Friday, November 25, 2005

Common Elements

Today's Comic Art Friday is sponsored by Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce. As my pal Damon says, there's nothing quite like cranberry sauce shaped like a can. It tastes mighty yummy with those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Speaking of tasty... let's take a look at some art.

As Comic Art Friday fanatics (and you know who you are) know, the signature gallery of my comic art collection is a series of themed, commissioned works that I call "Common Elements." For the benefit of newcomers: Common Elements art features two superheroes who are not otherwise related — in other words, they don't typically appear together in comic books, though in some cases their paths may have crossed at one time or another — but who share some factor in common. Sometimes the connection is obvious — a similarity in name or superpowers. Sometimes, the Common Element is as obscure as my twisted imagination can conceive.

As an example of the former: Here's a piece I've entitled "A Moon... A Girl... A Knight." The players are the Golden Age heroine Moon Girl, and Marvel Comics' man of mystery, Moon Knight. Artist James E. Lyle composed this piece in a delightfully classic style.

I'm certain you made the connection between these two immediately. Both characters share the "Moon" theme in their names and costuming. Aside from that, there isn't any tie between them of which I'm aware.

Moon Girl is actually a rather interesting character, if only because her existence occasioned one of the most awkwardly titled comic books in the history of the medium. Introduced in 1947 by EC Comics — the publisher whose graphic horror comics would raise a furor in the 1950s — Moon Girl (who bore some remarkable, but short of copyright infringement lawsuit-worthy, resemblances to DC Comics' Wonder Woman) first appeared as a backup feature in such EC humor magazines as The Happy Houlihans and Animal Fables. She quickly graduated to her own book, initially entitled Moon Girl and the Prince. The Prince being less of a potential draw, he faded quickly into the background, and the book's title changed simply to Moon Girl with the second issue. Five issues later, the title became Moon Girl Fights Crime, the additional words no doubt inspiring a hearty "Well, duh!" from the handful of readers who were buying the failing magazine by that point. At last, the book transmogrified into the unwieldy A Moon... A Girl... Romance with issue #9. After one final Moon Girl story, the book dumped the superhero theme altogether, and became entirely devoted to teen romance soap opera. By issue #12, it was canceled.

Why, you may wonder, would EC Comics go to such bizarre lengths to preserve some form of a title that obviously wasn't selling in the first place? I'm glad you asked. Back in the day, the U.S. Post Office charged magazine publishers an initial setup fee for each new periodical they mailed out. (They may still — I'm not certain.) For this reason, when companies wanted to cancel a magazine and start a new one, they often tried to avoid the new title fee by making the new publication merely a continuation of one being eliminated. Marvel Comics pulled this stunt frequently in the 1960s, as they phased out their science fiction and "giant monster" series in favor of superheroes. Journey Into Mystery, for example, became The Mighty Thor simply by continuing the numbering system of the previous title after Thor had been the headline feature for some time.

All right, so the Common Elements theme of our first spotlight artwork was rather transparent. Now try your powers of deduction on this one, drawn by Silver Age veteran artist Ernie Chan.

The characters here are Hawkeye, Marvel's version of the archetypical archer hero, and Lady Rawhide, the female counterpart to Zorro cocreated by one of my favorite comic book scripters, Don McGregor.

What's the common element? And no, it isn't that they both use archaic hand weapons, though that actually works also. (Hint: It will help if you know the name Hawkeye goes by when he isn't running around in purple and blue tights.)

Got it?

Give yourself a pat on the back if you figured out that the unifying theme between these two heroes is the name "Clint." Hawkeye's real name is Clint Barton. A certain ruggedly handsome actor named Clint Eastwood first came to national prominence on a television Western called Rawhide.

Oh, stop groaning. You're just mad because you didn't think of it first.

That's your Comic Art Friday. Now, back to the turkey soup.

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Finished NaNoWriMo.


8:31 PM  

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