Thursday, December 13, 2012

QUANTUM CHRISTMAS CARD FOR 2012


As the holiday season looms ahead of us, it’s time to share my annual tradition of an original super-hero Christmas Card.  Here, then, is THE QUANTUM CHRISTMAS CARD FOR 2012.


In an earlier post we met THE QUANTUM, a hero that I originally created as Wonder Boy and later redesigned and rechristened.  In this year’s Card, the Quantum returns, this time in a battle scene in which he faces off with a scourge of the season who should be familiar to fans of classic Yuletide TV specials.  To underscore just who it is that Corey Lonigan is battling in his super-powered form, we’ve also brought in some special guest stars:  Rudolph the Uncanny Ungulate and his elfin ally, Hermie!  If you know your tinsel-time TV, you should be able to figure out on what show this year’s card is so righteously riffing.  If not...well, where have you been since the early 1960s, for one thing; and for another, as I write this, the encore telecast will be on CBS tomorrow night (December 14, 2012.)  So you have no excuse!

If you enjoy the Quantum Christmas Card, I hope you’ll share it with your friends and loved ones through a link on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or your own E-mail.  It’s here to spread a little fun for the season.  And may this season find you happy and may you keep it well.

TAIL OF THE DRAGON


Well, this may be the Season to Be Jolly with peace and good will and all that, but the King of Dragons, Draco Rex, is always ready for battle, as witness one of the mightiest weapons a warrior ever brandished:  the devastating DRAGON’S TAIL!


As I developed Draco and his powers, it occurred to me at some length that something was missing.  Draco is a hero in the same spirit as another mighty warrior Prince from another comics universe, one who is famous for his very distinctive weapon.  But the image of wielding an invincible hammer didn’t fit Prince Declan’s profile; he needed another tool of battle, one that was as unique to him as the aforementioned hammer is to the chap from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.  A little bit of thought on the matter produced the perfect answer.  What better weapon for the King of Dragons than an all-powerful tail?  I at once seized on the idea of a whip that would put Indiana Jones himself to shame!

Draco Rex never leaves home without the Dragon’s Tail.  The Tail is a whip made of a fictional metal such as you would only find in comic books, a metal that I’ve named Thraxium.  (In the movie Dragonslayer, the dragon’s name was Vermithrax Pejorative; look it up.  I used the “thrax” part of that monicker to name my substance.)  Thraxium is a metal that completely resists all physical damage; you have to manipulate it at the molecular level to have any effect on it at all.  The fists and powers of the most powerful superhuman opponents can’t so much as put a mark on it, lacking any molecule-controlling powers as I mentioned.  

The Dragon’s Tail has been artfully woven from Thraxium cords into one of the most unbreakable objects in existence.  The cords have also been alloyed with another fictional substance, one that is familiar to devotees of UFO and flying saucer mythology.  The ufology crowd calls it Element 115; to Draco’s people it is Varonium.  This is the purported power source for UFOs that enables them to fold and warp space for interstellar travel.  In Varonia they use it to power their space/time-travel technology.  The Tail is thus made of a Thraxium-Varonium compound.  The Thraxium makes the Varonium safe to handle, and the Varonium gives the Tail some extra-special and very powerful functions.


Using the Dragon’s Tail, Draco can travel back and forth from Varonia in the Junction to this Earth, or to any other Earth in any other time period or alternate history that the Junction has catalogued.  If needed, he can also teleport himself from place to place in the event that he needs to get somewhere faster than he can fly (though his top flight speed is about 300-400 miles per hour.)  But there are other, more awesome things the Dragon’s Tail can do in battle.  By spinning or cracking the whip, Draco can create enormously powerful spatial warps with which to smite his foes!  Imagine you’re a villain going up against the King of Dragons and he cracks his whip at you:  a second later you’re smashed by an onrushing wall of distorted spacetime that at full power can hit harder than a tsunami!  A crack of the Dragon’s Tail can flatten a super-powered enemy from a distance, crush an advancing army, or demolish a whole section of a city in the time it takes to tell it.  Coupled with his other powers, the Dragon’s Tail makes Draco Rex one of the most terrifying and unstoppable champions of justice that an evil-doer can face.  Moreover, the Dragon’s Tail is “keyed” to respond only to the handling of Draco himself or his even more powerful mother, Tiamat, Queen of Varonia.  If it is ever separated from the Prince it will automatically teleport itself back to him.

Limitless strength, invulnerability, the power to summon and control fire and firestorms, flight, and the Dragon’s Tail all combine to make Draco Rex one of the mightiest heroes of the Quantum Universe.  Fortunately, he is also one of the friendliest and most affable--as long as you’re not a bad guy!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

WHIP IT...WHIP IT GOOD


"Sirrah, I am a patient man.  But only to a point."  

This would be a typical line of dialogue from the most powerful warrior in the Multicosm, right before he scorches someone with a firestorm, smacks them down with the mightiest muscles in all of space and time--or smites them with the all-crushing power of the Dragon's Tail!



When Quantum Comics Blog returns, we'll see the color versions of these drawings of Draco Rex brandishing one of the most devastating weapons in existence and learn more about the Dragon's Tail.  We'll also see the most awe-inspiring holiday event of all--the 2012 Quantum Christmas Card!  Keep looking in as the Yuletide season gets under way!





Monday, November 12, 2012

THIS DRAGON'S NO DRAG ON YOU


In a previous post I introduced you to Earth’s most awesome adventurers, the Environauts.  As I was brainstorming the exploits of the Nauts (which are still in the works), I naturally began to look for the other characters, heroes and villains, who would populate their stories and make their world exciting.  And it was at this time that I was browsing a Barnes & Noble  bookstore and came upon a book called When God Was a Woman.  The title intrigued me enough that I wanted to give it the flip-through, and on doing so I learned that there was once a time, before Christianity, when people worshipped a divine female creator--a monotheistic religion centered on a Goddess.  And even more intriguingly, in the religion of the Goddess, snakes were considered sacred animals!  In our culture, of course, most people live in an instinctive, phobic fear and loathing of all reptiles (except, usually, turtles).  But in the Goddess religion, snakes were revered as having a direct pipeline to divinity!  Which would lead me, in a roundabout way, to creating one of the most powerful heroes in the Quantum cast.



