Storm Arcana

Heroic Tarot & Arcana Academy

Month: July 2008

Portrait of Death: Joshua Middleton

I fell in love with this piece by artist Joshua Middleton a while back and just recently unearthed it in my files. Middleton has such an airy style that it’s common for folks to judge his work as insubstantial, but I think the opposite is true. It takes a skilled craftsman to use lines so sparingly and evoke such clean, graceful portraits. However, I think he needs a strong colorist to really make his work pop. Check out his art on his site. His New Mutants cover portraits of Magma, Danielle Moonstar, and Wolfsbane are among my favorites, although he’s probably best known for his work on NYX.

But right now, let’s view Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg‘s creation of Death, who debuted in The Sandman, published by DC Comics Vertigo imprint. The spunky sister of Morpheus (more commonly known as Dream or natch, the Sandman) debuted in issue #8 in the first story arc, “Preludes and Nocturnes.” She quickly gained a fan following which led to two spin off mini series (Death: The High Cost of Living & Death: The Time of Your Life). She also guest starred in Tim Hunter’s series The Books of Magic.

Storm Sunday: Adam Hughes, Part II

San Diego Comic Con doth approach and I am swamped with all kinds of work (aren’t you glad I don’t blog about that, dear reader?), so today’s Storm Sunday is short and sultry. I’ve noticed that my top posts are the ones that have focused on the work of Frank Cho, Patrick Fillion, Arthur Adams and Adam Hughes which leads me to believe that we’re all obsessed with sexy people (or rather, sexy renderings of them). I was so happy when I found this piece by Adam Hughes. I’ve never seen an artist take up so much of the page for just a character close-up quite like this before. I like the tilt of the head back and the heavy eyelids with the spiky eyelashes. The tiara is angled so it becomes more of a frame than usual and those lips are gorgeous!

Storm Sunday: Michael Turner

This Sunday, I’d like to look at some images drawn by the late Michael Turner, who passed away last month from cancer at the young age of 37. Turner is best know for his work on Witchblade, Fathom and various covers for Marvel and DC Comics (such as Brad Meltzer & Rags Morales’ Identity Crisis mini-series). Comic Book Resources has a lovely eulogy here.

 
Storm fights a clone (Yes, it is every bit as bad as it sounds) of Thor in this Black Panther: Civil War tie-in issue. If this had been the real Thor, Ororo would still have been outmatched. Mutant versus God? Uh, yeah. Besides, Thor can just summon as much lightning and weather as he wants simply by force. Storm has to work with the powers of nature to bend them to her will. She knows that when she alters the climate of one area it affects another just as much. I don’t see Thor really concerning himself with that kind of thing. Besides, how’s Storm gonna argue with Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer)? There’s not much one can do to dodge the enchanted uru.
 
More Civil War crossover madness. From left to right we have Invisible Woman, Captain America, Black Panther, Storm, Falcon, and Tigra.

 

Storm and Black Panther join the Fantastic Four for a brief time (too brief, methinks) under the pen of writer Dwayne McDuffie.

I have to admit if Turner hadn’t passed away, I probably woudn’t have blogged about his version of Storm. Sometimes I really like his take on certain characters and other times I’m left cold. His stylistic anatomy is problematic (torsos go on and on) and backgrounds are usually nonexistent. I was really frustrated that Rags Morales didn’t get to draw the covers for Identity Crisis since I thought Morales’ art conveyed character in ways that Turner’s covers never have for me. However, I do think Turner’s art has pizazz. There’s an electric sexiness that emanates from his work that’s hard to quantify, but you can feel it when you look at it. This is most evident in his creator owned work (like Fathom) from Aspen comics. Sadly, what we have now is all we’re going to get from Turner. It’s time to remember a comics superstar for what he brought to the table and not what we wish he had done differently. Thanks, Michael, for bringing some zing back to comics!

