The art of Marc Silvestri was a huge influence on me as a young man. I fell in love with his leggy supermodel heroines and glamour infused narrative style. His mohawk Storm, tanned Dazzler and corrupt Madelyne Pryor are forever burned into my brain. He has a way of making everyone, men and women, so pretty. So, it’s a bit strange that I haven’t had a spotlight on him since this post in 2008! Let’s rectify that omission by looking at a lot of original artwork! Above, we see the X-Women take some time to relax in a tropical paradise. From left to right, Storm, Jean Grey, Rogue, Psylocke, Rachel (above), Meggan, Kitty Pryde and Lockheed. That’s a bevy of bathing beauties!
Today we continue our exploration of the X-Men artwork of legendary artist Paul Smith! This post contains 15 scans of original covers and interior pages ranging from Uncanny X-Men #166 (above) to #175. Smith’s X-Men run started on #165 and lasted until #175 (except for #171). These issues are collected in Essential X-Men, Volume 4. I highly recommend Smith’s X-Men/Alpha Flight mini-series (written by Chris Claremont) and the Kitty Pryde: Shadow and Flame limited series (written by Akira Yoshida). Also consider checking out The Golden Age and Leave It to Chance (both written by James Robinson).
Colossus is the main focus in the dynamic composition above as the X-Men (with Shi’ar Empress Lilandra Neramani) battle the Brood on their homeworld. In the upper left corner, the X-Men come crashing out of the character box and onto the title. I miss those little touches on comics these days.
This cover of Uncanny X-Men #169 is missing the title overlay, and one can see the brush strokes of the black areas. A wonderfully dramatic image, full of pathos. Maybe I say that in part because Angel is my second favorite X-Men member. Still, this is a great composition with a sense of immediate danger. Are the X-Men too late to save Angel?
In the same issue, on page 7, the X-Men attempt to stop Callisto (leader of an underground group of mutants known as the Morlocks) from making Angel into her boy toy. The bottom panel is especially awesome as Nightcrawler frees Colossus to do what he does best–turn to organic steel and smash stuff!
The X-Men return to the X-Mansion and attack the New Mutants on pages 2 and 3 of Uncanny X-Men #172. Everything has a concrete feel in this double page splash. From the soda pop can to the chunks of wall flying across the room, everything looks quite realistic. Smith grounds the fantastic strangeness of Nightcrawler teleporting within the mundane environment of the living room (even as it gets destroyed). Smith makes the X-Men’s costumes work while also depicting the regular clothes of the younger students. There is a strong sense of draftsmanship within the context of the surreal.
On page 24 of Uncanny X-Men #172, the effect of Storm’s increasingly uncontrollable powers come to a head as she absorbs lightning bolts back into herself, creating a kind of disastrous short circuit. Luckily, she is with the thief Yukio who saves her from drowning.
Page 26 of Uncanny X-Men #172 has Storm explaining how she is out of harmony with the world and therefore with her powers. She tells Yukio, “I envy your madness. It is a luxury denied me ever since my powers first appeared.” She has been losing her inner peace within. To make matters more complicated, the fiery bird effect confuses Storm and makes her wonder if the Phoenix has returned.
Page 5 of Uncanny X-Men #173 sees Yukio and Storm having to fight street thugs. Storm starts to throw caution to the wind and embrace her new wilder side thanks to Yukio’s influence. The effects of these moments would have long lasting repercussions for Storm’s character.
Page 22 of Uncanny X-Men #174 speaks for itself. But has the Pheonix truly returned or is something more sinister at work? I’m not going to spoil the storyline, but I will comment on how I love the way Phoenix’s curly hair mirrors the wispy spirals of the energy she wields. All of those bright action lines surrounding her bring to mind the light around a saint on a votive candle. She is maleficent but also divine ( Check out the cute Lockheed drawing at the bottom next to Paul Smith’s signature).
Everyone is battling Phoenix on this cover to Uncanny X-Men #175, but no one is making any difference in the final outcome. This cover is one of my favorites of Smith’s run because it is so full of elemental destruction. The ground is erupting, the skies are on fire and the X-Men are forced to run around pell-mell, trying to win a struggle in which they are simply outclassed.
The whole team is accounted for on page 5 of Uncanny X-Men #175 as Professor X attempts to locate the Phoenix via Cerebro, his mutant detecting computer. What happens next is not beneficent for the good Professor.
The X-Men fight Phoenix but fall quickly to her might on page 9 of Uncanny X-Men #175. This page sees Phoenix reflecting Storm’s powers back upon her and then she telekinetically crumples Colossus into a ball. Love the look on her face in panel four.
Cyclops (who appears to the X-Men as Phoenix) fights for his life against his team on page 21 of Uncanny X-Men #175. Storm takes the apparent threat seriously and Nightcrawler takes a chance using the Danger Room’s holographic systems.
On the next page (22), Cyclops systematically takes out Kitty and Kurt as he fights for his life against his teammates. Gaining control of the Danger Room shifts the odds in his favor. Once again, Wolverine and Colossus find themselves falling from the sky.
