Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peeking Into Firegirl's Diary

Yesterday's scheduled profile of Doppelgirl reminded me that I have never written a "behind the scenes" for "Firegirl's Internet Diary". I think we should do that today.

My original idea was to put together a story starring Firegirl built around the conceit that it was a diary entry. Then I remembered what century it was and decided that a blog entry might be better. Ironically enough, despite its presentation as a blog entry, the story was originally written in longhand in a notebook and then transcribed. This was once my preferred method, but I have drifted away from it over the last few years. It was interesting to revisit it, but I don't think I need to make a habit out of it.

Firegirl is a character whose personality has developed gradually over the years, at least partially through the fan work of her by a handful of folks who really took to her. So it was fun to try to more fully explore the many facets of who she is. I came away from this story with a much clearer vision of who Firegirl "is", so I consider that a plus.

There is also a lot of world building in this story. Let's look at some of the details that pop up!
  • One aspect that I tried to better define in this story is the Invincible Alliance itself. I worked out some of their character interplay, albeit largely off-stage and inferred. I also introduced their super technology, like the Air Cars and transporter tubes for passage between their many embassies.
  • The reference to the "Volcano Monsters" hints at the case where Firegirl gained her powers and was able to ditch the Pyro Pistol that had been with her since I conceived her. Everyone had always missed it, so I just went ahead and made it official!
  • I wanted to figure out exactly what Roxanne and Shelly's relationship might be, considering how pivotal both of them are in the big picture of this universe. I like to think it makes a degree of sense, given the place both of them hold in Paul (Captain Satellite) Mann's life.
  • I am reasonably certain that this story marked the debut of both "El Oceano" (a major west coast city) and The Major City Courier (Major City's number one newspaper). The latter was created for possible inclusion in another project, but that didn't happen.
  • The name "Alex Royce" is my tribute to "Alec Rois", the secret identity of the old Captain Atom villain the Ghost. The Ghost was one of my prime inspirations in the creation of the Phantom Rogue.
  • Calvin Major is a member of the Major family that has been subtly popping up here and there as the "first family" of Major City. Given the implicit antiquity of his works, it's possible Calvin Major is the one who actually FOUNDED Major City.
  • In case you were wondering, yes, I totally dropped a reference into this story to the picture seen both here and here. You thought I wouldn't?
  • You can read more about Spookette's genesis in the Doppelgirl entry linked above. One consequence of her inclusion is that it allowed me to delve a little bit into Firegirl's personality in ways that might have been unexpected for some people.
  • I kind of want my own Spookcopter. I love the name, and I love the very idea.
  • Firegirl's ability to use her powers to make herself lighter than air is something I vaguely recall being offered once as an explanation for how fire heroes could fly. It doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it even a little, but there's a lot about superhero stories than don't make sense if you apply critical thinking.

I haven't had as many opportunities to pen Firegirl's adventures since this summer, but that just gives me a goal for 2011!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My World : Doppelgirl

Doppelgirl is the codename used by Judy Gourrier, a C.H.I.E.F. agent gone rogue. Or is she really a deep cover agent infiltrating the underworld through deception? If the latter is true, C.H.I.E.F. director Rex Coronado isn't talking.

Doppelgirl is an unparalleled disguise expert. She boasts that she can impersonate anyone, male or female, regardless of age. She is fluent in an array of languages, and an uncanny mimic. Though not a trained or disciplined fighter, she is lithe and athletic, and more than capable of giving an opponent a run for their money.

Doppelgirl first surfaced as part of the super-villain community under the alias of "Spookette". Working as an underling for the Phantom Rogue, she was captured by Firegirl during an ill-fated robbery . Turned over to the authorities, "Spookette" disappeared from her holding cell overnight. No explanation has ever been offered.

After that first encounter, Doppelgirl turned up using her familiar identity and outfit. More recently, she has been reported as calling herself "Madame Troika" and claiming allegiance to Third World. Is she truly affiliated with Third World? Or is this merely another ruse by a woman who has mastered the art?

Doppelgirl almost didn't make the cut. In spite of a dearth of female characters in the Captain Satellite milieu, she almost went into the reject pile. You can credit her salvation to the fact that I changed her uniform's colors and developed a better backstory for her. Oh, and it didn't hurt that she sort of already was in my continuity in the first place.

