Archive for December 2009

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day seven

December 31, 2009

We’ve had six stupendous days tripping backward through the cleanest and meanest commissioned illustrations that entered my comic art collection during 2009. It’s time for the final pair of drawings… and yes, they’re doozies.

(You whippersnappers will have to Google “doozy.” You’ll probably have to Google “whippersnapper,” too.)

Favorite Multi-Character Commission, Non-Theme Division:
Arak, Son of Thunder
and Valda the Iron Maiden
Pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga

Arak, Son of Thunder and Valda the Iron Maiden, pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga

The second of two masterpieces created at WonderCon 2009 by comics legend Tony DeZuniga, this dramatic illustration spotlights the stars of DC’s mostly forgotten 1980s mashup of Native American historical drama and sword-and-sandal fantasy, Arak, Son of Thunder. Tony drew about half of the original adventures of Arak and his lady companion, Valda the Iron Maiden. He hasn’t lost the master’s touch.

Favorite Supergirl Commission:
Pencils by Michael Dooney

Supergirl, pencils by comics artist Michael Dooney

I’ve saved one of my absolute treasures until the very end. I can’t really explain why it took so long for me to commission one of my favorite artists to draw one of my favorite heroines in my all-time favorite of her numerous costumes. Fortunately for us all, that drought ended in 2009. Mike Dooney’s take on the Maid of Steel is flat-out awesome. Spunky, too. (Spunky rocks.)

So that’s it in a seven-fragment nutshell: Comic Art Friday’s top artworks from the final year of the Aughts. With any luck, there will be more to come as we forge ahead into the Teen Decade.

May you and your loved ones enjoy a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year in 2010.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day six

December 30, 2009

The penultimate edition of our week-long saunter through the past year of comic art collecting brings us to a pair of pieces commissioned at WonderCon 2009. Neither of these falls specifically into any of my usual themes, but they both feature fantastic renderings of characters I know and love. I couldn’t choose one over the other, so we’ll showcase both today.

Favorite Solo Commission, Non-Theme Division (tie):
Blue Beetle

Pencils and inks by Thomas Hodges

Blue Beetle III (Jaime Reyes), pencils and inks by comics artist Thomas Hodges

I’d wanted for some time to see Star Wars artist Hodges’s take on the current Blue Beetle, mostly because I see strong similarities between Tom’s style and that of Cully Hamner, who designed Jaime Reyes’s scarab armor. Tom kicked the concept up a notch by illustrating the Beetle on bold blue art paper.

Favorite Solo Commission, Non-Theme Division (tie):
The Rocketeer

Pencils and inks by Aaron Lopresti

The Rocketeer, pencils and inks by comics artist Aaron Lopresti

Current Wonder Woman (and former Ms. Marvel) artist Lopresti wanted to apply his skills to a male character this time around, so I asked him to tackle Dave Stevens’s Rocketeer. Aaron’s iconic pinup deserves a place alongside the newly released hardcover collection of Stevens’s work.

Tomorrow, we’ll ring out the old year and look ahead to the new, with our last two splendiferous additions to 2009’s greatest and highest. You’ll want to be sure to stop by.

And that’s your sixth chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day five

December 29, 2009

We’re heading into the home stretch of our seven-day review of the best comic art commissions we picked up during the past twelve months.

I believe that I can say without too much fear of contradiction that I’m the only collector in the comic art field who regularly commissions art featuring either Isis, star of the classic 1970s Saturday morning TV series The Secret of Isis (and later, The Shazam!/Isis Hour), or Taarna, the iconic warrior from the groundbreaking animated science fiction anthology Heavy Metal. This year, my favorite new Isis and Taarna artworks both happen to also be entries in my primary commission theme, Common Elements.

Favorite Isis Commission:
“Ye Gods!”
(costarring the mighty Thor)
Pencils and inks by Steve Rude

The mighty Isis and the mighty Thor, pencils and inks by comics artist Steve Rude

If you’re going to put together a retro heroine from the Disco Decade and a superhero cocreated and designed by Jack “King” Kirby, there’s one artist at the top of your wish list: Steve “The Dude” Rude. This amazing tableau demonstrates the reason Rude was the perfect choice for this combination.

