It’s the Katharine Hepburn edition of our annual “Best of Comic Art Friday” post. (Old-time film buffs will recall Spencer Tracy’s famous commentary on the sex appeal of his frequent co-star: “There ain’t much meat on her, but what there is, is cherce.” By which he meant “choice.” I guess you had to be there.)
2012 saw, by far, the fewest new entries into my comic art collection of any single year since I entered the hobby nearly a decade ago. But as I examined the handful of pieces that came my way this year, I’ve got to admit that we made up in quality for our paucity in quantity. Some of the new artworks I acquired rank among the very finest in my gallery, and that takes some doing.
So, without further muss or fuss, here are my favorites from among the pieces that landed in my lap in 2012.
Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroes Division:
“Did Someone Call For a Doctor?” (Doctor Strange, Doctor Mid-Nite, Doctor Druid)
Pencil art by Frank Brunner
In these days of cookie-cutter comic art, there are increasingly few artists whose style is so unique and recognizable that an item of their work could not possibly have been drawn by anyone else. Frank Brunner, who’s best remembered for his work on Marvel’s more esoteric titles (Doctor Strange, Howard the Duck, the unfortunately named Giant-Size Man-Thing) in the 1970s, is largely retired from commission projects these days, but graciously consented to create this masterpiece featuring three superhero doctors: Strange, Druid, and Mid-Nite.
Favorite Common Elements Commission, Co-Ed Division, Pencils Only:
“Somebody Scream!” (Tyroc and Songbird)
Pencil art by Peter Vale
Brazilian talent Peter Vale made me scream with delight when first I saw this matchup of sonic superstars — the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Tyroc and the Thunderbolts’ Songbird. The level of detail Vale delivered here is nothing short of incredible. You’ll be doing the art (and yourself) a disservice if you don’t click the image and get a bigger, closer look.
Favorite Common Elements Commission, Co-Ed Division, Pencils and Inks:
“First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” (Josiah Power and She-Hulk)
Pencils and inks by Tom Grummett
One of the finest artists active in comics today, Grummett invokes the spirit of Jack Kirby in bringing together battling attorneys She-Hulk and Josiah Power, the latter of whom was a Grummett co-creation. I simply love the energy (and the “Kirby crackle,” which is energy of a different sort) in this drawing.
Favorite Common Elements Commission, Wicked Cool Concept Division:
“Heavenly Creatures” (Halo and Angel)
Pencils and inks by Sean Chen
Sean Chen shocked and surprised me with his inspired take on Michelangelo (the Sistine Chapel painter, not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). I can’t imagine a more appropriate scenario for heroes named Angel and Halo to find themselves in. This piece illustrates the primary reason I like to give my commission artists free rein on their projects — I would never have thought of a design concept this awesome.
Favorite Bombshells! Commission:
Tara, Queen of the Space Pirates
Pencils and inks by Darren Taylor
I added only one new entry to my Bombshells! pinup theme this year, but Darren “Roadkill” Taylor made it a doozy. The fact that the Pirate Queen shares her sobriquet with the lovely woman who married me this spring is icing on a spectacular cake.
Favorite Inking Commission:
Inks by Bob Almond, over pencil art by Al Rio
The comic art world suffered an inordinate number of tragic losses in 2012. Few affected me personally as much as the January suicide of the brilliant Al Rio. The Brazilian artist created one of the first pieces I ever commissioned — it remained, for several years, the most costly commission in my entire collection. I acquired numerous additional Rio works — both existing pieces, and newly commissioned drawings — in the years since. I purchased this unfinished sketch from Al Rio’s longtime representative shortly after the artist’s passing. Seeing it completed by my favorite commission inker, Bob Almond, gives me hope that Rio’s special talent will not be soon forgotten.
Thundarr the Barbarian, Princess Ariel, and Ookla the Mok
Pencils by Phil Noto, inks by Bob Almond
As noted above, Bob Almond has become my go-to guy for commission inking over the past decade. Bob’s versatility and chameleon-like gift for melding his skills with those of almost any penciler — as well as his easygoing demeanor and dependability — has resulted in our doing dozens of projects together. This one, our 50th, sprang from a fun, nostalgic sketch by comic artist and veteran Disney designer Phil Noto. I was a few seasons past my Saturday morning cartoon period by the time Thundarr the Barbarian debuted, but knowing that the character designs came from the pens of legendary creators Alex Toth and Jack Kirby, I gave the show a shot and enjoyed it. Having this fun drawing on my wall makes me smile.
Those were the highlights of this collecting year. Thanks for indulging my obsession.
May 2013 be kind to you and everyone you love, friend reader. We’ll see you back here for more stuff — as the great Chuck Barris used to say — in the new year.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.