Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pheaturing Bob Budiansky

Rabbit! Welcome to another entry of the Phile. I didn't think I would be doing an entry today as our modem was fried, but thanks to Victor from Brighthouse, the Phile is back in business. I thought I was the only thing fried in this office. LOL.  Anybody go to the big gay pride parade over the past weekend? I like the gay pride parade. Everybody dresses up. Where else can you see a 300-pound guy in a cocktail dress?  This weekend is the swim around Manhattan Island. You go to the Hudson, up the East River, and then back down the Hudson, 28 miles around Manhattan. The winner gets a trophy and hepatitis.  Political candidates have to be very inventive when it comes to fund-raising because there are federal laws. So Mitt Romney had a thing where if you would give him $50,000 you could spend the weekend with him. And for an extra $5,000 he will let you touch his hair. Republicans are now talking about President Obama, saying he's not much of a president. They're also saying he is a lousy vampire hunter.  Mitt Romney reminds me of the guy in high school who only has friends because his parents have a swimming pool.  The Spice Girls reunited the other day to announce a new stage play based on their music. It will be like "Mama Mia," but shit. The play will feature all their hits... "Tell Me What You Want" over and over.  You know, every year law schools churn out thousands of lawyers. We don't need any more lawyers. We need more lawyers like we need more bloggers. It takes a long time to become a lawyer because you need three things... a bachelor's degree, a law degree, and a desire to worship Satan.  Well, this Wednesday it's July 4th. Call me old-fashioned but what I love best about the Fourth of July is all of the flags. Of course, they're all made in China but still it's the sentiment.  Did you hear this? The minute Madonna checks out of a hotel, her own security team comes in and scrubs the place clean, retrieving any samples of DNA left over. It's all erased. So there's no sign that Madonna was ever here. Wait a minute. Didn't Lady Gaga already do that to her?  It's a great week for President Obama. His healthcare law was upheld by the Supreme Court. The president apparently had three speeches ready to go. One if the law was overturned, one if the law was upheld, and one if Joe Biden chewed up the other two. Some people watching CNN were so shocked they started rioting. No, I'm kidding. No one watches CNN. I was so excited when I saw there was an inspirational poster tied into all of this health care stuff.

Last weekend as you know we went to see Brave, and there isn't a Brave inspirational poster out yet, but there is a Pixar inspirational poster.

Talking about movies, I went to see that Abe Lincoln vampire movie and I was surprised by one scene in it. Take a look at this screen shot.

What I don't understand is why was the scene in black and white. Hmmmm.  Well, as you know, there's fires in Colorado, the heat on the East Coast is crazy hot, and we had lots of rain in Florida. But, things are really bad in Phoenix, Arizona.

Okay, kids, it's Summer time, and all through Summer we will be celebrating on the Phile one of the greatest inventions known to man. I am talking about, of course, the bikini. A German company invented a marvelous new bikini that disappears once a girl puts it on and takes a swim. The sexy swimsuit disappears by dissolving in water, leaving a woman completely nude and embarrassed. The sexy black swimsuit looks like a real bikini, feels like a real bikini and fits like a real bikini. The only difference is that it's made from a material that completely melts away after a few seconds in water. Named the “Get Naked Bikini,” the item is being marketed as the ultimate form of revenge for recently-dumped dudes.

For the love of God, will someone but this and send it to Kelly Clarkson. Please!  Alright, before we continue, I have to talk to you about something that is very important. This is no joke. The Phile's good friend and Alumni, Jeff Cameron suffered a sudden, massive, heart attack last Friday morining. The cardiac team said the heart attack suffered by Jeff was measured as 16 times more powerful than the average heart attack. He was emergency evaced to a special cardio unit. The prognosis while not good, there is every possibility Jeff will recover to some degree and complete various projects in the works now. In addition to the massive cardiac arrest, Jeff was injured badly when he fell face down on a hard wooden floor as he passed out during one portion of the very lengthy heart attack. Jeff has spoken with visiters and appears to have normal congnitive function, and has said he wishes to quickly finish pending projects from last year and this year. Please keep Jeff in your prayers. Jeff, if you are reading this, I am thinking of you. Okay, on with the comedy. Let's see who croaked.

Yitzhak Shamir
Oct 15, 1915 - June 30, 2012
Restin' in peace in the Middle East.

Nora Ephron
May 19, 1941 - June 26, 2012
Because when you decide you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as... oops. Never mind.

