Tales of Adequacy No. 700

They look kind of mad...but not because it's No. 700!  They like that.

They look kind of mad…but not because it’s No. 700! They like that.

Keep scrolling, True Believers. There’s a lot to this post…No. 700 is a mega sized event issue!

I’ve been watching the issue number count creep up to Seven Hundred for weeks now. I’ve been talking about it out loud, worrying over what to draw. Thinking hard about how to make the post special, a milestone, an event. I wanted to do something interesting, to celebrate the influences on the strip, and to take my mind in some way off the grim, day to day realities that inform the strip itself.

When the composition above came to me, celebrating the cast of the book, as well as using the old Marvel Comics cover elements (top corner cover symbol, code stamp) that I love from my youth, it took little time to draw the roughs. It was done with excitement about the project, because it just felt good. Here are the original roughs, not cleaned up, in pencil:

The first pencils.

The first pencils.

We have been trying to teach the students about evolution…the idea that something, living or not, can be refined by exterior forces. That the thing will grow, become focused on some traits, and not on others. This improves it, and makes it, or its descendants, better and more fit, ultimately more appropriate to the environment they are in. With this in mind, I took time to document each of the stages, each version of the No. 700 issue, to make sure that I could illustrate that a similar selection process of refinement takes place in creative work. I’m illustrating that to my students as well as to you, True Believers!

The inked black and white.  I'm still amazed by how much inking matters.

The inked black and white. I’m still amazed by how much inking matters.

There…I said it. Inkers may be tracers, but they are important tracers. Tracers that add quality. The step after this is to add color, which I usually do in colored pencils. A few times I’ve deviated from that, once or twice in marker, other times in mixed media. The color, intitially, looked like this:

Colored pencils, with no logos or alteration.

Colored pencils, with no logos or alteration.

Once that was done with, the work became all about the Adequacy logo and other color logos, doing a physical paste up (yes, I do it physically) reproducing it, and doing the image work on the digital repro. The end result of that is the lead image above. It’s a lot of work, and makes me have more respect for production artists who have to import graphics into a unified appearance, such as a trading card set. All around you, in merchandising, that kind of production art happens, and we think nothing of it. Hmmm.

Still…since I was going for a retro feel, like an old Marvel comic, I decided to do an artificially faded retro variant. That was pretty easy, and the result is right here, below. I like it, but not as much as the lead image, which really captures the feel I was after.

The faded retro version.  The colors are still visible, since it uses an artificial yellowing process, instead of a sepia filter.  If you cared.

The faded retro version. The colors are still visible, since it uses an artificial yellowing process, instead of a sepia filter. If you cared.

So what’s the art about? It’s the regular cast, of course. Horsey hasn’t been around much, but from the look of him, that’s because he’s been spending time in the gym, bench pressing stadiums and such. I wanted a feeling like they were going to make a last stand, like they were gearing up for something important. That they weren’t happy, but would still fight the good fight. I wanted the look of people that stood for something.

I didn’t want to focus on their conflict. I wanted instead, to focus on the people that were going to do or die…not on their antagonists.

In the end, I was very happy with it.

In the comic book store though, it dawned on me. That most magical of words to comics publishers…Variants.

I felt that I had slighted comics that I loved. Sure, eighties Marvel stuff is great, but I love DC comics too. Or did, pre New 52. I felt like I owed the guys across town some love, at this super high number issue. I decided, hastily, to do a DC comics style variant, full of Silver Age goodness. It would explicitly show the antagonist, and have slogans on the cover, and would go “blub.”

Here is the result:

See this?  This demanded artificial aging.  Demanded it.

See this? This demanded artificial aging. Demanded it.

You don’t need a whole lot of insight to make this work. It’s as cut and dried as the Silver Age books it emulates. The protagonist is calling for help, as the utopian science city of the future that the cast has been trying to build is capriciously vandalized by a giant Darth. I mean…that’s all in the picture. The symbolism is pretty, pretty thinly veiled here…but if you need a picture drawn, new policies are making even the most basic of procedures and proceedings at my school site stop functioning.

Last year, we were around a dozen points shy of being a “good school,” officially, according to standardized test scores. Fights on campus were minimal, the uniform was working, things were turning around. Now, like this image, all I need to do is look out the window, and I can see parts of that former success falling down. People above my pay grade will tell me that “it’s for the best,” and that “things were so bad before.”

Revisionist history, that.

Still, I’m very happy with the DC variant. Here are the black and white, un-aged pencils.

The black and white DC style variant.

The black and white DC style variant.

At that point…I got a little carried away with variants.

A little.

See, Marvel is doing these “animal variants.” They’re simple…the Marvel characters are re-imagined as some kind of animals. Usually cute and/or adorable animals. Sometimes anime style, sometimes kind of anthropomorphic…sometimes not. There’s a wide range, you see?

I thought, “Wow…I’m slighting anime, and I kind of like that. Plus, animal variants sound cool.” That quickly led to my clipboard, which led to drawing, which led to the variant below:

So...that's what the fox says.

So…that’s what the fox says.

My local comic book store has been getting in reprint of the old school Disney “Little Golden Books.” Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella…the same beginning readers illustrated children’s books with the distinct gold tape binding as in the 70’s. They are oddly awesome. A tiny bit of the Disnified past, completely reproduced, shiny and new.

