Saturday, November 24, 2018

Comics-Haters Beware: MsMM is an SJW!

One of the more perverse trends of our time has been the emergence of the thuggish Comics-Hate, a group of disgruntled former mainstream superhero writers and artists whose fifteen minutes of perpetuating corporate-owned trademarks expired before they wanted it to (too bad, too - now we'll never get to see mainstream characters beating up migrant caravans of homeless refugees fleeing persecution at the southern border or extinguishing peaceful candlelight vigils in front of Jefferson's Rotunda on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville).

Social justice? No, Ms. Megaton Man just likes shattering skeletons!
™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

Wrongfully attributing the short life-expectancy of their careers to inexorable demographic trends, Comics-Hate's favorite target for bullying has been those they deem "Social Justice Warriors"  - a tag that forms the conveniently anti-Semitic-sounding acronym "SJW" - a pejorative they apply indiscriminately to anyone who wants comics to move into the twenty-first century and reflect the world we live in. Their faith in the free market is such that they announce boycotts and issue threats of violence to those who've "adulterated" their friendly little hobby.

Clarissa James, who has been around since 1985 (Megaton Man #4, to be exact), has something to say to the Death-Zombies of Comics-Hate: we have already displaced you. You are completely superfluous; please curl up under the rock you crawled out from under (or return to your parents' basement).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Divest of Whatever: Clarissa Called Out!

Being a true Megaheroine has nothing to do with "Staying in your lane," "Looking like me," or "Getting woke!" - as Ms. Megaton Man can tell you. It's about being true to yourself and doing your own thing, and letting other people mind their own business.

Clarissa faces a peculiar Paquebot and the even more peculiar Harold Hébert, with Deirdre and Simon along for the adventure! Stay tuned for more news in 2019. All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

So, Clarissa has some advice for all those folks who want to call her out and tell her what to do and how to be: "Bite me!"

Pushing back against ugly, intrusive discourse has been her motto since 1985! What else would you expect from Ms. Megaton Man?! All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures are ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

My characters are all about finding themselves, casting off labels, and breaking molds. If you want the generic, focus-grouped, pre-programmed -- there are other plenty of other franchises to turn to. Leave my Megaverse alone!

And Happy Thanksgiving! -- Don Simpson.

[Recent sketches from the ol' drawing board!]

Friday, November 16, 2018

Clarissa James, Social Justice Warrior!

Let's hear it for the Social Justice Warriors - Rod Serling, Stirling Silliphant, Gene Roddenberry, Norman Lear, Larry Gelbart, Stan Lee - without whom we wouldn't have many of the historic mid-century entertainment and enduring media franchises we know and love today. (Why, if The Mighty Thor were being launched today, Dr. Don Blake would be a legal abortion provider in an under-served region of the U.S., fighting regressive politicians with reason and religious hypocrites with Norse Neo-Paganism!)

It's times like these I wish I had an inker to pass off pencils to ...

In that spirit, Clarissa James is also a progressive activist fighting for social change - okay, she's just kicking robot ass in this pencil sketch - but she was ahead of her time in the 1980s, and is still committed to making the world a more inviting, inclusive, tolerant and loving place. If that's token suburban armchair liberalism, I find it preferable to the looks-like-me Occupy Utopia - or sterile, low-hanging fruit crass propagandistic scrawling that passes for political cartooning these days - or the phony-populist Redneck separatist extremes on tap today. We've got to first imagine a better world before we can realize one, and that should be art and entertainment's laudable if humble goal.

(And I'm keeping a Blacklist of anyone associated with Comicsgash - they will never work on Ms. Megaton Man, Social Justice Warrior or any of the Megaton Man or Bizarre Heroes universe titles!)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Taking a Swipe at the Culture Wars!

Proving once again I utterly lack the subtle touch for editorial cartooning of my social betters (although the threshold has been lowered in recently decades), I offer my half-baked commentary on a current controversy in comics. Namely, should we kick the crap out of bigots, or ask for their autographs at cons?

