Before we jump into today’s Comic Art Friday, permit me to apologize for the paucity of posts in recent weeks. As regular readers here know, the Pirate Queen and I just wrapped up a big move across the Bay, so it’s been rather busy around the new homestead. (Plus, the old homestead is going on the market shortly, so there’s activity around that as well.) I will do my best to get back to our accustomed schedule as soon as possible.
In the meantime, there’s this.
Today’s featured artwork came out of the blue as a generous gift from fellow commission collector and longtime friend Damon Owens. Damon has previously commissioned a couple of nifty pieces for my Bombshells! gallery, but I was completely floored when this astonishing addition to my signature theme, Common Elements, arrived on The Kasbah’s doorstep. Not only did Damon commission one of my favorite artists, Luke McDonnell, to draw the piece, but Damon’s clever concept absolutely nails everything I’ve attempted to accomplish with Common Elements over the past decade. Words fail to express how humbled and honored I was to receive this.
I was also more than a trifle stumped.
The character on the right I identified immediately. Madam Fatal, who debuted in Crack Comics #1 back in May 1940, holds the distinction (so far as I know) of being comics’ first transvestite superhero. In real life, Madam Fatal is millionaire actor Richard Stanton, who decides that the most effective way to move through the underworld unnoticed is to disguise himself as an elderly woman. (Because no one pays any attention to a little old lady, unless she’s your grandma.) Armed with a cane that doubled as a fighting staff, Madam Fatal used his/her unassuming appearance to get close to villains, then whomp the stuffing out of them. This being the 1940s, the psychosexual undertone of a man who habitually dresses as a woman in public is left largely unexplored, though it is established that Stanton is a widower with a young daughter.
So that much I knew, when I first saw the Owens/McDonnell opus. What I didn’t know was this: Who’s the character on the left, and what is that individual’s “common element” with Madam Fatal?
I’ll let Damon explain in his own words what’s going on here. Take it away, Mister O:
Madam Fatal you already know. The other character is the modern-day descendant to the Marvel/Timely Comics character Citizen V. Now its about to get tricky.
Back in the 1990s, Marvel launched a title called Thunderbolts. It was a team of superheroes who stepped in the void when Marvel shipped off the Avengers and some of their other characters to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee during the infamous “Heroes Reborn” debacle. The leader of the Thunderbolts was Citizen V, who claimed to the grandson of the original. In reality, this Citizen V was Baron Helmut Zemo, and the Thunderbolts were actually members of the Masters of Evil. They were posing as heroes as part of some plan Zemo had at attempted world dominance.
Anyway, Zemo and company were eventually exposed, and he discarded the Citizen V identity since he no longer needed it. But unknown to him, the real grandchild of Citizen V decided to take on the identity and go after Zemo for desecrating the original’s name and legacy — not to mention that fact that Zemo’s dad — the original Baron Zemo — killed the original Citizen V by strangling him to death.
Thing is, though, this new Citizen V was actually the original’s granddaughter, named Dallas Riordan. But she didn’t want anyone to know she was a woman, so she padded her costume to make herself look like a man. She maintained that guise until she wound up in a fight with Captain America (who initially thought it was his old foe, son-of-Zemo). Cap then realized that not only was it not son-of-Zemo, it wasn’t even a guy. After a truce, he then convinced her reveal her true gender. She took his advice, got rid of the padding, and continued to fight in a more feminized version of her costume.
Whew — so basically, what we have with CV3 and Madam Fatal are two characters who fought crime dressed as members of the opposite gender.
So there you have it. My first and last “Common Elements” idea. Head still hurts just thinking about it.
Thanks, Damon, for both the incredible gift and the detailed background. If I look up “mensch” in the Oxford English Dictionary, I’m certain that I’ll find your picture there.
For the record, Damon becomes only the second person (other than your Uncle Swan) to devise a Common Elements scenario in the official canon. The concept that matched Space Ghost with the original Ghost Rider sprang from the imagination of Suzy Rosema, whose husband Scott I commissioned to draw it. Thus the great Mr. Owens finds himself in rarified company — as he already is, within the comic art commission collecting community. (Say that five times, fast.)
One last note: With this, his fourth entry into the Common Elements pantheon, Luke McDonnell leaps into a tie for second place among pencilers with the most appearances in the series. Other pencilers with four Common Elements commissions to their credit include Geof Isherwood, MC Wyman, and the late Ernie Chan. Ron Lim leads the field with five CEs on his resume.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.