Friday, September 29, 2006

Seconds count

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to DC Comics artist Scott McDaniel, the penciler half (partnered with inker Andy Owens) of the regular art team on Green Arrow. McDaniel and Owens are currently collaborating with writer Tony Bedard on a two-issue story arc in JSA Classified that began in issue 17, released this past Wednesday. Apparently McDaniel, a solid artist and by all accounts a decent fellow, is not important enough to the editorial staff of JSA Classified that his name should be spelled correctly on the cover.

We still like you, Scott.

You know what else we like? Our ever-popular Common Elements themed art series. As Comic Art Friday veterans know all too well, each Common Elements artwork pairs two otherwise unconnected superheroes who share some feature — sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle — in common. (Yes, we've explained this dozens of times before, but there are always new people in the audience. So witcher yappin'.)

The Common Elements artwork featured today teams Julia Carpenter, the second superheroine to use the code name Spider-Woman (she recently began calling herself Arachne, but that's a post for another day), with Michael Holt, the second superhero to dub himself (not too modestly, I might add) Mr. Terrific. This action-packed pencil drawing exploded from the creative genius of artist Lan Medina, best known for his work on the fantasy series Fables.

In the superhero universe, there exists a long and storied tradition of one hero assuming the nom de guerre of an admired predecessor. DC Comics (a.k.a. National Comics way back then) launched the Silver Age of Comics in part by recreating several of the company's heroes from the 1940s, most notably the Flash (arguably the first "modern" superhero), Green Lantern, the Atom, and Hawkman. Although many Americans know that Batman's sidekick Robin began life as a teenaged acrobat named Dick Grayson, only comics aficionados realize that several Robins — I can name three: Jason Todd, Timothy Drake, and Stephanie Brown — have followed in the original's tights. (Dick Grayson is still around, but he calls himself Nightwing now, and he's no longer Batman's... umm... batman.)

The cases of Spider-Woman and Mr. Terrific demonstrate that even relatively minor superheroic identities get recycled. In fact, Julia Carpenter, the Spider-Woman pictured here, was only the second of at least four Marvel Comics characters who've worn the Spider-Woman moniker. As noted above, Julia now uses the code name Arachne, in part because the original Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, is exercising her superheroism once again after years of inactivity. Of the various Spider-Women, however, Julia has always been my favorite. She's always portrayed as a more accessible, more human personality than the aloof and mysterious Jessica, and the fact that Julia is a single mother raising a young daughter lends her an emotional reality that's refreshing in the fantastic world of costumed world-beaters.

Mr. Terrific, a relatively recent addition to the comics scene, has become a favorite of mine also. Michael Holt takes his fighting identity and "Fair Play" motif from an obscure 1940s hero whose real name was Terry Sloane. Like his predecessor, Holt possesses no superhuman powers, but is a formidably intelligent individual — the "third smartest person in the world" by his own calculation, Holt is something of a modern Doc Savage, with expertise in medicine, engineering, electronics, and various other scientific fields. In many ways, Mr. Terrific can be viewed as an alternate version of Batman: a brilliant man who uses his genius and technical wizardry to battle evil.

Incidentally, the two floating round objects accompanying Holt in the drawing above are T-spheres, robotic devices Mr. Terrific controls using mental commands transmitted through his mask. Holt's T-spheres are more or less the high-tech comic book equivalent of Swiss army knives. Each comes equipped with a camera, a laser, a holographic projector, wireless communications, a data processor, and I think maybe a corkscrew. (I suspect that Mr. Terrific got the idea for T-spheres while watching a showing of Phantasm on late-night cable TV.)

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

By the way, if you happen to live in my neck of the woods, my local comics retailer — Comic Book Box in Rohnert Park — is hosting a personal appearance and signing by superstar artist Darick Robertson (currently teaming with writer Garth Ennis on DC's The Boys) Saturday afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. Rumor has it that Darick may take on a few commission sketches during the event. If I manage to persuade him into doing a sketch for me, you'll see it here soon.


4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

DC Comic BlogMad hit!

5:03 PM  
Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

I always preferred Julia to Jessica too, probably because I grew up in the 80s rather than the 70s. She had a cooler costume(which inspired Spider-man's Secret Wars design of the symbiote that later became Venom), and much better powers, IMHO. Psionic webs --very cool. I liked her stint with the Avengers West.

I remember McDaniel from Daredevil back in the day. I didn't care for his work at first, but then he started doing Millaresque extreme contrast, and it worked for me. I'm probably in the minority that liked the black-and-red DD costume he came up with as well.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Isn't Mr. T. to join the new Justice League?

5:25 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Mr. Fab: I have you to blame for every BlogMad hit that lands here.

MCF: I'm a '70s reader (though I picked up my first Marvel comic in the mid-'60s), but I just think Julia is more interesting. I do like what Marvel is doing with Jessica these days, however. And yes, you're in the minority on that DD costume makeover. :)

Joel: Mr. Terrific already figures prominently in the Justice Society. Having him and Batman in the same group would be redundant. Black Lightning is the token gentleman of color in the reconfigured JLA.

7:33 PM  

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