Thursday, December 29, 2016


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!!

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