Archive for December 2013

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2013

December 27, 2013

2013 proved itself a solid year for my comic art collection.

Perhaps the most significant 2013 addition was one that doesn’t appear in any of my galleries — a detailed catalog, completed this past July, of every piece of art that I own. For the first time in a very long time, I can determine exactly what I have in my portfolio at a glance, with all of the pertinent information about each item recorded. A task that should have been done years ago finally found fulfillment this year.

And then there was the art itself.

Although the actual number of pieces I added this year isn’t all that large, every new artwork I acquired — whether a preexisting piece, or one I personally commissioned — truly brought something special to the party. As I peruse the Class of ’13, there’s no chaff among the wheat here. Which makes choosing the very best — or at least, my very favorite — among these creations especially challenging.

But, here we go. (Remember, you can click on any image to go directly to the corresponding entry in my Comic Art Fans gallery. You’ll be able to view a much larger image there.)

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Mixed Company Division:
“Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?” (Lady Luck, Jack of Hearts, Gambit)
Pencil art by Allan Goldman

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

It might be possible to squeeze more detail into a single panel of comic art than Allan Goldman accomplishes in this incredible tableau. Then again, it might not be.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, All-Female Division:
“Raiders of the Lost Archaeology” (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Hawkgirl)
Pencil art by Drew Edward Johnson

Lara Croft and Hawkgirl, pencils by comics artist Drew Edward Johnson

I love it when an artist grabs hold of a Common Elements concept and runs with it like the wind. That’s precisely what Drew Johnson did with this assignment.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Living Color Division:
“Through Being Cool” (Valkyrie, Taarna)
Pencil art by Steven E. Gordon

Valkyrie and Taarna, multimedia art by Steven E. Gordon

Animation maven Steven E. Gordon, who worked alongside the legendary Ralph Bakshi on several of his classic feature films, brought clarity and attitude to two of my all-time favorite bad mamma-jammas.

Favorite Solo Commission, Shazam! Division:
Mary Marvel
Pencils and inks by Brian Stelfreeze

Mary Marvel, pencils and inks by comics artist Brian Stelfreeze

You might think you’ve seen a more winsome rendition of Mary Marvel created this year. You’d be mistaken.

Favorite Solo Commission, Celestial Madonna Division:
Mantis
Pencil art by Steve Mannion

Mantis, pencils by Steve Mannion

I never can get enough of Steve Mannion’s uniquely quirky take on the world of superhumans. Here, he gives one of Marvel’s classic heroines a fresh, funky energy that is a joy to behold.

Favorite Solo Commission, Feline Division:
The Black Cat (Linda Turner)
Pencils and inks by Gene Gonzales

Black Cat, pencils and inks by Gene Gonzales

Few artists today rock it old-school as brilliantly as Gene Gonzales. Gene’s deceptively simple neo-retro style, combined with his genuine love for classic comics characters, keep resulting in beautiful art like this.

Favorite Solo Commission, Art Nouveau Division:
Isis
Pencils and inks by Sanya Anwar

Isis, pencils and inks by comics artist Sanya Anwar

It’s always a treat to discover the work of a fantastic artist I didn’t know was out there. This year’s Big Wow ComicFest introduced me to the talents of Canadian creator Sanya Anwar, and I immediately became a fan. I’m looking forward to adding more of Sanya’s eye-popping work to these galleries in the coming year.

Favorite Non-Commission Acquisition:
Film noir pinup study
Pencil art by Jim Silke

Femme fatale pinup, inspired by Mara Corday, pencil study by Jim Silke

I’ve been an admirer of Jim Silke’s gorgeous pinup stylings for more than a decade. This year, I finally managed — thanks to the largesse of my beloved Pirate Queen — to add an example of Jim’s art to my collection. This piece was a preliminary study for a painting Jim created a number of years ago, for another collector. He based the character on 1950s model and B-movie actress Mara Corday, who might never have looked better even in real life.

There’s a noteworthy omission in my “Best of” post this year. For the first time in recent memory, I didn’t add a new inking commission. Part of the reason for this is that my go-to inking talent, Bob Almond, was sadly beset by family and personal health challenges over the past several months. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with my pal Bob as he recovers. I’m hopeful that we’ll collaborate successfully again in 2014, as we have on dozens of previous occasions.

Thank you, friend reader, for stopping by my little corner of the World Wide Wackiness most Fridays, and allowing me to share my collecting hobby (okay, perhaps mania is a more accurate word) with you. May 2014 bring you and all those you love health, harmony, and happiness… and bring me more reason to keep generating these posts.

And that’s your final Comic Art Friday for 2013.

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Comic Art Friday: I’m Donatello you for the last time

December 20, 2013

You know what has always bugged me about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Donatello.

Not the character Donatello. He’s fine.

