|Mock comic book cover for the Zeppo event.|
Every month on the old Herotalk message boards of the Museum of Black Superheroes, there was a Sketch Challenge for the members to participate in. It provides fellowship, encouragement, kind of an excuse to practice and (depending on the topic) can be a great deal of fun.
One day in late 2009, after a lengthy and draining argument with one of the other members, I drew a picture of Zeppo slaughtering my opponent in a particularly horrible fashion (see: above). Zeppo happens to be one of the other members in disguise as a mysterious killer clown figure who will occasionally make an appearance to belittle someone in a diabolical clown-type way. I had a really good time drawing the pic, not just because it was being used to destroy someone I really wasn't feeling at the time, but because it was fun to tap into the whole "Freddy Kruger" side of my creative parts. I suggested that the next Sketch Challenge should be Zeppo imagery, and I immediately got to work drawing a couple more.
Much to my disappointment, the Sketch Challenge director decided to completely ignore me and chose to do a sequel to a previously successful challenge, one that involved only drawing our interpretations of the other members' characters. It didn't take me too long to put two and two together, and thus HEROTALK versus ZEPPO was born!
I dunno... maybe the director made that choice on purpose because he figured what I would end up doing? In any event I had a ball 'watching' Zeppo decimate the Museum. Wheee! heh heh heh!
Zeppo's first victims were a caricature of URAEUS, a Herotalk moderator, and his creation Jaycen Wise. Jaycen is an immortal and was apparently inspired by the Highlander franchise, although he's far older than any of those characters. He's one of the board's favorites because you can literally draw him in any time period and outfit, so he's cool to add as a guest star no matter what nature the story.
In something like this, people would expect Jaycen Wise to show up and save the day what with his being a demon slayer in his own book and all, but by showing him first (about to make the biggest mistake of his long life) I figured I'd throw everyone a curve ball right off rip.
In the last Fam-Art challenge, in which we had to draw everyone else's character, I really made the effort to draw as many obscure characters as time allowed. Most of the other members are especially fond of the "street level" heroes... characters with no super powers who tackle more neighhood/urban community type threats with conventional weaponry and conventional fighting skills. Jaycen Wise is also in this category really, because despite his immortality, he doesn't have any super powers to speak of. Because of this, most of the other cartoonists on the site tend to draw the same street level heroes over and over and over and over again.
For myself, I consciously stayed away from those guys the last time, only drawing them in parody form if at all. The character depicted above is named Khepesh the Guardian and is the creation of Mshindo I., one of the more popular of the artists at Herotalk. I didn't get to draw him the last time, so I wanted to make sure I drew the character this go around. I love magicians and mystic rebel figures in my own speculative fiction, so I had little interest in showing Zeppo kill him. Instead I drew a quick flashback scene showing perhaps where the clown came from in the first place, answering some questions, but no doubt creating many more... like a good horror story should. lol
Last time I had a LOT of fun with Injera70's R.O.N. because for one he looked cool to me, and I played around with alternate ways of depicting the robot that his creator probably didn't think of. I had him either acting completely out of character or being on the losing end of a super battle. This time I figured I owed Injera70, so I actually drew R.O.N. in his true capacity as a good guy kicking some butt.
That's not to say he actually stopped Zeppo's rampage, I just wanted to show him in a good light.
Blackbird by charlie-fab, who is pretty much a ninja using his very street level skills to clean up the hood, is the perfect example of that type of character that killer clowns find so delicious. This represented Zeppo's true prey and started a smorgasbord of street level destruction that began with Blackbird...
...continued on with FLEX HECTIC! by iran harris...
...moved along to Stealth by William Satterwhite...
...and then onto Dodger by Joe Currie known as That Strictly Kid.
By this time, I had actually started entertaining the idea of having Zeppo go after the heavy hitters. I started working it like a puzzle in my mind (how COULD he go after the big guys???) but not really thinking of it seriously.
I showed Zeppo hiding from the ultra powerful Francisco the Supergreen by Red Skew pretty much to remind everyone (and myself) that even though he was more than a match for any street level character (at this time, I falsely assumed Satterwhite's Stealth was a normal human martial artist type), he wouldn't stand a prayer against the True Heroes with their great super powers. I really enjoy drawing those guys though and thought at this point that Supergreen (or maybe even the mighty Amazula by KRStyle who is capable of punching out Ultraman) would end up capturing the clown prince of death and mutilation.
This is Brutha Yamz by the fine artist III. This character is a pro wrestler in his civilian identity, and his creator is also a big, big pro wrestling fan, so I thought it would be neat for him to actually be putting Zeppo in the full nelson.
