Friday, December 23, 2005

I'll be old-school for Christmas

Today's Comic Art Friday is sponsored by America's retailers, who remind you that the stores are still open and eager to clean those final few Christmas simoleons out of your wallet.

I was the guy they had in mind when they coined the term "old-school."
  • When it comes to music, I'm old-school — I sing in a barbershop quartet, for crying out loud; music doesn't get more old-school than that. The only music station I ever turn on in my car is one that plays the "classic rock" of the '60s, '70s, and early '80s.

  • When it comes to movies, I'm old-school. I believe Citizen Kane remains the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. Double Indemnity and Casablanca are two of my ten favorite films of all time. I'd still rather spend two hours reliving The Maltese Falcon or North By Northwest than enduring ninety percent of today's Hollywood product.

  • When it comes to comics, I'm old-school. I like my heroes and heroines heroic, not antiheroic. I want to be able to tell the protagonists from the antagonists most of the time. I prefer to see heroes who look for reasons not to kill the villains, rather than excuses for cold-blooded murder.
Since the holidays are supposed to provide a season of joy and harmony, a time for reflection on the past and hope for the future, on this pre-Yuletide Comic Art Friday we're going to revel in some old-school art that reminds me of the way comics used to be, back in the day — when the good guys were truly good, or at least were trying to be, and when the bad guys merely wanted to rule the world, not sodomize the hero's teenage sidekick or rape and murder his wife.

If there's one creator in the comic world today whose stylistic vision epitomizes old-school, that creator is Steve Rude. "The Dude," as the Brobdingnagian artist is known to his fans, has perfected a simple yet muscular visual approach that recalls such giants of the Silver Age as Jack Kirby (cocreator of such icons as Captain America, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four) and Steve Ditko (cocreator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange). In fact, if a contemporary filmmaker wanted to make a biopic about Kirby, and needed an artist to create new illustrations modeled after Kirby's distinctive style, Rude would get the first call.

Although he has worked on a variety of projects for the major comics publishers, Rude is most closely associated with Nexus, a spacegoing superhero series he cocreated with writer Mike Baron, and which has been published intermittently by various comics companies since the early 1980s. Nexus owes at least a modicum of debt to Saturday morning television's Space Ghost, the Alex Toth-designed character of whom Rude is an avowed fan.

Faced with a rare opportunity to obtain a commissioned piece from Rude, I went as old-school as one could get: I asked him to draw that paragon of goodness and virtue, Mary Marvel. And did the Dude ever deliver! His motif of mighty Mary dodging a fusillade of retro-styled missiles is the stuff of pure genius.

Beginning in the late '70s and throughout the '80s, Ron Wilson emerged as one of Marvel Comics' most dependable "go-to" artists. Ron penciled covers for The Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Power Man, among numerous other titles, and was the primary interior illustrator on Marvel Two-In-One, featuring the adventures of the ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing and a parade of guest stars.

When I was approached recently with the chance to work with Ron on one of his first-ever commission assignments, I knew immediately which of my Common Elements concepts I wanted him to draw. Borrowing inspiration from a pair of his classic '80s Daredevil covers, I asked Ron to team The Man Without Fear with comics' original blind hero, Doctor Mid-Nite.

Showing that he hasn't lost a step from his heyday as a Marvel cover creator, Ron delivered this stunning scenario featuring the two sightless supermen, plus the good Doctor's owl companion, Hooty. Although he has been pursuing other career opportunities for the past decade or so, Ron has clearly kept his drawing reflexes razor-sharp.

See? Doesn't that feel good? Old-school comic art. Nothing grim, dark, or psychosexual. No bizarrely exaggerated anatomy or needless gore. Just talented artists depicting good guys and good girls in spandex costumes, defending truth, justice, and the superhero way.

Lord knows, we could use a lot more of that these days.

Labels: ,

3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Sam offered these pearls of wisdom...

I have a challenge for you for barbershop. Do "My Radio Sounds Good To Me" by Graham Central Station. Great accapella and it's really "Old School".

Merry Christmas, S.S.!

4:39 PM  
Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

Merry Christmas!

9:04 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Merry Christmas, Sam and Janet! Be sure to read the Christmas Eve post...

9:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home