Saturday, January 14, 2017

NILES NEMO & SONIC THE HEDGEHOG IN SEGALAND-Episode 6


From the final issue of Sega Visions Magazine produced by The Communiqué Group, the Winter 1991/92 issue.  This issue featured the winner of the "Draw a Sonic the Hedgehog Comic Strip" contest, a talented youngster named Kuanray Huang (who must be in his 30's by now!).  I worked from a single photo of Kuanray, as I recall, and can only assume the likeness was reasonably accurate.  With this episode, I finally stopped using a Rapidograph pen for the lettering, switching to a broader-nibbed Micron marker, and was much happier with the result, as I also was with the improved color registration.  I think the layout for this spread was one of my very best, and there was plenty of good action.  Too bad it was the last installment before Sega took the whole project west to San Francisco with new corporate oversight, and Niles disappeared into Segaland for good.  FUN FACT: As I have mentioned in my oft-referenced interview with Ken Horowitz, the Sonic game was new at the time, and I was the first artist to draw Sonic in comic book form.  A short time later, Sega produced a small, Manga-style Sonic comic book, and over the years, many others have been published.  This two-pager was the first Sonic The Hedgehog comic appearance, however.  BONUS FUN FACT:  A few years after Niles ended, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my all-time favorite comic book artists Gene Colan and his wife at a Boston convention.  We had a long, very enjoyable chat, and I showed him some of my work, including the Niles/Sonic spread.  His very genuine and generous response was "Oh, you know what you're doing!"  I remember that most fondly, indeed.

********SUPER-BONUS SPECIAL FEATURE!!********

In a complete departure from everything I've ever done before on this blog, I am showcasing art that was produced by someone besides me!  Here is the never-before-seen "lost" Niles Nemo adventure which was plotted, scripted and produced in layout form by none other than Boisterous Bill Kunkel!  I don't know why Bill did a layout for this episode, maybe just scratching an itch, but it's the only one he ever did for a Niles adventure.  I always worked from a general script.  I recently found this two-page layout in my files.  It is reproduced here from a photocopy of a FAX, and has some rough spots.  I retouched the lettering where it was broken, but did not change it in any way, not even Bill's backwards (or perhaps lower-case) "N's."  There are a couple of places where the lettering was too broken to decipher, but you can get a good feel for the story.  This last and lost episode, featuring "Basketball Dexter," was mentioned in my Sega-16.com interview with Ken Horowitz, but at that time, I didn't even know a copy of it had survived.  Here it is for the first (and probably last) time ever!  Click the image, and enjoy!!



And there you have it!  Everything you always wanted to know about Niles Nemo In Segaland, and a whole lot more!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

NILES NEMO visits the Consumer Electronics Show-Back cover house ad


From the Summer 1991 issue of Sega Visions Magazine.  For whatever reason there was no Niles adventure that issue, so we ran this promo on the back cover.  Not sure if all the anatomy is spot-on in that drawing, but ya gotta love those shoelaces!  They're as loopy as Spider-Man's webbing!  Oh, and there's my buddy Dave LeBlanc again, last seen in the "Columns" episode...

Next: The final episode of "Niles Nemo In Segaland!!"

NILES NEMO IN SEGALAND-Episode 5 "Niles & The Ninjas In The City Of Fear"



