Who was that masked man?

April 10, 2009

Pardon my rant, but recently on Newsarama they posted pre-production sketches for the costume designs from the proposed SyFy channel (stupid renaming) version of”The Phantom”. I don’t know when, or more importantly why, people have abandoned the basic working model of a costumed hero. It’s funny that if you go by success factors, the highest grossing super hero films are the ones that stayed the closest to the original look of their adapted characters. The Batman films, Spider-man, Superman, Iron Man- all look pretty much like they did in the comics. Sure they made Batman’s costume black instead of gray and blue, but Bob Kane said he originally thought of it being all black, but the colors were a technical decision based on printing issues. One can’t say that because a film failed it must have been the fault of the costume. You can’t get any more basic than a guy in a trench coat with a big hat, that’s about as realistic as it gets, so explain how Batman did well and the Shadow bombed? You can’t say leotards fail when Spider-man was a huge hit. Films fail because they don’t work as a story, not because of a costume. Granted you can make any costume look silly on film, but treated with even a little respect most translate fine. It’s seems counter productive to me to take an established character, the rights for which you’ve purchased because of the recognition factor, then turn around and tear away all of its built in branding. It’s the same as losing the “S” on the man of steel, or dropping the spider from the wall-crawler.  Why not just make up a new name if you’re going to change the character’s history and costume anyway?

Here’s the original Phantom costume from the comic strip.

comic_phantom2Ok, I admit I’ve never been a big fan of the striped shorts, but it was a practical way of avoiding drawing anything that would later be blasted on the big screen ala Watchmen (if you get the point). To me the biggest issue is the mask, it works; simple, classic, and translates easily to the screen. Even back in the 30s they knew this, not just from the adaptations of the Phantom, but to the original masked men, Zorro and the Lone Ranger!

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So why is Hollywood trying to punk it up? They’re heroes fighting crime, and a secret identity is vital. OK, I won’t go into the practical issues, forget that, they’re mysterious! They’re supposed to be that way! Don Diego wouldn’t work as a hero if we knew he was Zorro, Capt. Ramon would just have him shot in the street while getting groceries- end of problem! Last thing a costumed hero wants to hear is “Oh, it’s you”. There’s thousands of opinions on this, and this isn’t intended to be a debate. Those discussions are the center piece for Marvel’s Civil War, and before that the DC series Secret Identity by Brad Meltzer. All of that doesn’t matter to me, what does is when I sit down to watch my heroes on the screen, ones that I loved in comics, I want to see them; not some half-baked version. It’s like tofu pepperoni on a pizza. What?! Exactly.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this design was that they were trying to appeal to the Smallville audience by copying the Green Arrow hood. That’s the problem of moving away from your source material, and swiping from the third and fourth generation version of an idea. The Green Arrow hood is based on the comic version, but that was supposed to look medieval, not like a snowboarder.

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Then Smallville hips it up, but instead of going back to the source, the SyFy guys take from Smallville and push it further away from the source. Now it just looks silly. When I saw the design I had the funny feeling I had seen it before. It looked like the lizard guy from the lousy Flash Gordon film of the 80s, something that never made sense to me even as a kid. I could never figure out, was it supposed to be a mask? Was his face inside his own mouth? If so, how does he eat without getting stuff in his eyes? Silly Hollywood.

SMALLVILLE

Half the battle

April 8, 2009

In addition to the movie prequel for GI Joe, I’m also working on the regular series now. I’ll be on the book starting with issue 07, trying my best to uphold the standards set by Robert Atkins -who is doing a bang up job. (A nice guy and very helpful in getting me references of his unseen pages) When IDW originally approached me about doing Joe, I thought it was for the regular series, not the movie tie-in as it turned out to be. Having enjoyed the comics and cartoons as a kid, I focused my audition images (like the ones I did for MvA) on the original cartoon. I loved the Snake Eyes/ Storm Shadow relationship, as a personal battle taking place beneath the Joe/Cobra one, plus the almost comedic dynamic of Destro, Baroness, and Cobra Commander. Thinking back to it, I put some of that character development into these images. I just wanted to show the  original designs done in a contemporary approach, as I wasn’t looking to re-design, or re-interpret the costumes or characters. One alteration I did make was to model the Dreadnok “Buzzer” after Dale from King of the Hill, as it  just seemed a natural thing to me. Also, the quick observer will note that the image of Snake Eyes is part of my intro image, I’m just too lazy sometimes. 

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This only prompted IDW to respond with a “Uh, no- we need to see how you’d draw the actors”- d’uh! So I quickly sketched the following. I haven’t seen the film or read the script so I tried to keep the images simple, with the focus on the actors. My Covergirl and Scarlett didn’t really blow them away, but thankfully they weren’t in any of the prequels. Although, when I tried to find references for the actors I noticed one thing, Sienna Miller must have some sort of allergy to clothing. Most of the pics I found of her on-line left little to the imagination. It makes me paraphrase a great line from Coupling- “What would I say to her if I ever meet her? Seen that… seen that!” Anyway, enjoy.

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Destro!

April 6, 2009

With the release of my movie prequel starring Destro (aka Christopher Eccleston), I thought I’d show some pages from the book that were a challenge for me, because of the amount of costume and set changes they had. Through the course of one issue it ranges from a Civil War era battle field, a modern Parisian airport, the fancy streets and slums of Paris, to a Scottish Castle. The details of costume alone were causing me fits (yet another issue for the “sans-life” fan-boys to dig thru with a fine tooth comb), but the architecture was also giving me trouble. It’s one thing to write “Scottish castle”, or “Parisian slums”, but finding references for those, even with the aid of the internet, is a chore. They are, however, a must if one wants to establish a setting, or a visual timeline. In this case Mr. Dixon was showing the similarities in the lives of the entire Destro clan through the ages. If the reader doesn’t get a sense of the passage of time, then the book fails. Some are already saying I didn’t do enough, for that visit the IDW Forums here.

All I can say is, I did my best in the 12 hours it took to draw each page. Perhaps you’ll get the mood I was hoping for from each environmental change; from the gritty American battlefield, the sleek Parisian airport, the hopeless tenements, or the grandeur of a Scottish castle. Enjoy- despite the fact that guns are slightly wrong. 😛

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gij_destro_iss02_p07

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Next month- the Baroness!