Friday, January 28, 2011

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? #5

This also slipped by me unawares. Until a copy reached me today, I had no idea that I had a story in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? issue #5 which went on sale January 5th. The story "Sound Stage Spook" is the second Scooby-Doo story I ever wrote and was originally published in Scooby-Doo #18 way back in January of 1999. It was later reprinted in the digest sized collection of Scooby-Doo comics, Scooby-Doo: The Big Squeeze.

The story features art by Joe Staton and Andrew Pepoy with color by Paul Becton and letters by John Costanza. It was also the first time I used my recurring characters of movie director Tom Burden, and make-up artist Tim Sevine. The giant crab movie being made in this story, "Bisque, Horror from the Deep" would also appear in later stories. There were some appearances by non-Scooby-Doo Hanna-Barbera characters as well, which you can read about here if you are so inclined.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? #5 should still be available at a comic book store near you.

Tour Kennedy Space Center


Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and this year will mark the end of the space shuttle program in its entirety. Rather than focus on the tragedy and demise of a large part of the U.S. space program, I thought I'd share this flyer from a time when the shuttle program was viewed with optimism and excitement almost harkening back to the days of the Apollo program. The flyer is undated and is probably from about 1974. I've had it in my possession in all the years since I picked it up at some roadside stop all those decades ago. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

From a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Like many creative people of my generation, Star Wars and it's sequels had a pretty big impact on me. What really resonated with me was that unlike virtually every other science fiction movie I'd seen up until that point (and it was many) Star Wars was not set in a universe of pristine environments where everyone was dressed almost identically in clothes that not only looked like they came from the same designer but had been purchased right before they were put on. Instead, the world of Star Wars was dirty, beat up and used, and aside from military types, the characters had individual styles of dress. Aliens didn't exist simply to menace the heroes. There were dozens of them simply going about their business in the background. The vehicles, machines, robots, and weapons all look like they worked, and had been repaired many times, or needed repairs. The implied backstory to everything was as interesting to me as the actual story on screen. Every scene also introduced something really cool and new; the droids, the dewback lizard mounts for the stormtroopers, the landspeeder, the lightsabers, the cantina, etc.
These were all things that lodged in my brain and became important aspects of telling my own stories.

Since my fascination with this movies is still strong, I'm always happy to pick up a new book discussing their making. This winter I read two of them, both of which I highly recommend. Both books were also written by J. W. Rinzler, who delivered the amazing The Making of Star Wars published in 2007 to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars. Last Fall, the follow-up book The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released to coincide with the first sequel's 30th Anniversary. The first question you might ask would be that given how much has been written about these movies, is there anything new left to uncover. The answer is yes, quite a bit actually. The Making of The Empire Strikes Back is a fascinating account of how in the wake of the wild success of Star Wars a sequel was brought to life, and almost bankrupted George Lucas in the process nearly forcing him to relinquish the valuable sequel and merchandising rights to 20th Century Fox. It also goes into detail about the simultaneous growth of Lucasfilm and ILM. There are a lot of details on the making of Empire that were new to me. The book also contains a really interesting transcript about the development of the scene in which Han ends up frozen in carbonite, in which director Irvin Kershner and Harrison Ford work out character motivations and Ford suggests his "I know" line which was not a spur of the moment ad lib as has always been suggested. Anthony Daniels gives a really insightful take on C-3PO and how his charcter differs in this movie from the previous one, and you also learn that for almost the entire shoot, Mark Hamill was isolated from almost the entire rest of the cast.  I'm really looking forward to Rinzler's The Making of Return of the Jedi in 2013.

The other aspect of the Star Wars movies that really struck me was Ben Burtt's incredible sound design which really brought the Star Wars universe to life. The Sounds of Star Wars, Rinzler's other book published last Fall, is a large tome in which Burtt discusses sound design in general, how it applies to the Star Wars movies, and then movie by movie (in release order and including the prequels and even the Clone Wars tv series) and scene by scene discusses how pretty much every sound effect was achieved. This book also has a built in audio player so that you can listen to each accompanying sound effect as you read. Some of the audio effects are what you hear in the movie, others are the raw source material that would be manipulated into the well know effects. There are plenty of interesting tidbits here as well, such as Garindan, the cloaked alien with the long trunk who reports on the wherabouts of Luke and Obi-Wan to the stormtroopers in Star Wars, was actually John Wayne sped up and manipulated. The vocalizations of the Rancor which almost devours Luke beneath Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi were the manipulated vocalizations of a dachshund. The book even has a section which discusses the famous Wilhelm scream and where it can be found in each of the movies, but alas, does not include the scream as an audio clip.

