There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of entertainment for kids where I grew up. My family lived on a 12-acre wooded lot at the top of a steep hill at the end of a mile-long dirt road. There wasn’t really anybody my age on the road that wasn’t a delinquent or a bully so I didn’t really have anyone to play with. I remember I had one friend named Mitch and we’d spend long summer days riding our bikes up and down the road but his family moved away fairly quickly. This was back in the days before cable TV, home video and the XBox. So unless I wanted to ride by myself or draw or explore the woods, I was out of luck. Except for one thing. Dad had an immense collection of comics and magazines of all kinds. He kept them stored in paper shopping sacks (I have a post planned for that) from the move from Germany and eventually they made their way into our hot little hands. It was like living in a comic shop. Imagine waking up one day in a house filled with thousands of comics you’d never read before. We were in heaven.
Dad had a little bit of everything. DC, Harvey, Marvel, Gold Key, Charlton. My tastes were simple. Harvey Comics, Spidey Super Stories, Marvel Team-Up, the old Marvel westerns and monster books. Mike was older and had more mature tastes. He liked the cosmic or fantasy or horror stuff. Some of his favorites books were the issues of Warren’s EERIE Magazine featuring the character Hunter.
Hunter was a half-human, half-demon hybrid that had dedicated his life to destroying the demons populating his post-apocalyptic homeland. The character's real name was Demian Hunter. Get it? Demon Hunter? The stories were written by Richard Margopoulous and drawn by Paul Neary. For years I wondered if he was the same Paul Neary inking Captain America and, later, The Ultimates for Marvel. According to his Wikipedia entry, he is. Though Neary's know primarily as an inker, he did full chores on the Hunter series. Obviously inspired by the Filipino and Spanish artists working on Warren's books, his artwork was delicate and intricate featuring lots of fine lines and zip-a-tone. It was a little exotic for my young palette but Mike took to it right away. He even created a character called Eliminator-1 based on Hunter's look and the name of another Warren character, a robot called Exterminator-1.
Later on, when I was older and looking for something different to read, I remembered Hunter and started reading all the Warren magazines. They were just wonderful. Especially the Hunter stuff. Recently, Mike's longtime friend Paul Rogers was in Richmond for a con. He happens to own Dominion Comics, the best comic shop in Lynchburg. We met for dinner and he told me Dad had brought in all his old Warren books and gave them to him. I was a little surprised. Dad's been slowly unloading all his old comics on me over the last few years. Mostly stuff Mike and I read to tatters and that I really don't have room for. Mom and Dad have been preparing for their own demise for 20 years and I used to tease them about it. I don't anymore. Anyway, of all the stuff I was getting, what I really wanted was the EERIE and CREEPY stuff. When Paul told me Dad had given it to him I made a face before I could stop myself. Paul noticed and asked what was up. I explained the story about Hunter and he offered to give them to me. I felt greedy but I really loved those books. He assured me he'd take care of it. Within two weeks, Paul had graciously sent me all the Hunter issues (at great expense, I might add) and I've been like a kid in a candy store ever since. So, thank you, Paul. You made my year. I'll make it up to you.
Re-reading the books inspired the drawing up above. I lurk at the John Byrne Forum quite a bit and one of Byrne's phrases that has stuck with me is when he says something "fell out of my pencil." I didn't really understand what he meant by that until now. Though I did lay it out first with blue pencil before tightening it up with graphite, I didn't really think much about it before I drew it. And I did it pretty quickly for me. I'm probably happier with this than I am with any drawing I've posted yet. Well, except maybe for the Herbert the Pervert drawing. I hope you like it too and I hope you'll "hunt" up the issues of EERIE featuring this guy. I think you'll dig 'em. If you can't find them, though, I hear Dark Horse is planning some reprints of the Warren stuff. I can't wait!
You know how, in movies, when something strange happens and the tough guy hero looks at his partner over the top of his sunglasses and says, meaningfully, "I don't believe in coincidences..."? Well, I do. Sometimes strange shit just happens. But lately I've gotten the feeling someone (or thing) is trying to tell me something. What that might be, I have no idea, but let's just say I'm paying attention.
The past couple of weeks, I've been seeing Mike-related things everywhere I go. Now, to be fair, I do frequent comic shops and that would tend to increase the odds of this happening. But it's the way it's been happening that's freaking me out. A couple of weeks ago, Suze and I were at Nostalgia Plus for my weekly four-color fix and I started roaming around the store to see if anything different would scream, "Buy me!" In a pile of comics waiting to be filed away was an issue of THE FLASH. Though I'd bought the book faithfully for years, I quit when they restarted it with a new number-one issue about a year or so ago. This was one of the issues published after I'd quit. I picked it up on a whim and opened it to a page at random. Boom. I'd opened it directly to the two-page tribute to Mike by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn. Coincidence? Maybe.
