Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Nerd-Head Sketchbook: 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!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dandy Demo: A Workshop Wonder

For years I ran a cartooning workshop in Pittsburgh, mostly at the Community College of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, but also at Sweetwater and the Carnegie Museum of Art. These character poses, of Gower Goose and Megaton Man, respectively, are from a demonstration piece I did in one workshop, probably around 2000. I scanned it and colored it digitally in 2018.

Megaton Man and Gower Goose!

The original 14" x 17" sheet of Bristol board. I would improvise such demonstration pieces on the spot, and they would turn out only slightly less coherent than my more planned-out work!
[I belatedly realize I should have posted this to my Megaton Man™ blog, but it's too much trouble to change it over at this point! Oh, well, Clarissa can use the traffic.]

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Greetings from Warhead Beach: A Swimsuit Postcard Pin-Up!

Back in the roaring 80s, a fanzine called Amazing Heroes published an annual swimsuit issue edited by the late Mr. Kim Thompson, one of the founders, along with Gary Groth, of Fantagraphics Books.


The newly-colorized postcard version!

In 1990, the cast of Megaton Man™, including our very own Ms. Megaton Man, Clarissa James, took their turn for some fun and sun. The original, printed in gritty black and white on newsprint, has been colorized for the 21st century!

A limited-edition 11" x 17" print of this piece will be coming to NEO Con 2018 in Olmsted, Ohio, August 19, and you'll be able to get yours autographed by Don Simpson!


The original: pen, brush and ink with dot screen on Bristol board.

Note: There was also a Border Worlds™ pin-up that will be coming to blog near you soon!


Stella Starlight™, Tad ‘n’ Rover™, Yarn Man™, Clarissa James™, Partyers from Mars™ and other characters Megaton Man™ and © Don Simpson 2018, all rights reserved.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Stretch Before You Sketch: Ms. MM Warm-Ups!

Update (April 7, 2018): Finally colored these figures in Photoshop:




Originally posted October 30, 2014:

I have been doing a lot of penciling and to warm up, and I have a tendency to sketch Ms. Megaton Man in one form or another. (It's important to stretch before you sketch, particularly when a comic book is in production; otherwise you can pull a muscle!) As a character that straddles the comedic and dramatic, Clarissa has all the energy that I always loved about comics, and she just rolls out of my pencil.

Light Blue Col-Erase and Staedtler Mars Lumograph H pencil on Strathmore Recycled Sketchbook.

Update November 7, 2014: Some of these warm-up sketches seem worthy to develop further, so I scan and print out (often, slightly larger than the original). This frees the drawing from the sketchbook (where they often originate) and also preserve the original pencil drawing. This gives me a sense of freedom when I ink (I know I can't screw it up, since I can always go back to the original and try again), and that relaxation paradoxically is usually enough to ensure a positive outcome on the first try (go figure!).

The ink finals, below:
Hunt #102 Crowquill pen and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.

Hunt #102 Crowquill pen and India ink on Clearprint Design Vellum.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Clarissa Project: The Secret Origin of Ms. Megaton Man!

Reposted from the Megaton Man blog!

Starting out as Stella's Ann Arbor roommate sidekick in Megaton Man #4 (June 1985), Clarissa James has evolved into one of the most prominent characters in the Megaton Man narrative.
A sophomore infatuated with Yarn Man in Return of Megaton Man #1 (July 1988) and subsequently present at the birth of Megaton Man and Stella's son Simon in Return of Megaton Man #3 (September 1988), Clarissa realizes she has Megapowers and dons the primary-colored costume to become Ms. Megaton Man in Megaton Man Meets the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1 (April 1989). Initially attributed to a sexually-transmitted Megavirus, Clarissa learns that the true reason for her Megapowers derives from the fact that she is the "love-child" of Silver-Age Megaton Man Clyde Phloog and an African-American hippie mother in Bizarre Heroes #13 (September 1995), making her the second cousin once removed (or something) of Trent Phloog, the Baxter-Age Megaton Man. In the current work in progress (release date TBD), we will see Clarissa emerge as one of the most powerful Doom Defiers, the Megatropolis team that emerges after terrorist attacks deplete the city's Megahero population.

