Friday, December 30, 2005

Comic Art Friday: The best of 2005

Today's final Comic Art Friday of 2005 is dedicated to the king of New Year's Eve, Dick Clark. Hope to see you rockin' when the big ball drops in Times Square, Dickie baby. I know Ryan Seacrest, and he's no Dick Clark.

Choosing my favorite pieces from among all of the comic art I acquired in 2005 was incalculably more diffcult than I had anticipated. So many wonderful pieces of art found their way into my collection this year, and each artwork is special to me in its own way. Trying to elevate a few above all the others is akin to a father deciding which is his favorite child. (Okay, for me, that one's easy, because I only have one child. But I never let the biological facts get in the way of a good cliché.)

After hours of wrestling with this conundrum throughout the past week, I decided to hang the selection on two pivotal criteria. First, each of the artworks on this list thunderstruck me from the very first glance, whether when the artist e-mailed me a scan of the finished work, or when the package arrived in the mail, or -- in the case of the pieces that came to me preexistent -- when I first saw the piece offered for sale. These were the pieces that made me gasp, say "Whoa," or just grin like a hyena.

Second, each of these pieces still makes a powerful emotional, as well as visual, impact on me as I view it today.

One caveat I feel compelled to add. A wealth of lovely pieces narrowly missed the cut, many of which might well have been included if I'd written this post on a different day, when I was in a different frame of mind. So if you drew something really incredible for me this year, and you don't see it here, please rest assured that I still love both it and you. But I had to quit someplace.

Also, to ensure variety, in cases where I could choose multiple pieces featuring the same character, I forced myself to pick only one. That sucks for the artists looking for display time, but keeps you readers from looking at, say, five Mary Marvel drawings in a row. (Yes, I had that many Mary Marvels in contention. So thank your lucky stars.)

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroes Division (Pencils):
"War and Peace" (War Machine and Peacemaker), by Jean-Paul Mavinga

Jean-Paul showed me three preliminary scans of this artwork while it was in progress, and each time I saw what he had added to it, my jaw smacked onto my chest. Not only is Mavinga's pencil technique flawless, his sense of dynamism and perspective is a wonder to behold. You won't see a scene this awe-inspiring on any comic book cover published by the majors this month. I guarantee it.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroes Division (Inks):
"Jetpack Jockeys" (The Rocketeer and Adam Strange), by Michael L. Peters

This piece hangs on the wall of my living room, and you can see why. Peters' eye for detail simply dazzles here, and his charmingly old-fashioned aesthetic perfectly suits these two classic heroes.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Heroines Division:
"Danvers Dolls" (Ms. Marvel and Supergirl), by Christopher Rich-McKelvey

Yes, Bruce England, the ladies look as though they applied their eyeliner with a garden trowel. But Rich-McKelvey's economy and fluidity of line, vividly reminiscent of superstar cover artist Adam Hughes, knocks me flat every time I look at them.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Co-Ed Division (Pencils):
"Fellowship of the Rings" (Golden Age Green Lantern and Saturn Girl), by Anthony Carpenter

Of all the artworks you're looking at today, this is the one I most desperately wish I could show you in person. Carpenter's amazing shading technique gives this piece an almost painterly, three-dimensional quality, even though it's all done with graphite pencil. Impeccably detailed, this one adorns my office wall for good reason.

Favorite Common Elements Commission, Co-Ed Division (Inks):
"Stormbreakers" (Storm and Beta Ray Bill), by Ernie Chan

This piece would astonish me even if I didn't know the amazing Chan had created it in a single day. But he did. Talk about exceeding expectations — this one did it in every possible way.

Favorite Wonder Woman Pinup:
Peter Krause

I didn't commission this artwork, but I couldn't be more pleased to own it if I had. Peter Krause drew this a decade or so ago for his good friend, former DC Comics colorist Buzz Setzer, who today represents art sales for artist Darryl Banks. I fell in love with this image the moment I saw it. Robert Browning could well have composed "My Last Duchess" while staring at this evocative portrait of a superheroine on her day off.

