Sunday, 20 January 2013

IDW Covers: Popeye #12

Popeye #12
by Roger Langridge, variant cover by Dave Sim
IDW, $3.99
On Sale: April 2013

Drawing POPEYE was a dream come true. I used to watch at least an hour of POPEYE every weekday morning as a pre-schooler. My mother used to tell the story of me pointing in the windows of stores downtown and saying "Buttaflow".."Buttaflow". And she's asking "Where? Where do you see the butterfly." It took a while but she figured out that what I was saying was "Buffalo" and that I was pointing at was the number "4". The Popeye cartoons aired on WSEN, channel 4 Buffalo -- which they announced at every station break with a big 4 on the screen. The syndication package was the old Max Fleischer cartoons mixed in with the later ones. I had them all memorised and would go to sleep reciting the dialogue in my head. Like I say, this is before the age of 5.

Dave Fisher, with whom I collaborated on CEREBUS TV -- downloads hopefully coming to sometime in 2013 -- had a collection of the old Fleischer Popeyes on DVD so I spent a day over at his place watching them. genetic memories, DNA level. I was particularly struck by one where Popeye, tired of housework, goes to an agency to pick out a wife (Bluto does as well and of course they both pick Olive Oyl). There were all these pictures on the wall of prospective brides who were all in a back room just sitting and waiting for someone to pick them. And I can remember thinking, "Oh, so THAT'S how it works. Dad went to a place like that and picked a picture of Mum and they got married."

I hadn't gotten the disk of reference material from Chris at that point, so I figured I'd start with the Popeye cover. Most people in comics are "Segar POPEYE" as opposed to "Fleisher POPEYE" people, so I figure I had better try and strike a balance which proved to be easier said than done. I ended up spending pretty close to a day and a half just trying to compose the thing, while referring to volume 8 of the old Fantagraphics collections, the only one I own (1932-1934). That was why I went with an archetypal Segar bad guy (although that in itself became a problem since the Segar bad guys were always two head taller than Popeye and you need to have your lead character at least yay big on a cover). And then I wanted the facial expression to change while keeping the same likeness. Which Segar didn't really do. So I had to refer to different faces, eyes and eyebrows. Then when I got to inking it, I figured I had to change the density from Segar's really open density to a modified-Segar (a Segar beard would just be three or four brush strokes) while still keeping it Segar-like.

Oh, I forgot the crowd. I sent the tracing paper original to Ted Adams [IDW's CEO]. I figured a good way to make it Segar-like was to do a Segar crowd where it's all the same face but they're overlapping. More like wallpaper than a crowd. But as I was inking the foreground it was already going grey with all the pen lines on "Big-A Jerk Mazurka". I thought about fading them out but I was already having trouble figuring out my ink densities and that looked like another headache as I was coming to the end of day number two.

I had the same trouble with the "ARF ARF ARF ARF" where I tried to ink a Segar-like halo around Popeye's head which just wasn't working. So I kept darkening it and darkening it inking over the radiating pen lines until it's virtually gone. I had the same mental picture of having to do that with the crowd, making them darker and darker and darker. At that point, my Wally Wood voice liked in: When in doubt, black it out.

"Big-A Jerk Mazurka" seemed like a good Segar style name. He was very big on puns. It wasn't until I was a good day and a half in that I went: "Mm. You don't want to be doing that. This is work-made-for-hire. Anything you do on here, King Features owns." Then I told myself I was being paranoid.

So Chris faxes me that everyone really liked the cover, Ted Adams wants to buy the original, King Features liked it and the writer liked it so much that he's writing a back-up story for the issue around it. I faxed him back that with my luck Big-A Jerka Mazurka will end up being the next Harry Potter and all I'll have is my now long spent cover rate to show for it.

All of the IDW covers will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions in their weekly online auctions the same week that hey are released. Chris says he will know the release date about six weeks ahead of time. Starting bid is $1... ALWAYS.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Too bad Dave didn't channel Terry Austin's Squinkeye/Squinteye for this cover--my only complaint! If you're unfamiliar with Squinteye, check out one of the blogs about Cerebus Jam. Or, better yet, pester your retailer for a back issue of Cerebus Jam #1 (the one-an-only issue of that particular series). Gerhard's nautical backgrounds alone are worth the price of admission. . .