Our Backyard Zoo

TurkeyTreeImages © Todd Klein.

This time of year animals are roaming, either looking for mates, or new food sources and territory. We get a good variety of birds coming to our bird feeders, but this one was a surprise, a lone hen Turkey! She looked over the yard carefully, watching the other birds at the feeders…

TurkeyLawn…then came into the back yard. If you’ve ever wondered where the dinosaurs went, watch one of these guys for a few minutes!

TurkeyFeederSoon she was pecking up sunflower seeds on the grass around the feeder.

TiggerTurkeyThe cats were not on the porch when the Turkey appeared, but before long, Tigger had spotted her. He seemed startled and a little afraid as they eyed each other. No wonder, the Turkey is much larger than Tigger!

LeoTiggerTurkeySoon Leo had joined him, and the Turkey now began to make short nervous sounds. She circled the yard and then headed off into the woods. Perhaps she’ll be back, but Turkeys have a large territory, and usually travel in flocks, so I don’t know what this single was was doing here.

TurtleWalkingThat was yesterday, today on a rainy Memorial Day there was a Box Turtle walking across the back yard in the rain. The cats and I watched it, too. It’s a regular zoo around here lately!

Pulled From My Files #41: WONDER WOMAN COVERS

WW_Klein_BlogImages © DC Comics.

In 1982, while on staff at DC, I was asked to create a framing device for the covers of a three-part WONDER WOMAN story. The idea was to make it look as much as possible like a hardcover book. There would be two large boxes, the top one for the DC symbol, WW logo (I designed it based on the Milton Glaser chest symbol), the price box, code seal, and room for large title lettering. The bottom one would hold the cover art. I drew it out in pencil, then inked all the borders and lines with technical drawing pens.  The illusion of depth needed to make it work was helped by the application of a Zip-a-tone pattern that is meant to suggest the rough texture of a cloth book binding. The large box at lower left is for the UPC code, and it definitely hurts the attempted depth of the book spine, but there was nothing I could do about that.

WW_Klein_DetailA closer look at the upper right corner. The Zip-a-tone has shrunk with age, leaving gaps where the pieces once met. To get the shaded effect on the binding I scraped away some of the texture with an Exacto knife, being careful not to cut the film. That worked pretty well. Darker areas like the one along the top had two layers of tone. I had to allow for bleed, which is why the top, right and bottom edges look a little odd.

WW291coverHere’s the first printed cover, WONDER WOMAN #291, May 1982. I also lettered the titles and spine copy separately and later, and it was all put together by DC Production, probably Bob LeRose. My frame was held in color, which I think works fine, though I wish they had put the spine copy and the outer borders of the boxes in colors too, so it would mesh better. Still, I think the overall effect is pretty good, and I didn’t mind getting paid extra for the frame. I see my name was even added to the credits, probably the first time that happened for me.

WW292CoverThe second cover used different colors for the frame. This one is trimmed badly, leaving too much of the frame at the top, and not enough at the bottom, but that’s what bleed is for, and the printing quality was not as good then as it is now.

WW293coverThe third cover of the trilogy is just a little redder in the frame than the first one. A fun project, and the kind of thing I sometimes got to do just by being there on staff when an extra project came up.

By the way, the original frame art will be on eBay starting this evening, if anyone is interested in it.

Rereading: DOOM PATROL BOOK ONE

DoomPatrolVol1016Image © DC Comics.

This 424 page trade paperback collects about the first third of Grant Morrison’s run as writer, issues 19 to 34 of the 1989 series. I know I read some of them, probably not all. I remember the weird vibe, the surreal approach more than the actual stories, so in many ways it was like reading them for the first time.

Grant’s initial stories introduce clever ideas and he strips down the team to a few previous members: Robotman (Cliff), Caulder (the Chief), Larry Trainor (now a composite of two people plus the Negative Man) takes the name Rebis, and one new member: Crazy Jane, a woman with many split personalities, some of which have powers. A few other new characters emerge and become part of the team, but that’s the active core, though Caulder is never all that active, being confined to a wheelchair. Jane is the most interesting of the bunch, allowing Morrison to play all kinds of mind games with the other characters and the readers. We never know which of her personalities is present until she tells us, or what each will do. Cliff is the anchor to the past, and seems the weary veteran. Rebis is mysterious and not well explored in this book.

Much of the fun of the series is in the inventive villains Morrison brings forth, and they are a very entertaining horde, from nihilistic teams and death-driven hidden worlds to a painting that eats Paris and a giant eye in the sky that will devour everything. Among the more human-like foes, the best are Mr. Nobody and his Brotherhood of Dada, Morrison at his most playful and absurdist.