To backtrack, when I wrote "Firegirl's Internet Diary" in July, I included a character named "Spookette" as a tongue-in-cheek nod to my frequent collaborator Kabuki Katze. Back when I originally posted the Phantom Rogue on deviantArt in 2007, she had this to say:
"Hmm, I'm afraid I'm in love with him. He doesn't need a busty redhaired minion, does he?"
Kabuki forgot that comment after a couple of days. I didn't. So it was with a fiendish sense of delight that I did give the Phantom Rogue a "busty redhaired minion". That was Spookette.

I considered doing a picture featuring Spookette as she was described in the story, but somehow, I had a lot of trouble getting inspired to draw a derivative character. Spookette needed something to jazz her up a little. That was when I hit upon the idea of making Spookette one of a series of identities assumed by a character who could stand on her own.

If you are a scholar of comic book trivia, you might know about a character named Duela Dent. She is one of those fringe DC Comics folks who turn up when you least expect it. I sort of enjoyed her early appearances in Batman Family as "the Joker's Daughter" and other spurious offspring of Batman villains. In spite of her tangled history, the core concept of a character who impersonates OTHER characters resonated with me.

I spent so much time coming up with the name "Doppelgirl" (obviously derived from doppelgänger) that it was kind of embarrassing that I had so little to go with it afterward. I attributed Spookette to Doppelgirl, and also an equally derivative Madame Hydra-wannabe I'd considered dubbed "Madame Troika". There were a couple of other aspects thrown into the mix, too. The problem was, Doppelgirl had no real hook beyond assuming fake identities.

There was also the lesser problem of her uniform. I tried a couple of different things with it, including giving her slippers instead of boots. You can blame animator Darrell McNeil for planting that particular idea in my brain through an article in Alter Ego magazine. I also wanted to use pink, since it's a "girl" color that I've largely avoided. Well, that was all well and good, but soft colors combined with the design I'd committed myself to left me with an outfit seemingly more suitable for jogging than anything else. Not quite what I had in mind.

I remedied that problem eventually by changing the primary color to black, but a lighter shade than I've used in the past. The idea here is that Doppelgirl wears this tight spandex ensemble because it is easier to keep it on beneath whatever disguise she might be using. The shorter sleeves and pants enable her to conceal it better. I was also pretty happy with the more delicate line I used on this piece, and I'm glad I get the chance to showcase it properly.

That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come up with some story possibilities for Doppelgirl that I actually liked. Ironically, that all started with the musical in-joke that led to her alter ego. And that only came about because I was trying to come up with a title for the earlier version, since I didn't want to commit the Doppelgirl name to a reject! It all worked out though, and I found my way with Doppelgirl at last by making her a rogue government agent. Or is she really a good guy after all? The ambiguity is what makes it interesting to me. It's not perfect, but it's a start.

Dedicated to Kabuki Katze, who inadvertently got the ball rolling and served as inspiration for Spookette!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Godzilla Collage (2000)

I spent part of Tuesday wrestling with my temperamental scanner, trying to get all the covers of my old fanzines scanned for my continuing discussion of OWARI's past on this blog. While sorting through those old memories, I discovered this little artifact in OWARI #9 (December 2000). I had forgotten it even existed.

My best recollection is that this was created purely as filler. However, I obviously put some thought into how it was laid out. Godzilla is clearly visible in every shot. I don't think that was just luck.

This was assembled from photocopies of material from my personal collection of Japanese books. I've cleaned it up a bit, to cover up some of the stuff that was hidden when IT was photocopied as part of the issue's contents. It's not as straight as I would've hoped, but what can you do a full decade down the line?

Anyway, since I can't post this on my art site, please enjoy it here. You can click the image to see it larger. And by the way, I also have an even larger scan handy. Waste not, want not.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Growing up in the 1970s, one of the comic books that fired my imagination and yet my eluded my grasp was Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. Believe you me, I saw those ads reproduced on Rob Kelly's Treasury Comics site, and I wanted that book. Heck, there was even TV coverage, which was unheard of in that decade. And yet, I never laid hands on the crossover that even today dwarfs the initial Superman/Spider-Man team-up that inspired it. It was big news, but I missed it.

Until now, that is. DC Comics has reached an agreement with Ali's people and, at long last, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali has been reprinted in hardcover. You can choose between the Deluxe Edition or a Facsimile Edition that reproduces the comic at its original tabloid-sized dimensions. Though the latter is definitely pricier, both editions have their virtues. I'd say pick the one that fits your needs.

