I was asked to do an editorial-type illustration visualizing “pain” in a particular way, and this is what I came up with. Stylewise, for some reason I gravitated towards wanting this to look like it was done as a poster, perhaps somewhat in the style of David Lance Goines. It remains for others to say whether or not I achieved that, but I was happy with the end result, not pained. 🙂
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!