Welcome back to THE COMMENTARY TRACK. This is the mostly weekly feature at CBR in which we invite creators to stop by and talk about their most recent releases, often in spoiler-filled detail. We go behind the scenes and into the minds of your favorite creators and flip through their comics with them. It's just like a DVD commentary, but without all the awkward pauses.
This week we're looking at a new book from a new publisher. It's "The Nearly Infamous Zango" #1, published by Absolute Tyrant. With new issues due out on a bi-monthly basis, "Zango" aims to take you behind the scenes into the skewed world of the supervillainous Lord Zango. Or, to quote the press material:
Lord Alfred Zango, Jr. was once the most feared super villain in Metrotown. He razed entire blocks, crushed super heroes beneath his heel. Now he's just a malcontent couch potato. In bunny slippers and bathrobe, Zango gorges himself on junk food and fumes over the media attention that other super-baddies receive. Too lazy to leave the house, Zango sends a gorilla assassin to eliminate his competition!
Rob Osborne first sprang onto the scene with "1000 Steps To World Domination," an original graphic novel from AiT/PlanetLar, based on his award-winning mini-comic of the same name. He followed that up with another OGN, "Sunset City: For Active Senior Living." Now, he's taking on the challenge of an ongoing series, produced independently in black and white. This is a man who loves a challenge. He's also a funny guy, as you're about to see in his commentary for the first issue of "The Nearly Infamous Zango."
As always, there will likely be SPOILERS. If you're sensitive to that kind of thing, read the comic first and then come back. THE COMMENTARY TRACK will wait for you.
By Rob Osborne
Have you ever been infuriated by something you've seen on TV? Well, Lord Alfred Zango, Jr. is outraged. He's jumping on his couch, but it's not joyous jumping like Tom Cruise on Oprah's couch. It's furious jumping. With the remote control in one hand and Hot Chips exploding from a bag in the other, Lord Zango is consumed by the images beaming from his high-def television.
With the cover art for "The Nearly Infamous Zango" #1, I wanted to capture the consummate image of Lord Zango. It had to be funny-ish, and the bunny slippers had to be there. They are the definitive footwear for this formerly fearsome super villain. The slippers are emblematic of what Lord Zango has become. He's a lethargic megalomaniac.
When drawing this issue, I roughed out most of the artwork on bond paper. The process goes something like this: Using my trusty Mayline lightbox, I refine the rendering until the drawing problems are solved. That process can take from two-to-six steps of refinement. Once the lines are clean, I lay the final comic page overtop of the rough and ink the image onto the page. So the only non-photo blue pencil that touches the final page is for properly aligning the panels.
Okay, like I said, I roughed out most of the artwork for "Zango" #1. It was while working on this issue that more than a few times I rushed to the finished page with rough artwork that wasn't finished. So while I was inking, I was trying to solve drawing problems. That led to a number of panels having to be redrawn and pasted in digitally. That's frustrating.
My current drawing process doesn't allow for these kinds of shenanigans anymore. I absolutely will not start drawing on the final page until the artwork is clean and the drawing problems are solved.
PAGE 1, PANEL 1
Did I actually make the home of Lord Zango a castle? What the heck was I thinking? Oh right, I was thinking that every has-been super villain enjoys the extravagance (and draftiness) of a castle. It has a certain vintage, retro-villain quality. And Lord Alfred Zango, Jr. is, after all, the son of one of the greatest super villains ever. Perhaps the Castle of Cruel and Unusual Occurrences is a hand-me-down? Yes it is.
When I first drew this image, the power lines weren't included. I went back and added that visual gag. It's rather amusing to me when the banal intrudes upon the fantastic. You may also note the satellite dishes mounted to the top left castle spire. (Note: To receive DirecTV, the dish needs to be pointing south. Just sayin'.)
PAGE 1, PANEL 2
This is my muse. The couch potato. A once cruel, immensely powerful sultan of savagery reduced to a slumbering heap in front of the TV. Surrounded by his sweet and salty indulgences, Lord Zango is a lover of the snack foods, and he's a shell of his former self. Fear him.
PAGES 3 – 5
Typically, my story development process takes one of two routes. A scene is either driven by the dialogue or the action. If it's the dialogue that is taking the storytelling lead, then I'll jot out the script. And I try to write it as fast as I can, attempting to capture that initial conversational rhythm and fluidity.
Here's an example of my notes for pages 3 - 5. If you can read my handwriting, then you possess the superpower to read crappy handwriting. When I'm making notes for myself, illegibility goes without saying. So really, if you can read any of this, you'll see that I made numerous tweaks after this first stab at the dialogue. Not only does the script change, but the story is changed. For example, initially I had Nebula returning with Lord Zango's coffee. In the final, Nebula does not bring him coffee. (And that's a really, really important change. Ahem.)
PAGE 4, PANELS 1 - 7
In issue #2 of "The Nearly Infamous Zango," fruit will play an important role. Here, Lord Zango's woeful diet is further illuminated. He loathes fruit. And its nefarious juice.
Next issue, Lord Zango and Deacon Dread will face off with giant monster fruits. I kid you not. It may be the most important story of the year.
This exchange of pleasantries between Zango and his lovely daughter Nebula allowed me to firmly ground this mighty super villain in the mundanities of life. He doesn't get the breakfast he wants. He can't get away with bossing his daughter around. Nebula is irreverent. Lord Zango is full of bluster and craves pancakes.
