Comic Art Friday: You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

For the benefit of anyone who may have strolled in late, the cornerstone of my comic art collection is a series of artworks (93, at last count) known collectively as Common Elements. Each Common Elements drawing features at least two — and on occasion, more — comic book heroes and/or heroines who share some quality (similar name, costume characteristic, superpower, etc.), but are otherwise unrelated.

Sometimes the common element is fairly obvious — Mike Grell’s Jon Sable and Silver Sable piece is one such example. But the real treat for me is coming up with a Common Elements pairing so obscure that only the most Holmesian viewer will figure it out without assistance.

Take this latest, from the supremely talented Brazilian artist Al Rio.

Harley Quinn and Snowbird, pencils by comics artist Al Rio

The jester with the potent-looking popgun is Dr. Harleen Quinzel, better known as Batman’s nemesis Harley Quinn. The woman wearing the winglike tiara and cape is Snowbird, a founding member of the Canadian superteam Alpha Flight, and comics’ most prominent (only?) superhero of Inuit — we used to say “Eskimo” back in the day when we were less particular about calling people what they prefer to be called — origin.

So what do a clownish villainess and a heroine from the Great White North share in common? Well, step into the Wayback Machine, my dear Sherman, and I’ll tell you a tale.

In July 1966, folk-rock superstar Bob Dylan was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Dylan spent most of the next year or so recovering at his home near Woodstock, New York. Toward the end of his convalescence, Dylan and his backup ensemble, Levon and The Hawks — later famous in their own right under a different name, The Band — spent about three months recording a plethora of new material in Dylan’s basement studio. The resulting recordings, together known as the Basement Tapes, floated around in bootleg form for nearly a decade before receiving an officially sanctioned label release in 1975.

One of the earliest leakages from the Basement Tapes sessions was a bouncy comedic number entitled “Quinn the Eskimo.” According to Dylan, the idea for the song came from the 1959 film The Savage Innocents, in which noted Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn stars as an Inuit trapper accused of murder. British pop-rock sensations Manfred Mann (“sensations” is plural because Manfred Mann was the actual name of a band, of which a guy also named Manfred Mann was the leading member) recorded a worldwide hit cover of Dylan’s tune in 1968, retitled as “The Mighty Quinn” — the song’s catchy refrain goes, “Come on without / Come on within / You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn.” (Manfred Mann — the man, not the band — was born in South Africa as Manfred Lubowitz, which would not have made a very good name for a band at all.)

More than 20 years after the song had been a radio staple, actor Denzel Washington starred in the film The Mighty Quinn. In the movie, Washington’s character Xavier Quinn is not an Inuit trapper, but an American-educated police chief on a small Caribbean island. (Although, let’s be honest — it would be interesting to see Denzel play an actual Eskimo.) In one memorable scene, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, as Xavier’s cabaret-singer ex-wife, performs a reggae remix of the Dylan song.

Given this fascinating show business success story (you were fascinated, weren’t you?), it seemed only natural to me to pair up comics’ most famous Quinn with the medium’s most famous Eskimo. Because, in the words of the song, “When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody’s gonna jump for joy.”

I know I did.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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

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