Archive for the ‘Dead People Got No Reason to Live’ category

Comic Art Friday: Princess forever

March 24, 2017

It’s rare that a commission that turned out so lovely would stir emotions so bittersweet.

Princess Projectra, Princess Leia, and Princess (Jun the Swan), pencils and inks by Diego Bernard

I’d had this concept on my to-do list for quite a long time. Bringing together three sci-fi/fantasy princesses — Princess Projectra of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Star Wars saga’s Princess Leia Organa, and Princess of Battle of the Planets‘ G-Force (or, if you prefer, Jun the Swan from Gatchaman, although that alternate identity doesn’t quite fit our theme) — makes for a perfect Common Elements scenario. And when the opportunity happened along to commission Diego Bernard, whose deftly detailed work has graced the pages of such series as X-O Manowar and Witchblade, I figured it was a match made in comic art heaven.

With great excitement, I commissioned this piece on December 15, 2016.

Twelve days later, Carrie Fisher died.

There have been a couple of instances where the death of an artist impacted one of my art projects. I’ve related the story of how Dave Simons had begun work on a Common Elements piece teaming Batgirl and Ghost Rider shortly before his untimely demise. (Bob Budiansky, Dave’s artistic collaborator on the Ghost Rider series, later accepted the commission that Dave tragically did not live to complete.) And I’ve mentioned that Tony DeZuniga and I had discussed a Jonah Hex-Scarlet Witch Common Elements just prior to Tony’s passing. (Pete Woods eventually completed that assignment.) But never before had the living inspiration for one of my projects died while an artist had the job literally on the drawing board.

I knew that some who saw this piece when completed would think, “That’s a nice tribute to Carrie Fisher.” It felt important to note that I didn’t intend the project that way. I would much rather for Ms. Fisher’s family, friends, and innumerable fans that she were still here to breathe life into Princess Leia — now General Organa in the current Star Wars sequels — for many years to come.

On film, and on this page, she’ll remain our Princess forever.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: A Bettie by any other name

June 20, 2014

In my online gallery at Comic Art Fans, there’s a page I call — for lack of a better term — “The Coed Room.” It’s the place where I file random artworks that feature some combination of male and female characters.

Some of the pieces in this section are group shots — the Barry Kitson Justice League sketch, for example, or my Suicide Squad commission by Geof Isherwood. Others are pairings of related characters — the Superman and Supergirl piece by Al Rio and Bob Almond fits this category, as do the two pinups starring Doc Savage and his cousin Pat, by Darryl Banks and Ernie Chan.

Several of the Coed Room items, however, are what I would term “couples shots” — depictions of male and female characters who have been romantically linked at some point. Here’s the latest addition to this particular category: an action scene showcasing the high-flying Rocketeer and his lovely paramour, as drawn by a talented artist from the Philippines named Brian Balondo.

The Rocketeer and Jenny Blake, pencil art by Brian Balondo

You’ll notice at the top of the page that Brian titled this piece “Rocketeer and Jenny.” If you know the history of these characters, you’ll get a chuckle out of that. Jenny Blake was the name given to the female lead in the 1991 Disney film The Rocketeer; in the movie, she’s played by Jennifer Connelly. In Dave Stevens’s original comic book stories, however, Cliff “Rocketeer” Secord’s girlfriend’s name is Betty — an homage to 1950s pinup queen Bettie Page, whose likeness Stevens used as the model (no pun intended) for the character’s appearance.

When screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo — now familiar to genre buffs as co-creators of such TV series as Viper and the 1990s version of The Flash — pitched the concept to Disney, they changed the name of the main female character to Jenny (and gave her a surname, Blake, which she lacked in the comics), masking the connection to the notorious star of nude postcards and bondage porn… not exactly in line with Disney’s family-friendly image. (Although I can pretty much guarantee that everyone’s family has at least one member who’s a fan of nude postcards, or bondage porn, or both.) The name change was cemented when the film went into production.

I can always tell, when The Rocketeer comes up in conversation, whether people know the character from the comics or the movie — by which name they use for the heroine.