From the Fall 1991 issue of Sega Visions Magazine.  This was a pretty straight-forward Ninja game, as far as I can tell from this adventure, with the possible exception of some robots and a big green floating head being part of the fray.  There are lots of fun action poses here, and the layout had some nice twists.  Cool Asian-influenced lettering on the logo, too.  Maybe a little too much purple...  FUN FACT: I'd long been unhappy with the color registration on these comic pages.  As I detailed in my Episode 2 "Columns" blog post, I very laboriously and meticulously applied the color to a separate overlay, which I carefully registered to the line art (using those old peel-off registration marks of yore), and yet the registration was always off on the printed art.  After seeing the mediocre printing on this episode, I inquired of Creative Director John Sprague to look into what was going on in the pre-press process.  He discovered that the pre-press people were shooting the line art on a photostat camera, and scanning the color art on a rotary scanner (state of the art in those days).  Well, anyone who's ever used a stat camera knows they are operated by cranks, gears, and pulleys and have more in common with medieval torture devices than digital technology.  You bump into it or even breathe on it, and you change the calibration.  Trying to duplicate the exact size on a separate device is a fool's errand.  Apparently, it was cheaper than a scan, but for the next issue, we finally arranged for both the color overlay and the line art to be scanned.  Little did we know that Episode 6 of Niles Nemo In Segaland would be the last!




This issue also featured the house ad announcing the "Draw a Sonic the Hedgehog comic strip and win an appearance in the next Niles Nemo in Segaland adventure" contest.  Lots of hand-lettering in that word balloon...

NILES NEMO IN SEGALAND-Episode 4 "N.N Meets M.M."



From the April-May 1991 issue of Sega Visions Magazine featuring "Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse™".  Bringing this Niles adventure to life was in some ways a wilder ride than that of Disneyland's Mister Toad!  When I was told I'd be illustrating a story featuring Niles encountering Mickey Mouse™, I was excited at the prospect of drawing my own version of one of the world's most iconic characters.  I assumed that the good folks at Disney would send me some model sheets, and I'd take it from there.  Not quite, as it turned out.  Early in negotiations we were informed that Mickey could only appear on the game box, and everywhere else where he "appeared" in the comic, he would have to be unseen, speaking off-panel!  Disney Corp. retains stringent control over the use of its characters, and no one outside of their auspices could be allowed to draw Mickey, nor could he be shown interacting with characters outside of the Disney oeuvre.  So much for that!  Ultimately, I came up with the pencil art, and that was submitted for approval.  All was okay, except on Page 1, I had depicted Niles wearing mouse ears (like hundreds of millions of theme park visitors have done over the last 60 years).  Nope!  The ears had to go.  I'd originally had Niles discarding his hat in the last panel on Page one.  Now he's juggling a jewel from the game.  So, here comes the FUN FACT: When I laid out the page, I worked out a way that Mickey could subliminally appear!  Only after the final art was done did I share this fact with the Creative Director, John Sprague.  I drew a quick tissue overlay outlining the hidden Mickey.  John's astounded response: "Dave, you are CRAZY!"  Well, it all went to press, and no one ever spotted the little trick I played on the good folks at Disney.  See the progression I created to demonstrate the gag below:


Many years later, in 2006, I very nice young chap named Ken Horowitz approached me out of nowhere to interview me about my experience drawing Niles, and over the course of said interview, I revealed my secret.  The interview can be found here on Ken's Sega-16 appreciation website.  It was conducted via email, and I think it went pretty well, except I said "cookie," where I really meant "Easter egg," which coincidentally is a term coined by Niles co-creator Bill Kunkel, according to at least one Internet source.  Mr. Horowitz also conducted an interview with Bill, which can be found here.  This Niles Nemo adventure may be the most surreal of them all, with wild layouts, painful puns, and crazy characters such as a witch, a clown, several animated toys, and strange creatures of the forest.  Click on the thumbnails and enjoy!

Next time: Ninjas!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NILES NEMO IN SEGALAND-Episode 3 "Golden Axe"


Moving right along...!  From the Winter 1990/91 issue of Sega Visions.  This third episode of Niles features a cast of barbarians, elves, warrior skeletons, Huns, dragons, a couple of female warriors, and a cameo appearance by me, as I more or less looked at the time, disguised as a one-eyed Norseman (Page 2, Panel 4).  Another complex story brimming with characters and as much plot as Bill could cram into  two-pages while simultaneously demonstrating the basics of the game.  FUN FACT: I originally drew the game controller as the Sega-16 model, it being the current version, but before publication (and luckily before inked art), someone discovered that the game was not available yet for Sega-16, so I changed Niles' "weapon" to the Master System controller.