In addition to enabling me to build some creepy suspense with some sequentials, it also had the added benefit of taking longer to complete than the others, giving me just the time I needed to figure out exactly how Zeppo would be able to go after the heavy hitters! I decided that Zeppo WON'T be captured by Amazula afterall... that in fact, he was going to kill her!
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce SUPER ZEPPO!!!
That's right! BLACKSTAR's character Abraham, the Young Lion wears a belt that grants its wearer flight capabilities as well as strength enhancement. Unfortuately for Abraham, he is usually powered down even when he's casually wearing it, enabling Zeppo to sneak up on him and take it. Zeppo is especially clever as a tinkerer, and removed the weaknesses from the device and even upped the belt's ability to grant him even more super strength.
Now Zeppo is very powerful. He's not quite through yet though... I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of him tackling Amazula even now. But we can still have a little fun first...
I just had to test out Zeppo's new found might by having him completely destroy Mase's Dragon Clan. I only show two of them here, the two fastest. That's Saul Kirkpatrick, master of the Mantis Style in the back (desperately trying to keep his guts from spilling out) and Jordan Freeman of the Cheetah Style of Kung Fu.
I don't consider the Kung Fu guys to be street level just because in speculative fiction they often have super speed, strength and use their highly developed chi force to throw energy bolts. Only certain creators go through the trouble of making sure their character's fighting skills are excessively grounded in the real world for that authentic street level vibe.
NOW IT'S ON! hahahahahaha!
Super Zeppo is on a whole 'nother level!
Zeppo was touched and decided to answer him with a personal note.
Addileon is the Krimson Flame, one of Hallboy01's characters. Zeppo robbing him of his fancy hammer is part of my empowering of the killer clown. According to Hallboy01, Krimson Flame is extremely formidable. Zeppo probably would not have defeated him if he would've attacked the youngster head-on. Fortunately for Zeppo, the Krimson Flame powers down when he's not under a threat he is actually aware of, therefore he is quite vulnerable to Zeppo's sneak attacks.
One more hero to go before Super Zeppo is at maximum power...
The character Omari, who was created by purge, is a super bad dude. He's invincible, has vast super strength/speed, and possesses a steller version of the Omega Effect... eye beams capable of destroying anything they come in contact with... and Zeppo would never in a brillion, trillion years could have beaten him even with Abraham's power belt.
And that's where the Krimson Flame's hammer comes into play. It is also invincible, and powered by what Hallboy01 called "Nubian Energy." Since Omari is invincible and a black dude (thus also powered by Nubian Energy) I figured they cancelled each other out, enabling the hammer to work upon Omari's superpowered frame no different than how a big ole hammer would work on one of us. So Zeppo's strategy was just to run up on him and beat the dog crap out of him, like Ray Liotta pistol-whipping that guy in Good Fellas. Never letting up, never giving him a chance to focus his eye beams on him.
Notice that I also had my characters, Mort and Pugroff from Monsters 101, guest star in this segment. That's why I kept it black & white so they would be comfy. I also had Mshindo I's mysterious Khepesh the Guardian figure show up to undo Mort's spell, the Congealing Devil Touch, which freezes all opponants it is directed at into a block of red ice. The ice is magic-based and can't be broken out of with brute force... only another magician can counter the spell.
The mighty Amazula by KRStyle is by far my favorite character from the members of the Herotalk message board. In addition to her being a beautiful black woman, she is also like the female version of Marvel Comic's Champion of the Universe. That is to say, she is is a master of most every martial art in the universe, has nigh-incalculable strength and is indestructible.
Yet for all her power, she proved no match for a certain psychotic clown who wields Omari's Omega Beams of Death. A pity.
And with his highly ambitious goal met, there is nothing left for Zeppo to do but kill time towards the end of the month by killing off all of the remaining scraps...
Dziva Jones is the creation of the MeanAssRose. Dziva is skilled in the fighting arts of the Samurai and certain African fighting disciplines, which means she's street level. Zeppo's favorite snack. lol
Actually, Dziva is also possessed of both telepathy and telekinesis, but unfortunately for her, psionic powers don't work when you're psyche has been devastated by demon-inflicted trauma.
Of course the word "immortal" means "cannot die" so I figured we should check to see how everyone's favorite immortal was holding up.
Someone made the suggestion that perhaps the younger, more inexperienced 14 year old version of Francisco the Supergreen could travel from the past to stop Super Zeppo.
