Working Drawings for Cut-Paper Sculpt

PhanGirldiagramEnjoying a motion picture at age 9  entailed a lot more than just sitting in the theater – as  soon as I got home I’d want to “play” the movie and  act out scenes as a way of prolonging the excitement. Reading my Legion of Superheroes books has punched some of the same buttons a movie does  but at 65 jumping off the deck while clad in Spandex just isn’t going to happen. At this stage of my life maintaining a link with the excitement entails some sort of creative work and this time around it will mean a cut-paper sculpt.

BoBoyDIagram

In addition to the actual construction of the figures themselves I use a lot of paper in preparatory work. I carefully draw each figure/component , then make a dozen copies of each drawing. Then I cut each drawing into pieces I will then use as  templates in  making individual parts…and those parts will then be  assembled into major figures.  The  drawings you see here  depict  Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy and Ultra Boy;   I may be adding another figure (Shrinking Violet) to the composition later on if the design can accommodate her. 

UltBoyDIagram

Amazon Review: Star Trek/Legion of Super-heroes Cross-over Book

TrekLSH Cover

Despite their common use of  visual communication comic books and television shows are not always a good mix. While it is true comic adaptations can work well enough, the product of mixed genres can quickly become as corny and contrived  as the classic 70’s SNL skit What If : “What if the pioneers crossing the plains had to fight dinosaurs but the Man from U.N.C.L.E. went back through time to help them out”?

Luckily the DC/IDW Star Trek /Legion of Super-Heroes cross-over book avoids that trap. Jeffrey and Philip Moy have succeeded admirably in blending the  intense  color and dramatic styling of a superhero book with the late 1960’s visual splash of the original Star Trek series.  More importantly Chris Roberson’s plotting and dialog fits neatly into either books’ universe and he includes just enough fan-favorite Easter Eggs  from both properties to treat  the reader without being patronizing.

…and I will die a happy man after seeing Brainiac 5 and Mr. Spock quibble.

All in all it was a very readable book. I’d planned on stretching it by reading just once chapter at a time, but I had so much fun I got through it all in one night and was left wishing there were at least four more volumes in a series after this one.

The Star Trek/LSH book makes a pretty nifty addition to any  graphic novel library and I highly recommend it. If pressed to make a complaint it would be that I didn’t get to work on the project myself (I painted the dealer-incentive covers for IDW’s Wrath of Khan adaptation) As both a Trek and Legion fan I would have settled for $67 and an old hockey trophy for a chance at working on some as cool as this book.

The Archie Legion

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I started reading comics at age eleven and have continued reading since that time – but I don’t necessarily read everything. When I find a good combination of story and art  I’ll read a book until the situation changes so when the industry made the big “gritty” change in 1985 I came close to leaving the genre behind.

The Legion of Super-heroes is a two-time favorite. It was one of the first titles I regularly collected and I collected the spin-off Legionnaires in the mid-90s when Chris Sprouse was handling the art. Some fans dismiss that 1994-96 run as lightweight,  referring to it as “The Archie Legion” but I am quite vocal  about liking it.

…and after a late-night text-duel on the matter with my good friend Mark Angell I came up with today’s sketch.

Star Boy

Star BoyIt was  another one of those nights where I felt like I was breathing through a soda straw so at  2:00 AM I finally surrendered and left bed for the studio where I spent an hour or so reading a trade paperback collection of THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. Reprints of comics I’d read in the mid-1960s, the Legion stories are set in the 30th century and feature the wonderfully clunky art of John Forte. In my youthful estimation the Legion ran a close second to Batman because:

  •  The stories drew in both the superhero and science fiction genre
  •  The stories were about kids that I could readily identify with
  •   There was such a wide variety of both good and evil characters

 However, in some respects  that large number of characters could be a liability as well as an asset. Not only could it be difficult for an eleven-year old mind to keep up with all of the interweaving plot lines, I think that in the beginning the rush to pad out the roster gave us some fairly one-dimensional characters.

