Friday, December 22, 2006

New This Week



The new liason at Warner Brothers for the Cartoon Network comics published by DC has essentially dumped me from Scooby-Doo (and I'm assuming the other titles) despite more than 8-years of service, nearly 100 Scooby-Doo stories, and being a favorite writer of the fans both young and old. I wasn't the only one. This is why you haven't seen my name connected with that title for some time.

I have provided the occssional short-short piece though. The new issue, number 115, with this great cover by Robert Pope and Scott McCrae features one such filler piece, in which I use a whopping 2-pages to have Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo teach you all about the Yeti, including a nod to the "Bumble" from the Rankin-Bass "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

It's in stores now. Miss it at your own peril.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!



Whatever holiday you happen to celebrate this time of year, I wish you a great one. This image may seem like a bit of coal in your stocking, but I'm going to share it anyway for its personal historical significance.

This crude image of the Island of Misfit Toys gang from the classic 1964 Rankin-Bass Christmas special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was created as a combination holiday card and moving card in December 2000. It is the first collage I'd ever attempted. It's pretty obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. Even so, Cara Scissoria, who has collaging talent to spare, and who printed the cards for me, encouraged me to pursue the art form, and so I did.

It's all her fault.

End of origin story.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joe Barbera 1911-2006



As has been widely reported elsewhere, yesterday, Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera team that produced scores of animated cartoons from "Tom and Jerry" to "Yogi Bear," "The Flintstones," "Scooby-Doo," "Quick Draw McGraw" and countless others, died at the age of 95. His cartoons were a daily part of my life as a child and continue to provide inspiration to me as an adult. I've had a great deal of fun recreating many of the Hanna-Barbera characters in collage form (see "Fun With Scissors" posts in the archives) and once had the privilege to briefly meet the great man himself.

My condolences to his friends, family, and the animators inspired by him.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Penguins



Here's a penguin display I cobbled together for the Shaman Drum Bookshop for a winter display window.




There's actually a bit of a narrative to it. One penguin has been knocked off his feet by a snowball to the back of his head, while two other penguins react and the culprit who threw the snowball rolls another one.

It wasn't until I downloaded these pictures that I noticed one of the foam sheets serving as a base for the snow has been dislodged and is now obscuring part of the snowball making penguin's activity.











You can see here how it's meant to look, minus the background books from an earlier cookbook display.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Monster Vs Robot Lampshade




My apologies for the lack of new material here. I had to take my scanner out behind the shed and put it out of its misery, and won't be getting a new one until some time after the holidays are over. So no 2-D papergoods to share for now, though they'll be back as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here's both sides of a lampshade I painted in about twenty minutes for my son last summer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Uncle Forry!



Today is the birthday of one of the most influential people in my life. In fact, pretty much everyone who was born between the years 1950 and 1972, who works in the horror, fantasy, or science fiction field would probably say they owe their careers to this man.

Forrest J Ackerman, who turns 90 today, is a lifelong fan of the genre who passed on his love via the magazine he created with publisher, Jim Warren; "Famous Monsters of Filmland."

Forry is an extremely kind and generous man who not only opens his home every weekend to visitors from every corner of the world, so that he can show off his remarkable collection of movie memorabilia, but he also tolerated my frequent, and most likely inane, Friday night phone calls I used to make to him when I was a wee lad. He patiently answered all my questions, and seemed happy to do so.

I finally got to pay back his generosity by making him a character in "Midnight, Mass." where he appeared in a thinly disguised version of himself under the name J. Forrester Eckman, an alias that I'm sure the man of a thousand aliases would have approved of.

Happy Birthday, 4SJ!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Boris Karloff!



Today may be Thanksgiving, but it's also Boris Karloff's birthday! Born William Henry Pratt in 1887, Karloff made his screen debut in a bit part in the 1919 serial adventure, "The Lightning Raider." It was his starring role as the monster in "Frankenstein" (1931) that made him a household name, a huge star, and an icon of horror.

