As noted in the first couple of Comic Art Friday posts for this year, my comic art collection has, over the years, become focused on commissioned pieces that fit into my signature themes. A quick glance at my gallery, however, makes clear that I own a boatload of art that isn’t either Common Elements or Bombshells!, or even personally commissioned by yours truly.
When I first started collecting, most of my acquisitions were existing pieces that I hunted up on eBay, or in the “For Sale” galleries on Comic Art Fans. While a fair portion of these random artworks featured characters in whom I had a particular interest — we’ll chat more about my character-specific galleries as the year progresses — many were simply images that I liked at the time, and could pick up for what seemed a reasonable price. Today, I look at some of these and ask myself, “What in the Marvel or DC Universes possessed you to buy THAT?” (Which prompts this Note to Self: We really need to thin the herd this year.) Others still hold elevated status in my collection.
One of my early purchases remains unique: It’s the only item in my entire arsenal that I did not commission, but that directly resulted in my commissioning something else.
Looking at it now, I remember my first glimpse of this depiction of Doctor Strange by the talented, charming, and all-around nice guy Geof Isherwood. I was never a huge fan of Doctor Strange’s solo adventures. I didn’t really gravitate toward the character until he became the linchpin in Marvel’s superteam, the Defenders. But at the time I saw this piece, I found myself immediately and intensely drawn to its mystery — who’s firing those energy bolts at the Sorcerer Supreme? That story, I felt, needed to be told.
So I bought the art from Geof, and asked him if he’d be willing to draw a companion piece that would represent the other half of this tableau. We decided that the unseen aggressor would be Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch, one of my all-time favorite heroines. The result was the nifty picture you see below.
My intention at the time was to frame both drawings, and hang them on my office wall in such a way that the viewer could see the two images completing a single scene. Alas, the wall space I had to work with didn’t lend itself to such display. (Because of the perspective angles, the pieces don’t line up side by side. The Scarlet Witch has to be positioned slightly above and to the right of Doctor Strange, with roughly twelve to eighteen inches of diagonal air space between them.) That’s unfortunate, because Geof did an excellent job of designing the second image as a match for the first. I content myself with taking Doc and Wanda out of their portfolio every now and again, and laying them on the floor at the appropriate juxtaposition, just to remind myself of the intended effect.
The Scarlet Witch I commissioned from Geof Isherwood is unusual in my collection for a second reason. I don’t typically own more than one representation of a single character by the same artist. However, shortly after Geof completed this piece, he posted another Wanda drawing for sale, this time wearing her Gypsy-inspired costume designed by the great George Perez. I immediately fell in love with it. (I believe it’s the eyes.) Rationalizing the fact that even though this was yet another Isherwood Scarlet Witch, the outfit gave the second work an entirely different flavor, I purchased this one from Geof as well.
Geof’s second Wanda also holds a special distinction — it’s the only completed artwork I’ve ever asked its creator to alter ex post facto. (I have, on occasion, requested that an inker tweak something, but that’s another post.) In his original conception, Geof gave Wanda a preternaturally imposing bosom — think Power Girl or Red Monika from Battle Chasers, if you’re familiar with either — and designed her bustier to expose considerably more of said bosom’s surface area. In any other situation, I’d have declined — with heartfelt regret — to buy the piece, regardless of how compelling I found other aspects of it. (Again, the eyes.) In this instance, though, I figured I’d built sufficient goodwill with Geof — due to several mutually satisfactory transactions, including the one I’ve already described herein — that it couldn’t hurt to ask whether he’d be willing to entertain a minor alteration or two. The worst that could happen is that he’d say, “No way,” and sell the piece to another collector who’d be delighted with it as it was.
Luckily for me, Geof kindly took eraser and pencil — in that order — to the art, pseudosurgically shrinking Wanda’s frontal real estate from DDD to a more natural C, and adding a strategic dash of virtual fabric to the upper half of her costume. A win-win for all concerned.
Which brings me around to a final point. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no prude. I have no issue at all with art that depicts the nude or seminude human form. Indeed, I greatly admire the works of classical masters such as Titian, Botticelli, and Rubens, many of which are nudes. But I’ll confess that I’m not a fan of comic art that overexposes the heroes and heroines of my four-color youth. It’s not that I object to such works in and of themselves, or to either their creation or collection. It’s simply that I don’t want them in my gallery, for reasons that have little to do with aesthetics, or with any perceived moral stance.
My issue is a bit more personal, and visceral: I think of these characters as my friends.
I started reading comic books 45 years ago. Over the decades, I’ve spent countless hours immersed in the adventures of my favorite superheroes and superheroines. Even though I don’t take them more seriously than good sense warrants — and I certainly never forget that they are anything but figments of imaginations far more gifted and vivid than my own — I feel at some level personally invested in them.
That said, there are many aspects of the lives of my real-world friends that I am happy to leave untouched… no pun intended. I don’t particularly want to view, for example, the intimate details of my friends’ sexual exploits, any more than I’d care to share those details of my own life with even my closest confidants. Biological functions go on daily in my friends’ lives, to which I feel neither need nor desire to be a witness. And I don’t particularly want to see my friends naked — this despite the fact that I have, if I may be frank, quite a number of aesthetically pleasing friends of both genders, who probably look just fine attired in nothing but the equipment the good Lord gave them.
Not that I don’t want my friends to have happy and mutually fulfilling sexual relationships, or enjoy regular bowel functions, or look simply smashing in the altogether. I do. I just don’t need to examine the evidence.
And I feel pretty much the same about my imaginary friends, too.
It’s kind of like a joke often told by the legendary George Wallace (the standup comedian, not the late racist politician): “Someone said to me the other day, ‘It’s as cold as a well-digger’s butt out here.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to know my well-digger that well.'”
See? I told you we were going to get way more self-revelatory around these parts in 2013.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.