Friday, April 21, 2006

A Flash of Crystal

Today's Comic Art Friday is brought to you by five things about comics that made me happy this week.
  1. Seeing Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, on page one of Justice #5. Ralph reminds me of the days when superheroes didn't have to be cranky and vicious. May his tribe increase.
  2. Mike Deodato Jr.'s spectacular art in New Avengers #18. Back when Deodato was just another guy imitating Jim Lee, I wasn't a big fan of his work. Now that he has evolved into his own clear, dramatic style, I'll read almost anything he draws. And I really like Joe Pimentel's inking over Deodato's pencils.
  3. Kurt Busiek's gorgeously lyrical scripting, on display yet again in Conan #27. I am really going to miss Busiek when he leaves the book in a couple of months, to be replaced by Timothy Truman (who drew this most recent issue). Every time I read a Busiek Conan adaptation, it's like rediscovering Robert E. Howard, to whose work I was addicted in the early '70s.
  4. Having Ms. Marvel back in her own title. I just wish the rest of the book lived up to the promise of the amazing Frank Cho covers. And I wish Carol would switch back to her original red and blue fighting togs — I've never warmed to the dark blue bodysuit with the lightning bolt down the front.
  5. My local comic book shop. Every time I walk into the Comic Book Box, owner Kathy and her faithful lieutenants Ted and R.J. make me feel right at home. The racks are always perfectly (if somewhat idiosyncratically) organized, and on those occasions when I struggle to locate something, Kathy and crew are ready to assist. They also make sure that, if a title I read sells out before I arrive, it's restocked quickly. Kathy, Ted, and R.J. genuinely enjoy chatting about comics with the people who shop in the store — I learn a lot about the latest doings in various storylines just by eavesdropping. Every comic book reader should have as pleasant a place in which to spend his or her cash.
But you came here to see some art, didn't you? All righty then. Let's crack into the archives and find a couple of classic commissions from my "Common Elements" gallery. Here's a snazzy juxtaposition by industry veteran Christopher Ivy.

That's the Flash on the left, and behind him (because everyone's always behind the Flash), the Crimson Avenger. They're paired here because of the color red, which the Flash mostly wears, and which the Crimson Avenger is named for, even though his costume contained very little actual crimson for most of his lengthy career. (I suspect that the Crimson Avenger served as the inspiration for the character Blue Raja in Mystery Men — a hero who, despite his name, doesn't wear much blue.)

The Flash was one of my favorite DC Comics characters when I was younger. I enjoyed his adventures even though he duked it out with some of the silliest supervillains in comics history — losers like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, and Gorilla Grodd. (You had to be alliterative to fight the Flash back in the day.) Most of these bad guys became so thoroughly identified as Flash villains that they came to be known as his "rogues' gallery," and he battled them over and over again.

I was delighted when, in the fall of 1990, the Flash starred in his own live-action, prime-time TV series. The TV Flash wore the name of Barry Allen, the Flash of my youth, but had powers more consistent with those of Wally West, who's been the Flash since Barry died in 1985. At the time, the show was the most expensive hour of television produced weekly, due mostly to the special effects (pretty decent for their time) used to show the Flash in action. Most of the scripts were reasonably well-written (longtime comics creator Howard Chaykin was the show's lead scripter) and remained true to the tone of the comics. The whole series was recently released on DVD — if you were thinking about buying me a present anytime soon, that Flash box set would be a worthy choice.

Another Common Elements duo: Kole, who spent a brief time as a member of the Teen Titans in the early '80s, and Crystal, who at various times has been a member of three Marvel Comics superteams — the Inhumans, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers, with whom she was soldiering when she wore the costume depicted here by artist Michael McDaniel.

Like the aforementioned Barry Allen Flash, Kole was among the characters DC Comics killed off during 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths. Unlike many of the Crisis victims, Kole has pretty much stayed dead — a duplicate Kole popped up briefly in a Titans story a few years ago, but that's been it. Too bad — she's a beautifully designed character who had a good deal of potential. But nothing's forever in comics.

Crystal, on the other hand, never disappears for long, even though she's never been a real mainstay in the Marvel lineup. She's one of those heroes best suited to plying her trade as a second-stringer rather than as a headliner. Her stint with the Avengers marked the first time in her career that she occasionally got to step out into the spotlight (she was even featured on a few covers during her Avengers tenure) and attract some attention. She's currently married to Pietro Maximoff, better known as Quicksilver — Marvel's answer to the Flash.

See? I can find a common element anywhere.

Have a safe weekend, speed demons.


0 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Post a Comment

<< Home