Both books are excellent, and recommended.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mighty Crusaders Trade Paperback

Also coming from DC Comics this Spring is a trade paperback collection containing the relaunch issues of the Red Circle characters the Web, the Shield, Inferno and the Hangman written by J. Michael Straczynski as well as the Mighty Crusaders special written by Brandon Jerwa, Eric Trautmann, Matthew Sturges and myself.

Here's DC's solicitation information for the book:

J. Michael Straczynski and a host of top comics writers present The Shield, The Web, The Hangman and others are reinvented for a new era in this exciting new collection featuring RED CIRCLE: THE HANGMAN #1, RED CIRCLE: INFERNO #1, RED CIRCLE: THE WEB #1, RED CIRCLE: THE SHIELD #1 and THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS SPECIAL!
  • DC Universe
  • 160pg.
  • Color
  • Softcover
  • $19.99 US

On Sale May 18, 2011


DC Comics has provided their solicitations for April 2011, including Xombi #2 which goes on sale on April 27th.

The solicitation reads:

Written by JOHN ROZUM; Art and cover by FRAZER IRVING
David Kim has a choice: Join his companions in battle against a horde of murderous creatures or abandon them to their fates while he sets off alone to tackle escaped killer James Church. Plus: Nuns with guns!
  • DC Comics
  • 32pg.
  • Color
  • $2.99 US
On Sale April 27, 2011

Pretty vague, yes. I don't want to spoil who the companions might be, although one of them is featured on that great cover shown above by Frazer Irving. Nor do I want to spoil what the murderous creatures are, but if the Halloween season holds appeal to you, these nasties will too. Escaped killer James Church sounds pretty mild too, but there's something weird about him as well. Nuns with guns speaks for itself.
Make sure to let your comics retailer know that you'd like them to order a copy of this on your behalf. Don't forget to order issue #1 if you already haven't. I've just had the opportunity to look at Frazer's color layouts for issue #1, and even in rough form it looks gorgeous. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brief Update

My apologies for the lack of new content here. I've been busy juggling a few things. I just completed three collage pieces which will be part of an upcoming group show at Gallery 1988 Venice. I can't tell you what the show is themed around, nor can I show you the pieces I did. The show will take place next month, and I will post details once Gallery 1988 has made the announcement.

This will be the first of three shows I'm participating in for Gallery 1988 between now and the end of July and am very excited to be included.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Favorite Jack Kirby Villains

Robert Pope has asked who my favorite created, or co-created, Jack Kirby villain is. I did not need to give this any thought. The answer was easy, but it gave me an excuse to post some of my favorite Kirby villains of all time.

For those of you who don't know who Jack Kirby was, he was one of the most influential and prolific comic book artists of all time. Not only did he create, or co-create many of the most popular and familiar comic book characters of all time, but his style of dynamic storytelling changed the way that comic books were drawn for all time.

He was also great at drawing some truly freakish villains. Here are some of the ones I love best.

FIN FANG FOOM. Not my absolute favorite of the weird giant monsters and aliens that Kirby created to threaten the earth, but pretty representative. His monsters and aliens truly looked otherworldly. Fin Fang Foom was no exception. He also wore a pair of purple shorts to maintain his modesty.

MOLECULE MAN. Most of Kirby's best villains were created as opponents for the Fantastic Four. The Molecule Man was one such villain. He's not a spectacular villain by any means. His ability to manipulate matter was pretty cool, but it was his weird, hideous, zigzagging facial scars that kept me repulsed and fascinated as a kid.

THE PUPPET MASTER was another disturbing looking freak who faced off against the Fantastic Four.  With a face that suggests an addiction to plastic surgery or the kind of person who comes to mind when you are a kid being subjected to stranger awareness talks at school, the Puppet Master just looked plain icky.

THE RED SKULL. Like a nazi Phantom of the Opera, the Red Skull appealed to me as a kid because of my love of movie monsters. For a long time I confused him with comedian, Red Skelton, and decided the two were somehow connected.

THE RED GHOST. As a scientist who could become intangible, the Red Ghost wasn't all that interesting, not even visually. What drew me to him were the three apes that assisted him in his crimes, not simply because they were apes, but because under Kirby's pen there was something so obviously wrong with them physically. I eventually got to write a story which featured the Red Ghost as well as Annihilus and Blastaar, two other Kirby villains.

ANNIHILUS. Was he an extradimensional insect in really cool armor? Or, a more human looking figure in really cool insect looking armor? I still don't know, but he looked great and seemed really threatening.

SKRULLS. Kirby's shapeshifting toad-like alien goblins were great bug eyed monsters. They reminded me of the aliens in Invasion of the Saucer Men only without the giant brains and with better language skills.

