Monday, April 23, 2012

The (not so) amazing origin of Megastar -- Part 1

So today I thought I'd toss out a post talking about how Megastar came to be. I've already talked about the overall, sweeping concept that enables me to write stories about Megastar, but the character itself has a long and vibrant history, and I thought it'd be fun to share it with you.

Megastar was created nearly twenty years ago when I was about 12 or 13. I was a voracious comic book reader back then (and now), and I fueled my habit however I could. I scrounged for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to spend at the local 7/11 (they had comics available in convenience stores back then, don'tcha know?) or at the bookstore (yep... had 'em there too) in the mall. I borrowed from or exchanged with friends and classmates as often as I could, and when the money ran out and the bartering system failed me, well... I created my own. The first comic I ever created was called "The Shuriken".

Check out that incredible cover! Notice the attention to detail, the incredible background effects such as clouds and a random rocketship. Marvel at the color-coordinated "soldiers of death"! One of them has a hat! Yeah, that's right... I drew this. There's no shame in my game.

Anyway, the Shuriken was a hero like, uh... pretty much any other hero, just not as well-drawn. He got his powers in an accident (fell into a nuclear reactor during a field trip), he had a gimmick (tossing throwing stars... or shuriken if you prefer), and he created his method of getting around (boot jets!). Don't ask me how a high school kid created a pair of boot jets. I was twelve.

His powers consisted of enhanced strength, agility, blah blah blah, and he could infuse inanimate objects with energy. For the look, I tried to give him one of those eye-pieces that Cyclops of the X-Men wears, and my reasoning was that I'd never seen that look combined with a mask before. The logo on his chest was the same as the shurikens he tossed around. I drew the cover above, and a full first issue of The Shuriken before I discovered...

Shuriken! For those not in the know, Shuriken (and later another series titled The Blade of Shuriken) was a pretty great comic created by Reggie Byers back in the '80s. Reggie also drew shurikens a lot better than I ever could, as if you couldn't tell. Of course, that's what I know about the series now. Back then I think I was on a family trip in Atlantic City at the time, and found it in some obscure book store on the boardwalk... and I was crushed! My brilliant character was ruined! There was no way I could keep going with a character that had the same name as a character that was already established! I could get sued! Again... I was twelve.

So what happened? How did I recover from a state of utter despair and devastation to eventually transform The Shuriken into Megastar? Find out in the next (not so) exciting episode of "The (not so) amazing origin of Megastar!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dark Horse Presents -- Once Upon a Time Machine

Featuring a story by... me! I'm finally allowed to share this, and it feels pretty good. A long while back, it's gotta be around 2 and a half years now, the community at a website I contribute to called Digital Webbing (sound familiar?) got together and decided to piece together an idea for an anthology featuring stories based on classic fairy tales, fables, tall tales and the like with a futuristic spin to them. Initially it was known as "Digital Webbing Presents Future Fairy Tales", or DWPFF for short. The ringleaders of the idea, a bunch of swell gents named Chris Stevens, Jason Rodriguez, and later stalwart members such as L. Jamal Walton and Andrew Carl asked the Digital Webbing community to pool their resources, their creativity and their passion for storytelling into a massive collaborative effort. Writers and artists were invited to pitch their best re-imagined renditions of any fairy tale that struck their fancy.

I pitched two stories to the DWPFF project. The first was based on "The Ugly Duckling", but as fate would have it another excellent writer named Magnus Aspli had already pitched an idea featuring that particular fairy tale that was accepted that very day. The next idea spawned partially from Chris Stevens, the man that had rejected the first idea. He had some fables and fairy tales that were close to his own heart that had been neglected throughout the pitch process, and he asked if I'd be willing to try and pitch an idea incorporating one of those. I agreed, and was thrilled to see that Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Books" was on the list. As soon as I saw that, I knew the story I wanted to tell. One of my favorite fables of all time was "Rikki Tikki Tavi", the story of a young, half-drowned mongoose adopted by a family that had recently moved to India. The house the family lived in contained a garden where two large cobras made their home. The cobras, not appreciating the intrusion into their habitat, decide to kill the family, and it is up to the inexperienced mongoose to save the day.

To make a long story short, I pitched my idea, it was accepted, and I wrote a script encompassing what I felt were the very best traits of the story I had enjoyed so much as a child. The script was then brought to life by an incredible artist named Ricardo Jurado Farrula, and then colored by an equally brilliant artist named Tim Durning. And now, along with dozens of other stories based on some of the most wonderful fairy tales imaginable by an amazing array of talented creators, my story is set to be included in the anthology previously, lovingly known as DWPFF that has been rechristened "Once Upon a Time Machine", published by Dark Horse Comics.

This is basically a dream come true for me, and I'm more honored than words can convey to be included in such an innovative project beside so many wonderful, diverse creators that put my humble efforts to shame. For instance, the art that began this post was done by one of the best comic creators around, Farel Dalrymple, a man that is no stranger to Dark Horse. Below is a page from my own story, brought to life by the two talented artists I mentioned above. The collection is set to be released at some point in December of this year, and I hope to be able to share a lot more of it as the release date draws near.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Megastar: TAS -- The Cover!

