Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Story of "The BIRD" and Me -- Chapter Two

Just to clarify things in general, the planned progression of this storyline -- which started off in my mind as a brief anecdote, but then mushroomed into a virtual monster -- is to show how I grew from writer wannabe and comic book fan to someone who actually got my feet wet as a comic book writer, albeit briefly.

After this storyline, I will complete my "Reunion of the Super Pets" story... and that's regardless of whether or not I've gotten the snail mail letter promised to me by the artist of "Reunion."

And after that? I'm not sure, but I promise it will
not be about comic books, nor will it be a "Dover Street" story.

You're welcome.

* * * * *

A Sickly Supporting Cast

Yup, there couldn't very well be a Cranston Comics Group if Red Raven was its only title. So I created more.

One of the worst-named heroes was my Incredible Hulk clone, "The Hunk" (later renamed the Gargantuan, which was a damned sight better).

I had an Iron Man knock-off called the Avenger, who wore Iron Man's old golden suit, but the Avenger's suit was multi-colored. Orange helmet, red boots, green gloves, etc. Neat visual. Too bad I couldn't draw.

A lot of my major superhero characters got a sidekick or partner at one time or another. The sidekick was usually killed off, a la Bucky Barnes, only an issue or two after his debut. Those were fun.

What was the most idiotic name I came up with (even worse than The Hunk)? That undoubtedly came about one day when I was trying to come up with something reminiscent of Captain America (I'm speaking of the name only, because the character's origin resembled Thor's). For the first part of the name, I thought of "captain" and decided I needed some sort of rank, or title. For the second part, I thought of "America" and thought of countries, and states... Thus was created -- I swear to God -- "King State." I have now -- and had then -- absolutely no idea what that stupid freakin' name meant. Being seven years old wasn't even a good enough excuse for that name. (But it did look kinda cool when I gave it a "Here Comes... DAREDEVIL" kinda logo.)

I mentioned that King State -- God, even forty-five years later, I still cringe when I read that name! -- had an origin like Thor's, an origin which lost more than a little "something" in my re-working of it. If you know Thor's origin at all, try to make sense of my version:

In his civilian identity (long since forgotten by yours truly), King State was... not a doctor. He had gotten lost while on vacation somewhere, and had also lost his cane. Schmuck. He had found a walking stick to replace his own, and smacked it into a rock at some point. It immediately changed him into a powerful costumed being -- although I don't remember what his actual powers were -- and his newly-found walking stick became... not a hammer. It became a sword. And on it was an inscription -- don't forget, this is Thor's origin I was swiping from -- saying roughly, "To whom it may concern, you are now a superhero named King State!"

Since King State was not Thor, he didn't have the pantheon of Norse gods to fall back on, nor was his weapon a gift of sorts from All-Father Odin.

I guess King State's unseen benefactor was just some guy who decided that a magical sword was a good consolation prize for a superhero with the world's suckiest name.

Hey, a magical sword! Now that I think of it, I think the sword held all the power. It could shoot out rays, and other cool stuff.

Sometime later, I decided that the sword was actually the legendary Excalibur, although I'll be damned if I know how it ever got changed to a stick, and why it was delivered so haphazardly to its intended recipient. Where was the Lady of the Lake when K.S. needed her, huh? What was it, low tide?

King State's original outfit consisted of a blue shirt and blue pants, red boots, red gloves, a red cape, a red beauty-pageant style sash attached to a red cummerbund, and... a wide-brimmed blue fedora. Okay, so Oleg Cassini, I wasn't.

After only two or three issues of his own title, King State switched to a different costume. He now wore a two-piece bright blue suit, with a black necktie, a bright red shirt, red boots & red gloves, and a more modestly-styled blue fedora. And a red cape, almost as an after-thought. It was like Frank Sinatra -- whom I was only vaguely familiar with when I was seven -- had become a superhero during The Voice's "hat stage."

Even with my bad art, the character looked kinda hip, and I have yet to decide whether the look was hurt or helped by the sword.

Too bad his name still sucked, though...

In issue #4 of King State, K.S. got a sidekick named Mr. America. For some strange reason, Mr. America looked just like I did when dressed in my Remco "Monkey Division" camouflage uniform, with the addition of some Buddy Holly style glasses.

