Tuesday, July 6, 2021

More Lost Megaton Man Comics Art from the 1980s!

See Part One: The Megaton Man #2 That Might Have Been!

Here are a few more unearthed pages, some from the "lost second issue" of Megaton Man, others rejected from #6.

What are interesting from a technical perspective is the diversity of techniques employed on these pages. Some are on Strathmore single-ply Bristol board (plate or smooth finish, good for inking, and regular finish, a more toothy surface better for penciling) and most are inked with a sable brush, but pen and even Rapidograph is used. There's white and black Zip-A-Tone, white out (usually Steig's White, which came in a jar, a fixture in late-twentieth-century commercial art and cartooning studios), Avery label patches, and patches made with wax, Scotch tape, and good, old-fashioned Avery labels. There is also ample use of press type (rub-down lettering).

A number of pages are composed almost entirely of panels cut from other pages (see part one, indicating I was trying to edit my comics like a film. Such radical surgery in the analog world was impractical, and I soon gave up the practice; it was inefficient and only prolonged my increasingly crushing deadlines.

More interesting is why I rejected these pages only to later rework many of the ideas in later issues. Indeed, there are numerous concepts I never adequately explored in the published Megaton Man comics, and evidence of even more unexplored narrative ideas in these rejected pages. Readers of my ongoing currrent prose series, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series, who may suspect I'm retconning the original Megaton Man universe left and right, may be surprised to see so many latent ideas in these pages that I'm still exploring in prose.

Some of these images are striking. Among the most noteworthy may be the image of a toppling skyscraper, prefiguring the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center by 17 years or so. Another is the sequence showing Stella Starlight, pregnant with Megaton Man's love child (accompanied by a latter-day hippy character called Captain Androgynous), a scene I included in Megaton Man #9 (Kitchen Sink Press, April 1986). The published version showed Stella in street clothes, minus the Captain, although here she appears as the Earth Mother, the persona she would become in my self-published Bizarre Heroes series (Fiasco Comics Inc., 1994-1996).

Why I scrapped what appear to my eye as perfectly good pages owes more to narrative difficulties rather than quality. Some of the artwork here is more detailed and arguably better than the work that later saw print. The sometimes convoluted storyline, imbricated with dream sequences, fantasies, and too many parodies and inside jokes to shake a stick at made the "lost second issue" more than unwieldy, although it provided ample ideas to explore in following issues and subsequent decades.

One of at least three alternate covers I designed for Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, December 1984). What I like about this scene is the science-fictional drama and spooky Dr. Strangelove overtones. Reproduced in the 1992 collection published by Kitchen Sink Press, it is identified as the "original" proposal cover, although it is actually a second or third attempt that the publisher wasn't enthusiastic about.

The Arms of Krupp attempt to assassinate Megaton Man, but end up taking out a skyscraper; shades of Osama Bin Laden and the destruction of Minoru Yamasiki's Twin Towers. This scene was reworked for Megaton Man #6.

Stella Starlight as a pregnant Earth Mother, along with Captain Androgynous. This scene was reworked for Megaton Man #9.

A partially cannibalized page the bottom tier is missing and no doubt was used on another, perhaps published, page. America's Nuclear-Powered Hero and electoral politics has been a running theme in the Megaton Man mythos, one that continues in the current Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series.

With Pammy in Ann Arbor, Megaton Man must become his own controversial columnist. I wish I had explored this theme further, although this kind of subtle satire wasn't as popular as all-out spoof fight scenes. See Megaton Man #6.

 A penciled tier probably related to Megaton Man #6, in which Megaton Man, forced to criticize himself by becoming his own controversial columnist, undergoes therapy. The Yarn Man logo, done in a Milton Caniff Terry and the Pirates style, is evidence that I thought of depicting his adventures in the Forbidden Future as a series of Sunday newspaper comics pages. Note the irregular spelling of Kozmik Kat. See Megaton Man #3 (Kitchen Sink Press, April 1985).

A hand-lettered letters page following Megaton Man Meets the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1 that I thought better of and left unfinished, presumably for Pteranoman #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, August 1990).

Rejected pencil rough on two-ply Strathmore Bristol board from Megaton Man #9 in which Megs tackles Bad Guy, the Contraptoid, the Russian Megaton Man, and Captain Megaton Man all at once; I didn't think the composition worked, here, so I redrew it as a double-page spread.

 All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures on this page are ™ and © Don Simpson 2021, all rights reserved.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Megaton Man #2 That Might Have Been!

In early 1984, Denis Kitchen of Kitchen Sink Press offered to publish Megaton Man #1 and even requested that I consider making it an ongoing series (all I had in mind hitherto was a one-shot). I jumped at the chance, and after the contract was signed, was soon floundering with too many ideas than I knew what to do with.

Luckily, Kitchen Sink was in the process of finding a different color publisher, so most of 1984 was spent with the first issue chronically delayed, which gave me all summer to stew in my juices. By August, which in Detroit was sweltering, I had something like 64 pages of comic book material in varying stages of completion. The problem was it was completely incoherent.

I remember going for a long walk on a bright, sunny day; it was cooler so it was probably closer to September. I walked from West Forest Avenue around the Wayne State University campus as far north as the New Center area (the Fisher and General Motors buildings) and back. By the time I got home, I had a completely new plot idea for Megaton Man #2: Megs joins the Megatropolis Quartet.

I drew (wrote, penciled, inked, lettered) the new second issue in about six weeks, as I recall. But I still had 64 pages of mess. Over the next several months, a carved out chunks of material (sometimes literally, cutting up and rearranging panels on new pages) for sequences that ended up in issues #3 and #4.

