Seventh grade landed on me and I scored my first issue of Heavy Metal at the bookstore in the mall, the same one where I scored my first boxed sci-fi role playing game courtesy of my Aunts Helen, May, Kay, and Grandma C a couple years earlier. Nothing quite as useless and tragic as being a geek kid in the middle of Telford; having an RPG in hand with no one to play it with but scarecrows and dirt clod hopping wolf spiders.
I had three issues, sequential, part of the story ark introducing Ranxerox to North American audiences, the NYC storyline rendered with color pencil and ink outlined nearly rotoscopic photo-real that stands easy testimony to how intense the classical illustration training still is in Europe, a truth evident throughout French comic shops, local talent or translated fare from Italy, Belgium, Spain. Ranxerox remains a personal favorite to this day, and had my life path lead to making films, rather than trying to rape my childhood television and horror film experiences for remakes, and not finding funding to create something original, I would have embarked to extrapolate cinema from the stories and pictures that inspired me most from European comics.
Ranxerox played by Ron Perlman w/ Chloë Moretz as Lubna., Marshall Law played by Viggo Mortensen, Dylan Dog played by Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (despite the European one coming out sometime soon). An Airtight Garage with Alexander Skarsgård, or Blueberry with Daniel Craig, or Click! with Katherine Heigl.
While an incident lead to the removal of those magazines from my bedroom one fine, sunny afternoon by a Mother trying to keep her son from getting into worse trouble or succumbing to influences unbecoming a typical bullied seventh grader, I replaced them and complete the full Ranxerox story ark years later while moonlighting at Nostalgia Comics in Eugene. I walked in one Wednesday mid-day to unpack and sort the boxes of toys from Diamond for all the eager box holders and regulars, sorting out the pre-ordered from the available to sell, price gunning everything to go to the shelves, handing items to 8D8 to arrange on the pegs or inside the long glass case garrisoning off that side of the long, shotgun space. I turned around to put an emptied box behind me like Satan and discovered perched on a wooden stool a stack of old magazines, a bunch of Epics and a slew of Heavy Metals, and the cover of the top most issue I knew all to well, it was the issue when Ranxerox left the coke head yuppie Eurotrash woman tied to a toilet with her own stockings in the men’s room. In my film adaptation, she could be played by Paris Hilton. Or Meagan Fox. Same difference, really.
Rather than get paid anything for my work in the shop that day, I left with a stack of Heavy Metals, the full NYC story arc and another stack with the original Rome story. Just missing the issue with the two headed Elvis impersonator and his grups versus the Lubna’s rug rat droogs with the acid filled squirt guns. Kudos if you caught the Miri reference there, fanboy. And yeah, I did have a childhood crush on Kim “Tootie” Fields on Facts of Life, that has no bearing on this rambling recount, though might explain my soft-spot for women with braces.
So from 70’s swinger fine art how to books to 70’s European comics getting translated, somewhat toned down, and reprinted in 80’s North American magazines, my inspirations and examples of feminine beauty had diversified, gained color, flavor, scratch and sniff complexity. And yet I still shied away from really drawing the feminine form. Not completely, a few waifish androgynous characters showed up here and there in my notebooks and in gifts for friends I wanted to impress, largely female friends. High colors, bowl cuts with shaved scalps otherwise, that late 80’s New Wave vogue pop art rife with Nagel, sharp angles, angry slashes of neon colors, Duran Duran album covers giving way to big hair rockers giving way to mod style odd style Eurotrash examples mashing the preceding ten years worth of fashions into a whirlwind of patterned, cuffed, tucked and rolled transitional confusion that dropped us all into 1987 with to much hair product, too much ancillary make up, too much brand awareness, and too many silly music video role models on cable TV, never mind all the wonderful and wonderfully crap films targeting that deliciously disposable income of teenagers. I am not a fashion animal, I am a human being…
Somewhere around early 10th grade I discovered Marshall Law being reprinted by Epic from the UK faced out on a low shelf near the back of the first comic book store I ever stepped foot into, a shop on the main shopping strip that ran along the side of the University of Kentucky like a symbiotic entity, conjoined twin, or multi-tiered tumor. Mom would let me play hooky on occasion and accompany her to work / school at the university, and I’d get to explore and wonder around while she taught or attended classes. The initial Epic published mini-series of Marshall Law taught me to draw buildings and settings that looked like objects related to the functions of the buildings, such as how the police station looked like a police pistol, or the funeral home a giant smoke spewing casket. More importantly, I learned that text could be incorporated into the art pretty much anywhere to help punch up the story and add gags, similar to the sorts of things Sergio Aragones had done in borders of the pages of Mad Magazine, or his colleges had done in the feature parodies. My approach to composing and framing images changed considerably the more exposure I had to the comics out of England, magazines like 2000AD and Toxic, stories like Bogie Man, Accident Man, Brats Bizarre, and of course Marshall Law.
By senior year I’d begun immolating and amalgamating an unfocused blend of Alpha Flight, X-Men, and Alien Legion with more recent discoveries like the TMNT, Slaine, and the gamut of European influences. I made up stories with no real plot or resolution, just myriad beats tied to cool sketches, doodles, or costumes. I hadn’t locked in on anything, however more and more of my protagonists were emerging women, or at least had Joker lipstick smiles razor sharp Ginsu finger nails, ala the influence of the crowd-pleaser character Molly from William Gibson’s epic, Neuromancer. Essentially all my early women were effectively castratory she-males, a statement that despite all the massive amounts of classical and contemporary notions of feminine form and beauty I’d sought out or otherwise been incidentally exposed too as a youth, I had only felt comfortable drawing masculine women and efficient men.
When I reached college this all changed somewhat, though not particularly until I took an art class that had a live model component, particularly a male dancer who enjoyed being watched and his up and down party blower of a penis that I drew as anime blur over his midsection since the man had so much swinging action on his dancing pole.
More about live nude models and learning little from them in the next installment.