegant gal, apparently a real-estate developer and arms merchant, tied in with the nefarious Arms of Krupp. (At the time, a certain New York real-estate developer was beginning to make headlines--wonder whatever became of him?)

Spread from Megaton Man #7.

He appears only in civilian clothes until his next appearance (Megaton Man #9, April 1986), when he has been drafted to become the "Presidential Hero" Good Guy at the landing of the Partyers from Mars in Central Park.

Tier from Megaton Man #9.

After flattening Manhattan in a fight scene in Megaton Man #10 (June 1986), Bad Guy is raptured into heaven by Mars, God of War while Megaton Man loses his powers, becoming Civilian Trent Phloog. It is promised that a "parody" of a certain New York real-estate developer will rebuild Manhattan.

From Megaton Man #10.

When next they meet (Return of Megaton Man #2, August 1988), Megaton Man learns that he is under contract to Bad Guy and the Gamble Comics Corporation, and a bullpen of insufferable, self-indulgent, pretentious creators!

From Return of Megaton Man #2.

In Return of Megaton Man #3 (September 1988), a labor revolt ensues, led by a writer (who will much later in the Megaton Man narrative be identified as Bad Guy's son Paul Nabisco, creator of Gower Goose).

From Return of Megaton Man #3.

From Return of Megaton Man #3.

After another thrashing, Bad Guy again decides to retire from Megavillainy, but not before signing the Original Golden Age Megaton Man to a binding contract.

From Return of Megaton Man #3.

Bad Guy teams the revamped Original Golden Age Megaton Man with the Uncategorizable X+Thems in Megaton Man vs. the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1 (April 1989). When that team falls apart, Bad Guy introduces a juiced-up Yarn Man teamed up with the Y+Thems.

Bad Guy continued to bedevil Megaton Man (and Paul Nabisco and Gower Goose) in the Megaton Man Weekly Serial (from the late 1990s) and subsequent adventures as the leader of an army of android replicas, including that of the See-Thru Girl. He continues to play a role in current Megaton Man continuity that is being prepared for publication, including The Return to Megatropolis graphic novel. Who knows? With his background in New York real estate, he may even make a bid for the White House! See other posts on this blog for the further exploits of Bart Gamble!

Read the Secret Origin of Ms. Megaton Man!