Storm Arcana

Heroic Tarot & Arcana Academy

Month: December 2008 (Page 2 of 2)

Storm Sunday: Simone Bianchi, Part II

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If you’re a Marvel X-phile, you probably already know that artist Simone Bianchi is making his mark every month on Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men.  You might have seen his work in a couple of issues of Wolverine where Black Panther and Storm guest starred.  I have to admit I did not read these issues once I realized that Ororo and T’Challa played a peripheral part in the story.  Later, I found these images from Wolverine #53 and added them to my computer’s image gallery.  I really enjoy the rendering of Storm above.  She looks a bit like Naomi Campbell to me, but with more substance (sorry, Naomi, but Storm would never throw her cell phone at anyone).  

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Storm’s hardly in this image, but I had to share it anyway because of the detail in the evolutionary charts and the technological interior.  I love how Bianchi manages to makes Wolverine look feral and noble.  His art infuses comics with a classical grandeur.  I almost wish his art was allowed to stay black and white.  I don’t think it needs color to detract from the elegance of the lines.

sketch_54_fullBianchi has amazing drawing skills.  This an artist who knows his anatomy.  Consider this sketch and compare it to the realized painting below.  

paintings2_18_full1I find the painting to be exquisite, but I almost prefer the sketch.  Perhaps it’s the revelation of the process that has me captivated.  Or maybe it’s because the sketch does not contain all of the intricate design work of the painting.  Still, the control and detail is amazing.  I am struck by how the subject is illuminated in all of its monochromatic glory.

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More gorgeous pencils.  No space is wasted in this sketch.  Design elements inform the entire piece.  Best of all, this piece has mood.  It carries a feeling.

sketch_23_full1I love the implied kinetic action in this piece.  The fact that it hasn’t been colored in completely endears it to me all the more.  Bianchi draws kickass angels!

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And to further illustrate my point about Bianchi’s understanding of anatomy, I chose this sketch to share with you, dear reader.  Bianchi is a modern master and as much as I enjoy his Astonishing X-Men every month, I would love to see what he would do with his own creator-owed work.  Please check out Simone Bianchi’s site for more amazing art.

Storm Sunday: Teamwork is the Ultimate Gestalt!


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In Theodore Sturgeon’s celebrated science fiction novel More Than Human, six unique individuals with uncanny abilities use  their powers in combination and create a new organism.  Their unified whole becomes much stronger than they were separately.  This combination of many parts into a new whole is known as a gestalt and led to the furthering of the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  In psychology, this idea is applied to the mind and its behavior as a whole.  Gestalt psychologists operate under “the theory or doctrine that physiological or psychological phenomena do not occur through the summation of individual elements, as reflexes or sensations, but through gestalts functioning separately or interrelatedly.” Sound familiar?

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In regards to the X-Men, this kind of thinking makes a lot of sense to me.  How many classic X-Men comics open with the Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, et al, honing their powers in the Danger Room?  Besides helping out new readers by identifying characters by their powers (which used to be pretty easy to do by codenames alone, but we seem to have run out that kind of simplicity these days.  Vulcan, anyone?), this tried and true staple of X-lore shows how potentially dangerous each mutant can be and how important it is that they practice using their powers.  More importantly, as Professor X and Cyclops repeatedly remind them, the X-Men stand and fall as a group.  Teamwork is the goal.  And since mutants are social outcasts, they have to learn to work together if they are ever to help turn the tide of prejudice against them in the world at large.  A large goal to be sure, but when one is working for peace between two seemingly disparate forces as homo sapiens and so-called homo superior, survival is paramount.  In Sturgeon’s More Than Human, the Homo Gestalt has a moral responsibility to protect Homo Sapiens as they are his precursors.  Sound familiar?

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Marvel Comics dynamically reinvented the team archetype  when they created the All-New, All-Different international team of X-Men.  Chris Claremont and John Byrne took the team concept further during the Phoenix Saga by introducing elements of the Kabbalah to the narrative.  Certain team members were delineated to particular spheres on the Tree of Life/Sephiroth (I remember the 90s X-Men cartoon showing this as well).  Claremont uses this device again in the X-Men The End mini-series.  Jason Powell has some notes on this that I found interesting and  UncannyXmen.Net has a summary/definition of the X-Men Tree of Life that is used in X-Men The End including which characters are on which sphere (you’ll have to scroll down their page).  Storm is Nezah, representing eternity, endurance and victory through God’s active grace in the material world.

So, if today’s post has taught you anything, you must go read More Than Human (or track down the Heavy Metal illustrated version), study the Kabbalah (or at least read all the volumes of Promethea by Alan Moore and J.H. Wiliams III), and reread the Dark Phoenix Saga.  Then play the X-Men Gestalt game and place the characters in the spheres that you think they belong.  Is Xavier the Crown or Jean?  Is Rachel Majesty or Storm?  Or you can simplify things and think of each X-Man as parts of the human operating system.  If Xavier is the brains and Colossus is the heart, then who is the conscience?  Or if you think Cyclops is the eyes and Storm is the heart, then what role do Nightcrawler and Emma Frost play?  Whose role is indispensable and whose can be filled by others?  This exercise is fun if you are writing about your own team of characters, superheroes or otherwise.

A great review of More Than Human.

Images in today’s post are by John Byrne, Ed Benes and Alex Ross, respectively.

stormantic words: She’s Got Stars In Her Eyes

She’s Got Stars In Her Eyes*

by STORM


I’m staring at her eyes. They will never blink. They will never cry. They will never grow old. They will never die.

