Sunday, September 09, 2012

Secret Origins

 In 1983 I went to the Chicago Comicon looking to break in to the biz and I took along two sets of comic samples, one a Batman story and the other a story featuring charters I came up with myself and done in a cartoony style, or "big foot" style as they used to call it in the old days. I came up with this story featuring dog space policeman called Trax Rover based on my own dog, Sabastion and the time. I loved the classic animated cartoons and I hoped to actually also work in animation, even calling out to sudios for information from my home in Ann Arbor Michigan. The business wasn't to healthy then and I was discouraged by a few of the old-timers on the phone, one even telling me, "This is a shit business kid, you don't want to waste your time in it." A decade later I would be working full time at Warner Bros on Batman and Superman. A big lesson, never let anyone crush your dreams. The Batman samples I trucked around the con were met with the typical "You're almost there, but you need to work on this and that" response. The Trax Rover work though ended up landing me my first pro work helping Judith Hunt draw the robots for Robotech Defenders book she was doing at DC. That then lead me to drawing The Transformers at Marvel and my career has never paused a day since then.

The story of Trax was pretty simple and basically kind of ripped from Forbidden Planet, with Trax crash landing to find the stranded father and daughter, my twist was to make the robot in love with her and instead of the Id or the professor making the big threat like the movie, I made these crazy Tasmanian Devils the villains, or monsters.

Looking back I think these pages were far superior in every way than the Batman pages mainly because I was just being myself and with the Batman pages I was trying to cross-pollinate too many sources trying to make some kind of 'approved house style". The strength though of my drawing of environments and robots, mechanical things is what landed me an opportunity on something I never was looking for or that I wasn't thinking about.

This is something I stress to my students, it is essential to try having the best set of skills and cross-train, so when you leave school you are flexible, because you never know where or what your first opportunity will be that can launch your career. I didn't care about the Robotech stuff, wasn't a fan of the Transformers, but I wanted to become a full-time cartoonist working for Marvel or DC and wasn't about to let an opportunity slide. Looking back at these sample that are shockingly almost 30 years old I am pretty happy with a lot of it and have though about going back and actually finishing up the story.

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