Archive for December 2011

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2011

December 30, 2011

2011 was another light year on the commission front, due to economic circumstances with which I’m certain many of you could identify. It was, however, what the late film star Spencer Tracy might have termed a Katharine Hepburn kind of year — there wasn’t a lot of meat on its bones, but what there was, was choice. (Okay, Tracy would have said “cherce,” but it’s not as funny in print.)

So, let’s inspect the meat, shall we? The following are my favorite commission acquisitions of the past 12 months. As always, you can click on any of the images to get a better look. (I’d invite you over to the house, but I’m not that big on company.)

FAVORITE COMMON ELEMENTS COMMISSION
Bob Budiansky, “Bats Out of Hell”

Ghost Rider and Batgirl, pencils and inks by Bob Budiansky

When assessing my favorite addition to my Common Elements theme, it would be tough to outshine Bob Budiansky’s spectacular motorcycle race between Ghost Rider and Batgirl. Not only did Bob outdo his talented self with this knockout scenario, but the fact that Bob’s work brought closure to a commission originally assigned to the late Dave Simons — Bob’s onetime artistic collaborator on the Ghost Rider series — took this to an entirely new level.

FAVORITE COMMON ELEMENTS COMMISSION (Honorable Mention #1)
Darryl Banks, “Preying Mantises”

M.A.N.T.I.S. and Mantis, pencils and inks by Darryl Banks

Darryl Banks can draw anything and make it look awesome, and his well-researched teamup of the Avengers’ Mantis with nearly forgotten ’90s TV hero M.A.N.T.I.S. proves this fact once again.

FAVORITE COMMON ELEMENTS COMMISSION (Honorable Mention #2)
Ernie Chan, “Howard’s End”

Iron Man and Conan the Barbarian, pencils and inks by Ernie Chan

His style is immediately recognizable, and he wields the fastest pen this side of Barry Allen. Longtime Conan artist Ernie Chan seized this opportunity to revisit his favorite character, and slammed a home run with the execution.

FAVORITE COMMON ELEMENTS COMMISSION (Honorable Mention #3)
MC Wyman, “Three is a Magic Number”

The 3-D Man, Triathlon, and Triplicate Girl, pencils and inks by MC Wyman

It’s only fitting that our third honorable mention goes to this triad-themed tableau by the great MC Wyman, bringing together the triple threat of 3-D Man, Triathlon, and Triplicate Girl. If I had three hands, I’d clap them all.

FAVORITE BOMBSHELLS! COMMISSION
Mike DeCarlo, “Command Performance”

Commandette, pencils and inks by Mike DeCarlo

I only commissioned one new Bombshell! this year, and she was a doozy. (I also received a real gem as a gift from fellow collector Damon Owens.) Veteran Mike DeCarlo turned in a brilliant rendering of little-known Golden Age heroine Commandette, combining his trademark sense of fun with a perfect nose art pinup.

FAVORITE WONDER WOMAN COMMISSION
Gene Gonzales

Wonder Woman, pencils and inks by Gene Gonzales

There are artists whose talents I turn to time and again, because I can always depend on something special. Gene Gonzales, who does more with simplicity and grace than almost any artist I could name, created this beautiful portrait of the Amazon Princess. I don’t know why I didn’t commission Gene to draw Wonder Woman before now, but I’m thrilled that we finally got around to her.

FAVORITE SUPERGIRL COMMISSION
Brian Stelfreeze

Supergirl, pencils and inks by Brian Stelfreeze

Brian Stelfreeze might be the most underrated artist working in comics today. His name rarely gets mentioned with the upper echelon of industry talent — and let’s not talk about the people who get mentioned all the time in that arena, who shouldn’t be — but when I look at Brian’s work, I see the hand of a true genius.

FAVORITE PERFORMANCE BY THE KING OF INKING
Bob Almond, over pencils by Val Semeiks

Valkyrie (Hillman) and Valkyrie (Marvel), pencils by Val Semeiks, inks by Bob Almond

Over these many years, Bob Almond — the man who put the “King” in “inking” — has delivered more stupendous finishes than I could shake Mr. Fantastic at. Bob kicked his already lofty game up a few stunning new levels with his work over the power-packed pencils of Val Semeiks.

FAVORITE SPECIAL TREAT
Al Gordon, over pencils by Jeffrey Moy

Black Canary and the Black Cat (Golden Age), pencils by Jeffrey Moy, inks by Al Gordon

Not only did Al Gordon — a man who’s inked more great comics than I’ve read — completely transform one of the very first Common Elements pieces I ever commissioned, but he also spent a total of nearly two hours, at WonderCon 2011 and in his downtown San Francisco studio a few weeks later, chatting with me about comics and art and everything else under the sun. I’ve met a ton of cool people by way of comics, and Al Gordon ranks among the coolest.