Zeppo thought it was a great idea.
My younger brother, A-Rah, picked the wrong month to start running off at the mouth...
At this point I figured it was time for me to start sewing the seeds for wrapping up the story. I had chosen a couple members' characters who would be instrumental in finally catching the murderous beast.
jeremy611 was my most often caricatured member... I had even designed a regular character of him based off of his love of the Batman... and I wanted to use his super-team called The Squad to bring Zeppo to bay so that the other member's character could deliver the coup de grace. Earlier in the month I had asked him for some reference material, so by now I knew he was probably wondering what was up with his people. Not to mention the fact that I hadn't drawn his caricature once the whole month...which was especially telling since Zeppo had started attacking actual members of the board (A-Rah).
So here I showed a mysterious, possibly military, team staking out the creature. I carefully avoided mention of the superhero codenames, so no one knew what this meant or what was going on except for the characters' creator himself. I received the desired enthusiastic response and then moved on.
lol I know this gag looks retarded, but it was perfect in the moment I couldn't pass it up. The Griot, as this board member was known, was contributing some mini-tales to the Zeppo legend and in response to something I said, he ended his comment with, "For all I know, Zeppo could really be going after...!"
How could I pass THAT up?
Damali and her foul-mouthed boyfriend New Era are the two Herotalk members from London, England (who were kind enough to freak out right on cue when their city was mentioned during the night vision gag). One day, Damali declared that it was her birthday, that she was Zeppo's number one fan and she insisted that she now be added to the story as the only one who could control the killer clown, she was the queen, only she had the power, et cetera, et cetera, yadda yadda yadda...
Zeppo promptly flew to London to both wish her a happy birthday as well as thank her for drawing attention to herself. *smooches*
I decided to have jeremy611 interacting with his own characters, The Squad, by directing them in the battle. Here I'm showing jeremy as the "Batboy," the character I invented based on him and his love of the Batman franchise.
With only a few days left to kill before it was time to start on the grand finale, I was really digging in the Herotalk cracks and crannies looking for fun, interesting and obscure characters for Zeppo to slaughter. Biff_Hardchuck was a rare gem I was surprised I had missed for the last Fam-Art Sketch Challenge. Very fun.
Omar Bilal, the owner of the Museum of Black Superheroes and its accompanying message board Herotalk, decided to attract attention to himself by temporarily renaming the message board "Zeppotalk" by placing the Zeppo logo over the word 'hero' and by using his graphic design skills to place a Santa Claus hat on one of my images and display it on the board header above.
I just had to make Omar a part of the story after that.
This was also one of the very few times I had the killer clown talk in the story, odd considering that when Zeppo shows up in real life he is VERY vocal. I suspect it's because my inspiration for the character's behavior comes from the title character in the movie Pumpkinhead (starring Lance Hendricksen) and that thing didn't talk at all. So subconsciously my creative side won't let Zeppo say much as he's wrecking havoc.
NEXT: The Conclusion!!!
I took a brief break at this point and gave myself the chance to finish the rest of the story to meet the end-of-the-month deadline. In the meantime, I posted a couple of filler items to hold the audience over.
I have always been a big, Big, BIG! fan of the old Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe character profiles, and I use the format all the time for my own characters.
I thought it hilarious to give Batboy not only all of Batman's skills and abilities, but all of the negatives as well... such as the rather mean speculation as to the "real" reason why Bruce Wayne, the lonely and obsessed billionaire, surrounds himself with young boys to "train." lol
Also I listed his father as the "Eternal Master" who is a super martial artist from jeremy611's own story universe. I figured that was an excellent way to give him Batman's much celebrated close combat skills that I was positive he would appreciate.
Mebbe Sumdae by Eugene "bumperhead" Argent is the mysterious, partially silhouetted figure in the blue suit w/hoodie attachment. Earlier in the month, bumperhead asked if his character would take part in the story, and at first Zeppo was just going to decapitate him and casually toss his head under his work table until I remembered what the guy could do. If he touches someone, all the Karma that is due to that person will come flooding down on him/her all at once. Sumdae himself has no idea what will happen once he makes the contact.
Isn't that awesome? And just like that, Mebbe Sumdae (pronounced "maybe some day") was recruited to help me undo all of the destruction that was wrought. Thanks, bud!
Interestingly, since this story was written/drawn in 2009, some people unfamiliar with bumberhead's character assumed Mebbe Sumdae was actually supposed to be president Barack Obama.
MEDIUM: Scanned pen & ink and markers cartoon drawings w/Adobe Photoshop color.
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