Alright, well, we all know the world is gonna end this year, the Mayan's said so. They are all full of useful knowledge, so I thought I would invite back a friend to the Phile for some of that Mayan knowledge. Please welcome back to the Phile, the character we all love...

Me: Hello, Marvin, what advice do you have for us today?

Marvin: Nya b’a’n tu’n toc amle ti’ja, ku’n b’e’x cy-elil× miley.

Me: Miley? What? We don't talk Mayanese, Marvin. Please say it in English.

Marvin: It is not good that you wear a skirt if you are a male unless you want to menstruate.

Me: Then I'll take my skirt off now. LOL. Just kidding! Thanks, Marvin, once again.

When you decide to make a 3D movie about Abraham Lincoln as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one of the first scenes in your film involves a "comin' at ya" moment of a slave driver's whip, the lash of which ultimately lands and draws blood on a child slave's face, and your intention is to simultaneously invoke the literal horror of slavery and also to make your audience squeal with delight over a fake digital thing pretending to stick them in the eyes, you had better be some kind of cinemagician who knows how to walk the tightrope of bad taste without falling into the foulest of idiotic hell-pits or else you had better be the blithely unconcerned, kookoo-bananas, euro-director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted).  This is a film by Timur Bekmambetov.  In the ongoing war of the spoilers, I usually like to stay on the side of the wait-wait-don't-tell-me people. But this time around I've decided that I'd be a bad person if I didn't share one of the movie's goofier plot points. Because maybe you don't yet know where you fall in the debate over whether or not whipping children on film is horrifying or awesome. If not, that's fine, you can go have that argument with yourself and see who wins. But what if I also told you (here it comes... back out now, purists) that abolitionist heroine Harriet Tubman is a character in this movie and that her job in the insane history-pulverizing plot is to help Abraham Lincoln smuggle silverware to assist in the Union's efforts to eradicate the vampire-infested Confederacy? Then how much would you pay to see it?  It's been awhile since I've seen any vintage Chinese hopping vampire films (that's a real thing, by the way) but I have a feeling Bekmambetov is fairly studied-up on the genre. His vampires move faster and more violently, but his Abe Lincoln is an ax-twirling kung fu master who can tap dance his way to safety off the top of an on-fire munitions train or through a horse stampede and still have enough energy left over to lead the Union to victory, write the Gettysburg address and come running when Mary Todd shouts, "Abe, we're late for the theater!"  It's a jumble of real-world facts head-on-collisioned with antebellum vampirism that, as written in screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smiths' original novel, may very well have succeeded as a clever mash-up of history and lore of the undead. But the film version is pure numb sensation. There are James Bond-level gadget-weapons and dialogue so serious ("You cannot take on slavery, Abraham!") that the only proper response is to laugh out loud. There are runway model vampire vixens and men in puffy shirts and a vision of the past so frenzied and intentionally stupid-in-the-head that it's sort of like a very special slavery-themed episode of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force".  And now how much will you pay to see it? I give it an 8, and yeah, I will probably buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray.

This is so friggin' cool, today's guest is the 20th artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Galletry and is an American comic book writer, editor, and penciller, best known for his work on Marvel's "Transformers" comic. He also created the Marvel character Sleepwalker and wrote all 33 issues of that comic. Please welcome to the Phile... Bob Budiansky.

Me: Hello, Bob, welcome to the Phile. It is a huge honor to have you here. How are you?

Bob: I am doing well, thank you. And thank you for asking.

Me: I don't know where to start first, Bob... Transformers, Sleepwalker, Ghost Rider... I will get to them all. You worked on a comic featuring my favorite super hero character of all time... Captain Britain. That was when Captain Britain was in the old costume, so that was for Marvel UK. How did you get that gig, Bob?

Bob: My first job at Marvel was editorial assistant in the Marvel British Department. Soon after I came aboard, my boss Larry Lieber (Stan Lee's brother, by the way) had started developing a new character for the British market... Captain Britain. Up until then, Marvel's presence in the U.K. was limited to reprints of American comics. This was to be the first original comic for the U.K. produced by Marvel. So that's how I got involved. I even helped design the costume... the face mask, specifically, and I eventually helped out penciler Ron Wilson, drawing a lot of the backgrounds for his Captain Britain pages.

Me: What was the first book you worked on for Marvel?