Did the story live up to those long-held expectations? You know, it did. A lot of the books I grew up reading don't always hold up, but this was truly an epic. It has scope, it has character, and it has a few messages that we all would do well to still try to heed. Neither Superman nor Muhammad Ali overshadows their co-star, which is darn impressive when you think about it. Ali is portrayed as larger-than-life, but very human and real in my eyes. And Superman? Why, this is Superman the way he should be.

Neal Adams' art was beautiful then, and it's beautiful now. It may be his last true tour de force in comics. Thankfully, he has resisted the urge this time to tamper overly much with the original product. It looks faithful to his work of that period, and the coloring (while new) is not garishly overdone. Thank goodness for small favors.

Oh, and as an aside about Neal Adams, did anybody else notice that the character key includes a notation for Ms. Mystic? She is noted as being a DC Comics character, so I can only assume this key was the original from 1978. It didn't quite turn out that way for Ms. Mystic.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali would have thrilled me when I was six, and it still hits the spot now that I am a bit older. Certainly, it did more to enhance Ali's reputation than did his meeting with Antonio Inoki. But that's another story...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

I don't have a whole lot to say about this song, which is one of the two signature tunes ("Free Bird" being the other) of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. I just wanted to point out that I'm slightly confounded by its continued widespread popularity.

It's not that it sucks or anything, though I would definitely jot it down on my list of overplayed songs along with the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll". It's just that it is so blamed topical that I can't believe the majority of today's audience even fully understands it. How many listeners know that the references to Neil Young are responses to two specific songs ("Southern Man" and "Alabama")? I am a bigger fan of Neil Young than I am Lynyrd Skynrd, and even I can't argue that "Sweet Home Alabama" is probably more famous than any of Young's compositions. I'm actually too scared to even contemplate how many contemporary listeners don't even know who Neil Young is.

And then there is the business about "the governor" and "Watergate". How much discussion does George Wallace get these days? How many people talk about the 1972 presidential election? How many people understand what Watergate even was, much less why the media feels compelled to attach "-gate" to each and every scandal they can? Sadly, I don't think I want to know the answers to these questions.

I think the biggest lesson we can learn from the continued popularity of "Sweet Home Alabama" in spite of its lyrics being meaningless to many people is that way too many people just don't pay attention to what a song says and means at all. That's unsurprising, but it isn't exactly reassuring.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Karma Bando

Meet Karma Bando, ace auto mechanic of Major City and co-creator of Captain Satellite's Rocket Racecar. Art by Kabuki Katze!

Karma Bando first appeared in the the Non-Supers Profiles. When I was putting that piece together, I realized it afforded me a good opportunity to discuss Captain Satellite's souped-up wheels. I just needed to find an excuse to bring it up. I happened to think about a friend and co-worker of mine who had at one time expressed interest in becoming an auto mechanic. That was when inspiration hit - I would create the mechanic for Cap's vehicle and base it on her!

I am so forthcoming about the origin of Karma from this young lady because I asked for her assistance in crafting my character into someone unique. She had input on several aspects, including the name. I like to think of her as the co-creator. So, thank you Destiny, for helping color in some of the details in my fantasy world!

More recently, I went to Kabuki with the intention of actually bringing Karma to life. Photos of her inspiration served as the basis, but we obviously took our own liberties. The blue hair was one, but it was one that had been discussed in Karma's creation. Oh, and we finally nailed down a name for Karma's garage - "Lightning Cars".

I'm pretty pleased with the final result as seen here and on Kabuki's page. I suspect you will immediately recognize the famous piece of advertising art that she paid homage to with it. It fits into the aesthetic of this world, that's for sure.

If I have my way, we'll be seeing more of Karma Bando in the future! Watch for her!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My World : The Neptoids

The Neptoids seen on Earth are actually part of an advance scout party sent by alien invaders intent on taking over our world. The Neptoids are not actually from the planet Neptune, but maintain a base there to better strike at Earth. The similar name, they insist, is purely a result of our poor Earthling comprehension of their language.

The Neptoids have run afoul of Captain Satellite and the other heroes of Earth on more than one occasion. During the first such encounter, Cap and Shelly Ericson realized they were in love while they were held captive aboard a Neptoid flying saucer. No word on the Neptoids' opinion of the relationship, but the adventure didn't work out for extraterrestrial interlopers that day.