Favorite Taarna Commission:
“One-Way Ticket to Midnight”
(costarring the original Sandman)
Pencils by Edgar Tadeo

The Sandman and Taarna, pencils by comics artist Edgar Tadeo

I had no idea what Ed Tadeo — one of the brightest talents among the new school of comics artists coming out of the Philippines — would do with the pairing of Taarna and the Golden Age hero Sandman. Ed devised an evocative scene with a hint of mystery and subtext. Then he drew the heck out of it.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll trot out the two best single-character commissions from 2009 that don’t fit into any of my established theme categories. They’re simply two great drawings that deserve a second look. We’ll see you here in 24.

And that’s your fifth chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day four

December 28, 2009

Thus far in our nostalgic romp through the past year’s comic art acquisitions, we’ve ogled my favorite new pieces from my two commission themes, Common Elements and Bombshells! Today, we turn our attention to our solo character galleries.

As regular visitors to my online art gallery know, I collect unique images of several beloved heroes and heroines. Alas, in 2009, most of those collections didn’t expand, as I focused my limited art-buying resources on my two primary themes. I did, however, pick up a couple of nice additions for my gallery dedicated to one of comics’ premier husband-and-wife duos, the Black Panther and Storm.

Favorite Black Panther Commission:
Alex Niño

The Black Panther, pencils and inks by Alex Nino

Alex Niño is, without question, one of the most distinctive stylists the comics industry has ever produced. He created this eye-catchingly impressionistic interpretation of the King of Wakanda at WonderCon 2009.

Favorite Storm Commission:
Bob Almond (ink finishes over rough pencils by Mark Beachum)

Storm, finished inks by Bob Almond, from a pencil rough by Mark Beachum

Bob Almond, the guy who puts the “king” in “inking,” took a rough pencil sketch that Mark Beachum included as a bonus gift with an earlier art purchase and transformed it into this powerful image of everyone’s favorite mutant weather wizard. Bob spun Storm’s costume from an idea that Geof Isherwood created for a previous Common Elements commission — an adaptation of an original concept by the legendary Barry Windsor-Smith.

More retrospective goodies tomorrow. Be here… or don’t.

And that’s your fourth chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day three

December 27, 2009

Time to unwrap the third of our seven Comic Art Year-End special editions, taking a fond glance back at the finest commissioned artworks to enter my collection in 2009.

So far, we’ve checked out four of the best new pieces in my Common Elements theme gallery. Today, we’ll see a couple of superstar turns in my other primary theme, Bombshells! This year, the Bombshells! series expanded by six, all of which are spectacular. I could have chosen any two to single out, and not have gotten the selection wrong. But I forced myself to choose just two.

Favorite Bombshells! Commission (Pencil Division):

Pencils by Steve Mannion

Miss Victory, pencils by comics artist Steve Mannion

In my never-humble opinion, Steve Mannion (creator of The Bomb and Fearless Dawn) is one of the great unsung talents in comics. His charming, timeless style deserves a far wider audience than it presently enjoys. His pinup of Golden Age heroine Miss Victory gives testimony to Steve’s unique ability to meld beauty and whimsy.

Favorite Bombshells! Commission (Ink Division):
“Patriot Games”

Pencils and inks by Greg LaRocque

Pat Patriot, pencils and inks by comics artist Greg LaRocque

This stunning Bombshell! impressed me so much that it’s been hanging in a place of prominence on my office wall since the day it arrived in the mail. It perfectly expresses a key reason why I enjoy the Bombshells! theme — resurrecting long-forgotten characters from the classic period of comics (in this case, Pat Patriot, one of the earliest red-white-and-blue heroines of the World War II era) for a modern viewership.

Okay, okay, I know I said I’d pick two. However…

Michael Dooney, one of my all-time favorite “good girl” artists, took two shots at the Bombshells! concept in 2009. I simply can’t conclude this retrospective without showcasing at least one of Mike’s two gorgeous drawings. Unfortunately, I love them both equally. So, I flipped a coin, and here’s your winner.

Favorite Bombshells! Commission (Dooney Division):
“Valhalla or Bust!”

Pencils by Michael Dooney

Valkyrie (Airboy character), pencils by comics artist Michael Dooney

Airboy’s sometime-nemesis, sometime-comrade Valkyrie meets the power, the passion, the excellence that is Dooney. Giving the former Axis spy the Spear of Destiny — you recall, I’m sure, the Third Reich’s fascination with supernatural artifacts — was a classic Dooney touch.

In tomorrow’s installment, we’ll look at this year’s outstanding commissions featuring two of my favorite characters.