Bob: As I just mentioned, I began in the Marvel British Department as an editorial assistant. Besides Captain Britain, the rest of what we did were reprints. I had to assemble the books, arrange to get lettering corrections made... turning American spellings into English spellings... commission new splash pages since we divided most 20-page monthly American stories into two weekly 10-page British stories and we would need a new splash for each of the second halves of those stories, etc. Those splash pages were a great training ground for many aspiring artists of the late 70's, including me, John Romita Jr., Michael Golden and Frank Miller. So, in a sense, I worked on a lot of different Marvel titles, you just didn't know it since I didn't get credit for drawing new splash pages!

Me: I am mostly a Marvel fan, but I do read Batman in DC. What comic books did you grow up reading?

Bob: Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Flash, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, Hawkman, Atom, Daredevil , Batman, and a lot more, but those were the main ones.

Me: How long have you worked for Marvel?

Bob: I worked for Marvel from 1976 through 1996.

Me: You created a character for Marvel called Sleepwalker, which I always thought looked cool. How did you come up with this character, Bob?

Bob: I was inspired by something my former boss, Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter, once said. He talked about how if a super-powered alien like Superman actually came to Earth, he probably wouldn't be welcomed with open arms. Even if his intentions were good, as Superman's are, nations all around the world would most likely perceive him as a threat and band together to defend themselves against him. So that's where Sleepwalker came from... I decided to create a character who was the anti-Superman in many ways... a bug-eyed, B-movie alien whose intentions were good, but whose physical appearance and powers would scare the hell out of most people.

Me: I have a picture here what Sleepwalker looked like.

Me: When you created him his name was gonna be called Alien, right? What made you change it?

Bob: Did you read that somewhere?

Me: Yeah, on the Marvel website or Wikipedia somewhere.

Bob: If I did consider the name Alien... perhaps I did, I'm not sure... the reason I would have jettisoned it was the movie Alien. It gave the word "alien" a decidedly evil connotation in the 80's. I would have been trying to avoid brand confusion.

Me: How did you come up with Sleepwalkers look?

Bob: Again, he was designed to be the anti-Superman... green skin, bug eyes, mummy-like wrappings as part of his costume design. I was trying to make him look a bit sinister and scary without making him too grotesque.

Me: When a writer or artist creates a character for Marvel or DC, how do you go to those companies and submit that character?

Bob: I can't speak for how Marvel and DC handle that process nowadays. Back when I submitted Sleepwalker, Marvel had a New Projects Committee, comprised of several editors. A creator would submit a treatment of his or her creation to the Committee, the Committee would review it and then decide to approve it or not. If they approved it, the treatment was passed up to the editor in chief for review. At the time, Marvel's editor in chief was Tom DeFalco, and he generally went along with the Committee's recommendations. I should note that anywhere in this review process, the Committee or Tom could ask for revisions if they thought the treatment had promise but wasn't quite there yet. Tom asked me to do a couple of revisions of the Sleepwalker treatment, which only improved it, before it finally got approved.

Me: I betcha have a Sleepwalker action figure or two, right?

Bob: Sadly, no.

Me: I wonder if there is one out. The only one I can find is this custom made figure...

Me: When the Sleepwalker series was cancelled, did you think that was the end of the character?

Bob: At Marvel, no character ever really ends. How many characters have died only to be brought back to life later? So I didn't think Sleepwalker was gone forever, but I didn't really give much thought to if or when he would return.

Me: How long did the series go on for, and how were you told that it was ending?

Bob: Thirty-three issues, I believe. Sales were dropping, so after maybe a year and a half or so the end became inevitable. I'm sure I had a discussion with Tom DeFalco or the editor of the book, Don Daley, at some point about its impending cancellation and when to end it, but it was no big deal.

Me: Another great series you worked on was "Ghost Rider". I read all your issues and thought you did a great job with Johnny Blaze. Did you have fun working on that series, Bob?

Bob: I loved working on that series. I especially enjoyed collaborating with J.M. DeMatteis on the plots.

Me: What did you think when that series was cancelled?

Bob: As a struggling artist, I was relieved. It was a lot of work, and I needed a break! But I also thought it was too bad, since I thought J.M. and I were putting out a good book.

Me: Okay, I have to ask you what you think of The Ghost Rider movies and Nicholas Cage being Johnny Blaze?

