Author: Craig Zablo

Rafael Kayanan and Lord of the Rings

I first met Rafael Kayanan somewhere around thirty years ago. He was a young aspiring artist. But even then he had the talent and you just knew that this kid was going to make it.

And boy, did he make it!

Raf‘s had quite an interesting career so far. He’s worked for most major comic publishers, served as a fight trainer on George Clooney‘s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind;” did the storyboards, served as a trainer, technical advisor and fight choreographer on “The Hunted” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro; worked on developmental art for the upcoming “Princess of Mars” movie… and so much more.

I recently touched base with Raf and found out he’d just completed art on 250 Lord of the Rings collector cards which will be out in February. He sent me a scan and permission to share it — so click HERE to see the larger version.

I don’t know about you, but I think that someday this kid may go places.

The Best Comics to Movie Adaptation Ever

Frank Miller’s Sin City is the best comics to movie adaptation ever.

Sure, arguments can be made for Superman [the first with Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner], the original Crow movie [with Brandon Lee] and even this year’s Batman Begins. But for my money, Sin City is the cream of the crop as far as getting to the screen what was on the comic page.

That may change next year when Warner Brother’s releases 300. Interestingly enough, 300, like Sin City is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. What’s also interesting is that Zack Snyder, 300’s director, will make extensive use of the same “green screen” techniques employed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller when they brought Sin City to life for the big screen.

Zack Snyder really impressed me with his work on the Dawn of the Dead remake. Not only did he have the stones to take on the job of updating Romero’s cult classic, but he succeeded!

Check out the official 300 web site and you’ll see that Snyder is a huge fan of Frank Miller‘s work. I believe that Snyder will bring the same sense of respect and ability to 300 that he brought to Dawn of the Dead. And if that’s the case, we’ll not only get a great movie experience but also possibly the best comics to movie adaptation ever.

Which Kong is King

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a worthy successor to the original King Kong.

The original King Kong is considered a classic. It inspired generations of film makers and paved the way for a new genre of movie which spawned countless imitations in film and other entertainment media. Consider all of the King Kong riffs that you’ve seen in tv, comics, novels, etc. Yeah, the original King Kong is the gold standard.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is going to be dismissed by some pureists who won’t consider anything but the original King Kong to be the best. For many film buffs,the original King Kong is THE movie that made them love film.

The original King Kong touched them in a way that no other film ever did before and when they watch it they recapture that feeling. They’re taken back to a time and a place that was special. No matter how good Peter Jackson’s King Kong is, it won’t be able to rekindle those feelings and will therefore fall short. Heck, I’d feel the same way about any Rocky movie that wasn’t made by Sly Stallone.

Ok, so how good is Peter Jackson‘s take on the big ape?

That I can answer. It’s absolutely great. Easily one of my two favorite movies of the year.

First of all, my hat is off to Peter Jackson. King Kong has been the film that he’s wanted to tackle since before he became a filmmaker. Everything that he’d done before Kong was just to prepare him for Kong.

Everything about the movie is near perfect. Loved the cast. The special effects were flawless. The music and editing were as well. The screenplay, while based on the original King Kong screenplay, kicked up the action and took me to a place that was familiar but much, much more dangerous. All aspects of the production combined to create a movie-going experience that was truly an experience.

Before I go on, let me say that if you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to stop reading since I’m going to discuss aspects that contain SPOILERS…

… Still here… ok then…

Some folks have complained that the first hour is too slow. I went in thinking that this might be the case, but for me, it wasn’t. I enjoyed the character development.

I loved the look of the island. The natives were realistic and frightening. Come to think of it, even the island looked frightening! And you’ve gotta love the way the native got onto the ship!

And then the appearance of Kong. Man, he looks so real. And I’m not just talking about his physical appearance. He moves like a giant ape should [note I said should, not does]. His fur gets matted and stuff gets in it.

I think it’s cool that Kong’s scarred and older looking. He’s a warrior on an island that demands you fight to survive. His battle with not one, but three tyranesarous rex [at the same time] was nothing short of amazing. All the while he’s fighting them, he’s protecting Ann… even as he throws punches, climbs, dodges and falls. He’s not called “King” Kong without reason.