Dave Stevens’s use of Bettie Page’s likeness in the Rocketeer comics helped spark a renewed interest in the legendary model, who by the early 1980s had largely faded from the public consciousness. In the decades since, Ms. Page (who passed away in 2008 at the age of 85) has risen to cult status far above that of her 1950s heyday. There have been two feature films about Bettie — a fictionalized production starring Gretchen Mol in the title role, as well as an award-winning documentary (the Pirate Queen and I attended a screening of the latter last year) — an infinite assortment of Bettie-inspired art (most notably by Jim Silke, creator of the Bettie Page comic series, and internationally recognized pinup artist Olivia De Berardinis), as well as a cottage industry of licensed (and, I suspect, bootleg) Bettie Page paraphernalia.

Until just a few days ago, a nationwide chain of Bettie Page clothing stores (including a location on Haight Street here in San Francisco) featured retro-styled fashions inspired by Ms. Page. As a result of litigation by the firm managing licensing for Ms. Page’s estate, the retail chain lost the right to use the Bettie Page name as well as her likeness, which formerly was splashed all over the store. The Pirate Queen owns several pre-lawsuit Bettie Page dresses and, of course, looks smashing in them.

Brian Balondo’s drawing is rather smashing as well. Although hardly as much so as the Pirate Queen.

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.

Comic Art Friday: Typhoon Taarna

November 8, 2013

It struck me this morning as ironic that on the birthday of the late, great Tony DeZuniga — who led the tsunami of artists from the Philippines that took the American comics industry by storm in the 1970s — his native land is being pummeled by one of the nastiest typhoons on record.

Weird universe we live in.

Taarna, pencils by comics artist Tony DeZuniga

I happened to be in the Philippines for a major typhoon once. On Thanksgiving Day in 1974, Clark Air Base — where my father was stationed at the time — was struck by Typhoon Irma, packing winds approaching 100 miles per hour. It was the most powerful typhoon to hit the area in the base’s 90-year tenure.

We lost electrical power by late morning. Fortunately, my mother had cooked the turkey early as a precautionary measure, so the bird was ready to roll at mealtime. Most of the accompaniments we ate cold, straight from the can. When we weren’t eating, we spent the day mopping up the water that blew in under the front door, bracing the windows with duct tape in case the winds shattered them, and praying that the roof would hold. It did. The bamboo pole that held our TV antenna aloft was not so fortunate.

Anyway, in memory of Mr. DeZuniga, that’s his rendition of Taarna, the heroine of the final segment of the animated film Heavy Metal, leading off this post. Below, you’ll see Taarna again, as drawn by Tony’s close friend and colleague, Ernie Chan, another member of the Filipino-American comics community who passed away a mere five days after Tony left us.

Again, irony.

Taarna, pencils and inks by comics artist Ernie Chan

Speaking of Taarna…

For several years, I maintained a reference page about Heavy Metal on Squidoo, the web community founded by marketing guru Seth Godin. A while back, I got a cryptic email from the site’s administrative team, advising me that they were shutting down my page due to some kind of inappropriate content.

Nothing in the notice explained exactly what content was under review. Although nudity is depicted in the film (okay, it’s animated nudity, but still), I didn’t use any nude images on the site. The text was 100% original — I wrote the entire page from scratch; no content was pirated from Wikipedia or any other site — and 100% profanity-free. The only links on the page went either to my Comic Art Fans gallery (where my Taarna commissions are displayed) or to Amazon (where readers could purchase the DVD of the film — the kind of link Squidoo encourages). So I have no idea what the issue was.

At any rate, I copied all of the text into a Word document for my own records, and deleted the page. If you want to know more about Heavy Metal — a landmark film in the history of animation, and an essential bridge between comics and the movies — you’ll have to look elsewhere than Squidoo.

You could always just ask me, of course. I know almost everything there is to know about the film.

I used to have a Squidoo page that demonstrated this.

Taarna, pencils and inks by comics artist Gene Gonzales

Our final Taarna image is a new one, courtesy of Gene Gonzales, who — unlike Messrs. DeZuniga and Chan — is still with us, and still creating lovely artworks like this. I love the dramatic angle Gene employs here. Taarna looks strong and majestic, as a good Taarakian defender should. Her windblown hair is gorgeous as well.

Although…

…I hope that isn’t a typhoon stirring up.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: The tao of Steve

May 31, 2013

Big Wow ComicFest… the gift that keeps on giving.

In last week’s Comic Art Friday, we checked out the superfluity of goodness that came home with me from the Bay Area’s favorite comics confab earlier this month. That abundance did not yet include an additional item that I commissioned during the con for completion afterward.

