Comic Art Friday: Things are about to get hairy

Posted December 2, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, Teleholics Anonymous, That's Cool!, Trivial Pursuits

millionairelogo

Hey, did I mention that I’m going to be on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on Monday, December 5?

Now I did.

I’ll have more to say after the show airs. But for the time being, make sure to set your DVR. (Check your local listings for time and channel.)

It’s fair to suppose that if I walk away from my latest foray into television gaming a millionaire, I will probably spend at least a few shekels on new comic art. (My art collection may even rate a mention on Millionaire… but you’ll have to wait and see.) In the meanwhile, I can still admire the pieces I already own — including this one, commissioned earlier this year at San Francisco Comic Con, by the talented Casey Jones.

The Cat and The Beast, pencils and inks by Casey Jones

On a Comic Art Friday a few months back, we discussed Greer Grant Nelson’s transformation from the costumed heroine known as the Cat into the half-human, half-feline Avenger Tigra. It occurred to me that Greer wasn’t the only character to undergo a similar makeover.

In March 1972, just a half-year before Greer first donned her Cat-suit, founding X-Men member Henry “Hank” McCoy — a.k.a. the Beast — was starring in his own feature in the anthology series Amazing Adventures. From his debut in Uncanny X-Men #1, Hank’s mutant abilities had manifested in overly large hands and feet, combined with superhuman strength and ape-like agility. Aside from his impressive appendages, Hank looked pretty much like a normal human.

But in Amazing Adventures #11, Hank’s self-experiment in hormonal therapy pushed his mutation to another level, enhancing his powers (making Hank even stronger than before, and adding a Wolverine-like healing factor), covering his body with fur (initially gray, later blue), and giving him a vaguely simian appearance. Subsequent changes would alter his image into a more cat-like mold. In time, Hank’s more feline attributes faded, and he morphed into something closer to a furry, blue approximation of his original self, albeit retaining the fangs and claws from his second mutation.

Amazing Adventures #11, cover art by Gil Kane and Bill Everett

As much as we’ve grown fond of Greer and Hank in their lovably hirsute forms, we still remember the way they looked when we first met them — and it’s those original appearances that Casey Jones enshrines for us in this fine Common Elements commission. Because they may be gone today, but hair tomorrow.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Remember: Catch me on Millionaire this coming Monday!

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Triskaidekaphobia Edition

Posted November 24, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Aimless Riffing, Cinemania, Hawaii, Listology, Reminiscing, SwanStuff, Thanksgiving, That's Cool!, The Body Politic, The Swan Tunes In

Welcome to the thirteenth installment in my annual outpouring of gratitude. Each Thanksgiving since 2004, I’ve devoted this space to a reflection on some of the many people, places, and things that have graced my life. Because counting my blessings can become an infinite task once I get started, I’ve developed the device of choosing 26 representative items — one for each letter of the English alphabet — to stand as testament to the overwhelming abundance that I can only begin to address.

Without further ceremony, here are the things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving 2016.

Antenna International. If you’ve ever toured a museum or other public attraction and used the audio guide, you’ve heard the work of this fine company, which specializes in the production of said audio guides. I recently had the privilege of narrating Antenna’s audio guide to Vikings: Beyond the Legend, an exhibition currently on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center. If you’re in southwest Ohio or the vicinity, go check it out.

Beef Jerky Store. A highlight of my annual trip to Las Vegas is a pilgrimage to this downtown establishment adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience, where I load up my suitcase with tasty snacks. When I was a keiki (that’s “child” to your mainlanders) in Hawaii, we called a place like this a crack seed store — “crack seed” being the Hawaiian term for various kinds of dried fruits, nuts, and other dehydrated edibles. Visiting the Beef Jerky Store takes me back to those long-ago childhood days.

Comixology. This year, I officially transitioned my comic book reading from paper to digital. Comixology is the app for that. (It’s been an adjustment, but I’m resolute.)

DubNation. What a year we’ve had as Golden State Warriors fans! Our team set an NBA record for success with an unprecedented 73-9 record; missed repeating as world champions by an eyelash; then in the offseason added Kevin Durant, one of the greatest players in the game, to a roster that already featured three superstars in two-time MVP Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. After decades of wallowing in mediocrity and worse, it’s a grand time to be a citizen of DubNation.

