For as long as I can remember I’ve been making stuff. I’ve got a creative itch that I just need to scratch. As a kid I scratched it by drawing. But I’ve never been the type of kid who was simply content to draw a dinosaur and move on. If I was gonna draw a dinosaur I had to draw every dinosaur I could think and then give them names and a back story. I just love sequential, episodic storytelling. In my earliest years of school, I’m talking kindergarten and grade 1, well before I was into collecting comics, I was already creating my own comic books. They didn’t have multiple panels per page like traditional comics so in truth they were more like children’s picture books. I would take a Hillroy scribbler and draw a picture on each page to tell a complete story. My earliest creations that I can recall were a fat baby and skinny baby duo that had a slapstick/three stooges vibe. After that I created a series about a green stick man with antennas called “A Martian on Earth”. I drew multiple adventures about the martian and I started putting multiple panels on the pages at that point so my creations began to more closely resemble comics instead of storybooks. When I moved to Nova Scotia in grade 3 I made a new best friend in Jason Pelley. We had similar interests and hit it off right away. We were paired up on an assignment which we used as a launching pad to create our very own super hero, Super Bug. Super Bug was basically a googly eyed inch worm with a red cape. He flew around the garden defeating evil bugs from eating plants and stuff like that.
After a while we decided we should start up our own comic book “company”. My brother Doug and I got the ball rolling. I was doing a Super Bug comic, writing, drawing and coloring it in colored pencils myself, and Doug started a spin off book called Super Mantis which took place in the same garden. Super Mantis was a praying mantis in a cape and boots. Each issue of our comics in those days was about 5 pages long and when completed we would staple them together and bask in the joy of completing another issue. Our drawing skills were developing quickly at this point and every issue looked better than the last. We soon decided to tackle characters that were a little harder to draw. Doug started a book called Turtle Patrol (years before we had ever heard of the TMNT) and I started on Super Skunk who was again, just a skunk in a cape. For a while I had an entire team of animals in capes called the Animal Team Force, kinda like a Justice League of the jungle.
By this time Doug and I were seriously into Marvel comics and we decided to adopt the name of Marbel comics for our company. We started creating characters by the dozens. Creating might be a stretch because they were all just rip-offs of Marvel characters, only ours were animals. I’m not sure if it’s because we started with animals back in the bug days and just felt we should stick with it, or if it was the influence of an all ages comic actually published by Marvel called Spider-Ham about a pig version of Spider-Man or maybe it was just because we thought we couldn’t draw realistic looking people, but whatever the reason we opted to create a fully anthropomorphic Marvel Universe. Doug started with a book called Iron Cat, I started Spider-Ram and this is when Jason Pelley came on board with Wolverine the Wolverine. These were followed by America Mouse, the Uncanny X-Animals, Bear-Devil, the Freaky Four and many more. After a couple of years our Marbel Universe had become a huge expansive universe of its own with hundreds of characters, most of whom were Marvel knock-offs but there were a few original creations amongst them. One of those original creations was called the Boarder Brigade. The B. Brigade was about a group of 6 adolescent skateboarding dogs. I wrote and drew a book simply called the Boarder Brigade which starred 3 of the kids. Doug did a companion book called Power Pup and his Boarder Brigade which starred the other half of the gang. Though they were separate books the characters and stories were constantly intertwined meaning I was drawing Doug’s characters all the time and he was drawing mine. We would sit at the dining room table for hours drawing these things and were able to tell the same stories from different character’s perspectives. The kids were intended to be around 12 years old and they were mischievous brats who were always getting into trouble. We created a huge supporting cast of family, friends, classmates and enemies. We even had maps of the neighborhood so we always knew what to draw in the background depending on where they were hanging out. The Boarder Brigade had a slight super hero element to it in that the kids found a bag of magical Airwalk sneakers that actually allowed them to walk on air along with 6 golden flying skateboards. Those fantastical elements didn’t get played up too much though, I preferred to write hanging out, slice of life type stuff. In one issue they went to a school dance, in another had to fight a new bully and in another attend a family reunion. Of all the comics we had drawn and written Doug and I were most proud of this little corner of the Marbel universe that we had created all on our own.