Now it does.

Valkyrie and Taarna, mixed media art by Steven E. Gordon

When I first rolled up on Steven E. Gordon‘s table in Artist’s Alley on Saturday, his name did not immediately register with me. I did, however, admire the samples of his art that were on display. After chatting for a bit with Steve and his wife, I told him I’d return on Sunday with a commission project for him. Steve advised me that he probably wouldn’t be able to start the piece before the con ended, but that he would gladly take my information and send me the art when it was done.

At home on Saturday night, I Googled Steve to get a better idea of his style, with a view to choosing a Common Elements concept appropriate to his talents. I was astounded to discover that I actually knew Steve’s previous work quite well — I just didn’t realize who he was.

As it turns out, Steve Gordon possesses one of the most extensive and impressive resumes in the animation business. In film, he’s worked as an animator, designer, and animation director on numerous projects, ranging from Disney classics (The Black Cauldron; The Great Mouse Detective; Oliver and Company) to several directed by the legendary Ralph Bakshi (Lord of the Rings; American Pop; Cool World). In television, Steve has contributed his talents to a host of series, from Mighty Mouse to The Avengers.

With the light of giddy anticipation breaking over my mental horizon, I realized that I just met a key contributor to one of my all-time favorite animated features: Ralph Bakshi’s sword-and-sorcery epic, Fire and Ice — the product of Bakshi’s collaboration with the dean of fantasy illustrators, the late, lamented Frank Frazetta. Sometimes described (not altogether inaccurately) as “Conan the Animated Barbarian,” Fire and Ice melds Frazetta’s unmistakable design aesthetic with Bakshi’s storytelling and unique cinematic style, including ample use of the latter’s trademark rotoscoping technique. From a narrative perspective, it’s not the most original film Bakshi ever directed, what with veteran comics scribes Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway importing a bucketload of tropes they’d each previously employed writing Conan’s adventures for Marvel. But without question, Fire and Ice stands among Bakshi’s most visually appealing creations, thanks in large part to Frazetta’s input, along with background artists James Gurney (Dinotopia) and Thomas Kinkade (yes, that Thomas Kinkade), as well as Peter Chung, who would go on to create Aeon Flux for MTV. And of course, the work of animation director Steven E. Gordon.

Having made the Fire and Ice connection, I knew what Steve’s Common Elements assignment would be — two characters who would fit perfectly into Bakshi and Frazetta’s world of swordplay and mystical mayhem: Marvel’s Viking vixen, Valkyrie, and Taarna, the iconic heroine from my beloved Heavy Metal: The Animated Film.

Aside from the obvious “blade-slinging beauty” angle, Val and Taarna share two other, more subtle commonalities. Both have real monomymic real names — Valkyrie’s true identity is simply called Brunnhilde — and both are seen to be reincarnated in multiple persons. Over her career in comics, the spirit of Brunnhilde has been reborn in several women, most notably Barbara Norriss and Samantha Parrington. At the conclusion of Heavy Metal, we find Taarna’s spirit alive new in the young girl seen previously in the linking segments (titled “Grimaldi”) throughout the film.

Steve’s sensibility as an animation designer fits these heroines like an armored gauntlet. Who wouldn’t want to watch an entire movie of Taarna and Val wading into pitched battle against hordes of hostile foes? Sign me up!

Not only did Steve turn out his take-home commission assignment beautifully and speedily — I received a scan of the finished piece less than a week after Big Wow concluded — he also graciously autographed the cover of my Fire and Ice DVD. (He did seem a touch surprised that someone actually owned one.) Now if only I could run into Ralph Bakshi one of these days…

And that, friend reader, is your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Remembering Ernie Chan

June 1, 2012

While we were off gallivanting about the Hawaiian islands (more on that sojourn to follow), I received the sad (and to me, unexpected) news of the passing of comics artist Ernie Chan. Coming so closely on the heels of two other tremendous losses from among my personal favorites in the comic art field — specifically, Al Rio and Tony DeZuniga — Ernie’s death came as an especially great shock.

Storm and Beta Ray Bill, pencils and inks by comics artist Ernie Chan

In an industry often characterized by enormous egos and self-important personalities, Ernie Chan was one of the nicest, least pompous creators I’ve ever met. His smiling face and easygoing demeanor were indelible highlights of the comics conventions I attended over the years. I always looked forward seeing and chatting with Ernie — and of course, adding a new piece of his artwork to my collection.

