June 29th, 2008

The Zombie

But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scars

June 27 -  Let's get back to the supposed subject of the month; comics characters with scars, remember?  After grade school, I began to imagine that I might be some sort of cartoonist or comic book artist someday.  That thought started to move me down a road of "taking it seriously," which I applied to virtually everything I drew.  Fun and cute characters, like Monkey and his family, went into forced retirement as "complicated" and moody characters dominated my college-ruled spiralbound notebooks.  Chief among these was the scarred Vladic, a character whose face (and, presumably, entire body) was ravaged by his "forbidden" explorations of immortality.  

Any of you who saw my 24-Hour Comic,
Continuity Crisis
, a couple of years back, may remember him and some of the circumstances behind his creation.  Back in December of 2004, I wrote about him right here in the ol' WOMP-Blog during my "Blast From The Past" feature (which allowed me to use stuff I'd already written as blog entries...sort of like what I'm about to do right now)...

A little more "Blast From The Past" stuff tonight.  This entry will be a transcription of notes scribbled on six over-sized Post-It Notes.  For the last couple of years of my days in high school, and the first few years after that, I was convinced that "MY" character, the one for which I would always be remembered, was a guy named Vladic.  He is a sort of super-dude with an increasingly shaky grip on his sanity, but he doesn't really have powers.  Vladic is immortal.  That is his "thing."  He was going to have a series of encounters, much like the TV shows The Fugitive and The Incredible Hulk, where he sort of breezed into town (or a planet), got embroiled in something, solved it, and kept on a-rollin' along...always driven to keep moving by an unseen force.  I still like Vladic, even having gone so far as to include him, along with several other characters, in ghostly cameo form behind Monkey in the last panel of the Zero Issue story in T.A.O.M. #1.  He is the gnarly looking guy with the horrible scars all over his face.  These six sheets are from 1986, and they cover a lot of my early thinking on Vladic, and on life in general.  Enjoy (?) -

1)  There's a certain dignity to a scar.  It represents, if nothing else, that the person scarred made it through whatever caused it.  A "deforming" scar carries this one step further, in that one can not help admiring the person scarred for his bravery in not hiding away from society.

2)  A scar is a thing of permanence, something that, for the rest of your life, will remind you of the unpleasant circumstances surrounding its origin every time you look in a mirror, or meet a person, or casually run your fingers across it.  In reality, then, you receive TWO SCARS.

3)  Mr. Vladic is scarred.  Deformed for eternity. The deep red lines and creeping black trenches that infest his body, mirror those in his mind.  In an immortal life, the first 80 years should seem so insignificant that they would scarcely amount to even a fraction of the smallest amount of time that a normal man measures his life with, yet...

4)  ...it is the memory of mistakes made in that equivalent of a fraction of a second that will haunt Vladic for the rest of ETERNITY.  But, what is "ETERNITY?"  Man is born, lives, and dies.  Is eternity only for the living, or is it only for the dead?

5)  The summation of a man's life is his eternity.  He keeps it in a back pocket or under his pillow.  But death brings another eternity, one unto itself.  Once a man has died, a "free" eternity begins, one unencumbered by concepts and theories.

6)  Vladic knows this in his heart, if not his mind.  Part of what drives him on, of what SCARS him, is the fact that if the current unbearable eternity should end, yet another would begin.  Knowing that the second eternity is inevitable is probably what keeps us sane, even if in constant dread.

That's it.  Interesting, especially since I think I jotted it all down while driving!

Oh, so melodramatic, don't you think?  Still, it brings up some interesting concepts.  A character with a scar is a symbol of life weariness and, possibly, learning from mistakes.  Not all scars are the result of poor decisions, of course.  Either way, they are something like the markings on the map of your life.  I think that the concept of a severely scarred hero (or antihero, or whatever Vladic is) appealed to me because his image alone - that of an obvious outsider - inspired stories in me.  In fact, he also appeared in my first "serious" self-publishing effort, 1983's Premium Comics #1.  Thanks to O.F.O.WOMP William Waite, who wrote the main story, we first see Vladic there as a villain...mistakenly, as it turns out.  I was so enamored of Vladic that I featured him in a two page story that I included in my application portfolio sent to The Kubert School, drew him in many of my assignments there, and spent many years thereafter depicting him in most of my large artwork pieces.  When I went to comic book conventions (and I'm jonesing a bit thinking about how I'm missing WizardWorld in Chicago right now), I had many different artists draw Vladic for me.  I now have Vladics drawn by everyone from Bill Sienkiewicz to Jim Lee.  And why?  I guess that, as you might see in those pretentious 1986 notes, Vladic may have been the first of my characters that I ever really explored, which surprised me by becoming an exploration of myself as well.  That made him seem more important to me somehow.  Vladic's disfigurement was the focus of my interest as I contemplated a simple question; which scars were worse, the ones we could see on Vladic's body or the psychological scars we couldn't see?  For whatever reason, though, I began to abandon Vladic, leaving him for my long neglected, and much more lighthearted and fun, childhood characters.  Now, decades later, I still have a warm spot for this, my most scarred comic book character, but I haven't made any plans to revive him.  Today, whenever I casually run my fingers over my own scars, I imagine that someday, somehow, Vladic may reappear.  Hmm.  I suppose that's about it for tonight, but, while I'm speaking of scarred characters reappearing, I have to send a big "Get Well" shout out to O.F.O.WOMP Marcus Mebes, who just sent this (now somewhat censored) message to me...

Scarred Comic Book Character: Deathstroke's daughter, Rose Wilson, a.k.a. the Teen Titans' Ravager.

Scarred comic book reader: Marcus; after having spent two weeks in the hospital for a sygmoid colectomy.... a.k.a. removal of the sygmoid colon (the large intestine) due to rupture. No, I'm not full of s**t.  It's the truth. I would have been, though, if the rupture had not been caught immediately and my intestines rerouted.

I look like my belly was part of Abby Cable's father, the Patchwork Man. Another scarred comic book character.

Thanks for the e-update, MM.  Take care!  Here are your Scarred Comic Book Characters of The Day for - June 26 - Two-Face, and June 27 - Mr. E!