Give thanks to this great man, and celebrate his birthday by watching one of his many classic movies. Whether it's "The Raven" from 1935, or 1963, "The Mummy" (1932), "The Body Snatcher" (1945), "Targets" (1968) or even "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966) there is plenty to celebrate with.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Frankenstein turns 75



On this date, in 1931, Universal's "Frankenstein" debuted. Directed by James Whale, the movie was a huge hit, securing Universal's exploration of horror as a viable cinematic genre which began with "Dracula" earlier the same year. It's star, Boris Karloff became a horror icon, and the monster make-up by Jack Pierce is one of the most well-known visual icons of the 20th Century. It spawned five sequels (six if you include "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"), and it's look, especially the laboratory set created by Kenneth Strickfadden influenced horror movies for decades after.

If you haven't watched this movie in a while, today's the perfect excuse to do so.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Detective Comics News



I'm thrilled to announce that Tom Mandrake will be handling the artwork for my 2-part DETECTIVE COMICS story. Tom was the perfect choice. He's drawn some extraordinary things in the past, and I can't wait to see what he does here.

There's no publication date for this yet, but I will let you know as soon as I know. I had a blast writing it though. Even though I hate the word "reinventing," I had a great time doing just that to one of Batman's primary classic foes, giving him a bit of an overhaul without erasing anything that came before. I think this is an upgrade that fans of Batman will be happy with. Hopefully I'll get to do some m ore with that character in the not too distant future as well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Xombi Trading Card





This trading card was part of a series of trading cards featuring Milestone characters and creators. When I was hired to write "Xombi", he was still African-American. The change to make him Korean-American happened shortly after I was hired. This card was clearly done almost immediately after that ethnic change was made, but before I'd written a single word of the comic book. The origin on the back of the card is the origin that Dwayne McDuffie created for the original (African-American) version of the character, who was conceived to be more of a Punisher-type.

Anyone who read "Xombi" will realize that the origin was radically changed when I came on board. This was a mutual decision between Dwayne and myself. I think the feeling was that the rejuvenation/vigilante thing would run thin pretty quickly, and I wanted to go into a more weird science fiction/supernatural direction with David Kim (the Xombi character) being more sympathetic than a machine of vengeance. It seemed to work out pretty well, except in the sales department, for the length of its 22 issue run.

I don't know who did the art for this card, but it's clear that David Kim hadn't been developed as a character at all. In this image, he looks like he'd have been at home in a Marvel kung-fu comic of the 1970s. As far as I know, this is the first depiction of the character as an Asian-American. Future depictions of him, would for some odd reason, often include a wooden staff, further carrying on the kung-fu imagery. The truth was that David Kim not only didn't know any martial arts, but was a really lousy fighter overall. The staff was never used in any story (though J.J. Birch did draw it leaning against a wall in David's apartment once as a joke) though every guest cover, and poster, artist (except John Byrne) chose to include it.

A second set of Milestone trading cards was planned but never produced. I remember writing the text for a number of cards based on characters I created.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dead High Yearbook



"Dead High Yearbook" is a graphic novel anthology of stories set in a high school, based on urban legends. I contributed a story involving tapeworms and bulk-up formulas used by weight lifters. oddly, it's not the first tapeworm story I've done, though this new one is a lot more disgusting.

"Dead High Yaerbook" was edited by fellow Milestone writer Ivan Velez, Jr., and will be published by Dutton Juvenile on March 22, 2007. It's available for pre-order now. So, contact your local independant bookseller, and let them know if you're interested.
The isb# is 0525477837.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 One Last Treat

I ended receiving a couple of tricks this Halloween. The weather was, at least dry, but was too windy to carry out my "Halloween Tree" lit up with well over 100 of the classic plastic jack o'lanterns. I also ended up with a low grade fever (as did my daughter) on top of the ear infection I was already dealing with, so I didn't end up taking too many pictures of what I did end up putting together.

You can take a look at last year's Halloween for a better sense of the Halloween Tree, though with much less buckets.



