Comic Art Friday: Little women

The wheels of Common Elements grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

Way back in the Dark Ages — or as I like to call it, 2004 — I commissioned the very first artwork in what would come to be known as the Common Elements series (two or more comic book characters, usually unrelated, but connected by some “common element,” as you regulars here already know) from Michael Dooney. From that day to this, my Common Elements gallery has grown to include more than 90 drawings (with a couple in the works) representing the work of 70 artists.

But for whatever reason, I’d never asked Mike Dooney to create a second one.

It’s definitely not because I don’t adore Mike’s work. I’ve commissioned him more frequently than any other pencil artist. (My friend Bob Almond, who believes that every pencil drawing needs ink, holds the commission record in my collection by a long stretch. But all of Bob’s projects to date have been strictly inking work.) I know, however, that Mike usually prefers not to do multiple-character pieces. So, because I like the guy, I didn’t want to use up my allotment of special favors by going to the well too many times. But every time I’ve received a new Dooney commission in the mail, I’ve looked at it and thought, “I really need to get Mike to do another Common Elements.”

Which brings us to today’s artwork.

The Wasp and Shrinking Violet, pencils by comics artist Michael Dooney

Mike’s assignment for this piece was to take two of the smallest heroines in comics — the Wasp, founding member of the Avengers, and Shrinking Violet, longtime stalwart in the Legion of Super-Heroes — and bring them together in a scenario that emphasized their diminutive size. Dooney devised this clever scenario, in which the winsome Wasp (as Stan Lee used to refer to her) asserts her self-perceived superiority over her rival with a swish of her pencil.

Although Shrinking Violet is the character with the longer history (she made her debut in DC’s Legion in 1961, almost two years before the Wasp first appeared on the cover of Marvel’s Tales to Astonish #44), it’s probably fair to say that Janet Van Dyne (later Janet Pym, after she and her crimefighting comrade Henry Pym, the original Ant-Man, married) is the better known of the two. The Wasp became one of Marvel’s most prominent female heroes, in addition to one of its earliest, thanks to her role in the Avengers.

Over the years, the Wasp gained significant notoriety for her frequent costume changes. Janet, a wealthy heiress with a taste for high fashion, updated her ensemble so many times that it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific “look” for the character. I chose the outfit depicted her by Mike Dooney because it’s one of the most attractive and distinctive of her numerous styles.

Shrinking Violet (her real name is Salu Digby — I’d prefer Violet too) joined the Legion as part of its first big expansion. Such familiar Legionnaires as Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Brainiac 5 came aboard at about the same time. Like the Wasp, Vi (as her colleagues often call her) has undergone several costume changes, usually as part of the Legion’s seemingly endless rebooting. Unlike the Wasp, Vi has also changed her code name from one incarnation to the next, having also operated under the guises of Atom Girl, LeViathan, and Virus, as well as just plain Violet.

Despite her name, most of Vi’s outfits over her long career have been predominantly green, not violet. (The ensemble shown here, for example, was solid green with black accents.) But that’s comics for you.

And that’s also your Comic Art Friday. (Remember: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.)

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4 Comments on “Comic Art Friday: Little women”

  1. Shelli Says:

    At first I thought I was looking at a stripper on a stripper pole. Glad I looked closer and read your historical about The Wasp and Violet.

  2. SwanShadow Says:

    Shelli: You should know me better than that by now, sugarlump. 🙂

  3. Shelli Says:

    Of course I do, which was why I was a little stunned at first…

  4. SwanShadow Says:

    Shelli: The funny thing is, since I knew from Dooney’s first preliminary sketch what the concept was supposed to be, I didn’t even see the stripper-pole thing in it until you mentioned it. 🙂

    Just keep telling yourself, “It’s only a pencil…”


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