King State #5 featured the return of issue #2's villain, the Bluejay. The Bluejay was to King State what the Joker was to Batman, Magneto to the X-Men, Luthor to Superman, the Red Skull to Captain America... You know what I mean. He'd been beaten pretty decisively by K.S. a couple of months earlier, but this time, it took two heroes to subdue him. And not only that, but Mr. America, King State's brand new partner, was mortally wounded during the battle.

Told you it wasn't good to be a sidekick in Cranston Comics.

Around that time, for whatever reason, I received a gift of two identical cast iron (or -- ooooh! -- lead) figures of medieval knights. Identical, that is, but for the color of their armor. One was the proverbial "black knight," and the other was silver. I decided they would be Cranston Comics superheroes, too. Finally, a comic book idea that didn't come from the comics themselves!

I decided that, like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, these knights would be a crime-fighting team comprised of one male and one female. They were taken from the past and catapulted -- no, not literally -- into the present. Actually, the "present" was 1958, because even though I created them in 1964 or thereabouts, I was busy "writing" the history of the Cranston Comics Group at the time, and decided they'd "already" been around for about six years. Retroactive continuity!

The black-armored knight was the man, and the silver-armored knight was the woman. Their superheroic names? Knight and Day!

Hey, for a seven-year-old, that's not bad...

As mentioned above, I gave the Cranston Comics Group a history, with its own Golden Age characters like Mr. Dynamite and the "original" Red Raven! I ret-conned a scene into the Silver Age Red Raven #1 -- easy enough to do, since the stories were all in my head -- where Jonathan "Red Raven" Parker approached the widow of the first R.R. to ask her permission to use the name. (The first Red Raven's alter ego was "Scott Springer," by the way, a name that was obviously inspired by the X-Men's Cyclops, Scott Summers.)

Cranston Comics occupied a good two or three years of my creative time. Seems like a lot more. I suppose that's because I actually revived these characters a few years later...

* * * * *

"Street Cred" for Red Raven

In my last chapter, I mentioned Paul Howley and Insect Man. In addition to writing and drawing all the Insect Man titles, Paul also used Insect Man as his playtime alter ego.

Not me. My friends and I took things to a higher level. During the time I was "writing" Red Raven, I was Red Raven.

Of course, the first person I shared this intimate knowledge with was my best friend, Kevin. Eventually, friends like Jeff and John discovered my secret, too.

(Nobody really believed me, of course. But we were all into a role-playing game which out-did normal goofing around in the schoolyard. And we all treated the Red Raven character like he was in the news every day or so, but no one really knew who he was.)

I even brought a lump of "Kryptonite" to school one day. Okay, okay, it was actually a lump of coal which I'd covered with green paint left over from my many Aurora monster model kits. The biggest problem (after the paint had dried) was how to carry it without its being lethal to me, Red Raven, of course.

Superman Red Raven could be protected from Kryptonite's rays by lead shielding. I looked around the house for a lead-lined container. Not a lot of those around, as you might have guessed.

Aha! This called for a slight change in the Superman Red Raven mythos: Red Raven could be protected from Kryptonite's rays by... ummm... plastic shielding. That'd work. My mom didn't have any lidded plastic containers in the house, so I used a yellow wash-tub from my toy Beverly Hillbillies truck. It had no lid, so I more or less kept the exposed part of the Kryptonite facing away from me... when my friends and I thought of it, anyway.

Then one day, at recess, my friend Kevin made an honest slip in front of our friend Michael that told Michael that I was "really" Red Raven. Michael was in on the game, of course, but we all played by our own unspoken rules. So it wasn't until that moment that he officially "knew." The way he pointed at me, open-mouthed, and stammered, "Y-you... ?" was so cool! Great little actor.

Michael insisted I make him my partner. He gave himself the name "Red Rawhide" and drew his superheroic self so I'd know what his costume looked like. Actually it kind of looked like a man (or boy) wearing an ant suit. I never asked why he gave himself antennae, nor did I ask if he'd gotten the "Red Rawhide" alias from being a Rawhide Kid fan. The latter question would have been like breaking the fourth wall.

Michael moved away from Oxford a year or so later, and as far as I know, is still around somewhere. Red Rawhide -- in my comics, at least -- didn't fare so well.

It started when my Red Raven comic was "cancelled" after 40 issues.