I have always loved reptiles.  I had iguanas as pets in high school, and for almost 16 years I had a Boa named Ralph.  I emphatically don’t share people’s general loathing of these beautiful creatures.  And I was fascinated to learn that there was once a religion that felt the same way.  It especially caught my interest because of what I knew about how Christianity had secured its power in the world, by making a disobedient woman responsible for all the ills of humanity--a woman who, according to the myth, had gone against the wishes of a male God and listened to a talking snake!  By making a woman responsible for man being cast out of Paradise and making a snake the instrument of her downfall, Christianity had effectively discredited women and reptiles for centuries to come and set itself up in an enduring patriarchy.  Well, I didn’t need a snake lobbing an apple at me to know that there was a story--perhaps a lot of stories--in that!

So, for one of the first Environauts sagas, I imagined that Lucky Star and his friends would battle a monster named Cerastes.  He would be a humanoid/dinosaur being, torn between a comic-book-advanced intelligence and an insane need to kill, destroy, and enslave other life.  Cerastes came from an alternate universe where the killer asteroid from 65 million years ago missed Earth and the Age of Reptiles never ended.  He came to this Earth as a conqueror in pre-Christian times and was responsible for human myths about dragons.  And the race of beings from which he had mutated, the more benevolent, reptilian Varons, had helped an uncomprehending humanity to stop him.  (The name Varons comes from Varanus--the scientific name of monitor lizards to which the Komodo Dragon belongs.)  The human followers of the Varons were, of course, snake-revering Goddess worshippers.  But after the rout of Cerastes, the Varons feared the cultural contamination of our world, where humans were barely into the Bronze Age.  So they took their human followers away to the place called the Junction, a kind of nexus of alternate realities, and helped them to cope with the things they had learned about the way the universe really works.  They also helped them to transform Earth’s dragons back into the birds from which Cerastes had mutated them, leaving us with only the mythology instead of the reality of dragons.

With me so far?  Good, because here’s where it gets really interesting.  By the time Cerastes struck again, the followers of the Varons had created a matriarchal, snake-and-dragon-honoring society called Varonia, composed largely but not exclusively of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic humans.  And the Varonians had learned how to create a mutagenic chemical that resembled blood, which they called the Dragonblood.  By bathing in the fateful Dragonblood, any person who had earned the privilege could emerge with superhuman powers.  (In dragon mythology, bathing in the blood of a dragon makes you invulnerable.  Learning about myths and how to use them is very valuable in storytelling, as you can see.)  During the battle between Varonia and Cersates, a family of valiant “dragon-slayers” had at their foe.  Brave Fintan Draco was slain in combat.  His wife, Tiamat, fell into the Dragonblood and nearly drowned.  And their son, Declan, dived in to save his mother.  Both were dramatically transformed.  Tiamat, because of the length and depth of her immersion, acquired cosmic-level matter/energy powers.  She was effectively a living goddess.  Declan, who had dived deep and also been deeply immersed to save his mother, grew large, powerful, dragon-like wings.  He gained virtually immeasurable strength and invulnerability, the power to summon and control any quantity of heat and fire, and the ability to take flight by using his heat powers to create air currents to support his mighty wings.  At a gesture, he could create a firestorm that could incinerate a city, call any outside fire to his hand, or snuff out any flame with a thought!  After Declan used his newfound and terrifying powers to put down Cerastes, his mother ascended to Queen of Varonia and dubbed her son Draco Rex--”King of Dragons,” the mightiest warrior in all of space and time!

So where do the Environauts come into all this?  In the story as I first saw it, Cerastes attacks Earth yet again, in the present day, and this time the Nauts come out to battle him.  In the midst of this battle they picked up an ally--Serpentyne, warrior Princess of the Realm of Varonia!  (At the time, I was interested in developing female characters in orbit of the Nauts, to appeal to the core demographic of comic books.)  The really interesting thing was what happened when I first imagined Serpentyne’s intro scene.  I saw her emerging from an access point between this world and the Junction--but much to my surprise, she didn’t come alone!  There was someone else with her, a blond male fitness-magazine type with dragon wings and the attitude of someone you’d expect to see slinging a hammer in some other comics universe.  I hadn’t planned on this character; I hadn’t thought of him or in any way deliberately set out to create him.  He was just there, unbidden, a completely spontaneous act of creation.  Moreover, he was Serpentyne’s big brother!  Somehow, this character possessed such strength and power that he had willed himself into existence out of nothingness.  And he was so forceful that once he was there I couldn’t un-create him and he practically took over the story.  He even turned out to be gay and attracted to the Environauts’ strongman, Lionel Marshall, a.k.a. The Stone (much to Lionel’s delight).  Any character who can do that without my doing anything to summon him, I reasoned, was someone I had better just accept.  So I worked with Draco Rex and modified the story to provide him with an origin, and there he was.  This is the only time a thing like that has happened to me.  Usually, as the storyteller, I’m the one doing the creating.  Draco Rex brought himself into being and hurled himself to front and center!

