Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Pogofenokee Swamp

What follows here is an article that Pogo himself wrote for the POGO Fan Newsletter (aka fanzines) The Okefenokee Star back in 1969. It's basically Pogo's "Secret Origin." Although I have never seen a copy of The Okefenokee Star  (I was too young to be a subscriber and by the time I had heard of it it had ceased publication), the following article was re-printed in the great POGO Even Better  (1984, Simon & Shuster) probably available at your local library. (If not, ask for it!)

The Pogofenokee Swamp
Written especially for Okefonokee Star readers by Pogo

In 1943 I was born, not in the real Okefenokee Swamp, but in a comic book. (The real Okefenokee Swamp is a wildlife wilderness, 30 x 40 miles, in southeastern Georgia and notrheastern Florida). At that time I played only a bit part. The leading character was a little boy. And next to him there was an alligator whose name was Albert. In those days Albert Alligator was ferocious and a braggart. He was always boasting about the things he was going to do. He never did any of them. He tried, though. I am very glad he didn't succeed because one of the things he wanted to do was quite distasteful to me. Albert wanted to eat me. Maybe that's why I looked so sad in those days.
Later it seemed to Mr. Walt Kelly, the boss, that the boy slowed us animals down. "Animals are much more sensible and a lot more fun to work with," said Mr. Kelly, and he threw the little boy out....gently. Then when the animals in POGO talked to each other, it made more sense. Animals do not really say anything much to humans, or in front of humans either. "It doesn't pay to let them know too much," says Mr. Rackety Coon.
 When the little boy had gone off, Albert turned out to be a real friend to the other animals in Okefenokee Swamp. He was still very grumpy, though, and still acting ferocious when he felt like it; he was still boasting. Every once in a while, even now, he swallows somebody by mistake. Spelunkers (people who explore caves) then go in and rescue the poor lost soul. Albert does not do this very often, because spelunkers are apt to light matches and to carry torches around in your insides in case you've swallowed anybody. Very uncomfortable. "It gives me hearth-burn," says Albert, "and then stomach-burn and then liver-burn." 

We all lived in the comic-book swamp until about 1947. Mr. Kelly went to work then for a newspaper in New York City, and in 1948 he made a comic strip out of our adventures. The first thing Albert did was to swallow a pollywog child. It took two months to get the poor little beast out of there.
Exactly 20 years ago, May 1949 to be exact, Albert Alligator and I started our first work in national syndication. That means that in strip form, we were sent off to newspapers all around the country where we appeared every day on the comics page. This takes a lot of work. Mr. Kelly makes the drawings, and then they are engraved. The plates or engravings are then impressed on a matrix...on many matrices, in fact. A matrix is a lightweight asbestos paperboard mold into which melted zinc can be poured to make a printing plate. This is done at each of the newspapers so that the drawings can be printed in every city. 

Along the way we had gathered many friends in the swamp. Churcy La Femme is a turtle by trade. Howland Owl is a scientific type, who pretends to be very knowledgeable. Beauregard Bugleboy Frontenac, a hound-dog, came into the swamp looking for someone who was lost. It turned out to be him. Porkypine is a gruff little philosopher with a heart bigger than he is. Bun Rabbit, a virtuoso drummer, likes to collect holidays. The Rackety Coon Chile is sometimes smarter than the adults. And Miss Mamselle Hepzibah, a lady skunk, is much admired. 

Besides these special friends, many other people joined our company...bears, snakes, butterflies, worms, and mice. Somebody tried to count them all one time, but gave up after identifying about 150.

Mr. Kelly confesses that each of the characters, good and bad alike, represents a side or two of his own personality, for better or worse. This is why he says that we should not judge the other fellow too harshly. "You may be somewhat like him yourself. Try to understand him."

Bun Rabbit's interest in holidays led to a story that is being adapted for television in animation. I thought that anybody should be allowed to celebrate the holiday of his choice any time he wanted to. So we set about acting that out. The story mainly involves Porkypine and a lot of confusion.

Confusion seems to be a way of life in the Okefenokee Swamp that we live in. We try to do things right but they turn out a little upside down or inside out. So, as Porkypine says, we don't take life too seriously, "because it ain't nohow permanent."

