Two big events in the Domainsphere here this week (OK, three if you count the official return of the superhero’s best tool against evil and crime, Twinkies), both of which are intertwined somewhat — score one for synchronicity.
First, my business and creative partner, artist James E. ‘Doodle’ Lyle will be making his first trek to the holiest of nerd meccas, San Diego Comic-Con. This has been something he’s looking forward to and building up to doing for years, and having known him for twenty years, I’m extremely thrilled for, and proud of, my pal.
For Doodle, this is exclusively a business trip, as he’ll be pushing his impressive portfolio with a number of publishers, editors, and industry gatekeepers, so fingers are crossed on both coasts.
James is Chairman of the South Central chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, and will be appearing at the NCS booth at SDCC — 1307 and 1309, which is just inside Lobby B and near the huge Mile High Comics booth — on Thursday, July 18 from 1 PM to 3 PM, and Friday, July 19 from 3 PM to 5 PM.
So if you’re in the neighborhood and not too busy, please drop by and say hello — James will be doing sketches, and will have prints and comics he’s done for sale.
Here’s a shot for a project we’ve been working on called Rebootleg, sort of a creative exercise where we take a stab at unofficially rebooting an established iconic comics character — I’ve been dying to show this off for months, as Doodle came up with the look first and I built the whole reboot concept around the visual design: a fun, sort of hipsterish and very Ditkoesque take on a certain world-famous wall-crawler.
Art © 2013 James E. Lyle
Initially, our plans were to tie Rebootleg in with the release of the superhero summer blockbusters, like Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, and The Wolverine, but schedules unfortunately got away from us. We’re still going to do it, at some point, though, as the ideas we brainstormed are too fun to just languish in e-mails on our hard drives.
We’ve got several projects in the works, not the least of which is launching a business venture, Vintage Robo Design Co., to create original characters and IP to be featured on prints, posters, t-shirts, and just about any other merch we can think of, as well as try to get said characters into print in various formats.
Wolfman and Chickadee © James E. Lyle
I wrote earlier about our first formal effort, Wolfman, which is a parody / homage romp through the superhero Silver Age. Here’s a more recent piece, pencils for a cover-style print featuring one of the Canine Crusader’s arch-foes, the perilous Marie Puffins, a brilliant mash-up between Mary Poppins and the Penguin that Doodle cooked up because as a kid, he was a little confused that Mary and Oswald Cobblepot both had what he called an ‘umbrella fetish’ — which immediately made me break out into gales of gleeful laughter.
Wolfman, Chickadee, Marie Puffins and artwork © James E. Lyle. (But I helped write the captions on this one.)
That’s the sort of thing you can just plain have unbridled fun with. Getting paid to do so is almost icing on the cake.
Doodle and I have discussed a few other possibilities in the past several weeks, for books that would combine short themed fiction with full-page poster / print-ready illustrations — a crime noir meets mythological fantasy mashup, sort of Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane writing Prohibition era tales of gangsters and Greek gods; a wicked tribute to classic 50s and 60s era horror and suspense as embodied in the original Tales From The Crypt EC comics and The Twilight Zone with a sexy rockabilly pin-up twist, but the one we’ve really taken a shine to is the most recent, which actually came out of the Fourth of July Nazi-Punching posts here on Public Domain.
Tentatively titled ‘Victory Girls’, it’s an all-female protagonist tribute to the madness and sheer brute creativity of Golden Age era superheroes and pre-comics pulp fiction, where the rules of the genre and medium were still being written on cheap four-color newsprint and the ink was still fresh enough to stain your fingertips.
And the deeper we went into this particular rabbit hole, the more we started to realize that this is almost custom-made for the burgeoning female nerd fanbase that seems to be growing week by week. These classic 1940s female archetypes are not the same arrested adolescence, hyper-sexualized softcore schoolboy fantasies that populate modern comics.
These were characters that were just as fully realized as their male counterparts and just as strong, starring in their own features and not just existing as part of the supporting cast as the love interest or spouse.
Even though these stories are period specific and chronicle the tales of masked heroines helping out with the war effort during WW II, there’s some timeless qualities that we think will still resonate well with modern day readers.
The more and more I see modern-day superheroes being drug farther and farther into grim and gritty ‘realism’, the more need I see for a return to form where superheroes were actually morally upstanding people with amazing (and wholly unrealistic) abilities trying to do the right thing without a cowl full of angst-ridden psychosis they’re trying to work out with fists, boomerangs and eyeblasts.
I’ll certainly share more about this project as it comes together, but for now you can check out Doodle’s amazing off-the-cuff visualizations of two of our Victory Girls: Tiger Girl, our version of the ‘jungle queen’ archetype, and Millie Moon, the ‘Human Cartoon’, a feminized take on the ‘elastic’ Plastic Man / Elongated Man type crimebuster.
Victory Girls’ Tiger Girl © Michael Allan Leonard and James E. Lyle. Art and design by James E. Lyle.