PAGE 4, PANEL 8
Lord Zango is well aware that his powers of intimidation are slipping. When I showed this to Rick Remender, writer of "Fear Agent" and "End League," he asked me why Lord Zango smells his finger. I think about that every time I see this image. Where has Lord Zango's finger been?
See, this is exactly the kind of potty mouth humor I can't resist. Here I was, going along with this very kid-friendly tale of the laziest super villain alive, but I couldn't help myself. I had to do the "nuts" double entendre. Shameful.
PAGE 8, PANEL 3
Once committed to such scrotal reference, I went ahead and double-dipped with Deacon Dread's, ". . .I heard you threaten to expose yourself." Ahem.
PAGE 9, PANEL 5
As a writer-artist, I frequently feel the artist isn't pulling his weight. I mean, the writer side of me has all these grandiose images to incorporate in the story. Epic multi-character spreads that dazzle the eye. Intricate backgrounds. Lush details. But all too often, the writer dials back the story requirements to fit the inclinations of his artist.
Then I draw a panel like this, and it reminds me that a good story doesn't require exquisite panoramas or illustrative details to be good. The simple expressiveness of Lord Zango's hunched posture, hands on the edge of the couch, is enough. That excites me as a cartoonist.
This was the first story that I'd ever digitally lettered. If you study the balloon construction, you'll see that lettering on the computer was a work-in-progress. But I was immensely satisfied with my first effort. And I did have a chance to go back and revise the most severe shortcomings.
In my seventh grade English class, we read "Of Mice And Men." The Lenny character is the primary inspiration for Van Freako. That whole "Can I pet the rabbit, George?" thing blows my socks off. I love it. The giant man-boy, trying to be gentle, is chided to be softer, sweeter. It's obvious that Van Freako has been reprimanded for being too rough. Now he's found this bunny rabbit, and turning over a new leaf, he's going home to ask Deacon Dread if it's okay to play with the bunny.
Regarding Van Freako's name, his full name is actually RIP Van Freako. Yes, Rest In Peace Van Freako. More to come on that, so stay tuned.
If you've not read this first somewhat exciting issue of "The Nearly Infamous Zango," then what's wrong with you? Go out and buy it already. And tell your retailer to order more and get issue #2 on your pull list. This is indie comics, man. Word-of-mouth is the lifeblood. Show some love.
Okay, that being said, here's another spoiler: Someone loses an eye. For the easily entertained, this will be a satisfying development. I know that I find it satisfying. And completely ridiculous. In future issues (like #3, perhaps?), Dread will continue to suffer losses at the hands of his monstrous creations.
The self-servitude of Lord Zango is front and center here. His loyal right hand man has just lost his eye, and Zango's thinking about his, um, monkey. Doesn't Lord Zango care about Deacon Dread in the least? Why would Dread remain loyal to a self-centered blowhard?
Though it saddens me that a plaything with as much sex appeal as Z-Gore has to go, it's fitting that the man-beast-child Van Freako gets to indulge in an old-fashioned blood letting. Toting that bunny all the way home without popping its head is a tribute to Van Freako's growing self control. But alas, it was at Z-Gore's expense.
Finally, Van Freako gets some release.
This page was roughed out at actual size. On an 11 x 17 piece of bond paper, I sketched out the panels. The final page looks almost exactly as that initial rough, but that's the exception. I frequently produce numerous separate sketches for each panel. After solving each panel, I then lightbox them individually onto the finished page.
I finished telling this story, and found that low-and-behold, it ran an all-too-brief twenty-one pages. The final image was to be the dead rabbit.
When I'm writing, I tend to lean heavily on my instincts for story pacing. That being said, I didn't chart a perfect 22 page course and make the content fit.
With practice, I've become more in tune with the proper amount of story and pace that makes a comic book length tale work. Yet, this is indie comics where I can have some latitude. So issues 2 and 3 are both 24 pages long. That was what worked for those stories.
I fretted with this one. Should I let the story end as it is, at a paltry 21 pages? Or should I find a delicious one-page conclusion to fit the story into the common comic book length of 22 pages?
Now, I love the punctuation of the dead rabbit on page 21. That tickles me. But the splash page finale served as a pleasing end cap to the introduction of Lord Zango. This image reminds the reader of the book's central quandary. Lord Zango is a feckless layabout. His primary frustration is with the TV remote. He's got a bag of Sugar Crunch.
On a sidebar (Hasn't this all been one big sidebar?), my frustration with this page, and all the other pages that include the remote control, is that I didn't have the DirecTV DVR remote to use as a reference. The remote that Zango holds is based on an actual remote that went to my old 27" Samsung TV.
The remote control may be dated, but you'll notice that the Zangos have a 16:9 aspect ratio HDTV. Have you upgraded yet?
That concludes my Very Important Commentary Track for The Nearly Infamous Zango #1. Any questions? You can email me at: email@example.com And for more on "The Nearly Infamous Zango," please visit www.absolutetyrant.com
Thanks again to Rob Osborne for stopping by this week to share his thoughts on his new creation. "The Nearly Infamous Zango" #1 is now available in finer comic shops everywhere.
If you have any titles or creators you'd like to see featured in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, or you're a creator with a book due out that you'd like top stop by and talk about in detail, let us know. We're busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there's always room for more!
Now discuss this story in CBR's Indie Comics forum.THE COMMENTARY TRACKS
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