Next up: Dave Digs Disney, or my complex encounter with the Mouse Factory!

Friday, January 23, 2015

NILES NEMO IN SEGALAND-Episode 2 "Columns"


Here is episode 2 of Niles Nemo in Segaland from the October-November 1990 issue of Sega Visions Magazine, almost a quarter of a century ago!  The Sega Genesis version of Columns was brand new.  Bill Kunkel wrote another great script with some very creative characters and scenes.  FUN FACTS:  The stage manager character is a cartoon rendering of my friend and The NoWhere-Men™ writing partner, Dave LeBlanc.  Dave is not a little person, nor does he normally wear a toga, but otherwise he looked just like that circa 1990.  Also, this was the first Niles Nemo adventure where I rendered separate art for the line art and color, using a fairly complex technique to get the look I was after in the color.  If memory serves, I believe I went through this process because I was less than satisfied with the fact that my hand lettering was printed in color in the first episode, rather than separated out and printed in just black ink.  Separating the line art from the color also gave me crisper black line work throughout. 

Here's the rundown on my technique:

Having done the pencils on a large layout pad, and then inked and lettered them on a light box onto Bristol board, I next rendered the color on a separate overlay. I did this by putting a sheet of watercolor paper over the inked art and tracing the color areas in colored pencil on the light box. For example, Nile’s coat would be outlined in red pencil. Then, I could paint in the colors using overhead light, which gave me more control over the tonalities. Finally, I would add some airbrush effects, more colored pencil, and voila! This was in the early days of desktop publishing, and though the rest of the magazine was produced using various graphic programs, I was many years away from learning how to use a computer to generate art. Today, I still use pen and ink for all my illustrations and then scan, and finish them in Photoshop.

As always, click on the images to see the larger art, and stay tuned for more Niles Nemo adventures!  NEXT:  Barbarians, dragons, and elves! Oh my!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

NILES NEMO-The first adventure!

Here's the first ever Niles Nemo adventure!  It was the only one I drew and painted all on the same layer.  After that, I started doing the line art separately and rendering the color on an overlay.  That was a particularly daunting and exacting process, as I chose to paint the color on watercolor paper, which even when it's on a light-box, is fairly opaque.  I used a combination of colored pencil, watercolors, and an airbrush effect which was accomplished by blowing air from a can over the tip of a marker.  More on that process later!  Meanwhile, here's Episode 1 of Niles Nemo in Segaland, written by the awesome Bill Kunkel and illustrated by Dave Sullivan!

Bill was great to work with, allowing me a lot of leeway to condense the script or discard some parts if I felt there was too much to fit into two pages.  I never took advantage of that, however.  It was more fun to think of creative ways to tell that whole story in two pages.  For example, in this episode, there are 12 panels on page 1 and 15 on page 2 including all the insets.

I never met Bill during the course of our collaborations, as we were thousands of miles apart, but had several enjoyable phone conversations with him in those pre-email/texting days.  We'd been out of touch for some time, probably since shortly after the publication of his excellent autobiography, "Confessions of the Game Doctor," and it was just now, while researching this blog post, that I discovered very sadly, that he had passed away.  Bill sent me a copy of his book, and I was was pleased to discover that it was a breezy read, as they say, even for a non-gamer like me.  He also asked me to draw an updated (2006) version of Niles Nemo which is seen below.  Why Bill wanted that, I can't recall, but I believe it was on his blog for a while. A belated sayonara, Bill.  You were the greatest.

The updated (and now outdated!) Niles seen here has a darker, grunge/slacker look and is outfitted with an iPod, and a wrist brace to help with his carpal tunnel syndrome, a by-product of years of video game playing.  The "Sega" logo he used to have shaved onto the back of his head has been replaced by a tattoo.

More Niles adventure to come!  Stay tuned!