Heroes at large...
One of the funnier byproducts of last Thanksgiving's Alabama visit, was a message sent to me by my 13 year old self, which arrived in the form of a timeworn stack of my earliest homemade comics. Above, you'll notice my recent reply to him... below, some bits of the books themselves. (as always, click to enlarge if you care to.)
Back in the mid 70's, superheroes ruled the American comic book roost, and there were few real "Graphic Novels" to speak of. I taught myself to tell these visual tales one shaky image at a time, and enjoyed every minute of it! I loved animals, so pretty much every superhero I'd ever created for myself was inspired by my favorite ones. "Write what you know," as they say.
"He was Desmond E. Andrews... Scientist, Animal Phsycologist (sic... I always had trouble spelling that one), Expert on Mutations. Until a freak experiment turned him into a 'missing link!' A cross between a man and the animal he worked on... A Living MONGOOSE!" (sic) I guess that explains why most Psychologists don't "Work on" Mongooses... it's liable to turn one savage, causing a hairy four foot tail to sprout from one's buttocks. The question posed on the cover was a purely rhetorical one... "Is he hero?! (sic) Or is he the most spellbinding villain of all?!" Lucky for us, he was hero.
Our friend the noble Mongoose was plagued by unfortunate lapses into feral dementia... which, while enabling him to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity, had the most embarrassing tendency to leave his expensive custom made fighting leotard in shreds. Not that you'd notice the raggedy vines while staring at the hairy four foot tail sprouting from his buttocks.
By 1977, the Mongoose was too 1975... so a new year demanded a new breed of hero... The JAGUAR!!! (insert roar) Dr. Kevin Kelly was dying of an inoperable brain tumor, (paging Narcissa) and through a series of hoary coincidences, found his DNA fused with that of the mighty Jaguar! (insert roar) He reacted to his newfound agility and vigor by knitting himself a hot form-fitting leotard (complete with fancy leopard skin speedo)... then hitting the streets in a nocturnal adrenaline pursuit, which enabled him, of course, to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity. And other metaphors for sex.
As any politician could tell you, "real artists steal," so I helped myself to the above image, which likely appeared in a 70's Marvel comic... I couldn't tell you who the artist that I stole it from stole it from, but that is how we artists learn to draw. And to steal.
So, three and a half decades have passed and I find myself in conference with my younger self. What I learned from him was the importance of doing what you love to do (as long as it doesn't hurt anybody) for as long as you love doing it. And that boasting on the cover of your comic book that it's "destined to become a classic" isn't really such an egotistical thing to have done when you were fifteen years old... actually I kinda admire my optimism (which probably IS a bit egotistical at 48). And if I were to stage a comeback for THE MONGOOSE AND THE JAGUAR in 2012, I'd definitely pair them up in a snazzy downtown condo, from where they might cruise the streets together in a nocturnal adrenaline pursuit, which would enable them, of course, to kick heaps of villainous behind with impunity. And other metaphors for sex.
Happy Hunting, Lance Tooks
(PS... Below, here's a preview image from my next original Graphic Novel, about which I'll tell you later. Trust me, it's destined to become a classic!)