JLA No. 6 "The Debut of The Time Lord"

This is my first and only "when titans clash" covers. Although I always liked the idea of two sides of characters rushing to do battle against each other, I didn't want to do it more than once.
Another note about covers: I always hated those "symbolic" covers that showed scenes that did not actually occur in the story. So although I did more than my share of "poster" covers (such as Number Five) I tried to not  "cheat" by using a made-up scene. I can think of only one time that I did it....!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

JLA No. 6 "The Debut of The Time Lord" FORWARD

Here is our second issue...and as I promised in my AFTERWARD to Number Five, it isn't going to be in the same "teams break up" format. When I sat down to write these stories, I always started with The Bad Guy. It had to be somebody strong enough to keep the JLA occupied....So after I decided on The Time Lord (a villain I never really cared for in the comics, to tell you the truth) I pretty quickly came up with the general idea of what I wanted to do: the JLA would tackle a time-travelling criminal who has tools and equipment that makes their 20th century stuff look like bows and arrows. But how would they come together? The Time Lord wouldn't be an egomaniac like,say, The Joker or Lex Luthor who *wants* to confront their nemeses. No, The Lord of Time would want to *avoid* the JLA. So what if one of the members accidentally came across him and tried to handle him on her own, but soon realized she was out of her..ahem...league, and needed help? 

If you read interviews with writers you will often hear them say things like "the characters took on a life of their own" or "the story wrote itself." It's kind of a cliche, but it's true! I remember setting this story up and as I was heading towards the page limit (36, because they were printed double-over) I realized where this story had to go...! See if you can figure out where it's going before we actually get there. :-)

This issue's translation was also managed by the wonderful Mariko Tadokoro. I can't say enough about how wonderful she was to work with. If I had something even a little wrong she would make a face as if to say, "How do I tell this guy that this doesn't make any sense but not hurt his feelings?" I would jump in and say, "I can change it! What do you suggest?" Sometimes I would use the wrong Japanese characters, and then she would laugh and say, "You don't mean to say (whatever the mistake was), do you?" My clearest memory of working on this particular issue was when she read the Japanese name of the villain, "Lord of Time." She said, "Oooh, he sounds dangerous." I knew I had picked the right phrase.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Quick! What is that line from!?

I'm not sure myself....I want to say Arnold in Terminator 2 but that doesn't sound right. The Gremlins? I want to think it was something hokey....

Anyway, my computer DIED last week right after I had uploaded photos of the "Select A Seat Night" at Nationwide Arena. I have spent the last week trying to revive it and then, when that failed, transferring photos and documents over to a new computer and installing new software. I love The Robot from Lost in Space but I *don't* like computers!!

Needless to say, I never got around to writing about our experiences at the Open House. I did bring my cap with most of last year's team members' signatures with me...

and got the additional signatures of Jared Boll, RJ Umberger, and Derek Dorsett. Now the only team members I would really like to have are Captain Rick Nash and Asst Captain Antoinne Vermette. I basically have everybody else from last year...! NOW I have to think about what to get signed by the current team, with newcomers Jeff Carter and the-guy-whose-name-I-can't-remember-let-alone-spell. :-)

The evening was mostly just a long line of waiting to get up to chat with the three players...there were kids playing hockey on one side, and tables set up on the other near a make-shift hot dog stand. There was a jump house or whatever they're called where the littler kids can jump around like a trampoline....Here's a photo I took from the seats we reserved for the new season. My wife and I had picked these seats at the open house back on the Draft Day (was that mid June?) but the daughter hadn't seen them, so we went up to them on Friday and I took this picture from there:
You can see that they didn't have any ice down on the open house night...! The Blue Jacket goal is right around where that boy is standing in the center of the picture. The Cannon that fires every time we get a goal will be directly above and behind us. Without the safety (puck) netting up it's hard to tell if these are really good seats or not, but we scouted them out at the end of last season so we're thinking they're pretty good. We are all excited for the season to start...exhibition games the last week of September, and then first home game Friday, Oct 7! :-) (The line of people on the far right are the people still waiting to get the autograph of Derek Dorsett.)

