Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kalli's Candy-Crammed Christmas Cookies

The comic strip below was done for's Recipe Comix feature. I finished it in early December, e-mailed it to the editor, and didn't hear anything. I naturally presumed she hated the thing, so sent a follow-up note offering to fix any problems that might exist (the cholesterol gag, perhaps?), but again heard nothing.

Then, on December 5th, my father died, and so obviously, finding out what happened with this project became a lesser priority. When things calmed down a little, and I returned from my hometown to my new 'burg of Newark, I sent another note to the person who initially put me in touch with the editor at the magazine. Turned out that everything I had sent directly to Saveur went right into their spam folder (which, I assume is called an Iberico folder or something schmancy)....

And so, this strip (misnamed "Candy-Crammer" instead of "Crammed" due to a swanky, but semi-illegible House font I used for the title), initially slated for early December posting, went live a few days before Christmas. But there's a silver lining, as the belated timing allowed me to ask them to include a dedication to my dad, who loved sugary treats more than just about anything on this planet.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Prince Street News: The Pumpkin Patch

The new BACK ISSUE! is a Halloween Heroes and Villains issue, so I plopped a bunch of horror-themed comic book characters into an iconic pumpkin patch from another much beloved comic strip. Again, I'm sure most of these gags are going to skitter right over the heads of those of you who don't have a preference in comic bag mil (I'm a 3 mil man, myself), but at least this one's kinda pretty to look at.

I'm not going to explain every joke, but I will tell you who the cast of characters are, in order of appearance: Man-Thing, Satana, Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, the Demon, the Spectre, Ghost Rider, Jack O'Lantern, Werewolf by Night, Deadman, the Son of Satan (imagine a major comic book company trying to release a book today where the hero was called the Son of Satan... God, I love the '70s), Vampirella, the Grim Ghost, Swamp Thing, the Zombie, Morbius the Living Vampire, Gene Simmons aka the Demon (MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL #1 starring KISS had the band members' blood mixed in with the red ink, hence the vampire commenting on the taste of the publication), Man-Bat, Brother Voodoo, Dell Comics' superheroic versions of Frankenstein and Dracula (I omitted the nearly as ludicrous Werewolf), Marvel's versions of said characters in the background, Dick Briefer's comedic take on Frankenstein from the 1940s, Marvel's Scarecrow (oh, and that's Batman chasing him, in case you didn't know), and finally the Great Pumpkin.... er, Snoopy (and good ol' Charlie Brown).

The background of this strip was done in homage to the great backgrounds of IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN. I used a ton of markers, overlaying colors on bleeding newsprint to approximate the water colored backgrounds of that cartoon. Why didn't I just use watercolors, you ask? I tried! I suck at anything involving a brush!

Read the strip. Happy Halloween.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prince Street News: Marvel Hanna-Barbera Comics

It's PSN time again, kiddies! The new BACK ISSUE! spotlights comic book adaptations of cartoon characters and cartoon adaptations of comic book characters from the '60s (yay!) thru the '80s (boo!). I have a special fondness for the Hanna-Barbera superheroes of the 1960s, the Herculoids, Shazzan!, Frankenstein Jr. (and the Impossibles!), and especially the über-sleek Space Ghost (about whom I rhapsodized in GEEK Magazine in 2008).

Sadly, Space Ghost's comic book legacy is short and spotty (see the linked article above for more). The last incarnation, a seriously grim adaptation by writer Joe Kelly and artist Ariel Olivetti was about as ill-advised as a murderous Captain Marvel or a gun-toting Alfred. There remains a lot of untapped potential in the character. Maybe someday.

In the meantime, I speculated as to what might have happened had the H-B TV Heroes been fully integrated into the Marvel Universe of the Silver and Bronze eras, mocking up comic covers, panels, ads and merchandise. This installment is not quite as inside as the Implosion Happy Hour episode, but it's still not going to make sense to the less-geeky of you. That is, I'm afraid, the fun of doing this comic strip.

Here's the strip as it appears in BACK ISSUE!, followed by the individual elements for a closer look.

Based on the cover of CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 by Gil Kane

The Human Torch leaves the Fantastic Four for the Galaxy Trio, presumably now the Galaxy Quartet

The Wasp cheats on Ant-Man with Atom Ant

Based on the cover of IRON MAN #36 by Sal Buscema

Poor Spidey is gonna lose his chicks to rock stars. 

