Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Secret Origins

The Amalga-Mates: The World's First (and Second) Siamese Twin Superheroes!
Part 1
by Terence E. Hanley

Five Star Comics began in 2011 as an anthology of Golden Age comic book characters that are now in the public domain. Our first issue included stories of Moth Man, Silver Streak, Marvel Maid, Flip Falcon, and Cave Girl. With our second issue, we began telling stories of our own original characters, first of which were a pair of Siamese twin brothers, code-named The Amalga-Mates. Their identities are secret. (That's part of the fun.) When they aren't fighting crime, the two are millionaire philanthropists Hemsworth V. Hemsworth (pun intended) and Semyon Hemsworth. For short, they call each other Hemi and Semi (more puns intended).

Hemi and Semi came into my imagination in a way I can't explain exactly. There they remained until a Saturday afternoon in April 2011, when Larry Blake introduced me to Tim Corrigan at the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (S.P.A.C.E.) in Columbus, Ohio. Larry had shown Tim some of my work. I felt honored when Tim asked if I wanted to collaborate with him on a story. I said yes, but I didn't know what we would do for a collaboration. He said think about it, so I thought about it as I drove home that evening. The idea came to me as I was driving, one I had sketched three months before. The next morning I drove back to Columbus for the second day of S.P.A.C.E. When I saw Tim, I told him of my idea for a story about Siamese twin superheroes. "No one has ever done it before," I explained. "There's a good reason for that," he laughed, with tears coming into his eyes. But he agreed to it and asked me to send him a  script.

Things get away from us. Nearly six months passed before I mailed a script to Tim in November 2011. He called me on the day he received it. He had just finished reading it and was laughing again. Anyone who knew Tim knew his laugh and his great sense of humor. He liked the script and told me he would start drawing.

Tim and I agreed that our story of the world's first Siamese twin superheroes would be a true collaboration. Although I had written the script, I wanted him to feel free to add to it or make changes. One change came out just right. I had tentatively called my heroes "The Titanic Twins." "That's kind of a weak name," I admitted in a letter to him. Tim came up with something better, and that's how Hemi and Semi became The Amalga-Mates. Tim also changed the title of the first story from my original "Nuts to the Nut" to "The Case of the Nutcase." Tim was a great maker of signs, logos, titles, and sound effects. (For evidence of that, consider the "GA-JEEZ" and "SHAZEAMPPP!" on page 28 of FSC #2.) The Amalga-Mates main title is his creation alone.

Tim was a fast worker. Not long after the new year, 2012, began, he called to tell me that he was working on the story, but that he couldn't make it fit into ten pages, which was about what I had envisioned. He sounded a little worried. I confess that I get a little long-winded in my stories, and I always underestimate the number of comic book pages it takes to tell a story. I was just learning then. I still don't have a formula down. At the time I thought one page of script would equal about one page of a comic book story. Now I know that it's more like two to three pages of comic book story per page of script. Anyway, I told Tim that we could break the story roughly in half, run the first half in Five Star Comics #2 and the second half in issue #3. He sounded relieved.

Not that there was any reason to worry. Tim finished the penciling and lettering of Part One of "The Case of the Nutcase" in February 2012. Larry Blake, Gary Gibeaut, and I collaborated on the inking (I was supposed to have done the inking on my own), and the story went to print in time for S.P.A.C.E. in April 2012. I suppose it's only fitting that a story about Siamese twins would have two halves. The second half would have to wait until Five Star Comics #3.

To be continued . . .

The first drawing of the characters that would become The Amalga-Mates, by Terence E. Hanley, January 26, 2011. The drawing in black came first. Note that the twins have just two legs and that their arms are conjoined. The smaller drawing in green came next and is about how Hemi and Semi turned out in the end. In case you're keeping track of these things, The Amalga-Mates were born on today's date five years ago, so, Happy Birthday, Hemi and Semi!
My first finished drawing of the twins, from 2011. I sent a copy of this drawing to Tim Corrigan as a character sheet. As you can see, The Amalga-Mates wear masks so no one will know their true identities.

Hemi and Semi have distinct personalities. The easiest way to show that, I thought, was to draw them with different hairstyles. (How else are you going to tell them apart?) That difference shows up in this drawing, but in the final comic book story, the difference is even more pronounced, as Hemi (on the viewer's left) has dark hair, while Semi (on the viewer's right) has blond hair. So how do Siamese twins, which are by definition identical, have different-colored hair? Does one color his hair? Does the other bleach his? These are questions for another day.

To set them apart a little more, I was going to make one of the brothers a little more savvy than the other. In my original script, that was Hemi, the leader and the twin on his own right. Tim had other ideas. He made Semi, the brother on the twin's own left, at least an equal to Hemi, and maybe a little smarter. I asked myself why Tim had made that change. Then it occurred to me. Tim was left-handed. 

Art and text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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