Wednesday, August 24, 2011

High School Art *flashback* (Part 2)

In Part 1, I tossed up some art from Jr. High on into the early years of High School.  Now, I'm going to share some stuff from the latter half of High School (and maybe some College).  Just keep in mind that I was young and still learning! 

 This first pencil drawing was of "Snowball" from ANIMAL FARM.  He's the Lenin analogue in the allegory.  I am 100% convinced that the roots of my own conservative ideology can be traced back to my eye-opening encounter with Orwell's work through my High School English class.  *Thanks Mrs. Hopper!*

Other than girls and food, the things that primarily occupied my High School mind were comics, Star Trek, and vampires.  Slow time in class produced this Dracula sketch that I never finished. 

Star Trek was in the front of my mind after the incredible experience at that age of the death of Mr. Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN -- which is where this sketch got its inspiration.  You'll note I started to lay down some inks on it and then never bothered to finish it.  Story of my life.

This ink sketch of Daredevil was done entirely using a croquill pen and india ink with no pencils at all.  Also done at school during some down time.
 Which brings me to something that I started doing in High School (and continues today occasionally when somethig gets stuck in my head).  That would be the costume redesign for popular super-heroes (something popularized online at Project: Rooftop) and original character concepts.

The original "MIMIC"
In this old, ragged X-MEN comic I had left over from when I was little, there was a story featuring a character called "The Mimic" and his mutant power was that he had all the powers of the X-Men themselves.   That means, he had wings like Angel, eye-beams like Cyclops, monkey hands and feet like Beast, ice-hurling powers like Iceman, and telekinetic abilities like Marvel Girl.

By the time I was in High School, the most popular comic book published by Marvel was The "New" X-MEN, which was primarily made up (at this time) of Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Sprite.  I thought, in my brilliant teenaged brain, that since the original Mimic had sacrificed his life to save the X-Men, that it was time for a "New" Mimic to show up and join the X-Men.  So, tis was my update of the original Mimic's costume with elements that demonstrated he was adapting the powers of the current line-up of characters rather than the original line-up.

Here's a couple more "redesigns".  The first is just a way for me to do a Superman redesign.  In my mind, I conceived of an "Imaginary Story" where Jor-El had been able to construct a ship large enough to carry him, Lara, and their son, Kal to Earth.  In that scenario, Jor-El himself would be the first to don the mantle of "Superman."  So, that's what I was attempting to do here.  You will note that by this point, I made a leap in my pin-ups by attempting to do more than just draw a character standing on a blank page.  I actually tried to put some thought into a conceptual design for the piece making it more of a completed piece of art rather than just a sketch job.  I never got around to laying in color on this one, but the color scheme was going to be based mainly on Jor-El's classic green and red Silver Age Kryptonian uniform.

I also happened to be a big fan of the Earth-2 concept at DC Comics and in those stories, Robin grew up and maintained the Robin identity into adulthood.  I always thought the Neal Adams design for the Earth-2 Robin was pretty snazzy, especially around this time when he appeared in a very good BRAVE AND THE BOLD issue with Batman and Batwoman (written by Alan Brennert and drawn by Jim Aparo).

After reading that issue, I got it in my head to redesign the Robin costume.  For comic fans, remember, this was still well before the appearance of Nightwing (the Earth-1 Robin's adult identity).  And this was the result.  I snicker a little when I see "ROBIN: THE MAN OF WONDER".  That's a high school kid's sensibility.  But the design...isn't awful.

Fans of comic book artists can probably spot, by this time, the quite obvious influences of George Perez on my work.  At that point, I was obsessed with his work and he's still my all-time favorite comic book artist.

Aquaman postcard by Perez
In fact, let me take this moment to do a quick College interlude.  Once I got into college and started learning some actual technique, especially in terms of pencil drawing (which I'll share more later).  I was still into THE NEW TEEN TITANS by George Perez, I've always had a fondness for Aquaman as a character, and for my birthday one year in high school, my dad drove me to Waco where I bought a pack of JUSTICE LEAGUE postcards drawn by Perez.  One of these postcards was the Aquaman one I am reproducing here. 

What follows here is an 11 x 17 pencil drawing I did of Perez's work.  I don't have the original anymore because I gave it to a friend, so the photo is actually a photo of a photo that doesn't show the subtle inclusion of Atlantis within the bubble in the bottom right. But it is there.

I can't explain my fascination with Speedy, Green Arrow's sidekick, but I had it back then.  I think I just really liked the red and yellow contrast with the green of Ollie's costume, plus the fact that at that time he hardly ever showed up in the comics anymore.  But he would occasionally show up in the TITANS comics, especially the Drug Awareness comic that DC did for the government to give away.  Since Speedy was a former drug addict, it made sense for him to be the featured hero of that story. 
Green Arrow postcard by Perez
Anyway, I include here Perez's postcard design for Green Arrow to give you an idea where my mind was coming from.  I wanted to do
 a similar and complimentary design for Speedy that was as close to George Perez as I could do. 

End of interlude and back to High School for a few more nuggets.