It's a subtle joke. 

Based on Jack Kirby's cover to FANTASTIC FOUR #82

No doubt Mego would've left Space Ghost's hands uncovered. 

Birdman = Angel. Samson = Hercules. Jana ≠ the Black Widow, but whattyagonnado. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Justice League 2050

It's time for another re-interpretation of a childhood superhero drawing (the last one of my weird Batman redesign from my youth got a fair amount of play on the Internet, thanks!). This time around, I tackled a futuristic reboot of DC Comics' superhero team, The Justice League of America. I'm not sure exactly how old I was when I did this drawing, but I'm guessing it was probably sometime around 6th Grade, making me 12-ish.

Some of these costume designs are a little... bizarre, especially coming from an adolescent perspective. Both Wonder Woman and the Black Canary have exposed belly buttons, which I guess is fine. But Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Batman seem to be wearing some kind of fetishistic bondage outfits, with lots of high boots, halters and straps. Do not ask me what I was thinking at the time, but in the new piece I felt I had to embrace the freakiness of the designs by indicating that Batman's high boots and gloves are made out of some kind of vinyl-like substance. Or vinyl. Batman's wearing vinyl.

I actually kinda like the Flash design here, with just a bunch of blurring lines on his face and extremities (presumably all of them). The Atom isn't that far off from his comic book costume in the 1970s. The Superman (complete with low-waisted yellow speedos) is yet another example of how you just can't mess with the perfection of the character's iconic design. And I don't know what the deal is with that Aquaman.

I think my favorite thing in the entire original drawing is how Wonder Woman's hair completely covers her eyes, like a cool 70s hippie chick (I wish I could see a Jeff Jones or Mike Sekowsky version of this costume).

In the original drawing (clipped to save space), the "2050" is out of the green circle because when I originally dated the futuristic version of the team (with its "traditions passed over the years"), I wrote the year, "1092." Apparently, I quickly realized that 1092 was indeed the past, and not the future, hence the clumsy alteration. Ah, if only I'd have had Photoshop back then.

(Note: the cover template is loosely based on the cover of DC SPECIAL BLUE RIBBON DIGEST #11 from July 1981.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sketchbook Superheroes

I never post things from my sketchbook here, and I'm not sure why. I usually like my loose, fast sketches more than my finished pieces. Maybe part of the reason is that I really don't sketch as much as I should (my pal, illustrator Russ Cox posts new sketchbook pages on a weekly basis on Facebook, and he's been making me feel guilty). In fact, my sketchbooks these days are usually more pages of specs for shelves and boxes that I build than drawings of anything. But when I do doodle, it's usually—as it has ever been—drawings of superheroes, often in costume redesigns.

Here are four such drawings from sketchbooks spanning the past seven years or so, of Batgirl, Batman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. I may put up more. Or maybe not. Hey, who wants to see designs for shelves?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prince Street News: Implosion Happy Hour

The latest installment of PRINCE STREET NEWS is out in the new BACK ISSUE! available at your local comics shop, Barnes & Noble, or directly through the TwoMorrows website. As I mentioned when I posted the last installment, this episode, entitled "Implosion Happy Hour" requires a ton of exposition for the non-geeky of you. I'll give you panel-by-panel explanations below the strip, but first you need to understand what the whole thing is about.

In the mid-1970s, DC Comics' new publisher Jenette Kahn extended the venerable company's line by adding new titles, expanding page counts and introducing new formats and content. The expansion was advertised in DC's books as "The DC Explosion." In those days, comics were still sold primarily via news outlets (comic stores were just beginning to dot the landscape), so the entire industry's success was based on newsstand sales reports.

The weather was not taken into consideration. A huge blizzard in the winter of 1977/78 kept many of DC's books from ever making it into distribution. Naturally, sales reports on those titles that never made it out of the warehouse were pretty darn low. This, combined with the ever-raising price of paper and the ongoing economic woes of the recession, caused a widescale cancellation of most of the new titles (and some old ones), a downsizing that came to be known as "the DC Implosion."

The characters in the strip below were all affected by the DC Implosion to one extent or another. Some characters had their books canceled; some lost backup slots in existing comics; some never got to appear anywhere at all.