But there’s more to King Kong than just the baddest mo on the island. Kong is the last of his kind and his loneliness is apparent. I also love it that Kong is intelligent. He has a sense of humor and enjoys the beauty of a sunrise. If you haven’t seen the movie, then my last sentence probably has you scratching your head. If you’ve seen the movie then you know it will break your heart before the movie’s end.

I love the search for Ann in New York… the frantic, wild search for just the right women and then how everything slows down and nothing else in the world matters once you find her. The escape with Ann is exciting and then the interlude on the ice. Beautiful. Unexpected and so sweet. It was at this point that I could feel the tears forming. Because the interlude wouldn’t last.

Kong‘s climb up the Empire State building still had one more surprise. If you saw the movie, you know what I mean. Kong places Ann in a place of safety and sits next to her. He looks out at the horizon and sees a sunrise and “tells” Ann it’s beautiful. Now the tears were flowing…

… because here came the planes. And you know the rest.

So is Peter Jackson’s King Kong better than the original King Kong?

Who’s to say? Comparing the original King Kong to Peter Jackson’s King Kong is like comparing an athlete from 1933 to one from today. Odds are that today’s athlete is bigger and faster but does that make him better? Does it really matter?

I guess that’s why sports leagues create their own Halls of Fame. Different athletes from different time periods can be honored and there is room for all who deserve a spot.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong deserves a spot next to the original King Kong. Let others then argue which Kong is King.

As for me, I’ll spend my time watching them both!

The Original “King Kong” rates an A+. Peter Jackson’s King Kong rates an A+.

John Spencer – RIP

A few minutes ago it was announced that John Spencer has died of a heart attack.

Most of you that recognize the name probably know Mr. Spencer from his work on
the West Wing where he played Leo McGarry.

Others may know him from his roles in LA Law, Cop Land, Black Rain, The Rock, Ravenous or one of the many other roles that he played in his career.

I always, always enjoyed it when John Spencer was on the screen. Even, like in Cop Land when he was playing a bad guy, I liked him. I wasn’t alone in my admiration for Mr. Spencer‘s acting. You can tell that from the many awards that he won over the course of his career.

Mr. Spencer was just 59 years old. He was still appearing on the West Wing where his character had been chosen to run for Vice President [under the likely winner]. Even with the potential of this being the last year for West Wing, John Spencer, and his fans should have had many more years to enjoy his acting.

Sadly that is not to be. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

Another Can’t Miss Blockbuster

The DaVinci Code was on the best seller list for years. Even people who didn’t normally read books picked it up… and most loved it. The buzz was huge. Except for Jaws and Harry Potter, I can’t think of any other novels that instantly became a part of popular culture like The DaVinci Code.

Next summer The DaVinci Code will make the transition to the big screen. My guess is that the movie will also be a blockbuster. Ron Howard‘s directiing it and Tom Hanks is the lead.

How can it go wrong?

If the trailer is any indication, it can’t.

Richard Pryor – RIP

As you’ve probably already heard, Richard Pryor died yesterday. He’d turned 65 a little over a week ago, but had suffered with multiple sclerosis for years. The disease made Richard seem older and robbed him [and us] of years that he could have been performing.

In the coming days you will hear testimony from comics, celebrities and others about Richard Pryor. Most will proclaim him to be one of the greatest comedians of all time. They’d be right, but Richard Pryor was much more than just a guy who told jokes.

Richard was a former soldier [two years in the army]. He was a great stand-up comedian. His comedy albums are classics. Pryor worked in television as an actor and writer [even starring in a short-lived series that was ahead of it’s time]. He also appeared in nearly 40 feature films, several of which he wrote, produced and/or directed.

Pryor’s comedy was raw. Sure, the language was quite often foul, but that’s not what I mean when I say his comedy was raw. Pryor’s comedy wasn’t superficial. He didn’t just relate funny stories. Pryor’s comedy crossed age barriers, color differences, and made you think even as you were laughing till the tears came. That’s because Richard’s comedy was founded in truth. He talked about racism, drug addiction, sex, male -female relations, and more.

Sure, he made us laugh… but equally important, he made us think.

The funniest movie that I ever saw was Richard Pryor Live. I saw it in a crowded theater in 1979. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a concert movie. Richard Pryor, a microphone and a crowded ampitheater. I never laughed so hard in my life.