Clarissa socks a White (and presumably) Nationalist penciller as Megaton Man, X-Ray Boy, and Gower Goose ponder the impact a pencil sketch will have on our civic discourse. ™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

In case you don't recognize the inspiration, it's from an image by a couple of Jewish guys (who can never be replaced), punching the schnozz out of Der Führer (dictators seem to love flowing ties, don't they?!). Maybe the idea would be clearer if I caricatured more Neanderthal comic book creators calling for Whites-Only entertainment, or included more Nazis (is there a distinction?). But I'm too lazy, although I reserve the right to add more Nazis if and when I bother to ink this (you can never show enough Nazis getting beaten up).

Simon and Kirby beat up Hitler before Pearl Harbor, a reminder that cartoons can't always prevent actual war.
Here's another page from the sketchbook. Sorry these are only roughs -- I'm supposed to be grading art history papers this weekend (exploited adjunct is my secret identity when I'm not being a Social Justice Warrior), so two full sketchbook pages is really playing hooky.

Congratulations! If you clicked on this blog, you're not a racist! (If I had posted this same image on the Megaton Man blog, it would get three times as many hits -- sadly, this is no lie.
For more on the Culture Wars and Comics!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sketching After Squirrel Hill

I probably know the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill and the surrounding East End (Shadyside, Oakland, Point Breeze, Polish Hill, Friendship, Wilkinsburg, et al) better than any place I've never actually resided. For many years, I taught cartooning workshops at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, bought art supplies at Artists and Craftsmen and other places, footwear at Little's Shoes, and on and on.

I must have walked by and certainly driven by the Tree of Life Congregation countless times between the main drag on Murray and Forbes and PCA - although I didn't know what it was called. I almost walked out there last Friday, before the awful events of last Saturday.

Clarissa James (Ms. Megaton Man) with Deirdre Denton, flanked by Simon Phloog, Preston Percy, and Kozmik Kat. Stella Starlight and Trent Phloog (Megaton Man) are in the background. Rough sketch; I'll pencil something tighter soon.

I keep thinking about how close it is to Halloween, and how awful it must be especially for kids in that surrounding neighborhood. I drew this with that in mind - a quickie before class. I seldom get much time to draw during the school year, as I teach college for two schools. But the thought came to me of my characters walking their children through the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, past the Tree of Life.

This is a very rough sketch and on every level a completely inadequate response, but what I have in mind is a time in America that now seems quaintly nostalgic in so many ways - when Rob and Laura Petrie had Jewish neighbors - Millie and Jerry Helper - and I grew up with at least four Jewish families on my block - the Freemans, the Tolchins, the Bornsteins, and the Sandubraes.

That ecumenical mid-century America seems almost a lost utopia now, but it doesn't have to be. Every time I pick up my pencil, I want to make it real again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sketchy Swipebook: Clarissa Studies!

Some recent sketches of Clarissa James, a.k.a Ms. Megaton Man, apropos of nothing at all (except the first one, which was inspired by a selfie by Paul Fricke who was holding up his well-read copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, to mark the passing of comics legend Steve Ditko) ...

Update October 6, 2018: Photoshop coloring over the original pencil sketch.

Clarissa hauls Preston Percy over the skyline!

Clarissa in pencil and Sharpie (non-permanent) Pen.

Clarissa in pencil - blue and graphite.

Felicia in a warm-up drawing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Clarissa's Cameo: Ms. Megaton Man's King Kong Easter Egg!

Clarissa's Covered-Up Cameo! Plus: Ann's Problematic Panties!

Clarissa James (or a look-alike) made a cameo appearance in the 1991 adaptation of King Kong, specifically in the fifth issue (Monster Comics/Fantagraphics Books, November 1991) of the six-issue series. In that unfairly forgotten graphic novel, I wrote and drew the story as it originally appeared in the novelization of the screenplay, which included scenes routinely cut out by both movie theaters and TV stations. Among these is the short scene of Kong's rampage through the native village in which the giant ape stomps and chews on stock extras, and a native girl is stampeded by a dinosaur.

