Monday, May 15, 2017

The Last Mechanical Monster Lands at

One week from today, May 22, my Eisner-nominated webcomic The Last Mechanical Monster will begin appearing three days a week at

I think that's pretty great.

I began posting the comic myself in 2013 and, 170 pages later, finished it in 2015. I was upfront about The Last Mechanical Monster being a "work in progress"--it said so right in each page's header--which in practice meant it was almost all black-and-white art. I also used the opportunity to solicit readers' suggestions and feedback, and used some of it.

Since then, I've colored the entire thing, and was honestly stunned by what a big difference it made. It really reads to me like a whole new story.

Now will offer it to a potentially much larger audience than I ever reached on my own.

GoComics is the online arm of Andrews McMeel Universal, which syndicates most of the biggest and best comic strips and newspaper features in the world. Peanuts, Doonesbury, Garfield, Pearls Before Swine, and Dear Abby are all theirs. To be clear, Last Mechanical Monster will not be in newspapers, only online. That still means thousands of potential new eyeballs. CoComics readers can subscribe to a personalized list of comics via either a free or premium membership. I might even earn a few bucks if I get a lot of subscribers, and it's easy to sign up for a free account (*ahem*). If it does really well . . . who knows?

GoComics readers familiar with my original story will notice one change right away. My first version made no secret that it was a sequel to the great 1941 Fleischer Studios "Superman" cartoon titled "The Mechanical Monsters." Those shorts have long been in the public domain, so while I obviously couldn't use Superman in my new material, I felt legally and ethically free to retell the old cartoon's story in an opening preface. Well, my editor at Andrews McMeel Universal was understandably leery of that, so the comic starts with a new two-page preface scrubbed of anything Super. Honestly? I think it works better than the original.

A few things about doing The Last Mechanical Monster surprised me. I set out thinking of it as a palate-cleanser--a light little story about an old man and his giant robot that didn't demand of me the angst of Mom's Cancer or even the prodigious research of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? I did it because it was an idea I'd kicked around for a long time that sounded like fun, and I needed to remind myself that comics could--and often should--be fun.

And it was! Once I got on the right track (I've explained before how I spent many months writing and penciling more than 100 pages before realizing I wasn't telling the story I wanted to tell and started over from scratch, literally on the backs of the pages I'd already drawn), The Last Mechanical Monster was a hoot!

But y'know, that thing happened where the characters became kind of real to me, I felt bad when I made bad things happen to them, and sometimes they told me themselves what they wanted to do next. I found deeper themes about loss and legacy that struck a chord with me. When I finished the last page, a genuine sadness settled over me for days because I wouldn't be spending any more time with Sparky, Lillian, Helen, Chip and Ted. I missed them.

Another surprise was how deeply some readers got involved with and even moved by the story. That comes with the territory when you do comics about illness or even Space Age history, but I honestly didn't expect anybody to really care about my giant robot comic. Yet some did. I had a wonderful correspondence with a man whose father had fallen into depression when his wife died, and my comic helped him climb out of it. The father sent me a song he composed, accompanying himself on the accordion, that makes me smile every time it comes around on my playlist.

Who knew?

So this is a cool deal. Thanks to Shena Wolf and John Glynn at Andrews McMeel Universal. I hope you'll check it out.

In a stroke of good timing, a guy named David Ely is trying to splice together the definitive versions of the Fleischer "Superman" cartoons. They've been in bad shape for decades; Warners did a terrific digital restoration a few years ago but inexplicably introduced some errors. By combining the best of several different versions, David's trying to do the ultimate restoration. Here's his take on "The Mechanical Monsters," some of the most gorgeous animation ever done in the history of the medium, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my "Last Mechanical Monster." Enjoy it.

1 comment:

Sharon Tuttle said...

Woo-hoo! Looking forward to seeing this. 8 - )