Saturday, July 22, 2006

Time-Travel Challenge: Cable To The Mechano-Sarge

Yikes! I'm late again. Sorry guys, but I was exhausted last night (don't ask). I'll try to get a jump on next week's posts by working ahead this weekend. I really do want to get back to posting in the mornings.

Annnyway, here's my new challenge! My idea is to take a character emblematic of a certain era and redesign them as if they'd been created in some other decade. In this case, I took Mister 90's Excess himself, Cable, and recreated him as a Golden Age hero.


Excerpted from Don Thompson's essay, "OK, Axis, Here We Come!" in "All In Color For A Dime", published in 1970 on Triple-Reverse-Counter-Earth:

The oddest character published by Atlas during World War 2 was the Mechano-Sarge -- a time-traveling amputee with a crude robotic claw in place of his left arm. Born Nathan Summers, the Mechano-Sarge was an infant Londoner orphaned and critically injured in the Blitz. A mysterious, robed figure spirited the child off to Lemuria, an other-dimensional land "apart from the strife that wracks the mortal world." In Lemuria, the physical laws we know did not apply and the air was denser than water. The strange atmosphere worked to heal and toughen the lad's body into "a brawny mountain of a man with muscles like steel cables." His rescuer was a holy man, and along with the other mystics of Lemuria, he trained the orphaned boy to perfect his mind. This resulted in some ill-defined and arbitrary psychic powers that would change with the whims of whichever writer was assigned to the feature that month. Nathan Summers might have stayed in Lemuria forever, but he was a born scrapper with a wild, boisterous personality that left him ill-suited for a life of meditation. The Lemurian holy men outfitted the now-grown Nathan with a mechanical arm and sent him back home. Since time passed more quickly in Lemuria than it did in the mortal plane, he arrived only one month after he'd left it. Once there, he donned an impractically garish military uniform of his own design, christened himself the Mechano-Sarge, and plunged into the chaos of the second World war.

The Mechano-Sarge's adventures were brutal, gory affairs, typical of the comic book fare of that time. In one outing, his power of "Astral Vision" detected an Italian saboteur on the other side of a steel door, so he used his metal claw to punch right through it and crushed the "Italio-Nazi rat's" skull like a tin can. On other occasions, the Mechano-Sarge tore his foes in half, shoved live grenades down their throats, and twisted their broken bodies into the shapes of pretzels. In his most memorable outing, he mentally commanded Mount Fuji to erupt, destroying a munitions factory (and coincidentally killing countless non-combatants).

The Mechano-Sarge's feature disappeared from "Marvel Mystery Comics" exactly one year after the close of World War 2. In this final phase of his career, the London-born hero took up residence in the United States, and fought with markedly less violence and enthusiasm against racketeers and bank robbers. In his last two stories, he was reduced to a supporting character, while the focus was shifted to an obnoxious band of urchins calling themselves "Sarge's Battlin' Orphans."

For the Mechano-Sarge version of Cable, I made his "techno-organic" left arm an old-timey robot claw. I simplified the scarring around his right eye since that nonsense wouldn't have flown back in the 40's. And he's bare-chested because:
A. It shows off the robot arm and the metal plating on his chest better.
B. It worked for Uncle Sam.
C. I love to draw muscley shirtless guys. Hey, look! A nipple!

Although I strive for practicality in most cases, I made the costume's color scheme very bright, like a typical Golden Age hero's. The 40's simplification of the costume -- those artists sometimes had to draw a whole story in the space of a weekend -- is the reason why I didn't put laces on the boots. I wanted to put myself in the frame of mind of a penciler from that period.

Next week: more art! But I haven't decided exactly what yet.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rescue Me: Hellrazor

Ruthless. Greedy. Amoral. Tasteless. And dead! The victims of the villain-killer Scourge have many flaws. I could have helped them with that fourth one.