His name, however, bugs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Um… it’s giant, anthropomorphic, sentient, talking turtles. Who are mutants. And ninjas. Who eat pizza. And the thing that bugs you about this is the fact that one of them is named Donatello?

Permit me to explain.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, pencils and inks by Josh Lyman

All four of the TMNT (because I’m not typing that entire phrase more than once today) have names that reference classical Italian artists. More specifically, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo (generally referred to these days with the geographical modifier da Vinci) form the so-called “Trinity” of the Italian High Renaissance, a 30-to-40-year period beginning in the 1490s — when Leonardo painted his famous Last Supper — and ending with the sacking of Rome in 1527.

These three geniuses helped elevate the art of painting to new heights; their best-known works remain iconic today. All three also excelled in other art forms, including architecture, sculpture, and engineering. In fact, Leonardo may well have been the most broadly talented individual in human history, and Michelangelo might not have been too far behind him. Raphael’s greatness was more narrowly focused, but his creative output was prolific; he also probably trained more painters than any of the other Italian masters, so his legacy extends far beyond his own works.

But you remember the old Sesame Street game, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others”?

I give you Donatello.

Donatello doesn’t belong in a group with Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo for three reasons.

First, he wasn’t a painter: Donatello was a sculptor.

Second, as an artist, Donatello was a one-trick pony; he wasn’t also an architect or a painter or a poet or an inventor. He was an excellent sculptor, but that was the boundary of his artistic expression. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being really good at just one thing.)

Third, Donatello’s life and career preceded the High Renaissance by many years. He passed on a good quarter-century before this influential time period began, having shuffled off this mortal coil in 1466. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci was a mere teenager when Donatello died, and Michelangelo and Raphael wouldn’t even be born for another couple of decades.

Do you see what I mean? In the TMNT naming convention, Donatello’s an outlier. And not just a minor outlier — he’s in a whole other category altogether. Okay, he was Italian. But there’s where the similarities end.

I wasn’t in the room when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird chose the designations for their reptilian heroes. Therefore, I’m not sure why they chose the names they did. If I had to guess, the idea of great Italian artists probably landed on the table, and they picked the first four that came to mind. I’m not sure why, instead of Donatello, they didn’t choose a fourth painter who was actually part of the High Renaissance movement — say, Giorgione or Correggio or Titian (okay, I can guess why they didn’t go with Titian, and it has nothing to do with the fact that his later career extended well beyond the period in question).

But it would have made more sense if they had.

Today’s artwork featuring the TMNT was drawn by Josh Lyman — the comic artist, not Bradley Whitford’s character from The West Wing. I picked it up in an auction sponsored by the Inkwell Awards, a worthy nonprofit organization (headed by comics inker Bob Almond) that seeks to promote appreciation for and understanding of inkers and their unique craft.

For the benefit of those who can’t tell their Turtles without a scorecard (or without color; the TMNT can usually be identified by the color of their accoutrements), clockwise from the top, we have Michelangelo (with the nunchaku), Leonardo (with the swords, or ninjato), Raphael (with the sai), and Donatello (with the bo staff).

Maybe I’ll start calling that last guy Titian, just to be historically accurate. I don’t care if the fanboys snicker.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: It’s hard out here for a superheroine

December 13, 2013

In case you missed it, the upcoming Batman/Superman feature film just added a Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot, the new face of Wonder Woman

Warner Brothers has cast Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot — that’s her, right above — as mighty Diana, warrior princess of Themyscira. No one knows yet whether Wonder Woman’s role in the movie will be major or tangential. One supposes that the publicity splash over Gadot’s hiring suggests that she’ll contribute something more than a cameo, but that’s purely speculation.

I don’t have a strong opinion about Gadot’s casting one way or the other. So far as I’m aware, I’ve never seen the erstwhile Miss Israel perform on film — she’s costarred in the three most recent iterations of the Fast and Furious franchise, but after sampling the inaugural F&F I never had any hankering for further helpings. I’m told that she can act a little. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt there. From the photos and video clips I’ve checked out, Ms. Gadot looks a fair bit leaner than I’d envision Wonder Woman, but six weeks in the gym before filming could easily fix that. At five-foot-ten, she’s more than tall enough. (Heck, if Tom Cruise, who’s a few inches shorter than I am, can effectively play the towering Jack Reacher on the silver screen, a 5’10” actress certainly qualifies as Wonder Woman.)

Plus, Gadot served two years in the Israeli Defense Forces, and is an expert on military weaponry. You’re not going to hear me question whether she’s tough enough to play a superhero.

