Archive for December 2010

Comic Art Friday: The very best of 2010… maybe ever

December 31, 2010

In previous years, I’ve presented my favorite comic art acquisitions of the foregoing 12 months on the last two Fridays before year’s end. Last year, I mustered sufficient ambition to make an entire week out of it.

2010 was a sparse collecting year for me, for reasons you can probably deduce if you follow this blog with even a modicum of regularity. Despite the small number of pieces I added this year, the quality overall was exceptional, as you’ve observed if you’ve been stopping in on Comic Art Fridays like you know you ought to. I’m delighted with every single commission that was done for me in 2010.

But when it comes to my Best of 2010, one artwork stands alone. And you haven’t seen it before now.

KJ as Electra Woman and KM as Dyna Girl, by comics artist Geof Isherwood

If you were a kid in the 1970s, the costumes will be familiar even if the faces of the women wearing them are not: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, whose adventures elevated The Krofft Supershow on Saturday mornings in 1976.

Electra Woman (played by actress Deidre Hall, better known as Dr. Marlena Evans on the long-running NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives) was in everyday life a magazine journalist named Lori, while her youthful sidekick Dyna Girl was really her assistant Judy (played by Judy Strangis, better known as one of the students on the seminal high school drama Room 222). In a thinly disguised distaff knockoff of Batman and Robin, the duo battled crime using an amazing array of high-tech gadgets, the names of which invariably began with the prefix “Electra-” (at least it wasn’t “Bat-“). Most notable among their toys were their ElectraComs, clunkier versions of Dick Tracy’s famous wrist radio.

EW and DG’s 15-minute exploits lasted a single season — they shared their hour of airtime with segments featuring Dr. Shrinker (a mad scientist who invented a miniaturizing ray), Wonderbug (a flying dune buggy manned by three hip postadolescents), and Kaptain Kool and the Kongs (a faux rock band in the mode of the Monkees). Wonderbug and the Kaptain soldiered on for another year of Supershow after the Day-Glo superheroines and the incredible shrinking doctor got their walking papers.

But now you’re wondering… who’s that masquerading as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl?

On the left is my late wife KJ, a natural brunette who’s sporting a blonde wig here in imitation of Deidre Hall’s flowing locks. On the right is The Daughter, also referred to in this space as KM.

My original plan for this commission started long before KJ passed away due to breast cancer in July of this year. In fact, artist Geof Isherwood and I first discussed a KJ/KM tribute several years ago, but the project went onto the back burner — my fault, not Geof’s — for quite some time. In the aftermath of KJ’s passing, though, I knew it was time to complete the job.

When Geof and I brainstormed the idea initially, my concept was to dress KJ as Wonder Woman — the superheroine she most identified with — and The Daughter as Supergirl, which has been one of my pet names for her since she was young. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that wouldn’t work. KJ, who underwent a radical mastectomy in 2000 and was always a modest dresser even before that, would never have donned Wonder Woman’s signature bustier. She was, on the other hand, a dedicated Days of Our Lives fanatic — as is The Daughter even now — so portraying her in the guise of Deidre Hall’s Electra Woman struck me as the perfect compromise.

Although I commissioned this drawing in ink, Geof insisted on painting over his inks in watercolor, to create a stunning showpiece. This project became a labor of love for the artist, whose beloved wife Sonja also lost her battle with cancer in 2009. The final result is both a sterling example of Geof’s always brilliant work, and a fitting tribute to the two strong young women who have shared my life.

Geof Isherwood’s masterpiece reflects all of the reasons why I collect original comic art. I couldn’t have asked for more.

May you and yours enjoy a joyous, healthy, and fulfilling 2011, friend reader. Your Uncle Swan thanks you for all of your support and encouragement during his darkest, most challenging year, and promises to blog more often during the coming 12 months.

And that’s your final Comic Art Friday of 2010. Happy New Year, everyone!

Comic Art Friday: Doctor, Doctor, give me the news…

December 17, 2010

…I’ve got a bad case of loving you.

Doctor Fate and Doctor Doom, pencils and inks by comics artist Joe Bennett

Or, at the very least, I’ve got a bad case of loving this Common Elements artwork by Brazilian superstar Joe Bennett (Captain America and the Falcon, 52, Teen Titans), featuring a dynamic duo of metal-masked doctors — specifically, Doctor Fate (he’s the one in danger of being devoured by the creature that resembles the graboids from Tremors) and Doctor Doom (he’s the one towering over Fate’s plight with nefarious glee). You can click the image above for an expanded view.

