Friday, August 26, 2005

Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew

It's the end of the work week, and you know what that means: It's clobberin' time! Umm... I mean... it's Comic Art Friday.

I still haven't found the time to hit my local multiplex to see the Fantastic Four movie on the big screen. But I will. The Fantastic Four occupy a special place in my personal history as a comics aficionado — the first superhero comic I ever read was the landmark Fantastic Four Annual #3, in which Reed Richards (the self-styled Mister Fantastic) and Susan Storm (still the Invisible Girl in those pre-feminist 1960s) tied the knot, with practically every other character in the Marvel Universe in attendance.

My favorite member of the FF has always been the Thing, né Benjamin J. Grimm. Ever-lovin' blue-eyed Benjy, as he often refers to himself, can be accurately described as the flipside of the Hulk — he may be a horrific monster on the outside, but he's still a sweet-tempered, lovable galoot underneath the rock-like orange hide. Ben suffers from the fact that, unlike his teammates, his awesome powers transformed his appearance irrevocably — despite Richards' periodic attempts to change him back into his normal human form. In an essential way, Ben personifies the approach to superheroism that rocketed Marvel to the forefront of the comics industry in the early '60s — despite his incredible strength (he can lift 85 tons), he can't go out in public without drawing stares and gasps. With great power comes great responsibility, and even greater personal problems.

The power-packed pinup below pits our clobberin' hero against Sabra, the first (and only, so far as I'm aware) superheroine from Israel.

The concept for this scenario springs from the fact that, a couple of years ago, Ben Grimm publicly revealed his Jewish heritage in a now-classic issue of Fantastic Four. Given the number of Jewish artists and writers who contributed to the rise of the American comic book industry (including the creators of the FF, writer-editor Stan Lee, born Stanley Lieber, and artist Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg), it's a little surprising that there aren't more Jewish heroes and heroines in comics. Among the relative handful of prominent characters of Jewish background are Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, the X-Men's chief adversary Magneto (at least in the popular film adaptations — officially, Marvel Comics can't decide whether Magneto is Jewish or Gypsy by birth), and Colossal Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Thing and Sabra clash here courtesy of veteran comics artist Rich Buckler, who spent a lengthy run as the illustrator of the FF's adventures, in addition to working on practically every other comic book published in the 1970s.

For a more modernistic take on Big Ben and his teammate the Human Torch (aka Johnny Storm), here's a stellar pencil portrait drawn by Hannibal King.

So that's another Comic Art Friday. Go clobber something. Preferably the Yancy Street Gang.

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Michael, I don't remember if you posted it or not, but did you the see the FF movie? If so, what was your opinion?

11:07 PM  

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