Friday, December 01, 2006

No Warbirds allowed

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to World AIDS Day, the observance of which each December 1 reminds us that 40 million men, women, and children worldwide are living with HIV — and the number grows daily. Keep working for a cure.

Speaking of cures, nothing cures what ails me like comic art, especially when one of my favorite superheroes is center stage. One of the comics highlights of 2006 for me has been the resurgence of Ms. Marvel, for whom I've carried an unrequited torch since her first appearance in 1977. This year, Carol Danvers returned to headlining her own title for the first time in 27 years, as well as taking a high-profile role in one of Marvel's best-selling series (New Avengers) and its current mega-event (Civil War). I couldn't be more thrilled.

Here's the Woman Warrior striking a classic pose, from the pen of artist Gene Gonzales:

The one factor that keeps me sighing with faint disappointment over Ms. Marvel's long-overdue vault to prominence is her costume, which I often refer to as "the Warbird swimsuit." (Some editorial doofus at Marvel Comics once thought it a good idea to change Ms. M.'s nom de guerre to "Warbird" — a silly sobriquet that, thankfully, wore out its welcome after several years and got changed back. Although this costume change occurred while Carol was still known as Ms. Marvel, I still associate the name Warbird with it, as well as with everything awful Marvel has done to this terrific heroine over the years.)

Call me stuck in Retro City, but I still miss the Feminist Avenger's original outfit, as illustrated here by Michael McDaniel. I always thought this design made her look more like a superhero, and less like a beauty pageant contestant. Plus, the scarf was a nifty (if impractical) touch.

Funnybooks being the incestuous business that they are, very few characters are ever truly original. Most astute comics observers recognize that Ms. Marvel was at the outset just DC Comics' Supergirl, given a slightly more mature spin. (Ms. Marvel has always been portrayed as a woman in her late twenties to early thirties, while Supergirl is still a teenager fifty years later.) The two characters originally had almost identical superpowers, and both were spinoffs from, and once wore costumes patterned after, popular male heroes. The artist who illustrated Supergirl's adventures for many years, "Gentleman" Jim Mooney, also drew the majority of Ms. Marvel's original series. The heroines even shared a common surname (Danvers) at one point in time.

All that being said, we can certainly slip a Supergirl drawing into our Ms. Marvel-focused post. Here's a sharp ink sketch of the Maid of Steel, by longtime X-Men artist Brandon Peterson. Inker Bob Almond was kind enough recently to touch up a few unfinished portions of Brandon's piece, to give it a more polished effect.

Say, if you've got an extra simoleon or two in your pocket that isn't already committed to holiday shopping, why not make a donation today to a local nonprofit helping people with HIV/AIDS in your community? You'll be glad you did.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.


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