Thursday, August 1, 2013

Another Unpublished Cover: Bizarre Heroes #1 Reprint

Here is a cover I created for a second printing of Don Simpson's Bizarre Heroes #1 (Fiasco Comics, 1994). I forget whether I solicited this with distributors or not, but if I did the orders were insufficient to go to press with a reprint at that time. Still, it demonstrates my growing familiarity with Photoshop as a coloring tool (the original comic was colored with Cel Vinyl, and overall this cover is a significant improvement, I think).

Here is the cover of the original comic book:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Double Zero, Triple Action: The Unpublished Cover!

Here is the unpublished but digitally colored cover (by moi) for Bizarre Heroes #00 (double zero), which would have been a reprint of Pteranoman #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1989), one of my favorite comic books. It featured the first appearance of Pteranoman as well as Phantom Jungle Girl, Cowboy Gorilla, and the Brilliant Brain, as well as an intimate interlude between Megaton Man and Ms. Megaton Man. The issue was a real ground-breaker for me as I turned away from pure parody to a more general humorous take on costumed crimefighters. On the cover, photographs of Pittsburgh at Seventh and Liberty Avenue appear as the background.

Orders were insufficient to go to press, however, and dealers were given the option of taking actual Pteranoman #1's instead. Also below is the X-Ray Boy house ad that ran on the back covers of some later issues in the series.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Phantom Jungle Girl: Her Beauty Secrets Revealed!

The first page of Don Simpson’s Bizarre Heroes #1 (Fiasco Comics, 1994) was a simlple nine-panel grid featuring the Phantom Jungle Girl putting on her false eyelashes, doing her  make-up, then putting on her wig, earrings and improbable mask.  

The original idea was sketched out in an 11" x 14" sketchbook, on the same sheet as a couple of thumbnail layouts for the last of issue of my King Kong adaptation (Monster Comics/Fantagraphics, 1991), meaning I was planning Bizarre Heroes already by that time.

The light blue and graphite pencil tissue was then traced onto 2-ply Bristol board, then inked with a sable brush and perhaps crowquill pen.

The transformation of the somewhat butch community activist Donna Blank (she looks like a short-haired Jenny Woodlore from Border Worlds) into the overtly girlish Phantom Jungle Girl struck the right tone for the series, although I didn’t explore her secret identity any further until the Megaton Man Weekly Serial, around 1996 (this web comic was ahead of its time, and ran for more than 4 years).

Below is another one of those pieces of art that I never finished but have never been able to part with. It shows three megaheroes, all in plain costumes tying it to the megaclones of the Kitchen Sink Bizarre Heroes #1 (1990), and probably dates to around that time. However, I always envisioned this love triangle set into some kind of Legion of Superheroes future, where everyone lives in a high-tech, highly urbanized area, and practically has to be a megahero just to fly from one high-rise to the next.

There is no background, but I envision the foreground figure peering around a corner to see her boyfriend cheating on her. They have no numbers like the megaclones, so perhaps this was some offshoot idea or earlier incarnation. But I’ve always thought there was something more here to be explored. (Why does the foreground figure have panties and the background couple only have unitards? Discuss amongst yourselves.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Slick vs. Darkcease: An All-Consuming Love Triangle

Note: This material is for mature readers.
In the Fiascoverse, context is everything. For example, when the Phantom Jungle Girl is teamed with the Brilliant Brain and Cowboy Gorilla, she’s an absurd parody of a white African queen of the type ubiquitous in American popular culture in the 1950s; when she’s with the brooding Meddler, she becomes a reasonably plausible dramatic character that could conceivably work well as a costumed detective. By the same token, Ms. Megaton Man, when she plays off of Yarn Man, Megaton Man, and my other humorous characters, is comically ribald; but she could pass for a “serious” adventure character in one of the big-company universes if she wanted to.

The Slick is another character with a lighter and a darker side. When he is among other mismatched oddball characters in the Fiascoverse, his exaggerated angst is for the most part played for comic relief. But when he is a solo character, as in Bizarre Heroes #15, he becomes a relatively straight crime fighter of the Silver Age mold, with all the attendant hang-ups, whose demons take on a decidedly darker tinge.

In this unfinished sequence from the mid-1990s, not too long after the demise of the print Bizarre Heroes series, I continued to explore the character’s darker side, and as you can see, began to really let myself go. I drew these pages oversize, 14 ½" x 21", allowing my figure drawing to be freer and more sensual, which was especially important for this piece. Although I was pleased with the way the artwork was turning out, and felt I had achieved something important in the psychological insight it offered into the Slick’s attraction to Clarissa, and of her essentially sexually aggressive personality (truthful but in this case deceitfully appropriated by Darkcease), I had misgivings about taking the character into such frankly erotic terrain.  Not that I particularly feared “ruining” the mainstream marketing potential of the character, but I suppose I set this sequence aside among other reasons because the Slick’s tortured metro-sexuality was a place I was not ready to go into any further at the time.