Friday, December 28, 2018

STAN LEE'S BIRTHDAY!

Today is Stan Lee's birthday. I can't add much to what I said in my previous post, but I wanted to do something to commemorate this day. I don't know if Stan was a drinking man or not, but here's a toast to his memory. The glass in the photo is a souvenir from Newbury Comics from Boston Comic Con 2015. That was when and where I finally was able to meet my life-long hero. Every time I've drunk from that glass, I've thought of Stan. I've surrounded the glass with a selection of Stan's books. Here's to you Stan! A toast with love and grateful appreciation. And one last "EXCELSIOR!"

Monday, December 24, 2018

STAN LEE - THE PASSING OF A HERO

There is a hole in the universe where a man once stood, or more accurately sat, behind a typewriter, tirelessly creating that very universe that he and countless millions of avid devotees inhabited for many decades. I, myself, inhabited that universe for more than fifty years before finally meeting my hero, Stan Lee, for a few brief but indelibly memorable and indubitably magical moments only three years ago. Our quick exchange (the line for the photo shoot snaked far out of sight) allowed me to thank him for that 50 years that so immeasurably influenced my life and career, and Stan (Mr. Lee, I called him) thanked me! Legends live forever in our hearts and memories, and no one could ever leave a greater and more lasting legacy than The Man without whom, the comics industry itself may have withered and died. Unfortunately, all men must depart our world, even the long-lived and and in-all-ways-but-one immortal Stan Lee. The news hit me like a blow from Thor's hammer when I heard of his passing, and I've been slow to adjust to a world without Stan Lee in it.

As for the above image, it's my guess that when the also recently and sadly departed Steve Ditko fashioned the hand gestures that were used by both Spider-Man to shoot his webs and Doctor Strange to conjure spells, he probably didn't know that it was also sign language for "I love you." In my illustration, some of Stan's most famous characters pay tribute to their creator. I included a certain shield-slinger because, though he was created by two other guys, Stan Lee's first published story at Timely Comics (seen here and here) was in Captain America #3, and also because Stan's 1960's revival of the character really brought him to life, in more ways than one.

One of the challenges in executing an illustration is knowing when to stop. I thought about including an image of Stan in the night sky above his creations, or perhaps his signature in the stars, but ultimately I decided he would be more conspicuous by his absence, which after all, is the sad point of this tribute.

To paraphrase one of Stan's most enduring proclamations, "With great responsibility comes great power!" Throughout his career, Stan gained the power to touch and influence the lives of countless millions of people world-wide. He did so with grace, humor, integrity, and vision. Never has there has been, nor ever again will there be another like him. Thank you Mr. Lee, and of course, "EXCELSIOR!"

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM BOBBY KEYES!


Man, time sure flies, doesn't it?? It's been nearly two years since my last blog post, and a full eight years since I first posted my retro-cartoon style rendition of Bobby Keyes, which was designed to be the cover of his Christmas album, way back in 2010. At the time, Bobby had recorded several tracks, but needed a few more to flesh out the album. A few months back, he contacted me to see if I could send him the cover art again, as he had finally completed 10 tracks and was at long last ready to release the CD. I was delighted to do so, and added some tonalities and textures to the guitar and chair, which I thought added to the piece, and also removed the Santa hat, which Bobby didn't feel was quite his style. That was easy, as I'd had the foresight to render it on a separate layer in Photoshop just in case. Bobby's son Django did the graphic design for the CD, and it's now available for your listening pleasure. And what a pleasure it is! Perfect for playing while wrapping or unwrapping presents, enjoying a fine holiday feast or just unwinding after the big day. Bobby is as brilliant a guitarist as you'll hear anywhere, and his arrangements are beautiful, intriguing, and engaging. If you think you don't need to hear another Christmas album, I invite you to think again.

And Happy Holidays to all!

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!!