Friday, October 17, 2014

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Cartoon Crisis

On this week's The Line It Is Drawn, I had the pleasure of revisiting a topic I had done five months ago, this time spotlighting 16 DC Comics cartoons (spanning six decades) that are no longer being produced. Can you name them all?

See the full wraparound cover version (as well as the fantastic pieces my compatriots have created) here

(Based on the cover of  "Crisis on Infinite Earths #1" by George rez. Done with respect to him and all of the talent behind these fantastic programmes.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

S.F.X. (Safety First, Xum)

Weeks ago, Namiko, the kids and I went on a road trip to Colorado to visit Namiko’s sister. Since we had planned to be on the road for a few days with an agreement to limit “screen time” for the kids (we didn’t want them to miss the scenery), I made sure to pack plenty of music for the trip.

By the time we had reached the Nevada border, the kids had both requested to hear “Hold on Tight”, a catchy 1980s hit performed by Samantha Fox that gushed with vivacious 1950s-style rockabilly.

Namiko, immediately recognizing the request, started to thumb through the sleeves of my massive CD folder in a fruitless search of the “Touch Me” album that housed the song. “I don’t think your dad packed that one.”

“Actually, I did. It’s on the green disc near the front.”

A few seconds later Namiko pulled out from the folder a metallic green CD-R marked only with three hand-scrawled letters: S, F, and X.

Shortly after I had returned from Japan, I had created a “mix CD” of… um… non-suggestive songs from my Samantha Fox albums so I could listen to them in the car while the kids were in the back seat. In addition to “Hold On Tight,” I had mixed in other bouncy tunes like “If Music Be the Food of Love,” “Rocking with My Radio”, “Aim to Win” and “Holding” (the last three were some of the earliest songs Ms. Fox recorded as part of a group called S.F.X., which inspired my handwritten label).  I also included songs of empowerment such as “Nothing You Do, Nothing You Say”, “Never Gonna Fall in Love with You Again”, and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”.  There were love songs as well, including “I’m All You Need”, “Baby I’m Lost for Words”, “Cause an Effect”, “Ready for this Love”, “Dreams Unfold”, and “The Best Is Yet to Come” (which was actually “our song” at Namiko’s and my wedding reception, which a number of guests had never before heard, yet loved – as much as Namiko loved the look of surprise the guests gave her when she revealed who the singer was). And I did not forget to add touching ballads such as “Out of Our Hands”, “Dream City” and, of course, “True Devotion”.

Namiko chuckled a bit at my shorter explanation of the album (essentially the first sentence of the previous paragraph). “’Non-suggestive’? Are you worried about Sam Fox giving the kids ideas?”

I turned ever so briefly away from the moderate traffic ahead of me on I-80 to toss my wife a quick look, only to reveal to her that I had blushed a little at the remark. “No, not at all.”

However, Isamu and Aika loved to sing, and they both had the uncanny ability to pick up 90 percent of a song’s lyrics after only a few listens (even if they don’t fully understand all of the words). Sometimes the catchier song lyrics are picked up straightaway. There had been a time, a few days after watching the first Percy Jackson movie, that Isamu, then age 6, spontaneously belted out the chorus to the soundtrack's “Highway to Hell” (which to him was just shouting that phrase over and over and over) in a crowded supermarket. Aika, now age 7, enjoyed listening to Namiko’s Katy Perry Teenage Dream album, and she especially enjoyed singing “I Wanna See Your Peacock (cock cock)” at the top of her lungs on the schoolyard to see the “funny” reaction from the teachers.

Indeed, since I had started playing my Samantha Fox mix CD in the car, both Namiko and Isamu now loved to sing along to “Hold on Tight” and “Rockin’ with My Radio.”  Let’s just say I didn’t want to add the catchy-yet-suggestive lyrics of “Touch Me” and “Naughty Girls” to their vocal repertoire at this time.

Of course, my response to Namiko in the car was much briefer: “Since the kids are going to sing along, and sing out loud, I figure it is best they do so with songs that they both understand and that are… um… safe to sing in public.”

“Safe…” Namiko repeated slowly, as if to emphasize my momentary struggle to find that word.

“Yes. Safe.”

The traffic had started to pick up a little then so I had to keep my eyes on the road, but I was sure that I heard my wife’s face crinkle slightly with amusement.

By this time, “Hold on Tight” was in full swing, and the kids were already singing (off-key) along in full force (yes, a pun was intended). So that trivial topic of conversation had ended… or so I had thought.

A few weeks later, when I had pulled the CD out for a listen in the car, I discovered that Namiko, with the assistance of a Sharpee, decided to have the last word…

…and a suggestive one at that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Con Artist with a Cause

I used to attend the Comic-Con International held in San Diego quite regularly — seven years out of the decade of the naughties, in fact. This was just before the event had exploded into the massive pop-culture phenomenon that now offers extremely slim odds of my being able to attend.

Very interesting that it was only now that I made my first submission into the event’s Souvenir Book. I would admit that my then lack of confidence in my rendering of human figures made me apprehensive to participate a decade before. Perhaps my 100-plus weeks on The Line It Is Drawn had finally emboldened me...

