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.


Jack Zall said...

That's a riot - I had always just assumed the staff was some mystical object or other that would have been introduced later if the series had survived.

Dwayne said...

The staff was supposed to be a caduceus. Nobody ever drew it right. David Kim was never supposed to know any martial arts, even when he was black.

Dwayne McDuffie

Rozum said...

I'd forgotten that about the caduceus, which makes sense. It was meant as a visual symbol of David's powers at work if I'm not mistaken, like the wavy lines for Spider-man's spider sense. Correct? I think Denys used it when David was regenerating in issue #0. Walt Simonson used both the metaphorical symbol, and an actual staff on his cover. Is that where the confusion began?

Some caduceus imagery did made it into the book. I also recall intentions to feature more snake folklore into the series (there was one actual story) which would have had a payoff at the end.

I knew that David was not supposed to be a martial artist no matter his ethnic background. If I remember correctly, when he was black, we talked about him being more like a linebacker. Not in size, but simply that he'd plow his way into, and through opponents, since he could generally outlast them thanks to his powers and perserverence would eventually overcome them.

The only object in his hypothetical utility belt was going to be duct tape, lots and lots of it, to reattach limbs, something that may have been done twice in actuality, though I don't know why it fell by the wayside.

Dwayne, do you remember who did the art on the card?

Dwayne said...

I think that's Denys with an art corrected head, Joe James?

You're right about the no martial arts, initially I saw him as a completely unskilled martial artist, who through force of will would take the pain to win fights.

And yes, the staff was metaphorical, not supposed to be a real object.

Forgot about the duct tape gag, that was great.

jasonscottjones said...

nothing like commenting on a topic long in slumber... but here's my two cents regarding who did the art.

I am certain it was Denys and 98% sure there was some good ol Joe James in there but I forget if it was inks or head-correction or what. Last on the roster was me.

Which is the reason I am certain Denys drew it since I remember him looking with bewilderment over my scared-s#itless-shoulder as I painted the color (under the b/w art) on my first professional comic gig.