To help celebrate Free Comic Book Day this year, I’ve pulled one of the stories I’ve written out of the longbox and scanned it in. I’ll get out of the way and let you read — from M.A.I. N. Publishing’s Test Drive #1 in 1997, here’s Nightstorm, with artwork and lettering by DoorMan co-creator James E. ‘Doodle’ Lyle:
Nightstorm was a character that I originally came up with when I was in high school and wanted to be a comics artist as well as a writer, before I realized that I was a lot better at the latter than the former.
Also, the former is very, very hard.
He was pretty much a generic Batman / Punisher sort of vigilante (exactly the sort of character a fifteen year old who read a lot of Wolverine, Batman, and Punisher would come up with) dressed head to toe in ninjaesque jet black spandex with white pinstriping on his arms and legs. That seemed much easier to draw than a highly detailed costume, and it did look kind of cool. I never really did much with him outside of my high school art classes — although I do recall my entrance portfolio to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1990 had a comics cover-like shot of him in it.
When James and I were offered a slot in Test Drive #1, I dusted Nightstorm off after close to a decade to rework as a concept. James and I are both big Batman fans, so we thought it would be interesting to do a supernatural urban vigilante that fit that mold, but had powers, wielding both electricity / lightning as well as being able to manipulate shadows / darkness in a Green Lantern sort of fashion.
We were both a little tired, too, of the ultraviolent superhero comics of the time, so we both liked the idea of subverting the trope and having a character who started out as a ruthless revenge-seeker, but would learn that an eye-for-an-eye mentality ultimately left everyone suffering and blind.
I’ll refrain from commenting on my own writing — including such timeless gems as “Nobody gets in our crib!” — but Doodle absolutely knocked the visuals out of the park. We knew going in that the story was going to be in black-and-white, so he chose to do elaborate pencil shading rather than just traditional inks, and it still, sixteen years later, looks phenomenal.
Black and white comics are an art form unto themselves, where you can’t just rely on a colorist to come along and make the work ‘pop’, and James is one of the absolute best of taking that ball and running with it. I’ve worked with James almost exclusively throughout my comics writing career — together we’ve done six full issues’ worth of material and a couple of short stories, totalling around two hundred pages of published material, and there’s still more that hasn’t seen the light of day (yet).
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have partnered up with someone who makes my scribblings look so good.
Test Drive #1 was a sampler-slash-anthology of sorts, original material with a few pages of samples from other comics: Ben Dunn’s Warrior Nun Areala, and some unlettered pages by comics legend Gil Kane from Alan Moore’s Judgement Day revamp of Rob Liefeld’s Image characters for Liefeld’s Awesome Comics.
While Doodle probably won’t say so himself, as far as I’m concerned, he crushed all comers in that issue, and gave even Gil a run for his money.
Speaking of Rob Liefeld, he actually contributed one of the two covers to Test Drive #1 (which was a flipbook format which required you to flip the comic over halfway through and allowed it to be displayed with either cover facing the reader).
I have no idea if Rob actually drew the Youngblood group shot specifically for the issue, or if it was an unused promo piece that he donated, but it still amuses me to say that I did a comic that had a Liefeld cover. It was the 90s, and while Rob’s star power was diminished a little by ’97, I’m sure it prompted quite a few people into at least picking it up off the rack and flipping through it that otherwise wouldn’t have.
If anyone happens to be in the Asheville, NC area for FCBD on Saturday, Doodle will be appearing at ‘Geek Out’ at the Sherrill Center on the campus of The University of Ashville-NC, and he’ll also be at Heroes Con in Charlotte a few weeks from now in June.
If you like James’ art on Nightstorm, he’s got a new project coming out soon called Game of Horror with writer Shane Berryhill published by Monsterverse, which is drop-dead gorgeous, and there’s another comic beyond that — I’ll definitely be covering those in more detail here in the near future. You can follow James’ own blog at The Light of Day.
James and I will also be launching our DoorMan webcomic hopefully in early June. Here’s a quick glimpse at one of our promo flyers that’s debuting at Geek Out this weekend:
We’re going to be offering DoorMan as a weekly webcomic, and we’re also looking at various ways to make it available in print and as a digital download, some of which may appear later this year. If you’re so inclined, you can visit DoorMan Online and sign up for updates.
James and I have got several other collaborations in the works, including one that will debut here on Public Domain next month: a new feature we’re calling ‘Rebootleg’, where we take a crack at rebooting various comics icons as if they were brand new characters debuting for the first time today . . . and mindful of the fact that both of us generally dislike reboots as fans and the underlying connotation that the ‘old stuff sucks’.
Hope you enjoyed Nightstorm — I’d like to come back to him at some point, and I’ve started kicking around ideas for a revamp that will be a little different from the initial incarnation, along the lines of Frank Miller’s Daredevil with bits of Doctor Strange and The Crow tossed in for good measure.
Happy Free Comic Book Day!