Friday, October 06, 2006

Working on our night moves

As foreshadowed in last week's Comic Art Friday post, I had the honor this past Saturday afternoon of watching artistic genius at work.

Comics artist Darick Robertson, whose talents are on display in the new DC/Wildstorm series The Boys, took several hours out of his busy schedule to sketch and sign comics at my local comic shop, Comic Book Box. Eager to commission a sketch from Darick, I made it a point to arrive early enough to be first in line when he set up shop.

My efforts, as you'll see, were abundantly rewarded. Over the course of about 90 minutes, I looked on in rapt fascination as Darick created the drawing you're about to view.

In preparing for Darick's appearance, I puzzled long and hard over what hero or heroes I would ask him to draw. My first impulse was to have him add a new piece to my collection of Black Panther pinups. Then I thought, why not seize the opportunity to ask for a new entry to my Common Elements theme? Although some artists hesitate to do multiple-character drawings in a quick-sketch setting, I figured the worst that could happen would be that Darick would ask me to choose something simpler. If he did, I could always go to the Panther as my Plan B.

As I scanned my "wish list" of Common Elements ideas, however, I didn't see anything that immediately screamed "Darick Robertson" to me. Although Darick has been working professionally in comics for 20 years, the project I most associate with him is Marvel's New Warriors, a series he drew regularly for about three years in the early 1990s. After an evening of cogitation and online research, I hit upon a new Common Elements concept that would be perfect for Darick: two heroes with the shared theme of "night," who also share a connection to Darick's career.

Night Thrasher (in the foreground and to the right in the drawing above) was the field leader of the New Warriors when Darick began drawing their book. The Night Man (to the left) was a character Darick cocreated (with writer Steve Englehart) for Malibu Comics' "Ultraverse" in the early '90s. Pop culture mavens will recall that the latter was adapted for the syndicated TV series entitled NightMan, which aired from 1997 to 1999 and starred Matt McColm as the titular hero.

When I pitched this concept to Darick, he seemed genuinely intrigued. He quickly set about roughing out the drawing in blue pencil on a standard comic art board. After an initial idea failed to gel, Darick turned to me and asked, "How about if I have them fighting?" That suggestion earned a thumbs-up from me, and within moments the familiar lines of Night Thrasher's costume began to take form.

Chatting almost nonstop as his pencil flew across the page, Darick offered up a wealth of lore about his career and the comics industry in general to the fans who joined be around his drawing table. Darick said that when he was drawing New Warriors, he always wanted to redesign Night Thrasher's costume, which he thought was needlessly complex and bulky for a character who's supposed to be a stealthy night fighter — essentially an urban ninja. Due to potential conflicts with the Night Thrasher solo series that was in production during that same period, Darick was never permitted by Marvel's editorial staff to implement his proposed changes. His drawing of Thrash here reflects a few of the adjustments Darick always wanted to make, and I think he got a kick out of getting "the last word" on the subject. He also noted that it was difficult to make Thrash an interesting character — Darick described him as "the poor man's Batman" — due to these same editorial restrictions.

I was thunderstruck when, after Darick finished drawing the battling duo, he flipped the page end-to-end before signing it. The entire time he had worked on the piece, he had oriented the page on his drawing board such that the figures' heads were at the top. It wasn't until he affixed the dedication and signature that I realized that Darick intended to show the two heroes falling heads-down through the air as they fought. Amazing! That he could envision the scene in reverse orientation as he created it speaks volumes about Darick's incredible artistic sensibility.

Am I delighted with the results? Gee... you think?

Thanks to Darick Robertson for a breathtaking addition to my Common Elements collection. The scan shown here doesn't even approach the immaculate clarity and vividness of Darick's pencil art. It's no wonder that in a recent reader poll conducted by Comic Book Resources, Darick ranks as the 37th greatest comic book artist of all time.

Thanks also to the world's finest comics retailer, Kathy Bottarini, for inviting Darick to "come out and play."

And that's your Comic Art Friday.


2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

WIZARD so needs to hire you :)

4:19 PM  
Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

I personally liked his tweaks to Speedball and revamp of Namorita into Kymaera. Thrash's suit did get too bulky toward the end there and the early Frenz design and Bagley executions were better for the character. He wasn't my favorite Warrior or character though. Robertson was probably my favorite artist on Warriors though; thought he was an improvement over Bagley.

The only things that stick to my memory about the Night Man are his old roadster and the odd and sudden Hasselhoff cameo in the pilot. :)

1:56 PM  

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