PANEL ONE: The Creeper arrives at a bar named after legendary DC editor Julius Schwartz
PANEL TWO: The Creeper is greeted by Firestorm in a roomful of DC Comics characters. The Creeper references a cancelled comic, SHOWCASE, in which he was scheduled to headline an upcoming issue, written and drawn by his creator, Steve Ditko.
PANEL THREE: The Odd Man, another Ditko creation, was slated to be a backup feature in another comic book. The cowboy in the background is The Deserter, who was slated to star in his own comic book in a fading genre.
PANEL FOUR: Shade, the Changing Man was yet another Ditko character whose own comic was canceled.
PANEL FIVE: Black Lightning, another headliner whose book was axed.
PANEL SEVEN: Ragman, another character who saw his book canceled.
PANEL EIGHT: Black Lightning talks with Vixen, scheduled to star in her own comic book. Vixen eventually became a fairly major B-Lister in the DC Universe, to the point of appearing in the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon series. So, in the end, she had more visibility than Black Lightning ever did.
PANEL TEN: DC and Marvel both had a tendency to name their African-American characters "Black (something)." In case the reader couldn't figure it out.
PANEL ELEVEN: Jack Kirby's futuristic, post-apocalyptic character Kamandi, subtitled, "the Last Boy on Earth."
PANEL TWELVE: Claw the Unconquered was a Conan-esque DC comic that was canceled. Aquaman remembers that Firestorm is actually a nuclear fusion of two people, a high school professor and one of his teenage students, Ronnie Raymond.

Canceled headliners Steel and OMAC talk about CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE (details here).
PANEL TWO: Steel mentions two much maligned (but beloved by me) DC series that had been axed prior to the Implosion.
PANEL THREE: Dr. Fate reacts poorly to The Ray's pun. The Ray (whose backup series was killed by the Implosion) was illustrated in the Golden Age by a legendary artist named Lou Fine. Some of those stories had been reprinted by DC in its previous line of 100-page comics.
PANEL FIVE: Star Sapphire of the Secret Society of Super Villains (a cancelled title) orders a round for...
PANEL SIX: Gorilla Grodd, Captain Boomerang (an Aussie baddie), Copperhead, Captain Cold, and Sinestro.
PANEL SEVEN: Sinestro's power derives from a yellow source.
PANEL NINE: Captain Cold passes the buck to some of DC's other weather-controlling super villains.
PANEL TEN: The murdered aerialist turned spectral avenger Deadman was scheduled to be in SHOWCASE as well. Many of Deadman's 1960s stories ended with the angst-ridden spirit wailing in despair.
PANEL ELEVEN: Madame Xanadu (from the canceled comic, DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE) refers to Deadman's killer, an assassin who had a hook for a left hand.
PANEL TWELVE: The witches from THE WITCHING HOUR order brews. Get it? Get it?
PANELTHIRTEEN: Mister Miracle (canceled) chats with the golden age Flash (the Justice Society's ALL-STAR COMICS was also axed).
PANEL FOURTEEN: That's Batman.
PANEL SIXTEEN: Ragman's tagline was, "The Tatterdemalion of Justice!"
PANEL SEVENTEEN: Power Girl and Robin as they appeared on Earth-2 in ALL-STAR COMICS.

Phew. That's a lot of nerdsposition. Thanks for your patience. Hello? Anyone still there?

Oh, Hell.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Action Comics 195... Redux

Ever since Jim Lee's horrific redesign of Superman's costume last year, I—along with every other marker-wielding fanboy—have been doodling in my sketchbook trying to see if there's maybe a better way to "update" the Man of Steel's costume without completely eliminating the iconic elements that have stood the test of time for over three quarters of a century. A lot of would-be re-designers have incorporated some kind of black or gray paneling (or whatever you call it), because even Lee realized that you can't replace the red and blue color scheme, it's too integral to the character.

I still feel that the whole thing is a colossal waste of time and insult to the character, but here's my stab at it, incorporated into a redrawing of 1954's ACTION COMICS #195. As with the Groovy Golden Age Batman illo I did a few months back, I incorporated elements from different eras into this piece, just to give it a feel not tied to any specific time (I had to find a way there to not call it "timeless"). (Oh and you don't have to point out that the perspective is messed up at the bottom... I know it is! But it was in the original, too, so consider that an... homage. Yeah, that's it, an homage!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Old Woman in the Forest

"The Old Woman in the Forest" was published in 1999 in DC Comics / Paradox Press' THE BIG BOOK OF GRIMM, adapting some of the lesser known fairy tales from the prolific storytellers. The book was written by Jonathan Vankin and edited by Jim Higgins. There's a lot about this that I hate, but whattyagonnado.

