The images you’re seeing here are details from a few illustrations that have crossed my desk this month which I had a hand in generating, in one capacity or another. These were all done for the FCA section of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego magazine, published by Twomorrows. Full images will appear on my site eventually, once I’ve been given the “all clear” to do so. Meantime, hopefully there’s enough here to whet your appetite to see more at a later date.
Perhaps some of you reading this might be familiar with the Covered Blog. If not, it’s a site where artists are challenged to take an existing, published comic book cover and reinterpret it. The results can be interesting, and I thought it might be fun to take a shot at doing one.
I chose to rework the cover of Dell Comics’ Dick Tracy Monthly #13, cover-dated January 1949 (If you’re curious to compare, you can view the original side-by-side with mine over on Covered here). But I didn’t do it in one of my usual styles. Instead, I realized that Chester Gould’s style on Dick Tracy was pretty 2D and graphic to begin with, and that it might be fun to push it just a little further into looking something like a Flash animation style.
I worked on a Flash-animated direct-to-video feature, Hydee and the Hy Tops, and enjoyed it very much. The look of Flash is fun, and I would welcome the opportunity to work on another project in that vein. I have a lot of respect for artists like Craig McCracken and Lauren Faust who do that kind of work very well. So it seemed like this would be a good opportunity to stretch some artistic muscles and try something new.
The BG portion of this cover was done using Photoshop, but the rest of it was done in Adobe Illustrator. If you’ve visited my site before, you know I’ve used Illustrator for a number of different projects. But this project required carrying out the final image in a different way from how I’d done before.
As far as why I chose to reinterpret a Dick Tracy cover in the first place, I think it might be because I’ve been following the regular Dick Tracy strip these last several months, so Tracy was in the back of my mind. The strip’s been rejuvenated by Joe Staton and Mike Curtis, and I’ve been having a blast following it. If you get the chance, give it a look!
If you’re not familiar with the character, behind the Black Cat’s mask in the comics was actress Linda Turner. She’d started out her career originally as a stuntwoman, but had successfully transitioned into becoming a lead actress. The various skills she’d picked up during her stuntwoman career enabled her to fight crimes and solve mysteries incognito as the Black Cat. The ’40s Hollywood milieu gave her stories a little different feel from other, more typically NYC-flavored superhero comics.
Several artists drew her stories, but the artist most associated with the character would have to be Lee Elias. Elias was clearly a Caniff disciple, and he did that style very well. He gave his heroine (and the strip in general) a real charm and appeal.
Obviously I didn’t bother trying to mimic Elias’ work here. For some reason, I envisioned this from the beginning as using a vector-based Adobe Illustrator approach. Yet another experiment. The beauty of this being my site, I can experiment with all kinds of approaches.
If you’re curious to see some Black Cat comics for yourself, I’m not sure where you could buy them now (without paying the usual prices for golden age comics). I picked up a set of reprints some years back now via Bud Plant (and thanks once again to my buddy Eric Wight for alerting me to those back then!). Unfortunately though, I don’t think those are in stock anymore. But, the good news is, you can view just about every issue of Black Cat online, courtesy of The Digital Comic Museum (What a great resource!).
And that’s a wrap for this one!
Finally I get to show off the last of those two items I teased back in December. I gave a further peek at it here. It’s another cover done for FCA, which appears in the back of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego magazine. This one was obviously done up to look like one of those issues of Secret Origins that DC Comics published in the early ’70s. I loved those as a kid, because back then they were one of the rare venues where you had an opportunity to see any of that golden age comic material.
I’ve talked in previous posts about how much I liked the golden age Superman and Batman. But without a doubt, my favorite golden age character would have to be Captain Marvel. When DC brought him back from publishing limbo in the early ’70s, I was already primed for it. I’d read about the “Big Red Cheese” in our local library’s copy of All in Color for a Dime, as well as in The Steranko History of Comics. Something about the visual and the idea of the character hooked me, even without ever having seen a single Captain Marvel story yet.
Not to dismiss the stories, but a huge part of the appeal of those golden age Captain Marvel comics for me is the art. As the character’s designer and main artist, C.C. Beck set the tone there. Most golden age comic book artists doing superheroes looked to the newspaper adventure strips for their inspiration. They mostly tended to fall into one of two schools: it was either the illustrative realism of Foster and Raymond, or the more impressionistic approach of Sickles and Caniff. Instead, Beck looked to the “funny” portion of the funny pages for his inspiration (like Jack Cole did with Plastic Man). The result was a strip that had a look and feel like no other. And of course, the writing played a role in making that possible too.