My Favorite Dead Marvel Characters: Banshee

Lately I’ve been thinking about how many of my favorite Marvel characters are deceased. Now I’m not talking about A-list characters here, maybe not even B-list. Dunno how you determine that anyway. The point is, I really miss some of these guys and I wish they weren’t dead. At least when a character isn’t being used you have some hope that someone will dust them off and bring them back into the spotlight again. The worst is when that someone brings them back just to unceremoniously kill them in their storyline to give their story some punch (or prove their new villain is hardcore or just to be shocking or maybe it’s pointless).

Anyway, when I was introduced to the All-New Different X-Men, I really thought Banshee (aka Sean Cassidy) was cool. I didn’t understand why he used a codename that has always been mythologically associated with a female entity (The word “banshee” is from the Old Irish, baen “woman” + síde: “fairy, otherwordly.”), but I liked that he was Irish and he seemed older than the other characters. He was always going on about how he was too old to be superheroing and in spite of his reticence he hung in there and was an asset to the team.
When I learned that the character had been in older X-Men issues as a Factor Three villain (albeit brainwashed) and had been an Interpol agent, I really thought Banshee had some interesting dimensions as a character. And then there’s his history with his villainous cousin Black Tom (longtime partner of the Juggernaut) as they fought over women, the inheritance of Cassidy Keep (their ancestral land) and how their powers didn’t work on each other (you were always guaranteed some fisticuffs when they encountered each other; Marvel has a funny rule that if you are a mutant, then your powers don’t work on your relatives, see Havok and Cyclops for more ). Black Tom kept the existence of Banshee’s daughter, Siryn, from him until she was an adult.

Shortly after Banshee joined the X-men with Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, etc, he met Professor Xavier’s former love, geneticist Moira MacTaggert and fell in love. Their relationship lasted a long time (especially by comic book standards) and Banshee was there for Moira when she mourned her dead son Kevin, aka Proteus, (this was after Banshee lost his powers for a time after a battle with villain Moses Magnum). I loved Sean and Moira together. They made a lot of sense to me as a couple and I think it created some interesting tension between Professor X and Moira (he was in love with Lilandra at this time).

Banshee served as Headmaster of the Xavier Academy for a while with Emma Frost (see issues of Generation X). The tension between the two was really fun to read about and I liked Banshee’s strong father figure tendencies with the students, especially mouthy Jubilee and stuck up M.
After Moira was killed by Mystique, Banshee lost it, got all Tony Stark, er, I mean, alcoholic and then got all Iron Man, er, I mean, paramilitary and started X-Corp (even recruiting super-villains to his cause). Mystique slit his throat for his trouble, but didn’t kill him. That would be left to Ed Brubaker in the X-Men: Deadly Genesis mini-series in which Banshee fails to save a plane full of civilians when the plane crashes into him.
I distinctly remember scenes from an Uncanny X-Men story on Muir Isle (Moira’s research center) when Banshee (still sans powers) trains Dazzler, Rogue, Psylocke and Longshot. He smokes his pipe (a trademark of the character) and teaches them how to work together as a team. I liked him in the role of teacher. It suited him. I also remember how he and Forge had a tight friendship. Those two were always reliable supporting characters for the X-Men.
I forgot to mention the leprehauns. Yeah, Cassidy Keep is full of ’em. They helped out Nightcrawler once. And now that Banshee is dead, his daughter has inherited the Keep, leprechauns, pipe and all. In X-Factor, scribe Peter David wrote Siryn refusing to believe that her father was dead, citing all the X-Men who have died and returned. She has a point. In Marvel Comics, RIP might as well stand for “Return In Progress,” but will that hold true for Banshee? I dinna know, me boyos and lassies, but I hope so.

FYI:  The artists of the above images are Jim Lee (the top two), Lee Weeks, (I’m not sure who painted the Ultra Card) & Bryan Hitch.

