Monday, September 25, 2006

Timm's the Season

Yep, it's getting to be that time of year alright! Time to get out and dust off all your rubber bats and styrofoam tombstones, 'cause Halloween is definitely a-comin'.

Bruce Timm's name has become synonymous with Batman and animated Superheroes in general...but like a lot of comics guys that grew up in the 1960's (myself included) the man loves old monster and Horror movies. Had he been born 10 years earlier I'm sure his covers and stories for Warren mags like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella would by now be both fondly remembered and well sought after.
So to officially open the Halloween season this post will focus on some lesser seen Timm artworks from the Horror and Monster genres.
WARNING --Because of the subject matter some of it may be a little adult in content for the young, squeamish or clothing-conscious (Super-sorry to all you moms out there)
First up are some truly great visions of the Karloff Frankenstein. The bee-yootiful painted portrait (above) almost has the feel of old Aurora model box art. The two others are definitely more in a Mad magazine cartoon-vein, but just as striking artistically.
Besides, it's a Bruce Timm monster art post...who else would I start with? Dracula?

Nah, in both song and story (and my book, at least) Dracula usually comes second.
So here, straight from the 1970s comes Tomb of Dracula Dracula, The Monster of Frankenstein Frankenstein, The Werewolf by night Werewolf and theTales of the Zombie Zombie...a...Legion of Monsters, if you will...

Actually, Dracula --and Vampires in general-- seem to be a recurring and favorite subject of Mr. Timm. Here's two Hammer visions of the Bloodsucker General, (as played by two different actors...Christopher Lee and David Peel) in two very different and illustrative styles.

Here's a Werewolf of sorts, very remniscent in style of longtime Warren Mag cover artist Ken Kelly. (Though the gal with the "tooth of steel" looks like she may be Red Sonja sans top.)

Aaaargh! Franken-zombies! Maybe they just think she's on the O. C. and want her autograph.

A slight variation on the "Blonde and the Big Gorilla" concept. Yeah, Baby!

One of Bruce's pals is fellow monster enthusiatists Henry Gilroy.
Henry is a longtime Hollywood writer who works in both animation and comics books.
In the times they worked together he and Bruce recognized their mutual adoration for old Monster movies and all things Halloweeny. At right is a flier for a party they had together in the 90's (and on my wife's birthday to boot!) done up like a 1960's Famous Monsters cover. (Henry has one of the most insane collection of guest-artists sketchbooks I've ever seen. A few of the killer pieces in this post are courtesy his collection.)

Not really familiar with this character , The Nocturnal(?). But it sure has that 1974 Warren magazine vibe goin' on. Kinda...eerie ...

More early 70s-type stuff. Jack Kirby's immortal (& short-lived) The Demon from the DC comic of the same name. Bruce redesigned the character twice for animation, but in either incarnation he never looked quite this pissed!

And Sabrina's uber-sexy comic cousin (designed by Alex Toth) from the pages of DC comics' House of Secrets.

Given Bruce's love for the macabre it should come as no huge
surprise that when the Batman models were revised
for the new WB show in 1997 the character whose makeover he was the happiest with was The Scarecrow. I can see that (The original BTAS Scarecrow was
way Scooby-Doo). I know that as a kid I would've just found that new face just too hard to look at. Really creepy, like in the same file with the Mummy from Jonny Quest.

A lot of ideas brought to the table on the original Batman: The animated series were shot down by Fox's Broadcast Standards and Practices. One such story that never saw the light of day involved Batman's involvement with a Betty Page-type Vampire babe named Nocturna. The show was in preproduction for the fall 1994 season when the team learned that Fox Broadcasters would never allow scenes that required Batman to be bitten by a vampire or of him later prowling around Gotham searching for blood (which they weren't allowed to show either). The episode was unfortunately shelved at that time, but I'm sure the story ideas and concepts hung around the studio long enough to help inspire the below BT stakin' sketch from 1993.

An animated-style Buffy takes on a similar vampire

This one's gruesome but I love it. It filled the page as you see it here. No cropping...and I'll be damned if I can see any layout or construction lines.

Bruce's Vampire lust continues into this century as he now regularly provides illustrations and covers for Little Shoppe of Horrors Hammer Film related magazine.

Lust for a Vampire is a Hammer favorite of Mr. Timm's, (you really can't lose with Hammer vampire chicks!)... At left is Bruce's hand-drawn video box he did awhile back for his personal VHS tape of Lust for a Vampire. The image of a blood-drenched Yutte Stensgaard stayed with Bruce and she popped up again years later in a pen and ink spot illo he did for Little Shoppe magazine.

But my favorite is still the deluxe one below from a mid-90s sketchbook page.

Bruce --amongst other things--loves to draw beautiful women...and he loves to draw vampires. So it just makes sense he would eventually get to draw Vampirella when the character was ressurected by Harris publications in the 1990's. Here's an original page from A Vampi story he did for her rebirth .

