Sunday, August 20, 2017

Entry 297: Blast From the Past- part 26

In 2005, after I did the King Kong 8th Wonder of the World Mini Book, Dark Horse asked if I wanted to draw the adaptation for the upcoming Peter Jackson King Kong movie. I said yes. I like Peter Jackson and I was looking forward to that Kong movie. I'd heard doing movie licence stuff could be a pain, but I thought, "how bad could it be?"

First bad thing: Universal studios wouldn't give me any reference! They were acting like it was all top secret and they couldn't let me see it. How was I supposed to draw this thing? I ended up driving up from San Diego to Universal in L.A. and sit in an office with some binders of reference and a sketchbook. I wasn't aloud to take pictures or make copies. This was crazy (I did take a few pictures with my phone. Don't tell anyone.) What was really silly about this is that later, after I had drawn like half the first issue I discovered that Peter Jackson was showing all kinds of stuff freely online with weekly making-of videos. I started using those videos as a primary source for reference.

The second problem: I wasn't aloud to do likenesses of the actors because nobody wanted to have to pay the actors, who had rights to their likenesses. So, okay, this might not seem like that much of a problem. I wouldn't draw likenesses. I thought, that I would just do characters that weren't really realistic but were basically the same type as the actors. I wanted it to not be the actors, but also not NOT be the characters. After the first issue was done Universal thought my Carl Denham was too much like Jack Black and someone at Dark Horse digitally changed his face throughout the issue... Looking at the printed version is still painful to me. I can't look at that weird face.

Third problem: They wanted to do photo covers. This is where the cover of the comic is a photo from the movie. I'm really not a fan of this. I hated the idea so much that I created a cover on my own and got the colorist to color it. I submitted it to use for free. But still they went with the photo cover. I've included my unused cover at the top of this post.

Fourth Problem: Universal asked for story changes AFTER art was done. They had approved the script, approved the layouts, and then, when the comic was all done, they wanted changes. Luckily, Dark Horse was able to keep me from having to draw redraw pages. They rearrange scenes, rescripted scenes, and they cut a scene... Oh, a funny thing I remember: my layouts were just sketches and in some places you could see the body construction without clothes. They thought I was just going to draw a character naked in those panels and asked that I don't. Great note, guys. So you don't want me to randomly draw the characters naked?

Here are pages from issue 1. I inked myself and they were colored by Michael Atiyeh.

So, we made it through issue one. And then--there were long delays on the second script. I'm not sure of the ins and outs of that struggle only that my editor told me it was a struggle. And our time was running out. The idea was to have 3 issues of 30 pages each out before the movie. As time ran out, it was clear that that was not going to happen.

Finally I got the script for issue 2. At this point I had a lot more reference. There were a few trailers with the final design for Kong. And about halfway through drawing it the movie came out. So I got to see it. I felt proud of myself. I knew so little about what it would be like throughout the first issue and I got pretty close. It was cool to see that some shots that I made up were the same in the movie.

Issue 2 went much more smoothly than issue 1, but we were so behind. There was some question as to whether we would bother doing the 3rd and final issue. It was looking like we wouldn't. And it was looking like they wouldn't even be publishing issue 2. Heart breaking. To draw a comic is so much work. To have it not be published just stinks. Anyway, I sort of moved on. Dark Horse had wanted me to jump onto Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as soon as King Kong was done. So, with Kong looking like it was a no-go, I started working on Star Wars. Then, apparently Peter Jackson himself said he wanted it finished... That was how it was put to me. Who knows if that was true. But we were back on.

The thing about issue 3 was that I was just to do the layouts and they would be finished by inker Dan Parsons. It's depressing to not get to finish something you'd put a lot of work into. It was also depressing because I really liked the layouts that I did. At that time I was really thinking about how facing pages looked and worked together.

(Side note: Exactly at this time The Tenth Circle was released and I went on the west coast leg of the book tour with Jodi Picoult.)

In the end they didn't put out issue 2 and 3 separately. Dark Horse just put out the trade paperback of all 3 issues. And remember how I said they took out a scene in issue 1? Well that changed what pages faced each other throughout the rest of the book. All the considering on how pages looked when facing each other was for nothing. That 2 page spread with the top on the Empire State building, that got split!! Seriously, that shouldn't have happened. They should have added something in there to keep that from happening. It goes to show how, in the end, everyone was just done with this whole thing. (Oh and also, I couldn't show the Empire State building too much because there are likeness rights for it!)

Over all, this was not a positive experience... But, for me at that time, it payed really well, and looking back, I can see some moments that I'm still proud of.

Working on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a nice change from the King Kong experience. I'll talk about that in my next Blast from the past entry.

Oh and, for the record, I like that King Kong movie. I see some people being negative about it, but not me. Thanks for reading.

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  1. I just read an interview with Tom Brevoort in which he mentioned S.H.I.E.L.D. is nearing solicitation in the first quarter of 2018. Should I get my hopes up or should I restrain my expectations?

    1. There has been significant progress recently. I'm not getting my hopes up until we have a release date... But yeah. It's looking like it could be that soon.

  2. Would you have all the pages of the comic? I'd love to read and collect it

    1. I'm not sure I know what you're asking for. I have some jpegs, none of them with lettering. I'm sure the TPB is out there somewhere. That might be the only way to read it, I'm not sure. Good luck!

    2. I know there's a TBP out there, but the story stops at the sacrifice and I haven't found the continuation yet and this is it. I have the V-Rex battle from toys.

    3. Originally it was going to be 3 issues. They only published issue #1 and then the TPB with what would have been all 3 issues in it. It sounds like you have issue #1. Issue 1 has a big King Kong face on the cover. The TPB looks like this