Hellrazor (first appearance: Marvel Team-Up #87, November 1979) had a very 90's name and powers (he shot razors at people) but a very 70's look. He's dressed for the ballet adaptation of a Gor novel! I just can't say it enough: What the hell?!! Still, the combination of the Ye Olde Renaissance Faire look and the name "Hellrazor" intrigued me. So here's how I would have costumed him:


Just wristbands? Screw that shit! I say, "armor the fucker up!" So we have a plate armor suit with a Dark Ages twist -- devil helmet, boots that look like animal feet, and claws on the gauntlets. And then I added a hooded tunic to bring it all home. Y'know, I really wanted to go buck wild with the horns -- make them gigantoid and majestic, but they would have made the hood unwearable and also it would have been one more thing for a good guy to grab 'hold of whilst punching Hellrazor in the face. I like the way it turned out, though.

Next: Who is the Mechano-Sarge, and how does he help me usher in a new challenge?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gender Reassignment Challenge: Black Canary To Black Eagle

In the Gender Reassignment Challenge, I take a superheroine with a very feminine look, and I redesign the costume for a male hero. My goal is to use as many elements of the original costume as possible without the hero looking like a man in woman's clothing. With fashion, the lines between "masculine" and "feminine" can be whisper-thin -- remember George Costanza and his Gloria Vanderbilt eyeglasses?

I've gotten a lot of requests to do a male version of Black Canary. She's a tough one, alright. Probably because she looks like a cocktail waitress. The bustier, the tight little jacket, those darned fishnet stockings--! It's a real puzzler. A few months ago, I did some sketches of a Man-Canary (and no, Scipio, I'm not calling him that!) but I never could come up with anything I liked. The closest was this godawful baggy hip-hop outfit with a lot of mesh. It sucked. And it would be a total cop-out for me to just draw a guy in a tuxedo. But I think I came up with a decent -- and very modern -- solution.


Here's a guy I call the Black Eagle. 'Cause that sounds manlier than "Canary." He's dressed like a pro wrestler. The jacket, trunks, and boots are all leather. (Down, boys.) I figure Stone Cold Steve Austin could get away with wearing black leather trunks out in public, so why not this guy? I approximated the shape of the Canary's bustier with an eagle tattoo. I also used tattoos in place of the fishnet. It's criss-crossing lines of barbed wire. Badass, am I right? I even kept the long blonde hair from the female version, only now it completes the look of a big, strapping Nordic dude. Lotta Viking blood in there.

Next: a "Rescue Me" design for Hellrazor!

Rescue Me: Megatak

Megatak, a.k.a. Gregory Nettles (one of the most delicate, hand-milled English soap-sounding names for a bad guy I've ever heard) was an industrial spy who got "electro-kinetic" powers during a botched theft at a trade show. He was costumed as 1983's hottest new video game character, Megatak (by "Nogari") and the accident had the side-effect of driving him bonkers and making him think he was the character. This was a Doug Moench plot. And if you remember my Zaniac post, then you know it's not the first time he's used it. As Megatak, Gregory could absorb electricity and use it to create "electro-magnetic constructs" -- favoring video game characters as his models. The constructs could then discharge energy, blasting all who opposed them. He showed up in Thor twice, about a hundred issues apart. And in his second appearance, Scourge killed him.

When Marvel's editors were drawing up their list of bad guys to unceremoniously frag, Megatak's name was probably the first one on there. And it was probably scrawled in huge cursive letters with a lot of flourishes, like John Hancock's signature. While I don't agree with their decision, I'll admit there were some serious strikes against the poor dope:
1. A stupid name that tells me absolutely nothing about what he does. Before I did any research on him, I assumed he was some sort of giant robot.
2. A goofy costume. Take a look.
3. A sorely overpowered opponent. That's the part that most baffles me. Who the hell creates a villain with electrical powers and then pits him against The Mighty Thor? I could see him faring better against Power Man and Iron Fist, but as a Thor villain? Come freakin' on. And now for the stinger (if you haven't read the link I'm cribbing this from): Megatak was getting his balls handed to him by Sif at first, but then Thor showed up and asked her if he could wail on Megatak for a while and Sif was all like, "Whatever. Go for it."