Next time we’ll learn about that formidable weapon you see the King of Dragons carrying.  As you may suspect, the Dragon’s Tail is far more than just a whip!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

HERE BE A DRAGON

For all my artist and storyteller friends:  Did you ever have a character will himself into being with no deliberate effort on your part?  In the next post of Quantum Comics Blog, you'll see the color version of this master drawing of a character who did exactly that!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

COMING OUT PROUD


Today is National Coming Out Day, a day when gays and lesbians (and bisexuals and transgendered people) are encouraged to declare themselves bravely and proudly.  The first National Coming Out Day was October 11, 1988.  My own personal Coming Out Day was October 11, 1987, and I remember it to the day because the preceding day, October 10, is the wedding anniversary of my best friend from art school.  It’s true.  For this occasion, then--my 25th birthday, as it were--I thought it was well past time to get two particular characters together here on Quantum Comics Blog.  One of them you’ve already met, the intrepid Idol.  The other has also made a cameo appearance in that same post:  the senses-sizzling Sentinel, a.k.a. Pride!


The character of Pride, conceived by my friend Andy Mangels, is based on a design by an artist named Greg Phillips, who meant the character to be featured in the now-defunct Blueboy magazine.  Phillips originally christened his creation “The Sentry,” and I have the original Sentry design somewhere buried among my souvenirs.  When Andy latched onto the character for the indie-comics anthology Gay Comics, of which he was Editor, he redubbed Greg’s character as "Sentinel" and created his own origin for him.  He also called upon me to be Sentinel’s artist.  (I knew Andy’s work previously from Marvel Age, an in-house promotional magazine of Marvel Comics; it happened we were both members of ATDNSIN, The APA That Dares Now Speak Its Name, an Amateur Publishing Association for gays who read and work in comics.)  In this way a collaboration was struck.

With some modifications to Greg’s original design--some of which Andy wanted, like the forearm hair, and some of which were my idea, like the driving gloves with triangular cut-outs--we debuted Sentinel in Gay Comics #16, and the launch of the character was both my entrée into professional comics and my coming-out statement to the world.  Sentinel was kind of a landmark creation.  He was one of the first comic-book heroes who were cast in a very classically mainstream heroic mold; he was obviously the conceptual kin of Superman and Captain America.  His adventures were straightforward, serious, and dramatic, with humor used strictly for characterization.  His stories were not campy, not funny and frivolous, not a lark.  He was a traditional and conventionally masculine super-hero who happened to be romantically and sexually attracted to men only.  Today there are a number of such characters in mainstream comics; my favorites are the Wiccan and the Hulkling in The Young Avengers and Striker in Avengers Academy.  There’s also the very high-profile Canadian mutant Northstar in Alpha Flight and The X-Men, who actually preceded Sentinel but had a very tortured and convoluted storytelling history.  But Sentinel, at the time, was quite a unique creation; there weren’t many characters around like him.

I’ll tell you a couple of funny stories about the debut of Sentinel.  As I said, the debut of the character was my declaration of identity to the world.  When I was first Out, I decided I would just be myself and neither advertise nor hide who I was; if the subject came up I would deal honestly with it, and that was all.  Working in Gay Comics changed all that.  If you’re a contributing artist to a gay publication and you’re doing newspaper interviews and public appearances about it, as I was, you effectively do not have a closet.  So this was my way of claiming my gayness in the eyes of everyone, including my family and friends.  The consequence of all this was neither a bang nor a whimper.  

I’ll grant you my brother was curious and my aforementioned best friend from art school was set back on his heels a bit, but everyone else?  My mother looked at the first Sentinel story, thought it was wonderful, and was glad I was getting work.  That’s it.  My sister Janice went to Florida to visit my (now deceased) father on his birthday and came back with the story of how my father, at his birthday party, took out his copies of the Sentinel stories from Gay Comics and showed them to his neighbors, saying, “Look what my son did.”  This account tickled me because I remembered the story of what supposedly happened with one of my personal heroes, Gene Roddenberry, when Star Trek went on the air for the first time.  As Gene told it, after the show was over, his father went up and down the street apologizing to the neighbors for the foolishness they had just seen and promising them that Gene would be back to writing good old sensible All-American Westerns and crime shows straight away.  Hearing that my father had bragged to the neighbors about Sentinel, I couldn’t help thinking, Well, I’m one up on Gene...

There were six episodes of Sentinel in all, the first five of which I drew.  My work on these features represents a time when I was developing my own sensibility about super-heroes as something other than the cliché of the costumed mass of muscle and brawn who didn’t necessarily have to be beautiful or graceful or have any kind of sex appeal.  I wanted my characters to be different.  I wanted them to be masculine, strong, forceful, powerful, yes, by all means; they were super-heroes after all.  But darn it, I wanted them to be beautiful.  I wanted them to be graceful.  I wanted them to be sexy as all get-out.  And my rendering of the sententious Sentinel at the time reflected that.  In retrospect, what I should have done was to try to capture those same qualities in a character who was...well, at least bigger.  Sentinel should have been a physical specimen somewhere between Captain America and mighty Thor.  I made him more like a costumed Chippendales dancer instead.  It’s one thing I would change if I were working on the character today, and the drawing accompanying this post reflects that.  The artist who followed me on the final published episode of the character--Brandon McKinney, I think his name was--made him physically more of the kind of figure that I should have done, and I give him props for that.

And speaking of the later episodes of the character...

Our hero had a bit of a naming problem, owing to the usage of the same name(s) by larger comic book companies.  In other comics, “Sentry” was originally the name of a series of super-powerful robots created by the Kree Empire of the Greater Magellanic Cloud.  After Andy and I did our character, “The Sentry” was also used as the name of a powerful but psychotic super-hero who supposedly preceded the Fantastic Four.  “Sentinel” is the name of a series of giant robots that hunt mutants.  It is also a name briefly used by the first-generation Green Lantern, a character who of late has ironically been rewritten as gay!  Because of the issue of replication of names (and the fact that the other parties using the names were bigger gorillas than we were), Andy decided on a re-christening of our hero, and after some brainstorming he had our post-Stonewall paladin adopt a new monicker:  Pride!  And so he was called in his final installments.  