In the early issues it’s very much a chess game, but gradually Morrison gets into the minds of the characters, letting us see more than the surface struggle. This reaches a pinnacle in issue 30, where the mind of Cliff is sent into the mind of Crazy Jane in an effort to bring her back to consciousness. It’s a disturbing and wonderful journey through the underground system of her complex personalities, and how she got that way. Much more than a super-team book, this one shines out like a diamond of excellent storytelling.

The art team on the book does a good job, with Richard Case pencilling most issues under a variety of inkers. At times, early on, Case seems to be having a hard time keeping up with Morrison’s complex ideas, but as the issues role on, he gets more and more innovative and creative in his own approach, making a more unified effort. When Simon Bisley becomes the cover artist on issue 26, his manic approach helps sell the surrealism and I suspect pushes Case to keep up, leading to the ground-breaking package we remember.

This is fun reading and well worth your time, highly recommended. I also really dig the John Workman lettering!

Pulled From My Files #40: 2099 A.D.

2099AD_General.Images © Marvel.

Some time in 1994 I was contacted by editor Joey Cavalieri, then at Marvel editing the growing 2099 line of possible futures for Marvel characters. I had worked with Joey at DC Comics, so knew him well. Joey asked me to design a new version of the 2099 logo with the addition of A.D. (After Doom) for a crossover event he was planning. This was the general version to be used wherever it would work. All these logos were drawn by hand, and I made a second version “B” of each with the area around 2099 filled black. Version “A” left it open for color. I based my design on the existing logos, which I believe were all designed by Ken Lopez (not sure about all of them). My idea was for A.D. to suggest the metal plates on Doctor Doom’s mask. I gave it bevels for added depth. Joey was happy with this idea, and asked me to also do a few specific versions to better fit existing logos.

2099AD_Spiderman.This one was curved to match the SPIDER-MAN 2099 logo. The event ran for about 6 issues I think, here’s one:

SpiderMan2099_38_12-95The the 2099 A.D. didn’t really mesh that well with the logo, but at least it was curved to fit.

2099AD_XMenThis version went with X-MEN 2099, adding telescoping…

2099AD_Hulk…and this one with HULK 2099, a different perspective version and rough outline. I think that’s all the versions I did. It’s all I find in my files, at least. In 1995 I designed two cover logos for Joey using this concept: 2099 A.D. GENESIS and 2099 A.D. APOCALYPSE. Those were done on computer rather than hand-drawn.

And Then I Read: THE BIG KERPLOP! by Bertrand R. Brinley

BigKerplopIllustration by Charles Geer.

About a month ago I read and reviewed “The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club,” a second collection of stories about a group of boys in a small 1960s town, Mammoth Falls,  who have clever and funny adventures. I’d first encountered the stories in the pages of “Boys’ Life” magazine as a child myself, and have long owned the first collection of those stories. The club is generally led by their head tinkerer and scientific genius Henry Mulligan, and they seemed to have all kinds of resources for creating amazing inventions, or adapting existing scientific ideas. These were often used to play practical jokes on their town and a rival gang, though at other times the Club helped solve crimes and assisted authorities. In researching that earlier review, I found Brinley had also written two novels about the Club, and I quickly ordered e-book versions of both. This is one.

“The Big Kerplop!” did see print in 1974, but shortly afterward the publisher went out of business, and not many copies made it out to readers. It was reprinted in 2003 with new pictures by Charles Geer, who had illustrated the two books of short stories, and I’m here to tell you it’s the best thing I’ve read in a long time. First, there’s the nostalgia factor: it brings me back to happy childhood days, not only because I was reading about the Mad Scientists then, but the way the kids are given the trust and freedom to do all the crazy things they get away with is very much like my own childhood in the 1960s. Second, you never know if a short story writer can succeed with the same characters in a novel, but Brinley does so brilliantly. Third, this book fills that fannish desire, it’s an origin story! In its pages we learn how the Mad Scientists came to be in a very satisfying way.

As in the short stories, the narrator is Charlie (last name finally revealed in this book), but Henry does not appear for some time. Charlie and his friends are out on a foggy Strawberry Lake fishing when they hear fighter jets from a nearby Air Force base making practice runs over the lake. Unexpectedly, something large and heavy falls from one plane into the lake. The boys don’t see it, but feel the waves of its impact and hear the kerplop. Right away they go into action, figuring out how to mark the place where the object fell. Later, back in town, word is out that the Air Force is restricting access to the lake while they investigate something. Before long, the boys figure out a nuclear bomb was the thing that fell from the plane, and the Air Force is looking for it. The boys decide they are going to find it first, and in some daring night excursions through the patrol lines, they succeed. Henry Mulligan’s scientific knowledge and ideas help a lot with that. The next problem is convincing the Air Force, or any responsible adult, that they actually have found the bomb, a task which takes up a good part of the book in many hilarious incidents.

This was so much fun. It would have made a great Disney TV series in the 1970s, and could still be a pretty good one today. Now I can’t wait to read the other Brinley novel, and will soon.

Highly recommended!