Friday, July 3, 2015

THE MAGICAL MR MOY



The Archie Legion owes its fan nickname as much to the simpler tone of its rebooted stories as the cartoonish, seemingly manga-inspired artwork of Jeffrey Moy.  Some fans loathed the style, but more than enough loved it to help sustain the title more than five years after the Zero Hour restart … and Jeff practically drew every one of those issues.
     But he wasn’t just a Legion artist. Jeff was also a big Legion fan from a young age, and together with editor KC Carlson and inker Cory (WC) Carani, helped maintain fan interest in the title by constantly plugging the book at conventions and via forums, offering Legion prints, posters, tee-shirts and stickers, and generally spreading the good word every chance he got. Arguably, he did more to promote the book than any other Legion penciller. Today's blog entry pays tribute to Jeff's work.
      
Jeff got his big break when inker Karl Story asked him if he would like to try out for the LEGIONNAIRES book, which Karl and penciller Chris Sprouse were about to depart from. To get the green light for the assignment, Jeff had to provide some samples to Carlson for approval.


Jeff described the combination of Brainy and Andromeda as "Beauty, brawn and brains".

Another sample of Jeff's work shown to KC Carlson. I would've given him the job simply because he included lesser used members like ME Lad and Catspaw.

Needless to say, Jeff was given the green light for the fill-in issue (LEGIONNAIRES #15), and a few other Legion stories after that. Eventually he impressed enough to be chosen as the regular penciller for the rebooted LEGIONNAIRES title.
      Over the next few years, Jeff contributed much to the overall look of the Legion, with his designs, concepts and imagination. Not many people know he created XS’ symbol .. nor that he designed her features on actress Halle Berry.


He also came up with the looks for the likes of Magno, Sneckie, Karate Kid, Spider-Girl, Inferno, Lori Morning, Morlo, the Golden Age Legionnaires (issue #45) and different uniforms for male and female Science Police officers. With Lee Moder, he helped develop Kinetix, Monstress, and the Emerald Legion. Jeff  cleverly inserted an “M” over a starfield for M’Onel’s costume, which he felt could also be interpreted as a “V” for Valor, his previous codename.




A trademark of Jeff’s drawings was the use of tongues on character faces. As Jeff explains: “They’re fun and an easy way to give the characters a little more personality.”
      “Some fans loved them and kept a list of appearances. Others found it another reason to dislike my art,” he said. “KC even tried to dissuade me from using them, but I like to think he came around to my side.”
      In a little homage to the quirky fetish, Tom Peyer later came up with a French-speaking Legion reject named Ze Tongue, who boasted a prehensile tongue with a tip that could change into the shape of any weapon.

Tongues a-plenty! From a piece Jeff did for the APA Klordny.
Ze Tongue attacks Umbra.

Carani and Jeff produced a series of three Legionnaires prints that they handed out at conventions or later sold, one each for 1996, 97 and 98, as a reward for the fans' loyalty and support. The second print was in fact a rejected tee-shirt design. A different piece was used for the shirt, officially released by DC in 1996.

The 1996 print.

The 1997 print.

The 1998 print.

The tee-shirt and the original sketch (inset)
There was to have been a fourth official print, featuring Legionnaires in their bathing costumes, but the idea was canned after the book got cancelled. Interestingly, a sketch with Legionnaire beach boys and bunnies was used on the cover of COMBO MAGAZINE (1996).