Idol is a character that I created in the same spirit as Pride.  He’s the same kind of character and stands for the same things.  If in some jaunt between comics universes the two of them ever crossed paths, they would recognize their kindred spirits and be great allies and friends.  (They would not hook up, because each has a non-super-hero boyfriend and is monogamous.)  It’s for that reason that on this National Coming Out Day I thought the two of them should meet in some fashion.  So, however Out you may be, take this drawing as a sign that there is a better life to be lived and greater strength and integrity to be found out of the closet than in.  Happy Coming Out Day, everyone.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

THE PROUDEST PAIR

Quantum Comics Blog will return October 11 to observe National Coming Out Day with the color version of this drawing and some very cool notes about the history behind it.  See you then!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

JON AND TOM


When we look for love--or even friendship--we tend to look for the one with whom we have the most in common.  Which makes perfect sense; compatibility is a highly desirable thing.  But such are the curious twists of human nature that sometimes what pleases and charms us most in others is the thing that we are not, as witness the most unlikely lovers who make the most perfect sense:  Jon Wilde, nicknamed Wild Jon, and Tom Tierney.

Consider the tale of Tom.  His father, attorney Kevin Tierney, wanted a son with whom to share all the typical Dad-son things in life.  He finally got one after two daughters--but Kevin was surprised one day when he walked in at an inopportune moment on Tom and his high-school boyfriend.  Bewildered, Kevin got into his car to think and drive and ran afoul of someone who had chosen to drink and drive, which left a world of things unsaid between Tom and his father.  Bereft of his Dad and fearing that Kevin was ashamed of him, Tom embarked on a life of denying himself love, dumping every boyfriend and sabotaging every relationship out of a need to be unhappy and punish himself for what happened to Kevin.  He even went so far as to move from California to New York and enroll at the same Manhattan law school his father attended, as if to keep Kevin’s ghost with him forever.  And it’s while he’s a student in New York that Tom meets Jon.


Jon couldn’t be more different from Tom.  Jon’s father is a wealthy Englishman; his mother was the Princess of a tribe of shape-changers from an alternate Earth called Greenworld.  The son of a captain of industry and a noble werewolf, young Prince Jon is a hybrid belonging to neither of his parents’ species and is effectively the child of nature itself.  Possessing superhuman strength, senses, and reflexes, animal-like powers, and a communion with the natural world, Jon is a creature of  instinct:  intuitive, uninhibited, innocent--as “wild” as his name implies.  He recognizes Tom as his destined mate by Tom’s scent!  Tom is Jon’s 180-degree opposite.  While handsome and athletic (as the boyfriend of a gay comic book hero should be), Tom is thoughtful, circumspect, analytical, intellectual--everything that is “civilized”.  The two should not get along and should even repel each other, and yet they prove to be the perfect fit, each possessing the qualities that the other lacks.  It is under the influence of the wild and primal but sweet and innocent Jon that Tom’s carefully guarded heart finally melts and he accepts his need to love and be loved.  In the bargain Tom gets the responsibility for helping Jon’s father protect him and all his secrets from the world.  In effect, the civilized Tom takes up the cause of conserving the part of nature that is most precious to him:  the wild and innocent boy he loves.

Jon and Tom together are an old song lyric expressed as two boys in love:  “Wild thing, you make my heart sing...”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

WHEN WE RETURN...

Quantum Comics Blog will be back soon with the color version of this drawing and some story notes about it.  Keep checking in!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

KING KIRBY LIVES!

Quantum Comics Blog will resume with posts of new material after the Labor Day Weekend.  In the meantime, as is my annual custom, I participated in the birthday tribute to the King of Comics this year. To see my contribution to the festivities and the wonderful work of other artists who remember King Kirby, go to http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/kirby-vision/

Friday, August 17, 2012

HIATUS

Quantum Comics Blog is going on a brief hiatus while I prepare something special for the observation of Jack "King" Kirby's 95th birthday at Kirby-Vision!  Join us again in early September for more heroic hotness.  Thanks, everyone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TRUE IDOL

If you lived in Los Angeles in the world of Quantum Comics and you happened to look up and see rainbow-colored trails of light in the sky, you could rest assured that any villains or evil-doers in the vicinity were in big trouble--because you’d know Idol was on the job!


Just one look at Idol tells you exactly who he is:  He’s out, he’s proud, and he’s got more than enough power to back it up.  Even when you see Mark James Worthy out of costume, his Human Rights Campaign “Equal Rights symbol” tattoo and his fuchsia triangle ear stud put his identity right out there.  Idol’s costume takes its inspiration from the ACT UP “Silence Equals Death” graphic--but there’s even more to it than that.  Idol is a character in the spirit of another character for whom some people remember me.  I used to be the artist of a series of super-hero strips in Gay Comics that starred an All-American gay super-hero called Sentinel (later called Pride).  Though I didn’t create the sensational Sentinel, I always liked him and considered him my “beloved stepchild”.  (You see him below on the cover of Gay Comics #20, penciled by me and inked by George Perez.  He’s the star-spangled blond hunk at the center of the composition.)  I wanted to do another character who would symbolize the strength and pride of gay America and embody it in a classical super-hero.  That character, then, is the intrepid Idol.


The origin and intro story for Idol is one that makes me smile to think about it.  One warm night in Santa Monica, an engineering student named Mitch McGrath meets the most perfect boy he’s ever seen--young fitness instructor Mark James Worthy--browsing in the CD section of a bookstore.  They head for the cafe where they drink and talk and quickly fall in love.  Mark takes Mitch home to bed.  They lie together afterward, deliriously happy.  Thinking Mitch is dozing, Mark decides to step out for a bit in just his tighty whities and enjoy the cooling night.  Mitch wakes up, spies Mark slipping out to the side of the pool, thinks his new boyfriend is going to take a dip, and is ready to join him--when suddenly Mark lifts himself into the air and flies off in a rainbow streak!  A stunned and disbelieving Mitch at once realizes that he is sleeping with a super-hero!  When Mark (who’s been giving LA’s night life quite a show, clad only in his underwear with his aerial celebration of new love) flies back home a short time later, he has some major explaining to do.

