Monday, February 12, 2007

More on My Resurrected Zombies,
Zulli's Turtle Reign Redux!

And a crisp Monday morning it is, too.

As I walked the length of our driveway, towing our garbage can down to the roadside for early morning pickup, I was dazzled by the early morning/night sky: as clear and sharp a sky as we've had this year, every star visible, the quarter moon low on the horizon. Beautiful!

Speaking of 'Roadside' (the abbreviated form of my Johnson State College nickname, 'Roadside Frog'), my old JSC pal and fellow 'Subhuman' (the moniker attached to all of us on the subfloor of Governor's dorm) Dave Booz snail-mailed me terrific color copies of a couple of my hand-drawn promotional 'posters' from my JSC Film Committee days, circa 1974-76. Thanks, Dave!

This makes three old Bissette movie posters that Dave has preserved over the years and provided me scannable color copies of, and once the new computer setup is in place, I'll be posting this ancient art and an account of the JSC film days/daze for your early morning entertainment. Though only one of the three Dave lovingly archived stands the test of time for me (still proud of my ballyhoo and art for the showing of Mario Bava's Hatchet for the Honeymoon, which is better than any of the genuine promo materials ever attached to that film's US theatrical or TV exhibition, if I may say so myself), it's still a hoot to see this stuff after thirty years.

One of the posters is from the second (or third)-most infamous film showing I hosted at JSC, Paul Bartel's Private Parts (not to be confused with the Howard Stern film of that same title); so lurid was my promo, via poster and radio spots on JSC's college FM station, that the non-violence class chained the doors shut to Dibden Theater -- thus endangering those already in the theater!

This bit of activism resulted in a real hubbub on campus, though we did show the film, and to an appreciative and fully-entertained packed house (thanks in part to my shrill ballyhoo, but also to the instantaneous outrage against the Non-Violence class's actions; word spread like wildfire on the campus about the chaining of the doors, bringing people out of the dorms to see what film sparked such a stunt, instantly doubling audience size by the time the chains were down and the film began). My subsequent administration meetings with JSC muckamucks and the teacher and a couple students from the non-violence class was memorable, too, for the revelation that none of them had ever seen or heard of the film: they were reacting to my shameless, over-the-top hucksterism alone! David Friedman, William Castle and K. Gordon Murray would have been proud!

Anyhoot, thank you, Dave, for these blasts from the past. I'll find a way to get them up on this blog in the very near-future -- and a big howdy, too, to Sparky this morning.

A is for Ambrose...

Pg. 1 of "An Alphabet of Zombies,"
(c) 2007 Daniel and Stephen R. Bissette,
from the Accent UK anthology Zombies (2007)

(If you're just tuning in after the weekend, be sure to read yesterday's lengthy post and reveal on my and my son Dan's part in the upcoming Accent UK Zombies anthology before getting into this part of today's post...)

Here's another preview of what Dan and I cooked up for the Accent UK Zombies anthology, which will be out in May -- Accent UK's biggest anthology yet. It's a treat to be part of this, joining the UK creators (including Leah Moore and John Reppion, whose invite got me into this in the first place) and the many CCS artists who've completed stories: Jeremiah Piersol, Denis St. John, Jaci June, Bob Oxman, Sean Morgan, Blair Sterrett, Morgan Pielli, and more. Kudos to CCSer Chris Warren (aka Radical Warren) for scanning and prepping my work for submission, too.

FYI, Danny and I worked on "An Alphabet of Zombies" throughout the move, but the real fun was in the final week or two; having divvied up the panels equally (26 letters in the alphabet, 13 zombies each), we each cooked up some ideas for rhymes and names, shaking it all up and out in a fun breakfast at the Chelsea Royal in Brattleboro, VT (where our lovely waitress, Rachel Johnson, also pitched in, solving one name-stumper and thus earning a 'thank you' byline on the final page). There, making sure we were juxtaposing my zombies with Dan's to ensure a good mix of art (I inked everything, to pull it all together visually), we made the final attachment of names to portraits and cooked the text for the most amusing final script.

Dan, being far more musical and a sharper ear for this sort of absurdity than his pop, had the better names and rhymes, so he polished the final draft and wrote up the final notes I lettered from. I had to deviate only once from this final post-it-note script, to ensure our two shortest zombies (Gaelen and Yusef) weren't on the same page.

Though we could have overloaded the alphabet with movie zombies, we chose not to go there, save for our second and third portraits, visible on the page one sampled, above. Bub is, well, Bub, and if you don't know who he is, you've never seen a proper zombie movie, have you? Bub is by far Dan's all-time fave cinematic zombie, so he had to stay. More in need of explanation, though, is Carrefour; that entry embodies a pervasive generational gap, since Darby Jones's unforgettable Carrefour in Maurice Tourneur & Val Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie (1943) was the best zombie my generation was exposed to via frequent TV showings of the RKO film library (Darby Jones recreated the role in Zombies on Broadway, too, though that's not a film I'd recommend to any but the heartiest '40s horror movie buffs). So, Dan's fave movie zombie, my fave movie zombie, and we went with all-original stiffs and boneheads thereafter.