The subtext of this piece was obvious. While Bob Kane may had triggered the initial imaginative spark, it had become more and more apparent that his collaborator Bill Finger provided much of the tinder to the creative fire that forged the enduring concept, and legend, of the Batman. It was very likely that the red-garbed, Flash Gordon-esque mystery man I had depicted above, which was based on Bob Kane’s original Bat-Man concept, may had been what Kane would have pitched to National Comics (now DC Comics) if he had not first consulted Finger.

Much of this had been brought to the public light recently thanks to the exhaustive efforts of author and historian Marc Tyler Nobleman and his book, Bill The Boy Wonder (a great read for all ages). While Kane profited by the Batman creation, Finger lived and eventually died, in the words of Nobleman, “poor and unheralded.” Nobleman had been leading a… dare I say, noble crusade to demand DC Comics and Warner Brothers to grant Bill Finger the co-creator credit Nobleman felt Finger deserved.

And it was not just Nobleman who believed this. Decades before Nobleman had written his book, though it was years after Bill Finger’s death, Bob Kane himself had publicly stated that Finger deserved co-creator credit for his invaluable contributions to Batman (two examples I had encountered in the 1980s were in Kane’s biography, Batman and Me, and a one-page essay Kane wrote for the History of the DC Universe 1988 special edition hardcover; there may had been others). It was my understanding that DC Comics had been contractually bound to credit only Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, and yet said contract was arranged by Kane himself. So I was forced to wonder why Kane, who (albeit sporadically) eventually acknowledged Finger’s right to co-creator credit, never renegotiated his contract with DC to award it.  

I started to sketch out this Souvenir Book submission idea back in the beginning of this year, and almost didn’t follow through after seeing a brilliant piece by Ty Templeton (the illustrator of the Bill the Boy Wonder book) that truly emphasized the importance of Finger to the Batman mythos. However, my wife reminded me that my idea did focus on one key Finger contribution upon which Templeton’s piece did not explicitly touch. Therefore, I pressed forward to create this piece that may also serve to add one more voice to further the Nobleman cause.

Art by Xum Yukinori. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (see, that was not that difficult). Batman and all related characters copyright DC Comics.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

This is an actual Father's Day card I had received a few years back from Isamu, who is currently 8.

I always keep it as a reminder that:

1. There will always be times I'll receive this message from my kids
2. When I do, they do not actually hate me, they just think they do
3. Kids always change their minds... in many cases very easily
4. Most likely they actually hate something I did, so I should assess how I have done them wrong
5. There is no perfect Dad... or perfect kids

I wish the best to fathers everywhere, and to the kids that put up with them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Publications from a Parallel Dimension

As a fan of the wonderful-yet-no-longer-produced “Green Lantern: The Animated Series”(GLTAS), I immensely enjoy the opportunity to draw characters from that programme in a number of submissions to “The Line It Is Drawn” (responding to Twitter suggestions from whom must be other fans of the series). This led to a number of GLTAS-related art commission requests from other fans of the programme (some of which have been featured in my “Unapologetic Zaree [戯絵]” series on this blog).

This piece pictured is a compilation of some of those works (with a little additional art for the front cover). Ever since parts of this piece was posted by Josh Keaton on his blog a few weeks ago, I have received a number of questions (and some hate mail) about it. The intent was to create a facsimile of the next DVD release if the series had continued for another season, but not as a hoax to make people believe the show was being renewed (and my sincerest apologies to those who were inadvertently deceived). It was essentially a “thank you” gift for certain GLTAS cast and crew members that were scheduled to attend the recent WonderCon event in Anaheim, California -- with the message being along the lines of “hopefully one day you’ll be able to share the stories you currently do not have the chance to tell.”

Right now this is the closest I can show of the complete piece, as I do not have the actual label art file at this time. While I did create all of the artwork and indicia here in Japan, the label layout was put together and printed by a friend of mine in the States (who also delivered the gifts and provided the above photo). 

Enjoy. And please note that these labels are not real and these cases are empty -- for now.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Spotlight on… the Background

My submission to this week’s The Line It Is Drawn sketch challenge was both a comic book cover homage (to John Byrne and Terry Austin’s classic Uncanny X-Men #141) and a love letter to the numerous no-longer-produced comic-book related cartoons I have enjoyed over the years, from the Superfriends to Green Lantern and Young Justice.

Many of these shows were represented in a “wanted poster” in the background, with taped “updates” containing an overgeneralized reason why these shows are no longer being produced (and for the sake of accuracy, there is really no single factor that ends the production of an animated television show, so these simplified explanations are not to be taken as hard fact).

The 16 characters on the poster were obscured either by these taped updates or the figures of the animated Hal Jordan (from Green Lantern) and Artemis (from Young Justice) in the foreground. So as a “DVD extra” (and to demonstrate that I can be irrationally obsessive with detail), I am showing the full poster unblocked. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Getting to Know Xum

For a change of pace, here are five facts about Xum Yukinori that he has not yet posted on his blog:

1. The 12 countries Xum has resided in are: South Africa, Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Greece, and Spain.

2. One of Xum’s favorite aunties loves to tease him and Namiko about their marriage being “dekichatta kekkon” (although love had everything to do with it).

3. Namiko has never told Xum about Isamu’s biological father; and Xum has never asked.

4. Xum had never attended art school; the only “formal training” on illustration he had received was during his tenure working in a manhua studio in Hong Kong, where he picked up valuable tips and techniques from his fellow artists.

5. “Professor Xum” is not really a Professor (but he believes that you already knew that).

More to come.