Thus Mark shows himself to Mitch in costume for the first time, and Mitch calls him “some kind of costumed idol”--a name that will stick.  Mitch learns his super-powered lover’s origin.  Mark is the only child of Evan Worthy, a realtor who came out to himself only after marrying heterosexually; and Carol James Worthy, a caterer with bouts of depression.  Evan was prosperous but miserable, finding happiness only in an affair with another realtor, Patrick Sayers, who encouraged him to come out--and he did, ending his marriage and sending Carol into a tailspin.  The embittered and depressed Carol did everything to poison the mind of their son Mark against his father, railing against the “selfishness” of gays and their supposed agenda of destroying and tearing apart families.  Carol’s manipulations came to nothing when Mark realized his own gayness and Carol attempted suicide with pills and alcohol.  Still loving his mother but unable to live any more in a toxic home, Mark went to live with his father and Patrick while Jenny went into therapy.  Then a car crash claimed the lives of Mark’s Dads, leaving Mark with their money and property, his budding fitness-trainer business, and a life filled with grief.

Reeling from his losses, Mark felt himself being bombarded with the conflict over gay rights in the media (a painful reminder of his mother) and began to shut himself off from the world until he couldn’t stand it any more.  One fateful day he felt the need to run--not to any specific place or destination, just to run.  Pushing himself to his physical limits, he tripped and fell off a trail, rolling down a hill into a wooded area, and sprawled unconscious in the brush.  There he lay--until IT appeared.  It was something incredibly ancient, older than humanity, shaped like a large, hollow triangle.  It called out to Mark’s mind and he stepped into the center of the strange object.  There he was charged with immense power, and a costume and a set of wristbands with a symbol identical to the mystery object fashioned themselves onto his body.  (The wristbands enable him to switch back and forth from common clothes to his costume.)  Mark had been chosen for a purpose that he would understand if he used his new powers in the way they were intended.  His mission was simply to protect the world and humanity and be a force for good.  What was the mysterious object that endowed Mark with powers almost like those of a god?  What was he meant to do?  All this he would learn if he simply returned to the world and lived the full measure of his love, his pride, and his power.  Free of the despair that had overcome him and ready to engage with the world again, Mark returned home, recommitted himself to his business, opened his eyes to new adventure--and met the boy with whom he now planned to spend his life.  And that’s where a wonder-struck Mitch came in.

Idol is one of the most powerful beings ever to live on Earth.  He occupies the highest percentile of strength and invulnerability of all superhumans, a category that he shares with the Bearcat and some other characters you’ll be meeting in the weeks ahead.  He can fly faster than a supersonic fighter jet in Earth’s atmosphere and reach near-light speeds in space.  He can live and travel in space without a spacesuit.  The telltale signature of Idol’s presence in an area, as we noted earlier, is the rainbow-colored trail of bent light that he leaves behind him when he flies.  He can create force fields to protect others, and generate force beams capable of demolishing buildings with one blast.  He can sense energy in any form in any place.  He can emit a light so strong that it seems to turn night to day, which he does at Mitch’s suggestion during an adventure that happens later on their first night together.  Idol is as super as super gets.

Silence may equal death and action may equal life--but pride, power, and valor add up to Idol! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS


The central characters of the Quantum Comics universe are, how shall we say, fantastic “for” a number of reasons.  They are Earth’s most celebrated and loved adventurers, the Beatles of the heroic world:  the Environauts.
The origin of the Nauts, as they’re often called, takes the origin of another very famous comic-book quartet and turns it upside down.  Lorenzo “Lucky” Vega, super-rich super-science genius and the smartest kid in the world, takes his three best friends out for a submarine ride to test an experimental technology that catalogues the sounds made by marine life.  While they’re out there, they discover something that has never been recorded before--because it belongs to no ocean on Earth!  It captures them and tries to transform them into the vanguard of an alien invasion.  The intervention of an alien female (whom we’ll be meeting in the future) saves the boys, leaving them still human but super-powered--and making them the only thing that can save mankind from conquest by oceanic beings from another world.  (Meanwhile, Olympic gymnast Travis Roykirk is battling the same invasion, a battle that will result in his becoming the World Champion.)  Lucky’s brilliance and the four friends’ powers make them the explorers, discoverers, and protectors of Earth’s future; the world’s leading super-science heroes and pillars of the superhuman community.  These four boys are the pioneers of everything that is “super”.


The Environauts are so famous and so popular that in the Quantum Comics world you can’t turn on your TV or computer, or open a magazine or look at a newspaper, without seeing, hearing, or reading something about them.  And going out in public?  Remember how the Beatles couldn’t do a thing without being swarmed by screaming girls?  Imagine mobs of screaming girls and guys hurling themselves at you wherever you go.  It can make the business of saving the world even more complicated than you’d expect.
This group shot is the result of my latest tinkering with the team uniform.  As you can see, the Nauts wear the same suit in individual colors with individual symbols as well as a team symbol.  (There’s also an equally sleek-looking “dress” version of the suits, which I’ll have to show you sometime.)  Earth’s greatest heroes are (from left to right) openly gay, biracial Lionel Marshall, aka The Stone, who can transform his body into super-strong, invulnerable living marble; Roger Blaisdell, aka Aquarius, who becomes a figure of living liquid and does all manner of watery power stunts; team leader Lucky Vega, aka Lucky Star, with the power to become a body of living plasma, as in a neon sign or the Sun; and Roger’s big brother Warren “Trey” Blaisdell III, aka Cirrus, who becomes a body of living water vapor and charged particles, a human storm system that can produce all sorts of weather effects.  The powers of the Environauts are meant to reflect the spheres of the natural environment through which life has evolved.  Life as we know it began in the ocean and moved onto the land, certain creatures took to the sky, and man has uniquely begun to reach into space.  So the Nauts are figures of Ocean (Aquarius), Land (The Stone), Sky (Cirrus), and Space (Lucky Star).  
We’ll have individual posts for each of the Environauts in weeks to come.  In the meantime, let’s hear it for the boys.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BUILDING A BETTER BEARCAT


