Comic Art Friday: Royal Air Force

People often ask me, “Where do you come up with all of these ideas for Common Elements commissions?” The truth is that concepts strike me in the most random ways. I’ve literally been driving in the car or watching some non-comic-related program on television when out of the blue comes the thought, “Hey, what if I put [Hero X] and [Heroine Y] together?” Whenever I get one of these ideas, it immediately goes onto the list of Common Elements concepts that I’ve been maintaining for over a decade now, to await its turn to be drawn.

The genesis of today’s featured artwork ties into my other commission theme, Bombshells!, which showcases classic comics heroines (by my arbitrary fiat, a character has to have made her first appearance in or before 1960 to qualify as a Bombshell!) in pinups modeled after vintage aircraft nose art. One day, while brainstorming Bombshells! ideas, it hit me that there was at least one superheroine who shared her code name with a British fighter plane: Spitfire, who first appeared in the 1970s Marvel series The Invaders. Spitfire is too recent a character to use in a Bombshells! commission, but I soon thought of another character who also has a British military aircraft code name: Gauntlet, from the Avengers Initiative storyline of a few years ago.

And just like that, a Common Elements concept is born.


For the benefit of the non-airplane buffs in the audience, here’s a touch of background. The Gauntlet was an open-cockpit biplane used by the Royal Air Force in the 1930s, although a handful were still flying during World War II. The better-known Spitfire came along in the late 1930s, and was an RAF staple well into the 1950s. The Spitfire is notable as the only British fighter whose production run predated, spanned, and continued for years after WWII.

As for our fighter plane namesakes, Spitfire (a.k.a. Lady Jacqueline Falsworth Crichton) gained superhuman speed and healing ability from the combination of a vampire bite and a subsequent blood transfusion from an android — specifically, the original Human Torch. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.) Jacqueline’s father James was the original Union Jack; her brother Brian later took up the mantle. (Writer Roy Thomas had initially planned for Jacqueline to become the second Union Jack, but he and artist Frank Robbins decided that Union Jack’s flag-patterned outfit looked awkward on a female figure. So they created a new identity for Jacqueline, with a simpler costume design.) Spitfire joined the Invaders — a WWII-era superteam led by Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the aforementioned Torch — and a was a key member throughout the series’ 1970s run.

Gauntlet (a.k.a. Joseph Green) turned up following Marvel’s Civil War storyline (coming soon in modified form to a cineplex near you) as a training officer for rookie superheroes. A former Army drill sergeant, he has a massive prosthetic of alien origin permanently attached to his right hand and arm. This robotic appendage provides Green with super-strength and enables him to project a “hand” made of pure energy with powers of its own. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Bringing together our two champions is UK-based comics artist Mike Bowden. I thought it appropriate that a Common Elements starring characters named after British aircraft should be drawn by a British artist. So far as I know, there has never been an RAF plane called the Bowden. But perhaps there should be.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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

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