Evernote. I don’t know where I’d be without this app. Certainly dinners at our house would be far less interesting, because Evernote is where all of my recipes reside.

Family. As always, I’m grateful more than anything for those who love me most — the Pirate Queen, The Daughter, Grandma, Studio Assistant Tazz, and KJ, whose memory lives forever in heart and spirit. My extended ohana also includes numerous friends and connections, both nearby and far away.

Graboids. That’s our household nickname for reach tools. They come in handy for picking up dog toys and other items that middle-aged backs and knees hate bending for.

Hillary Clinton. The election didn’t go her way, but I’m still proud that she earned my vote.

Inkwell Awards. Founded by longtime comic book inker Bob Almond, the Inkwells annually acknowledge some of the most important — but least heralded — artists in the field.

Juice. Because who doesn’t love juice? Make mine cranberry.

Kamala Harris. California’s attorney general will make an outstanding impact as our new junior Senator. I was honored to voice several of Ms. Harris’s campaign ads this season. I don’t think she got elected because of my work, but I’m not saying I didn’t help a little. Maybe.

Luke Cage. Just when you think that Marvel Studios and Netflix couldn’t possibly outdo themselves after the stellar Jessica Jones, they follow up with a series that takes street-level superheroics up yet another notch. Terrific performances by Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, and Mike Colter as the titular Power Man made this a must-binge.

Mcusta. Two of the most attractive specimens in my folding knife collection come from this Seki City, Japan bladeworks. I could admire my Mcusta Katana and Tactility all day long. Some days, I do.

NewPark 12. The glorious IMAX theater in our new local multiplex even enthused the Pirate Queen — generally not a fan of the cinema experience — about going out to the movies. It’s the first time I ever sat in a theater seat that I wanted to take home to my living room after the film ended.

OtterBox. I dropped and shattered my iPhone this summer. (Thanks, AT&T, for the speedy and relatively hassle-free replacement.) The sturdy case on my new device will, one hopes, prevent future mishaps of a similar nature.

President Barack Obama. Thank you, Mr. President, for eight years of honorable service. I truly believe that history will be far more kind to your legacy than the obstructionist Congress of your second term has been.

Quatermass and the Pit. One of my all-time favorite weird sci-fi classics. You’ve probably seen it here in the U.S. under the title Five Million Years to Earth. Basically, we’re all the descendants of giant grasshoppers from Mars.

Ray’s Crab Shack. A local spot serving up mass quantities of delicious seafood. Don your plastic bib, glove up, and get your crustacean on.

Steely Dan. Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend, that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen got me through college, and many melancholy hours since. There are 66 songs on the Dan’s seven classic-period albums (beginning with Can’t Buy a Thrill and concluding with Gaucho), and not a single one of them sucks. I don’t know any other musical act about whom I can make that statement. 1977’s Aja ranks as one of the finest albums in the history of recorded music.

Treebeard. In my studio-office stands a gnarled walking stick that I acquired at a Renaissance Faire many, many years ago. It’s outfitted with a wrapped leather hand grip and bears the carved face of a bewhiskered wizard at its head. I call it Treebeard. I believe there may be magic in it.

Universal Studios Hollywood. I spent a week there early this year, as an alternate contestant for a TV quiz show that ended up not requiring my services. But I got to stay in a nice hotel, tour a theme park, preview the then-unopened-to-the-public Harry Potter attraction, see a couple of movies, hang out for two days in the soundstage where The Voice is taped, and make several cool new friends — all at a TV production company’s expense. You could have a worse vacation.

Van Jones. The CNN commentator kept it real in the midst of insanity on Election Night 2016. Thanks for eloquently saying what many of us were thinking, Mr. Jones.

Waimea Canyon. As has been frequently noted in this space, I spent a goodly chunk of my childhood in Hawaii. Until this spring, however, I’d never visited the island of Kauai. If you’ve never stood on the edge of “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” you owe it to yourself to get there at least once before you die. (Going after you die probably won’t have the same effect.)