As I mentioned at the end of our previous post, here’s another look at the bludgeoning Bearcat--and his human form, Dr. Russell Lockhart.
I wanted to do another “take” on the character after considering the initial design because it made me think perhaps I had done a little better rendering the “cat” aspect of him than the “bear”.  So I decided to do another sheet focusing on just headshots of the reluctant Russ’s alter ego, and work a little more with the human Russ himself.  My friend Martin in Edinburgh, Scotland wonders if it would be a better look to shave or shed the Bearcat’s mane.  What do you think?


Also last time I was talking about a particular character in a Major Comics Universe, whom I won’t mention by name.  I’ll just identify him as The Ugly, Brutal, Vulgar, Violent Canadian With the Metal Claws Whom I Don’t Like.  This character, as I said, has become one of the standard bearers for everything that is considered heroic in that universe, even though he represents the opposite of what attracted me to comics and made me want to be a fan and a part of the profession.  To me he stands for things that have repelled me from comics and has at times made me want to flee the medium completely as both a fan and a professional interest.  Characters like that, who are among the darlings of the industry and beloved of so many fans, are not at all why I wanted to be in it, and I have long resented their popularization.  
I was talking in E-mails with my brother about this once and he brought up a very interesting point.  My brother suggested I think of the Metal Clawed Canadian as the comic book equivalent of the Wolf Man.  That is, the original movie Wolf Man, the one played in the Universal films of the 1940s by Lon Chaney Jr.  In my immediate family, my siblings and I and most of my nieces are devotees of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and this one particular brother and I are comic-book guys.  My brothers and older sister introduced me to classic Hollywood science fiction and horror and it became part of my identity.  My brother made the analogy between the Metal Clawed Canadian and the Wolf Man because they are both “tortured monsters”.  My problem with the Metal Clawed Canadian--well, one of my problems--is that he seems to have grown to accept and embrace the creature that he is instead of resisting it.  How many times have we read about him thinking that he is “the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t nice”?  He seems to embrace his monstrous, homicidal nature where poor Larry “The Wolf Man” Talbot never did that of his werewolf self.  I see that as the critical difference between them.
Perhaps, then, the Bearcat is my personal redemption of characters like old Edward Talon Hands from Canada.  Perhaps he is my way of taking the whole mentality of such characters and turning it to better thinking and better ends, civilizing that which is uncivilized, if you will.  Russ Lockhart doesn’t like being his other self, and he holds firm to his true, “core” self, a man of science and reason (and the kind of person I most respect).  In that way, I think, Russ resembles another anti-hero I brought up, the Scientist With the Raging Green Monster Alter Ego in Purple Pants.  This character, I’ll admit, is one of the favorite characters of my boyhood, and one to whom I’ve retained an attachment through later life.  (Though my actual favorite characters include the Four Astronauts With Cosmic Ray-Induced Powers, the Super-Soldier Patriot From the 1940s, the Kid Who Climbs Walls and Shoots Webs, and the Mythological Thunder God Who Protects Earth as a Super-Hero.)  Russ Lockhart, like the nuclear physicist who becomes Green Skin Purple Pants, will never embrace being a monster.  Russ will, however, use it--and live with the terrifyingly volatile danger of being the Bearcat--for the good of humanity.  And using power for the good of humanity, after all--not the wallowing in violence and ugliness--is really what super-heroes are all about.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

BEHOLD...THE BEARCAT


A long time ago I heard the name of an old car called a Stutz Bearcat.  I’m not really a “car” person except that I love cars that I think are beautiful (as I love anything that I think is beautiful), but I just thought that was a cool name:  “Bearcat.”  There ought to be a character in comics by that name, I thought, and mentally filed away that name for years and years.  So at last, here he is.
The Bearcat is my take on the archetype of the “raging, rampaging berserker fury” hero.  You know, the kind of hero who in a certain comics universe would turn green with rage and have a predilection for purple pants.  I once had a universe of characters that I had started building in high school.  Most of it is in mothballs now, but a few of its characters and ideas in updated form are part of Quantum Comics.  In that reality the Bearcat was a villain:  an axe murderer who turned into a literal monster.  For Quantum I decided to bring him back as a dangerous, conflicted hero--an anti-hero, if you like.  Such characters have a following, as we know.  You know that other place, the one with the green guy with anger issues and purple pants?  Over there they have an animalistic, murderous anti-hero with metal claws who’s been held up as the poster boy for everything that is considered heroic in a way that I don’t think such a character ought to be, whom I don’t like.  Perhaps, I thought, I could do a better one.