GALACTUS. Jack Kirby designed a lot of impressive helmets during his career. Galactus wore one of them. This giant alien who consumed entire planets to sustain himself was one of Kirby's greatest creations. Somehow he was able to make something that could have come across as ridiculous really awesome, in the true sense of the word, instead. As much as I can understand the rationale as to why the makers of the 2nd Fantastic Four movie decided to represent Galactus as a solar system sized storm cloud, I was disappointed not to see him as a giant guy with a huge purple helmet.

THE MAD THINKER'S AWESOME ANDROID. With no name for himself, and no features, this powerhouse was one of Kirby's strangest creations. Awesome might not have been the adjective I'd have chosen, but he was definitely uncanny.

ARNIM ZOLA. Among the regular imagery that Kirby used was the depiction of people with oversized heads, misplaced heads, or oversized misplaced heads. Every one of his creations that featured such a grotesque deformation really creeped me out as a kid and scarred me for life. Armin Zola had a giant head that was also his torso along with a cybernetic head (or is that a wii sensor) where his head should have been. This guy was disturbing, but not as disturbing as...

MODOK. This Mental Organism designed Only for Killing was a really awkward acronym, but was the stuff of nightmares for me as a kid. He was truly hideous with that gigantic head the size of a volkswagen, but with normal sized arms and legs. I'm very fond of MODOK now for those very reasons. I was really hoping that he was going to be the villain in Iron Man 2 instead of Whiplash. Here's hoping they sign Philip Seymour Hoffman as MODOK for Iron Man 3.

HIDDEN HARRY. Thank goodness that Jack Kirby never found a home for this villainous creation of his. This diminutive megacephalic villain would have given the Zuni fetish from Trilogy of Terror a run for its money and some really good nightmares.

DARKSEID. Darkseid, the evil lord of the evil planet Apocalips, is easily one of Jack Kirby's greatest creations. His evil nature was only enhanced by the sadistic natures of those who served him and yet were deathly afraid of him.

DR. DOOM. The imperious dictator of Latveria, Victor von Doom is easily my favorite Kirby villain. He's a real threat, an evil genius, and he just looks incredibly cool. Long before Darth Vader came around (inspired by Dr. Doom no less) I wondered what Dr. Doom looked like under his helmet. His face was supposed to be hideously scarred, but I like the idea that was put forth, I think by John Byrne, that Doom's face only had a very slight scar on it and that he was so vain that he viewed this minor inperfection hideous enough that he wanted to cover it up from view. To my knowledge we've never seem what his face looks like under there. All we know is what he looked like while he was still Mr. Doom and had yet to don the armor. I never got tired of seeing Dr. Doom appear in a comic book, even when he was being overused. One of my first works in comic books was an ad featuring Dr. Doom, drawn by Mike Mignola. As a character in Damage Control I even got to ask Dr. Doom to show some photo ID when he was writing a check.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Ask Me Anything #5

Welcome to the 5th edition of Ask Me Anything. After taking December off this monthly feature returns and new editions can be found on the first Monday of every month.

Use the comments section to ask me anything you want and I will strive to answer them either in the comments section, or in more elaborate posts throughout the month.

Please take the time to view the previous questions so that we don't wind up with a lot of repetition. You can see the previous questions here,  here,  here, and here.  Answers not found following the questions can be found in the archives section for each associated month.

Now ask away.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday season. My apology for the lack of new posts around here, but the season ended up being pretty busy for me, and now that it's over I find myself facing a lot of work to catch up on. This means posts here will be sporadic at best.

Among these projects is XOMBI, the forthcoming comic book series published by DC Comics which will debut in March. You can find out more about this series by scrolling down to the previous post. Keep checking back for updates including a look at the cover for issue #2 by Fraser Irving as well as links to scheduled interviews where I'll discuss the upcoming series.

The collage at the top of this post is the first collage I've done since last January which is a tremendous gap of time for me. 2010 was dominated by writing projects and working with cut paper was put on the back burner for far longer than I would have preferred. That all changes now. This year I'll be participating in a number of shows hosted by Gallery 1988 which means I'll be juggling the scissors and the keyboard in the months ahead. I'm very excited about these upcoming shows and will provide details as they are made known.

Speaking of collages, I'd like to thank everyone who purchased one of my cut paper cartoon character collage portraits last month. There are still plenty left if anyone is interested. Details can be found here.

Check back tomorrow for the latest installment in the monthly Ask Me Anything feature, which returns after a break last month. You can ask me anything there about past, current, or future projects, influences, relationship advice, what I'm reading, watching, really anything. I'll do my best to answer as many questions as I'm able.

I'm also hoping to find time to add a new post or two to my companion blog for kids which is meant to give children some insight into every aspect of how comic books get made. If you have, or know a kid interested in visual narratives steer them over there. If you know any teachers or parents that would be interested, please do the same. You may even learn something yourself.

Now I just need to decide what I want to replace the Bumble with in the header for this blog.