And this is me and Jared Boll, about to get him to sign my hat and one for my buddy. After living in Japan for 14 years, an experience I often compare to living in a fish bowl because I was *literally* the only foreigner in a town of 7,000, I feel like I have a better feel for what celebrities go through. I try to treat all the "famous" people I've ever met like they are normal, everyday people. So at things like this I don't usually gush or act nervous (although I did get tongue-tied when I tried to talk to one of the players back at June's Draft Party). I went up to all three of these guys and asked, "Are you looking forward to the new season?" and had a quick chat. It was cool. And I showed Jared Boll my t-shirt and told him, "You're one of my favorites!" He said Thanks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Technical Difficulties

My computer crashed the other night and although I'm on my way to re-installing or re-opening most of my stuff (and I didn't lose any scanned pages or photos) it's taking me waaaay longer than I hoped. So for the next few days I'll probably be down.
Rest assured, however, that I WILL be back.
In the meantime, here's a picture of one of my favorite Columbus Blue Jackets players. This is RJ Umberger, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As someone with family connections to Pennsylvania, I'd be inclined to like him anyway, BUT he also went to Ohio State to get a degree in business AND he's a heck of a nice guy.
We met him last night at the Autograph session, and I'd like to be writing about that but I can't access my photos yet. So this will have to do until maybe Sunday or Monday night.

Hope everybody has a good weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Number 5 "The Return of Dr. Light!" AFTERWARD

So...what did you think? I hope you enjoyed it. And even if you didn't, I'd like to hear feedback about it. It's not like I can use criticism to improve the product (as I have no intention of making NEW adventures, haha) but it would be nice to hear what you think worked or *didn't* work...

I have a few random thoughts of my own re-reading it almost 20 years (!?) later...
  • I *really* liked the way Dr. Light got out of jail. I was very proud of that trick. His lawyer says, "You're screwed. You had way too much confidence to make that video confession" and then he says, "Did you bring me my personal items or not?" and then promptly disappears. Good plotting, I thought. I'm sure I wrote that because I was not a fan of the "revolving door" idea of villains coming back again and again. If you had an escape plan already in place, though...!  (BTW, he eventually did come back, but not right away, so either he did some jail time this time or maybe he planned on getting busted again, haha!)

  • Everytime I read the chapter set around the Amazon River I flash-back to inking in all those trees, bushes, leaves, etc while my infant daughter was asleep in her crib. She had just been born recently and I was "watching" her while I was working at home. She'll turn 20 in August. :-)
  • The story has the classic JLA format: Find the menace, get contacted about the menace, break up into groups to face the menace, get back together at the end to finish off the menace. Classic JLA writer Gardner Fox used this format in most of his adventures and I copied it because it works! Each chapter allows each character to have one moment or so to "shine" but you also get to see your favorites team-up. As we get into more and more of these you'll see that I returned to this format several times;  while also trying to keep things interesting (for example, the next two stories won't use this format). 

  • The ending may strike some as too "Super Friends" everybody-laughs-as-they-walk-off-ish. I admit it was hokey (the whole idea of Dr. Light trying to sell odd Earth items for money was just totally out-there, anyway!) but it had a point: I was trying to establish that Green Arrow was NOT the same type of character as Batman and Superman. You have to remember that this was the first time my readers had ever seen these characters. So I wanted Green Arrow to make some joke about drinking, which I thought most of the other characters never would have. (You may notice he was also visibly concerned about his friends Green Lantern and Black Canary getting injured....) I wanted to establish that he wore his heart on his sleeve, much more so than the others. Whether the "laugh" at the end worked or not, I'm not sure, but he'll be the "butt of the joke" in atleast two more stories coming up soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Autograph Chances?

Tomorrow night there is another "open house" at Nationwide Arena. I think the point of it is for people to pick their season tickets' seats. However, they are boasting appearances by three Blue Jackets: Jared Boll, Derek Dorsett, and RJ Umberger. I have a cap that many (most?) of last year's players signed, but not these three. So...I'm bringing it and a Jared Boll t-shirt and hoping they'll sign them. My daughter has a flag that she wants to get filled with signatures, so she is bringing that. Hopefully it will be fun and I'll get some good photos.

....and my computer will be working right so I can upload them!!! :-(

Number 5 "The Return of Dr. Light!" Pages 32-36 (End)


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Friday the 13th Comes On a Wednesday This Month!"