I do appreciate the fact that Warner cast someone of eastern Mediterranean ethnicity, with physical features to match, as the (presumably more or less Grecian) Amazon, rather than Hollywood’s stock northern European type. If I imagine Gadot’s headshot with Diana’s trademark ruby-starred tiara Photoshopped in, I can certainly see the face of Wonder Woman there. She definitely looks closer to my personal impression of Queen Hippolyta’s daughter than did the now-iconic Lynda Carter (who, yes, I know, is not the usual stereotype either — she’s partly of Latina heritage). At least, from the neck up.

But here’s the thing.

Why does Wonder Woman have to be a walk-on in someone else’s movie?

Why doesn’t Wonder Woman — the most prominent female superhero in comics for more than 70 years — rate her own motion picture?

Wonder Woman, pencils by Iago Maia

If you ask the folks at DC/Warner, Wonder Woman is one-third of their “Trinity,” their top tier of characters. Since 1978, the other two members of the DC Trinity — Superman and Batman — have headlined 13 theatrical motion picture releases between them, plus numerous animated TV series and telefilms. Since the cancellation of the mid-1970s Wonder Woman live-action TV program, the Amazing Amazon has appeared in the various Justice League animated series (as one character among a veritable horde of super-doers), a stand-alone animated direct-to-DVD project, and one embarrassing and ill-fated live-action TV pilot (starring Adrienne Palicki, late of Friday Night Lights) that did not result in a series. Despite rumors here and there — including a persistent one involving fan favorite writer-director-producer Joss Whedon — there’s never been a Wonder Woman movie.

And now, she’s relegated to supporting duty in a big-budget Batman/Superman team-up flick.

That’s just pitiful.

Heck, even the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern got his own terrible movie. And Hal Jordan is lame. (Except in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which was awesome, and never should have been cancelled.)

Which brings me to the similarly sorry case of Ms. Marvel, who’s the closest thing Marvel Comics has to a Wonder Woman archetype.

Marvel has enjoyed a spate of success in recent years producing its own movies (now as an arm of the Disney entertainment megaconglomerate), churning out one blockbuster after another featuring top-shelf heroes Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, plus their in-house supergroup, The Avengers. [Comics-to-film cognoscenti know that the ongoing Spider-Man (Sony) and X-Men (Fox) movie franchises, as well as the soon-to-be-rebooted Fantastic Four (also Fox) are the licensed product of other studios.] Marvel currently produces the live-action series Agents of SHIELD for ABC television, and has theatrical Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy features in the works. The House of Ideas recently announced that it will, over the next few years, generate four additional series to be distributed via Netflix, starring Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, plus a miniseries featuring another superteam, The Defenders.

So where’s the love for Ms. Marvel?

Ms. Marvel, pencils by Carlos Silva

Not long ago in the comics, Marvel started a new ongoing series about Carol Danvers — who’s been Ms. Marvel for 35 years — redubbing her Captain Marvel. I know that Marvel editorial viewed this as a promotion, but I did not. Marvel has already had a long-running character named Captain Marvel. Actually, they’ve had a few; most recognizably Mar-Vell, a former soldier of the alien Kree civilization; Mar-Vell’s son, Genis-Vell, who assumed his father’s mantle after Mar-Vell’s death; and Monica Rambeau, whose tenure as Captain Marvel bridged the years between Father-Vell and Son-Vell. There have been at least three more Captain Marvels in the Marvel Universe, but you get the idea. (This of course says nothing about the original Captain Marvel, who’s still alive and kicking over at DC, but now calls himself Shazam. That’s a whole other story.)

Although she falls somewhere in the line of the Kree Captains Marvel (her powers derive from an explosion that infused her with Kree DNA), Carol’s Ms. Marvel identity has existed for the most part independently of that franchise. I would wager that there are plenty of comics fans who didn’t even know that Ms. Marvel had anything at all to do with Marvel’s Captain Marvel, so distinct an entity has she become in her own right. Foisting the Captain Marvel nom de guerre on Carol lessens her, in my opinion, to being just another knockoff of a male superhero, when over the past several decades she had evolved into far, far more than that.

And, like Wonder Woman, she still can’t get a movie deal.

Which I think sucks, quite frankly.

Both of these great heroines and role models deserve better, as do their fans. Your Uncle Swan included.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: A real-life superhero passes

December 6, 2013

In respectful acknowledgment of the passing of former South African president Nelson Mandela — one of the towering figures in human events in my lifetime — today I’m sharing a few choice images from my Black Panther gallery, interspersed with selected quotes from a real-life African-born superhero.

To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Black Panther, pencils and inks by Buzz

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Black Panther, pencils by Darryl Banks, inks by Bob Almond

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.

Black Panther, pencils by Paul Boudreaux

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Black Panther, pencils and inks by Steve Rude

We must use time wisely, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Black Panther and Storm, pencils by Ron Adrian, inks by Bob Almond

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

Black Panther, pencils and inks by Geof Isherwood

Rest in peace, Mr. Mandela.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.