Archive for December 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.

Anyway…

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.