I rarely commission an artist with the words, “Draw whatever you want.”
Now, I don’t script my commissions the way some collectors do — I know several people who provide excruciatingly detailed scenarios for artists to work from — but I’m just enough of a control freak that I don’t want to risk handing someone a fistful of cash and getting back a drawing of a character I detest. The rare instance when I’ve given an artist absolute free rein has occurred at a convention, usually with a talent I’ve commissioned before and have at least some rapport with.
This past spring at Silicon Valley Comic Con, I took one such flier with Tom Raney. Tom had done a terrific piece for my Common Elements gallery some time back, and I really like his work. On this occasion, I had several possible ideas for him, but couldn’t settle on one particular character. So I just said, “Draw whatever you want,” and hoped for the best.
Tom did not disappoint, rewarding my trust with this lovely pinup of X-Man Jean Grey in her Phoenix phase. Given that Tom was the regular X-Men penciler for a stretch, I’m thinking that he has an affinity for Jean that comes through in his work. I love Tom’s delicate linework here, and the beautiful manner in which he incorporates the Phoenix Force that Jean manifests.
Of course, my comics-reading tenure trails back well before Jean acquired the code name Phoenix. I can recall when she was the only female member of the original X-Men lineup, and used the moniker Marvel Girl. (Geof Isherwood paired Jean in Marvel Girl garb alongside Mary Marvel in this early Common Elements commission.)
Jean was far less powerful in her Marvel Girl incarnation than she eventually became, transforming over time from a simple telepath/telekinetic to an almost godlike being capable of destroying an entire planet, as she did at the climax of the Dark Phoenix saga. Since her death at the end of that storyline, and subsequent resurrection some years later (because no one ever stays dead in comics), Jean’s powers and prominence have fluctuated. She remains, however, a landmark character in the Marvel pantheon.
Raney and Isherwood draw her very nicely, too.
As for the title of this post: Omakase is a Japanese word that translates roughly into English as “I trust you.” In sushi restaurants and other eateries featuring Japanese cuisine, omakase signifies that the diner will eat whatever the chef wants to serve. The idea is that the itamae (chef) knows what ingredients are freshest and of the highest quality on that particular day, and will present the patron with the very best the kitchen has to offer.
Perhaps I should order omakase more often.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.