A school kid in issue #5, Sylvester "Red Raven" Morgan had become a young adult by issue #40. He'd gotten engaged, and gotten married. On the day of his wedding, Sylvester Morgan was attacked and apparently devoured by a blob-like, alien beast! Of course, being an invulnerable Kryptonian, he didn't really die. But instead of devising a way to explain how Sylvester Morgan had survived, Red Raven apparently shrugged and said "Oh, well. F**k it. No more secret identity," and let his new bride, and all of his friends & adopted family think he was dead! Whatta guy, huh?

Shortly thereafter, a Red Raven feature began in issue #94 of another Cranston title called Science. In that story, R.R. got an adult sidekick -- okay, okay, partner -- named Red Rawhide.

Red Rawhide died in the very next issue, #95.

I told you sidekicks didn't have a great life expectancy in Cranston Comics.

* * * * *

Next time: How I got interested in comic book history, comic book collecting, comic book retailing, and comic book writing! (UPDATE: Due to the confusion of -- and/or a general lack of interest by -- my readers, this storyline was never finished! Frustrating, innit?)

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Story of "The BIRD" and Me -- Chapter One

The format and subject of an upcoming post on my David'Z RantZ blog is going to make you think you're actually reading an entry meant for this blog. Appropriately, this post, the post you're about to read here, may make you wonder if you've stumbled onto David'Z RantZ instead!

Sorry about any and all confusion. You should see what it looks like from
my side of things lately!

Anyway... My last post here was entitled OHO! (prequel to "The Reunion of the Super Pets") and this post was supposed to be Part One-and-Only
of "The Reunion of the Super Pets." However, I am waiting for a "snail mail" letter from Bruce Meservey, the artist of that extremely unofficial DC Comics "Crisis" crossover. The letter will hopefully contain a few details about the artist's involvement in the "Reunion" which I can weave into my story!

To tide you over until I do get that letter and can integrate it into what I've already written, I plan to tell the tale of what came before and after the one and only issue of a title called The Bird: Pan-Dimensional Victim of Circumstance, which I co-created in the 1980s with my former writing partner, artist "Skip" Simpson.

This first self-indulgent chapter* will dwell heavily on much of the childish silliness & goofiness spawned by the developing creative mind I possessed as a little spud.

* * * * *

The Early Bird... sort of

One of my earliest creations -- coming after Lobster Man and about the same time as the Gremlin (whom I've not yet told you about) -- was Red Raven. When I was between the ages of seven to nine years old, pretty much, I liberally stole borrowed a lot of concepts from the comics I enjoyed reading, re-worked them, and "created" my own characters. I can justify that behavior today by saying that I was too young to know any better, and that it's not like I was actually trying to get money from them by pawning them off on anyone as my own.

If you're more than a little familiar with Silver Age comic books, you'll know the name Red Raven. You're no doubt thinking, "Okay, he obviously swiped the name from a Golden Age Marvel Comics (Timely, actually) character which Marvel had dusted off a couple of times in the late sixties."

The one and only Golden Age appearance of Marvel's Red Raven.

But you'd be wrong. "My" Red Raven character pre-dated Marvel's revival of their old 1940s one-shot hero from Red Raven #1. (And until he re-appeared, I didn't even know there was one in the '40s!)

In fact, there was another Marvel appearance of a Red Raven character, one that came before the X-Men and Sub-Mariner issues pictured above. He was a Western character, a villain in an issue of Rawhide Kid. Maybe you know about that story, and so you think I got my Red Raven from that little tale, instead.

But you'd be wrong again. Sorry. In fact, I never even saw an issue of Rawhide Kid until issue #44 or #45...

Nope. I wasn't even reading Marvels yet. I was too young to know one comic publisher from another, and at this point -- middle to late 1963 -- I'd only read one or two comics later identified as Marvels (Fantastic Four Annual #1 -- which my sister had bought -- and Tales to Astonish #49**. And I'd heard about a new character named Spider-Man, but didn't get to see an issue until #10.) The name of my Red Raven came from a DC Comic, of all things!

"The Batman Nobody Remembered" was a story in World's Finest #136. In it, Batman, Superman, and Robin fought a villain called Red Raven. I liked the name. I stole it. End of story.

* * * * *

The Cranston Comics Group (because "The Incredibly Dumb Comics Group" didn't sound as good)

Actually, it was only the beginning of the story. I had the name for my character, but now he needed a costume, an origin, a secret identity, some villains, and maybe even some kind of supporting cast. Most of the material I came up with could charitably be described as "derivative."