The Neptoids are dogged in their determination to conquer our globe, or at least set the stage for such a conquest. To fail would mean returning home having accomplished nothing. That probably wouldn't go well.

The Neptoids are my ode to alien invaders from old pop culture, from comic books to B-movies. The gimmick of them sounding like they come from our solar system is something I got from the Thor baddies "the Stone Men from Saturn", who turned out to not really be from Saturn after all.

I tried to hit a bunch of timeless alien cliches, err, I mean trademarks, in designing the Neptoids. The ovoid head, the green skin, the pointy ears, the small body - all of them scream "alien invader" to me. I can't pinpoint one source for that backstory, as it is about as old as this concept.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystery Of The Mystery Wrist Launcher

If you do not already read Plaid Stallions and its sister site, Mego Museum, you should just go ahead and bookmark them now. Both of them are filled with nostalgia and humor, and I seriously make a point to check them often. In fact, if you are reading this blog on its homepage, you may notice the Plaid Stallions blog over there on the blogroll.

This particular entry is regarding something I noticed not very long ago, but am only just now pointing out to you guys. What can I say? I'm lame. But I think you'll overlook my inherent lameness when you get a load of this page from the 1975 Imperial Toys Catalog. Specifically, notice the "Mystery Wrist Launcher Set" in the lower righthand corner.

If you know anything about the world of Japanese superheroes, you are echoing the caption written by Brian Heiler: "What the hell is Kamen Rider doing here?" Your eyes do not deceive you - that is Kamen Rider V3 in all his glory adorning the package. Closer examination seems to further reveal that the "Mystery Wrist Launcher" is illustrated with a picture of V3 astride his motorcycle Hurricane. This in 1975, when the only way you MIGHT be aware of these characters in North America would be if you happened to be in the vicinity of one of the Japanese language stations that aired such programs. Those were, as you might imagine, few and far between.

So what gives? Beats me! I do know that Imperial had offices in Hong Kong, so perhaps this carried over from them without anyone in the main U.S. office being aware of the copyrighted character on it. I feel like the helmeted fellow hanging out with V3 is probably a clue of some kind, but despite his looking maddeningly familiar, I cannot place him. Does anyone know this dude? And don't count on the color scheme being helpful, either.

A much larger question is whether any of these survived intact, or even (dream a little dream!) mint in package. It's definitely historic, since this almost MUST be the first piece of American Rider merchandise extant. It just so happened that Imperial didn't know it! (Another shot of the toy is right here.)

If you can solve the mystery of the Mystery Wrist Launcher, please leave a comment!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


While researching this entry, I discovered that someone has done a far more comprehensive job covering the song "Apache" than I ever possibly could. My reaction to this? Good! This frees me from having to rehash the history of this piece of music myself, and allows me to just appreciate it for its sheer durability. So I urge you to check out the "Soul Sides" discussion and download the sound files for your edification. The latter has a double urgency because the hosting service for them is being discontinued soon.

Back? Excellent! The only qualifier that I feel I ought to add to that post is that the Ventures aren't really a "surf band". They INFLUENCED surf music - that's undeniable. But they really prefigured the surf genre, and definitely transcended it with their body of work.

Now then, let's look at "Apache". I think it is a testament to the power of music that it has evolved and grown well beyond the original intentions of its composer. I mean, it's one of the building blocks of the rap genre, and there's no way anyone who pushed Jørgen Ingmann's version to near the top of the charts could have seen that development coming.

Let's watch some videos! And let's see how many of these videos are still online in a few weeks, too...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My World : C.H.I.E.F.

C.H.I.E.F. (Command Headquarters International Espionage Force) is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government which is primarily charged with investigating and, if necessary, addressing what are deemed "anomalous situations." They are responsible for handling reports of UFOs, monsters, supervillains, and other out-of-the-ordinary phenomenon. Due to Third World's reliance on unorthodox tactics and weapons, C.H.I.E.F. has also been charged with containment functions in opposition to that subversive organization.

C.H.I.E.F. was formed in 1946, under circumstances which are still classified. It has been acknowledged, however, that C.H.I.E.F. is the successor to a branch of the government referred to only as "Department 27". Department 27 was established at some undetermined point prior to the United States' entry into World War II. It is best known for the Ultimate American Project, which led to the creation of the first Ultimate American.