The Bearcat is Russell Lockhart, a genetic engineer by profession.  He works for the government on a project to try to unlock at will the latent super-powers that people carry around in their genes.  In Quantum Comics, in the origin of the Environauts that is the starting point for all super-heroes and super-villains, Earth’s oceans are seeded with alien “xenosomes” that get into the planet’s water cycle and thus into people, making everyone a potential superhuman, but allowing only a few people to hit the super-lottery, so to speak.  The US government and military, as you can well guess, would just love to be able to weaponize the xenosomes, and Russell here is part of the top-secret project to figure out how to do it.  
Now Russell is really not the militaristic aggressor type.  In fact all he really wants to do is make good money, live a quiet life, stay out of people’s way, and keep other people out of his way.   Unfortunately, as Mr. Spock in Star Trek once pointed out, humans are very good at getting things that they don’t want.  Russell is an escapee from a toxic home filled with family members a lot like the people for whom we find him working, “Type A” men pumped up on testosterone, aggression, and archaic perceptions of manhood who all became cops and soldiers and firefighters--and womanizers, and frequently alcoholics.  Russell was “the runt of the litter” who was quiet and introverted, intellectual, and bisexual, ignored by his father and taunted and picked on by his brothers.  He couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and his interest in science was his ticket.  When the Army came calling on Russell’s gift for biotechnology, he wasn’t exactly keen to do it, except that he imagined the money he could earn working for them would buy him a very comfortable, very quiet and stress-free early retirement.  And besides, with his mind, he could play in the arena of the soldier boys and pumped-up authority figures like his father and brothers and show them the superiority of intellect over brute force.  Hold that thought, Russell; here comes the twist.
There is a (fictitious) foreign country that I call Toraq.  I won’t tell you exactly where Toraq is.  Just picture a place in the Eastern Hemisphere where it’s really hot, they have a lot of sand and a lot of oil, it’s rife with religious fundamentalism and they’re not at all enlightened about women, and they really don’t like Americans.  (See?  Pure fiction, right?)  The rulers of Toraq have gotten wind of the US military’s secret superhuman project and they feel very threatened; after all, these Americans have a way of stomping all over countries like theirs to get what they want.  So into our country they’ve sent operatives who are part of Toraq’s own project to tap the xenosomes.  (Of course ours would not be the only country trying this.)  The Toraqi xenosome formula is unstable and dangerous; the people on whom they’ve tried it were the genetic equivalent of suicide bombers, sacrificing their lives in exchange for a promised reward in the next life.  (There were a lot of imaginary virgins in the deal, no doubt.)  Their formula either kills the subject or produces a super-power so volatile that it destroys the subject and everyone else around him.  The Toraqi’s evil plan is to abduct Americans, inject them with the formula, and use them as living weapons.  And one American they’ve targeted is Russell Lockhart.  Their reasoning:  If he dies, good; that’s one less American scientist.  If he dies and destroys or cripples the Americans’ superhuman project, also good; it’s a setback for us.  Win/win.  The trouble is, Russell doesn’t die.  He hits the super-lottery and draws a power that doesn’t kill him, but it does make him very angry, as strong and invulnerable as a superhuman can get, and very, very dangerous.  It makes Russell everything he never wanted to be.  He becomes aggressive and violent to the point that he’s on the razor’s edge of going totally berserk, with the strength to lift or press 90-100 tons and invulnerability in direct proportion.  He becomes the Bearcat.
To cut to the chase here, it takes the World Champion and the new hero team that he’s just formed, the Wonders (one of whom is the Satellite, whom we met in the previous post) to get the Bearcat (mostly) under control.  This has the benefit for the Wonders of giving them another immensely strong and powerful member and a relationship with the government that is to their mutual advantage, with high-level privileges and clearances.  To the government, having the Bearcat in the Wonders relieves them of most of the responsibility for controlling him, though there’s always the possible complication of military intervention if the Bearcat proves impossible to restrain.  And for Russell, who really doesn’t want to be a superhuman or a hero at all, being in the Wonders means keeping the military’s hands off him.  It’s a better thing, he decides, to throw in his lot with the other super types than with the Army.  The one silver lining in the whole setup for poor Russ is that he isn’t constantly stuck in the form of the Bearcat; unwilling as he is, he can summon his monstrous self when it’s needed.  So the reluctant scientist becomes a dangerous hero (and a handful for his teammates), and a startled and awestruck world must behold the Bearcat!
Watch for more of the Bearcat in the next post!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

LAUNCH OF THE SATELLITE

Illustration--a craft of which comic book art is a subset--is a profession in which you are encouraged and paid to steal.  We call it "swiping," to be nice about it, or "using reference," but it's stealing, it's allowed, and we're taught to do it.  We steal images for our use to make our work look more convincing.


However, there are some things you can't steal or swipe, even for reference, because there are very good laws against appropriating people's registered trademarks.  In that case we employ another trick:  Reworking something so that it is not a recognizable trademark, but if you're savvy enough you can still figure out where it came from.  I always envied the logo of the defunct Saturn automobile company.  I always thought that design should be the symbol or emblem of a super-hero, not a car.  But I couldn't just lift the logo from Saturn as it was designed:


To use it for my own character-design purposes, I had to transform it a bit.  And that's how I came up with the costume of this Quantum hero--The Satellite!


The Satellite is not a character that I created just to steal (or adapt) someone else's ingenious graphic.  For a long time I have searched for just the right character with whom to do an African-American version of my most prevailing hero archetype:  the Prince.  Quantum Comics will be full of Princes.  They're as common to my work as Princesses are to Disney movies.  The Prince may be defined as the most exceptional of men (even by the standards of Quantum Comics heroes), the man you most want as a champion, a rescuer, a leader, and a lover.  Lucky Vega, who will become Lucky Star, leader of the Environauts, is the most prominent of the Princes.  Wild Jon is another.  It was important to me to bring on a Prince who's black.  I put a great deal of time and thought into coming up with exactly the right character with which to do this.  I wanted him to be a character who would reflect all of my hopes for blacks in America to see all the beauty and greatness in themselves, to see themselves as not just rappers and basketball players and gangsters.  I took extra care in creating the Satellite--and his civilian identity, Max Thoroughgood.


My concept for Max is that he is a life-loving playboy from the richest African-American family in the country.  The secret of his family's wealth is that long ago they discovered a massive meteorite laden with extraterrestrial gold ore, and have used the sale of portions of the alien gold to build their fortune.  However, some of them have also resorted to less than scrupulous means to maintain and grow their empire, rather like an African-American version of the Ewings of Dallas, and when young Max finds some of the skeletons in the family closet, he's ashamed.  Not so ashamed that he completely gives up his hedonistic ways and his prolific pursuit of women (yes, he's one of the straight ones), but ashamed enough to want to find ways to redeem his family honor and turn his fortune to something good.  To that end he uses his genius with material science and engineering to create a super-suit and become a hero!  And he has an even loftier ambition:  to use some future upgrade of his suit to become the first man to orbit the Earth without a spaceship!