And that’s your third chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day two

December 26, 2009

Day Two of our grand tour through the Best of Comic Art Fridays, 2009 Edition, completes our look at this year’s most noteworthy additions to my Common Elements commission theme.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Coed Division:
“I Hear Red Thunder”

Pencils by Lan Medina

Red Arrow and Red Sonja, pencils by comics artist Lan Medina

Making his second entry into the Common Elements gallery, Fables artist Lan Medina rocks this action-packed scene pitting the Justice League’s Red Arrow and barbarian warrior Red Sonja against an array of unseen adversaries.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Special Achievement Award:
“Catfight of the Bands”

Pencils and inks by Gene Gonzales

Catfight of the Bands, pencils and inks by comics artist Gene Gonzales

Gene Gonzales summons up all kinds of awesome with his lively depiction of Josie and the Pussycats swapping musical talents with another terrific trio, consisting of Catwoman and both the Golden Age and present-day Black Cat.

Tomorrow, pinup mania reigns as we salute the best from my second commission theme, Bombshells!

And that’s your second chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2009, day one

December 25, 2009

By tradition here at SSTOL, we spend our last Friday or two every year looking back fondly at the best comic art commissions to enter my collection during the previous 12 months. Since, due to extenuating circumstances (in case you’re out of the loop, my wife has been hospitalized since December 9 — needless to say, I’ve had other priorities), we’re down to our final Comic Art Friday, I’ve decided to switch things up a bit.

We’re going to take the entire last week of the year to celebrate our Best of Comic Art Fridays. Each day between now and New Year’s Eve, we’ll display two artworks that added new dimensions of quality to Uncle Swan’s gallery in 2009.

So let’s get after it.

My primary theme collection, Common Elements, expanded by 14 pieces this year. (Technically, it’s 15 pieces, as I recently received a scan of a new Common Elements creation by former Valiant Comics stalwart Mike Leeke. Due to the lateness of the hour, we’ll count that one as the first pickup of the Teens Decade.)

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroes Division:
“We Stand On Guard For Thee”

Pencils by Dave Ross

Wolverine and Captain Canuck, pencils by comics artist Dave Ross

Canadian artist Dave Ross flies his Maple Leaf banner high with this striking page starring two of the Great White North’s best-loved crimebusters, Wolverine and Captain Canuck.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroines Division:
“Garden of Unearthly Delights”

Pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga

An artist’s artist if ever there was one, Tony DeZuniga entrances the senses with the floral-themed duo of Poison Ivy and the Black Orchid — the latter of whom Tony co-created.

Poison Ivy and Black Orchid, pencils by comics artist Tony DeZuniga

Tomorrow, we’ll check out two more examples of Common Elements spectacle. Be here then, won’t you?

And that’s your first chapter of Comic Art Year-End, 2009.

Comic Art Friday: A birthday stroll through the Isherwood

December 4, 2009

Today, Comic Art Friday extends a Happy Birthday shout-out to one of our favorite comic artists, the tremendously talented Geof Isherwood.

Valkyrie and Aragorn, pencils and inks by comics artist Geof Isherwood

Geof is what I like to call a triple-dipper in the comics field — an artist who’s equally well-known (and equally adept) as a penciler and as an inker, and who’s also a writer.

His artistic credits include penciling stints on such series as Power Man and Iron Fist, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Dazzler, Thor, Web of Spider-Man, Swords of the Swashbucklers, myriad Conan titles, and the two series with which Geof is most closely associated — Marvel’s Doctor Strange and DC’s Suicide Squad.

Dr. Strange, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

As an inker, Geof has embellished the pencils of such artists as Wayne Vansant (The ‘Nam), Val Semeiks (Conan the Barbarian), Marc Silvestri (Conan the King), and Luke McDonnell (Suicide Squad).

Titles Geof has written include Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Justice, and his own creation, Lincoln-16.

Mr. Miracle and Free Spirit, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

Geof’s art possesses a strikingly cinematic quality, which makes sense if you know that in addition to his work in comics, Geof is highly sought after as a storyboard artist for motion pictures. He’s helped frame the vision of such renowned directors as Darren Aronofsky, Richard Donner, Renny Harlin, Chazz Palminteri, and Bryan Singer.

The Spirit, pencils and inks by comics artist Geof Isherwood

When I began collecting comic art, Geof’s drawings were among the first I acquired. His commissions enliven several of my theme galleries, especially Common Elements, for which he has created four pieces to date.

I love Geof’s work for his meticulous detail, his expressive characters, and his boundless sense of life and presence that infuses everything he draws or inks.

The Scarlet Witch, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

Recently, Geof branched out into the field of online comics. His exquisitely illustrated fantasy series, Lani the Leopard Queen, can be viewed at the Zuda Comics site.