Shang-Chi and the Bronze Tiger, pencils and inks by comics artist Ernie Chan

Ernie was among the dozen or so talented artists who joined the American comics industry from the Philippines in the early 1970s, under the pioneering leadership of Tony DeZuniga. Quickly, Ernie established himself as a two-way star, both as a penciler and inker. In the former capacity, he shone as DC Comics’ busiest cover artist during the mid-’70s, frequently signing his work “Ernie Chua” (a misspelling on his immigration paperwork). At Marvel, Ernie gained acclaim as inker on Conan the Barbarian, over the pencils of the legendary Big John Buscema. Ernie would revisit Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian warrior in hundreds of drawings and commissions, including the Common Elements teamup with Iron Man he’s holding in this photo I took at WonderCon 2011.

Ernie Chan at WonderCon 2011

I frequently referred to Ernie as the Amazing Chan for his speed in delivering commissioned art. On more than one occasion, Ernie completed a fully penciled and inked piece for me in less than a day — not a convention sketch, mind you, but a detailed, cover-quality illustration completed in his home studio. Once, he sent me a scan of a finished Common Elements commission — this one, featuring Hawkeye and Lady Rawhide — before I knew that he’d even accepted the job. Now that’s fast.

Hawkeye and Lady Rawhide, pencils and inks by comics artist Ernie Chan

I’ll miss Ernie’s lively humor and fun-loving personality as much as I’ll miss seeing new creations spring from his potent pencils and pens. He was always a hoot to chat with, engaging to his fans, and with an inerrant eye for feminine pulchritude.

Rest in peace. Mr. Chan.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: RIP, Al Rio (1962-2012)

February 3, 2012

Superman and Supergirl, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

I was shocked and saddened on Tuesday morning — as were many of my fellow comics fans and comic art aficionados — to receive the news that artist and former Disney animator Al Rio had passed away in his native Brazil, the result of an apparent suicide.

Wonder Woman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Those of you who have followed Comic Art Fridays over the years know how greatly I appreciated Al Rio’s art. He is among the most well-represented artists in my collection; I own 15 of his original works — six of which I commissioned personally, plus several I’ve had inked by other artists. I’ve also enjoyed receiving the lovely postcards Al made available to his fans every holiday season. Al’s art representative, Terry Maltos, has always been one of my favorite vendors with whom to transact business. More than once, Terry has given me a price break on a purchase, or thrown in a little something extra in gratitude for my frequent custom.

Elektra, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Al first came to prominence when he followed J. Scott Campbell as the regular artist on Wildstorm’s Gen13 and DV8. Although many people saw him as a Campbell clone, particularly in his early comics projects, his style continued to evolve. He worked on a variety of series for both of the major comics publishers and numerous second-tier labels — everything from Spider-Man and Captain America to Grimm Fairy Tales.

Mary Marvel, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob McLeod

As you can see from the pieces I’ve chosen for this memorial post, Al drew some of the most beautiful women in comics. Because of this, he was sometimes dismissed as “just a cheesecake artist.” That’s a bit like saying that Michelangelo, Titian, and Rubens weren’t great artists because they painted a lot of naked people. Without question, Al knew his way around the feminine form, but he could also draw heroes and backgrounds with the best in the business, and his sequential work shows that beyond his pinup talents, he was a brilliant storyteller. I was especially fond of his work on Marvel’s Heroes for Hire and White Tiger a couple of years back.

Batman and Catwoman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Since I didn’t know Al personally, I can’t really say much about him in that regard. I’ve always heard  him described as a nice man who extended extraordinary kindness to his fans and to other artists, and who frequently donated art in support of charitable causes. In fact, his Superman and Supergirl piece — seen at the top of this post — began as a preliminary sketch for a drawing Al created in support of victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, pencils by comics artist Al Rio

You can see my entire gallery of Al Rio’s art by following this link. Please go take a look at the beauty and dynamic range of this talented creator’s gifts.

Spider-Man and Mary Jane, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

Al Rio was 49 years old. He leaves behind a wife, three children, countless friends, and a legion of fans who admired his unique abilities.

Supergirl, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Joe Rubinstein

And that, sadly, is your Comic Art Friday.