Friday, June 17, 2005

Clash of the Titans

Today's Comic Art Friday is brought to you by Saturn, makers of fine American automobiles. If you're in the market, you might consider picking one up.

Readers of superhero comics are familiar with the concept of a "universe," the setting in which the stories in the comics take place. It's an accepted convention that comic book universes are more or less parallel to our own "real" one; that comic adventures occur in a place that is in many respects similar to our reality, but different in others (the existence of superpowered beings, for instance). In the universe inhabited by Marvel Comics characters, many of the places are familiar to us — most Marvel superheroes live in a New York City that's like the one we know. DC Comics characters occupy localities that have no direct correspondents in our world — Metropolis, Gotham City, Central City, and so on.

Occasionally, comic book universes have to deal with common locations, and each company's artists and writers end up treating those locations differently. Both Marvel and DC envision a civilization on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. But the Titan of DC Comics is not the same place as the Titan of Marvel. Which this beautifully delineated artwork by the talented Steve Mannion illustrates.

On the left, we have Thanos, one of the deadliest supervillains in the Marvel universe. On the right is Imra Ardeen, better known as Saturn Girl, one of the original members of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. Within their respective realities, each hails from Titan. In this tableau, we see the striking contrast between the Marvel Titan and the DC Titan.
  • Thanos is bad. Saturn Girl is good.
  • Thanos wants to conquer the universe. Saturn Girl wants to save it from evildoers.
  • Thanos is mighty and powerful. Saturn Girl is mighty cute.
  • Thanos likes to crush people's skulls. Saturn Girl likes to read people's minds.
  • Thanos looks like Shrek on a really, really bad day. Saturn Girl looks like Heather Graham.
If you ever wanted to understand the essential distinction between the DC and Marvel universes during the Silver and Bronze Ages of the 1960s and '70s, this picture tells all.

By the way, this is one of those artworks for which a scan simply does not supply adequate justice. Steve Mannion's subtle shading technique is gorgeous when seen up close. I'm not certain how he achieves the effect, but it's amazing.

That's your Comic Art Friday. Now go get your dad something cool for Father's Day.

2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Tom C. offered these pearls of wisdom...

I'd like to point out that while I see what you're going for, I find it flawed. I don't know if Saturn Girl is a good representation of her people or not, but Thanos is NOT. Thanos has the Deviant Gene which is what makes him look like that. It is the fact that he's not "mighty cute" that he fell in love with Death and turned to "evil" (which is in quotes due to stories far long after the silver age to which you're referring).

The rest of Titan, Thanos's own family included, are very much like the "New Gods" of New Genesis in DC. In fact, Thanos's own father is much like High Father, and his brother like Orion.

In short, I'd hardly call Thanos representative of Marvel's version of Titan; he's very much the exception, not the rule.

6:06 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Tom C.: You, my friend, are taking this far too seriously. :)

7:24 PM  

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