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Volume 1635
The ERB Artist Spotlight Series

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Rafael Kayanan
From Rafael's Unofficial Pre-Production Mars Art Gallery
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 profession.

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!

--Rafael Kayanan--


Story Board Art of Tommy Lee and Benicio 

Recent work:
Lord of the Rings Sketch Cards
Conan, Dark Horse Comics
Boards for (Untitled) Horror film


Rafael Kayanan
On the Web

Raf's Art Blog


Rafael's Gallery



Visit Rafael's Mars Film Pre-Production Gallery: ERBzine 1635a

ERB Artist Encyclopedia: ERBzine 1002

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Our John Carter of Mars Film Site

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