 A prime example is Star Boy, born Thom Kallor to parents living on an orbital platform about the planet Xanthu. While the character was eventually fleshed out and linked to several other notable DC heroes, in the earlier Legion stories his sole super power was the ability to make things heavy, and I’m not talking mother-in-law poundage: Heavy as in up to the weight of a planet.

 Hmmm. A superhero that can make things heavy, as in:

  • Helping  construction workers by making foundation blocks sink into the ground
  • Hiding  valuable objects by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground
  •  Stop fleeing villains by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground

 …and at this point I run out of ideas…Other than the “sinking into the ground” bit the main benefit to Star Boy’s power would be helping Kate Moss to get across the street on a windy day. Even as a kid I couldn’t figure out how he’s managed to stay on the Legion roster with such limitations, but as I drove past a city maintenance crew the other day I finally figured it all out.

 It was the stereotypical nine-guys-standing-around-one-guy-with-a-shovel scenario, but that mob was not what caught my interest. It was the older guy sitting sideways out of the passenger seat in the truck, doing absolutely nothing but drinking coffee. That’s when it hit me:  The Legion of Super Heroes is a union shop! Star Boy was hired early on and has so much seniority he can’t be “downsized” no matter how limited his powers may be.

World’s Finest

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Latest in cut-paper sculpts and a miracle that it is finished at all. I started this almost a year ago but as most of you know this has not been an easy year. Even as I look at it now I can find a half-dozen rookie mistakes but to be honest I don’t give a rat’s (bleep). I’d rather be a couple of thousand miles northwest of here at a small chapel in Soldotna, Alaska waiting for my mom’s funeral.

The World’s Finest team ( Batman/Superman) has been one of my favorites from the Day One of my interest in comics. I was not sure I would like the current Batman V. Superman movie but when the flow of action moved away from the stereotypical “mistaken hero throw-down” to fighting Doomsday I stared to like it.

Batman: “Don’t worry – I’m a friend of your son’s “

Martha: “I know. I could tell – you know, the cape”

As it is with all my cut paper work you really don’t get the depth with regular photography, and with this particular piece you’ll be missing even more. You’ll note that Superman’s eyes are glowy-red, like he’s either just used his heat vision or is warming up to do so soon. When I box-frame this work I am going to melt two little holes in the protective Plexiglas.

…right in Superman’s line of sight….

 

NuperDan

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It’s the closing of the year – and as this particular year has been a most challenging one  I am glad that I can close it with this paper sculpt…as in “At least I got this one done!”

…and as for the name. When he first discovered superheroes Jaden couldn’t correctly pronounce “M” or “S” so “Superman” became “NuperDan”. It stuck, and now our favorite Kryptonian exile has been permanently dubbed “NuperDan” in the Deitrick home.

Look for this as part of a larger “World’s Finest” paper sculpt due to be out in February.

Batman ’64

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It delights me to see the attention lavished on the mid-sixties Batman TV series. Yes, I know it was the height of camp and I was none too pleased myself.( it was even worse for those of use in the Last Frontier –  KENI Channel 2 in Anchorage managed to broadcast  the two episodes in reverse order)  I was twelve when it first aired and had been an ardent Bat-fan since the first issue with Julius Schwartz at the editor and it was painful to watch my hero become a buffoon…but if we’d never had the series I doubt we’d ever had the movies or the animated series.

You see, Batman needed all the help he could get at this point of career. When “Julie” took over as editor Batman and all the related titles were on the verge of cancellation, avoided only when transformation from cowled scoutmaster to scientific detective caused a dramatic rise in sales. Aesthetics had a lot to do with it too; Carmine Infantino took over the artistic reins in Detective  with issue 327 and “Mystery of the Menacing Mask” and became the first artist that I could identify by style alone.

So, it should be no surprise that my upcoming World’s Finest piece should include that version of the Dark Knight that had more of a mid-level intensity.

 

Nightwing & Flamebird

2016-06-02 NightwingFlamebirdWhen current comics readers read those names they most likely think of the characters from the New Krypton story arc that ran about five years ago in DC comics just prior to Flashpoint and the introduction of the “new 52”. For geezers like me Nightwing and Flamebird can only mean one thing: the crime-fighting identities that Superman and Jimmy Olsen assume when  visiting the bottle-city of Kandor.

