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New in the Studio

posted on May 26, 2017

There’s no Flash Fridays today because I was on the road in Dallas delivering the Batom Comics covers to Heritage Auctions. The covers are to be auctioned off on November 17 for the benefit of the Lisa’s Legacy Fund for Cancer Research and Education. If you want to take a look at some of them, check out the Gallery section on this site. In the meantime, here’s sneak peek at something new in the studio.

The Secret Sauce – Batman’s in the House

posted on May 20, 2017

As I discussed in a previous post, Batman animated artist Rick Burchett is coming on board at the end of this month to work with me on Funky. I thought I’d dig a bit deeper this time to give you a peek at the process involved in our working together. This is where I should probably insert a spoiler warning because we’re going to check in on an upcoming Funky Sunday where the Starbuck Jones crew is kicking back at the Del Coronado hotel on Coronado Island following their Hall H rollout of the Starbuck Jones movie at Comic Con.

Things kick off with Rick and I going over the script and discussing the setting and tone of the piece. This is a particularly packed one as the actors Mason, Marianne, and Cliff, the director Martin Johns, and the writer and story board artist Pete and Darin are kicking-back after their Comic-Con experience, but Rick showed that he could take on a crowd with ease. I tend to prefer working from personal experience so I did a lot of writing and photo research for this when I attended the Eisner Awards at Comic-Con last summer. Armed with all of the information from our discussion of the script as well as my photos, Rick then lays-out and pencils the Sunday sequence. When that’s finished, it’s my turn to jump back in and ink it into a Funky Sunday. The lettering is then done on the computer after which it goes off to colorist Rob Ro who proceeds, as he always does, to turn it into a totally beautiful Funky Sunday.

Much like Chuck Ayers did, Rick brings an experienced and informed skill set to the work resulting in things like the beautiful establishing shot of the Del in the logo panel. With the crowning addition of Rob’s colors, the work is then digitally shipped off to King Features where all of my spelling gaffes get corrected. The end product is the strip that you see below which will run later this summer.

As I mentioned the earlier post, I’ll still be working with both Rick and with Chuck from time to time moving forward, and I count myself as pretty lucky to be able to work with these two titanically talented artists. In a future Secret Sauce, we’ll take a walk together through my writing process on Funky.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #167

posted on May 19, 2017

Where to begin? After nearly a decade of cultivating a bright young audience of readers steeped in the belief that science and technology were the salvation of the future and encouraging those readers to buy into the conceit that their heroes were men and women struggling to use their knowledge and power to make things better in a real world,  Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox decided to drive the book right off the dock and deliver a cold splash of water in the face to all of the acolytes they had inspired. To those loyal followers who had come to expect scientific (even if stretched to the breaking point) premises and solutions… they now served up vapid fantasy. To those who had come to expect a certain seriousness… the creative team now paraded silliness across the page. And to those loyal readers who had bought into the rules that the architects themselves had originally laid out… they thoughtlessly threw all of the rules out the window. It’s a miracle that a whole subset of baby boomers didn’t all have a stroke at the same time. Talk about blood on your hands. It’s hard to describe the feelings you had opening this book for the first time.

To start with, the art (while not the source of the problem) was different. Inker Joe Giella had moved over to Batman with Carmine Infantino and had been replace by Sid Greene. As I recall, Greene did pretty much the same thing on Green Lantern and the Atom as well obviously owing to the fact that, with Julie now off of Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures, he had some time on his hands and an editor who needed a ton of inking done. No problem there because Greene was an elegant and distinctive inker. The problem as I said earlier was that it was different and different is an anathema to the hidebound loyalists who read comic books. But as I said, the art wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Gardner Fox had tossed the quasi scientific story of the lightning smashing the shelf of chemicals as the explanation for how the Flash acquired his super speed, and replaced it with a story about it coming about as an initiation rite for a heavenly helpmate named Mopee. Yes, you read that right… a heavenly helpmate. So now we suddenly have the heavenly powers decide that a man of Earth should receive super speed and they dispatch a gnome initiate tenth class, Mopee,  to Earth to make that happen as a part of his initiation rite. Mopee causes the lightning strike in the police lab to give Barry Allen super speed, and then discovers that it won’t last because Barry didn’t own the chemicals that drenched him. So the Flash has to go out and raise money to buy the chemicals himself, thus justifying the silly cover. If all of this sounds a little nuts, you have a glimmer of how it felt to encounter it back in the day.

As a reader, you always felt that Julie and his crew weren’t just knocking stuff out to separate little kids from their coins, but were really trying to play fair and create something that was better than that and that elevated the form. I still believe that this was the case. It was unlike Julie to treat his readers sensibilities with such reckless and casual carelessness, and yet it happened. Just to make things a little worse, at the end of the story, Fox has the Flash wondering if Kid Flash’s speed came from a lightning strike or from Mopee. It drove a lot of Flascinados to despair. You just didn’t know what was coming next. It was a textbook example of how not to treat your readers. You risk everything when you change the things that your readers have come to expect from you. It just shouldn’t be done… unless of course you have a really good reason for doing it 😉

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