For example: Red Raven's origin totally ripped off Superman's, right down to the home planet named Krypton! Only instead of being found and adopted by a couple named Kent, he found a home with a single woman he ended up calling -- *ahem* -- Aunt May.

He had all of the same powers as Superman, too. Flight, invulnerability, super-strength, super-vision, super-hearing, super-speed, super-breath... He even had the same weakness, Kryptonite. The biggest difference was that much later, when I'd discovered the X-Men, Red Raven developed a power beam like my favorite X-Man, Cyclops, had.

R.R.'s uniform was really simple. Hell, even Lobster Man's had been more creative! Red Raven had a red hood (kinda like a ski-mask, but with smaller holes for the eyes and mouth). A red shirt. Red pants. Red gloves. Red boots. No chest insignia. And finally, a red cape. Only the cape showed any originality. From a rear view of Red Raven, the cape looked much like an elongated, inverted heart. (We're talking a cartoony, Valentine-type heart, not an anatomically-accurate heart!) I guess that was my way of suggesting wings -- the only concession to the whole birdlike "raven" concept -- as he flew through the sky.

Unlike my former employer, Paul Howley, who had painstakingly drawn each and every issue of his Insect Man title (and its various spin-offs) during his childhood, all I needed for each issue of Red Raven was a drawing of the cover of each numbered issue, and a vague plotline for the issue in question in my own mind.

Red Raven's secret identity was Jonathan Parker, a name which came from Jonathan Kent and Peter Parker, I believe. But he only had that alter ego for four issues. Jonathan Parker was an adolescent, and upon returning from a battle with a foe called -- *ahem* -- Spider-Man, he was changing identities in the back of his school, and was spotted in the act by a school chum who was probably outside cleaning the chalkboard erasers.

The Jonathan Parker I.D. was kaput. By issue #5, Red Raven had found a new secret identity and a brand-new foster family! He was now known as Sylvester Morgan. Nice trick, huh?

Wonder whatever happened to Aunt May?

Most of R.R.'s villains were based on stolen DC characters, and later, Marvel characters as well. There was the Human Top, and a Lizard clone called Lizard-Man. I've forgotten most of them, which could be a blessing in disguise. I do recall one adversary, issue #6's The Nut -- that's "nut" as in "wacky, zany, goofy kinda guy" as opposed to a peanut, a piece of hardware, or whatever unsettling thing you may be thinking -- who had an m.o. similar to that of Mr. Mxyzptlk, but with a strikingly different visual. Then there was #3's Mr. Ugly, who wore a Dr. Doom-like face mask to hide scars received in (again) a Dr. Doom-like lab accident. His death at the end of the tale was oddly similar to the death of Baron Zemo in Avengers #15 for -- *cough* -- some reason.

I wasn't satisfied with having only the Red Raven character, however. As time went on, I developed other titles by what I came to call the Cranston Comics Group, Cranston Comics, or later, CCIG (Cranston Comics International Group). I'd gotten "Cranston" from a factory called Cranston Print Works in Webster, Massachusetts, the town next to my own home town of Oxford. I assumed that "Cranston Print" referred to publishing. It didn't. They printed fabrics. Cloth. Oops.

With those other titles came other heroes and villains. As I aged, the rip-offs were joined by some original ideas, but at first, they were really dumb-ass versions of DC and Marvel heroes with -- usually -- stupid names.

Many of those "dumb-ass heroes and villains" will be discussed in the next chapter.

* * * * *

*Lately, these two blogs of mine are becoming increasingly "self-indulgent," as I call it. I am writing more and more for myself. Maybe that wouldn't be the case if more of my readers -- and my StatCounter tells me I have quite a few more than those three or four who still bother to comment regularly -- would give me an idea of who they are and what they want to see more of, or less of.

**It's interesting -- to me, anyway -- but I might have started reading Marvel Comics somewhat later if it hadn't been for DC!

In 1963, DC published an issue of Batman which featured a villain called Ant Man. Like World's Finest's Red Raven villain, Ant Man was a one-shot character. I wasn't aware of Marvel's Ant-Man, Henry Pym, in Tales to Astonish. A few months later, however, Tales to Astonish #49 cover-featured a story in which "Ant-Man Becomes GIANT MAN!"

Of course I bought it.

