In recent years, many (indeed, too many) of my longtime comics-artist heroes have shuffled off this mortal coil, never to draw again. The advance of age and ill health has deprived us of many of the greats — Gene Colan, Jim Aparo, Jim Mooney, Dick Giordano, Dave Simons… the list goes sadly on.
Others have left us suddenly, at the height of their powers, and far too soon — Mike Wieringo and Al Rio come immediately to mind.
Still others have retired from commission work, and are thus no longer available to create new treasures for their fans.
Too often, I find myself ruing missed chances to commission these legendary talents. That fact has made me acutely aware of opportunities to connect with my favorites while I can.
When fellow comic art collector Michael Dunne announced the retirement of Frank Brunner some time back, I found myself again kicking myself for not getting a commission from Frank sooner. Luckily for me, Michael passed along a comment I made to him describing the Common Elements scenario I’d have obtained from Frank if I’d acted in time. Frank was intrigued enough by the concept that, though still enjoying his retirement, he accepted my commission.
Am I ever grateful that he did!
Frank designed and drew this power-packed scene depicting his old friend Doctor Strange — whose series Frank drew and co-scripted for a fondly remembered run in the mid-1970s — alongside colleagues Doctor Mid-Nite and Doctor Druid. Frank also came up with the title of this Common Elements entry, which was so much more clever than the one I’d devised that I’m refraining from mentioning the latter out of sheer embarrassment. (As always, you can click the image above for an enlarged view.)
Both Doctor Strange and Doctor Mid-Nite make their second Common Elements appearances in this masterpiece. The Sorcerer Supreme previously joined the party alongside the Green Lama in James Ritchey III’s Tibetan-themed tableau, while the original sightless superhero duked it out with fellow blind crusader Daredevil in a stunning creation penciled by Ron Wilson and inked by Bob Almond. You can check out both pieces by following the links to my Comic Art Fans gallery.
The newcomer, Doctor Druid, is by far the least well-known of these three physician crimebusters, but he comes equipped with a rather interesting history. He’s one of a handful of Marvel Comics characters (a handful that also includes Captain America and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner) whose career predates what we traditionally think of as the Marvel Age of Comics, beginning with Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961). He’s also among an even smaller handful of modern Marvel characters (the only other I can think of right off is the giant dragon called Fin Fang Foom) who were co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby before the FF went to press.
Originally called Doctor Droom (eventually renamed to avoid confusion with Marvel’s later, but far more famous, supervillain Doctor Doom), Druid is a psychiatrist turned mystic warrior against the supernatural forces of evil. He briefly joined the Avengers in the 1980s, and later led another hero team, the Secret Defenders. Marvel has killed Doctor Druid off a time or two, but you can always count on him coming back, because (a) no one ever stays dead in comics, and (b) you can’t keep a good Druid down.
My sincerest thanks to Michael Dunne for facilitating my introduction to the great Mr. Brunner, and to Frank himself for adding a page to my theme gallery that won’t be topped for some time. If ever.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.