Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just Make Circles! It’s Easy! My earliest brush with the super hero dynamic

The following gallery consists of some dozen drawings made during the 1973 school year, when I was nine years old. A recent immigrant to The United States, I was still figuring out the uniquely American cultural phenomenon of caped gymnasts flying through the air, stopping bank robberies and runaway circus trains.
Having happened upon an old “How to Cartoon” book, I quickly applied the circle-drawing approach to the physique of the super hero, resulting in these amusing attempts at imitating what I saw in comics drawn by the likes of Wayne Boring and Jack Kirby.
Finding it hard to resist my innate storytelling “gift”, I also played Stan Lee, giving my characters gloriously derivative and unwieldy names and costumes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bicycle, A Murder Story

Created during the summer of 1985, when I was twenty-one years old, this forty-page cartoon adventure begins with the mysterious death of Pierre Cyclone, top rider on the elite Spicey Tomato Sauce Bicycle Racing Team. Cyclone dying from a sting on the nose by a mechanical bee, the story quickly careens down the twisted path of a fantastical murder mystery, one navigated by a detective named Pinchin’ Greatness, a character who owes as much to Jack Kirby as he does Arthur Conan Doyle, complete with an attire that predates late 80s hip hop fashion, featuring a towering high-top fade and giant chain and medallion (but still leaving room for the more traditional tweed sleeves and pipe). With his sidekick, Tuck, who is Watson by way of Quasimodo, with more than a little Igor in the mix, the partners in the Pinch n’ Tuck Detective Agency are soon searching for the maker of the deadly insect drone, enlisting the help of their friend, Robot-Maker, a sort of a young Bill Gates in an iron lung, who lives in a windmill, creating mechanical prototypes for commercial clients, like Gerard the Monkey, the half-finished giant flying simian robot who sheds nuts and bolts wherever he goes. With Robot-Maker’s help, they learn that only one man could have made the intricate cyborg bee, along with an equally murderous mechanical spider and a swarm of enormous, truck-sized bees. That man is Racer Zero, long thought dead, a bitter old bicycle racing rival of J. Edgar Spicey, retired owner of the Spicey Tomato Sauce Company. A heinous revenge plot, designed to ruin the Spicey Company by having them defeated by the new Tangy Tomato Sauce Company Squad (who turn out to be robotic riders), is soon uncovered, but not before Pinchin’ and Tuck have encountered villainous florists and chocolate makers, have battled an army of robot insects at a renegade circus, and have evaded a secretive black-garbed bomber, all before old Mr. Spicey decides to race one last race, against the resurrected, half-mechanical Racer Zero, the winner’s tomato sauce company taking the trophy at the finish line.
This adventure of commercial skulduggery and comical mayhem was one of a series of similarly odd utilizations of the comic medium created during this period (see Lt. Bubba Fist Remembers 1941 for another example). As with everything I did at this time, the story and art were laid down in a completely improvisational manner, each page begun at the upper left, drawn and written as I went, no script or layouts existing to show me the way. Using only a fine-point marker (Pilot Razor-Point), I would draw the outline of each panel, then write the desired text or dialog, create the balloon around it, then draw the characters and background, even as the next panel was forming in my mind. Even the solid black areas were filled in with the same fine marker, as crazy as that might sound.
Having finished the forty-odd interior pages, I created the cover, placing it all in the 57th issue of the imaginary summer special of an anthology entitled Bonus Comics, giving it something of the look of Golden Age American publications, even though the story itself owed much more to my European upbringing.
Strangely enough, the story is credited to F. Fredericks, a pseudonym I occasionally used at the time, the origin of which I can no longer recall.
To view the entire story in a slideshow format, click here.