The Satellite's suit contains a technology that works in much the same way as the powers of another hero, the Quantum.  It is lined with an array of transducers that can store and process energy from any source and use it for a variety of effects, including flight, and has musculoskeletal enhancers to give Max superhuman strength when he's wearing it.  The suit is made of a diamond fibre and boron carbide combination with self-sealing resins that also makes Max invulnerable like a suit of super-armor.  Max's genius makes the Satellite one of the major players and heavy hitters in the Quantum Comics universe.  The Satellite:  a hero sure to put you in orbit!


Saturday, June 30, 2012

THE LOVE YOU TAKE IS EQUAL TO THE LOVE YOU CREATE

We all know that characters in comics can do things that people in Life as We Know It cannot.  But that isn’t limited to characters with super-powers.  For instance, suppose you are a character in comics and you are a man in your 50s who’s led an unhappy, unfulfilled life in which you’ve never had the love of your dreams.  In fact, what if you met and worked with the man who was everything you wanted, but he was exactly the type who never wanted you and was a heterosexual besides?  And suppose this man died, leaving you in grief for what could never have been.  If you were such a character and you also happened to be an expert in robotics and artificial intelligence...perhaps, just perhaps, you would set out to design, build, and program the man of your dreams and make him everything you ever wanted, created to love you!  In The Adventures of Lucky Vega that’s exactly what a man named Professor William Favor did.  The result of his work to create the love for which he’d hungered all his life was an android named Tycho!



Tycho is an android, programmed to be Professor Favor’s companion, servant, and committed lover.  He is a fully sentient, artificially intelligent being.  He even has free will; he is actually capable of breaking up with Professor Favor and leaving him!  But he doesn’t--because in the way of so many sentient beings for as long as sentient beings have existed, he adores, worships, and is devoted to his creator!  In a twist that some characters (such as Lucky himself) find bizarre and disturbing, Tycho never even calls William Favor by his first name; he is given to addressing and referring to his creator as “The Professor” or “Sir” in spite of the intimate (to say the least) nature of their relationship!  And Tycho is even equipped to defend himself and his master from danger; he is superhumanly strong and possesses electrical and magnetic powers. 

To make things even more intriguing, though the man in whose perfect likeness Tycho was made is dead, the lover android is the exact image of one who is very much alive.  David Strayhorn, the man Professor Favor loved, was part of Dr. Esteban Vega’s space initiative, working both to perfect humanity for life in space and perfect man’s ability to travel to the stars.  David Strayhorn died in a test of an experimental space-warp engine.  But Strayhorn’s look-alike son, Jeff, is still with us, just as heterosexual as his late Dad--and sleeping with Paloma Reyes, Dr. Vega’s head of security and Lucky’s fitness and self-defense instructor.  Suffice it to say that when Paloma first gets a look at Tycho she is in for a very embarrassing surprise when she thinks the artificial being is her favorite bedmate!  And from there, things keep getting interesting...

Dr. Franken Furter, eat your heart out!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

HE IS THE CHAMPION, MY FRIEND...

"He is the Champion, my friend.  And he'll go on fighting to the end..."


With the 2012 Olympics just a little more than a month away, what could be more fitting than a hero who was an Olympian?  Ladies and gentlemen, it's the one-and-only World Champion!






Travis Roykirk is a character I've had for many years who has existed in different forms, but he has always been a gymnast with an Olympic Gold Medalist background.  Men's Gymnastics is one of the few sports that I will actually take time to sit and watch on TV, and I look forward to seeing it in every Summer Olympics.  I think of male gymnasts as not just superb athletes but beautiful artists, and I like their sport not for its competitiveness but its grace and beauty and its expression of personal, physical excellence.  (Of course that doesn't stop me rooting for the Americans; I am a little competitive.)  


In his last iteration before this one, the openly gay and proud World Champion was an Australian clad in a gymnast's outfit in the colors of the Olympic flag (blue, yellow, black, green, red, white).  As I thought about him I realized that my heroic cast was lacking one primal archetype:  the all-American, flag-wearing hero in red, white, and blue.  This was my motivation for changing his origin to make him an American and for re-doing his costume to its present design.  Travis, prior to becoming the World Champion, appears in The Adventures of Lucky Vega as a gymnastics champion and a hardbody Martial Arts competitor specializing in Tae Kwon Do and the Bo staff.  Hardbody training transforms bone, causing it to lay down more tribeculae (calcium structures) after being traumatized.  In this manner bones grow denser, harder, more durable.  Ancient martial artists rendered their bones denser by striking sand, stone, and iron.  I picked all this up from an episode of a program called Fight Science on National Geographic Channel featuring an Australian fighter named Bren Foster who is one of the most spectacularly beautiful specimens of manhood you will ever see.  He went on to star as Quinn in the daytime soap Days of Our Lives!  


Watching Bren and learning about hardbody training, I naturally began to spin the whole idea into concepts for my work; I had been looking for details to use in the origin of the World Champion and this was a natural.  It sets up things that happen to Travis after his Olympic Gold Medal wins, when he becomes the chosen protege and surrogate son of a man named Jack Samson who is the world's leading exercise and fitness mogul (and the father of a brave young gay lad who died standing up to bashers).  It is because of his closeness with Samson that Travis becomes the recipient of the Samson-Vega Patch, a super-body-enhancing skin patch created as part of a project to prepare humans for life in space.  Wearing the Patch takes Travis from physically superb to nearly superhuman and is a critical step in his odyssey to become one of the leaders of the world's emerging super-heroes.


Wearing the red, white, and blue with pride, Travis Roykirk is truly the Champion of the World!