Although Doctor Fate isn’t that familiar a name outside the universe of comics cognoscenti, he’s one of the oldest superheroes still going, having made his debut way back in May 1940’s More Fun Comics #55. The good Doctor was also one of the founding members of comics’ original superhero team, the Justice Society of America. He’s never been a major headliner, but he has certainly proven himself a durable character. Or, to be more precise, characters — given that several different entities (including at least two women, a disembodied spirit, and a chimpanzee) have donned Doctor Fate’s golden helmet over the course of 70 years.

For me, the one true Doctor Fate is the original — Kent Nelson, who was raised from boyhood by an ancient Egyptian sorcerer named Nabu, and schooled in the magical arts. Kent eventually becomes a physician who uses the arcane powers vested in his helmet (as well as his cloak and amulet) to battle evil. Much like his JSA contemporary, The Spectre, Doctor Fate wielded seemingly limitless supernatural might, which in turn gave him an aloof, antisocial air. These qualities made him seem perhaps less vulnerable and interesting than other heroes (and likely contributed to his lackluster popularity).

Doctor Doom, by contrast, has never had a popularity problem, having been the most prominent supervillain in Marvel Comics continuity since his debut in Fantastic Four #5 (July 1962). Pretty much every Marvel hero who’s been around for any length of time has tangled with Doom at least once, which is the only reason the megalomanical ruler of Latveria has never realized his dream of global domination.

Victor von Doom — and with a name like that, how could the poor guy not turn evil? — came to America as a young man, and was a college associate of Reed Richards (later Mr. Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four). Horribly scarred in a failed scientific experiment, Doom outfits himself with a mask and armor, setting out on a path of vengeance against those he blames for his plight — which includes just about every human being on the planet, but specifically Richards. If Reed Richards is the smartest person on Earth, Victor von Doom is a close Number Two, so the battle of wits between the two has been fought to a virtual draw for nearly five decades.

The match-up of these two Doctors illustrates (no pun intended) the kind of magic that happens more often than not in my Common Elements commissions. I provided Joe Bennett no instruction or direction about this artwork other than the two characters to be featured. The powerfully dramatic scenario you see here sprang entirely from the creativity of the artist, and came as a total — albeit pleasant — surprise to me when the piece was completed.

Which is why I choose, generally speaking, not to describe to an artist what I want drawn. Inevitably, the artist’s idea will be better than anything I’d have come up with. That’s why they’re artists, and I’m just a guy who admires and collects their work.

Next week: Our annual Best of Comic Art Friday, in which we’ll take a fond look back at my favorite acquisitions of the past 12 months.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Saturday: Happy 50th, Geof Isherwood!

December 4, 2010

Usually, we do our comic art posts on Fridays here at SSTOL. But I held off until Saturday this week, just so that I could pay homage to a terrific artist and gentleman who’s celebrating his half-century anniversary today.

The Suicide Squad, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

Geof Isherwood — born December 4, 1960 — is an American expat who lives in Montreal, Canada. He’s best-known in mainstream comics for his work on such series as Marvel’s Power Man and Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, and Conan, and especially DC’s Suicide Squad, for which Geof was a member of the artistic team — originally as inker over Luke McDonnell, then as penciler with Robert Campanella inking — for roughly half of the book’s original run. In recent years, Geof has focused on his creator-owned projects, a thriving practice as a commission artist, and storyboards for motion pictures including Gothika and The Fountain.

Geof was one of the first artists from whom I ever bought a piece of original comic art. He was also among the first few artists I personally commissioned. Over several years of correspondence — not always about comics or art — I’ve come to think of Geof as a good friend, albeit one I’ve never met in person. He and I keep saying we’re going to remedy that omission one of these days.

So many of Geof’s creations rank among my favorite commissions, but I chose the one above to showcase on this auspicious occasion because it’s not only an incredible display of Geof’s talents, but also representative of the series with which he’s most closely associated: Suicide Squad. I chose the four members of the long-running, ever-changing team that would appear in the piece; the scenario is 100% Isherwood. Clockwise from 12 o’clock, that’s Deadshot, the Bronze Tiger, Vixen, and Nightshade.

This drawing so beautifully demonstrates the talents Geof brought to his Suicide Squad run that when Back Issue, the outstanding magazine devoted to comics from the 1970s and ’80s, decided to publish a feature story about the Squad (with Geof as one of several creators interviewed), BI editor Michael Eury used this artwork to illustrate the first page of the feature. The story and accompanying art appear in Back Issue #26 (February 2008), the “Spies and Tough Guys” edition.

Happy 50th, Geof! May your drawing hand and imagination continue to produce wonders for at least another half-century!

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.