Then, when I got it home and started reading it, I found that there was no mention of Batman, and that this "Ant-Man" was not a dark-haired villain, but was, instead, a blonde-haired hero!

And the art was like nothing I'd ever seen before, either.

But I loved it! And if I recall correctly, house ads inside the book mentioned that Spider-Man guy I'd only heard about up until now (except for having read his brief appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #1). That meant that these "Marvel" guys did those Fantastic Four comics, too!

So this was an entirely different publishing company. Cool.

It wasn't until about four months later that I finally got ahold of an issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#10). After that, to paraphrase what I said much earlier in this post, "End of story. Beginning of story."

* * * * *

Next time, a post that'll be as short as I can make it. It'll be a hopefully-brief follow-up to this one, telling about how I "lived" the role of Red Raven -- somewhat -- and it'll also tell about my "revival" of Cranston Comics in the early 1970s.

And I'll keep watching my mailbox for that letter from Bruce Meservey!

Monday, February 9, 2009

OHO! (prequel to "The Reunion of the Super Pets")

After the last few weeks, I had to do something to lighten up this blog. And this is it, fellow babies!

The Genesis of OHO

Roughly a thousand years ago -- or, to put it another way, in the early 1970s -- I was a high school student who contributed occasional stories, articles, and a comic strip called "Doodles Dumbluck" to a strange publication which Massachusett's Oxford High School inexplicably called "The Ledger." I say "inexplicably" because when I think of a ledger, I think of bookkeeping, accounting, etc., and The Ledger was called our high school's newspaper... albeit a newspaper which was -- at least until well after I'd joined the staff -- printed in the form of a stapled booklet rather than a "proper" newspaper.

(In all fairness to the concept of using The Ledger as the title of a newspaper, the very first entry when doing a Google search for "ledger" is a newspaper called The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida. But I digress.)

Anyway, due to the fact that there were several weeks -- or even months -- between issues, The Ledger wasn't much of a newspaper, but it tried. Or rather, its staff did. But there were a lot of filler pieces, like the stories and comic strips I mentioned, and a lot of bad poetry.

Somewhere about this time, the thought occurred to yours truly that what Oxford High School really needed was a newspaper that was a little more.... subversive? An underground newspaper, something that wouldn't be controlled by the Powers-That-Be.

Umm... Did I mention, this was the early 1970s?

Anyway, I decided that I would gather a handful of like-minded upstarts and anonymously publish an underground newspaper called the Oxford High Oracle. (Notice, if you will, that the word "the" is not officially part of the title.)

As I was planning this radical little scandal sheet, I decided that I should have an editorial pseudonym. I created a David'Z RantZ-ish mascot of sorts, a disgruntled entity whose name -- OHO (all caps!) -- came from the initials of the proposed publication itself. OHO would be a little-seen, cartoony figure. Then, as now, I wasn't much of an artist, so I gave OHO a visual design which even I could handle.

The following one-page origin sequence was neither written nor drawn during my high school years. It was done circa 1986-1987. I'll explain why later in this post. (Right-click on the illustration to open a larger version in a new tab or window, please!)

And I did not chicken out! Little bastard. OHO also added a "the" to Oxford High Oracle's title. Jerk.

For once, I can rightfully blame others for the fact that the newspaper never saw the light of day. If my memory serves me correctly, the only one of my friends & friendly acquaintances who had the time and/or inclination and/or guts to contribute was my best friend, Kevin.

And I sure as hell wasn't going to attempt such a monumental undertaking with so few kindred spirits.

So, Oxford High Oracle lay stillborn. And the above origin story implies that I was "stuck" using the OHO character over the years, but that's not exactly true, either. I not only didn't use him until 1986, but I really didn't even think of him again during the intervening years!

The Return of OHO

In the mid-to-late to 1980s -- that's right, during my stint at the Eisner-Award-winning collectibles shop That's Entertainment -- I was briefly involved with a cresting fad called "small press comic books," a/k/a "mini-comics." These were tiny, self-published, photocopied comics -- not exactly fanzines -- written, drawn, and sold (mostly by mail) by people who just plain loved comics and had neither desire nor hope whatsoever of making any real money from their efforts. It was something one would do for fun, and in most cases, camaraderie with other mini-comic creators. (I actually attended a comic convention in Boston, where about a dozen of us small press "publishers" chipped in and rented a space to sell and promote our "wares.")