But I don't think Megatak was necessarily lame. I think he was just in the wrong comic at the wrong time. Especially with that second comic. Ouch! Here's how I would have handled him:


I think Megatak would have made a fun, weird villain against one of Marvel's wisecracking heroes, like Spider-Man or She-Hulk. The fact he can bring video game characters to life makes him a contemporary version of the Golden Age Superman baddie, Funnyface (who did the same thing with thinly-disguised versions of famous comic strip characters). I like the visual contrast between 8-bit, 2-D graphics and a more realistically drawn human character. I don't see why Megatak couldn't have created electro-magnetic versions of video game weapons, either. I think that would have looked cool. And the best part is, Metatak could still work today! Especially if you ditched the insanity part and just made him a retro-gamer who was into the old Atari 2600-era stuff. He could still be an industrial spy or hacker or what-have-you. And can't you just see him conjuring up a giant version of the Atari 2600 Pac-Man, all flickery and lame with the busted doorbell sound effects (*TONK, TONK-TONK*) and then it bites your arm off.

I tried to make my Megatak design work as an actual costume but I think it looks better as gussied-up street clothes. The mask is sort-of aviator goggles, with rectangular lenses. His hair stands straight up from the static he absorbs. And the logo is a giant M with a monster face on it. Kind of like Space Invaders but without the antennae.

Next: Gender-Reversed Black Canary! (You asked for it...)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rescue Me: The Basilisk


Here's the Basilisk in "Fantastic Four" #289 (April 1986) and it's the first time I ever saw him. I thought, "Hey, this guy's kinda cool!" And on the next page, Scourge blasted him through a window on one of the higher floors of Four Freedoms Plaza.

Apparently a lot of people -- or a very small group of people with great influence-- thought it wasn't worthwhile to keep the Basilisk around. I'm not sure I understand why. According to Wikipedia, the Basilisk had superhuman strength, stamina, and reflexes, and could project beams of intense heat, cold, and force from his eyes. He could fly. Hell, he created a volcano in the Hudson River! Seems like a decent enough supervillain to me.

I can only think of a few things wrong with the Basilisk, from what I've read:
1. His real name: Basil Elks. Pure comic book, that, but it plays better in DC comics instead of the arguably more realistic Marvel Universe where the names are mainly alliterative. You don't generally get a lot of characters walking around with civilian names like Hugh Mantorge or Will Verene.
2. His powers, at first glance, seem generic. What's worse, he got them (in an accident, natch, this being Marvel) from a Kree gemstone. And then he boosted them by using a second Kree gemstone. Criminy. First Moonstone, then this guy. I don't know what the problem is with the Kree that they can't keep their power-bestowing gemstones on their own freaking planet. That shit's like the Marvel version of Kryptonite. But don't forget he's got the eyebeam gimmick, people! And he's called the Basilisk! That's his hook!
3. His costume, which features the World's Largest Ascot. Thurston Howell III only dreams of owning an ascot like that. But the costume is not a huge obstacle. I could have fixed it. Behold!


Keep on truckin', Basilisk! In some legends, the basilisk has yellow scales. So for the Marvel capital-B Basilisk I designed a golden/bronze-y glam rock armor for him. Dig the KISS boots. Since he's green and scaly, I wanted to show off a lot of his actual skin. That's why I didn't give him a helmet or cover up his shoulders. Also, you may notice that I didn't draw in any nipples. That's because, since he's reptilian, I figure he wouldn't have any nipples. Nice, huh? It's a real win-win situation, since I enjoy drawing topless males, and a lot of my readers hate seeing (male) nipples.

Tomorrow: Megatak!