Monday, May 8, 2017

Remembering Bernie Wrightson



(Bernie and Voz)

When I broke into comics in the mid 1970’s there was an astonishing number of new talent that arrived in the business as comics were suddenly feeling a resurgence. One of these was Bernie Wrightson, who I had been aware of from comic fandom, which introduced me to this world, and was also the gestation pool a large segment of the newcomers. 

From the first work I saw of his in fandom, it was pretty clear that Bernie was certainly cut above most of us, and when his first stories started to appear in print, there was the realization that that gap might be even wider. What he was doing was pretty special.

I first met Bernie on one of my trips to NYC when I was schlepping my portfolio around to the publishers looking for steady work. When I came into the city one of my old friends from Detroit, Al Milgrom,  graciously always lets me crash at his apartment which he shared with Walt Simonson. One night they dragged me over to visit Howard Chaykin’s studio, and while we were there, we dropped down a floor to also say hello to Bernie who also lived in the building. 





He was working on a series of Edgar Allen Poe oil paintings. Bernie had already achieved a level of fame as one of the premier artists working in pen and ink with his Swamp Thing book, and now he was trying a different medium. He was curious about our take on the work. Needless to say it was stunning. Whatever respect I had for his talent before, now I was truly impressed. 

What I came away with from that first meeting was not only just how good Bernie was, but also how well he treated you. There was a definite pecking order in comics from how the editors reacted to  you on down, and even among your peers. But there didn’t seem to be any of that with Bernie. He always treated me and my work as if we were equals. That was something I truly liked and respected him for.
(Bernie, Batton Lash, Don Glut, Bill Stout)



I saw a bit of Bernie now and then in those early years, either when I was in NYC, or at conventions. I do remember once being the designated driver with a van when Bernie, Walt, Al and myself drove upstate to visit Jeff Jones. Seems I was the only one who knew how to drive a stick shift…and it was my first experience driving in NYC traffic. However, in the mid 80’s I moved to LA with my wife Annie, and saw very little of the comic book crowd as I started working in animation and advertising and film. 

There was a show in Pasadena that I attended to meet a potential buyer of some artwork, who ended up blowing me off. At the time, the same was pretty important so I was pretty bummed;however I did run into my good friend Trevor Goring who suggested I bring in a portfolio to the Chronicles of Narnia movie and I ended up working on those for the next five years.

And as I was leaving that show, suddenly down the cooridor I hear someone yelling out my name, and there comes Bernie and grabs me and gives me a big hug like I was a long lost friend. Once we reconnected, we got together several times for dinner and I got to meet his wife Liz, and his two sons. They were always great gatherings with interesting conversation. Usually it was at our house in Tujunga, or at a monthly gathering of artists I used to host at an Italian restaurant in Burbank. It was good times. There was another space when he suddenly wasn’t around, and I discovered he had moved out of LA.


(Above Bernie and Bill Stout. Below Bernie, Mike Kaluta, Barry Smith and Jeff Jones)

Working in the commercial art business gives you a fairly nomadic life. You meet folks and work closely with them for a shorter or longer times and you’re best friends. Then the job changes and you never see them again. It is always tough to stay in contact with your friends and acquaintances as distance and jobs drag you in different directions. With Bernie you also had the reality of dealing with a celebrity. The last time I saw him was at a convention in Anaheim where we were having an interesting conversation and catching up a bit. A group of fans descend on him  and and I was suddenly standing on the sidelines. It wasn't Bernie who pushed me there, but you understood that there were restraints on his time and availability. 






What always impressed me when I saw Bernie and his family, was just how much two boys loved and respected him, and how devoted he was to them. Someone had told me once that Bernie didn’t have a great relationship with his own father, but there certainly was a bond among all the members of his own family. There was great affection between him and his wife Liz. Most fans will think of him as a world class artist, but for me I always remember him as world class dad and husband. It was an honor and a pleasure knowing him and his family.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

MAD MUMMY IN PRINT PT. 4 Solos






There were twelve issues in the Mad Mummy series, which I spent a little over two years working on. They were published digitally and you can find them on sale at iVerse. (https://digital.comicsplusapp.com/product_lines.php?publisher_id=171) Currently I am planning on a very limited print run of the series, which will be broken up into a series of three graphic novels. From time to time I  get requests from fans wanting to know if there is a print edition of the books, so I’m this offer is  to any of you who might be interested.

Because both the costs of printing and shipping are outrageously expensive, even offering this product at slightly above cost doesn’t always make it affordable to readers. Each of the three 92 page volumes will run $15, plus an additional $7 postage/handling.(Postage for  orders outside the U.S. will have to be calculated differently.) I thought about lowering the shipping cost by sending the material Media Mail instead of priority, but tracking/insurance keep this from being a realistic option. However, you are only stuck with the shipping cost once; if you order more than one of the volumes the shipping stays the same.

