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.