Friday, January 26, 2007

Selena's grace, Hippolyta's strength

Comic Art Friday reminds you that this coming Wednesday, January 31, is National Gorilla Suit Day. It's time to bust out that monkey drag and bust a move. You know you want to.

Not long ago, someone browsing my themed comic art galleries e-mailed me the question, "Why Mary Marvel?" I get that query quite often, actually, when people look through my art collection. No one ever asks why I collect Wonder Woman images. I've yet to have anyone inquire as to why I have themed galleries dedicated to Ms. Marvel (though some think it's peculiar that I prefer her original costume to her current one... don't you, Bob Almond?) or the Scarlet Witch, or even Supergirl (the latter of which is dedicated to my daughter, as I've explained previously). I suppose there's a subtle yet obvious reason why I collect art featuring the Black Panther or Storm, so I never get asked about those, either.

My Mary Marvel collection, on the other hand, always seems to have people scratching their heads.

The answer is simple. To my mind, Mary Marvel represents everything that used to be great about superhero comics, and is now largely lost. Despite her enormous power, Mary remains kindhearted and innocent — as were the comics of my youth, for the most part. Mary recalls to me the wonder of superhero fantasy that I first experienced when I picked up my very first comic book — a secondhand copy of Fantastic Four Annual #3 — in those long-distant and halcyon mid-1960s: The idea that an average, otherwise unremarkable person could be endowed with superhuman abilities, and would dedicate those abilities to championing good and helping those in need.

Most superheroes embodied that fantasy, back in the day. Many lost their way in recent decades, becoming as dark-tempered and brutal as the evildoers they're supposed to be fighting. But every time I look at a picture of Mary Marvel, I remember the superhero universe as it was, and as I hope (without much reason for optimism) that some aspects of it might be again someday. Even if I have to write those stories myself.

Besides which, artist Marc Swayze's original concept of Mary Marvel — a gently feminine twist on C.C. Beck's classic Captain Marvel costume — remains one of the most elegantly simple character designs in the history of superhero comics.

Mitch Foust, one of my favorite pinup artists of the present day, does a nice job here of capturing Mary's sweetness and light — along with a soupçon of girlish flirtation — in this drawing.

One of the qualities I enjoy in Mitch's work — aside from the grace and fluidity of his pencil line — is that his women are undeniably sensual, but generally in a manner appropriate to the character. I'm pleased that his rendition of Mary retains a youthful, coquettish air that steers clear of blatant cheesecake.

Completely different in style from Mitch's piece, but no less striking, is this sketch Bay Area artist Nathan Gilmer created at a recent "Starving Artist Saturday" event at my local comic shop, Comic Book Box.

Nathan's poetic naturalism made him an excellent choice to add another Mary to my gallery. I like the fact that his Mary possesses the anatomical proportions of a genuine teenager, rather than of a Hawaiian Tropic swimsuit model. I also like the subtle touch of drama and power Nathan lent to his depiction here. The kid's got talent.

And that's your Comic Art Friday. Don't forget: Wednesday is National Gorilla Suit Day!

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4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous nathan gilmer offered these pearls of wisdom...

thats awesome michael!, i appreciate the comments. i can't wait to do another starving artist saturday. i saw the pic posted on comicartfans and was so very excited. comsidering that i surf that site on a daily basis, thanks alot. and if you need anything drawn, anytime. let me know. also check out my new deviant art gallery at
i posted up the mary marvel pic on there. thanks again -nathan

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Jenne "KI4REC" Flynn offered these pearls of wisdom...

National /what/!?

Gorrilla suit day. Too bad I don't own one - once again your panel has given me a tidbit of random information that I would have never known otherwise.

On another note,

These are some lovely sketches, but I'm very confused - who is this girl and why I have I never seen her in the typical Marvel cast? I guess I have a lot to learn.

Teen Titans (not the tv show) isn't Marvel, is it?

By the way, happy late anniversary and congratulations!

Hoorah for starving artists. :D

1:25 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Nathan: You're welcome. It's a sweet piece, and I'm proud to own it. We'll connect for something again the next time you do SAS.

3:43 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Jenne: I hope you and yours had a pleasant National Gorilla Suit Day.

The girl in Nathan and Mitch's drawings is Mary Marvel, the like-powered sister of Captain Marvel (as in "SHAZAM!"). She's currently appearing in both 52 and Trials of Shazam, along with her brother.

Teen Titans is a DC Comics entity, as is Mary Marvel. Mary's never been a Titan, though. She was in the Super Buddies / Formerly Known as the Justice League iteration of the Justice League of America.

Thanks for the congratulations!

3:52 PM  

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