Friday, June 24, 2005

A Stormwatch is brewing

Today's Comic Art Friday comes to you courtesy of the Weather Girls, who just dropped by to say, "Hallelujah, it's raining men."

Speaking of Weather Girls, here's an amazing tableau featuring everyone's favorite weather-wielding mutant Storm, best known as a member of the X-Men. Storm's comrade in this potent pinup is none other than Beta Ray Bill, the noble alien who stood in for Thor briefly during Walt Simonson's legendary run as creator of the Son of Odin's adventures.

As one of the relatively few comics heroines of African American heritage, Storm has always held a unique place in the superhero pantheon. Introduced by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum as a member of the "All-New! All-Different!" X-Men in the early 1970s, Storm (real name: Ororo Munroe) was originally supposed to be from Kenya (that noted hotbed of comics fandom), until later when it was revealed that she was in fact American-born, a native of New York City. She grew up as a sort of distaff Artful Dodger on the mean Egyptian streets of Cairo until her mutant powers kicked in during her adolescence. For a time, Ororo was worshiped as a goddess by certain African peoples, then returned to the U.S. to manifest her destiny as a linchpin in Professor Charles Xavier's personal mutant army.

Like many superheroines in comics, Storm has changed her crimefighting outfit more frequently than Donald Trump changes apprentices. I asked veteran artist Ernie Chan to draw her in her original Dave Cockrum-designed costume, still a classic look. (Mr. Chan, by the way, completed this incredibly detailed artwork in a single day — it was done before I even had an opportunity to pay him for it. In fact, I didn't even know he had accepted the commission assignment before a digital photo of the finished art landed in my inbox.)

Filmgoers will, of course, think of Storm in the person of Halle Berry, who portrayed the character in the first two X-Men films. (No word yet on whether the Oscar-winning actress will return for the upcoming third installment, which has already gone through more directors than Storm has gone through uniforms.) A mixed review, that — Halle was saddled with a horrendous white wig and an embarrassingly hit-and-miss quasi-African accent in the first movie, then graduated to better hair, her own natural speech pattern, and a stronger overall performance in X2.

As for Beta Ray Bill, the equine Asgardian and his mystical hammer Stormbreaker were recently featured in an intriguing Marvel Comics miniseries written by Michael Avon Oeming and Daniel Berman, with art by Andrea Di Vito.

To quote from "Dun Ringill," a tasty number from Jethro Tull's 1979 album Stormwatch:
We'll wait in stone circles
'Til the force comes through
Lines join in faint discord
And the Stormwatch brews
A concert of kings
As the white sea snaps
At the heels of a soft prayer

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