What you are getting for that price is a one of kind book, because I certainly don’t have any plans to print and sell this commercially. Also, you will receive a piece of signed artwork from series from one of the thumb nailed pages or a series of panels from one of the pencil roughs. While I won’t guarantee you can pick whatever page you desire, I will try and give you options. And when the original art goes on sale, if you have purchased one of the volumes you will always get a 15% discount on anything you might be interested in. 

So if any of you are interested in having any of the Mad Mummy Exclusive Trade Paperback editions, send me an email and reserve your copy today. I am planning on having the books ready to ship to any who are interested by the end of May, 2017.

Mad Mummy #9


"Whether you have bullies for schoolmates, a child predator after you in a locked museum, 
or just a very nasty parent, it’s good to have a mummy looking out for you." 





Mad Mummy #10



Since he is 3400 hundred years old, Adam Ray can offer some great firsthand insights to his his friend Colin, the museum curator on the artifacts discovered of the cat god Bast. But there are others interested in this find as well: two space aliens Augah and Rushee who have a much greater affinity for cats than for humans. When the three terrorist stooges who are thrown into the mix, all hell breaks loose with Adam, Colin and our kitty narrator thrown right in the middle. Zany and wacky antics ensue with a hot heroine and non stop action.  Don’t miss it! 





Mad Mummy #11


In an effort to save an innocent boy, Aten Ra, the Mad Mummy, takes on the despicable and debauched demon, Rumscheyliesha and her soulless minions in a vicious game of organ poker. Will Adam Receive the unkindest cut of all? Gasps, gore and guffaws in another tale narrated by the cat, Mr. Ard.





Mad Mummy #12




There are trials and tribulations for along the way for Aten Ra as he escorts his friend Robert too the land of the dead. But there is a sexy boat Captain named Sharon to ferry them, and our feline friend Mr. Ard is there to narrate. Fun and thrills for all. 






  

When I was working on my fanzines back in the 60’s and had aspirations toward being a cartoonist, the main folks that I was looking at were the popular working artists of the day: Joe Kubert, Leonard Starr, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Al Williamson,etc.  However, my friend Richard “Grass” Green kept raving about his favorite comic strip…something called the Spirit, by Will Eisner. The first time I finally saw any of this work was when Harvey Comics reprinted to giant size comics of several of the stories when I was a junior in college. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked.



For those of the uninitiated, the Sprit was Denny Colt, a police detective who is presumed dead, but comes back in the secret identity of the Spirit to fight crime. His hidden lair is in Wildwood Cemetery. He wore a suit and as a token to costumed heroes, a mask to cover his eyes. I didn’t know what to make of the artwork when I first saw it. It was definitely cartoony, but with a sense of realism and lighting that was beyond what I was seeing most comics. And the acting, the staging and the camera movement were far ahead of anything else that I was familiar with . Yeah, it looked like a movie.

What really impressed me was that although Eisner was from an era of genocide, h-bombs, mass starvation and despair his stories still maintained a light touch.They might be filled with violence, hatred and drama, but you knew that it was all going to work out in the end. If I had wanted realism, there was literature and history. Eisner’s Spirit was just there to entertain, and what wonderful entertainment it was. While Marvel and DC filled their comics with super human misfits and giant aliens, Eisner’s stories were always about real people. Often the secondary characters were far more important to the plot that the Spirit. 

When I started writing my own comics, way back when I created Linda Lovecraft, I immediately went to Eisner for direction and inspiration. And thirty years later you can certainly see it in these last four tales of the Mad Mummy. 

(Above and below: me doing my homage to Will who once told me, "My heroines are usually women who promise a lot more than they can deliver."  I've also tried to add that element to my stories.) 



(For more on Eisner and his approach to writing, you can check out Eisner and Film:Trouble In Paradise.http://vozwords.blogspot.com/2016/12/eisner-and-film-trouble-in-paradise.html)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

MAD MUMMY IN PRINT PT. 3- The Devil Doctor


(Alternative cover for #7 that wasn't used.)

There were twelve issues in the Mad Mummy series, which I spent a little over two years working on. They were published digitally and you can find them on sale at iVerse. (https://digital.comicsplusapp.com/product_lines.php?publisher_id=171) Currently I am planning on a very limited print run of the series, which will be broken up into a series of three graphic novels. From time to time I  get requests from fans wanting to know if there is a print edition of the books, so I’m this offer is  to any of you who might be interested.

Because both the costs of printing and shipping are outrageously expensive, even offering this product at slightly above cost doesn’t always make it affordable to readers. Each of the three 92 page volumes will run $15, plus an additional $7 postage/handling.(Postage for  orders outside the U.S. will have to be calculated differently.) I thought about lowering the shipping cost by sending the material Media Mail instead of priority, but tracking/insurance keep this from being a realistic option. However, you are only stuck with the shipping cost once; if you order more than one of the volumes the shipping stays the same. 