Bob: I only saw the first one, and I thought it was pretty wretched. I don't even remember what the plot was. The main impressions I came away from watching it was Nicholas Cage... whom I've liked in many movies... was miscast (too old for the role) and Eva Mendes was always dressed like an aspiring prostitute when she was supposed to be a reporter.

Me: Yeah, but she was hot. Okay, let's talk about the Transformers. Man, you were a big part of the original Transformers run. You came up with a lot of the names for them and the backgrounds and character traits, right?

Bob: Right. From 1983 through 1989 I named and wrote the personality profiles for most of the Transformers. I also wrote most of the packaging copy for the toys.

Me: What are some of the names you came up with?

Bob: Megatron, Starscream, Ironhide, Prowl, Jazz, Bumblebee (I think that one is mine), Ravage, Grimlock, Blaster, Soundwave, Ratchet… this could go on for a long time. I named well over a hundred.

Me: Who is your favorite Transformer?

Bob: I had to write so many different characters into the series that it's hard to say. Most of them didn't stay around for very long. But since he was in many of my favorite stories that I wrote, I would say Blaster is way up there.

Me: Was it hard working with both Marvel and Hasbro?

Bob: Quite the contrary. Through Marvel I worked for Hasbro... never independently. Marvel gave me virtual autonomy on dealing with Hasbro about Transformers, and I interacted with Hasbro frequently. The people there were always extremely supportive of what I was doing. We had a great working relationship.

Me: Another comic company started doing Transformers comics, right? IDW I think it is. Have you worked with them at all?

Bob: A few years ago, IDW asked me to write an adaptation of the re-release of the 1986 Transformers animated movie, which I did. Side-note: When the animated movie first came out in '86, I was the editor of the adaptation that Marvel published.

Me: Is that series a continuation from the Marvel series?

Bob: I haven't really followed the Transformers comic books that have come out over the years since I left it, so I'm the wrong person to ask. I do know the Transformers has evolved in a lot of different directions since I left the book.

Me: You know I have to ask you about the movies, what do you think of them?

Bob: I thought the first Transformers movie was a really good version of a lot of what I was trying to do when I wrote the comic book. It was a lot of fun. I thought the second one was not nearly as good, and the third one was a big improvement over the second. I was happy to see some of the ideas from the stories I wrote make it into the movies.

Me: By the way, do you think Sleepwalker will ever appear in a movie?

Bob: I wouldn't bet on it, but I wouldn't categorically say "never" either.

Me: Apart from being a terrific writer, you also are an artist... that's why you are part of the Peverett Phile Art Gallery. What came first, drawing or writing and what do you prefer?

Bob: I always wanted to be a comic book artist since I was a kid, so that came first. After working at Marvel for several years, I got the hang of putting a story together, so I took the opportunity I had to become a writer. As much as I liked to draw, writing was far easier for me, so for many years I would have to say I liked writing better. But more recently, I've been spending a lot more time drawing, so that's currently my preference. By the way, I am honored to be included in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery. Thank you for having me.

Me: You're welcome. What is the first book you drew for Marvel? I think the first complete story I drew that got published was a "What If" story... "What If Wolverine Killed the Hulk?" But before that I had been drawing pin-up pages, splash pages for British reprints, a few covers, lots of cover sketches for other artists to draw final covers from, and other odds and ends.

Me: What is your least and favorite character to draw?

Bob: There are so many characters I haven't drawn that it's impossible to answer that. I can say, however, that despite my tenure as the writer of the Transformers I've never been very fond of drawing robots.

Me: You also were an editor for Marvel. Was that a fun job?

Bob: Most of the time, yes! I had the opportunity with a great bunch of creative, caring people, and to grow and express my own creativity along the way.

Me: You oversaw Spider-Man during "The Clone Saga"... was that the biggest project you were responsible for?

Bob: I oversaw many big projects during my years as a Marvel editor, so it's hard to say what was my biggest project. However, since Spider-Man was Marvel's flagship character and a huge moneymaker for the company, being asked by the company to oversee the Spider-Man line of books was both a compliment to me and a great responsibility.

Me: Did they ask you if you wanted to be an editor or did that just happen?

Bob: Like I said, I started at Marvel as an editorial assistant. Then I left to become a freelance artist for Marvel for a couple of years, and then I was asked to come back as an Assistant Editor. Then I left to draw "Ghost Rider" for a couple of years, and then I was asked to come back as an Editor. Then I remained on the editorial staff for the next 13 years, eventually getting promoted to Special Projects Editor, Executive Editor and finally Editor in Chief of the Spider-Man books. So I wouldn't characterize my editorial experience there as it "just happened." I basically did my job well enough to get recognition from my superiors, and worked my way up to the top of the editorial ladder. (And then I fell off!)