Xenozoic. Mark Schultz’s sumptuous adventure comic — best known to non-aficionados as the source material for the fondly remembered animated series Cadillacs and Dinosaurs — remains a classic of the medium. The collected omnibus volume is the closest book to my desk on my office-studio bookshelf.

Yoda. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Live by these words, should you.

Zuckerberg. Thanks for keeping the Pirate Queen gainfully employed for the past year, Mark.

I am eternally grateful to you, friend reader, for your ongoing support of these random ramblings. May your life overflow with reasons to give thanks.

Comic Art Friday: Battle royal

Posted November 18, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

We’ve been bingeing our way through Season One of The Crown on Netflix (capsule review: beautifully staged, solidly acted, flows slightly more rapidly than molasses in January). In light of this, it’s an opportune time to check out this royalty-themed Common Elements commission by Scott McDaniel.

greenarrow_wonderwoman_brainwavejr_mcdaniel

Clockwise from top center, we have Green Arrow (a.k.a. Oliver QUEEN), Wonder Woman (a.k.a. Diana PRINCE), and Infinity Inc.’s Brainwave Jr. (a.k.a. Henry KING, Jr.). If you look closely, you’ll notice that the background morphs from character to character — they’re all in the same scene, but also each in his or her own unique world. I’ll let the talented Mr. McDaniel explain in his own words what he had in mind:

“My thought was simply to feature the heroes doing what they do best, as a team springing into action. The concept: the background would be an amalgamation of each character’s natural environment. For Green Arrow, an urban setting. For Wonder Woman, an Amazon forest. For Brainwave Jr., a high-tech, science fiction laboratory. And since I felt the urban skyline would best visually capture Ollie’s world, I positioned him at the top. Given the POV with its slight angle counter-clockwise, I felt that Henry’s slick tech walls would transform into Ollie’s brick buildings best if he was positioned on the left, leaving Diana to occupy the right. I think it works pretty well!”

And I wouldn’t disagree with that even a tiny bit.

Scott McDaniel has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in comics. Although he first made his mark as penciler on Marvel’s Daredevil in the early 1990s, Scott’s probably best known for his work on several series in DC’s Bat-family of titles, including Nightwing, Robin, and the Batman book itself. I was especially fond of his 2006-07 run on Green Arrow — my favorite male DC hero — which prompted me to invite him to create this GA-starring Common Elements scenario. Scott’s strong linework and propulsive, energetic design sense display themselves powerfully here.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Who’s your Goblin King now?

Posted October 14, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

We’re having our first truly grim, gray October day here in the Bay Area, which makes it the perfect time to continue the pre-Halloween theme we began with last week’s Comic Art Friday. Since our post on “Spectres” covered the traditional All Hallows’ Eve trope of ghosts, we’ll turn today to another staple of the season — goblins.

Kobalt and the Green Goblin, pencils by Arvell Malcolm Jones

Even the most casual comics fan will recognize the fellow about to get clobbered in the scrap depicted here. That’s the Green Goblin (a.k.a. Norman Osborn, although several other individuals, most notably Norman’s son Harry, have donned the costume), probably Spider-Man’s best-known foe. The Goblin and the Web-Slinger share a lengthy history, going all the way to the former’s debut appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964). Over the years, the Green Goblin has become to Spider-Man what the Joker is to Batman — his most frightening opponent, both because he’s the most mentally unhinged (and thus the least predictable) and because he’s the one who seems to know and understand his superheroic nemesis the most intimately.

The guy wielding the razor-spiked bat, however, is likely less identifiable, even to hardcore comics aficionados. He’s Kobalt, antihero and star of an eponymous series published by Milestone Media (under the auspices of DC Comics) in the mid-1990s. (Ah, the ’90s. A time when everyone in comics had a grimace on his or her face, a huge gun in his or her hand, and lots and lots of pouches on his or her costume.)

Typical of ’90s characters, Kobalt was a vicious, violent tough guy with attitude to burn. He was also a man of mystery — his true name was never revealed during his book’s 16-issue run, although readers did discover that he was of Cuban ancestry. (Milestone made a name for itself by developing an ethnically diverse range of characters. Its most successful creation was the teenage African-American hero Static, who went on to star in the popular animated TV series Static Shock.) Despite his aggressively antisocial personality, Kobalt often shared his adventures with a sidekick/partner, first a woman code-named Clover, then later a Robinesque boy wonder known as Page.