Victory Girls’ Millie Moon, The Human Cartoon © Michael Allan Leonard and James E. Lyle. Art by James E. Lyle (who actually did this rough sketch on a lark during a slow moment at a group signing event with several other comics artists and cartoonists at a Barnes & Noble last weekend).
My other big event this week is that I’ve decided to finally end the ‘beta’ phase of James and my DoorMan webcomic and officially begin promoting it.
DoorMan was the project that first brought us together as a creative partnership in 1993, and while Doodle has had far more published credits than I have, DoorMan is my main claim to fame when it comes to creating comics — and in many ways, after all the dozens of other characters and concepts I’ve created and worked on, published and unpublished, it’s still my favorite ‘child’.
DoorMan is the story of Janus de Nile, an enigmatic time-traveler who has devoted himself to destroying sentient psychic poltergeist-like parasites called the Arcanum. The Arcanum, sort of Lovecraftian ectoplasmic nightmares, take root in the minds of people who suffer strong guilt, remorse, and regret tied to secrets they hold from their past.
The only way for a host to rid him or herself of the Arcanum and escape a downward spiral into madness is to dig up the past they’ve spent so much time and effort burying and hiding from others, and confess what happened to them.
And Janus plays the role of therapist, taking them back to the past to directly confront the events that led to their repression of the truth — think Ebenezer Scrooge’s sojourn in A Christmas Carol within the context of a 1990s Vertigo comic, and you’re on the right track.
DoorMan © Michael Allan Leonard and James E. Lyle
DoorMan’s always been a difficult prospect to pitch briefly, and the influences are all over the map — there’s steampunk in elements of the Victorian-styled visual design of the character, certainly heavy nods to Gaiman’s Sandman and other 90s era Vertigo titles like Hellblazer and Kid Eternity, and there’s also some Doctor Who in the mix with the mind bendy time travel elements.
So if any of that hodgepodge of influences and inspirations sounds appealing, by all means, please check it out.
James and I did five issues of DoorMan for two different publishers between 1993 and 1995, and while he had a small international fanbase and got good press, the book just never caught on. Our sales back then would actually be impressive today, but when you were talking that even low-end ‘successful’ comics were pushing thirty or forty thousand in sales a month, we were barely a ripple in the pond.
So we’re looking at this webcomic version as a way to get a second chance, two decades later, with a lot more experience with our respective crafts under our belt, with a whole new generation of readers — literally.
We’re hoping to offer up the original material in a variety of formats, both the updated-weekly free webcomic, and various print and digital editions. Doodle just put the finishing touches on a new cover for the original 1993 debut issue, and we’re getting ready to submit it to comiXology’s creator-owned ‘Submit’ program very shortly.
Here’s the final cover for the comiXology pitch, which James based on a Silver Age Batman cover by Carmine Infantino and Irv Novick that has deep personal meaning to him — that issue of Batman was one of the comics that made him decide to go into art and pursue a career as a cartoonist and comics artist.
And, it just plain looks awesome.
DoorMan © Michael Allan Leonard and James E. Lyle. Art and color art by James E. Lyle, 2013.
I’ve been working on getting this webcomic up and running for a year, and started out with pretty much zero computer literacy beyond operating a web browser, and yet somehow I’m now a webmaster (not that I’ve come anywhere near mastering the skills I’m going to need to develop).
It’s not perfect, but thanks to a recent upgrade by the WordPress folks to their self-hosted software, I was able to pick a much better theme that works much better with my webhost without crashing and freezing the site, and I think in time I can make it look pretty sharp, one tweak at a time (and plenty of swearing and cursing and wondering why this or that didn’t work the way it was supposed to).
And I also placed a version of the webcomic on several long-established webcomics hosting sites, which I’ve been quietly learning the ropes of over the last few weeks. Those, too, need some work to get beyond basic vanilla templates, but they’re functional, and I have to say, I’d never really given the media subset of webcomics much of a consideration, and I was surprised by some of the really great work being done in that space — but more on that in the future.
So, without further adieu, I’d like to cordially invite everyone to DoorMan’s ‘home’ site, www.doormanonline.net .
DoorMan Online is the deluxe version of the site, with expanded commentary and exclusive materials, and thanks to the recent WP Jetpack upgrade, functions much the same as Wordpress.
You can also find DoorMan on the following webcomics hosting sites:
The main site is a little behind the webcomic host ‘mirrors’, but all of them should be firing in sync very soon, and updates will be every Wednesday across the board.
So, to wrap it up, if you’re going to be at SDCC, swing by the NCS booth and say hi to Doodle, and James and I both hope you’ll check out and enjoy DoorMan.
(click on banner to jump to the start of the webcomic)
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain! If you want more free comics, give our 2013 Free Comic Book Day offering, NightStorm, a look by clicking on the icon below:
We’ll get back to the Hostess Ads shortly — thanks for indulging me in a little shameless self-promotion.