Anthony Comstock

"Anthony Comstock, Special Agent of the Post Office Department" was published in 1999 in DC Comics / Paradox Press' THE BIG BOOK OF VICE, written by Steve Vance and edited by Andrew Helfer.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Ghost in the Snow

A Ghost in the Snow was done for DC Comics / Paradox Press' THE BIG BOOK OF THE WEIRD, WILD WEST, written by John Whalen and edited by Andy Helfer. I did work for four of these books (one of which never saw print), and am going to finally post them all here. This version differs from the printed pages in one way: I was asked to redo the computer-lettered captions by hand because at the time (1998), most comics—even graphic novels—didn't use computer lettering. How things have changed!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Groovy Golden Age Batman

A bit of explanation is necessary. While going through a pile of old childhood artwork, I found this bizarre drawing I did of "The Golden Age Batman." I'm not sure how old I was, probably around 8 or so (just a guess), old enough to know of the concept of The Golden Age of Comics, but not at all aware of what 1940s design looked like. Because this groovy Batman costume is something better suited for a 1970s Blaxploitation film than anything caped crusader-related. Those name-checked bell bottoms!!! Man oh man... I had to re-draw this thing.

I originally just re-drew it in the same pose, but it wasn't enough. So I did a cover re-creation of a real Golden Age BATMAN comic, issue 42 from 1947, pitting the Dynamic Duo against the Catwoman. It was an opportunity to try to match the bizarre amalgam of my incorrectly perceived Golden Age esthetic with the obvious Me-Decade era in which I was living. I put Robin in a macramé sweater, a giant collar and 70s gym clothes from the waist down.

Catwoman, meanwhile, is wearing Farrah Fawcett-Majors' red swimsuit (augmented with her name, in case people got confused) and hair, with denim cutoffs, gloves and tail. She's also clunking around in huge gladiator wedgies.

For the logo, I adapted one that I drew on the back of the original drawing. To augment the 40s/70s amalgamation, I combined elements from comic books of those different eras for the details on the cover such as the DC logo, price and Comics Code stamp. Heck, nothing about this makes sense, so why not.

And I couldn't help but add a cape to Batman's costume. It just didn't look right without it. Maybe in my original drawing, it was just at the cleaner's or something. The sad thing is, as much as I tried, I just couldn't match the sheer craziness of this old childhood drawing. There's something to be said for the unbridled imagination of youth. But, hey, I gave it a shot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We Are Your Friends

Here's what you do: You go to the WFMU Pledge Page and donate some money to keep the best freakin' radio station this side of WKRP live and on the air (and the internet, too). Maybe you'll get a copy of dee-jay Therese Mahler's compilation, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS: A SOUNDTRACK FOR FIRST CONTACT AND INTERPLANETARY DIPLOMACY. I did the artwork. Which is, you know, why it's posted here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Prince Street News: High Heel Fighting!

Here's the new installment of PRINCE STREET NEWS, as seen in the latest issue of Michael Eury's BACK ISSUE! Magazine, available from the fine folks at TwoMorrows Publishing. You can order the issue here! Following the last installment, it's another look at comic book couture, and while that's certainly a fertile topic for discussion (as the terrific website PROJECT: ROOFTOP regularly demonstrates), it's not going to be the subject of every PSN. The next episode will appear in BI! #57 (which you can pre-order here), spotlighting Jenette Khan's revolutionary reign at DC Comics in the 1970s and 80s, and it's entitled, "Implosion Happy Hour!" When I put that one up here, I'm going to have to do a lot of annotating for the less geeky of you.

Below the finished strip is the detail of the reproduction of the cover of GREEN LANTERN #14, the original by the great Gil Kane.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Funny thing about this piece, I've seen a bunch of other artists' interpretation of the photo on which this was based... I guess there are some images that really resonate with cartoonists and a come-hithery 50s babe is up near the top of the list!