Tuesday, August 04, 2009

And I'll call him...Shar-Pei

These words, uttered by The Godhead, sparked a life changing moment for me and Tom Sniegoski. We met through Steve Bissette. Tom had been writing and submitting short stories for awhile and one of them was adapted in Taboo #1, edited by Steve Bissette and drawn by MIke Hoffman. I'd been running into Steve while he was out doing Swamp Thing signings throughout the Northeast. Tom called and said that Steve suggested we pull our talents together. I called Steve and he said Tom was good people. We spoke on the phone a few times, he was from the Boston area and I was in Western Massachusetts. We eventually met at a Boston convention in 1988. We hit it off and we started to bounce ideas around. I would travel out to Boston and hold up in Tom and his then girlfriend, now wife, LeeAnne's apartment on Beacon Hill. To get in the door you had to subject yourself to a walk around the block with their Shar-Pei, Spencer. Once you did this you were allowed in the door. We eventually started goofing about how would Spencer look in a kimono. Well one thing led t another and we had a pretty good design for Shar-Pei.
He wasn't our orignal idea though. Our original project was called Gutter Rat and that's what we were selling at the Albany NY Fantacon. however no one was buying. They did however like the rough drawing I had of Shar-Pei. Well we went back and started putting together our first 6 page story. Armed with Chinese reference material, Frank MIller's Ronin and a pile of duo-shade board, I drew from Tom's script a quick 6 page adventure. LeeAnne lettered it, because my hand lettering, although good, wasn't good enough.
We trotted down to NYC to the latest Fred Greenberg Spectacular and there we met Gary Reed from Caliber Press. We did our song and dance about what we wanted to do with a mini-series and Gary said he'd call us. Well, he did and we had a deal to do a three issue mini-series. This was 1989 and we were both excited. I started cranking out pencils and then inks. Then once the pages were lettered I went through and used the duo-shade board and the occasional zip-a-tone to finish the book. I hand-colored the cover and The Swords of Shar-Pei was done! After the next 2 remaining issues were completed we collected the issues into one spectacular romp with a new wrap around cover and we hit the convention circuit traveling along the Northeast.
We followed up the Swords with the Guns of Shar-Pei. This time the story was driven by our love of gangster movies, spaghetti westerns and Lawrence of Arabia. The Guns was an adventure in itself because Tom was writing stuff that I had never drawn before and it made me draw out of my comfort zone. It was fun and challenging. As we saw numbers dwindle, we moved away from Caliber. I stayed on and inked a couple issues of Deadworld and Tom went on to write Vampirella for Harris Comics. We worked for the same publisher, Dark Moon for a couple years but the bad business practices of the company left us no choice but to walk away and watch the company fold. Eventually Tom struck up a friendship with Billy Tucci and Crusade Entertainment. Bill wanted to grow his company so he offered a select number of creators to join his crew and self-publish through his Crusade imprint. Shar-Pei was back, but this time the book was called Dogs-O-War!. We teamed up Shar-Pei with a female Doberman sidekick named Gypsy and continued our story, this time introducing more, bizarre characters and helping me on the art chores were inkers Ethan Van Sciver, Nathan Massengill, Eric Powell and Chuck Angell. This I felt was a great mini-series. Unfortunately Billy Tucci pulled the plug on the creator owned books and we finished up our run and we were done. It's been a long time since I drew Shar-Pei, but I felt this was the time to draw him again and see if I could still do it.
I guess I can.



Jeff said...

so I feel like this story is not over yet... are you drawing Shar-Pei for a special reason?... Another series perhaps? A graphic Novel? Dare I say it... A MOVIE??

curmudgeon said...

I still have my three "Dogs o War" comics.

dogboy443 said...

Really? Can I see a copy of number 3? I think I have 2 left.

RAWLS said...

Fantastic stuff Mark! Love your contribution to TYE! Keep up the great work my friend.

HemlockMan said...

I love comic book history lessons. Whatever happened to Tucci, anyway?