Cloak and Dagger strike a pose reminiscent of Dirty Dancing in this illustration by designer Ken Steacy. Perhaps Dagger took ballet before she ran away with Cloak? I don’t remember their origin clearly. I do like Cloak’s stoic stance in contrast to Dagger’s pirouette. You get a sense right away that these two are partners even if you aren’t familiar with their relationship.
Power Pack wrecks a diner! Steacy does a great job communicating each character’s personality through body language and props. The dragon detail in the background is amazing! I wonder if that man looking over the booth is Steacy or a friend he drew in the picture. Steacy’s attention to detail can even be found in his signature which is stylized to fit the Asian restaurant theme.
Guardian from Alpha Flight flies high! Salute! I’m going to take a wild guess and place this image before the time that good ‘ole James Hudson blows up (the first time). Oops! Spoilers from the 1980s! I like this image. It’s clean, slick and powerful. I like the juxtaposition of the planes with Guardian, but I wonder if instead of flying with them, he’s really just in their way.
The Fantastic Four are a family that just happens to be the world’s most amazing superheroes too! Here we get a small slice of home life as Reed and Sue return from a night out and find their son Franklin perched on the Thing’s knee. Franklin is, of course, reading about his family’s adventures in a comic book! How meta, yes? Check out Sue’s hair! That is a serious 80s flashback!
Doctor Strange enters a strange dimension where everything has turned into a slick advertising campaign! Okay, that might not actually be true, but that’s what it looks like to me. From the hyper-stylized face of the woman in the background to the pattern on the green suit of the man in the foreground, this world looks like a Nagel painting got smashed up with Lisa Frank stickers and an Atari video game. The good Doctor’s expression is one of bewilderment as if even he cannot fathom this strange ad world. I enjoy Steacy’s take on Doctor Strange. He really nails the cloak details and the image on his shirt. The hair is a bit too slick for my tastes, but that’s my only quibble.
You’ve seen Ken Steacy’s take on mohawk Storm, right?
Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier’s How To Get Pregnant With A Girl ://www.amazon.com/New-Fantastic-Four-Dwayne-McDuffie/dp/0785128476″>run on Fantastic Four was a lot of fun to read. Storm and Black Panther joined the team while Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman left to work on their marriage after Civil War. Below are two pages from that run which are notable to me because they depict a Storm sensitive to people’s perceptions about her beauty. Does it ring true to her character? Does Storm come across as being a bit vain about not wanting to be seen as vain? Is the whole situation just a gag? Let me know what you think in the comments.
This Marvel Fanfare Monday we celebrate the lush linework of Colleen Doran! The pinups presented today were scanned from Marvel Fanfare #38. In that issue, Colleen Doran also illustrated a backup story written by Jo Duffy featuring Dazzler and Rogue. It is a gem of a tale in which Rogue steals a musician’s power to play backup for Dazzler so they can save the day (naturally). It’s a bit like the X-Men meet Gem and the Holograms. I enjoy Colleen’s pencils on anything, whether it’s her creator owned epic saga A Distant Soil, art for Sandman, Lord of the Rings, or Legion of Super-Heroes. I found an article about her from Comic Book Resources, but be sure to check out her blog as it is chockfull of amazing things to read!
Above we have a lovely portrait of Medusa and Black Bolt, King and Queen of the Inhumans. Rarely is Black Bolt shown in such a relaxed manner. It is particularly bittersweet to see the happy couple so in love after reading War of Kings, Marvel’s cosmic crossover saga, just a week or two ago. Don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read the series yet (I definitely recommend it), but let’s just say these two characters won’t be lolling about in the flower garden together anytime soon.
Balder the Brave from Thor is in deep reflection looking every bit the noble born warrior that he is. I love everything in this image, down to the smallest of details (for which Doran is famous)! Balder had his own mini-series in 1985 the contents of which have just been published in a premier hardcover. You can’t go wrong with this book, dear reader. The amazing Walt Simonson wrote and drew the entire thing!
Longshot is one of my top 5 favorite blonde crushes in the Marvel Universe and I absolutely adore how Colleen Doran portrays him in this image. I always loved Longshot’s joyful naivete combined with his beginner’s mind approach to life. Drawing him surrounded by nature makes a lot of sense to me as does having butterflies fly all around him. They would be a great spirit totem for such a free spirit! And say what you want about the mullet, but I like it here.
I saved my favorite image for last as it features Magik, teleporting sorceress of the New Mutants (easily my favorite member of that group with Danielle “Mirage” Moonstar and Doug “Cypher” Ramsey)! This is one of my favorite pinups of Illyana Rasputin of all time because amazing attention is given to the character in every way! The stance suggests her mastery, her expression shows her strength, the artifacts represent power and every bit of arcane design gives the reader insight to the complexity that is Magik!