But the next week, I was back at the shop, hanging out with my friend Marvin as he picked out a copy of the newly-released OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE. I watched as he flipped rapid-fire through the pages and used his thumb to stop the pages turning when the color section started. Boom. The page he'd stopped on was the Hall of Fame entry for Mike in the back. He didn't do it deliberately. I was watching and his stopping on that page was completely unintentional. In fact, he almost didn't notice but I yelped in surprise and pointed out that all the covers on the spread were Mike's. Coincidence? Getting harder to swallow.
This past weekend, Suzanne and I were at Wal-Mart (yeah, yeah...) buying stuff for an Easter basket for some friends when we passed the greeting card aisle. There, on the very end of the aisle, almost at my eye-level was this card:
I'd recognize that style anywhere. It was, of course, Mike's drawing. I always told Mike he was born to draw Spider-Man. His iconic interpretation of the character was up there with Romita's and a natural for merchandising. (In fact, I was more irked than Mike when they stopped paying him for merchandising art and just started using his covers for free. He just took it in stride.) I don't normally even give the greeting card section a second glance but something made me look. What are the odds? I mean, in a comic shop, I'm sort of asking for it. But in Wal-Mart?
Over at Todd and Craig's Perhapanauts forum, there's a drawing jam going on. I tried to post this image but it won't link for some reason. So I thought I'd just post it here. I haven't put anything up here in a while anyway, so I guess it works out for the best. Craig will be happy to learn that I didn't do any underdrawings at all and barely did any penciling either. Most of this was done in ink. I loved how it turned out while I was using the brush pen but, once I switched to the thinner pens for details, my inking kind of went south. Still fairly happy with how it turned out, though, considering how quickly I drew it.
It's getting so I'm afraid to open my web browser anymore.
In a time when the world just seems so dark we're losing more and more of the kinds of people we need most. I never met Mr. Stevens but I sure loved his work. Mike bought just about everything he did, especially the Rocketeer. I remember borrowing Mike's Rocketeer comics and just being blown away. That character design was just spectacular and the artwork was unsurpassed. Stevens was one of the masters. Towards the end of last year, when Suzanne and I were visiting my parents, they gave me a box of Mike's old stuff that he'd left at home. One of the items was a Dave Stevens portfolio. I remember lying on Mike's bed, flipping through the book and remembering how much Mike loved Stevens' work and how he'd sometimes do drawings of the Rocketeer, trying to get that unique Stevensesque feel. I just can't believe we've lost another giant so young. Fifty-three. Jesus.
Rest in peace, Dave Stevens. You're in awfully good company.
Thanks for all the kind words about the 'Haps pinup, everyone. Though it always sounds like I hate my drawings...well, I do. But that's just because I want them to be better. It's a natural tendency I have to talk my work down. It's probably because I feel like, if I do that, then I've beaten people to the punch and anything negative they have to say will have already been said. By me. It's something I've always done and it dates back to high school when I used to make jokes about my weight to diffuse the inevitable fat jokes that always came my way. Anyway, I know I'm not the worst artist in the world (despite what Tom Breevort thinks); I just want to be better. And I ain't getting any younger. By the time my idols (Mike, Darwyn Cooke, etc.) were my age, they were already masters of their craft. I feel like I'm still fumbling around in the dark and it gets frustrating.
One thing that has me perked up is that I work with a guy who has a comic book coming out soon. It's been in the works for a while and there are several issues in the can. It's called SUPER HUMAN RESOURCES and is going to be published by Ape Entertainment. You can visit the web site here. My friend is the writer and he let me read the first two issues. It's a very clever little book and the artist has a nice cartoony style that Mike would have really liked. In fact, it's the kind of book I could easily see him donating a cover to if he was asked.
Anyway, the part that's perked me up is that Ken and I have been talking about me doing a pinup for the book. For a while I thought he was joking but he's been so persistent that I finally said, "Okay. I'm in." and he didn't say, "Oh, I was just kidding." So I'm looking forward to that if it happens.
Thanks again for all the comments. I'd post the colored version but you'll just have to wait until the book comes out. And, by the way...wasn't that Art Adams cover to PERHAPANAUTS #1 suh-weet? Now I'm going to have to buy two copies of the book. Damn you, Todd and Craig!
Remember those Perhapanauts roughs I posted about a decade ago?
I finally sat my lazy ass down and drew the final pencils. And here they be. I didn't do my inker (Christian) any favors. I really messed up on Choopie's goggles and though I had very clear ideas about the water spray and lightning in the sky, I didn't really put it down in pencil for Leaf to translate. Worse, I only left him about three days to do the inks. So the beating he's giving himself here is at least half my fault. I'd go into more of the shortcomings in the pencils but Todd and Craig would drive down and beat me up. And that's just a waste of gas. Besides, listing the faults would take time. It's getting late and I got my copy of Mark Evanier's Kirby book today. I'm going to get a least a few pages into that before I call it a night. Unfortunately, that means I have to set aside Jeff Parker's AGENTS OF ATLAS for just a little while. Sorry, Jeff! But this is the King we're talking about.