Tuesday, 25 June 2013

IDW Covers: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 
(IDW, September 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
Just finished the Wally Wood image above -- "Never copy what you can trace" part of Woody's credo gave me license to do just that, although it is a montage with some adjustments (Dynano was originally upside down on the famous DYNAMO cover with his legs together and he wasn't holding anything and the space ship was traced from an EC story in the IDW book and then reduced three times, traced and transferred). It ain't Woody, but I like to think it's just Larry Hama, Ralph Reese or Dan Atkins enough to get me a job with him inking background figures.

The original figure is from the cover of DYNAMO No.3 and I did have to modify it, change the lighting, etc. or forever indict myself for JUST tracing another guy's drawing and adding nothing to it.  I looked up as many good quality black and white examples of Wood's art as I could find to get the idea of the brush stroke in my head (which is the size of a horse's leg compared to what I've been working with: Adams, Raymond, Drake) and as much of the THUNDERagents stuff as I had around the studio -- mostly in books -- and noticed what THUNDER was an acronym for. The HIGHER United Nations... Oh, I am definitely tight with that. Unlike the Fiasco-On-The-New-York-Waterfront where Iran is in charge of human rights that we've got, yes, let us all pray that there IS a HIGHER United Nations SOMEWHERE.

Boy, I wasn't going to get into this, but -- what the heck -- any excuse to keep from going back to the house and signing my name another 300 times on the HIGH SOCIETY signatures, eh?

While I was working on the cover, having combed every book I had for a good Wally Wood moon shot -- I finally found the best one in WALLY'S WORLD (the more-than-kind-of-sad biography Vanguard did a few years back) -- I was sitting there inking my Wally Wood moon and I started singing -- in my head -- the "Fireball XL-5" theme song.  Just the parts I remembered (which wasn't much -- I probably last heard it around 1964 or so).  WTF?  Well, you know, YouTube. Everything's on there.  I can actually get the lyrics and see a clip of the show opening.  I even watched the FULL opening, not just the theme. Steve Zodiac.  How could you forget a name like Steve Zodiac?  "Are you ready, Venus?" I'm getting a scalp rush from these marionettes.  Oh, okay, once the theme song STARTS then I get it: all the Wally Wood moon shots behind the titles.  That was where I first knew images of the moon, so that was what I would have related Wally Wood -- and Al Williamson's -- moon drawings to, unconsciously.  Fireball XL-5.

[Must be something in the water: the next week I came back to check it out and THAT VERY DAY Neil Gaiman had posted his own version of the XL-5 theme. W. T. F.]

And I'm thinking -- you know, this really IS Woody and Al Williamson.  This is what they were all about.  The space opera heroism, but really it was about the "Venus of the Stars".  "Every time I look into your starry eyes."  The heroism was the way to get Venus of the Stars.

It was an interesting -- VERY interesting -- thing to connect with fifty years later.  Wally Wood and Al Williamson's moon was so much...nicer...than the actual moon would turn out to be.  I mean, I went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to get Gerhard original NASA transparencies which is as close as you can get to what the moon actually looks like.  And it looks exactly the way it does in LIFE magazine.  This drab sort of brown gravel pit.

Dave, you aren't REALLY going to go all the way on this, are you?  They'll all think you're nuts.

Well, they already think I'm nuts, so what's the big deal?

It ties in with the HIGHER United Nations in  a weird way. The YHWH, if you actually follow the sequence of logic in the Bible, is the earth, the living thing within the earth. And each nation has its own minor YHWH. There's a Canadian YHWH, an American YHWH, each country.  All fronting for the Big YHWH. It's the reason America works -- E Pluribus Unum -- and the EU really doesn't.  There is an American YHWH but there isn't really a California YHWH or a Nebraska YHWH in the same sense that there's a France YHWH and a German YHWH and a Greece YHWH.

There's inadvertent comedy in the Bible and one of the best is when the YHWH tells Moses to ask the rock to give him water for the tribes.  It's the YHWH saying "I'm inside the rock and there's water in here so ask me and I'll give it to you". But Moses doesn't know the difference between God and YHWH so he HITS THE ROCK with his stick and says, "You rebels! Must I fetch you water from this rock?"

And, uh, that was pretty much it for Moses.  Tell him to ask for water from me nicely and he HITS ME WITH HIS STICK! The YHWH (if you've had occasion to read The Bible) isn't known for his/her/its sense of humour or perspective about these kinds of things.

Okay, so, it stands to reason that the moon has its own YHWH. But instead of a "make the best of it -- plants are nice" kind of water glass half full kind of YHWH like the earth is (when he/she/it isn't snuffing you because you hit her with a stick), the moon's YHWH is a kind of "I wish I was DEAD!!" YHWH.  And actually wished that hard that that's pretty much how he/she/it turned out.  This dead brown gravel pit (which actually looks romantic as long as you're, you know, a quarter of a million miles away).