The above image of mohawk Storm is interesting to me due to its depiction of extreme light and shadow. Storm appears mentally focused on the the flare as it creates a beautiful contrast of light and dark. I find the three dimensional aspect of this sketch to be amazing.
I chose to share this sketch because Adams has not drawn Storm with the full mohawk he made famous (like the first image), but instead chose to draw a thinner, more subdued mohawk. It reminds me of how Barry Windsor-Smith used to render Storm. There’s quite a difference in this sketch and the one before it and I’m going to guess and say that this one was first. I love them both for different reasons. In the first image, Storm seems intent, focused and her clothes and hair have a lot of tiny Arthur Adams details. In this one, Storm seems more at ease and her design is a bit more streamlined. The feathers in the hair are a nice touch.
This is the original art for the 1991 Marvel Super-Hero trading card. This is one of the few instances that we see Storm sporting a short cropped hairstyle. I love Adams’ sleek handling of this costume. However, I prefer Storm with a long mane. It’s more dynamic with her power set.
I always enjoy looking at an artist’s original pencil artwork before it is inked. It’s fascinating to examine how much the image changes. Of course, the before and after difference varies from artist to artist. For instance, compare the pencils and inks in the artwork below by John Bolton. His portrait of Colossus (from Classic X-Men #5‘s back cover) is radically different from inception to finished product.
In this pencil drawing, Bolton explores the planes on Piotr’s face leaving no contour undiscovered. The differences in line darkness, shading and gray tones add dimension to the portrait.
Craig Hamilton knows characters. His portraits of superheroes pare down each character to their most classic elements. Take Dark Phoenix for instance. The dramatic arrangement of her arms is perfect for a character of her tumultuous history. The weight of her power bears down heavily on her as her fiery aureole majestically engulfs her. This is a woman consumed by her own intensity.
Click on any of the images to view them larger! Then you can better enjoy Hamilton’s amazing linework!
Nightcrawler is a charming man despite his unusual appearance. He channels his hero Errol Flynn in this image with a swashbuckler bent to his body language (The hoop earring is also a nice touch). I love the added detail of the fading smoke from his recent teleportation.
The Scarlet Witch and the Vision used to be quite the power couple before a few dismantlements (him) and mental breakdowns (her) left their relationship in shambles. I prefer to think of these characters in their classic forms from this time. Wanda is looking confident but contemplative (a far cry from her recent depictions) and the Vision stares with glowing eyes that reveal his android nature. I love that Hamilton chose to emphasize the etherealness of both characters by having Wanda floating and the Vision phasing.
Hamilton’s version of Cloak and Dagger is stunning, truly representing the core essences of Tandy and Tyrone’s struggle with their respective super-powered polarities.
Lockheed hovers above the intangible Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat). Kitty has always struggled with a costume that works for her and most people do not refer to her by her Shadowcat codename since she has gone through so many, so it seems appropriate to have her depicted in regular clothes for her portrait.
Colossus shows off his organic steel muscle definition in a rare display of exhibitionism. Usually, Piotr is quiet and reserved, slow to anger but a powerhouse when tested. Colossus (alongside Nightcrawler and Storm) are among the most unique and iconic of the All-New, All-Different character designs.
Ka-Zar, Shanna the She-Devil and Zabu relax in their Savage Land home. There’s a little something for everyone in this amazing illustration. Ka-Zar isn’t usually depicted so beefy, but I have no complaints. Everything about this piece from character to composition works for me.
I saved my favorite for last because it showcases everything I love about Craig Hamilton’s work. Not only is he true to the characters’ designs and histories, he creates the most beautiful arrangements in which to place them. The multiple layers of setting (rain on the window, the windowpanes, the figures,the fabric & the smoke from the incense burner) give the artwork depth and density which an esoteric character like Doctor Strange really needs. Also, Hamilton excels at presenting the natures of the relationships of characters to one another. Clea is Doctor Strange’s disciple, but she is also his lover. Even if this is your first time viewing these characters you can tell that they have something very special together.
The spotlight shines on another amazing artist on next week’s Marvel Fanfare Monday!
Jim Lee & The X-Men. Those two names conjure up many amazing images and fond memories for me! I’ve briefly mentioned before how influential this run was to me and I’ve even featured this exact image before (Storm Sunday: Jim Lee, Part II) but as three separate pieces. Here is the triptych in its totality featuring the X-Men’s Outback Era (They used to hide out in Australia when they were pretending to be dead. It’s a long story). From right to left you have Storm, Forge, Polaris, Jubilee, Wolverine, Havok, Psylocke, Rogue, Banshee, Gateway and Colossus. Click on it and all of the images below to see them larger.