The following page (23) ends with Cyclops still trying to find a way to dispel the illusion his teammates are under. I love these two top panels with Rogue and Storm carrying Colossus and Wolverine. They show the women using their powers with such grace and power. Also, the men look solid and imposing even when being whisked aloft. Paul Smith’s storytelling is so successful to me because his art always has a sense of place, his characterization is consistent and his panels show great design sense. His linework is strong and uncluttered and he excels in depicting the mundane and the magical, creating a unique synergy of the two. His X-Men run will always remain a source of inspiration to artists across space and time.
Paul Smith is a god. There, I said it. Seriously, his lines are clean, his characters solid and his style has a fluidity perhaps only seen in Cliff Chiang today. Smith’s Uncanny X-Men run illustrated some great Chris Claremont stories and is fondly remembered by fans and critics alike. Today we take a look at some of his classic images of Marvel’s mutants.
Above, the whole gang is comin’ atcha with Wolverine (naturally) leading the charge. Smith left his mark on some of these characters, especially the female X-Men. Smith had the challenge of softening Rogue’s look while still maintaining her rough edges (she was in transition between bad girl to hero), while conversely he had to harden Storm while still retaining her feminine mystique (who was leaving some of her earth mother behind to become a better leader). Also, Kitty was growing up a bit as an X-Man and Smith designed costumes for her that spoke to her spunky spitfire personality as well as her playful sensibility. And Lockheed the dragon, well, no one draws him better than Paul Smith (although Art Adams comes close).
That’s not to say that Smith didn’t lend his amazing talents to the male characters of the team as well as well. Smith’s Colossus was quite the gentle giant, Wolverine looked like a scrapper with the outfits to match, and one could actually believe that Cyclops was once nicknamed “Slim” due to the narrow athletic build Smith gave him. The above sketch to a lucky Leo conveys the individuality of each X-Men member to which I am referring. Facial shapes and structures are unique to each character (not just hair and costumes). No one even has the same eyebrows! I love this image because it reminds me of the family dynamic the X-Men once had. Paul Smith took the Cockrum and Byrne illustration styles and made them his own.
I believe this above image was a commission for a fan and if so, what a great piece to have in one’s collection! Just as Paul Smith made the X-Men his own, his work on Doctor Strange is classic! In this image, Colossus asks Doctor Strange for assistance in finding his little sister, the New Mutant Magik!
A sweet sketch of lovebirds Kitty and Piotr. I love this costume for Kitty, probably because the V’s look nice with her curves and I have always loved billowy sleeves on her. I think they give her phasing abilities a pleasing visual.
This X-Men Unlimited cover told the story of Kitty coping with the death of Colossus (don’t worry, he got better). Who better than Paul Smith to provide the cover? His run on the X-Men depicted the struggles of their once new relationship and Kitty’s challenges at becoming an X-Man despite the naivete of her youth.
Ah, the infamous mohawk! This look still polarizes fans of Storm and although it too, passed into obscurity for quite some time. Recent art from Kaare Andrews’ Astonishing X-Men has depicted Storm rockin’ the ‘hawk once again. However, no where else in Storm’s appearances does she have the ‘hawk, so it remains to be seen if this is in continuity or whether Marvel simply is ignoring it altogether.
I chose to include this image because I love how Smith drew Storm in reverse mode. Storm is technically bodiless in this part of the story and is learning the story of the outer space dwelling Acanti, so drawing her in a more ethereal mode certainly works here.
Storm feels a bit shut out of Kitty’s life in this page from Uncanny X-Men #167. The Kitty/Ororo dynamic would eventually change even more as their daughter/mother relationship shifted as both women transformed into warrior versions of themselves. Check out panel two with Sikorsky speaking like Yoda and Moira MacTaggert calmly informing the X-Men that they are going to transplant Xavier’s mind into a cloned body of himself. Too bad they didn’t do the same for her when she contracted the Legacy Virus (a disease that was only supposed to plague mutants and Moria is a human). *shakes head*
Smith covers Uncanny X-Men years later, featuring Storm with Rachel Grey/Summers (Marvel Girl/Phoenix) and Tessa/Sage.
A sketch of Rogue and Storm (who appears to be wearing an amalgam of a few different versions of her costumes).
Next week, Storm Sunday will look at more Paul Smith X-Men goodness!
An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel
Welcome to White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. Today I would like to spotlight this ebullient X-Babies commission drawn by Juvaun “JJ” Kirby featuring Emma Frost and lots of other mutants besides.
Even as a cute little moppet, Emma still has attitude to spare. I love her self-satisfied smirk.
Everything about this amazing commission is just adorable. From the wind-up Nimrod toy to Nightcrawler perched atop Colossus’s shoulder to pouty emo Rogue, even those disgusting space roaches the Brood manage to look downright cuddly!
Here is a comparison between the original black and white linework and finished color art.
Juvaun “JJ” Kirby is actually one of my very favorite artists, although he hasn’t drawn an awful lot of comics. He drew a couple of X-Babies one-shots for Marvel called Murderama and X-Babies Reborn, along with some Backlash and DV8 back in the 90s and more recently the New Dynamix miniseries for Wildstorm. His artwork is incredibly dynamic and expressive and I hope to see him draw more comics someday!
Thank you for joining me for this fun little lighthearted edition of White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. I will be back next week with more to discuss.