Friday, March 30, 2007

Costumes by Frederick's of Hyboria

Is it Friday already? Great Caesar's ghost, it's been a challenging week.

But, as we all know, there's nothing that perks up the spirits like some gorgeous comic art. So let's get to it.

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the memory of comics artist Marshall Rogers, who passed away unexpectedly this week at the age of 57.

Although Rogers illustrated a diverse range of comic book heroes — from the Silver Surfer to Mister Miracle — during his four-decade career, he'll be mostly remembered for his work on various Batman titles. Several bloggers have opined this week that Rogers's interpretation of Batman is second only to that of the great Neal Adams. Myself, I'd rank the late Jim Aparo next after Adams among Batman artists, but Rogers was indeed awfully good. I'd also place his take on Doctor Strange right after Frank Brunner's and Geof Isherwood's.

My heartfelt condolences to Marshall's family, and to his legion of fans.

In one of Mad Magazine's Christmas carol parodies many moons ago, the following couplet appeared in the lyrics (by writer Frank Jacobs, if memory serves) to a twisted rewrite of "Deck the Halls":
There's no reason to be nervous;
You can trust the Postal Service.
I've quoted that line facetiously more times than I can count, and it finally came back to bite me.

A few weeks ago, I received in the mail a package of new art from the preternaturally talented MC Wyman. Somewhere between Wyman's home in Pennsylvania and mine in sunny California, the minions of the USPS had dunked the package in water. I don't just mean that the package had gotten a tiny bit damp — the doggoned thing was sufficiently waterlogged to have survived a battle between Aquaman and the Sub-Mariner. Both the packing material and the artworks inside were thoroughly soaked.

As fortune would have it, Wyman's pictures sailed through the ordeal unblemished, although the art boards on which they were drawn are irreparably warped. Eventually, I'll commission one of my favorite inkers to transfer the images to new material. But for the time being, these will do.

Some time back, the proprietor of my friendly neighborhood comic book shop posed a rather startling question to me: "Why don't you have any Red Sonja art?" The query was occasioned by the fact that I'm one of the shop's most ardent Red Sonja readers, as well as a collector of original artwork featuring most of my other favorite comics heroines. But I didn't have a single Red Sonja in my galleries.

After I fumbled for a snappy answer that never came, I immediately decided that this inadvertent omission had to be addressed. Thanks to MC Wyman, it now has been. Kathy, this one's for you.

An intriguing dollop of Red Sonja history: Most comics readers presume that Red Sonja was created by Robert E. Howard, the auteur behind Conan the Barbarian. In fact, although Marvel Comics writer-editor Roy Thomas retrofitted the name of a Howard character (the differently spelled Red Sonya of Rogatino, who carried pistols instead of a sword) to his blade-slinging Hyrkanian heroine, Red Sonja as we know and adore her today was entirely the creation of Thomas and legendary artist Barry Windsor-Smith. Artists Esteban Maroto and John Buscema share the credit for devising Sonja's technically implausible, yet undeniably fetching, scale-mail costume.

Today, Sonja's monthly adventures — along with a plethora of associated miniseries and single-issue titles — are published by Dynamite Entertainment, with writer Michael Avon Oeming and artist Mel Rubi forming the key creative team.

And, since it's humanly impossible to have too many sword-packing women in metal brassieres, here's Wyman's take on another of my favorite heroines from 1970s Marvel, the Valkyrie.

That's your Comic Art Friday.

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