C.H.I.E.F. has offices in major population hubs across the United States, and maintains bureaus in many nations. C.H.I.E.F. cooperates with other U.S. government agencies, and with intelligence services abroad. In light of a dearth of similarly-equipped organizations specializing in paranormal occurrences, C.H.I.E.F. has been called into action on foreign soil on a number of occasions at the request of the country in question.

Though C.H.I.E.F. engages in numerous covert activities, its existence is well-documented to the public at large, and many of its more notable cases have been widely reported in the press. Though the agency's heyday was undoubtedly in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s during the "spy hero" era, it still plays a vital role in both national and global security. C.H.I.E.F. works closely with the new breed of superhero that has emerged in recent years, and was responsible for the training of Ultimate American III (who acts in the role of "independent contractor" for the organization).

Rex Coronado is the current director of C.H.I.E.F., and is based at their central offices in Pongo, Virginia. He answers to the President of the United States and the top secret "Monarch-12" executive committee that oversees C.H.I.E.F.'s operations.

C.H.I.E.F. is the current incarnation of the super spy agency that has floating around my work for decades. It's been referenced in several character profiles, and in the Ultimate American Chronology, so I thought it would be fun to solidify some details about it. It draws inspiration from Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D., naturally, as well as the countless other acronym-crazy organizations that proliferated on the pop culture landscape like U.N.C.L.E. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. There's also some heavily altered stuff incorporated from real life research - or at least, things that did not originate in fiction.

This is the second version of this fact file. It contains new material and some slightly reworded text. Think of this as the "special edition" of C.H.I.E.F.'s profile, and a small reward for those of you who follow my work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I feel compelled to point my handful of readers to something far more amazing than anything I could accomplish on this blog. Recently, I was reminded of one such site which I have neglected to discuss.

Rob Kelly is a man with more blogs than he probably even remembers. The one we are discussing today is the JLA Satellite. This blog was only published from 2007-2008, because it had a limited goal in mind. However, that goal was to chronicle each issue of the original run of the Justice League of America comic! Yep, all 261 issues, the annuals, the try-outs - they're all there. It's an amazing resource, and a site I often find myself looking up when I have a question about the JLA.

It's a great site, filled with plenty of cool stuff on one of my favorite super teams. Plus, Rob's style is plenty ingratiating and fun.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sharp Cards!

Say, you guys still remember those Personal Sketch Cards that were done for me by Sean Moore, right?

This is famed super robot Mazinger Z. Obviously, this isn't my character, but when I saw this card, I had to have it. I figured it would go nicely with the latest batch of sketch cards he was doing of my characters.

What? Even more? Yes!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

UFO Daisenso: Tatakae! Red Tiger

NOTE: I am experimenting with embedding a video player from a Japanese site today. If you have trouble displaying the video, the link to it is right here.

UFO大戦争 戦え! レッドタイガー (UFO DAISENSO: TATAKAE! RED TIGER; "UFO War: Fight! Red Tiger") is one of those 1970s Japanese superhero shows that nobody talks about that much. Even its entry on the Japanese Wikipedia is pretty light. For instance, I sat down to write this entry, and until I looked at Wikipedia, I didn't even know exactly when in the decade it aired! By the way, it was 1978, if you don't feel like wading through the Japanese yourself.

RED TIGER is another one of those shows that certainly sounds interesting, but you wonder if you'll ever find the time to check it out more fully. When I finally dug up the above clip (and believe it, it took some work!), I admit that I was intrigued. It sure looks like it might be fun!

You will notice that Red Tiger is wearing a football helmet. I don't think there is any particular reason for this, but I could very well be wrong. American football was not unknown in Japan, but I highly doubt they had any particular affinity for it. From what I've seen, it's just something that they incorporate into designs from time to time to make it look different and perhaps a touch exotic. Kind of like our treatment of samurai paraphernalia in the West, when you think about it.

One thing I did learn from this brief clip is that Red Tiger is apparently one of the earliest heroes to have a distinct "power up" alternate form to complement his regular form. As far as I know, the first hero that actively changed forms during his series was Kamen Rider Stronger with his "Charge Up". This is after that series, but maybe even more distinctive than Stronger. After all, Red Tiger's entire suit changes in his power up form. An interesting precursor to what would be one of the trademarks of the more recent iterations of the Rider franchise.