The original art of Kong's native village rampage, from a file photocopy.

My Clarissa look-alike (showing my limited range of ethnic types) was drafted to play the role of the native girl. What is interesting is that, whereas I initially depicted her partially nude, as per the setting and milieu of the story, the Fantagraphics editors, nervous of the licensee, insisted that I give her a more modest top. I ultimately complied; although I drew the line at showing the triceratops ramming her through her abdomen with his horn (which may or may not have been in the original story).

Dot screens are never enough: the bare torso of the original figure.

(I may have considered this last narrative wrinkle on my own, although I clearly could not bring myself to doing such violence to such a beautiful figure).

The nervous editors made me put a strip of clothe over her chest, but I drew the line at actually depicting her gruesome death by being impaled on a triceratops horn.

The changes in the published comic book, compared to file photocopies I recently unearthed, seem utterly trivial in retrospect, particularly for a black and white comic book the publisher failed to promote, and by the fifth issue, few readers were following (the strategy of serializing King Kong over a year or more, when everyone already knew how the story ended, was an abysmally poor marketing choice).
Here is the original art next to the censored, published version.

Even more meddlesome were the changes deemed necessary to Ann Darrow's panties in three panels of the same issue, after she loses the last shreds of her dress on Monster Isle (in issue #4, she was stripped of her garments by Kong, and subsequently survived a high-dive into water from a steep cliff; how she was even breathing at this point stretched credulity).

Ann, a dead ringer for my character Stella Starlight (the limitations of my stock characters showing once again) was known for "turning herself naked with but a thought" as the See-Thru Girl (she was not yet known as the more chaste and upright Earth Mother).

In comparison to file photocopies, it would seem I added less than an inch of fabric to Ann's backside, obscuring her crack somewhat, but otherwise accomplishing little either aesthetically or in improving the narrative.  
Adding an inch of fabric and smoothing out the soaking-wet wrinkles made Ann Darrow's derriere suitable for 1990s comic book audiences.

Kong is nothing if not a profoundly erotic work of escapism, and these trivial changes show Fantagraphics to be a bunch of nervous ninnies as bad or worse as the big, corporate comics publishers when it comes to well-known trademarks. (Ironically, the same company that was publishing King Kong under its Monster Comics imprint were publishing my graphically explicit Anton Drek comics - which it proudly marketed as "the filthiest, most controversial sex comics of the twentieth century" - under their Eros Comix imprint.

A giant ape charges the crew of the intrepid steamer. It's in situations like this a girl wants to be modestly attired.

The difference between Puritanism and prurience in comics is razor-thin (in my case, depending only on which name I sign to a piece of figurative cartooning), but the discretions and indiscretions of early 1990s comics seemed just as bizarrely anachronistic at the time as the certainly do now. Why a native girl in the south seas, or a white goddess stripped of her garments by a giant ape, would be anything other than completely nude in such a primeval adventure of the id seems implausible.

Ann says goodbye to Monster Isle; back in New York, she'll have to wear an evening gown again!

King Kong may be the most meddled-with story in the annals of American pop imagery, no doubt because of its deep-seated (and regressive) views of sexuality, gender roles, and race. Like the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip Jose Farmer, Kong will always occupy an iconic space somewhere between escapist daydream and erotic yearning, causing artists, filmmakers, and others attempting to interpret this story no end of silly revisions, redactions, rewrites, and bowdlerizations.

The 1991 graphic adaptation of King Kong was based solely upon the original 1932 book by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper, and Delos W. Lovelace and is in no way related to or derived from any motion-picture version of the same. The artwork is © 1991 Don Simpson and Richard Merian Cooper, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Visit the All-New Don Simpson's King Kong Blog!