Comic Art Friday: The best of 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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Explore posts in the same categories: Comic Art Friday, Reminiscing, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

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