While the higher-ups at Fawcett may have wanted Bill Parker and C.C. Beck to just give them a knockoff of Superman, that was not what they got. They got something better. Many readers back then must have thought so too; at the peak of the character’s popularity, they were publishing Captain Marvel Adventures bi-weekly and selling 1.3 million copies of each issue!
I know sometimes modern fans have trouble with Mr. Tawky Tawny and some of the more whimsical aspects of the strip, but for me, the classic Captain Marvel material is inspirational stuff. I wish I could tell you of a relatively cheap and easy way to lay hands on that work if you haven’t seen it, but it seems harder to come by these days.
Now that it’s finished, I can show you one of the two items I teased back in December. It’s a pin-up of the old Nedor Comics hero Doc Strange, as he might have appeared on the cover of an issue of Thrilling Comics in 1965, had Nedor still been publishing at that point.
If you’re not familiar with the company, Nedor published (under several names) during the golden age. They actually had a fairly sizable group of heroes, including Doc Strange. Nedor ceased publishing comics at the end of the golden age. Since then, many people have taken a shot at doing something with their old characters. AC Comics has made use of them over the years, and so did Alan Moore and Peter Hogan more recently in the Tom Strong spinoff miniseries, Terra Obscura.
Doc was a scientist/adventurer who invented a serum he named Alosun, distilled from “sun atoms.” This serum gave him superhuman strength, flight and invulnerability when he used it.
Enough of the history lesson. So why did I do this pin-up/cover? Easy; because I was asked. The one and only Will Meugniot is currently doing a new creator-owned series (in the back of AC Comics’ FemForce) that picks up the threads of the Nedor books with the descendants of some of the characters. It’s called “Agents of N.E.D.O.R.,” and is intended as a period piece taking place in 1965. Will invited several artists to contribute pin-ups of the original Nedor characters, and I was very flattered to be asked if I’d like to do so too.
As is typical for me, instead of making things simple on myself, I had to make a whole cover out of it. Since Will’s story takes place in 1965, I thought this should be a cover for Thrilling Comics (which starred Doc) also from ’65, as if Nedor had kept on publishing all that time. I even did some math to work out the issue number. How’s that for obsessive?
Doc Strange most often went on his adventures accompanied by his young sidekick Mike (who wore an identical outfit, only with the addition of a green cape for some reason). I thought it would be more fun though to show Doc with his girlfriend, Virginia Thompson, as she would also sometimes take part in his adventures. Of course, I updated her look here for the times.
This will appear in b/w line art form in FemForce #159, since the book has b/w interiors. But for my blog here, I wanted to go full color. Because it’s how I saw this in my head from the start. I get asked to do a b/w pin-up and I envision something in color; go figure!
Thanks, Will. This was a lot of fun!
So this time out, it’s Wonder Woman. If you’ve read my previous posts on these golden age characters, I realized I kind of unconsciously set up a progression; I mentioned that I liked Superman, but later confessed I liked Batman a little more. So you might be expecting me this time out to say I liked Wonder Woman the best. But you’d be wrong.
Sorry to say, I really wasn’t all that into Wonder Woman as a kid. I appreciate the strip much more now as an adult than I did back then, for its historic significance as well as some of the aspects that are unique to it (the fantasy elements, the mythological, etc.). Perhaps the golden age art (by H.G. Peter) looked a little heavy-handed and crude to me in some ways as a kid. Looking at it now, I have more of an appreciation for it (It feels at times like a sort of cartoon version of an Albrecht Dürer engraving).
Wonder Woman is an interesting concept that seems to be a tough one for writers and artists to get a handle on. And even if they manage, it seems hard to get a handle on it such that it will engage people and get them to buy the book (Which is probably the more important point). Many approaches have been tried with varying degrees of success, and some don’t get tried at all. But Marston and Peter must’ve had a handle on something when they created her. She’s survived this long and managed to become part of our collective pop culture mental landscape, recognizable even to non-comics readers. I think that’s worth a little salute here.
A confession: this poster is a loose homage (which I acknowledged in how I signed it) to an original poster by Ludwig Hohlwein. In studying his work online, I stumbled across one poster that just seemed a natural to adapt for a Wonder Woman image. It all but cried out for it. So that is what I did!
