Barry Windsor-Smith Week draws to a close today. I had a great time celebrating the man and his art. It was awesome to touch on some of my favorite characters and stories upon which BWS left his indelible mark. One of the things I didn’t get to feature is Storyteller.
For all of you Conan fans out there who might have been disappointed I didn’t share any images of the character that put BWS on the map, I hope you will accept this page and the sketch below as my condolences. The internet is full of amazing Conan artwork to appreciate.
Conan sketch from the Rune and Conan crossover.
Nick Fury by BWS from a much earlier time in his (just starting out) career.
Just in case you missed a post, here’s a list of what I covered:
Madman, Wolverine, Adastra, Pathways to Fantasy, Medusa, Magnus Robot Fighter, Vampirella Presents, Power Pin Ups, Fantastic Pin Ups, Hulk, Batman 3-D, Prime8, Doctor Strange, Tales of the Teen Titans, Deathmate, The New Mutants, Marvelman, Weapon X, Machine Man, Rune, The Uncanny X-Men, and of course, Storm, Storm & Storm!
Now I leave you with this excerpt from BWS’ 2008 Eisner Awards Hall of Fame acceptance speech:
“[T]he major [comic book] companies’ standard contract, deceptively titled “WORK FOR HIRE,” is a legal but unethical instrument designed to rape and plunder young talents of every possible prerogative they would otherwise possess if they had the fortune to work for more scrupulous, morally invested, publishers.” – Barry Windsor-Smith
Today brings Barry Windsor-Smith Week full circle as we take another look at the legendary artist‘s take on Storm. The above image is from 1984, the same year that brought us Lifedeath. There’s a rough masculine energy about this portrait that resonates with the powerless Storm from this era. Ororo had gained a fighting edge in order to become a better leader for the X-Men and at times, she found herself mirroring Wolverine’s lust for battle. I must admit I had a hard time accepting this version of Storm. The art of BWS was radically different from the more polished superhero art to which I was accustomed. Also, the story of Lifedeath had a lot more talking than the typical superhero slugfests I had read until then. The themes of identity and responsibility felt very adult to me, like suddenly comics had deemed me more mature and spoke to me as such.
It might have appeared to some readers (as it did to me) that Storm had lost her femininity when she lost her powers. I know my younger self wanted the compassionate self-styled goddess back. However, the vision of BWS promoted Storm’s warrior self as she had to deal with what it meant to be simply human. BWS’s darker artwork, with all of its cross hatching and expressive lines, recreated Storm from the ground up. Perhaps the results weren’t palatable to some, defied expectations of many, and incorporated elements that were unfamiliar to all, but this was a seminal moment for comics storytelling. Storm, the X-Men and the comics world at large would never again be the same.
Storm battles a Malice-possessed Dazzler on the cover of The Uncanny X-Men #214 (pencils by Arthur Adams, inked by Barry Windsor-Smith).
My first issue of The Uncanny X-Men was #201, but I had a school friend who loaned me all of the issues from Giant Size X-Men #1 to the comic you see above. I read all of them in one weekend and my immersion in all things mutant began. This image is a scan of the original artwork of #200′s cover and it’s awesome to see Barry Windsor-Smith’s use of whiteout or paint to create the bloody effects. Click on it to see it larger.
The complexity of this cover is astounding! BWS proves again that he is a master of depicting technology. Wolverine is so out of his depth on this cover that one can’t help feeling sorry for the guy.
From what I understand, this drawing shows us a part of an X-Men story that was not used. Psylocke gets really ticked at Wolverine only to find that he was testing her abilities. She passes Logan’s test and earns his respect. Take a look at the notes in the margins for what the characters are saying. It’s an awesome document of one artist’s creative process.
Dire Wraiths are vile disgusting creatures and I wished they had just stayed in the pages of Rom The Space Knight. Ugh.
Storm runs out on Forge after learning that he uses his mutant powers to make weapons that strip mutants of their powers and sells them to the government. Whattaguy! I remember reading this the first time and being taken aback that Storm spent the entire issue in a pair of overalls. Even as a youngster I was a fashionista.
Pay close attention to this page’s middle panel. That’s Storm walking on a glass floor over an illusion of a cityscape. Incredible. The last panel is positively kinetic with the “BLAM” composed within the blast of the explosion. BWS truly left a legacy behind with his impressive body of work on Marvel’s mutants. I encourage you, dear reader, to seek it out!