Gay, Gay, Gay

So, I’m still reeling from my first San Francisco PRIDE Weekend and now everything I look at has a prismatic glow to it. In honor of this life-changing event, I’d like to share some comic images that I’ve come across that seemed pretty gay to me. They’re kinda tame by some folks standards, but I’m warning you now that the image drawn by Amanda Conner might not be safe for work or whatever.
First we start off with a pretty in pink Star Wars trinity. Isn’t Darth Maul cuh-yute?
And this is supposed to be Angel and Xander (you know, from Buffy).
Batman and Superman have a moment. Just breaks my heart. Alfred is so supportive, isn’t he?
And another Superman and Batman moment, with a bit more hanky panky. You gotta love Amanda Conner. She is a force of awesome unto herself!
And for good measure, here’s Northstar, Marvel’s very own pointy eared French-Canadian mutant homosexual. He makes everything gayer, even without his crazy twin sister, Aurora.

Storm Watch: Chris Yost writes “Storm: Worlds Apart”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Storm’s interaction with the X-men and the Marvel Universe in general has been a bit fractured. For years she languished as a supporting character in the regular X-titles, was sadly misrepresented in the movies and delegated to “older” cast member status in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series. She received a mini-series entitled Ororo: Before the Storm which chronicled her time as a child thief in Cairo (To be honest, I haven’t even read the whole series due to the lackluster story of the first issue). Then along came Reggie Hudlin as the writer on Black Panther and *whoosh* she and T’Challa are getting married in the so-called “Wedding of the Century.”

I mean, it was nice that she got a mini-series out of it (with some great Peter Mayhew art), but let’s be clear–that series was designed to convince everyone about how Ororo and T’Challa were meant to be together. It was a forced arrangement that left a lot of fans cold. Many still feel the marriage feels contrived and some wonder how Storm could leave her team of X-Men when they were in a jam post M-Day (Although it’s been argued that Storm was helping mutants in Africa and has always had a more global vision about how to help mutants in general).

Regardless, the fact is, Storm and T’Challa decided to get married right smack dab in the middle of Civil War. Sorry, but when I envisioned Ororo walking down the aisle, I was not picturing Captain American and Iron Man upstaging the bride in a face off. WTF, indeed.

So Storm became Queen of Wakanda. Okay. I dealt with it. I started buying Black Panther (This may have been part of Hudlin’s plan; One can’t help but notice that suddenly Black Panther had more guest stars and crossovers than it had ever had under Christopher Priest’s pen). What did Ororo do as queen? What were her new duties? How does she bridge the divide between United States mutant relations as a representative of a sovereign, highly advanced African country?

Well, for starters she joined the Fantastic Four, fought the Silver Surfer and carried Harpoon’s spear around in Messiah CompleX. Short story is, she didn’t show us what it meant to be Wakanda’s Queen other than calling T’Challa “beloved” every other page. Ororo and T’Challa haven’t really been in Wakanda since they got married for any significant amount of time. Storm has become window dressing for T’Challa’s title and she’s been locked out of her regular home title for some time now.

In last week’s Astonishing X-Men #25, Storm simply drops in on Cyclops’ team in San Francisco. She tells Emma she’s been bored with shopping and making love. Some readers think Storm is patronizing Emma since we know she’s been traveling in other dimensions with T’Challa and the Fantastic Four. She’s hardly had time to be bored shopping and besides, Ororo is not Paris Hilton. The real question that I would like to see answered is what will Storm make of Cyclops’ new direction for the team? Will Ororo, Scott and Emma butt heads over the choices the X-Men have made recently?

Well, all of this therorizing started out as an introduction about a new mini-series that X-Force writer Chris Yost is scripting entitled Storm: World’s Apart. I am super-psyched about this mini-series as it portends to answer many of the questions and themes I’ve brought up in this post.

Wizard has a great Q&A with Yost here. In it, Yost reveals:

“The hard thing about Storm’s position now, and she’s feeling it, is that she’s really torn between the two worlds, that’s the title. I mean she’s the queen of Wakanda, she’s the former leader of the X-Men, a member of the X-Men; mutants are in the worst shape they’ve probably ever been in; so, she really feels the pull between her country and her husband, her team and her family and mutant-kind. This series is really about her defining who she is now. Is she the Black Panther’s wife? Is she a member of the X-Men under Cyclops? Who and what is Storm?”