An original character design based on Eddie Murphy from his "Delirious" comedy special.  I thought Murphy was the coolest cat back then and decided to use him as a reference for a space-faring adventurer I called "Vagabond".  It's a ridiculously complicated costume, but a pretty good likeness.  I'm trying to remember, but I think I actually used a TV-Guide for the face reference.

If you remember my Iron Man drawing from the previous blog, this is something of a follow-up to that one.  I was getting into the notion of alternate worlds concept, a staple at DC Comics but one that had been used more sparingly at Marvel Comics.  Along that line of thinking, I tried to conceive of an Iron Man doppelganger from an alternate Earth -- so say "Hi" to MECHANO-MAN!     

My penchant, in high school for using colored sharpies comes out in this drawing of Howard the Duck in University of Texas Longhorns garb.

Next up are some original characters.  I had a bunch of them but I'm only focusing on a handful.  I conceived of a team I variously called "Force Freedom" and "Freedom's Five."  I really liked the name "Force Freedom" most but it always struck me as an oxymoron and wanted to come up with something better and "Freedom Force" just didn't have the ring I wanted.  Incidentally, a comic-book related video game eventually appeared that was called "Freedom Force".

I had no back story  on these characters, but these were the basic team:  FREEDOM (a patriotic hero and leader), TITAN (a giant), PHASE OUT (later called RAMPART and had an ability phase in and out of dimensions), ENIGMA (a sorceress), and STAR STRIKE (an alien princess with starburst powers -- yes, an unabashed rip-off of Starfire from THE NEW TEEN TITANS).

The only character I ever really gave any thought to beyond just a costume and a basic power was "Freedom".  I actually thought the design was pretty good and had some potential to do something storywise with.  So, in my mental free time I pondered.  At first I gave him just a generic white guy, brown hair, kind of face under the Iron Man-esque helmet and that's where it stood for a couple of years.  There are so many patriotic type heroes out there, I wanted my guy to be somehow different than the others.  So I sat and looked at him one day, trying to get a concept to come to me based on the physical look.  The face I used had long, thick sideburns -- very old-timey and that got me thinking.  I started thinking alternate worlds and time-travel and the look of the guy made me think 1800s and then the name "Freedom" and the Civil War came to mind.

That's when it sort of gelled for me.  Suddenly I had a much stronger concept than just a patriotic hero.  I realized with that full-face helmet and the costume covering the whole body that there was no reason for the character to be a white guy at all.  And I race-changed him to a black guy.  Now I was rocking and rolling.  What I imagined was an alternate Earth where the South had won the Civil War and that it was now the 1980s and the Confederate States of America still existed and, while there wasn't a "slavery" anymore even in that world, minorities were still subjugated and segregation was the law of the land.  Into that world was the hero known only as "Freedom".  Nobody knew who he was, but he was a vigilante abolitionist and the government considered him a threat to the Confederate way of life but the people at large, especially the African-Americans, saw him as a savior.  Nobody realized that he was a black man under that helmet. 

In terms of story, I wanted to tell the story of Freedom's unmasking after he succeeds at leading a popular revolution that overturns the segregationist government and a new government takes charge under a new ideal of equality and unity for all.  And just as this is accomplished and he reveals himself, he was going to be "assassinated" by a segregationist (John Wilkes Booth-style but with some comic-book-ey type of ray gun), but actually be hurled from his world to our world.

The ongoing stories would be of Freedom adjusting to a world very different from where he came from but also always trying to find a way back to it.

Freedom, Phase-Out, Rampart, Titan, Enigma, and Star Strike © Keith Howell All Rights Reserved
What started out as a doodle in a high school class of a "Super-Porcupine" evolved into a team of funny animal super-heroes I called "The 6 P.A.C.K." obviously inspired by Scott Shaw!'s Capt. Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.  I know that P.A.C.K. was an acronym but I can't remember what the acronym stood for.  In more recent years, I've continued to toy with the idea and I moved from "The P.A.C.K." to "The Menagerie" or something like that.  But basically, even now, I'm stumped for a group name because I love the sound of "Zoo Crew" so much and I want to be able to come up with something comparable and still haven't. 

But basically, here are the characters: PACK RAT, DIGGER, SUPER-PORCUPINE, COSMIC CANINE, SPEED DEMON (later changed to SCAT CAT), and FEARLESS FELINE. I also had a snake character called SIDEWINDER but couldn't find a pic of him.

Pack Rat, Digger, Super-Porcupine, Cosmic Canine, Speed Demon, Scat Cat,
Fearless Feline, and Sidwinder © Keith Howell All Rights Reserved
Here's some pages from when I tried to actually do something with them back then.  Not very exciting.  Just basically the various characters getting the "signal" from headquarters that something's up and changing into their costumes. 

Annnd....that's enough for now.  I'll do a shorter Part 3 next that will showcase a few things from college plus some comic pages I did as samples and I'll relate a few anecdotes about how that all went down for me and redirected me to some kind of more stable type of work than trying to pursue a comic career from Central Texas when I had no desire at all to move to the New York area.  In the days before the Internet, it was pretty near impossible to stake out a career in comics without making the commitment to move to the New York area and I just wasn't up for that without any guarantees.  Too much of the realist in me to chase a pipe dream.  But that's for next time.  For now, I hope somebody else other than me gets a kick out of these. 

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