Favorite Black Panther Pinup:
Darryl Banks

Speaking of Darryl Banks... the co-creator of the newest Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, turned in this sharp action shot of the King of Wakanda. You can almost feel the vibranium throbbing when you look at this one.

Favorite Mary Marvel Pinup:
Cully Hamner

As noted above, I could have chosen any one of five Mary Marvel commissions for this spot, but Cully Hamner's dramatic white-on-black tableau just nails Mary's unique combination of pure innocence and thunderous power.

Favorite Ms. Marvel Pinup:
Michael McDaniel

This woman... this warrior... this gorgeous drawing by Michael McDaniel. A stellar artist masquerading as a mild-mannered loss prevention executive with a major retail chain, McDaniel delivers the goods with this bold pinup.

Favorite Scarlet Witch Pinup:
Michelangelo Almeida (pencils) and Bob Almond (inks)

Michelangelo's original pencil drawing was phenomenal. (So phenomenal, in fact, that another collector was displaying a scan of it in his gallery at Comic Art Fans as though he owned it.) Then, like a certain Louisiana-based chef of television fame, inker Bob Almond kicked it up about six notches. Bob was a true professional in working with me on this commission, implementing some specific requests I made, then going above and beyond, exercising his own powerful creative muscles.

Favorite Supergirl Pinup:
Al Rio (pencils) and Bob Almond (inks)

Okay, so old What's-his-Kryptonian-face is in there too — the Maid of Steel is the front-and-center star here. This piece fairly screams with emotion. Al Rio drew the pencil original as a preliminary concept for an artwork he was creating to sell, with the proceeds to be donated to tsunami victim relief. Bob Almond took Rio's rough sketch and ran to the moon with it. If you want to know why I dig Supergirl, here's one perfect example of why.

Favorite Solo Hero Pinup:
Doctor Mid-Nite, by James E. Lyle

Favorite Solo Heroine Pinup:
Black Canary, by James E. Lyle

A criminally underused talent, James E. Lyle's skill stunned me from the instant I first saw these two fantastic artworks. Both of these pieces show his ability to use black to add texture and drama. Most significantly, both characters look, not like idealized representations of mythic figures, but rather like real, honest-to-goodness human beings. Amazing work.

Favorite Co-ed Pinup:
Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson-Parker, by Bob McLeod

Bob McLeod and I talked about his doing a Spidey and MJ commission for me long before he found time in his schedule to take on the project. This swingin' valentine to one of comics' longest-enduring loves was well worth the wait.

Favorite Inking Makeover:
Daredevil, inks by Bob Almond over pencils by Michelangelo Almeida

If you ever wanted a crash course in the power of inking, here it is. Michelangelo's pencil original featured a dynamic pose, but a deadly dull, horribly clichéd backdrop. (If I never see another superhero pinup with a crater-pockmarked full moon in the background, I'll be a happy dude.) Bob Almond preserved and enhanced what worked in this picture, and replaced the rest with a wicked cool concept of his own — a star-flecked night sky over a spatter-splashed skyline, incorporating such Marvel landmarks as the Baxter Building and the Kingpin's tower penthouse, plus long-time Daredevil adversary Stilt-Man. Two words: Suh. Weet.

Now, I know what you Comic Art Friday regulars are thinking: Where's all the Geof Isherwood art? Hasn't Isherwood delivered stupendous works time after time, all throughout 2005? How can he not have landed several pieces on the retrospective celebration list? And what about... Naomi?

For the answer to these and other equally mind-bending questions, you're all invited back here tomorrow.

We've prepared a first-ever, special edition Comic Art Saturday — specifically devoted to the contributions of SSTOL's Outstanding Artist of the Year, Geof Isherwood. What better way to ring out the old year and ring in the new, than with a scintillating display of Isherwood art?

See you in 24.

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