I laughed to tears and beyond. My sides were truly hurting by the time the movie was over. And I wanted to hear more. I talked about the movie for days. Telling others that they should go and sharing laughs with people who’d seen it. Heck, it’s 26 years later and I’m still recommending it.

I’m sad to hear that Richard Pryor is no longer with us. I’m just as sad that he had to suffer so long from multiple sclerosis.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and fans.

Sgt. Rock, Jew Gangster and Rocky Balboa

Joe Kubert is a legend. And deservedly so. At 79, Joe is still turning out not just great drawings but great comics!

His recently published graphic novel, Jew Gangster, is getting great reviews and soon we’ll see Joe‘s return to one of his signature characters, Sgt. Rock, when the six issue mini-series, Sgt. Rock: The Prophet hits stands.

I had the good fortune to meet Joe Kubert in the early 80’s. He was Guest of Honor at one of Jim Ivey’s OrlandoCons. Joe was there to pick up his Ignatz award. At the time Mr. Kubert was also promoting a series that he was to write and draw for DC called The Redeemer. Sad to say it never appeared.

Another thing that Joe Kubert worked on that never appeared is, interestingly enough, a proposal for a Rocky Balboa newspaper strip. Mr. Kubert told me that he was approached to work on a daily newspaper strip and that he had in fact worked up character sheets, some daily samples, etc. Sadly the strip was never picked up.

You can imagine how excited I was to hear that JOE KUBERT had drawn Rocky Balboa. I asked Mr. Kubert if the art was available for sale, but it wasn’t. I then asked if I could buy Xeroxes but again, Mr. Kubert politely declined. Man, you just know that those pieces look great… maybe someday we’ll get the chance to see them in a treasury of his work…

At any rate, we can pick up Jew Gangster now and still have Sgt. Rock: The Prophet to look forward to.

A [Kind of] Funny Con Story

Here’s a [kind of ]funny con story from an AtlantaCon in the early 80’s.

Bob McLeod, John Beatty and I drove up. Pat Broderick decided to fly in rather than face the madness of an 8 hour ride with Beatty and I.

The first day of the show and the artists set up. Beatty, Broderick and McLeod are all in a row. I’m hanging out with them when not visiting with Paul Gulacy. Anyway…

Up walks a fan and stops in front of Bob. [All artists have name cards on the tables.] The fan proceedes to tell Bob what a huge fan he is of Bob’s work. The fan inquires about the price of a sketch. Bob tells him the amount. The fan says that he wants several figures… all of the Micronauts. Bob calculates the cost and tells him. The fan says, “No problem.”

The fan asks Bob if he can ink it. Bob says, “Of course, but the cost would be more.” Bob tells him how much. The fan says, “I love your work. No problem.”

The fan then asks if Bob could color it. Bob says, “Of course, but the cost would be more.” Bob tells him how much. The fan says, “I love your work. No problem.” They agree on the final price. Bob tells the fan to check back at the end of the day and the fan goes off.

Bob is really happy to meet such a huge fan of his work. He says that he’s surprised that the fan wanted the Micronauts since he could have gone to Pat and gotten him to do it. [Pat was a fan fav for the Micronauts at the time.] Of course Beatty and I start teasing Pat and even Bob joins in [a little].

Bob starts on the Micronauts piece. Other fans come around, but Bob is being careful about taking on more sketches since he has so many figures to pencil, ink and color. As everyone probably knows, Bob gives fans a lot for their money and when he colors a piece — man, is it sweet.

So Bob’s working away… we’re still teasing Pat… more fans are being told that Bob’s sketch list is full the fan comes by periodically to check on the progress… it is looking soooo nice.

Late in the day the fan comes by and stands directly in front of Bob. Bob looks up and smiles. The fan doesn’t…

“Sir,” he says, “There has been a terrible mistake…” The fan goes on to say that he thought Bob was Pat Broderick. He’s sorry, but he won’t be wanting the sketch. The fan then moves down to Pat Broderick. He proceedes to tell Pat what a huge fan he is…

Of course Beatty, and I start teasing Bob… and Pat even joins in [a little].