Clarissa James in her very first appearance, registering for her sophomore year in Ann Arbor with Stella Starlight (Megaton Man #2, Kitchen Sink Press, February 1985). Original coloring by Ray Fehrenbach.

Originally, Clarissa was just a sidekick whose sole purpose was to show former See-Thru Girl Stella the ropes on campus as she adjust to post-Megahero life (from MM #2; recolored in 2015).

Clarissa was also a highly studious student and something of a Megahero skeptic, or at least someone who thought of Megaheroics as a distant distraction. In any event, the notion of giving her Megapowers was the furthest thing from my mind, and in fact, she doesn't appear again in the first ten issues of Megaton Man. Nonetheless, the collegiate iconography of Ann Arbor already seems to subconsciously foreshadow her Megaheroic future (from MM #2).

Once Clarissa realizes who Stella is, she is somewhat starstruck by her celebrity status (from MM #2).

With Trent Phloog, as a de-Megapowered Megaton Man, Clarissa has joined the communal Ann Arbor household by the time of Return of Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, July 1988).

By this time, Clarissa has become the roommate of Megatropolis exiles Stella (now far along with her pregnancy) and Pamela Jointly, as Trent struggles with his returning Megapowers (from Return #1).

Infatuated with Yarn Man, Clarissa cannot restrain herself when Megaton Man's pal appears at the doorstep (Return #1).

Fun with Clarissa and Yarn Man from Return of Megaton Man #3 (September 1988).

Protecting civilian Trent from a toppling stack of firewood, Clarissa strikes a Jack Kirby "Big Barda" pose, and realizes that she now, somehow, possesses Megapowers. Subsequently, Stella sews her a primary-colored costume patterned after Megaton Man's.  From Megaton Man Meets the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, April 1989), originally in black and white, colorized in 2015.

Clarissa assumed that her Megapowers were somehow sexually transmitted from Yarn Man, but learns from her African-America mom that she is in fact the "love child" of Clyde Phloog, the Silver Age Megaton Man. From Bizarre Heroes #13 (Fiasco Comics Inc., September 1995), originally black and white, colorized in 2015.

Clarissa in Megatropolis Central Park with Megaton Man, Rubber Brother, Phantom Jungle Girl, and Yarn Man, as a bronze monument of the allegorical figure Columbia, a pre-Liberty national symbol for America from the 19th century, comes to life. From "Megaton Man and the Liberty Alliance: Columbia Rising," in Liberty Annual 2010 (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund/Image Comics, October 2010). Coloring by Paul and Mary Fricke.


Clarissa gets tested by Preston Percy, Yarn Man, and Rex Rigid in the headquarters of the Megatropolis Quartet (unpublished).
What I like about drawing Clarissa is that she is a much more dramatic superhero character, and a nice foil to the irreducibly comedic Megaton Man! -- Don Simpson.


More about Clarissa James!

All coloring by Don Simpson except where noted.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Body Image: Missing Winnie Wertz!

Clarissa ponders shape and size while waxing nostalgic for the days of yore when Gargantuella was a Doom Defier! Inked on Clearprint Design Velum, from the work-in-progress Megaton Man: Return to Megatropolis graphic novel. More previews on Megaton Man's blog!

CJ rummages through the closets of the Doom Defiers beach as as Preston Percy looks on.

Clarissa stumbles upon some useless electronics and some even more useless old comic books!

The woeful tale of Winnie Wertz is told.
Clarissa takes consolation in the art of sequential narrative!

Preston is unmoved by the story or the display.

To glimpse some of the original pencil roughs, go here!

To see an early conception of Winnie Wertz, go here!