To all Friend Readers who stop by SSTOL from time to time, please accept my apologies that Comic Art Fridays were few and sometimes embarrassingly far between in 2011. I promise to fill this space more regularly in the coming year. (I will, I will, I will.) Thank you for your continued support. May each of you enjoy the happiest, healthiest, and most memorable year ever in 2012.

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Comic Art Friday: Nice people rock!

December 23, 2011

As most of you are aware, I celebrated yet another anniversary of my birth on Monday of this week. (That’s December 19, for the calendar-impaired.) That very day, I arrived home from a fun time touring the holiday sights of downtown San Francisco with The Daughter only to discover this beauty of a birthday gift resting on my doorstep.

The Black Widow (Golden Age version), pencils by comics artist Howard Simpson

It’s a surprise addition to my Bombshells! commission theme, drawn by the highly skilled Howard Simpson (no relation to Homer… I think) and commissioned by my friend and fellow comic art collector, Damon Owens. Yes, the same Damon Owens who was the “O” on my Thanksgiving list this year. And that was before I knew this was coming.

As I was pondering my half-century on this planet, it occurred to me how many nice people I’ve met during my 50 years. It’s easy to complain about the absolute jerks that one encounters — and yes, one does encounter them — but it’s equally easy to overlook the fact that most of the people one meets are actually pretty cool.

I’ve met a lot of nice people through my comic art collecting hobby — fellow collectors such as Damon, and comic creators, both artists and writers. I’ve commissioned nearly three hundred original pieces of comic art during the past decade — the 127 pieces that currently comprise my signature themes, Common Elements and Bombshells!, are merely the tip of a ginormous iceberg, as a quick perusal of my online galleries will attest — and perhaps another fifty or sixty inking jobs. I can count on the fingers of one hand the unpleasant experiences I’ve had in dealing with artists. I’d run out of space if I tried to list all of the positive ones.

A few artists — Bob Almond, Geof Isherwood, and Darryl Banks come immediately to mind — have become long-distance friends. I’ve had artists send me free drawings, sketchbooks, cards, and other gifts, just because they appreciated my custom. A couple — Scott Rosema and the aforementioned Mr Almond — have called me on the phone out of the blue, just to see how I liked the work they did for me. I’ve had great chats at conventions with legends of the business like Ernie Chan, Tony DeZuniga, Keith Knight, Ron Lim, Aaron Lopresti, and Bob Layton, and shared engaging correspondence with folks like Gene Gonzales, Val Semeiks, Bob Budiansky, and Luke McDonnell. Al Gordon gave me a personal tour of his studio. I treasure a wonderful letter that the late Jim Mooney included with some art I purchased from him. Guys like Mitch Foust and Michael Dooney send me little notes or sketches of appreciation every time I get new art from them.

There are countless more that I can’t bring to my aging mind at the moment. That doesn’t mean any of them aren’t important.

I’ve met nice people in every aspect of my life. I’ve met a ton of nice people through my voiceover work. I’ve met nice people singing barbershop over the past 15 years. I met some incredibly nice people by way of Jeopardy! — including such folks as Grace Veach, Eugene Finerman, Kate Waits, Leslie Frates, Beverly Spurs, Bob Blake, Bob Verini, Dave Traini, and the nonpareil Ken Jennings, all of whom are among the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’ve met nice people at church… though you kind of expect that. I’ve worked with nice people during both my freelance and corporate careers. I’ve met nice people at the supermarket, at restaurants, and in hospitals. I’ve even met nice people online — one of whom now shares my life.

I’ve been truly blessed by knowing so many nice people in my 50 years. I hope that in the next 50, I’ll meet even more.

And, I hope that I’ll do a better job of being one of them.

Oh, before I forget… the Bombshell! above features the original Black Widow — that’s the Golden Age character, not the catsuit-clad superspy who arrived in the 1960s and is portrayed in the movies by Scarlett Johansson. This Black Widow holds the singular distinction of being the first costumed, superpowered female character in comics history. Other costumed heroines preceded her (the Woman in Red comes immediately to mind), as did other superpowered women (i.e., Fantomah), but the Black Widow was the first comics female to combine both superhuman abilities and a recognizable uniform. She must have known that trend would take off. Perhaps that’s why her civilian name was Claire Voyant. (No kidding.)

In case I don’t get back here in the next few days, I wish all of you nice people a happy holiday season, whichever holidays you choose to celebrate.

Be nice to each other in 2012.