Some of them were brilliant. A guy named Eric Mayer -- pronounced like "mayor" and not like "myer" -- produced a title called "Pictures of Matchstick Men." His characters were stick figures. One issue showed one of these figures playing the opening riffs of the 1960s Status Quo song "Pictures of Matchstick Men" on a guitar.

If you know that song and its classic beginning, I defy you to read the first page of Mayer's magnificent mini -- or my reproduction of the opening sound effects, which follow -- and not hear the tune in your subconscious while his stick figure character plunks out:

Ning ning ning ning, ning ning ning ning,
Ning ning ning ning, ning ning ning ning,
Ning na ning, ning ning ning ning ning ning,
Ning na ning, ning ning ning ning ning ning!

Twisted and brilliant.

Mayer also described the time when, as workers in a grocery store, he and a friend or two each grabbed large canisters of Instant Quaker Oatmeal from the shelf and formed a conga line, playing the "Quaker Oatmeal Conga" on their makeshift drums!

Picture it. Two or three stockboys, dancing while chanting:

In-stant Qua-ker OAT-meal!
In-stant Qua-ker OAT-meal!
In-stant Qua-ker OAT-meal! etc.

As I said above, twisted and brilliant.

I also sent away for a mini-comic -- I can't recall the name right now -- written by a guy named Chuck Bunker (who also wrote and drew a really cool title called Geriatricman) and drawn by a fellow named Ted Bolman. Assuming I was contacting the artist, I called him "Ted," and he sent me a letter along with the comic which began "I'm not Ted Bolman." This led to a short-lived series of lame jokes where, as in Silver Age DC Comics, I made remarks to the effect of "How do I know you and Ted Bolman aren't the same person? I've never seen both of you in the same room at the same time." (See, the idea was, I'd never actually met either of them, and... never mind.) And when they both attended the Boston convention which I mentioned earlier, I took the joke one step further and -- again, as in early 1960s DC Comics -- said "How do I know one of you isn't really Alfred the butler, in disguise?"

Look, you hadda be there, okay?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The convention came after I had produced my own mini-comic.

So, backtracking a bit... I wanted "in" on this phenomenon. True, I couldn't draw, but in this format, that wouldn't be an issue!

But what would my comic be about?

At this time (1986), I was already writing the Insect Man title for That's Entertainment -- a title which was arguably the oldest "small press" comic still being published at that time, albeit with quite a hiatus between its original incarnation and that of the 1980s -- and I was about to join the ranks of the professionals with the publication of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. #1 in January of the following year (1987, natch!).

I couldn't use the Insect Man character even if I'd wanted to try my hand at drawing him; he wasn't mine. Add to that the fact that I didn't want to do any serious concept(s) of my own which I may have had in my mind, in this virtually-unpaid format.

Then I remembered OHO, who was basically a throwaway charcter anyway... although one which I actually hadn't thrown away!


It's engraved in stone somewhere. Or at least, it should be:

"David M. Lynch's First Rule of Writing: Never throw anything away."

So here, without further ado...

(Wait a second! Screw that. This is Yours Truly we're dealing with here!)

So here, with further ado...

In other words, here are some random notes before you get stuck reading I serve up this little gem:

  • In plotting my mini-comic, I decided to give OHO's inky form somewhat of a shape-shifting quality. And, as I mentioned, OHO #1 was done in 1986. Not only were the X-Men comics (and Wolverine, of course) extremely popular, but so was a TV show you may or may not be familiar with called Miami Vice, which co-starred the "Don Johnson" I reference on page six.
  • That silverish look to my hair and beard -- although at that time, my hair was a solid brown and not the greyish-white "Silver Fox" look I sport today -- was achieved by filling in the appropriate areas with a heavy concentration of pencil, as opposed to the black ink which delineated the rest of the art. That was one of the few artistic tricks I used in OHO #1 as flashy diversions from the fact that as an artist, I'm a pretty good writer!
  • Yes, I know. I draw the worst freakin' hands in the business! The drawings of my own (human) hands in OHO's origin story were the result of some actual effort on my part, which is why they're even as good as they are... which ain't too good!)
  • That weird little badge I'm wearing on page seven, the one with the number 3 on it, is a reference to my being a fan of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a TV show I watched as a kid (and, as stated before as well as above, the first professional comic book I was ever involved with.) It may safely be assumed that I am wearing it throughout OHO #1; you, the reader, just don't see me from the right angle until the last page!
So, without further ado: OHO #1-and-only!