But wait, that’s not all. Carlson and Jeff next decided to create a massive flowchart detailing the relationships connecting all the Legionnaires, which was done, according to Carlson, as much for the writers’ benefit as well a a general promotion. 
     Carlson said “somebody in marketing - not a LSH fan” mentioned that it was impossible to understand the Legion without a "road map". “I countered with "or a flow chart”. We should do that for a poster!" he said. 
     "Marketing thought that was a good idea. Tom McCraw was the real hero behind the scenes of that poster, as he not only colored it, but also did all the basic layout and design, occasionally hunkered down with LSH assistant Mike MacAvennie.
     “Since the poster was meant mainly for retail promotion, the original print run of this was not much more than the number of comic book stores at that time (probably less than 4000).
    “Most of them ended up with fans, rather than put up in the stores (failing the original intent of the posters), but there were just not enough for all the fans who wanted one,” he said.  “I had suggested that DC do a retail version of the poster, due to the demand, but it was thought that the project wasn't that commercial enough. (And besides, it seemed like 4000 people had them already).  I disagreed, but had no authority in that area.” 
      Jeff's contribution cannot be underestimated. He made each individual headshot look unique and distinguishable from each other. The poster is bigger than the Giffen mega-character piece, and because of the limited numbers, copies today can fetch a handsome price. Click on the image below to see a bigger version.


To complement the poster, a set of stickers was also issued, but to the general public and in much greater quantities. These are therefore easier to acquire, and feature all but three of the headshots from the poster. The missing ones are Kid Quantum I, Leviathan and Atom'x. 

Along the way, Jeff was commissioned to create pieces for a collectible trading card series named Overpower 3: Universal Forces. Unfortunately, just as the project looked like getting off the ground, the Overpower owners Fleer Corporation (principally involved with baseball cards) sold the product to Marvel Interactive, thereby rendering any DC Comics involvement impossible. But there’s no doubt that Jeff’s art for the project looked very nice.






In 2000, the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotional Board launched its well-known “Got Milk” promotion. DC Comics produced a giveaway comic as part of this program, called ADVENTURES WITH DC SUPER-HEROES, which was a mixture of comics, puzzles, and games. A page featuring the Legion was illustrated by, you guessed it, our man Moy. But to get a copy of the comic, you had to buy two gallons of milk!


The uncolored art for the milk giveaway. This was actually a second version as Jeff was asked to make the piece look more cartoon-ish.

Jeff’s other big passion growing up was Star Trek, so it must have been a fanboy’s dream for him when he was given the plum assignment of drawing the STAR TREK/LEGION crossover series for IDW. Published in 2011, the books reunited Jeff with the Legion more than a decade after he stopped drawing the group for DC. Once again, Jeff’s creative talents were to the fore, exemplified best by his merging of the Fatal Five with Star Trek influences.
 

Alien races from Star Trek make up this Fatal Five.

An unusual art style for Jeff in this cover to STAR TREK/LEGION #6.

Jeff's pencils for a spread that appeared in STAR TREK/LEGION #3.

These days, Jeff is still active on the convention circuit, and is often asked by fans for Legion-inspired commissions. His ubiquitous sketches and prolific output can be found all over the net and various social media, and he shows no signs of losing interest in drawing characters from his favourite comic book title.
     Perhaps the final words should go to KC Carlson, who by chance lived in the same town as Jeff for several years:  “Jeff had exactly the skills I was looking for in a Legion artist.”
     “He could draw cute kids. Really cute kids. That was a really big plus for the book!
     “His style was light and open, a plus for a series that I was deliberately trying to steer away from the grim’n’gritty style that was overwhelming comics at the time.
      “My favourite artistic trait of his was his ability to come up with great character designs for anything we threw at him. “Jeff, we need a new costume for Kinetix … and by the way, she now has a tail!” “Jeff, what would three different Triads look like?” “Jeff, Morlo is one of the lamest characters in Legion history … can you make him look cool?” And my personal favourite: “Jeff, we’re bringing back Princess Projectra .. except now she’s a snake!!!”
        “Jeff had to come up with dozens of wannabe Legionnaires (see issue #43), designs for characters at different ages, out-of-uniform clothes for the entire cast (many times over), and Jeff’s favourite, stylish swimwear for everybody!
        “I was proud to give him his first professional job at DC. And now I’m one of his biggest fans.”

A 2002 Jeff Moy commission.

A 1997 Jeff Moy commission of Kinetix.

A 2005 Jeff Moy commission.

A 2007 Jeff Moy commission.

Jeff's incredible spread of characters for LEGIONNAIRES #43.
Many of Jeff's Legion sketches have been compiled in his series of sketchbooks. To purchase them, visit his store.

Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.


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