If you recognize this quote, then you are part of a dying breed. I consider you a friend.

If you don't know, I will be happy to explain it to you. It comes from a character named Churchy LaFemme, one of the stars of the comic-strip POGO by Walt Kelly. Mr. Kelly died in 1973, so I didn't have much chance to read many of his new strips, but I must have liked what I did see because I don't remember not having a few of his collections around such as Impollutable Pogo (1970) that I read and re-read constantly.

The stars of the strip were the following six characters, with a befuddled Churcy at the end:

They inhabited the Okefenokee (sp?) Swamp, always going fishing or on picnics, playing baseball, or arguing about the words to that classic Christmas Carol, "Deck the Halls With Boston Charlie." If you've heard of the phrase "We have met the enemy and he is us" that was coined by Mr. Kelly in 1971 to help begin Earth Day in the US. Seeing as how his creations lived out-of-doors, Mr. Kelly was a very vocal supporter of what we would nowadays call The Green Movement.
Pogo of course was the easy-going and calm leader around which all the other characters stormed. He was drafted to run for President in 1952, the favorite of many college students. He didn't want to run...except away from his supporters. He was my favorite as a little boy; him and Porky Pine (who acted as if he hated everybody but who actually had a heart of gold) and Beauregard the Hound-dog, who was the cutest. As an adult I find the bravery and chivalry of Beauregard to be the most enjoyable....he is a DOG, Man's Best Friend, and he takes himself (way too) seriously.

Anyway, POGO as a comic-strip was funny (of course) but it was also beautifully drawn (especially on the full-color Sunday strips). Mr. Kelly had a habit of using what today we would call "fonts" for special characters...for example, his priggish and self-important Deacon Muskrat spoke in Olde English stylings. Circus Bear PT Bridgeport spoke in Circus Talk. As a kid I remember some of this was hard to read; as an adult, it helps me "hear" these different voices. And as an amateur artist I am wowed by the sheer effort Mr. Kelly put into his work.

Surprisingly enough, the comic-strip is also well known as being political as all get out. During the McCarthy hearings of the 50s Walt Kelly had a mean polecat character named Simple J. Malarkey appear who bore more than a strking resemblance to the Senator from Wisconsin. In a decade that seemed to be populated by milquetoasts, this took a lot of nerve on Kelly's part. As an amateur historian and comic buff, I salute him. During the 1968 Presidential elections he caricatured President Johnson as a Texas long-horn and the other Democratic candidates as wind-up toys. Even now when I read this story arc, I think, Wow.

I missed the Silver Age of POGO because I was born too late. However, I want to try to keep POGO from disappearing off the pop culture map completely. Similar to such greats as DICK TRACY and LIL ABNER, POGO deserves to be read and appreciated by a whole new generation of readers. Go to your public library and check out a POGO book. I'm sure there will be several to choose from. Then come back here and tell me if you don't think it was great.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this panel, from June 13, 1970. You see, Churchy is EXTREMELY superstitious, so it's not just Friday the 13th that he worries about....well, I guess it is, but to him, that unlucky day  simply moves around every month. It's more slippery than a catfish in a muddy lake.   

Roll Call Profiles 1 Green Arrow & Batman

And bringing the team home, here's the two "non-powered" members. I kept Batman until the end because I knew all the kids knew him (from the then-current Tim Burton BATMAN movies). These are two of my favorite characters, but I have to say I don't particularly like how I drew either of them here. My Green Arrow was always hit or miss (pardon the pun) and this one isn't very good. Likewise, my Batman tended to be a mix of Jim Aparo & Neal Adams, and this static pose just doesn't work for him (or me). Oh, well.

Coming up next...the actual Roll Call for Number Five, featuring the profile cards I used for the next year (1992).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roll Call Profiles 1 Hawkwoman & Martian Manhunter

For some reason I always thought of Hawkman and Jonn Jonzz in the same way. Maybe it's because they were both rocking those crossed-chest bands. Maybe because they were both aliens on Earth trying to make it a better place. Maybe because they were both so striking visually. I don't know, but I always figured they would sit around the JLA HQ and talk about what planets they knew and what aliens they had both run across.
Maybe that's why I put Jonn and Shayera together on this page. I do remember thinking I had to balance out the men & women and I also remember thinking I had to balance out the colors...on the left page would be GL & Flash, green and red, so on this page would be the yellow and light green and red and blues...a nice balance. As it were, I believe I did a bang-up coloring job on Martian Manhunter. Whenever I took an extra bit of time on coloring I liked the results.