What was so great about this era? Well, I really responded to the slick lines of Jim Lee. There was a lot to be admired in his supermodel women (the poses alone could knock the chrome off a bumper) and beefcake men. There is a heightened sexuality to his characters that adds a real life dimension for me. Lee’s X-Men practically exude confidence and a superhero needs to look empowered (pun intended). I think Lee was able to give each character a larger than life persona which suited the soap opera and gladiator elements of the title. His action scenes are kinetic and stylized fun. Yes, a lot of his characters look the same. Yes, sometimes we get a hot shot of characters posing at the expense of storytelling. Yes, his anatomy isn’t always correct. I simply don’t care. Jim Lee comics are sexy and fun, ‘Nuff said.
This fabulous gatefold cover from Uncanny X-Men #275 features a veritable Who’s Who of Marvel’s mutants! On the right we have Rogue, Magneto and Zaladane in the background. Gambit, Banshee, Forge, Psylocke, Professor X, Wolverine, Jubilee and Storm strike action poses in the middle. Deathbird, Gladiator and Lilandra frame the right hand side. This was an exciting time for the X-Men with stories spanning the Savage Land and the far reaches of Shi’ar space. The Black Widow guest stars in Uncanny X-Men #265. This issue features Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee after their near deaths at the hands of Lady Mandarin (a brainwashed Psylocke).
A convention sketch of Storm by Jim Lee. I love the loose lines he uses to define the hair. There’s a feeling of implied movement as if the wind is blowing around her. The strong profile (especially under the chin) serves as focal point for the drawing and Lee totally gives Storm the little character details that define her (X badges, lightning bolt earrings and streaks on the sides of her eyes).
A page from Uncanny X-Men #248. Storm shows once again there are consequences to those who try to possess her (which longtime readers of Claremont will recognize as an often used meme for our Windrider). After Nanny uses Psylocke to brainwash her teammates, she tells Colossus, “I decide what if for ‘my own good’ little brother.”
I saved my favorite for last. This image was used as a promotional image for X-Men #1. Storm is featured front and center in an outfit and hairstyle she never wore in the regular series. I would have like to have seen it used. You don’t see many asymmetrical haircuts on leading ladies and I think Lee’s redesign of the bodysuit for Storm is pretty bold, combining the punk and more classic looks she’s had over the years.
While I was putting together this week’s Storm Sunday’s focus on John Bolton, I kept coming across his drawings of Emma Frost, also known as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club! This post is dedicated to comicdom’s notorious fan and my friend Ken Kneisel, one of the most diehard fans of Emma I have ever met! I hope he and you, dear reader, find some enjoyment in the images from today’s post which were originally featured in a backup story in Classic X-Men #34 and that they compel you to enter into the discussion I have proposed at the end of this post!
John Bolton certainly knows how to pare a scene down to its essentials. In these two pages, the emotional situation is readily apparent. Captions and word balloons are simply not necessary to know that there is an obvious power struggle going on here and the White Queen certainly has the upper hand! I really like the strong use of design in these pages, especially the wallpaper. The delicate swirls are in direct contrast to the severe body stance of the White Queen.
Emma used to be such a great villainess and in today’s continuity she is a heroine. I think her character’s journey has been intriguing, but I think it is a delicate balance to maintain the snarky wit of a rather jaded woman with her desire to teach the next generation of mutant children. Grant Morrison certainly left his mark on her when he used her for New X-Men, but he had a great template to work with from her creators (Chris Claremont and John Byrne). Joss Whedon obviously had a lot of fun writing her in Astonishing X-Men and Warren Ellis reaps the benefits on that title now.
As far as the character has come, I would not want to see all of her development ruined by having the character return to her villainous roots. I think it is much more interesting to read about her new life as a mutant leader with dreams of reformation (One could argue that she is, in fact, already redeemed by proof of her position in the X-Men alongside Cyclops). Her retconned past with Namor (the Sub-Mariner) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) seemed a bit shoehorned to me at first, but these revelations have grown on me. I find it makes her character tapestry all the richer. Out of all of the Dark Reign tie ins, I have enjoyed Emma’s interactions with Norman Osborn the most. I think she’s the kind of woman who could really find a way to topple his rule. I don’t see it ever happening as I assume that Spider-Man is destined to defeat Osborn as the Green Goblin is his villain, but I hope that if and when Norman falls, that Emma is there to jab a spiked heel into his ribs.
Above is a scaled down version of the back cover of Classic X-Men #7. Emma looks right at home. At this time in her life she has no idea that she will fall in love with Scott Summers (Cyclops) and therefore make his character compelling (at least to me). And just think, if she hadn’t been in a coma when her students (the Hellions) died, she might not have teamed up with Banshee, Jubilee and Sabretooth to save the next generation of mutants. And then she might not have joined Generation X as headmistress, which would not have led her down the road to her redemption.