One of the coolest factors involved in my latest Megastar story is that I was asked by the editor of Digital Webbing Presents to get a cover image done depicting Megastar for the comic the character's set to appear in. So since the story involves Megastar getting trapped in a cartoon based on his exploits, I wanted to have a cover commissioned that personified that type of story. As soon as I was asked, an image came to mind of an old Superboy comic from the '90s. For those of you that aren't aware, this is the same Superboy that currently runs around dressed in a t-shirt and jeans in the comics and in the animated series, "Young Justice". However, before that iconic (and arguably boring) look, he dressed very much like your typical '90s character.

In other words... Awesome!

Spandex with varied colors, shades, a leather jacket, buckled straps in random places, and a spit-curl fade. It just doesn't get better than that, ladies and gents. Anyway, the Superboy of the '90s, aka The Metropolis Kid, was one of my favorites during that period of my comic-reading life, and I had just about every issue of Superboy during that initial run written by Karl Kesel with incredible artwork by Tom Grummett. Grummett, in particular, was one of my favorite artists around that time, along with Mark Bagley (among numerous others), and was one of the biggest reasons I became such a fan of the book. His covers always caught my eye in the local comic shop, and as I said above, one in particular was emblazoned in my mind's eye the second I was asked to produce a cover for the Megastar story. Here it is below:

Now, there's not too much going on here compared to your typical, attention-grabbing comic, but the Grummett art is so pretty that I don't really care. The cover immediately grabbed my attention as a kid because, A) I was a tremendous fan of the Superboy comic when this came out, and B) I was also a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series. It's been one of my favorites for quite some time, and as a result I wanted, nay... demanded(!), that the cover I had commissioned for the Megastar story pay homage to this one. Now, the artists for the Megastar story, Jake Bilbao and Dario Carrasco, would have been fine choices for the cover, but I've recently been working with another artist named D.C. Stuelpner on a top secret project, and his art has been so incredible on it, that I thought I'd ask him to try his hand on the cover for Megastar. He agreed, and I was able to wrangle Paul Little, a colorist that has done work for a variety of books for Image Comics, to finish things up. They did everything I asked and more. The cover is bustling with activity, it's funny, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to see it emblazoned with the DWP logo, and... well, enough out of me. Just scroll down and feast your eyes...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Megastar, the star of the show!

Well, I figure this blog has laid stagnant long enough. So instead of letting it continue to do so, I thought I'd post some stuff over the next few months related to my next to-be-published comic story. I've managed to wrangle a spot in a future issue of Digital Webbing Presents, a pretty high-profile digital anthology that is available through Comixology. The story features my character, Megastar, with pencil art by Jake Bilbao and Dario Carrasco, inks by Mark Stegbauer and colors by Juan Caque.

"Did I hear you right?" I'm sure you're saying, "Two artists?" Yes indeed, my good blog-reader, there are two artists... and for very good reason. You see, in this particular story Megastar is finagled by his huckster of a brother, Sammy into watching the pilot episode of an animated series Sammy has produced which features Megastar as the main character, as shown above with art by Jake Bilbao.

Through the machinations of the villainous SFX, a former special effects guru who is now an eeeevil wizard, Megastar is transported into the cartoon and forced to see it through to conclusion in order to escape... if he can!

The story is humorous and loaded with enjoyable action sequences. Megastar is a character I've gotten a bit of mileage out of, especially now that I've figured out what I want to do with him. Megastar was initially brought to life by the thought, "What if a famous movie star woke up one day with superpowers?" But now I've expanded that idea in the same way that Dwayne McDuffie created the Milestone Universe, through a "big bang" event that showcased superheroes and villains in a more urban, under-served economically and politically environment. I wanted to showcase what would happen if that type of chain reaction occurred in a completely opposite place, the privileged and comfortable setting of Hollywood. Megastar has begun to evolve into my own humorous commentary on the fame-obsessed mentality people seem to have these days.

My version of Hollywood is called Crescent City, where actors, musicians, agents, producers, directors and all the other professionals that make our entertainment possible dwell. The "big bang" granted a number of them strange and wonderful powers, and the joy of the concept is figuring out what these various professionals might do when these powers emerge. 

Megastar is Michael Whitman, the most famous celebrity in the world, and he uses his powers to protect the citizens of Crescent City from any threat to their safety. But he's also happy to use his powers to increase his chance to bolster his career through film roles, commercials, endorsements or anything else that might increase his fame and fortune. He's shallow, self-important, and a bit of an ass, but the people of Crescent City eat it up. He's a flawed hero for a flawed populace that values celebrity over accomplishment--sizzle over steak.

SFX (and a number of the other villains) is similar, in that once he created movie magic through hard work and innovation, but once he realized he could do actual magic, he took the easy way with no thought to whether it could be harmful or not. Eventually people got hurt, his career was ruined when Megastar exposed him, and now his only thought is revenge.

It's a fun world, and I'm full to the brim with ideas for characters and scenarios that just might see the light of day at some point down the road. So hop into this vehicle I call a blog and enjoy the ride, because there's a lot more to come.