Now let's talk about what I ended up doing to Hawkwoman, shall we? I think that I must have added the crossed chest bands because I intended to alter Hawkman in two DC Comics' JLA stories into Hawkwoman (I used these butchered stories in numbers 2 and 4). Also, I always thought that the point of those straps were to keep Hawkman's wings if they aren't there, how are Shayera's wings staying up? I never did figure that out...! The really weird thing for me is why I added bracelets to her look. Maybe in lieu of gloves? Something to make her arms more interesting? I really have no recollection right now.
If it makes you feel any better, I eventually re-designed her and got rid of the straps and the bracelets. It may take a while, but I eventually realize when I have made a mistake, haha! 
I eventually got better at drawing the wings, too. :-)

Number 5 "The Return of Dr. Light!" FORWARD

I'm going to try this process and see if people like it (or don't give a damn, haha). Before every story arc begins I'm going to make some preliminary comments which I will call my "Forward." Then after each story is over I'll be back with what I will probably call my "Afterward." Sound good? Great!

So..a few words about what you're about to read. After I made four convoluted and badly received comic books featuring some of my favorite characters ever, I basically had decided to stop making them. I happened to mention this to a few people, and they gave me constructive criticism which boiled down to: make them easier to read. When two or three boys in my English As A Second Language classes asked me if any more were coming out, I decided I would give it another chance. I took more time and made more effort on this issue's art and layout than I did on almost any other issue. While there are plenty of places in this story where I wince looking at them 20 years later, the issue as a whole still basically holds up as a classic Gardner Fox type adventure. I hope you agree with me after you read it. 

The Japanese language assistant/check for all these first few issues was Mrs. Mariko Tadokoro. As the mother of two boys in my classes who read bunches and bunches of manga and a student in my adult class herself I prevailed upon her to help me out. She was a godsend at the start-up, giving me plenty of good advice and criticism. Not only could I not have done it without her, she made the translation part of the work fun.

This is a copy of the credit box that appeared on the inside front cover of each issue.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good-bye Jan Hedja!

Well the other big CBJ news in our family (the only news, if you ask certain people, haha) is that defenseman Jan Hedja (Yahn Heh-da) was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. For some reason, my wife really *really* liked this guy. She said it was partly because he was so handsome and partly because he did a great job as a defenseman. Well, I can't really talk about his looks (not my type, haha) and he wasn't setting the defense world on fire, as it were, so...don't tell the wife but I never really saw the appeal. I mean, sure, he was a pretty consistent player. He was friends with one of my Japanese co-workers (they lived in the same neighborhood and their daughters went to the same preschool). But kind of like Jake Voracek and Mike Blunden and even Mike Commodore, I'm not going to miss him all that much. If he had been a *bit* more consistent (ie "better"?) maybe I'd feel bad for losing him. It sounds like he wanted a 4 year deal and CBJ management only wanted to give him a 3 year he went to Colorado, which I think agreed to his 4 year request. The bad thing as far as I'm concerned is that he evidently liked living in Columbus and didn't want to leave. Kinda like Kyle Wilson (who we met at a meet & greet) but them's the breaks...

We got Jan Hedja to sign Yuko's CBJ jacket and my hat at the November 12, 2010 Autograph Night. That's Nikita Filatov next to him, who is also no longer with the team.
In fact, of the 35 guys who were on last year's team roster, approximately 18 of them are gone.

Roll Call Profiles 1 Green Lantern & The Flash

Continuing our original Roll Call portraits, after three of the Super Friends and Black Canary I teamed on one page those two Silver Age icons, GL and Barry Allen. Yes, it's John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan, but you still have to admit you can't really beat those Gil Kane designs and colors. There's a reason these characters were best friends before Green Arrow got all up in Hal's face...haha!

Introduction Part 4: Where is "Of America?" and Numbers 1-4?