What you are getting for that price is a one of kind book, because I certainly don’t have any plans to print and sell this commercially. Also, you will receive a piece of signed artwork from series from one of the thumb nailed pages or a series of panels from one of the pencil roughs. While I won’t guarantee you can pick whatever page you desire, I will try and give you options. And when the original art goes on sale, if you have purchased one of the volumes you will always get a 15% discount on anything you might be interested in. 

So if any of you are interested in having any of the Mad Mummy Exclusive Trade Paperback editions, send me an email and reserve your copy today. I am planning on having the books ready to ship to any who are interested by the end of May, 2017.

All in all lots of thrills, chills, and laughs. So if you are enjoying the series on Vozcomix or through Comics Plus, here’s your chance to have your own hard copy. The  deadline for ordering is May 1, so don’t delay if you have any interest.  Contact me:VOZART@GTE.NET 

The second volume of the Mad Mummy deals with his relationship with the mysterious and ageless Chinese doctor, and the fact his daughter,Ming Yue, is the reincarnation of Aten Ra’s (Adam Ray, the Mad Mummy) estranged wife Ahnkesenamun. While last week I explained that the 1932 Boris Karloff film, The Mummy, was my major source of inspiration for the series, another equally important inspiration was Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu stories.



MM05 Dashing to the Rescue







It's nineteenth century China and Aten Ra meets up with Sir Richard Dashing, the most decorated hero of the Victorian Age...who's also a an unrepentant womanizer, dedicated cheat and major league coward. Both Aten Ra and Dashing have to deal with the powerful and mysterious Group of Seven and the Chinese doctor who dominates the scene. Thrills, romance, laughs...a rollocking good time for all! 


MM06 The Devil Doctor






Adam reunites with his friend the Chinese doctor and they reminisce about their earliest meetings and Adam’s relationship with his daughter. This one is set in Egypt back in the latex l920’s at the Tomb of the Black Ape. And some revelations about how the  doctor’s elixir vitae was created.



MM07 Fires of the Devil Doctor




As their reminiscing continues, Adam and the Doctor continue their discussion about how his daughter, Ming Yue, had interfered with his plans so many times in his career…until he finally plans for her destruction. Adam has to rush to the rescue to save his reincarnated estranged wife from this horrible vengeance.




MM08 Reincarnalation

While convalescing in Egypt, Ming Yue is given a guided tour by Adam of her many past lives as he takes her back and reexamines their tenuous relationship. As all this is revealed, things aren’t going as well as planned by Adam.




While convalescing in Egypt, Ming Yue is given a guided tour by Adam of her many past lives as he takes her back and reexamines their tenuous relationship. As all this is revealed, things aren’t going as well as planned by Adam.



When I was about twelve my older cousin  Robert Hiller had suggested I might be interested in reading these books. I tracked a couple down at the local library and I was hooked from page one. By the time I graduated from high school I had tracked down the entire collection of thirteen novels and read them all…most of them more than once. In the earlier books (written in 1910-17) Dr. Fu Manchu is a brilliant scientist and the head of an Asian organization, the Si-Fan, and the bane of the English empire. He was the original   demented and sadistic Yellow Peril villain. Rohmer took a hiatus from the series for well over a decade, and when he revived the Doctor in the early 30’s, through his travels and experiences, the writer had a very different world view. While Fu Manchu  was still a megalomaniac bent on world domination, Rohmer turned him into  a much more complicated and sympathetic character. Disgusted with what was going on in the world, the man had a plan to run things better, and as long as you didn’t get in his way, things were fine. Usually it was his own daughter who would screw things up for him with her romantic notions. What a family. All in all, they were always a very fun read.



About the time I discovered the Chinese doctor,  I also became friends with Fred Jackson, who showed my some of his own homemade comics he had created, and one of them featured a villain who was the son of Fu Manchu. Needless to say, I was soon emulating Fred and writing and drawing (I use the term loosely) my own comics. One of the first was called The Cursed and had Fu Manchu recruiting Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman to help him in some nefarious scheme. (Hmmm…did I ever show that one of Alan Moore.)  Fred also had the advantage of having seen some of the TV and film adaptations of the Rohmer material. Not having a TV I had been spared that “luxury”; I’ve yet to see a film adaptation that ever captured the character with any real understanding. Karloff was especially miscast in The Mask of Fu Manchu.



"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government … Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr Fu Manchu.”  That was Rohmer’s description of the Doctor in his first book. Later after he had travelled to Egypt he used the mummy of Seti I as a visual replica. 




One of my comic book treasures as a teenager was a copy of Wally Wood’s brilliant artistic adaptation of The Mask of Fu Manchu. That was definitely source material for the Mad Mummy. Probably my first published drawings were used on the dust jacket of Sax Rohmer’s biography, Master of Villainy.  When I started working in comics, one of my first assignments was drawing Chang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. He, of course, was the son of Fu Manchu and I got to draw his old man a lot in the issues I did. Later I did my own creator owned series called Off-Castes where which featured the mysterious Ju-Tan, who was inspired by the doctor, and was modeled after Seti I. With The Mad Mummy I went directly back to the source material again, and what a guilty pleasure it was working on the series.