Comic Art Friday: I hear red thunder

Sometimes, what makes one of my Common Elements commissions fun isn’t the mystery of the connection between the characters involved. Rather, it’s the ineffably bizarre nature of the combination itself. I just love a Common Elements scenario that makes the viewer stop and wonder, “What incredible sequence of circumstances would lead to these two characters meeting?”

Then, when the artist assigned the project absolutely rocks the execution, it’s money.

Bending the bow is Red Arrow, currently a member of the Justice League of America. Wielding the sword and shield is Red Sonja, heroine of the Hyborian Age. The talent behind the pencil is Lan Medina, best known as the artist of the fantasy series Fables.

And yes — I chortled in my joy when I saw what Lan had envisioned.

Red Arrow probably ranks right behind Dr. Henry Pym — a.k.a. Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and just plain Doctor Pym — in the Most Superhero Identities sweepstakes. Roy Harper began his crimefighting career as Speedy, the juvenile sidekick of DC Comics’ durable bowman, Green Arrow. In addition to his adventures alongside the Emerald Archer, Speedy was also one of the longtime stalwarts (replacing founding member Aqualad) of DC’s youth brigade, the Teen Titans.

As Speedy, Roy became one of the first costumed characters in mainstream comics to struggle with drug addiction, in a landmark 1971 storyline (entitled “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”) by writer Denny O’Neil and artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

The clean-and-sober, and now adult, Roy later changed his superhero name to Arsenal, apparently having recognized that “Speedy” was not a sobriquet designed to strike terror into the hearts of malfeasants. The new moniker allowed Roy to expand his weapons expertise beyond the bow and trick arrows that had been his mainstay, apparently having also recognized that as a close-quarters fighting tool, a bow leaves something to be desired.

More recently, with his stormy relationship with his mentor and surrogate father Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen resolved in positive fashion, Roy changed his nom de guerre once more, to Red Arrow. In this new guise, he joined the Justice League, where he remains a prominent member of DC’s headline team.

Given his reliance on technology, as well as his history of substance abuse, Red Arrow is one of comicdom’s most thoroughly modern heroes. How cool is it, then, to see him battling shoulder-to-shoulder with Red Sonja, a heroine of the long-distant past?

Pretty darned cool, if I say so myself. (And I just did.)

I left the design of this piece — as I nearly always do with my Common Elements commissions — entirely to the imagination of the artist. Lan Medina devised an action-packed scenario that perfectly (and rather cleverly, in my rarely humble opinion) displays the specific skills of these two amazing heroes. Lan also added a number of subtle details that underscore the contrast between ancient history (the dinosaur skeleton) and 21st century (the “Biohazard” warning seal) represented by the pair. The scene is both intricately plotted and beautifully rendered.

Best of all, the picture implies an entire tale. Wouldn’t you just love to know what led up to this moment? Where is this battle taking place? Who are the unseen adversaries? What power snatched these two heroes from their respective, far-flung time periods and deposited them in this moment? Just what the heck are Red Sonja and Red Arrow doing here?

Perhaps, someday, I’ll write that story.

For now… that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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

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