What happens when you decide to scoop up some "Wish I was DEAD!!" YHWH and bring it home?  I think this passage from Norman Mailer's "Of A Fire On The Moon" (p. 377 of my paperback version) gives you a rough idea.  With perhaps the keenest reporter's eye we ever had on this planet, he documented what happened when the LEM (Lunar Escape Module) -- chock full of "I Wish I Was DEAD!!" lunar YHWHs -- docked with the orbiting Apollo 11 command ship:
"Just before that moment [the "hard dock" where the LEM joined itself to the command ship] 'all hell broke loose'.  It was [command ship captain Mike] Collins' remark, there on the transcript, but he has no recollection of saying it.  As he fired the charges, there was an abrupt, shocking and 'abnormal' oscillation.  The ships began to yaw from side to side at a rapid rate.  What an instant for [mission commander Neil] Armstrong -- did the memory of the sun flashing through the window of Gemini 8 come back to him?  What a thunder for [Buzz] Aldrin after the mishaps with the computer on the day before, what a stroke of doubt for Collins at where the mistake could be.  'All hell broke loose'.  Hell was when the unforeseen insisted on emerging.  Shivering and quivering, the ships slapped from side to side.  

"Well, it lasted for 'eight or ten rather dubious seconds' while Collins and Armstrong worked to get back in line with one another, and all the while the automatic retract was working and they finally came together with a big bang and were docked 'and it was all over."

See, only Mailer could SEE something like that in the transcript and EVEN WHEN Collins doesn't remember it (actually, I would guess ESPECIALLY when Collins doesn't remember it) say, "I don't know what that is, but that's important.  That has to be in the book."

And I'm enough of a philosophical child of Norman Mailer that I have to pass along what I THINK that is.  Even if everyone thinks I'm crazy.

My best advice?  Take all those godforsaken (literally) "I wish I was DEAD!!" lunar YHWHs and get rid of them. Shoot them off into space. If you look at the "shivering and quivering and yawing" we've been doing since the summer of 1969, I think it would probably result in exponential improvement.

And that's really all I've got to say about my THUNDERagents #2 cover (variant cover?).

And, no, I didn't watch Neil Gaiman sing the Fireball XL-5 theme. Although I did read someone's comment who said that he left off the end of the theme:  "Although I'm NOT a spaceman..."


Eddie said...

You asked for it:

From part of a dialogue between Matt Johnson of theTHE (which has a HUGE personal connection for me to Cerebus too complicated to go into here) and photographer Steve Pyke from the soundtrack to the film "Moonbug" which "follows renowned photographer Steve Pyke on his extraordinary journey to meet, interview and photograph his childhood heroes - the men who went to the moon:"

Matt Johnson: At the time of these missions, there seemed to have been a lot of quoting from the Bible and referencing God - from both politicians and the astronauts themselves. They were viewing Earth from a new perspective, and were obviously very humbled and awed. What interests me is the tension between science and technology, on the one hand, and the religious and spiritual aspects on the other. Did you get a sense from the astronauts that they became more or less religious as a consequence of this literally otherworldly experience? The juxtaposition of flying to the moon in a spaceship and quoting ancient texts is intriguing.

Steve Pyke: I think the astronauts came from quite conservative backgrounds - high achievers who'd been taken from school through the military - and so I'm sure there would have been a rigourous education they all went through. What's interesting is that the experience of leaving the earth forced them to question certain things about their lives; certainly, you are going to question yourself spiritually - it's just a given with all this new experience and view point they had of the planet, you know, like where are we? What is this all about? And, above all, why me? Why have I been picked? Only twelve men walked on the moon so why me? Why at this particular point? I think, for a lot of them, it turned them maybe even more to the church.

MJ: As a way of making sense of it all?

SP: There are certain answers given to you in the Bible that are almost signposts, ways to follow your life. There are different ways of interpreting it but I think, in a way, the rigidity of it is something they embraced.

MJ: Did any of them regret the impact it had on their personal lives? Did you get the sense form any of them that they felt the rest of their lives had become relatively meaningless in the context of what happened earlier?

SP: The idea that the rest of their lives had become meaningless in the context of them walking on the moon in an interpretation people outside of it have; it's not part of their existence. They were all at the top of their class in the Navy and Air Force, top test pilots, top of the astronaut programme. These twelve men that had walked on the moon - and the rest of the Apollo crew - were very, very tough mentally, and when they were finished - no longer astronauts - they continued to work within the Industry. If there was any sense of regret, it was about the way the world had gone, that the only way to fund the space programme had been Star Wars and the military money that now dictated budgets.

MJ: That's an interesting point because I was going to ask, ultimately, were the Apollo missions a force for good or bad, bearing in mind mankind's ability to turn potentially benevolent technology against itself by militarising it?

SP: You have to remember they were fundamentally military men: they came from a background of not questioning orders; this is why you're in the field-wherever the field is; whether it's out in Vietnam, Iraq or on the moon. From the astronauts, I didn't hear a downside of how the programme had gone, but there was a certain kind of cynicism from a few of them about how they had been dealt with.

I don't know about you, but I think the above makes a nice additional postscript to the ending of "Church and State."

-Eddie Khanna

Tony Dunlop said...

One word:


M Southall said...

Back in the sixties in Kitchener, we used to do our own Fireball XL-5 minicomics - using school foolscap paper of course. There are some of these still, in the western "CerebusTV" archive.

Don't forget Mike Mercury and "Supercar," either.