(That's one deadline out of the way; now to attend to the encroaching deadline with Bob McLeod and Rough Stuff magazine!)

My daughter Maia and I also be hard at work on a four-page story, "Isola," though that'll be submitted to Accent UK for a future collection or title. Maia is scripting the original story, which unlike Dan's and my collaboration isn't funny: it's a sorrowful portrait of life after the walking dead apocalypse. The premise is Maia's own concept, revamped after a couple of face-to-face plotting sessions, and Maia has started the scripting, which is going well. It'll be interesting to see how we work out the visual collaboration, as our approaches to our art are quite strikingly different; Maia has evolved a couple of drawing styles distinctively her own. It should result in a compelling piece, and may evolve into a more expansive effort in time once this four-pager is done. "Isola" won't be in Zombies, but it was conceived as a result of that invitation to contribute -- in any case, we'll keep you posted via this blog once there's something to show for our collaborative effort.

In the meantime, I'll keep you posted here on progress on Accent UK's Zombies anthology, and post links for purchasing once it's available in the spring.

TMNT: Soul's Winter

Finally, on this fine Monday morn, I must note the pending graphic novel release of my good friend Michael Zulli's memorable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy. It's all under the title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul's Winter, and has just announced a special edition available only from P2P's online venue.

A little personal background, to explain why I'm plugging Michael's book here:
Michael and I met at the Holyoke Mall in Holyoke, MA, at a Dave Sim Moondance Comics signing back in the mid-to-late '80s, when he and compadre Steve Murphy were first negotiating with Dave Sim to publish their serialized environmental sf/fantasy epic Puma Blues.

We became close friends in the trenches of the pretty-much-forgotten distributor wars of the late '80s, primarily amid the ensuing hubbub over Diamond Comics and Puma Blues -- in short (tough to do), Diamond wanted to 'punish' Dave Sim over the first Cerebus 500-pg. volume (which Dave had in fact initially offered to Diamond and all distributors, though they'd declined, saying no one would pay $25 for a graphic novel; this is before The Dark Knight Returns hardcover collected, mind you, as it was Dave who broke the then-extant artificial price barrier/ceiling affixed to book-format graphic novels), and decided to do so by refusing to carry Puma Blues, misconstruing Dave as a traditional 'publisher,' which he was not, thus 'punishing' blameless Steve Murphy and Michael Zulli instead. You got that? Good. If not, rest assured it's not you: Diamond's stance made little-to-no sense then, either.

Friends of Michael, Steve, Dave and Puma Blues rallied, and it was in this weird, almost-inexplicable crossfire, that I'm sure makes almost no sense to 98% of you reading this today, that Michael and I really bonded. We in fact collaborated on not one but two stories for the Puma Blues benefit book, with Michael inking my pencils on a (now long-lost, likely never-to-be-reprinted) Alan Moore story featuring mating flying mantas (the flying manta rays were iconic in Puma Blues's invented universe), and my inking Michael's pencils on the opening story. I initially had a tough time inking his exquisite pencils, laboring through page one, shaken by how difficult it was to work with the stroke of Michael's pencils -- until I discovered a simple solution for inking page two: if I turned the page upside-down, my pen and brush stroke matched Michael's pencil strokes perfectly! He was (is) a lefty! So, I inked the rest of the entire story upside-down -- and it came out quite nicely, if I may say so.

But enough on that. The news isn't Puma Blues or this old hash -- the news is Michael's classic TMNT stories are at last collected in book form, complete beneath a stunning new cover by Michael himself.
  • is offering a special edition with a tipped-in bookplate, featuring a portrait of Master Splinter, created exclusively and signed by Zulli; the book is scheduled to ship within the next two weeks, and can be pre-ordered here!
  • And don't dawdle, if you're a Zulli or TMNT fan (or, best of all worlds, both!); the special bookplate edition of Tales of the TMNT: The Collected Books Volume 1 sold out and is no longer in reach, save for pricey online auctions (though the book itself
  • sans bookplate, is still available here).
  • However,
  • copies with the awesome Jim Lawson bookplate for Tales of the TMNT: The Collected Books Volume 2 are still available here, while supply lasts.

  • Michael's Soul's Winter is a real highlight of the truly mutant years of TMNT, when many guest artists offered their own unique takes on the Turtles. None were more unique than Michael's, who extrapolated an alternate TMNT universe as if Akira Kurosawa had 'directed' the ultimate TMNT film: turtles that looked like and behaved like reptiles, sheltered by a Master Splinter of true rodent origins, facing not only the mystical powers of an implacable foe (Shredder), but a confrontation with death incarnate on another realm of reality.

    Rendered in Michael's exquisite fine-line pen, brush and ink (on duo-shade), and anticipating his future work with Neil Gaiman on Sandman and other projects, Soul's Winter is among the loveliest of all the TMNT Mirage experiments, and the most memorable. This is a book well worth owning and revisiting -- more on the book, and Zulli's work, in future posts... but don't wait for my sorry ass,
  • visit Michael's own eye-popping website right this minute!

  • Have a great Monday, one and all...

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