In case you’ve not yet tumbled to the Common Elements connection between Kobalt and the Goblin, it’ll help to know that the word cobalt (as in the chemical element most recognized for its vivid blue color) derives from the German kobold, meaning “goblin” (as veteran Dungeons & Dragons players are well aware).

Don’t feel badly if you missed that. I even had to remind Kobalt’s co-creator and the author of today’s featured artwork, Arvell Jones, where the name came from. (Arvell’s most familiar co-creation is super-detective Misty Knight, currently being brought to life by actress Simone Missick in the Marvel/Netflix series Luke Cage.) Arvell got a kick from revisiting his old friend in this commissioned drawing — it had probably been a couple of decades since he’d last drawn Kobalt. When I proposed this scenario to him at San Francisco Comic-Con 2016, Arvell grinned and said, “You know who’s going to get the best of that fight, now don’t you?”

I wouldn’t have planned it any other way.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: How do YOU spell Spectre?

Posted October 7, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Halloween, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

With Halloween rapidly approaching — how did it get to be October already? — I thought it apropos to delve into the Common Elements catalog for this ghostly offering, beautifully designed and rendered by Mike Bowden.

"Spectres," pencil art by Mike Bowden

The commonality between these characters will become evident as we identify the dramatis personae, working clockwise from upper left:

  • Moon Knight, known in civilian guise as Marc Spector.
  • The Spectre, the spirit of vengeance-turned-superhero created by Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
  • Sally Jupiter, a.k.a. the first Silk Spectre, from the seminal graphic novel Watchmen.
  • Dr. Adam Spektor, the paranormal investigator who headlined the fondly remembered series, The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor.
  • Laurie Juspeczek, the second-generation Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally.

What I like best about this particular Common Elements commission — aside from Mike Bowden’s outstanding design and execution — is the fact that it unites heroes not only from different comics publishers and universes, but also from different eras. The Spectre debuted in early 1940, making him among the oldest continuing characters in the industry. Doctor Spektor’s original run spanned most of the 1970s. The mother-and-daughter Silk Spectres feature in one of the most important comics of the 1980s. And Moon Knight, although he first appeared in a 1975 issue of Marvel’s Werewolf By Night before graduating to his own book in the early ’80s, is probably best known to current readers from his ongoing series that ran from 2006 to 2009.

I’m especially pleased to have Doctor Spektor making his Common Elements debut here. The good doctor’s series was among a number of classic titles released by Gold Key Comics, the comic book subsidiary of Western Publishing — the people who brought you those Little Golden Books you probably read as a child if you’re of a certain age. Gold Key mostly specialized in comics based on existing properties licensed from other sources. They were the first company, for example, to publish Star Trek comics (among a seemingly endless horde of books based on then-current or then-recent TV series, everything from The Twilight Zone to Adam-12), as well as cornering the market on Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters for quite a few years. But Gold Key also maintained a nice stable of original properties, the best-remembered of which today is probably the science-fiction epic Magnus, Robot Fighter. Gold Key’s comics stood out on the newsstand because many of them — particularly those not licensed from animation studios — featured painted covers, decades before such artists as Alex Ross brought that style back into vogue.

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor was co-conceived (with artist Dan Spiegle) and written by Don Glut, a screenwriter who contributed scripts to numerous TV series aimed at youth audiences. Glut also worked extensively for Marvel Comics in the latter half of the 1970s, including runs on Captain America, The Invaders, What If?, and Marvel’s various sword-and-sorcery titles. Prior to this, Glut wrote for Warren Publishing’s line of horror comics (Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella… who really needs to turn up in a Common Elements commission some day soon). All of the issues of Spektor’s regular series were drawn by the prolific Jesse Santos, who also worked on such Gold Key originals as Brothers of the Spear, Dagon the Invincible, and Tragg and the Sky Gods.