Oh, and Jerry Ito appears in RED TIGER as "Dr. Yano". It sure looks to me as if this is a kindly scientist role. There is no way that can't be awesome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frankenstein Und Die Monster Aus Dem All

This title screen from the trailer for FRANKENSTEIN UND DIE MONSTER AUS DEM ALL ("Frankenstein And The Monster From Space"; a.k.a. the German title for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS) was the first screenshot I ever made. That was only a test, but it is sort of appropriate to include it with this entry. Why? Because David McRobie over at Xenorama posted both the American and German trailers for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS on Halloween Sunday. So now you can go see the classic American trailer and the German trailer that is the source of this screenshot!

As I pointed out in the comments over there, the German trailer is the Japanese trailer translated. It was probably originally dubbed into English for the international market by William Ross and company at the same time as the movie itself. David mentions that the monsters are even given on-screen names. This is a carryover from the Japanese trailer, except they are written out here in a comical "monster" font. I love it!

One thing I did not mention over at the Xeno-blog is how intrigued I am that the title logo for FRANKENSTEIN UND DIE MONSTER AUS DEM ALL is rendered almost exactly like the English title font supplied by Toho for the DESTROY ALL MONSTERS prints. That had to take some effort.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Firegirl and Company by Sara Duffield (2007)

On our last stroll down Captain Satellite memory lane, we took a look at fanart by my friend Sara that really started the ball rolling with those characters. Today, we shine the spotlight on subsequent pieces that helped shape some characterizations, and even led to some really neat things further along the way.

Here we see Firegirl as interpreted by Sara back in 2007, along with how she pictured her secret identity. This was doubly cool, because not only had there been precious little art of these characters by this point, but the thought of depicting alter egos had not even occurred to me. So Sara's vision of Roxanne Prize (was she even aware of that name at this time?) definitely served as a foundation for the later attempts at the character.

Sara also did similar pics for my childhood heroines Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman, though interestingly, not for Shelly Ericson. Perhaps because Shelly didn't have a secret identity? The one picture that likely had the most impact, however, was this one depicting Firegirl as a bit of a party girl.

Ignore the fact that the versions of Blue Behemoth and Drone Man you see in that picture are now apocryphal; Sara had very little info on them when she drew it. Instead, focus on the Firegirl you see there. I had literally never let my mind go in this direction before, but I had to admit, it had a lot of potential for making her a distinctive character. I really think this sketch played a big role in building Firegirl as she stands in 2010.

Sara did other drawings featuring my characters, including this delightful color picture named "Car Man's Wish". However, there was one additional piece from this period that looms large as a factor in how I wrote my female characters. I can't link you to it, because it was never uploaded to the Internet! Until now, that is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Marvel, You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

It has been noted by folks wiser than your humble blogger that Marvel has reached the point where they are releasing collected editions because they can, not because there is any great demand for them. I think I have run across a fine example of this phenomenon in their latest batch of solicitations.

Observe if you will Avengers: Citizen Kang on the Marvel site. This book caught my eye because I bought all four of the Annuals it reprints back in 1992. I enjoyed them for what they were, but haven't thought much about this "event" since then. Except now someone at Marvel thinks we need a collection of it.

Don't get me wrong here. I liked those Annuals, and I wouldn't be opposed to reading them again. It'd also be nice for all the creators involved to get royalties for that work. I'm assuming Marvel is paying royalties for these, right? It's just that there is no way on Earth I can justify buying this book.

I went to a well-known comic book retail site and checked the current base prices (not sale prices) of the four books reprinted in Avengers: Citizen Kang. This is what I found for them in Near Mint condition:

Captain America Annual #11 - $1.30

Thor Annual #17 - $1.10

Fantastic Four Annual #25 - $1.30

Avengers Annual #21 - $1.10

No, your eyes do not deceive you. The entire crossover can be had for $4.80. Granted, you would have to pay postage too, unless you made a large enough order to qualify for free shipping. Still, that's peanuts to own those comics in a day where one new comic costs almost that much.

How much is Avengers: Citizen Kang? $24.99. And it is entirely possible that it will not reprint all the extra stories and bonus features that are in the Annuals. But even if it does, that's twenty extra dollars for a reprint! Twenty dollars just for the privilege of saying you own a "book" instead of a pile of old comics.

I'm sorry, Marvel, but I'm just not going for it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

History, Revised : The Clinton Presidency

No one quite knew what to expect when George Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States on the newly-formed P-Funk ticket. In fact, his campaign promises mainly centered on two goals : 1) "tearing the roof off the sucker" and 2) "giving up the funk". However, during his two terms, Clinton is credited with truly turning the country into one nation under a groove.