He contributed some great covers too --like this nifty Vampi illustration at right. It's really a shame he never got a chance to do many real horror comic stories since he has such a natural flair for the material. This particular cover image almost has the feel of a 1970's poster.

...And this design is more trippy... and even more like an early '70s poster.

But if there's one piece that's a show-stopper it's this next one. It's my favorite Vampi piece, ever. When I first saw it I seriously thought about quitting the business. Frazetta, meet Jack Davis. Davis...Frazetta.

Woof! Nothing to follow that but

My Ocktober thanks and hats off to B. Timm, H. Gilroy, J. Campana, J. Suggs and M. Fontinelli, without whose help and consideration this post would've been much less festive.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flintstones odds and ends

Going through all my files to prepare the Ed Benedict piece I kept coming across these little Flintstones related WTF's and cool curiosities --so I thought they might as well have their own post. I'll leave which is which up to you. Above is a flyer for the release of the 1997 Flintstones Laserdisk box set (Naturally I thought it appropriate to start with the "Flintstone Flyer" heh, heh...)

Not sure what the story is on these "Walk-Around" Costumes. The sculpts on the faces seem really decent...but the rest of the costumes have a "Little Rascals" feel to them.

These two are really googly. I can only imagine how hot costumes like that would be in the Arizona sunshine. Of course, Bedrock City only hires "little people" to wear these things and the legs are stilts. Hey, it might be true! (That would explain the massive varicose veinage on their legs, at least!)
Here's an odd 1970's ad for Eaton Truck Components penned by the one-and-only Carlo Vinci! Proportions might be a little skewy, but you can clearly see that Carlo sense of movement in every pose.

We picked this up at lunch when I worked at Designefx (I think at Denny's) in the early 1990's.
At the time (for some reason) we thought the scrambled answers were pretty damn funny.

In 1980, when I was in college we had an assignment to do-over a childrens book illustration with the style of a different famous artist (like Dr. Suess illustrated by Maurice Sendak). I chose the "Little Golden Book" of the Flintstones as envisioned by longtime Hunter Thompson cohort and visual scribe Ralph Steadman. I think I got a B-.

This 1960's "gift, prize or party favor" looks like it was designed by however painted the cartoon characters on the front of the local kindergarden in my hometown of Smyrna. I thought it was a mix-and-match kinda toy, but look at how "wacky" all the possible combinations get on the box...

The Flintstones 35th anniversary was marked with some of the coolest modern 'Stones merchandising ever. I still have some great shirts I bought (yep, had to buy 'em) at the Turner Store back then. Here's a Taco Bell bag adorned with cool retro designs by Craig Kellman.

...And here's the other side! Too bad Wilma doesn't look this cool on the same-era studio model sheets.

Eh...I thought for a minnit this was Dave Strandquest in a Halloween costume...but no, it's Weird Al in a 1995 Red Hot Chili Peppers takeoff with Flintstones related lyrics.

Pretty deluxe entrance for a stage play as the Stones taxi out on stage courtesy Pteradactyl airlines. (Though the guys walking around in street clothes sorta kills the illusion.)

Fred's "Real" Cars

There are parks all over the world that feature Flintstones homes and vehicles. I'll finish up this post with a look at some of the different ways Fred's (and Barney's) Cars have been interpeted into reality. Here's one from the Bedrock town set up at the Grand Canyon.

Here's the Flint-Car from one of the ill-fated Flintstones movies (Looks like it might be in the shop with some front wheel trouble). Designed kinda long for my taste. My biggest complaint with ALL the cars in those films is that they move about as fast as earth-moving equiptment.

Here's Barney's car from the Grand Canyon exhibit as well...all nice and shiny.

This deluxe car show car "The Wilma" is more on-model than any of the movie-car versions. Be really cool if it actually worked (with a 500 dinosaur-power engine).

This last car from an amusement park in Bulgaria(?) might just be my favorite. Like Fred's Car in the original opening title sequence, It feels just primitive enough to be sorta believable. Actually though --judging by the condition of the "happy-fun slide" in the background --this might just be the park owner's car. (I'd love to see him going 80 on the freeway in this contraption!)
More cool stuff next week.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tom and Jerry: Mark Kausler article from 1968

Animation fandom in the 1960's (and half of the 70's) was more underground than underground comics. If you were to find source of information it usually meant an article, not an issue. In this case someone --at an Atlanta comic convention in the 1970's-- was selling off issues they had from a big stack of the digest-sized fan-magazine Film Fan Monthly (edited by Leonard Maltin). I remember eagerly rifling through them, digging for some of the sporatic animation articles which they sometimes ran, and this was one of the ones I came up with. From the November 1968 issue comes this still-lively and informative article written by animation great Mark Kausler. (Wow, 1968? He musta been a teenager!) The Cat and Mouse duo had only been around 29 years when he wrote this summary/appreciation --over 38 years ago! Stuff like that always amazes me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