Kandor – the  Kryptonian city that was miniturized and stolen by the arch-villain Brainiac and subsequently recovered by Superman ( or “Nuper-Dan” as my three year old grandson calls him). Kandor was the setting for several Superman/Batman adventures as chronicled in World’s Finest comics and  Nightwing/Flamebird allowed the two heroes to continue to fight crime as a team despite Superman’s lack of powers under red sun conditions.

I enjoy revisiting characters from the Sixties. Yes, Silver Age stories and many of their conventions were a bit on the campy side but I loved them then and I still hold them in high regard now . I like them for the same reason I still like the Batman TV series. I mean, a world  with lots of adventures where a average guy in tights is considered heroic and no one really gets hurt? What’s not to like?

 

1966: Fighting Crime on Scout Lake Loop Road

I’m not sure what initially (please forgive the pun) drew me to comics and superheroes. The genre was not nearly as popular then as it is now so it wasn’t a social thing. I liked the art…but there was something about the idea of making people safe and avenging wrongs that really appealed to me. Having endured varying degrees of pain at the hands of others I liked the idea of someone preventing that sort of thing.

My cousin Gary introduced me to comics in the early sixties but the hook was set during the summer of 1964 not too long after the Good Friday earthquake. I can trace my interest to three specific issues:

  • Detective Comics # 327 “ The Mystery of The Menacing Mask”
  • World’s Finest #142 “The Composite Superman”
  • Justice League of America “29 “Crisis on Earth-Three.”

My buddies and I had a great time reading comics as well as trying to draw them and make the uniforms but it all came to a screeching halt at the end of the summer when my dad’s employment required a moved down to the Kenai Peninsula where we settled on a 5 acre ranch miles from any other kids.

It wasn’t just the distance either. Living in Spenard meant that the roads were regularly plowed, which (when you considered the streets in the Tip-Top trailer court) meant there were a lot of places to play in the winter time. In Sterling nothing  other than the road in front of our place was plowed, and as kicking your way through endless drifts of snow was not very conducive to effective crime fighting winter was spent making my equipment.

I had been a Batman fan before the TV series so it was no surprise that I wanted a utility belt. I managed to get an old cartridge belt which resisted every effort with paint or fabric dye so I set it aside and started on Batarangs. The first one was carefully carved out of balsa in a proper airfoil profile, but that profile and the light weight made the ‘rang flutter like a maple leaf seed pod every time I tried to throw it. I also had very  little faith in its ability to support my weight in the event I was able to somehow get it hooked on  the roof with 550 cord attached.

Enter Batarang 2.0. After I managed to hack the Batarang shape out of some ¼” plywood scrap I was still unsure of its strength so I attached a grappling hook along the center. It was a great grappling hook – a U-shaped piece of metal with 4″ arms that spanned a three inch gap and even had a hole drilled in one of the arms sized perfectly for tying 550 cord.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize  it was a magnet – and a particularly strong one to boot. Strong enough to pop out of my hand and scratch the paint on the refrigerator as I was carrying Batarang 2.0 through the kitchen.

The atypical flower drawing that appeared taped over the scratch was a real hit with my mom…which was much, much nicer than the “real hit” I would have gotten had she seen the scratch  before the flower appeared.

Exit Batarang 2.0.

Continuing with the non-powered hero theme I tried making Captain America’s shield – which worked quite nicely. I found an extra trash can lid and using small nuts, bolts and lock-washers I attached a handle made from a strap of rubber cut from a discarded inner tube. The elastic strap held the shield on my arm nicely and the shield was extremely accurate when thrown, even when making a deflection shot, which I learned to my dismay when knocking my sister over while leading her with my throw as she ran across the yard.

Exit Captain America’s shield.

As Marvel comics were the exclusive domain of my buddies’ big brothers, I was slow to pick up on Spiderman. However, given Marvel’s skyrocketing popularity it was inevitable that I’d soon “Make Mine Marvel” and I got in a  good start on a Spiderman outfit with a red ski mask I’d gotten the winter before. Even better:  medical emergencies forced the prior owners of the ranch to move out rather precipitously and in the rush they left a treasure trove of cool “stuff”, including some fishing nets which were soon to become Spiderman’s web.