What do you think, dear reader? Do you like reformed Emma or do you miss the evil to the bone White Queen of her Hellfire Club days? Do you think her character arc makes sense considering how she was introduced back in the days when she was body swapping with Storm, harassing the New Mutants and trying to make Firestar into her personal weapon? What do you like most about her and what do you think is essential to the core of the character? There’s no denying Emma’s popularity. I’m just curious from where it stems.
That’s right, dear reader! Time waits for no mutant and I am yet again a year older come the morning of September 8th! As you can see from this amazing flyer designed by the inimitable James Sime (with dazzling art from the illustrious Aaron Lopresti), the festivities are going to be grand! In honor of my birthday, I am going to list a few things that make me happy, in no particular order or importance! Longtime readers will notice a few things that I have previously touched upon in past posts, but I have tried to make it interesting for everyone, including me! Let us begin!
Two great tastes that go great together! Well, your mileage may vary, but I love Sean Cassidy and like his daughter, Siryn, I simply will NOT believe that he is dead. Like all the X-Men who have died and come back, I am waiting for him to return. And when we ask “Wait! Weren’t you dead?” He can say, “Yes, but I got better!” Just like Colossus, Jean Grey, Psylocke, et al.
Lorna Dane, let me count the ways I love you! 1. You have green hair and that is so cool. 2. You wear a skull on your chest for no apparent reason (starting a trend that Mystique would pick up much later). 3. You control magnetism and are so much hotter than that old husk of a terrorist Magneto (and it doesn’t matter to me if you are his daughter or not). 4. You get possessed a lot! 5. This cover sold me. End of story.
One is a Young Avenger and the other is a Runaway. One is gay and the other is Goth. Both are spellcasters. So they’re kind of like me divided into two people. Why isn’t there a Marvel Team Up book featuring them? Make it so, Marvel! Better yet, let me write it!
Promethea is penned majestically by the magical genius Alan Moore and illustrated by the incomparable J. H. Williams III and is my favorite comic of all time! Fantasy, adventure, character study, magickal tome, experimental storytelling, heroic legacy, myth, muse and map of the subconscious all rolled into one! This is the kind of work that brings light and inspiration into a oftentimes depressing and dark reality. You are the divinity you are seeking! You are the spark of life of inspiration for the world, your community– and most importantly– your self! Promethea is proof of all of this!
Welcome to Week Two of a month long celebration of artists and their work from Marvel Fanfare, a comic that ran from 1982-1992! Today’s featured artist is the amazing Kevin Nowlan! Feast your eyes on his rendition of Doctor Strange (click on the above image for its full size glory) as Stephen fends off a horde of demonic creatures! Those spindly spell-casting fingers certainly suit the wizardly might of Stephen Strange (and also a surgeon) but also take note of the musculature of his legs (there’s a reason why these guys wear tights, folks)! The flow of the cape gives the piece movement and the detail of the cape’s trim is staggering! Nowlan is able to simultaneously ground the good doctor in the mundane here and now while propelling him into the fantastic future! A gorgeous piece of work from Marvel Fanfare #45!
Dagger (of Cloak & Dagger fame) kicks off our Kevin Nowlan Portfolio featuring a bevy of beautiful Marvel superheroines. His style features elongated anatomy in which legs and arms go on forever and faces have a distinct profile, oftentimes with exaggerated noses and cheekbones. His style has changed quite a bit since he drew these pinups, but his level of detail and slender lines are very much still Nowlan hallmarks. The flowing hair and closed body language in the above image give the figure a sense of vulnerability. I like to imagine that Tandy is missing Tyrone and isn’t sure how to carry on without him. Usually shots of heroines from behind can come across as exploitative, but here her back is turned in a way that reflects her fragile emotional state. The streaming hair simply adds to the wistfulness. Dagger and all of the images below are from Marvel Fanfare #18.
Phoenix bursts forth in all of her cosmic power! Fiery, focused and fierce!
The bird’s eye view that we get of She-Hulk makes me feel like a member of the paparazzi about to smashed! Nice tan line, Jennifer!
Black Widow poses in a portrait with her totemic namesake, looking cool and collected as befits a spy of her caliber. For the record, this is not my favorite Black Widow costume, but I like the simplicity it affords Nowlan’s drawing.
Nova, former herald of Galactus and one time girlfriend of the Human Torch, smiles serenely at the viewer in a rare moment of repose. It is a rare moment of peace for a character that never found any in her adventures. The current status of Frankie Raye (Nova’s human name) in the Marvel Universe is deceased.
Help your friends and lovers find their inner superhero!