Comic Art Friday: Do you feel lucky, punk?

As proud as I am of the way my primary commission theme, Common Elements, has evolved over the years, I still find myself looking at the themes of other collectors and thinking, “Man, I wish I had more stuff like THAT.”

Every time I browse the galleries of such theme commission powerhouses as these —

  • Michael Finn (who specializes in reimagining classic comics covers in a concept appropriately called “One Minute Later…”);
  • Brian Sagar (whose collection extrapolates upon his favorite comic series from the Bronze Age, Marvel Two-in-One);
  • Chris Caira (he of the wickedly inventive “Trophy Wall” theme);
  • And especially my good friend Damon Owens (best known in collecting circles for his commissions featuring The Brotherhood, a cross-publisher superteam of African-American heroes and heroines, Damon keeps creating new themes all the time, each one more eye-openingly clever than the last) —

I realize that my own efforts merely scrape the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Specifically, I marvel at how these other collectors pack so many characters into their commission projects. Most artists charge for commissions based on the number of figures they have to draw, which means that an artwork featuring multiple characters can get pricey in a jiffy. For that reason, more than 90% of my Common Elements projects feature only two characters, and most of the handful featuring three or more were drawn by artists who quoted a set page rate as opposed to a per-figure upcharge.

All of this means that when I get the opportunity to commission a Common Elements scenario with more than two heroes, I thank my lucky stars.

Speaking of lucky…

…”luck” is the theme for today’s featured artwork, rendered with painstaking detail by Brazilian artist Allan Goldman. (Be sure to click on the image below to get a closer look. Trust me — you really, really want to. This is one I wish I could invite you all over to see in person, because the scan just can’t show you every nuance.)

Lady Luck, Jack of Hearts, and Gambit, pencils by comics artist Allan Goldman

From left to right, that’s…

Lady Luck. Created in 1940 by the legendary Will Eisner (The Spirit), Lady Luck was one of the earliest costumed heroines to headline her own comics feature.

Jack of Hearts. The brainchild of writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen, the half-human, half-alien Jack has appeared mostly as a secondary character in the Marvel Universe since the mid-1970s.

Gambit. Familiar as a member of the X-Men, the sweet-talking, staff-wielding Cajun Remy LeBeau has the power to imbue objects with kinetic energy — most frequently, the playing cards he uses as throwing weapons.

What I love most about Common Elements — aside, of course, from the incredible images these concepts evoke from the artists who draw them — is the fact that every Common Elements scenario implies a story that in most cases would never be told in an actual comic. Because the heroes featured in a given scene are often the intellectual property of competing comics publishers — and sometimes, of comics publishers that no longer exist, as in the case of Lady Luck — there’s no way these characters would ever come together, outside of this theme.

Part of the fun is imagining what menace would unite this specific combination. In the piece we’re looking at today, for instance, why might this rooftop meeting take place? What foe might either Lady Luck, Jack of Hearts, and Gambit be confronting that would cause one of them to reach out to the other two and say, “We need to talk”? What challenge might require these three unusual and varied skillsets, and specifically, why these? And who is the implied fourth person who’s just entered the scene, from whose point of view we’re observing?

I have my own thoughts about the answers to the above questions. Allan Goldman had his, as he was conceiving and drawing the piece. You likely have yours as well. All of these thoughts are probably very different. Each of us is making up our own individual, personal, unique story as we go.

Isn’t that awesome?

That’s the hidden beauty of Common Elements. It’s one reason why my answer to Dirty Harry Callahan’s infamous query is, “Why, yes… yes, I do.”

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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

One Comment on “Comic Art Friday: Do you feel lucky, punk?”

  1. DamonO Says:

    Folks, don’t let Uncle SwanShadow fool you — his comic art commission collection EASILY stands among the most impressive anywhere. “Bombshells” and “Common Elements” are some of the most innovative and intriguing themes you’ll find anywhere. The artists represented in his gallery are among the finest in the comics industry. Its a collection I remain in awe of to this day.


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