Comic Art Friday: Oh, Bombshell! My Bombshell!
Way back in 2008 — two entire election cycles ago, if we’re counting — I started a new commission theme designed to combine a pair of my favorite interests: superheroines, and aircraft nose art. (Longtime readers know that I grew up in a U.S. Air Force family, so I saw numerous displays of vintage military aircraft during my formative years.) The concept is simple: nose art-style pinups featuring classic comic book heroines.
I titled my theme Bombshells! — yes, with an exclamation point, just like Jeopardy! — as a play on both the pinup-girl motif and the other key design element in each image… a bomb. (Actually, there’s a third item in each Bombshells! piece: a tagline that in some way references the featured heroine. I often explain the concept to artists as “The Three B’s”: a babe, a bomb, and a bad pun.)
By arbitrary fiat, I decided that Bombshells! would depict only characters from the real-world nose art era — World War II through the Korean conflict (the late 1930s to the mid-1950s, for the history-challenged). I extended the range forward into the early Silver Age to encompass a few more favorites, making December 31, 1959 the cutoff line for a character’s first published appearance in comics. Basically, in order to be a Bombshell!, a heroine has to be at least a couple of years older than I am… which makes sense, in a weird way.
The fun of Bombshells! for me derives from showcasing the history of women in comics, and in the superhero genre in particular. It’s an opportunity to spotlight characters who represent historic milestones in the medium — Wonder Woman and the original Black Cat, for example — as well as nearly forgotten heroines of yesteryear (the Purple Tigress, anyone?). There are also several Bombshells! that might surprise the viewer who didn’t realize those characters had been around for quite so many years.
Yes, we’re using the motif of the nose art pinup to highlight that history. The artists I’ve commissioned have been uniformly excellent in depicting our heroines in a respectful manner — we don’t do salacious or overtly sexualized poses, or nudity. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the presentation of sexuality and/or nudity in art — it just isn’t what Bombshells! is about.) Our heroines are always shown in a way that’s either playful or powerful, and often is a celebratory blend of both.
All of which brings us to our newest Bombshell!, seen at the top of this post. She might be familiar, and yet not quite familiar, to the average reader. Lois Lane — yep, that’s her — first imagined herself as Superwoman in Action Comics #60, in May 1943. In a dream sequence, Lois saw herself receiving a blood transfusion from Superman that invested her with Kryptonian powers. Sure, it was only a dream, but it fits well within the Bombshells! timeline. Therefore, I’m thrilled to add Lois to our pantheon of historic heroines, courtesy of the tremendously talented Pete Woods.
By the way…
About a year ago, DC Comics debuted a new series entitled — wait for it — Bombshells. Set in the 1940s in an alternate universe, Bombshells the comic depicts several well-known DC heroines, including Wonder Woman, Batwoman, and Supergirl, battling evildoers against a wartime backdrop. All of the characters wear retro-designed costumes that give the book a cool, nostalgic, quasi-Rosie the Riveter feel.
WWII-vintage heroines in a series called Bombshells? Wonder where anyone might have gotten that idea.
All I know is, unless I inherited a time machine, I didn’t swipe it from them.
Bombshells! — established 2008. You can look it up.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.