Tampa Con Report

Hey Zoners… ok, I’m picking up the tale of our four middle-aged playas after they’ve
arrived at the show. If you want to read more tales of the trip then click HERE and
John “The Dude Abides” Beatty will fill you in.

Tim Gordon’s Tampa Comic Book and Toy Convention is the best one day show
that you’ll find anywhere. There are media guestscomic artistscostumers,independent filmmakers [with a continuously running screening room] , and
dozens and dozens of dealers.

Yes, that’s the look of fear that crossed Mark and Stephanie Heike‘s faces when
they discovered that the Mild Bunch [John “Johnny Star-Warz” HigashiJames
“The James” HowellJohn “The Dude Abides” Beatty, and yours truly] had arrived.

Larry Thomas, better known as “The Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld, had a table. He was selling autographed pictures and soup ladles for $20 a pop. I’m a huge Seinfeld fan.
I loved the series and thought “The Soup Nazi” episode was a riot. However, $20
bucks for an autographed picture? Five samoleons and I’m there, heck, I’d have
even bought a couple, but twenty of my hard-earned smack-a-toons for one?
No thanks.

So, I’m waiting for Pat Broderick to arrive and up walks Beatty. He says that every
time he tried to get a photo of “The Soup Nazi,” the “Nazi” turned or raised his hands
to insure that the picture wasn’t a good one. I laughed it off. Later Beatty came up to
say that he’d tried for a photo several more times, but each time the “Nazi” thwarted
his efforts. This, of course, makes me want to get a candid. I did, but as you can tell
from the full shotMr. Thomas did not seem to happy about it. If that’s the case, I’m
sorry, Mr. Thomas… and I really would have bought a couple of autographs had
they been cheaper!

Now the guy that I really was there to see was Pat Broderick. I’ve known Pat for
nearly 30 years! We first met at an OrlandoCon back in the 70’sPat‘s a great guy
and a heck of an artist. He and Beatty even teamed up on a couple of comic series
over the years! I was curious to see if Pat would be interested in doing a piece for my Stallone gallery. Lucky for me he was! I’ll post it later this weekend with my SZ update.
Higashi and Howell also set up sketches with Pat.

The next guy on our hit list was Karl Moline who was sharing a table with Randy
[Edward Scissorhands Collection] Martin
. While John Higashi and I set up sketches
with KarlThe James scooted over to arrange a take-home commission with Pablo Marcos.

Then it was over to the film room where we caught some of Joel D. Wynkoop‘s film
“Lost Faith.” Joel was at the show, and as you can see HERE has made a lot of films.
Joel is very approachable and obviously has a love of film. It might be cool if he and
Bill Black ever hook up for a project.

Beatty got that look in his eyes that said it was time for lunch. Howell said he was
ready for a bite too. Even Higashi said he’d eat [which is a rare thing for Johnny SW
to do at a show]. I wasn’t hungry, but said I’d join them for a Coke. We ended up in the hotel’s sport’s bar. As we were yacking away waiting for the food to arrive, the NY
 were on tv playing the Philadelphia EaglesHowell suddenly blurted out, “I’ve
got five bucks for anyone who’ll yell “Go Giants!”

I immediately yelled, “Go Giants! Go Giants!” and before I could collect my fiver, a
loud chorus of “Go Philly!” “Giants Suck” “Go Philly” erupted from behind me. I
turned to see probably 30 or 40 grown men [most of whom were wearing Eagles
jerseys] looking our way. Of course, this just made Beatty an instant Giants fan who
began to LOUDLY cheer for the Giants way and BOO the Eagles.

Two things saved us from the situation getting ugly. 1] Beatty‘s sandwich arrived and
2] Mrs. Pat Broderick came by the table to say, “Hi.”

After lunch we headed back to the show. Pat and Karl had finished my sketches.
They had [independently] decided to draw Deke from Nighthawks! And both did
really, really cool sketches. I’ll post them tomorrow with the SZ update.

I’d been wanting to get a sketch from Derrick Fish for a while. Luck was with me
because when I checked with Derrick, he had a spot on his sketch list open. 
completed my sketch trifecta by doing a really nice cartoon of Rocky
knocking out Dandy.