Like several other contemporary titles, Doctor Spektor seized upon the Comics Code Authority’s early-1970s loosening of its restrictions on horror elements in mainstream comics. (This same rules change ushered in such series as DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula and Ghost Rider.) Spektor busied himself battling every kind of monstrous foe you might imagine, from vampires and reanimated mummies to Frankenstein’s monster and werewolves. The doctor even became a lycanthrope himself for a couple of issues in the middle of his book’s run. In most of his adventures, Spektor benefited from the support (I’ll leave it to you, friend reader, to speculate on exactly what that entailed) of his personal assistant, a comely Native American woman named Lakota Rainflower, as well as other aides who appeared with less regularity.

In contrast to the similarly named Doctor, neither Silk Spectre has an occult connection — nor indeed, any supernatural or superhuman ability. Both mother Sally, whom Watchmen presents as having battled crime in its universe’s 1940s, and daughter Laurie, who assumes her parent’s legacy in the 1960s and ’70s, are merely skilled hand-to-hand fighters and martial artists. Most comics-savvy readers know the Watchmen backstory: writer Alan Moore intended to use superheroes from the then-defunct Charlton Comics canon (characters whose trademarks had been purchased by DC Comics, which published Watchmen) as the leads in his opus. When DC editorial balked at Moore using these characters (for which they’d paid good money, and hoped to use in the future) for the dark tale he intended to tell, Moore instead devised new heroes to replace those from Charlton, incorporating attributes of the originals. The two Silk Spectres combined elements of Charlton’s Nightshade with aspects of other nonpowered heroines, including Black Canary, Phantom Lady, and the original Black Cat.

Both Silk Spectres are depicted here in costumes matching those used by artist Dave Gibbons in the Watchmen graphic novel, as opposed to the redesigned versions seen in the motion picture. Comics is comics, and movies is movies.

As for Moon Knight and The Spectre… well, they’ve each appeared in a previous Common Elements scenario. Moon Knight was featured alongside Moon Girl in Common Elements #18, drawn by James E. Lyle. The Spectre can be seen in tandem with Ghost in Common Elements #67, drawn by Greg LaRocque. You can follow the links to check out those pieces, if you’re inclined.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Lords of Atlantis

Posted September 23, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hawaii, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

I read today that Atlantis Resorts, the company whose commercials for its rather awesome-looking tourist destination in the Bahamas run frequently on TV here, is planning its first U.S. property in Hawaii. The new resort will be built in Ko Olina, the beachfront community on the northwest point of Oahu where Disney’s Aulani Hotel and the popular Paradise Cove luau reside.

None of which means anything, really, except as an excuse to feature this Atlantis-themed Common Elements commission by artist Stephen Sadowski. (Like Captain Sternn in Heavy Metal, I’ve always got an angle.)

Namor the Sub-Mariner and Arion, Lord of Atlantis, pencils and inks by Stephen Sadowski

When I first had the idea for a “Kings of Atlantis” Common Elements matchup, I was determined to avoid the obvious pairing of Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and Aquaman — mostly because that connection is such a no-brainer I was sure that a lot of other people had thought of it already. And I was correct — searches on Comic Art Fans for “Namor and Aquaman” or “Sub-Mariner and Aquaman” reveal more than a dozen existing artworks featuring those two heroes together.

So, in the immortal words of Robert Frost, I chose the road less traveled by. Which, in this instance, has made all the difference.

Although he’s far less well-known than Aquaman, DC Comics has another Atlantean ruler in its arsenal. Arion, Lord of Atlantis, debuted in his eponymous series in 1982, toward the tail end of comics’ decade-long fascination with the sword-and-sorcery genre. Unlike the Atlantises (Atlantii?) of both Aquaman and his Marvel Comics opposite number Namor, Arion’s homeland was still very much above water, being set in a time period millennia before recorded history. Arion himself was a powerful sorcerer who used his magic to protect his fellow Atlanteans from enemies, chief among which was his own brother.

Perhaps Arion’s major claim to enduring fame derives from the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths, during which Arion was retconned as an ancestor of Power Girl — heretofore always a Kryptonian, as the alternate-universe version of Supergirl. Like so many comics retcons, this one didn’t last, and Power Girl went back to being one of the last survivors of Krypton after a while. Thus, Arion faded back into the depths of obscurity, from which we’ve plucked him in order to provide him his Common Elements spotlight moment.