So. I was officially a small press publisher.

There never was an OHO #2. I never really intended for there to be a second issue, although I did submit a couple of illustrations of OHO here and there, as well as prepare that one-page "origin" story, which was supposed to appear in a small press anthology which never happened. As it turned out, for one reason or another, I soon lost interest in the whole "small press explosion," as the whole fad was referred to at the time.

The next time I used OHO, he was a mascot once more, in the early 1990s. I had left That's Entertainment on amicable terms in 1988, and not long after had started a new & used comic book business called Yesterday & Today at a flea market. The business briefly supported a store, although I ran the store and the Sunday flea market stand simultaneously. Several flyers and of course, the store sign itself, featured OHO.

Not long after the store closed, I eventually got out of the new comic side of things, and by the early years of this century, I'd pretty much gotten the "business" part of the "comic book business" out of my system entirely.

There was never an official date upon which OHO had outlived his usefullness, but his "demise," as it were, came well before I closed up shop at the flea market.

And that, as they say, is that...

Oh, wait. I lied. I was just messin' with you. Silly me.

In 1988, OHO was involved in a major fanzine project of mine, and that's what you'll be reading about next week! (UPDATE: For reasons I won't get into here, the follow-up to this post never appeared. Sorry.)

See you then, I hope.

But until then... Last, but not least, a little "bonus" for you:

Here's my ages-old rendering of OHO doing an "impression" of Rorschach, from the then-more-or-less-current DC series, Watchmen! (And ya gotta love the timing, considering that the Watchmen flick will soon be hitting the theatres!)

Thanks for your time!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ISLAND (a/k/a "MY ISLAND") the Comic Book

If you're a regular reader of either -- or both -- of my blogs, you'll be all-too-familiar with the story called My Island. It seems like I can't go more than a week without referencing it, either here or in David'Z Rantz.

I suppose that's because I'm rather proud of it. It's also because the subject -- my friend Patty -- was and is that much a part of me.

For the uninitiated, My Island was a 28-chapter tribute to a woman who died almost fifteen years ago. Before she died, I promised her that I would someday tell her story.

Even before Patty passed away, I'd begun going through -- and I'm quoting from an earlier post on this blog -- "an incredible period of creativity. Not necessarily productivity, I hasten to add. But the ideas themselves wouldn't stop coming. I came up with a list of over two dozen concepts. Most of these were envisioned as comic books."

My Island -- actually, as I recently discovered, it was just "Island" at first -- was one of those concepts.

Of course, that project, in that form, never came to be. Instead, I serialized the story on my David'Z RantZ blog. But in the very last chapter of My Island itself, I briefly mentioned the comic book that almost happened. My sometimes-tricky memory had told me that it was going to be pretty much what appeared as My Island in its prose version.

According to some notes I found a few months ago, I was wrong. (Yes, I was actually wrong. Can you freakin' believe it?)

Oh, hell, I'll just reprint what I wrote in the list of story concepts which I was passing around to artists for about three or four years, so you can see what I mean:


This is a limited series, designed for mature readers due to profanity and other “adult” elements. Its duration, however, will be quite lengthy, as the storyline involves two people’s lives over a twenty-year period. Sometimes their lives intersect, and sometimes not.

Island does not tell a story about an island. It does tell the story of the narrator’s close friend, Mary Warriner (the name and some instances are fictitious), from the time he meets her in 1975 until her death in 1994 from ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). It is definitely not a linear biography. In fact, the plotlines will meander as much as the narrator’s random memories. The discovery by Mary that she has this fatal disease will be the springboard for the series, provoking various reminiscences via flashbacks, interspersed with modern occurrences.

As this series is based on the author’s unfortunate reality, there is no real need for any storyline suggestions by the artist.


Let's just pick that apart, shall we?


Okay, fine. Island, and not My Island. Whatever. That's minor.

This is a limited series, designed for mature readers due to profanity and other “adult” elements.

Well, at least that hadn't changed. It still wouldn't have been an "adults only" story. I would've used the same approach as I did in its prose form, where the reader is kept "outside" of the bedroom -- or the automobile, or wherever -- during any canoodling episodes.

Its duration, however, will be quite lengthy, as the storyline involves two people’s lives over a twenty-year period. Sometimes their lives intersect, and sometimes not.