Soon it was time to say our goodbyes and load up the “Jack Carter” car for our trip
home. As we snaked our way around the con to say we were heading out, we made
sure to let the Heike‘s know that we’d see them at the next show in May!

Meeting a Legend, Sir!

Have you ever seen a better looking group of middle-aged playas?
Ok, ok. Maybe you have. But that’s what we looked like last Saturday night when we stopped over at Mike Zeck‘s on the first leg of our Tampa Con weekend. From left to right: John “Johnny Star-Warz” Higashi, Mike Zeck, James “The James” Howell, me, and John “Big” Beatty.

We stopped at Mike‘s house to pick up copies of his latest sketchbook to have on display at the Tampa show. Mike is one of the coolest, most down to earth guys you’d ever want to meet. Beatty and I have known Mike for nearly 30 years [yeesh!] and Higashi has known him for a couple. It was The James‘ first time meeting Mike. Normally The James is very cool about meeting artists… even big name artists. In fact, The James is friends with some of the best artists in the business… yet something came over him when he met Mike.

Here are a couple of brief exchanges that they had:

The James: Uh, Mr. Zeck it is a pleasure to meet you, sir. I… uh, I am a big, no huge, uh… fan of your work, Mr. Mike Zeck, sir.

MIke: Thank you. And please, call me Mike.

The James: Ok, I’ll do that Mr. Zeck.

Mike smiles as The James goes on.

The James: Uh, Mr. Mike Zeck, sir, I’d really like to purchase a copy of your sketchbook, sir, that is if you don’t mind and uh, if it isn’t too much trouble, sir.

Mike had just pulled out 15 copies which John Higashi had purchased for Tampa. Other copies were easily within reach.

Mike: No problem at all James. In fact, you can have one at the dealer discount.

The James: Uh, no sir, Mr. Mike Zeck, sir. I insist that I pay full retail price, sir, uh… that is if it’s okay with you, sir.

Mike shrugged his shoulders as The James forced a twenty into his hand.

The second exchange took place as we were leaving.

The James: “Wowee. It has been such a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Mike Zeck. I’ve admired you, I mean your work… you know, your art… for a long time. Uh, but don’t think I’m a stalker, sir. It’s just that, it’s just that, you know, sir, you’re THE MAN.”

Mike: Thanks, James. And please just call me Mike.

The James: Yes sir, I will Mr. Mike, sir.

The James then turned to leave, but quickly spun back around and said: “I really dig your shirt, sir!” and then he was out the door.

It was cool to see that even a middle-aged playa like The James can still break into fanboy mode.

A Nazi, A Werewolf, Big Beatty and Much More

Looking for something to do tomorrow and you can make it to Tampa, Florida?

Well then… if you’d like to meet a Soup Nazi, a former Teenage Werewolf, several comic book professionals, some independent filmmakers and comic artists, or maybe even Big John Beatty, you should heard over to the Tampa Comic Book and Toy Convention.

I’ll be driving down [in the Jack Carter car] with Big Beatty, John “Johnny Star Warz” Higashi, and James “The James” Howell. The trip looks to have some additional fun since we’re planning to swing by Mike Zeck‘s for a quick visit.

The con runs on Sunday from 10AM to 4PM and is the best one day showing going! Click HERE and see why!

Do You Want To Be In A Movie?

Do you want to be in a movie?

Sounds like some sleezy come-on made to a teenage runaway, right? Well, it’s not.

While you may not make it to the final cut, you can have the opportunity to be on the set for filming of Rocky Balboa! [That’s Rocky VI to those keeping score.]

Here’s the deal: crowds are needed for the climatic fight and Big Crowd Productions provides them. Click on the banner above and you’ll go to their web page that tells you all of the films that they’ve worked on as well as the details for being on set for Rocky Balboa filming.

Just think, you could be on the set with Sly Stallone, Antonio Tarver, and other stars as they film the climatic battle… and who knows, you could even find yourself in the movie!

Some SZoners have already signed up to be there… will you be next?

Please Encourage The Big Guy

My buddy, John “Big Beatty” has updated his blog with some thoughts and sketches.

Maybe if enough of us post comments this will become a regular feature at BB’s Blog O’Rama.

I know that I’d love to see that. If you would too, then drop the big guy [or is that Bug Eye] a line.