I moved from the Philippines when I was 8 years old, and lived
in Chicago and New Jersey until settling down in Florida in the early 70's.
Both my parents were in architecture and followed the building boom. My
first introduction to ERB was through my father, a fan of Tarzan mostly
due to the old films and comic strips. He also introduced me to other
characters of that pulp /comic strip era like The Phantom and the Shadow.
At that young age, I didn't have access to the ERB books yet, but I used
to draw Tarzan and those other characters with markers and crayon.
In my early teens I discovered Joe Kubert's Tarzan comics work. The
Jewels of Opar adaptation in that large treasury format that Kubert did
was very influential to my early development as an artist. That book still
stands up to this day. Just a classic in it's bold gestural linework. Kubert
would place these heavy brush strokes that would add so much mood to the
panels. Around the mid 70's the Neal Adams painted Tarzan books were packaged
in a boxed set. Kubert's Tarzan looked like an Olympic swimmer and Adam's
Tarzan looked like a sinewy tribal warrior. I read those books with great
interest, because this was Tarzan from Burrough's own words.
From there I found out about the Frazetta illustrations, and his black
and white ink work for John Carter of Mars. Frazetta led me to looking
for the work of the Brandywine artists, to Frank Schoonover and also to
St. John's work. So I was going backwards, digging up past artists. I read
the John Carter books in high school. Oddly, enough I never drew any John
Carter related art. From there I got into Robert E. Howard's work as well.
This was the time that Star Wars debuted, and at that impressionable age,
Star Wars and the 70's martial arts craze filled that action adventure
fix I was looking for. I never thought about how Star Wars homaged from
ERB's writings until later when I learned more about Lucas' influences.
At that young age, I didn't think of ERB as another writer, in my mind
he was this larger than life world builder. A character like Tarzan was
iconic, because he was a character long developed before I was born. He
was already part of an earlier generation's popular culture.
While attending high school in rural Fort Myers, Florida I eventually
got involved in amateur publications and discovered there were like-minded
individuals out there called "fandom". I began to learn about creating
art for reproduction and started to seriously look at illustration as a
I attended the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota in 82-83
and something happened that affected my life... I got a job offer at DC
Comics. I had taken a portfolio of sample pages to a local convention in
Tampa. There, an artist by the name of Pat Broderick took a liking to the
samples and sent them to DC Comics. Long story short - since then
I have illustrated for just about every major comic company, and have drawn
SPIDER-MAN, CONAN, BATMAN, MAGIC THE GATHERING and STAR WARS comics to
name a few.
Regretably not until my recent Paramount job, have I ever gotten the
opportunity to illustrate any ERB characters. I've only drawn them for
my own amusement. I've collected the Ballantine JCoM books, the older hardbacks
with the interior illustrations (Pellucidar, etc.), the Cochran Library
of Illustration, Del Rey books, Gold Key, DC and Marvel comics and all
kinds of Tarzan related material.
My other interest was martial arts, I've studied and taught it for over
25 years and that has now also segued into my current work. I train actors
and choreograph fight scenes (mostly involving my expertise in sword and
knives) for film and stage. Since my comic book experience allows me to
make an easy transition to storyboarding - that has also given me the rare
opportunity to combine both my interests into other projects. I board fight
sequences for the directors to look at, and then train the talent/stunt
men with visual storytelling in mind. I've worked with Benicio Del Toro,
Tommy Lee Jones, George Clooney and Sam Rockwell.
Recently I have explored the conceptual and pre visualization field
of film. I have worked pre-viz on games and toy lines before so have already
done a good bit of developmental work. It's been quite fun working alongside
some of the talents I used to read about, and whose work were quite influencial
to me when I was a younger.
I've mentioned Paramount several times. When I was working on the HUNTED
I met the producer James Jacks (TOMBSTONE). Initially, he didn't know I
was an artist. He just knew me as one of the "Knife guys" working as technical
advisors. He eventually saw the fight boards I drew for the HUNTED and
felt I would be an asset to this new project of his. He had a very strong
interest in the fantasy and SF genre, and he asked me if I would create
some quick illustrations for this project meeting for... Princess of Mars!!!
The drawings would be presented to the Burroughs estate holders to assist
in securing the rights for the film. This meeting was scheduled the following
weekend, so I ended up drawing about twelve color concept roughs over that
short amount of time. Luckily, I already knew much about the books, so
I suppose visual ideas were already semi-formed in my mind.
Everyone pretty much knows the history of the film - from Rodriguez
to Conran, etc. I was on board the film's developmental work up until the
Conran's last year. I've seen so much evolve since those earlier images
that were online several years ago. Unfortunately, that's the only images
I can share at the moment.
I also did tons of roughs on my own figuring out how four limbed creatures
would fight if they had training in weapons from such an early age. How
they would move in groups, how those extra limbs could show some moves
that's never been choreographed on screen before. My edged weapon training
is based on tribal methods of combat, and it synched up very well with
the way ERB described a green man's combative mindset. I also had access
to some of the very best edged weapons masters in the world, so on occassion
I would pick their brain with the cool "what ifs?". I filled several
thick folders full of ideas, since there was a significant amount of down
time during the whole decision making process for this film. I also focused
on John Carter as the best swordsman on two planets. He should make every
film swordsman look pale in comparison. All this was mostly for my own
amusement, since we never got beyond the early visual stages on the film
when I was there last year.
I believe all the directors attached to this film so far were all good
choices, each one would have brought a distinct style to the film. As a
longtime fan of Burroughs, I'm sure I'm not stating anything profound when
I say that all I want to see is an exciting John Carter of Mars film as
close to ERB's books as possible eventually make it to the big screen!