I found last year that planting clear glass jars with tea light candles in them in the leaves around the base of the trees in our yard had a pretty nice effect. Since these seemed to be better buffers against the wind I set about do this again this year.



A couple of days ago, I whipped together this sad little paper mache, coat hanger and packing material ghost. At night, he actually looked pretty good. You couldn't see the strings or the coat hanger wire, so his limbs seemed to be floating intangible along side of his amorphous body. Did I take a picture of this? No.



This seven-foot tall skeleton is a holdover from last year. It's essentially a huge marionette controlled by the wind and the tree branches. My original plan was to build a bunch more, but my summer was taken up by another large scale paper mache project. I'm shooting for next year.



Here's the skeleton at night. Unfortunately the flash eradicated the numerous tea light flames around the base of the tree, though you can see the reflection of some of the jars. In the background my kids are returning from trick-or-treating before the ever present nosferatu in the window. The table housed the candy in a severed bald head bowl, which had a motion sensor and made sounds and pleas. There was also the animated witch spirit head from Target which really unsettled some of the trick-or-treaters, two cast iron jack o'lanterns you can sort of see, and a boombox playing a sound effects CD I cobbled together a few years back. There was also a fog machine, which at this point was turned off. Again, the wind didn't cooperate too well with that effect.

Here's my daughter as her faceless phantom/Ring Wraith/Dementer...
...and my son as a skeletal "Gate Keeper." I told him that when I was his age, that costume would have had a thin, garishly painted plastic mask that stayed on with a cheap rubber band, and there would be a big picture of the character on the vinyl coveralls which would also have the words "Gate Keeper" printed across it.

That would have been pretty cool, actually.



Here's our jack o'lanterns. The kids designed the faces, my wife scooped them out, and I carved them. We all ate the seeds.

I noticed this year that all the jack o'lanterns were carved from huge pumpkins. Was this phenomenon nation-wide, or just a regional thing. I never saw a pumpkin for sale that was smaller than one of those cement buckets they use in construction.



Here's the nosferatu in the window in the dark. I think they were the most effective, and easiest, thing I made this year.

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Not a very good photo of the huge light up inflatable tarantula that was set alongside the house. It looks much better in person, and really casts that eerie purple glow. One of these years, I'm going to make it a giant web, with a wrapped victim stuck in it.



Here it is under the harsh light of the flash.



After a night of Trick-or-Treating, here's the reward. I'm glad the tradition of sorting the candy continues, though it must be some part of the Jungian collective unconscious, as I never instructed my kids on this tradition.

They also collected about $16.00 for UNICEF.

I'd like to thank everyone for visiting, and in turn, for sharing so much of their own collections on their own blogs. I apologize from my absence here, and elsewhere the last few days. I've tried to peek in to see what was being posted elsewhere, but haven't really felt up to commenting.

I'm curious as to what people liked best, least, etc., and what you'd like to see brought back next year, or omitted from next year's countdown. I had a bunch of stuff that I never got to post, and hope I remember it next year.

In the meantime, following a few days break, I'll be putting up all sorts of other stuff, though not on a nearly as frequent basis.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 Movie



The fact that I had to resort to a scan of the DVD cover for this post, shows just how underrated, and pretty much forgotten, "The Changeling" (1980) is. The truth though is that this is one of the best haunted house movies of all time. The cast, led by husband and wife team of George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere is excellent. The house, the music, photography, editing, direction and screenplay all form a chilling whole.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



Whether you are on the giving, or receiving end of treats tonight, have a great time.

Check back late tonight for the final movie post, and final Halloween post with pictures of today's festivities at this end of things.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 Spooky Bonus



In case anyone needs to make some last minute treats.

Sorry about the distortion.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

Here, without too much commentary, is what I think would make the perfect Halloween movie marathon. On other years, I may substitute one or two movies, but this pretty much makes up what I think captures the essence, in spirit, mood, imagery, and feeling, about the holiday.

You'll no doubt notice that the most recent movie on the list was made in 1968. Many of you will comlain and wonder where's that John Carpenter movie? For some reason, movies made after 1970 don't evoke the same feelings in me that go along with the holiday.