There are stars in her eyes. Five pointed, like pentacles, like Wonder Woman’s underwear. Like the ornaments on a Christmas tree. Two bright, shiny, silver-white stars inside circles of blue. Above and below her eyes, delicately curved eyelashes bring my gaze back to hers.

She’s smiling. Like always. Her teeth are a tiny slice of the moon. They gleam like the mouths in the toothpaste commercials. A sparkle of light that blinds the senses. I covet those teeth, that perpetual clean smile. I wonder if her smile equates happiness. Could it mean something else?

Her lips are pink, like frosting. Perfectly formed. Painted just so. Her cheeks glow as if airbrushed with cotton candy. She’s a petal fallen from a flower. She’s the scent of packages newly opened. Her hair is cornsilk coated in conditioner.

I am holding her by her legs. My hands are wrapped around the pink silk dress, ballooning with crinoline gauze. Her legs are bent just a bit. I heard them snap when I did it. I did it to see if she could sit in that beautiful two story house with the elevator. How come she’s too tall for it? How come they don’t make her house just a bit larger? She’s always a bit too big for her things. I feel bad for her. And her friend with the freckles. And her younger sister with the flat feet and flat chest. And her boyfriend whose arms don’t fit around her. None of them quite fit in the world that’s supposedly made for them.

Oops! One of her shoes fell off. I pick a bright pink plastic shoe from the carpet. Smooth and oval, like something Minnie Mouse would wear. I shove it back on her severely arched foot. I’ve seen ancient fertility dolls with the same pointed feet. These dolls were meant to be placed in the earth. They were talismans of abundance. My pink friend has large breasts like those fertility idols. And she has small arms that cannot hold anything. Her pink hairbrush has to be clipped onto her hand. And even then, she cannot brush her hair as she cannot reach her head. But still, she is an icon of abundance. The clothes, shoes, cars, furniture, houses, pools, and even her friends, are all spokes on a wheel around her. They revolve around her very existence.

I grip my hand around her tighter. I move her smiling face back and forth with my other hand. I squeeze her empty head between my thumb and forefinger. It caves in under the pressure. She’s still smiling, even though half of her head is collapsed. Her pointy nose pricks me. I let go of her head and shake her by the waist. I watch her head jerk back and forth. Her hair tumbles around her taffeta shoulders. She’s still smiling. I drop her to the floor. She lands with a thud. Her shoes fly off. I don’t retrieve them this time. I leave the room.

I return with a bottle of professional beauty salon acetone, some q-tips and a shot glass. I pour acetone into the shot glass. I dip the q-tip in it. I stab the q-tip it into one of her starry eyes. I press down hard. The acetone dissolves the paint, leaving streaks of colored tears. I have taken away her vision. I don’t stop until her eyes, eyebrows, cheeks, lips, and teeth, are all erased. Her head is factory new again. The acetone has removed her lipstick, but her face is from a mold and she is still smiling. I strip her of her princess gown. Finger the silky hair and wonder what it would look like green. I carry her to the kitchen.

I put some water to boil on the stove. I place her arms, one at a time, into the water when it begins to spit and sputter. I leave them in the water until they soften. Then I bend them so they can hold things, so they can wrap themselves around a loved one. I run the arms under cold running water so they stay the way I shaped them.

I paint her a new face, listening to what she whispers to me now that she is free from her manufactured self. I paint her expression with tiny paintbrushes and little jars of acrylic paint, the kind used for model cars. I give her eyes like a cat, large and green, with yellow ellipses inside. I paint her eyeliner, deep and heavy like an Egyptian priestess. I add some sigils and runes to her body. Magickal tattoos of creativity and protection. I think about adornment. What kind of jewelry do I no longer wear that might flatter her? What will pay tribute to her new mode of being? I paint her teeth white, but make her lips a dark purple with a silver sheen. I paint her fingernails black.

I use green India Ink to dye her hair, but it washes out easily, so I mix some Burt’s Bees hand salve with some acrylic paint and massage it into her hair. It bunches into little dreadlocks. I give her arched eyebrows that—combined with her dark smile—make her seem as if she’s hatching a secret plan or spell. Of revenge? Of creation? I don’t decide. I let the possibilities remain hers to manifest. She is no longer vacant. She is imbued with power. I sit her on the windowsill. I tell her she is beautiful. I wash my hands. I smile and wink at her as I leave the kitchen to let her dry.

I dig through my sewing scraps and piece together a patchwork dress by hand. I choose fabrics that match her cat eyes. I plunder my jewelry box and find old earrings that will fit her as bracelets. I find silver studs to replace her plastic earrings. I clip the end of a sewing pin, bend it with pliers and pierce her nose with it. I sew tiny pointed boots and place them on her feet. I dress her in her new clothes and tie gold thread around her waist. Finally, I sprinkle very fine gold glitter over her.

She is still smiling. Her eyes will never blink. She will never have flat feet. Her breasts will always be disproportionate to her body. I have not changed these things. But now the stars in her eyes have opened a gate to a new universe. She is avatar, muse, and goddess. She is a voice inside my head. I am a voice inside hers. Together we navigate the realms between the mundane and the magickal.

“God created man, then woman, then the child, and finally the doll. And the greatest of these was the doll.” –Oscar Wilde


Originally published in RFD 124 (Winter).

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