Friday, February 23, 2007

A "good girl" great is gone

Today's Comic Art Friday notes with regret the passing of award-winning comic artist Bob Oksner, who died last Sunday at the ripe old age of 90.

Although Oksner worked on a number of superhero books during his five-decade career in comics — including Supergirl and Shazam! — he'll be best remembered by aficionados for his prolific work on DC Comics' comedy titles during the 1950s and '60s, especially The Adventures of Jerry Lewis (originally The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, before the duo's fabled breakup) and The Adventures of Bob Hope. Oksner also cocreated the classic series Angel and the Ape, about an unusual crimefighting partnership — a gorgeous, platinum blonde female detective, and a talking gorilla who drew superhero comics.

In addition to his monumental comedic talents and slick, accessible linework, Oksner was also legendary for his deftness at rendering the feminine form. Translated: If you wanted an artist to draw cute, buxom babes, Oksner was your guy. I dare say that the long-running popularity of the Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis comics had less to do with readers' affection for those two comedy giants (although I have it on good authority that The Adventures of Jerry Lewis sold particularly well in France) than with the fact that Oksner routinely populated both books with dozens of attractive, often minimally clad women.

Hey, you don't really think guys read Angel and the Ape just for the talking gorilla, do you?

In honor of Bob Oksner, let's look at a couple of modern examples of what we refer to in the comics biz as "good girl" art. Both of the following pencil drawings are the work of a talented Brazilian artist, Jorge Correa Jr., best known in the States as the artist on the Avatar Press comics based on the TV series Stargate SG-1. As you can see in this Wonder Woman artwork, Jorge knows his way around a classic pinup-style image.

In this pensive portrait of jungle heroine Shanna the She-Devil, Correa shows his flexibility, combining his human figure artistry with a little dinosaur action.

As a point of clarification, we'll note that Correa's Shanna is the recently reimagined version created by Frank Cho — no slouch in the "good girl" art department himself, by the way — and not the more familiar original, who first appeared in the early 1970s. Old-school Shanna or new, I think Bob Oksner would approve.

When DC phased out its humor titles in the early '70s, Oksner moved on to superhero books, often those featuring young female protagonists. His version of Supergirl is recalled quite fondly by those of us with an affinity for the Maid of Steel. I'll wager he'd have enjoyed this sweet sketch by one of my favorite Marvel artists of the '90s, MC Wyman.

RIP, Mr. Oksner. Your work — and especially your wonderful ladies — will live on.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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