As we got a little older we were looking to challenge ourselves once again. We decided to launch a new comic company of strictly “original” ideas and this time we were gonna do books about humans. This new venture was called Incredible Comics. Rather than just walk away from Marbel we decided to go out in style. We took a group of nasty villains called the Terminators whom we had previously created and had them destroy the Marbel Universe. Doug and I both did a Terminators 1 shot issue where the Terminators went about annihilating everyone. All of our Marvel knock-off characters died quickly and violently. Then to really put this thing to bed, we blew up the planet. No more Marbel Universe, onto bigger and better things.
Our new Incredible Universe became a vast creation as well with books 20 pages long and far more detailed. We created new original super heroes and villains by the dozens. However we just couldn’t bear to part with the Boarder Brigade. We launched a new Boarder Brigade series set in the Incredible Universe. We explained their presence in out new universe as follows: when the Marbel planet blew up, the B. Brigade’s entire subdivision was sent hurtling through space like an asteroid leaving the inhabitants miraculously unharmed. The asteroid crash landed off the coast of British Columbia on the Earth of the Incredible Universe where after some trepidation the humans welcomed these strange dog people and allowed them to stay.
Once all that was out of the way we went on telling our funny slice of life Boarder Brigade stories alongside our Incredible Super Hero adventure stories. We carried on this way for a few more years until we just didn’t have the time and we started developing other interests. To say good-bye we had the Terminators travel through space to this new planet where they were going to annihilate this world and all its heroes as well. We spent years setting up the story that sadly we never finished. (as a side note I’m not done with that story yet…sure it’s been 20 years but the Incredible heroes will one day face off against the Terminators)
After the end of Incredible I moved onto self-publishing black and white comic ‘zines and Doug tried his hand at writing a novel. These days I scratch my creative itch by writing screenplays and this blog. Doug however has gone back to the Boarder Brigade well and has continued their color pencil hued adventures purely to scratch his own creative itch.
I could go on about this stuff forever but I better cut to the chase before I lose you if I haven’t already. For as long as Doug and I have been creating characters, we’ve been trying to find ways to bring them off the page into something that we could physically play with. We created a pretty rad Boarder Brigade board game at one point with cardboard figurines of the characters to use as play pieces. It was your typical “Game of Life” type of deal but it was fun and we played it a lot. When I took woodworking in junior high I attempted to make action figures of some of my characters out of wood. I managed to crank out two wooden Boarder Brigade figures before being forced to move onto the cooking portion of home ec. This is one of those figures which I made around 1990 or ’91. This is Ollie who was kind of the leader of my group. My characters were Oliver, Scott and Jenny who took on the nicknames of Ollie, Hand Plant and Invert when they started their skateboarding club. Doug’s characters were Richard, Jeff and Peter who took on the names of Power Pup, Railslide and Half Pipe.
The B. Brigade pretty much always wore the same clothes almost as if it were their uniform. Ollie always had on his yellow rat bones shirt and red anarchy bandanna. He always wore sunglasses but he wore them up on his forehead to be fashionable more than he ever wore them for UV protection. He originally always wore blue jeans but by the time I made this figure he had switched to black shorts. This figure is a pretty close representation of how Ollie appeared on the page because all I really did was draw him on a piece of wood as it it was paper and then I cut him out. I’m not a very handy fellow but I think I did a pretty good job with the exception of his forearms where I was unable to cut off all the extra space leaving this figure with freaky Popeye forearms. Most of this figure’s weaknesses come from my shitty drawing. The proportions are off and his shoulders are too wide and he’s too ripped to be a bratty skateboard kid. Another problem with the figure is the fact that it doesn’t move at all so it’s closer to a statue or paperweight than it is to an action figure but I just wasn’t skilled enough to try to figure out how to give him working joints. This homemade monstrosity kind of sucks but it’s likely the only Ollie figure I’ll ever own so it will have to do. Maybe one day I’ll make a legitimate attempt to customize a real figure but until then…2 out of 10.