Thursday, March 29, 2012

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Served with a Silver-Age Spoon

Some of you following my blog may have noticed that I am the “Yukinori Xum” who has been recently contributing to the weekly “The Line It Is Drawn” feature in the “Comics Should Be Good” blogs posted on the “Comic Book Resources” website.

For those of you not familiar with “The Line It Is Drawn”, it is a weekly sketch-drawing challenge that revolves around a weekly comic-book-related theme, where myself and a group of artists take suggestions submitted by site visitors via Twitter responses. We essentially have 4 to 5 days to pick a suggestion and complete the drawing for submission. I have submitted 12 entries so far on almost a weekly basis and I must admit it’s a fun way to exercise both my drawing hand and the creative side of my brain.

Last week, the “Line” theme was “M.O.D.O.K. March Madness” – which essentially asked for suggestions of a comic book or pop-culture character (or characters) to be depicted as a M.O.D.O.K., which is a Marvel Comics villain primarily known for his huge head (click here for a better look). 

Nearly 124 unique responses have come in, ranging from Squirrel Girl (a common suggestion, I understand) to the cast of “Big Bang Theory.” As I was skimming through the list, I saw a suggestion that simply said “Wonder Woman.” I immediately thought, “Well, she can’t really defend herself from bullets with her bracelets if she had a M.O.D.O.K. form,” and that’s when the whole idea just clicked. A mysterious villain would transform Wonder Woman into a M.O.D.O.K.-like creature, and thus put her into immediate jeopardy. It sounded like an actual “Silver Age” DC Comic scenario, complete with the “bizarre transformation” trope that made comics of that era such fun to read. So I decided to approach this assignment as an actual Silver Age Wonder Woman cover, playing it as straight as I imagined DC Comics would have at the time.

Below is a teaser of the line work, you can see the finished version here on the “Line” web page.

This week’s “Line” theme asked for “What-If?” suggestions, based on the Marvel Comic that told alternative storylines framed around that question (e.g., “What If Someone Else Besides Spider-Man Had Been Bitten by the Radioactive Spider?” or “What If the Fantastic Four Never Gained Their Super-Powers?”). Out of the 195 Twitter suggestions for this theme, the one that caught my eye immediately was: “What if the Flash wasn’t the fastest man on Earth?” One could easily dismiss this idea as “it’s been done,” as evidenced by a number of Silver-Age Flash stories. Like the one where he was transformed into an extremely fat person that could hardly move, or when he was hit by a gravity beam that made him so heavy he could hardly move, or the story with “slow radiation” that slowed the Flash down so much he… hardly moved. (You can see the pattern here?)

So when I saw this suggestion, I decided to try something that wasn’t as obvious: instead of playing on the “fastest man” aspect, I would focus on the “Earth” part, and make the Flash the fastest man on another planet!  Since that sounded like another Silver-Age comic scenario, I did another “straight” Silver-Age cover concept, complete with the expository word balloon that essentially explains the entire premise of the "story" inside the comic – if this was an actual comic.

Scroll down this “Line” site to find the final version.

When I was working on manhua projects in Hong Kong in the late 1980s, I was essentially a cog in the production process relegated to rendering backgrounds and background characters (the “movie extras” of the Hong Kong comics, essentially). I am not complaining, mind you. My job was a vital one: creating the scenery and added realism without which the book wouldn’t be complete. But still, it’s nice to actually do some comic work that was more in the forefront like these comic book covers, even if they are fake ones created just for fun. I hope you enjoy these submissions as much as I did making them.

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