Sunday, September 4, 2011

Retrowood Hits the Presses


This week I sent out the final amended proof of my Retrowood graphic novel and within the month I will have the finished copies of the book. I started this project literally ten years ago, so seeing it finally come to fruition is a big deal for me. The idea was originally to do a limited series about the 30's, but this morphed into a Hollywood period piece called Dreamtown, and eventually into a detective story set in Retrowood, a faux Hollywood of that era. Whenever I had time I spent it either on research, sketching, writing plots, or drawing the pages.

The Great Depression has fascinated me since my childhood. This  economic disaster that struck in the 1930's  was the defining event in in the history of the twentieth century America.  Forget WWII; that was merely a bump in the road after the hard times of the decade before. Life was tough. Money, jobs and even food was scarce worldwide and no solution seemed in sight. It was an environment that brought both a Hitler and a Roosevelt to power.  One created an atmosphere of fear, the other of hope. While some turned to alcohol and drugs and a some turned to Jesus what got the majority through were movies, the radio, magazines and popular fiction of the time. 

While I found the history fascinating, it really were the stories created by Eisner, Chandler, Hammett, Steinbeck and a 1000 black and white Hollywood screwball comedies and mystery thrillers that stuck with me. So while based on historical people, events, and locales, Retrowood is a fictional world - though most will recognize the Southern California setting. You have the glamour of the blossoming movie industry contrasted against the stark attempt at survival for most folks: a world of startling, soul crushing poverty contrasted against the sleek cars, slinky clothes and gated mansions.... and everyone wore hats. I found that like Alex Toth, I came away with being far more interested in the entertainment of the era than the era itself. But then I've always been more of a romantic than a realist.

In the middle of this mix is J. Parker Wrighte, a young private detective with the Kinchay agency. His quest for upward mobility in this two tiered society is fraught with compromise, and it's it taking its toll on our protagonist and he blends back and forth between the two societys.

 
(A birthday card Steve had me do for Chris. )
And I've had lots of help from my friends along the way. I met Christopher Markus and Steve McFeely when we were all involved in the Narnia films. When they told me that they had done a movie for HBO (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) I jokingly told them they would soon have an Emmy, since I worked at HBO and they got me one. It turned out to be a prophetic statement, as they did indeed win an Emmy for writing the screenplay. I think my favorite of their work is a little gem of a comedy called You Kill Me, with Tea Leoni and Ben Kingsley. They have recently worked on the Captain America film...and were generous enough to write an introduction for the Retrowood book. They are not only talented, but they have proven to be great friends.

Norman Mallory and Stephen Kloepfer are both college professors that saw my work online and contacted me. Conversation with either never lags, and I always come away not only entertained, but usually with a new bit of knowledge on some topic. Both of these gentlemen did extensive editing on the stories and some rewrites. And both are skilled artists as well as writers. They've taken what was hopefully good material, and really made it better.
(One of my sketches from the late night drawing class with the twins.)

One night I went to a figure drawing party/workshop and was treated by two of my favorite models dressed as Siamese twins. What as creepy was that I could hardly tell them apart. They were the inspiration for the "Gypsy Twins" story. I never get tired of drawing either Sara or Cassandra. While the former is still in LA (and strangely enough not looking any older that when she first posed at Bill Stout's studio over a decade ago), the latter has moved to the other coast to pursue her modeling career. We miss her. Sara was the model for the famous Nip and Tuck DVD cover, and Cassandra often works with Annie Liebovitz, who featured both of these models in a photoshoot for Vanity Fair.

 (Cassandra posing for a FuManchu illustration. Below Sara and myself.)

Working with Howard Chaykin  was also a big motivation in creating the series. His love of the era was always a great sounding board. So a very aged version of him is Parker's boss.

Writer Henry Gilroy  served as the model for Henry Irving in H.I. or L.O. Henry's been "cast" in a few things I've worked on over the years. For a lot of the characters, I simply selected people I liked to draw: Gary Cooper was the model for J. Parker Wrighte' ,Bill Powell is his friend Iggy' Chloe Sevigny as the devious Mrs. Orwell, and Jennifer Connelly as Velvet Arpak. But when I use these folks, I try less for a dead on likeness, and more for creating an interesting character.


Welcome to Retrowood.


(And a special thanks to Jen and the folks at Ka-BLAM Printing for handling
this project with excellent service and very affordable prices.
http://ka-blam.com/printing/)

Foreign orders please check for additional shipping costs.

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B&W WITH COLOR COVER THREE ORIGINAL STORIES

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EACH SIGNED COPY WILL ALSO COME WITH A PIECE OF
ORIGINAL ARTWORK FROM THE BOOK SIGNED BY VOZ!!

ONLY 200 COPIES OF THIS BOOK WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE

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