As for Namor, I always liked this stylish costume he wore for a brief (no pun intended) stretch in the ’70s, more than the green swimming trunks in which he’s most frequently been seen. You’d think the Lord of Atlantis would be able to afford a proper suit of clothes.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Full circle

Posted September 16, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, Reminiscing, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

Given the scope of commissioned artworks in my collection today, it’s almost unfathomable to think that as recently as 12 years ago this month, I’d never commissioned a single piece of art. In fact, there was a time exactly that recently when I wasn’t even aware that it was possible to commission an artwork directly from a professional comic book artist. Or perhaps more accurately, I was vaguely aware that such a thing was possible, but not at such a level that I myself might do it.

All of that changed with a single artwork.

Black Panther, pencils and inks by Bob McLeod

I don’t remember at this late date exactly how I ended up at Bob McLeod‘s website in September 2004. What I do recall is that I had been reading interviews online with various Silver and Bronze Age comic artists, and a couple of them mentioned doing commissions. I presume one of those artists was Bob McLeod, because he was the first artist I approached. Bob had been the inker on a classic run of Black Panther stories in the early 1970s, so I asked him to draw the King of Wakanda for me. My experience with Bob — and my delight in the artwork he created — was such that I quickly commissioned more pieces from other artists.

And, as you know by now, friend reader, the rest is history.

You can understand why I was thrilled to learn that Bob would be a guest at the inaugural San Francisco Comic Con. Here came the opportunity to meet not only a favorite artist, but indeed, the artist whose work sparked my entire commission collection.

It also occurred to me that even though Bob has done a few other commissions for me over the years, I’d never asked him to contribute to my signature theme, Common Elements. To be honest, I don’t quite know how Common Elements grew to its present volume of more than 130 pieces without Bob drawing at least one. I think it’s most likely that I simply forgot that there wasn’t a McLeod in there somewhere. But SFCC presented the chance to rectify this long-standing omission, and Bob filled the gap with his customary aplomb.

Cannonball and Thunderbolt, pencils and inks by Bob McLeod

As with my very first commission, I chose for Bob’s Common Elements assignment a character with whom he was previously associated. Sam Guthrie — code name Cannonball — was a founding member of the New Mutants, the third-generation X-Men squad that Bob co-created with writer Chris Claremont. The New Mutants marked the first of several attempts by Marvel — Generation X and Excalibur were others — to rekindle the fire unleashed by the original (Cyclops, Angel, Marvel Girl, Beast, and Iceman) and second-generation (Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, et al.) X-Men.

Sam’s unique power set combined the ability to fly with missile-like propulsion and an impenetrable force field that protected him from anything he might run into while flying. Indeed, he might have been known as the Human Rocket if… well… Marvel didn’t already have a character like that. (See: Nova, the Human Rocket.) A kindhearted country boy from rural Kentucky, Cannonball gradually overcame his shy, aw-shucks persona to become the leader of the New Mutant team.

Paired with Cannonball here is the vintage Charlton Comics hero, Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt. No, seriously — that’s how his name appeared on the masthead of his eponymous comic book back in 1966. (Marvel may have been inspired by that title years later, when they debuted the second Spider-Man series: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man.) Thunderbolt’s gimmick was that he had been trained by Tibetian monks in the exercise of mind over matter, basically a twist on the old trope about humans only using a small percentage of our potential brainpower. He didn’t, therefore, have true superpowers, but he could operate at the absolute maximum level of human ability (sort of like Captain America, without the super-soldier serum).

Like all of the former Charlton characters, Thunderbolt eventually got absorbed into the DC Comics universe. DC never did much with him, aside from a few scattered supporting appearances (most notably in Crisis on Infinite Earths) and a short-run solo series. However, Alan Moore famously used Thunderbolt and several other former Charlton heroes as inspirational jumping-off points for the main characters in Watchmen; the villain in that series, Ozymandias, was partially based on Peter Cannon. Like Thunderbolt, Adrian Veidt had no superhuman abilities, but had trained himself to exploit 100% of his mind and body’s natural capacity.

It was a genuine treat to meet Bob McLeod in person and pick up his latest creation from him directly. Almost as great: reuniting him with the very first piece he ever created for me, almost exactly a dozen years after it was originally commissioned.

Bob McLeod and his 2004 Black Panther, SFCC 2016

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.