So I had my ten members set for my Justice League and I started work on the first issue...Almost immediately I decided to drop the "of America" from the group name Justice League OF AMERICA.

Now, before you get all crazy patriotic on me, let me try to explain. In this international age, and as an American living in a foreign country at the time (Japan, circa 1990) I just did not feel it was appropriate to keep "America" in the name of a group of heroes sworn to protect the entire Earth. There were precedents for my move: Giffen & DeMattius had just started on "JUSTICE LEAGUE" (which is where I took my shield logo from) and very soon after I started on my series DC began publishing Justice League International and Justice League Europe. And of course, as I have mentioned before, when the producers of the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon started up, they must have been drinking the same water as me, because they did exactly as I did. Besides all these reasons, as an interpreter it was easier to say "League of Justice" then to throw in "America." With another nod to existing continuity, however, I kept the name of the JSA as "Justice Society of America." It just seemed natural that a group that was formed in the 1940s around the time of World War Two would incorporate the USA into its name.

And lastly, you might be wondering why this internet series starts with Number Five. The answer is very simple...until issue 5 the layout of the books was haphazard and the translation of the English into Japanese was very difficult to read. Plus I was just starting, and the art was pretty bad. Also, in issues 2 and 4 I paid homage to ripped off the stories from the Pocket Books collection JUSTICE LEAGUE and they are not a pretty sight. (Changing Hawkman to Hawkwoman was especially...ugly.) The other two issues were my original stories, versus the Queen Bee and Dr. Light. As I was wondering how to improve the storytelling and readability I came across the idea of using four panels per page with plenty of space in-between for the Japanese translation. This is the format I stuck with through the rest of the series. What I lost in creative panel designs I gained in clarity. After I get through the first few issues I'll scan in some pages from these Forgotten Issues and show you just how bad they were. Believe me, I'm not proud of them. :-)

For now, here is a panel I feel okay to show you. Number Three was "The Debut of Dr. Light" which was based loosely on JLA #12 "The Last Case of the Justice League." Instead of getting Snapper Carr to write the story, though, Dr. Light videotapes himself. I thought that was clever. Anyway, SPOILER ALERT he didn't get away with it (haha) and that leads directly into Number 5, "The Return of Dr. Light."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Roll Call Profiles 1 Superman & Black Canary

Continuing the original Roll Call pages that I featured in numbers 1 thru 4, here is Superman and Black Canary. Not much to add as way of introduction except to say that of all the JLAers, I find Superman to be the most difficult to draw, and Black Canary to be the easiest. I don't know why...maybe I'm confused as to whether I should be shooting for a burly Wayne Boring type or a sleek Curt Swan look? I can never get Superman's hair twirl right and that throws his whole face off. Also I had many troubles with his darn "S" shield. I eventually took the time to practice practice practice it, but here you can see it's a bit more round than I would have liked. As for Black Canary...dull, but done well, IMHO. :-)

Introduction Part 3: Who Will Join The Magnificent Seven?

So I finalized "my" Justice League (gonna stop using those quotation marks here soon) as having been founded by the original seven JLAers but instead of Hal Jordan I had John Stewart. My next question was, who else?

In "real" DC continuity, Green Arrow was the first new member to join. I liked the bearded, caustic version of this character and thought he represented yet another US "type." So he was in.

That brings us to The Atom, the second new member to join in established DC continuity. I was of two minds concerning The World's Smallest Super-Hero: when he was used well he was an excellent character. All too often, though, he seemed to be an afterthought or a speck on the shoulder of The Flash. Still, all things being equal I probably would have included him except for one VERY important detail: in Japan the character known to the US as "Astro Boy" is known guessed it...Atom.

If  I had added The Atom to the Justice League, I knew many, many students would say, "That's not Atom!!" I thought about changing his name, but in the end I figured he wasn't worth it. Sorry, all you Atom fans out there!! Because of (bad) name recognition, The Atom was out.

Then I got a brainstorm. I decided to *switch* the histories of Martian Manhunter and The Atom. Instead of J'Onn leaving the group circa 1969, I decided to have The Atom, as the JLA's second member, be its first to quit! In established continuity he did move to Brazil in the early 1980s, so I simply moved the event forward a few years. That made The Atom an established character if I ever needed him (and I made a point of using him atleast once, believe me). And it left J'Onn right there on center stage. I liked it.

