Archive for March 2011

Comic Art Friday: Happy birthday, Supergirl!

March 25, 2011

Supergirl turns 22 today.

Supergirl, pencils by comics artist Ramona Fradon

No, not that Supergirl.

My Supergirl.

Twenty-two years ago today, The Daughter entered my world, and changed it forever.

I’ve called her Supergirl for years, because she often used to wear a pink hoodie with the Kryptonian shield emblazoned on the chest. Truth to tell, though, she’s really more of a Mary Marvel — like Mary, she’s a brunette, and also like Mary, she retains her youthful innocence and charm even when she transforms into a superheroine.

Mary Marvel, pencils and inks by comics artist Michael Bair

I hope you have a spectacularly wonderful birthday, Supergirl. You’ve earned it this year. And I hope and pray that you enjoy many, many more birthdays to come. I love you as much as a father can.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: I loved an Amazon before she was a website

March 11, 2011

You know that old saying, “Clothes make the man”? Shouldn’t that be, “Clothes make the woman”? Women — to generalize to the point of stereotype — tend to be more selective about their clothes than men are.

A hue and cry erupted in comics fandom some time back when DC Comics radically redesigned Wonder Woman’s iconic costume, putting the Amazing Amazon in an outfit that — to my eye, anyway — looks like she’s trying out for a mid-’90s version of the Avengers. (Remember that period when half the members of Marvel’s premier superteam wore leather jackets, like extras from West Side Story? Yeah, I know — I’ve tried to forget, too.)

The furor mostly ignored the fact that DC has tinkered with Diana’s fighting togs on several occasions. For several years in the late ’60s and early ’70s, she didn’t even wear a costume. In the main, however, the platform of Wonder Woman’s gear has followed a pattern — the tiara, the bustier, the star-spangled lower half, red footwear.

If I were designing Wonder Woman’s ideal outfit, it would look the way Gene Gonzales draws it in today’s featured artwork.

Wonder Woman, pencils and inks by comics artist Gene Gonzales

I’m partial to the old-school bustier with the golden eagle emblazoned on the front. It seems a more realistic reflection of Diana’s connection to ancient Greek mythology than the stylized version of the past several decades, in which the eagle has been transmogrified into a modern “WW” logo.

I like the notion — as impractical as it might be for fighting and flying — of Diana in a skirt. (Contrary to popular belief, Wonder Woman’s original costume was not skirted. Her earliest ensemble had a pair of flouncy culottes covering her pelvic region; as drawn by H.G. Peter, the original Wonder Woman artist, these looked like a pleated skirt. Peter soon modified the culottes into a pair of form-fitting bicycle shorts.)

I’m especially fond of the calf-laced ballet flats that Diana wore throughout the 1950s and into the early ’60s. Not only are these far more effective for running around in than the high-heeled boots Wonder Woman has sported for more of her history, but like the eagle-emblazoned top, the slippers recall at least the flavor of ancient Greece. To me, that’s an essential element of Wonder Woman’s character. (The primary problem with the slippers was that the artists who drew Diana during the years when she wore them could never agree on what they were supposed to look like — how many times did the laces criss-cross the leg, for example? Half the time, the laces didn’t even connect to the backs of the shoes, making it appear that Diana simply wrapped ribbons around her shins for no good reason.)

No one in the comics world ever seeks my opinion about anything. But if they did, I’d tell them that this ought to be Wonder Woman’s standard costume, forever and ever.

I may not know much about fashion, but I know what I like.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 11 — “Life in the Fast Lane”

March 7, 2011

Artist: The Eagles

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: If there was ever any doubt that Joe Walsh is one of the most spectacularly gifted guitarists in the history of rock, the opening riff of “Life in the Fast Lane” should dispel said doubt.  And if there was ever any doubt that Walsh playing alongside Don “Fingers” Felder was one of the most potent two-guitarist combinations in the history of rock, the dueling break at the bridge of “Life in the Fast Lane” should kill that, too. Plus, the lyrics are classic L.A. cool.

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

He said, “Call the doctor — I think I’m gonna crash.”
“Doctor says he’s comin’, but you gotta pay him cash.”

Fun factoids:

  • “Life in the Fast Lane” represented one of Joe Walsh’s first musical contributions to The Eagles, which he joined shortly before the band recorded Hotel California, the album on which the song appears. According to legend, Walsh improvised his signature guitar part during an Eagles rehearsal, and his new bandmates Glenn Frey and Don Henley wrote the rest of the song around the riff.
  • Walsh replaced founding Eagle Bernie Leadon, who left the band in dissatisfaction with Henley and Frey’s changing musical direction, which gradually deemphasized Leadon’s preferred country/bluegrass-flavored style in favor of harder-edged rock. Leadon announced his departure from the band by pouring a beer over Glenn Frey’s head.
  • There used to be a roller coaster named “Life in the Fast Lane” at the short-lived Hard Rock amusement park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Although I’ve followed the common convention of preceding the name with “The” — because it reads awkwardly to do otherwise — the band’s official name for legal purposes is simply “Eagles.” All of the band’s album covers omit the article as well. (I’ve been a fan for more than 35 years, but I never noticed this until I read Don Felder’s memoir, Heaven and Hell: My Life With The Eagles.)
  • My friend Donna loves The Eagles more than life itself. She just wanted you to know that.

Other songs by The Eagles that I could have chosen instead: “Already Gone,” “Hotel California,” “Victim of Love,” “Heartache Tonight,” “Those Shoes.”

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]

Comic Art Friday: The chauffeur’s daughters

March 4, 2011

I’ll be honest — sometimes, the only reason for a new Common Elements commission is that the idea made me grin from ear to ear when I thought of it.

Well, not literally from ear to ear in that Julia Roberts / Cameron Diaz sort of way. My mouth is not that enormous. More like from mid-cheek to mid-cheek.

First, the art. (As always, you can click the image for a better view.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Fairchild, pencils and inks by comics artist Mike DeCarlo

Comics veteran Mike DeCarlo, who has drawn and/or inked everything from Spider-Man to The Simpsons during his quarter-century-plus in the industry, teams Sabrina, the Teenage Witch — star of comics, animation, and live-action TV, and responsible for extending the acting career of Melissa Joan Hart well beyond her teens (and, some might opine, beyond the limits of her talent) — with Caitlin Fairchild, leader of the youthful superhero team Gen13, who’s often known simply by her surname.

Next, the concept.

As an aficionado of old-school Hollywood, one of my favorite classic films is Sabrina. (That’s Billy Wilder’s 1954 original, starring Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, and a luminous Audrey Hepburn in the title role, not the tepid 1995 remake with Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, and Julia Ormond, directed by Sydney Pollack.)

Bogie and Holden portray two wealthy brothers — David, a good-for-nothing playboy (Holden), and Linus, who’s older and more serious (Bogart) — competing for the affections of a young woman (Hepburn) who happens to be the daughter of their family’s chauffeur. It’s sort of a reverse spin on Cyrano de Bergerac, with Linus working to sabotage the budding romance between his brother and the chauffeur’s daughter in order to score a huge business deal with the family of another woman, to whom David is engaged. And of course, Linus ends up falling in love with the girl himself. (Who wouldn’t? It’s Audrey Hepburn, for crying out loud.)

Okay, you’re thinking — that explains Sabrina. But what’s the Fairchild connection? If you’ve seen the movie, you know: the character Sabrina’s last name is Fairchild.

That makes me smile. Doesn’t it you?

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.