Regarding her relationship with Cyclops, Yost says:

“She does get a couple chances to really have a sit down with Cyclops, because obviously Cyclops has gone through a lot of changes, too. Storm has made the hard choices in her life as an X-Man, but at the same time, I’ve always seen her as the moral center of the team. She’s got a—I don’t want to use the word ‘righteousness’ to her—but there’s right and wrong in Storm’s eyes, and that’s a line the X-Men are straddling right now.”

And this part really made me happy:

“The only thing I’ll say is that if you’ve been really wanting Storm in the thick of it; really in the action—if you’ve missed that in the movies, in the comics—check out this mini-series because she’s going to be in the middle of it.”

Awesome! I can’t wait!

Comic Book Resources has an article interviewing Yost here and IGN has an interview with Yost and Daniel Ketchum here.

Storm Sunday: Simone Bianchi

In celebration of last Wednesday’s debut of Astonishing X-Men #25, Storm Sunday is focusing on the amazing art of Simone Bianchi! Perhaps you were one of the many who were reading Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men (#1 through #24 & ending with Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1) and were a bit uncertain on how the new team of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi would fare on the title? Well, worry no longer! I am pleased to say that I found myself enjoying the issue quite a bit in spite of some reservations I had (I still remember the excruciatingly painful Storm mini-series in 1996 also penned by Ellis). 
 
Ellis’ script is tight, setting up characterization and a little bit of plot.  He has a lot to introduce to the new reader as much has changed for Marvel’s mutants.  The X-Men have a new headquarters in San Francisco (Yay!), a new status quo as an endangered species and new member Armor (Whom I’ve yet to warm up to).  Ellis moves it all along nicely while giving Bianchi room to make his mark on the  book.  I recommend you give the new issue a try and see for yourself.

 

As is the perogative of any artist relaunching a title under their pencil, Bianchi redesigned all of the costumes of the Astonishing house cast. I’ve posted Storm’s sketch below. For more of Bianchi’s designs including Cyclops, Wolverine, Angel, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Beast, Colossus and Dazzler go here. What to make of all of the beads and bangles going on in this ornate ensemble?  Is it too much?  How does Storm’s tiara stay on when it’s floating in front of her face like that?  When did she start wearing jewels on her third eye?  What possesses Storm to carry around yards of fabric as a cape but still choose to wear butt floss?   And what exactly is that striped mess at her crotch and at her knees?  Would anyone really wear scrunchy 80s boots over top of their thigh boots? 
 
*Whew*  Those are the main questions I find myself thinking about when I stare at this new costume.  It’s a far cry from the simplified elegance of her Alan Davis-designed costume, that’s for sure, but did the lightning edged cape and unitard really suit a Queen?  I mean, Storm’s a superhero but she’s also representing a country now.  Shouldn’t she be dressing like it?  That said, I really appreciate Bianchi incorporating some of Storm’s classic costume elements (the tiara, the O ring on her stomach) while creating a more dramatic look.  It’s busy, perhaps even overwrought, but I appreciate the intention behind it.  I’d rather Storm be presented in over the top regalia than look like plain window dressing (like in the pages of *cough* Black Panther *cough*).
 
Costume nitpicking aside, I really enjoy how Bianchi draws Storm as a woman.  She feels like a real person to me.  Heck, she even looks African!  Sometimes the art feels a bit heavy and dark, but the characters really have weight on the pages.  Bianchi makes each person feel three dimensional, all the way to the seams in Storm’s gloves. 

This older piece by Bianchi shows Storm in a more traditional costume.  Well, if you consider women in bathing suits with thigh boots and evening gloves as traditional, and in comics, yeah, that is traditional.  Is it better than the newer one with all the bangles?  I’m not sure.  I do think that Storm is more complicated as a character than she ever has been before and that her new costume represents the many facets of her personality as well as the many roles she has to play in the Marvel Universe.  I’m curious to see how other artists will translate Bianchi’s design in their drawings of Storm in Uncanny X-Men and Black Panther.

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