The clock is counting down to DC Comics’ big reboot, and it’s still got me thinking back on the originals. I thought I should get at least one more post in here, before it happens. Superman was looking a little lonely.
Like I said in my previous post, I’ve always had an attraction to the early golden age versions of some of these characters, despite the occasional ruggedness in execution. There was a primal kind of energy there that perhaps got lost a little bit along the way, as the artists and writers got better at their craft, and began to formulate the rules for how you were supposed to do this sort of thing.
Last time, I copped to having an affection for the golden age Superman. But if pushed, I’d have to admit that I probably liked the golden age Batman just a little bit more. Those early strips just dripped with mood: dark shadows, misty nights with almost always an enormous full moon, and plenty of strange characters for the Batman to go up against. When I first began to encounter this stuff in those DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars as a kid, I had no problem at all understanding why kids encountering these stories for the first time on newsstands back in the golden age were attracted to it. This stuff captured your imagination.
In the same vein as the Superman poster, here’s one featuring Batman in that early 20th Century Poster Style. This time out, I did my version of a classic pose that Kane used a number of times in those early issues. A very big “Thank You” to Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, and all the rest of Kane’s “ghosts” over the years who made Batman what he was!
If you follow comics news at all, you’ve probably heard there’s this big reboot that DC Comics is doing in September. They’re starting all their books over from #1, redesigning all the characters and redoing their origins. You can’t assume now that you know anything for sure about who they are, their motivations or the overall scenario.
I’m not going to get into commentary on that here (there’s been plenty of that already in other places online). But I’ll admit the idea of the retirement of the original characters has me thinking back on them a bit wistfully. Though technically a child of comics’ silver and bronze ages, I’ve always had a fascination with the golden age era too. Despite the fact that work was often a bit crude in comparison to what came later, there was a certain life and raw energy to those early incarnations of the characters.
It’s a lot easier to lay hands on golden age comics stories now. Back when I was a kid, mostly you just got to read about them (in books like Steranko’s History of Comics, or All in Color for a Dime). If you could lay hands on one of DC’s 100-Page Super-Spectaculars though, you knew you were in for a rare treat.
Like I say, I’ve long had a soft spot for these early, primal versions of characters like Superman (the proof is at left; a scan of a fake golden age cover I did when I was about 12 or 13). And with the DC reboot coming, I thought I’d revisit the original Superman once again. The new image up top could’ve gone in several different directions, but what I wound up honing in on is a Shuster-esque version, posed more formally. It’s been taken in the direction of vintage poster art from an even earlier era. Because that seemed like a fun idea at the time.
Just my salute to the golden age in general, and the original Superman in particular. Thanks very much, Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster!
UPDATE: I recently discovered online these neat Superman pages, drawn by Stewart Immonen some years back. Done in the style of Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo,” they’re not entirely unrelated to what I’m trying to do here with this poster. I thought these were really neat, and worth sharing. It’s funny how well Superman works in a style like this!
Some may recall there was a mysterious “teaser” post I put up back before Christmas. I’d been asked to hold off on putting the full artwork for it on my site…until now. So here it is, finally: a copy of Amazing Fawcett Fantasy #15.
Never seen one before? That’s because it doesn’t exist. It was done as the cover for FCA #159, which will be appearing in the upcoming landmark 100th issue of Alter Ego. You can see it in context with the FCA logo and everything else over in my Galleries.
You’re probably saying, “Wait, you goofed up! That doesn’t look anything like Spider-man!” Ah, but it seems that before the Spider-man we’re all familiar with came to be, there were several villain “spider men” characters who cropped up in various Fawcett strips. Including the fellow on this cover here, who went up against Captain Marvel.
This assignment was several levels of fun: getting to do my best C.C. Beck impression, trying to figure out just what a Fawcett comic might have looked like had they still been publishing into the early 60’s, and working out how to use Photoshop to make it look like a real, well-read comic.
Many thanks to both P.C. Hamerlinck and Roy Thomas for inviting me to be part of this milestone issue!
I’m not sure whether I’ll manage to get my galleries up before the holidays or not, but I thought I’d at least get one more post in before the end of the year. That project I alluded to in my previous post last month? This is a teaser/portion of that illustration. Down the road at some point when I’ve been given clearance, I’ll post the full image. This was a fun one to do, as I got to try out some things in Photoshop I’d never done before.
And in case I don’t wind up posting anything else before then: hope you all have a good holiday season, wherever you go, whatever you do.