Perhaps the most challenging times during the Clinton years were the attacks by America's enemies. Yes, it was very, very frightening when the forces of Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk launched an assault on the country's interests. However, Secretary of Defense Starchild, working with newly-appointed Surgeon General Dr. Funkenstein, "brought the noise" with the Pentagon's newest and deadliest weapon, the Bop Gun. As a related matter, the flashlight industry's stock prices went through the roof.

After overcoming what he termed the maggot brain of his political foes, Clinton achieved the much sought-after Mothership Connection that brought peace and harmony via Funkentelechy to all. Upon completing his second term, he retired to Florida with his dog Atomic and his staff of P-Funk All-Stars. They perform music as Parliament, Funkadelic, and whatever other names they want, baby.

Vice-President Bootsy Collins was asked for comment on this article, but protested that he and his Rubber Band were too busy conducting a search for the fabled monster Bootzilla.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My World : The Astro-Giants

From the far reaches of outer space, they come to planet Earth. They are...THE ASTRO-GIANTS!

The Astro-Giants are a race of phenomenally powerful cosmic beings who have, for reasons unknown, taken an interest in our world. They seem above the humanoid concepts of "good" and "evil", and carry out their masterplan without regard to either. The Astro-Giants have been known to prevent natural disasters, but were also responsible for threatening the existence of Thunder Man's parallel Earth. They do not tarry on our planet regardless of how their operations turn out, but whether this is simple preference or out of necessity is uncertain.

Captain Satellite and others have speculated that there is a connection between the Astro-Giants and the Mystery Spaceman. Though the faceless stranger clearly does not serve the cosmic colossi, the question remains whether these two separate enigmas from beyond our solar system are somehow intertwined.

I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but Jack Kirby was an amazing creative force. Why do I bring this up here? Keep reading!

I've wanted to include some "cosmic" characters in the Captain Satellite continuity for months, but had some trouble working out precisely what they should be. An early result of that process was the Mystery Spaceman, but he wasn't the original goal. I did manage to dream up a suitable name - the Astro-Giants - and included a few references to it in a handful of profiles that I was either writing or rewriting. But as far as who the Astro-Giants were, I was stymied.

I decided that my Astro-Giants would draw inspiration from a few sources. I looked to such Marvel characters as the Stranger, Galactus, and the Elders of the Universe, but there was one group in particular that struck a chord with me. That was the Celestials as featured in Jack Kirby's The Eternals. I'd always been taken with their designs and their air of mystery, and wanted to emulate that while still allowing the Astro-Giants the opportunity to develop into characters distinct from the Celestials.

I spent a month or two trying to design the Astro-Giants and working up a backstory for them. I won't go into details, but I expended a fair amount of effort crafting separate "looks" for each member of the race that I intended to include. I even gave them names that mixed mythology with foreign languages in an attempt to sound exotic. But at the end of the day, I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was all lacking the oomph I wanted.

The break-through came one morning while I was reading old Captain America stories from the 1960s. In one tale (pencilled by Jack Kirby, of course), Cap encountered this group of criminals that didn't even merit a special name to go with their colorful outfits. I don't think these guys have appeared since, which is unusual for a Marvel comic. Anyway, as I sat looking at these generic bad guys, I couldn't help but marvel (pun intended) at Kirby's ability to make even them look interesting.

That was where the lightbulb went off. I had been trying to create character designs riffing on Kirby, but let's face it, I'm no Jack Kirby. Then again, neither is anyone else. I studied these bad guys and began sketching. I didn't copy exactly, mostly because I don't have the kind of talent to pull that off. Instead, I tried to copy Kirby's use of shapes to make a visually appealing character.

The final result was the Astro-Giant look seen here. Figuring I shouldn't press my luck beyond one good design, I elected to make them distinct through color-coded armor. I'm sure they all have separate names and identities, but that will come out when/if a story featuring them happens. I'm just impressed I managed to generate even ONE design that looks passably Kirbyish!

If you are wondering, yes, that's the same drawing three times. Beyond the colors, I varied their heights in an attempt to create the illusion of perspective. I don't know how well that's pulled off, but I gave it the old college try.

Oh, and as a "P.S." for those of you who are fans of it, the opening of this profile is indeed a tribute to THE SPACE GIANTS TV series. It seemed appropriate, given the name.