That left the field open for Black Canary to join from the Justice Society of America. In established continuity Black Canary joined the JLA right after Martian Manhunter had quit and Wonder Woman had taken a leave of absense. (This event I simply decided to ignore.) With a nod to both traditional *and* modern continuity, "my" Black Canary is from that other dimension where the JSA exists, but she is the daughter of the original. The JSA and Black Canary's specific history will be mentioned several times in passing before the JSA eventually appears.

But I forgot, I mean, Hawkgirl...or is it Hawkwoman? The super-heroine afforded the least amount of respect was an easy choice for me. I felt that the Hawkman-Hawkwoman partnership was a vibrant, interesting relationship and I wanted to include it. In established continuity they had come to Earth from their planet Thanagar to study policework. However, in modern continuity (ie HAWKWORLD, which was current when I was creating my stories) they were more akin to "Goodwill Ambassadors" after the events of the INVASION crossover. I decided to use both of these reasons in my series. But then why not have them join simultaneously? I very strongly considered having them both in there from the beginning, but in the end I decided against it. The major reason was I wanted to give whatever girls were in the audience another character they could relate to without any chance of her being overshadowed by another male hero. So in a somewhat radical move for male-dominated Japan, I decided to make HER the senior partner in their relationship. Of course her husband guest-starred several times before he actually joined up, but I do think it was important to show that she was her own independent character first.

And that brought my membership to ten. It was a nice, round number and I thought it lent itself to quite a few different mixes and matches of heroes. Ten members corresponding roughly to the JLA of the early 1970s, with Martian Manhunter taking the place of The Atom and Wonder Woman there where she always should have been and Hawkman being replaced by his wife. Those of you who know your JLA history will know who the next heroes to join will be! :-)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two Russells are Better Than One!?!

Just found out yesterday that my team Columbus Blue Jackets have signed my favorite player, Kris Russell's, BROTHER as a player. They are identical twins! So my first thought was....Columbus is trying to copy the Sedin Brothers in Vancouver!? Haha!
It looks like I have to buy TWO jerseys this year...and depending on what Ryan's number is (if it's one of my favorites, like, say, 42 or 24) I may have to switch alliances from one brother to the other!! Too funny!

So..can you tell which one is which? This is gonna be a fun season. :-)

Number 5 Cover in COLOR

So obviously this is an homage (rip-off) of the cover Brian Bolland did for the WHO's WHO notebook back in the early 90s. I really like how I captured his Batman look. Superman, also, looks okay, I think. The poses of Green Lantern and The Flash were almost right. The other members I added on my own and look terrible. :-( I especially hate the chunkiness of Aquaman and the 80s Hair Band look of Wonder Woman. Oh, well. It will get better....well, sometimes.

Introduction Part 2: Enter The Justice League!

So after deciding that I would create bilingual comic-books featuring The Super Friends aka The Justice League, I had to decide who would be IN my group. I wanted to use all the best characters, but there had been so many different versions of the Justice League that it was a somewhat difficult decision. At that time Giffen & DeMatteis were doing their Guy Gardner-Blue Beetle-Booster Gold JLA, and although that had its' charms, I figured the humor would be difficult to translate. (Comedy, remember, is hard!) I always had to keep in mind my primary audience: Japanese boys and girls.
In the end I was influenced by other media. I already had in my English class video library the SUPER POWERS videos featuring Batman, Superman, and Aquaman. I also had a few live-action TV episodes of THE FLASH (who here remembers *that* show?). I hoped to eventually get some Lynda Carter WONDER WOMAN episodes. So...the big five were in.