The Ichabod Crane half of Disney's "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" (1949). I wanted to start off with something that properly set the mood, and this classic animated retelling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" seems to be the perfect choice. The other shorts on the list (save "The Skeleton Dance") are too funny, friendly, or stylized to do the trick.




"Frankenstein" (1931) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) not only perfectly evoke the dreary wind swept castle and monster mood of Halloween, but also represent the Universal monster series at its very best.



I could have picked a number of Looney Tunes cartoons, but "Water, Water, Every Hare" (1952) starring Bugs Bunny seemed to be a perfect transition cartoon here.



"The Wolf Man" (1941) Other Universal movies may be better, but this one is probably my favorite. It not only captures the flavor of the holiday, including a man transforming into a monster, just like normal kids getting ready to trick-or-treat, but poor Larry Talbott may be the most sympathetic monster in movie history. Plus, it co-stars Evelyn Ankers.



"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966)



"The House On Haunted Hill" (1959) is one of my favorite horror movies. It's a lot of fun and it stars Vincent Price.



"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1953) Narrated by James Mason, this UPA animated short is incredibly designed and disturbing. My kids found it to be pretty darned scary when we watched it a few days ago.



If I had to choose a favorite monster movie, it would probably be "Brides of Dracula" (1960). This Hammer film, in which Dracula is nowhere to be scene, has so many great inventive bits that I'd love to steal for my own work, its astounding.



"Trick Or Treat" (1952) This short animated Disney film, starring Donald Duck, and its catchy song, may have actually made trick-or-treating a popular Halloween activity.



"Night of the Living Dead" (1968) Is a pretty perfect horror movie. It feels both modern and really antiquated at the same time. Timeless I suppose.



"The Skeleton Dance" (1929) This Disney cartoon has just about all of the Halloween trappings there are; owls, black cats, graveyards, moons, and lots of skeletons.



Finally, either "Nosferatu" (1922) or "Phantom of the Opera" (1925). Silent movies have a dream-like quality to them, making them the perfect way to close a night of marathon movie watching.

Monday, October 30, 2006

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 Movie



I try to watch "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) every few years. The movie is truly a masterpiece. Visually stunning, the look of this movie is the textbook definition of German Expressionism, and has probably influence more movies, through today, than any other movie ever made. The angular, stylized sets with their shadows and jagged pools of light painted right onto the set, or created by the positioning of cloth are still revolutionary. For me, the perfect moment is when we are first shown the fair, completely created by suggestion, its two rides merely twirling painted umbrellas. Inspiring in every way.

While the visuals may dominate the movie, the story is compelling as well, as the titular character unleashes a somnambulist in his control to do his evil bidding. The Timothy Brock score on the restored print I watched is the perfect monster movie score; incredibly eerie. I'd love to get a recording of it to listen to.

If you haven't seen this yet, stop what you're doing now and get your hands on it. It's a feast for the eyes.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30



Tomorrow's the big day!



I can't believe it got here so quickly.



The weather here has been real crappy all month; lots of rain and wind. We even had snow twice.



In some ways it's perfect Fall weather, with the dreary mood that suits the holiday, but it's not really conducive to my needs for decorating the outside of the house.



All of my outdoor decorations (which I don't put up until the school buses have already whisked all the neighborhood kids to school on Halloween day) are made out of paper mache or involve actual candles.



I can't put out either if it's raining, and if it's windy then no candles.



I'm keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow will be a calm, clear day around 60º f. in temperature, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.



I hate to think that our house is going to be limited to a few jack o'lanterns, especially since we're the only house on our street that does any real decorating, and only one of a couple of houses in the neighborhood that goes all out on Halloween, but I'll do what I can.



In the meantime, here are a few photos of some of the stuff that can be found haunting the inside of our house this year.



Come back tomorrow day for a post on what I consider would be the perfect Halloween viewing marathon, and come back tomorrow night for the last of my Halloween viewing for this year, and if all goes well, pictures of the outside of our house this year.