R. I. P. Ed Benedict (1912-2006)

This past week the animation world lost yet another one of the all-time greats, and a cornerstone of the Hanna- Barbera style, Mr. Ed Benedict --He was 94. During Ed's long and versatile career he was a firebrand, a maverick, a boon to his craft. To say that he was the world's most proflic animation character designer would not be much of a stretch.
Ed started his animation career in the 1930's animating at Universal for Walter Lantz. He worked on various shorts and eventually wound up doing a stint at Disney working on Make Mine Music in 1946.
In the 1950's Ed found work at the MGM cartoon unit working with the legendary Tex Avery. Eerily one of the first projects he worked with Avery was a cartoon about cavemen in a stone-age modern society. (that being The First Bad Man, 1955) His next project with Tex had him doing a 1950's-style redesign of his perennial favorite, (and oldest of the Avery stable of characters still getting new ink and paint) Droopy Dog in 1955's Deputy Droopy. (Basically a remake of an earlier Avery Rock-a-bye Bear (1952)--But this cartoon is a standout because of Ed's great designs, snappy timing, crazier gags than it's predecessor, and some dynamite animation by usual H-B animator Irv Spence!)
It wasn't long though before Tex was off to Universal and Ed became chief layout artist on a series of cartoons with Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna in what would be his best-known and longest professional association.
Starting with the Cinemascope Tom & Jerry Mucho Mouse (1957) Ed would go on to redesign the Droopy character even more for some new animated outings helmed this time by Joe and Bill. (below)

Ed worked on half a dozen Droopys before the MGM unit closed it's doors. But he never missed a beat as he started work almost immediately doing layouts for Joe and Bill on The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958) and the following year on The Quick Draw McGraw Show (1959). From there he worked on countless shows and character designs up through the Hong Kong Phooey Show in 1974. (Actually he did return to the biz to help out John K, with some layout on his late 1990's Ranger Smith and Boo-Boo cartoons.)
As much as I admired Ed as an artist, I never actually got a chance to meet him. That in mind, I feel like there's only so much I can say that won't just be an echo of everyting else that has written about him in the last week.
John Kricfalusi, on the other hand knew Ed quite well and has many kind words for the animation pioneer on his Blog (calling him among other things "one of the true giants of animation...the greatest character designer in the whole history of the medium).
Since, according to John, one good Ed design is worth about a hundred-million dollars, here's about a BILLIONS worth of Ed's ingenious and deceptively simple character designs and sketches. (...And while some of these images have been been xeroxed half to death...I still couldn't find the majority of 'em anywhere else on the 'net.)

With Ed's importance to the birth of the Flintstones I can't help but start there --Most people who know anything of Ed's work know he was the main designer of the series --however turns out I have so much material on that subject decided I wanted to use to save it for an "Ed and Fred" post sometime soon. Here I just wanted to pay tribute to some of his other work and show a little more of the true scope of Ed's talent and his importance to the animated medium.

Okay, I just said no more Flintstones hell, first you gotta see these cool Ed cave-chicks!

Now check out the evolution of some of Ed's first Yogi designs...

Almost there...

Bingo! --I know that crazy kleptomaniac Bear!

And the other one...ah, there he is...good show.

Oh yeah...Those Yogi Bear Scribble trees? Totally Ed.

See? Here's the same type designs from the 1955 Avery cartoon Field and Scream.

Likewise for the origins of Huckleberry Hound...just a few lines and suddenly there he is...the germ of a merchandising juggernaut.

And heeere's the Big Blue Dog! (wearing the hat he wore in only one cartoon, to my recollect.)

Some of Ed's earliest Top Cat cat sketches and designs...

So...ol' Jinksy boy was Snooper briefly...hmmm.

And Snooper was...Snooper.

The first Quick Draws and Baba Louies.

Oop...did I say Baba Louie? ...I guess I meant Poco...(?)

Some Snagglepuss Concepts.

...He's got him!

I rather like this Lippy over the one Joe and Bill went with. If you imagine it with the same voice it seems much more appealing.

Early Magilla Gorilla...

The original Crusader Rabbit Show designs were courtesy of Ed as well.

Ed's Wacky Wildlife and Barnyard Animals.

Ed's Advertising Art

Happy Housewives. (They just loves to iron!)

The Ipana Chipmunk was Ed's design too!
Anybody for Flapjacks?

...And the list goes on and on....

Obviously this still just scratches the surface of the total of Ed's artristic output, but hopefully it might help provide some fresh insights as to his versality and the true proportion of his loss as a designer.
My heartfelt condolences to go out to Mr. Benedict's family and friends, and special thanks on this post to John K., Joe S., and Jordan R. for inspiration, info and artworks.