With these five set they pointed the way to my using the "original" Justice League, and except for The Flash these were the members of The Super Friends, as well. So I decided to adapt whole hog the DC Comics continuity from the Silver Age. I knew these characters by heart, anyway, so I would not have to juggle a whole new universe of continuity. Or so I thought....
Of the original seven JLA members, I hadn't yet considered Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter. I pretty quickly decided to keep Jonn. He was the "soul" of DC Comics and I had always liked him. He also had a visual difference from the other members that I wanted, especially as he was drawn when he came back to the DCU in the mid-80s. Besides, if my students ended up hating his "alien-ness," I could always write him out the way he really did leave the DCU, by having him lead his people to a new home on Mars II.
As for Green that time (1990) John Stewart was co-starring in the GREEN LANTERN comic. I could choose him, or Guy Gardner, or Hal Jordan. I decided to make my first major break with "real" (I know, I'm using the term loosely) DC continuity by choosing to use John. In order to give my Japanese audience a better representation of the US, I decided to use the African-American GL instead of the Caucasian. As Fred Hembeck had said, this is the JLA, not the KKK. As soon as I decided to use John, I also decided that he would be in AS Hal Jordan. What I mean is, it was John who got his ring from Abin Sur. It was John who was best friends with The Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Arrow.  It was John who was a charter member of the JLA. The seventh and final founding member.
It's interesting now to look back at this decision and see that the producers of the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon in 2001 made the exact same decision. "Like minds"...?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Number 5 Cover in B&W

The cover to the All-New Sorta-Different JUSTICE LEAGUE, number 5.

Introduction Part 1: Flashback ~!

In 1987 I went to live and work in a small Japanese town called AYA in Miyazaki Prefecture, way down South on the island of Kyushu in Japan. My job was to teach English to adults and children. I worked in the Community Center as several dozen people came to me every week. I enjoyed teaching but was looking for some way to spice up the activities.
Then in 1989 I decided to write and draw a series of comic books in English and Japanese. This was right when the movie BATMAN starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson was taking the world by storm. I wanted to use Batman's popularity in my English classes. I also had access to the old Adam West TV series on videotapes which I showed to my classes. I introduced them to the wacky world of Batman, Robin, and Batgirl and everyone was happy. They enjoyed the stories and I enjoyed writing and drawing them. I had always considered myself a bit on the artistic side. And compared to some of the crap that you can find in Japan, I figured my cartoony style would be sufficient! I also enjoyed the translation process, and my Japanese language abilities increased.
The only problem I had was that I was finding it difficult to "dumb down" existing Batman stories for my audience, where English was NOT their native language. This was WAY before Batman: The Animated Adventures came along and would have pointed me in a very different direction.
I don't know what made me think of it, but somehow I thought, What if I used the Justice League instead of the Batman Family? In their simplest stories they came together, broke up into teams, fought the bad guys, and saved the world. No kids would find that TOO difficult to understand. Plus I had the entire series of THE SUPER FRIENDS comic-books, which were a simpler, easier to follow "kiddie" version of the Justice League already. I decided to adapt some of my favorite stories from both THE SUPER FRIENDS and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA for "my" Justice League.
The next problem was...who would be IN "my" Justice League?!

Roll Call Profiles 1 Wonder Woman & Aquaman

These are the FIRST pages of the FIRST Roll Call profiles I ever did. They are circa November 1990.

In the first four issues of my bilingual JUSTICE LEAGUE I featured a one-page list of all the then-current League members. I started off with ten, and tried to use all of them in each story. However, because I figured that none of the Japanese audience knew any of these characters besides Superman and Batman, I also added profiles that would run in each issue. For the first four issues, I used these, two per page. I of course led off with two of my favorites, Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

These made their debut in Number One, printed in December 1990. They ran through Number Four. A year later, in December 1991, they were replaced with what I called Roll Call cards. Instead of the list as shown here, I simply showed the heroes' portraits. Kind of like the "roll call heads down the side of the cover" that JLA did in the late 60s, haha.

You can see that I didn't use the characters' logos yet. And I was writng in standard US comic-book conventional fonts, ie in all-caps. The Japanese found this hard to read, so after number 5 I switched to "literary" conventions of small and capital lettering.

Hajimemashite (Nice To Meet You!)

Well, I'm gonna do it! I am starting this blog in order to make myself scan and organize all of my bilingual JUSTICE LEAGUE comic-books. I wrote and drew 31 issues between 1990 and 2001. For the past few years they have not been available ANYWHERE so I finally decided to jump in the ocean and start saving them here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Justice League #1

Read on to read the VERY FIRST Fan-Fiction Justice League story I ever made.... from December, 1990!