Geof’s beloved wife and collaborator, Sonja Skarstedt, passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer. I can’t help but believe that Sonja’s muse lives on, in each line and brush stroke of her husband’s art.

The Ray and Dazzler, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

Happy birthday, Geof. Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful spirit — and your amazing art — with me.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

What’s Up With That? #84: Grave robbers

December 3, 2009

If ever there was an argument for the return of public flogging, this just might be it.

Last weekend, a family of four from nearby Sonoma — John and Susan Maloney and their two young children, an 8-year old son and 5-year-old daughter — were killed in a horrific automobile accident, when a 19-year-old NASCAR wannabe blazed through a red light at a speed in the neighborhood of 90 MPH and smashed into the family’s minivan.

The Maloneys were returning home from a Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii.

Nothing much can be done about the offending driver, who also died shortly after the crash. But… check this out.

A couple of twentysomethings from down on the Peninsula heard the tragic news I’ve just described — the story was ubiquitous in the local media — and said to themselves, “Hey… since those people are dead, they won’t be using their stuff any more, right?”

They seized the opportunity. After making the 70-mile trek up to Sonoma, they emptied the Maloneys’ house of valuables, including the family’s second car, a 2006 Nissan 350Z.

As it happened, the female partner in this nefarious duo got busted in a routine traffic stop in San Mateo the day after the robbery. When the police discovered that Ms. Lowlife was driving on a suspended license, they searched her car, where they discovered one of Susan Maloney’s credit cards, as well as a Blu-Ray DVD player and other items stolen from the Maloney home.

The Maloneys’ purloined vehicle was later found parked in front of the criminal mastermind’s home, with her ex-con boyfriend at the wheel. Most, if not all, of the Maloneys’ property was recovered.

In the words of Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett, “This certainly was a new low for me and, I think, for everybody else investigating this case.”

Bonnie and Clyde are now cooling their felonious heels in the Sonoma County Jail.

I’m not a violent or vindictive guy. But if authorities decided it would be a good idea to paddle these two troglodytes’ backsides in the town square at high noon…

…they’d get no argument from me.

Ding dong, the Wolf Man’s dead

December 2, 2009

If you can tear yourselves away from the latest Tiger Woods update for just a moment, I have a real tragedy to report.

Paul Naschy has passed on.

Who’s Paul Naschy? you ask. Permit me to enlighten you, friend reader.

Paul Naschy was a cult filmmaker from Spain. (His real name was Jacinto Molina, which sounds more like a baseball player than a movie star.) For most of his lengthy career, Naschy acted in horror films, many of which he wrote or directed or both. Due to his performances as many of the classic monsters of cinema, he was nicknamed “the Spanish Lon Chaney.” And like the junior of the two American actors by that name, Naschy was most famous for portraying a werewolf on screen.

Beginning with his 1968 film The Mark of the Wolf Man (La Marca del Hombre Lobo), Naschy created his signature character, the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. (Naschy made his antihero Polish because the government cinema censors of the day would not sanction films that showed Spanish characters engaging in violent behavior.) Naschy would assume the Daninsky role a dozen times over the next 35 years, in movies that for the most part had little if anything to do with one another, save for Naschy/Daninsky himself. He finally retired the character in an American production, Tomb of the Werewolf, directed by another notorious schlockmeister, Fred Olen Ray.

In addition to his Wolf Man series, Naschy starred in dozens of other movies, almost all of them in the horror or crime genres. Unfortunately, most of Naschy’s oeuvre — at least the handful of examples I’ve seen — is pretty poor by any objective standard. In fairness, we’re talking about films that were being made on budgets smaller than our monthly cable bill. Still, it doesn’t take all that much viewing to figure out that as filmmakers go, Naschy was immeasurably closer to Ed Wood than to Orson Welles.

During my tenure as a film critic for DVD Verdict, I once landed the unfortunate assignment of reviewing a Naschy opus — 1973’s Curse of the Devil (titled El retorno de Walpurgis in its original Spanish release). I don’t know what the devil had against me that he cursed me with watching this incoherent monstrosity, but if you follow the magic link, you can share my agony. Because misery loves company.

Or is that Missouri? I forget.


Whatever his failings as a cinematic genius, Naschy boasted a devoted fan base that salivated over every ghastly frame of celluloid in which he appeared. The strong-stomached among you may wish to check out The Mark of Naschy, a thorough and surprisingly well-appointed shrine dedicated to the man and his legacy.

Make sure your sidearm is loaded with silver bullets.