I haven’t ever been that big a Disney fan. Wasn’t really our thing, even as a family. Still, I had tons of those Little Golden Books. Seeing them produced ANOTHER Issue No. 700 Variant…the Little Golden Book. There are two versions…

With animated hearts...

With animated hearts…

...and without.

…and without.

Even our hero is getting a bit fed up with variant covers here, even though she wasn’t even in the “animal variant.” I’m fairly certain this is the first time she has been depicted in a dress of any kind, as when dressing up, she normally wears the Jim Lee Suit, or an actual suit and tie. Since all of those Golden Books seem to be about princesses, it seemed appropriate. Plus, now she can go to tea parties with Wolverine.

I really want to turn the heart laden one into some kind of jewelry or keychain or other kitsch. We will see. More important than any of that is the design of her dress. I based it on Cinderella’s dress, as depicted in the Little Golden Book, and in the animation of the time. That’s why she’s still wearing her converse….comfort. Plus…the Prince should be looking at her FACE…not wandering around with a pair of shoes trying to figure out who he was dancing with all night.

Anyway, I was very surprised to discover that Cinderella’s dress now looks different. It’s a lot more complex, with a lot more bells and whistles, and glitter:

See?  Less puffy, more dress like.  More glitter.  But no animated hearts for her!

See? Less puffy, more dress like. More glitter. But no animated hearts for her!

I would never have notices the design change without having to draw the dress. Pretty interesting, in an odd way.

She should be wearing a party dress. Our hero that is. Because this is already the second largest month Adequacy has ever had, as well as having Issue No. 700 hit. That’s a big deal. In the interest of being about strip history, I’m going to post here, in order, the most popular postings of this landmark month.

Let’s take a look:

No. 1: DC Sketch Cover Madness: Superman and Wonder Woman

Since posting a few months ago, this has been consistently popular.  Artie, the Desk Amazon, hasn't had all that many appearances.

Since posting a few months ago, this has been consistently popular. Artie, the Desk Amazon, hasn’t had all that many appearances.

No. 2: Totally Eighties!

A very recent, but very popular post.  I'm fond of it too.  I especially like the car...cars are tough.

A very recent, but very popular post. I’m fond of it too. I especially like the car…cars are tough.

No 3: Thane, Son of Thanos…Our Hero, Not Mom of Thane!

Also a very consistently popular post.  Odd to me, since it's basically a "yo' momma" joke.  About Marvel's Infinity Crossover.

Also a very consistently popular post. Odd to me, since it’s basically a “yo’ momma” joke. About Marvel’s Infinity Crossover.

No 4: Heaven Ain’t Close In A Place Like This.

In the couple of days since publishing, this has been wildly popular, and skyrocketed up the charts.  I like the image, but the piece saddens me.  I'm glad it was well received.

In the couple of days since publishing, this has been wildly popular, and skyrocketed up the charts. I like the image, but the piece saddens me. I’m glad it was well received.

And tied for No. 5…

iOS 7: The Dark Path that Dominated LAUSD’s Destiny!

I'm startled that the iPad plotline still has a following.  Even in the LA Times and national news media.

I’m startled that the iPad plotline still has a following. Even in the LA Times and national news media.

Planning Next Year’s Budget: Adventure Time!

This is the oldest of the posts tied for fifth, and it has ALWAYS been popular. It’s a cover and three pages. I digitized them before i had a good camera…so the quality is not as good. I also “remastered them” to have a similar look and feel in production value to the rest of the page.

The cover...

The cover…

Page One...

Page One…

...page two.  The first appearance of the Pony Cannon.

…page two. The first appearance of the Pony Cannon.

And finally, tied for fifth place in popularity this month…

ComicsPro Speech: Reality Check!

Thank you, Eric Stephenson.

Thank you, Eric Stephenson.

It’s fun looking back, and seeing what other people liked. It’s a very different lens to view the work through, literally the voice of the people. It kind of gives me an idea of what I want to develop, where I want to go, things I can focus on.

What started as one mildly funny drawing done out of frustration has become one of the largest, and certainly longest in terms of time, projects that I have ever undertaken. By looking back, I can see just how far my practice as an artist of sorts has taken me, and i am oddly proud of this strange pursuit.

To everyone who has been reading, and there have been many of you (although no one signs up as a follower…whats that about?)…thank you. There are days where the hit counter having a high number on it is a very big deal, a sort of psychological oasis amidst a lot of crazy.

Adequacy has changed over time, as my school has. It went from being more positive and whimsical, with antagonists from the outside, to a more dystopian view, with villains from within. Our hero has changed costume, and that was a big deal. I didn’t notice it at the time it happened, but I guess that’s how the subconscious works.

Many of my colleagues have left the school, not having a different way to express their discomfort. Being honest, my co-teacher and I are actively looking…we hope to take our show, as it were, on the road. With fifty days of school left, issue 800 should happen during the summer, well outside this dystopian vision. That makes me glad, really…although the strip just sort of goes wherever events, and the day in general, takes it…I’d love to get back to a more bright view.

I’d like to feel right having her wear the star logo t-shirt again.

Still, I love the lightning bolt jacket, and the spirit that still comes through. Clearly, you guys don’t mind, since only one of the faves from the last thirty days was from the Original Costume period. Often, the best part of my day is drawing whatever the protagonist has to say about the events, and re-interpreting them in her world.

Once again, thanks.

I’m no Stan Lee, but at the end of issue No. 700, it just seems proper to shout Excelsior.

Feel free to do so, Gentle Reader.

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