Me: Bob, I have to ask, who are your major influences writing and drawing?

Bob: Writing: Stan Lee, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Roy Thomas. Drawing: John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Neal Adams. Currently, I'm a great admirer of Jim Lee's artwork.

Me: I have to mention this before I let you go, you did the cover for "Uncanny X-Men" #120 which was the first cover featuring Alpha Flight? Was this the intro to Alpha Flight?

Bob: I believe it was.

Me: I have the cover here. I think it looks really cool.

Me: John Bryne did most of the covers for "Uncanny X-Men" back then, how did you get to do a cover?

Bob: John Byrne was late on meeting his deadlines for drawing the interior of the book, so the book's editor, Jim Salicrup, asked me to draw the cover to that particular issue to take some pressure off of John's schedule. At the time I was working as Jim's assistant editor and I had already been drawing a lot of the cover sketches for books that he edited, like X-Men and Avengers. The sketches were then provided to the artists of those books to make into final covers. So I guess Jim thought I was a good choice to fill in for John that month.

Me: Like I said, the cover is very cool, Bob. Did Byrne ever say if he liked that cover or not?

Bob: I don't know.

Me: What do you think the best cover ever is?

Bob: I've always been partial to "Justice League of America" #4, "Doom of the Star Diamond!" by Murphy Anderson. When it came out in 1961, to my young eyes, it captured so much drama and suspense in a single fantastical scene, and it was beautifully drawn. A brilliant cover. Even today I can't imagine what more you could possibly want out of a cover. And right behind it would be "Green Lantern" #8, "The Challenge from 5700 A.D.!" by Gil Kane, and "The Brave and the Bold" #44 featuring Hawkman, "The Man Who Moved the World!" by Joe Kubert. Beautiful covers! Honorable mention goes to "Fantastic Four" #51, "This Man, This Monster!" by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, and "Amazing Spider-Man" #33, "The Final Chapter!" by Steve Ditko.

 Me: What do you think of the comic industry today, Bob? It changed a lot since the 70's, hasn't it?

Bob: The comic book industry has changed from a publishing business to a licensing business (and I'm including non-publishing entities like Marvel Studios in the broader term "licensing," even though Marvel Studios is part of greater Marvel). In the 70's the comic book industry derived most of its profits from publishing and served a broad base of fans. Today, book sales are a fraction of what they used to be. Publishers struggle to attract young fans to their books, or have given up the effort entirely. Obviously, the money to be made from comic book characters is in movies and other media. So when you ask what do I think of the industry... I don't really have an emotional feeling about this. It's a business, and the business model has evolved over the years to significantly change it from one kind of business to another. The publishing part serves to provide characters for exploitation by the licensing part.

Me: I work for Disney and I was surprised and skeptical when Disney purchased Marvel. What was your first reaction and was there a lot of talk on it at Marvel?

Bob: My reaction was "Impressive!" Disney paid a lot for Marvel, which, only a few years earlier, was in bankruptcy. And I also thought that I hope Marvel's new corporate masters wouldn't change the character of the company they were buying. I think a lot of people were concerned at the time that Disney would somehow "Disney-fy" Marvel. I guess the jury is still out on that, but so far Marvel seems to be chugging along as it had pre-Disney. As for how much talk was there at Marvel about the purchase, I no longer worked there so I don't know.

Me: When did you find out about the purchase?

Bob: The day it made the news, whenever that was.

Me: Anyway, Bob, thanks for being here on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website and anything else you wanna. I hope this was fun, because it was a huge honor to have you here.

Bob: Thanks again. I wish I could mention my website, but, alas, it's a work in progress. But while your audience patiently awaits for that to happen, they can contact me for art commissions by going to and clicking on my name on the home page for more information. And before I go, I must add that it has been my pleasure to be interviewed for the Peverett Phile.

Me: Thanks, Bob, that means a lot.

There you go, another entry of the Phile done. Thanks to Bob Budiansky for a great interview. I hope to have him here on the Phile again one day. The Phile will be back tomorrow with singer Jenn Summers and then next Sunday it's singer Kim Edwards and next Monday it's British blues great Mick Clarke. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Made by Logan.

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