But there were still several pages, mostly unfinished, leftover. Those are reproduced here. For those familiar with the original ten-issue run of Megaton Man, much of the material will be familiar. The landing of the Partyers from Mars (inspired by The Day the Earth Stood Still), the pregnancy of the See-Thru Girl, the appearance of Uncle Farley (the Original Golden Age Megaton Man), Sgt. Sterankovich (who would later appear in #4), and many other characters, elements, scenes, and ideas appeared in altered form in later issues (particularly #9).

These pages in their unfinished form give a good idea of how I worked, and how my mind worked, at the time. The lettering is complete in most case, and the penciling is somewhat loose (I pencil much tighter these days, like I did as teenager before I started inking).

Note: A few of these pages may not be from the 64-page aborted #2; some may be later rejects generated during the production of the actual second issue and subsequent issues.

A page with panels cut out, perhaps intended for the second issue.

A rejected page reworked for the second issue of Megaton Man in which Yarn Man turns into a bikini.

A page probably rejected from the actual Megaton Man #2 (compare the way I ink Pammy's hair with the published splash page for #2). The bottom panels are cut out; where those missing panels went is anyone's guess, but probably to some of the pages in the published second issue.

This page is composed of cut-and-pasted panels that were rearranged. This sequence was redrawn for Megaton Man #6.

This page was also redrawn for Megaton Man #6.

In this unfinished page, a blond (or redheaded) girl reporter replaced Pamela Jointly in the newsroom of The Manhattan Project; she never appeared in the published series.

Sgt. Sterankovich appears (prior to his appearance in Megaton Man #4?), along with Orson Welles as President Harry Foster Lime, as the Partyers from Mars land in Central Park.

A dream sequence, part of the black-and-white sequence that appeared in Megaton Man #3, with heavy Zip-A-Tone. This page was reproduced in a special portfolio section in Return of Megaton Man #3 (Kitchen Sink Press, September 1988).


Another penciled page of the Partyers landing, with Uncle Farley watching from Skid Row.

Uncle Farley, the Original Golden Age Megaton Man, grabs his old garb and appears in Central Park (this sequence was later redrawn and reworked for Megaton Man #9).

Great lettering, but I'm not sure what I would have drawn except something like Klaatu's appearance from The Day the Earth Stood Still; at the time, I'm not sure I knew what the Partyers even looked like.

Pammy and Stella on the road; a sequence reworked for the actual second issue.
 
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All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures on this page are ™ and © Don Simpson 2021, all rights reserved.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Lost Megaton Man Story from Before #1!

I drew this six-page Megaton Man story (scroll down for images) in 1983, before embarking on Megaton Man #1. It was something of a trial balloon for the character and an effort to reconcile all the myriad impulses and influences I was experiencing at the time.

For one thing, Megaton Man itself appears as a strip-within-a strip that a cartoonist (someone referred to as "Chuck" but clearly a self-portrait of myself at the time) is trying to sell. He's wondering whether Megaton Man is art, whether it will get him laid, and other psychodramas. The title itself, "8 1/2 x 11," is a play on Fellini 8 1/2, Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical psychodrama starring Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, an Italian filmmaker directing an internationally-financed science fiction magnum opus while beleaguered by critics, mistresses, actresses, and a shrewish wife who wants a divorce.

To offer an example of my pretensions at the time, I actually sent photocopies to Art Spiegelman at Raw magazine; they were sent back to me with the mustache of the underground publisher on the final page (actually a combination of Spiegelman and Denis Kitchen, who I hadn't known at the time but would later become Megaton Man's publisher), with the note, "Art no longer has a mustache."

The strip was never published except as a half-sized photocopied ashcan I put out when I was publishing my own work under the Fiasco Comics Inc. imprint.

Some of the humorous material was redrawn and appeared in Megaton Man #1 (a good example is the gag on page in which Megaton Man's laborious thought cloud prefigures a large object being thrown at him). Other incidental characters, like some of the people on page three, were based on actual persons I knew when I was an undiscovered genius in Detroit. Mr. Metafysik himself, a villain who never appeared in Megaton Man proper, was an idealized and overblown caricature of a cinema buff and critic I knew in Detroit; some of the taunts he throws at Megaton Man paralleled some of the unkind remarks directed at me and my artform, cartooning, by this arthouse snob.

Overall, the story sums up a number of themes and issues that were current in my life: sex, snobbery, social status, and the suspicion that I might be wasting my talents on a pop culture medium that was ephemeral and congenitally juvenile, rather than prestigious "art." It was also a lot a wishful thinking, since I never looked that handsome and at the time certainly never had a sex partner as good looking as the woman I'm showed failing to perform for (although the impotence really happened!).

In the actual Megaton Man series as it was published and unfolded, nearly all of the pop culture, art world, and pseudo-autobiographical themes fell by the wayside, replaced by superhero parody (featuring the Megatropolis Quartet in this early incarnation among other satires of familiar icons) and a nascent, soap-opera world of fictional characters like Stella Starlight and others whose personal dramas came to preoccupy my creative imagination. In certain respects, I've returned to some of those abandoned themes in my current prose project, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series. "Chuck," in fact, evolved into Chuck Bradford, although he became brown-haired like my brother, and is now referred to as "Chas" in the Maxi-Series.







Megaton Man™ and all characters, words, and pictures are ™ and © Donald E. Simpson 2021, all rights reserved.

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.
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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.)
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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!