Ohhh, crap. That implies that there would have been a lot more time devoted to the "David" character. More about my fiancées, my friendships, the "Irish Mafia," etc.

Island does not tell a story about an island.


does tell the story of the narrator’s close friend, Mary Warriner...

I'm guessing that I chose a name like "Mary Warriner" -- sounds almost like "marijuana," dunnit? -- because my sense of closure demanded that some sort of dumb joke be made about her name, and since the whole "Patsy Walker" thing was out...

(the name and
some instances are fictitious)...

Ahhh, the old writer's dodge! I could tell you all sorts of stuff about my personal life, but you'd never know what was real and what was fiction!

It is definitely not a linear biography. In fact, the plotlines will meander as much as the narrator’s random memories.

Heh. What a great idea. I sure could've used that kind of leeway in the writing of My Island itself! But no, I had to be Mr. Chronological as much as possible, and paint myself into a corner...

As this series is based on the author’s unfortunate reality, there is no real need for any storyline suggestions by the artist.

A polite way of telling any and all prospective artists to keep their non-visual ideas to themselves.

* * * * *

Out of a handful of prospective artists who saw my list of "over two dozen concepts," only a guy named Jim -- who was briefly an upstairs neighbor of mine when I moved to Webster in 1995 -- showed any interest in drawing Island.

If I recall correctly, he prepared the following sketches just for the hell of it, with only a brief description of what Patty had looked like.

(Right-click on any of the drawings to open them in another tab or window, and it will give you a much larger image than the one on this page.)

I'll quote from myself again, this time from the last chapter of My Island: "[Jim] was trying to show [Patty] physically wasting away, and frankly, she ended up looking like a crack whore. I'm not just saying that to be crude, or cruel. Even he said it. 'Too much crack whore?' he asked, and I nodded.

Before Jim and I shelved the idea of the collaboration, as we eventually ended up doing, I looked at the three-paneled "page" that he had drawn. Just for the hell of it, I decided to write some sort of captions which could, theoretically, fill the yellow boxes -- or actually, much larger yellow boxes! -- that Jim had included in the drawing. (And if memory serves, I was fueled less by a creative urge and more by a few bottles of Bud Light.)

I stared at the artwork. To me, the middle picture of "Mary" looked angry. But the third picture was that of a faint smile. So I decided that this page could, perhaps, be about a mild confrontation -- and certainly, the real Patty and myself had been through plenty of those! -- but one which was quickly resolved.

This is what I came up with:

Panel One: I don't recall the exact term of disparagement that she used then. But her eyes held mine, and I felt an indominable [sic] will that, paradoxically, cried out for help.

Panel Two: Taken as just a part of the entire face, those eyes looked into me, and through me, with a shrill defiance that struck like a physical slap.

Panel Three: For one of the few times in our intertwined lives, I couldn't stare her down! I quickly and subtly shifted my gaze to her lips. A sneer? A smile? Her expressions, too, were subtle, yet I recognized -- thankfully -- the trust she would always have for me.

Well... I dunno what you thought, but here's what I thought: I'd done it just as an experiment, and frankly, I didn't care for the result. I blame the Bud Light for the "Taken as just a part of the entire face... " line and the fact that I wrote "indominable" rather than "indomitable!" Not to mention... "shrill?"

But even without the influence of... well... being "under the influence," what I'd written was what I myself refer to as "over-writing." If I were ever to attempt a comic series or a graphic novel of My Island again, I'd rely more on dialogue -- which I feel is my strongest point as a writer -- than unnecessarily-wordy captions.

(The great Will Eisner was right. If you can show something in a comic book illustration, that illustration should take precedence over captions and/or dialogue. But dialogue, if necessary, is better than a caption. So, in mathematical terms, ILLUSTRATION > DIALOGUE > CAPTION. I couldn't find the example from Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art online but Eisner did a great sequence about this. More or less, it says that there's no sense having a scene where you show "Bob" being shot, accompanied by a caption saying "Suddenly, Bob is shot!" and/or a dialogue balloon where Bob says "Ugh! I've been shot!" But I digress.)

So there you have it! One of my shorter entries.

You're welcome.

* * * * *

Next time -- probably -- I'll be introducing you to my "mascot," OHO, a character who's been following me around for over thirty-five years! And the OHO story is mainly to lead into a feature about... Well, you'll see. Thanks for your time.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...