I spent an afternoon designing and modifying the nets into a hemisphere of mesh that would instantly immobilize my foe – which I knew would work because I drew a picture of it working. Now I needed to test it.

(At this point you’re wondering how kids living out in a 17 year old forest-fire burn could come up with anything remotely like the urban environment Batman and Spiderman worked in. We lucked out – the original homesteaders made several sheds and outbuildings, all with flat roofs in order to speed construction and conserve wood. Add to that the several stacks of crates, lumber and “sh-tuff” that Dad constantly collected and you got a sprawling multi-level play area that stood in quite well for Whatever City)

I planned my test well. I climbed up on the top of the front shed and laid out my net so it was ready to throw. I cannily lured a sister into going into the shed by way of the door just below me.

“Hey – there’s some Trix just inside the shed!”

You have to understand that with my mom’s passion – nay mania for proper nutrition there was a better chance of heroin showing up on our property than Trix so my sister  made a beeline for the shed. As I heard her enter the door I threw the net over the edge then dropped back down giggling, waiting for my sister to thrash about in frustration at being immobilized by my net-web… just like the guy in the diagram was thrashing.

Where’s the cereal? Did you eat it all? I’m telling?

IT DIDN’T WORK! The net had stayed in place for all of 7 seconds before it fell off my sister of its own accord. I knew there had to be a way to make this net-web work so I went back to the drawing board.

(Actually it was a  kid-record cover drawing board but let’s not get too technical)

Enter Spiderman Net-Web 2.0. I had found an old chain in a pile of sh-tuff in the shed and laboriously stitched the chain around the net-hemisphere from my first attempt. At this point caution should have kicked in because it was not a watch chain or a tie-up-the-Chihuahua chain I was using – it was logging chain with three inch links. It would be more a matter of me dragging the chain to the edge of the roof than it was of deftly tossing it, but feeling much smarter than a fifth-grader I set up the same testing procedure:

  1. Hide on the shed roof
  2. Lure the sister-now-designated super villain  into shed with promises of Trix
  3. Trap herwith the net and watch her thrash about in frustration at being immobilized by my net-web just like the guy in my diagram was thrashing.

Except this time there was a thud. Followed by a bellow that did not sound like a fifth grader crying.

I’d hit her – on the head. I thought for a minute about what my options were as a responsible older brother, then immediately ran to the back of the shed, down the piled crates and on out into the brush on the back end of the ranch. In my flight I had the presence of mind to ditch my red-ski mask, thereby rendering me indistinguishable from the hundreds of other chunky thirteen year olds in the area, but other than that I drew a blank for an escape plan so I found a small tree just out of sight of the house to hide behind and wait for my impending doom.

They say when death is eminent your life passes before your eyes; at thirteen I had so little to see that I had to ask for a re-run. I thought again about an escape plan and again came up dry. I heard the station wagon rattle back from Mom’s grocery run over at the Wildwood AFS commissary and flinched; waiting for that terrifying cry “DAVID RALPH DEITRICK!” but it never came. Finally ravenous hunger forced me back to the house ( it had been two whole hours since lunch) so I trudged back up to the house to face the music, my death or (gasp) two hours weeding the garden.

I walked in the back door to be met by my mom’s glare. I flinched, waiting for sentence to be carried out. “Where were you? I needed help unloading the car. No “Batman” for two weeks”

?

As she left the kitchen I slumped in the middle of the kitchen, amazed at my continued existence in this mortal sphere. I started to snicker until I idly started looking around at the debris left from unloading the groceries. My sister (who until recently was a super-villain) was at the end of the table, grinning wickedly at me. Instead of picking at the remains of the usual grocery-day treats like yogurt or bran muffins she was slurping up the contents of the only two boxes of Trix from the package of individual serving cartons of cereal that Mom had inexplicably bought this time at the store.

My first lesson on how karma can be so incredibly cruel…