Rune (that dude above) is an original creation by Barry Windsor-Smith from when he was working at Malibu comics. You can read the entire issue of Rune #0 online. While I have always loved the design of this character (all of those stones hanging off of him look cool), I have to admit that I never really followed him because I have a hard time reading about characters who are grotesque monsters. Couple that with the fact that the only thing this guy does is feed on people to survive so he can eat more people and you have me at uninterested in his stories. I’m not saying they are without merit. I’m saying that if Rune had been the big bad for another character in a series who could actually stand up to him then I might have been more of a fan. It’s difficult for me to read stories that have complete villains as leads. I want to identify with and cheer on a heroic protagonist. I appreciate Rune for being a Barry Windsor-Smith creation and even though I might have found him too thematically depressing to follow, I have to admit he’s got an otherworldly charm about him.
Above is the cover from Machine Man #1 by Barry Windsor-Smith from the 4 issue limited series (October 1984 – January 1985). Machine Man was never that interesting a character to me until he got a major overhaul by Warren Ellis in his Nextwave series. Before that he was just another robot that somehow gained sentience. However, I never read the Barry Windsor-Smith limited series so perhaps I have missed out on something extraordinary. I do love the intricacy of these covers.
This is the cover to issue #2 of the Machine Man limited series. It is similar to the first cover, but it appears that Machine Man is slowly assembling himself into a new being. Pretty cool. I love how BWS draws all of those technology bits.
Wolverine. He’s come a long way from being some weirdo with a pinched face in aqua and yellow who attacked the Hulk for no frickin’ reason. In fact, one might say that Wolverine has become so popular that he imploded and became an infinite number of himself. Seriously, there’s a Wolverine for everybody. So many iterations, even if you don’t count the cartoons and movies. I have to say, Barry Windsor-Smith makes a strong case for why his Weapon X version of the man called Logan is the best. Just look at the above image to understand what I mean. Wow. That is one intense force of nature and I am not talking about the blizzard.
And here’s that crazy virtual reality helmet that the evil Weapon Plus program put on him. To say that I appreciate Barry Windsor-Smith’s ability to draw both organic and technological subjects would be a great understatement. I find his artistic rendering of both man-made and natural forms to be astounding.
Now I want to know among you comics fans (or those of you who have been reading the X-Men for a long time) which Wolverine *in comics* is your favorite? I am not counting cartoons or the movies or even the Ultimate Universe Wolverine (Spoilers: He’s dead anyway). I’ve created a poll and listed as many versions of Wolvie as I could remember off the top of my head. If your favorite “version” of Logan isn’t listed, then click on Other and tell me about it in the comments!
We interrupt this week’s celebration of Barry Windsor-Smith to relate this image of the upcoming cover of Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #2! It appears, that yes, the mohawk *is* back and that yes, Emma *has* undergone some, ahem, alterations. I think this iteration of the Astonishing crew is exciting, but there’s just one thing I cannot stomach and that is baseball caps on my heroes. It’s one thing to wear them off-duty when you are playing the sport, but to add them to the costume is a fashion offense I cannot abide. Super double ugh. Otherwise, I am so ready for this comic. Warren Ellis continues to write the X-Men in a consistent narrative voice and Kaare Andrews is obviously having fun with his part of the storytelling. Bring on the mutant babies!
The saga of Marvelman/Miracleman is long and sordid. It’s wrought with a tangle of creator’s rights, licensing rights and lots of wrongs. However, I’m choosing to focus on the beauty that was the artistic involvement of Barry Windsor-Smith with this character. Compare the image above of Young Marvelman with the sketch below. The design is deceptively simple, but solid in execution.
Marvelman looks amazing in this sketch from 2000. I am totally wowed by the shading.
Standing tall and looking a mite serious, Marvelman pops right out of this blue background.
The owner of this drawing of Magik (from New Mutants #45) recreated this Marvel 25th Anniversary frame of heroes as an overlay to display his artistic treasure.
This is the original artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith. Magik is one of my favorite New Mutants (followed by Doug Ramsey and Danielle Moonstar) and it is unusual yet wonderful to see the demon sorceress in a moment of serenity. I do believe there’s a glimmer of mischief lurking in those eyes as well.
Cannonball carries his love Lila Cheney on this cover to New Mutants #42 (which has always looked like a flying pieta to me–more proof of Barry Windsor-Smith bringing classical art to comics).
Help your friends and lovers find their inner superhero!