Comic Art Friday: One-way ticket to midnight

People (at least, they look like people — they might be aliens in clever disguise) ask me, “How do you come up with the ideas for your Common Elements theme?”

Since there may be folks who are just discovering us in our new WordPress digs, I’ll briefly explain what Common Elements is all about. (You old-timers can feel welcome to skip the next paragraph.)

Common Elements is an ongoing series of commissioned original artworks — 82 entries, at this writing — each of which presents a combination of comic book heroes who, though otherwise unrelated, share some feature in common. Sometimes, the “common element” is obvious — one of the earliest entries, drawn by Scott Rosema, spotlighted a match-up of Iron Man and Iron Fist. In other cases, the common element is more obscure.

Here’s one such case.

The masked gent wielding the gas gun is Wesley Dodds, comics’ first and greatest Sandman. His blade-brandishing companion is Taarna, heroine of the tentpole sequence in the classic science fiction anthology film, Heavy Metal. The artist who brought this tableau to potent life is Edgar Tadeo, who, though primarily known as an inker (on such series as Wolverine and X-Men: Worlds Apart), is a gifted penciler as well.

Although the Sandman moniker has been worn by several characters over the decades, gas-masked, fedora-sporting Wes Dodds was the original. In fact, the Dodds incarnation of Sandman ranks as one of comics’ oldest costumed superheroes, having debuted in Adventure Comics #40 (July 1939). Sandman was also one of the charter members of comics’ seminal superhero team, the Justice Society of America, when that august body first appeared in late 1940.

Like his contemporary Batman, Sandman possessed no superhuman abilities. Instead, Dodds relied on highly developed detective instincts and specialized technology — specifically, a gun that emitted gases which Sandman could use to put criminals to sleep, or compel them to tell the truth. His mask protected Wes from the effects of his own gas. (Say… I know a few people who could use a mask like that.)

A couple of years after his premiere, Sandman underwent some radical changes. He scrapped his fedora, business suit, and gas mask in favor of a more typical superhero costume — purple and yellow tights. Sandman also, like many heroes of the ’40s, took on a teenage sidekick designed to appeal to younger readers. In this instance, Wes adopted the nephew of his murdered fiancee, a boy who adopted the nom de guerre Sandy. Sandman and Sandy continued as the cover feature of Adventure until 1945.

As with most of the “mystery men” of comics’ Golden Age, Sandman disappeared from view by the late 1940s. He and his Justice Society comrades resurfaced in the pages of DC’s Justice League of America two decades later, by way of periodic team-ups between the old-school heroes and their Silver Age opposite numbers.

Over the succeeding years, several characters other than Wes Dodds have picked up the Sandman mantle. Most notably, popular fantasy writer Neil Gaiman created a version completely unrelated to the costumed heroes of the same name — Morpheus, the mythological Lord of Dreams. Gaiman’s Sandman helped launch DC’s mature-readers line, Vertigo Comics, with dark tales of the macabre.

In current continuity, Wes Dodds is deceased, and the now-adult Sandy battles evil in the reconstituted Justice Society as Sandman — complete with gas mask and fedora.

By now you may be wondering: What’s the common element shared by Wes Dodds and the silent, mysterious avenger Taarna?

As previously noted, Taarna appears in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. Ten years later, the rock band Metallica made a song entitled “Enter Sandman” the centerpiece of their eponymous album.

Call it heavy metal.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

[You can view previous Comic Art Friday posts here.]

Explore posts in the same categories: Cinemania, Comic Art Friday, Soundtrack of My Life

One Comment on “Comic Art Friday: One-way ticket to midnight”

  1. Great pencil work & nice addition to the collection!

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