Archive for July 2017

Comic Art Friday: Grass queen

July 21, 2017

It’s no secret that my comic art collection focuses primarily on characters in the superhero genre. When it comes to reading, however, I’ve always enjoyed a broad range of comics — everything from Conan the Barbarian to Josie and the Pussycats.

One of my current jams is a series from BOOM! Studios called Grass Kings, written by Matt Kindt, and illustrated in pencils and watercolors by Tyler Jenkins. It’s difficult to describe what Grass Kings is about. In terms of genre, I suppose you could classify it as a mystery or suspense thriller, wrapped tightly in character drama. Tonally, it’s sort of like Twin Peaks meets The Walking Dead, only without the psycho-supernatural weirdness of the former or the zombies of the latter.

The series tells the story of a trailer-park community in the middle of the Western prairie (the “grass” of the title) that has set itself up as a more-or-less self-sufficient outpost of civilization under the leadership of three brothers (the “kings”). The inhabitants of the Grass Kingdom strive to avoid interaction with the outside world at all costs… until circumstances make that impossible.

Regular artist Jenkins contributes the cover art as well as the interiors. As is the way of things in the present-day comics world, however, most of the issues have been released with variant covers available as retailer premiums. When I talked with Ryan Sook at Silicon Valley Comic Con a few months back, I learned that he had just completed the variant cover for the then-upcoming Grass Kings #3. I was thrilled to score Ryan’s preliminary sketch for this cover, which appears below, along with the finished art as published.

Grass Kings issue 3 variant cover, preliminary pencil sketch by Ryan Sook

Grass Kings issue 3 variant cover, art by Ryan Sook

There’s a tiny niche gallery in my collection entitled Pin-Ups With Pistols (a spin on the Tommy Shaw 1984 album title song Girls With Guns) where this sketch fits perfectly. It’s a callback to all those noir films — and the femmes fatale who starred in them — before which I sat transfixed in my youth. They sure don’t make ’em like that any more.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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Comic Art Friday: She shelled Bombshells by the seashore

July 14, 2017

One of the many things I enjoy about my Bombshells! commission theme is the opportunity to spotlight heroines from long-ago comics history who’ve either been forgotten or are simply no longer as prominent as they once were.

Case in point: Namora, cousin of Namor the Sub-Mariner.

Namora, pencils and inks by Tim Tyler

The late 1940s and early 1950s were something of a dark period for superhero comics. After World War II ended in 1945, superheroes — a mainstay of American popular culture during the war years — quickly faded in popularity. Many of the hundreds of costumed characters who’d sprung up in the first half of the decade disappeared, and relatively few new superheroes popped up until Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, arrived in late 1956.

Namora made her debut appearance in May 1947, in Marvel Mystery Comics #82. She proved popular enough that she was promoted to her own title a year later, a book which lasted all of three issues. (I know what you’re thinking — three issues is not a very solid run. Still, it’s three more issues than either you or I have headlined our own comic book.) After her title was cancelled, Namora continued to appear as a regular supporting player in her better-known cousin’s adventures well into the Fifties.

The Namora series was part of a forward-thinking but short-lived initiative by Timely Publications (predecessor of what would become Marvel Comics by the early 1960s) to promote superheroines in their own eponymous titles. Two other female characters, Sun Girl (seen below in her Bombshells! appearance, drawn by Gene Gonzales) and Venus, also received ongoing series at the same time. Although Sun Girl, like Namora, only managed to eke out three issues, Venus sailed along for a total of 19, a run that lasted into early 1952.

Sun Girl, pencils and inks by Gene Gonzales

As for Namora, she’s still around the Marvel Universe in the 21st century. She turned up as a key member of the super-team Agents of Atlas a decade ago, and also played a role in the World War Hulk storyline.

Artist Tim Tyler, usually a horror specialist, turns in a nice nostalgic effort for Namora’s Bombshells! portrait. Tim’s style reminds me a bit of the EC Comics of the 1950s, so I thought he’d be perfect for an entry in my retro theme.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday for this Bastille Day.