Friday, July 27, 2007

Here, there be giants

It's Comic Art Friday, and everyone who's anyone is in San Diego, except for me. (Last time I checked, I was still someone.)

That's because this weekend is Comic-Con International (also known as San Diego Comic-Con, or SDCC), the planet's largest annual gathering of comic book fans and industry professionals. They're expecting capacity crowds in excess of 125,000 every day of the convention — all the more reason for me not to be there, as much as I loves me some comics. One of these summers, though, I'll buckle down and hie myself to Sandy Eggo to take in the sights, sounds, and smells. (If you think I'm joking about the latter, you've never been in an enclosed convention center packed with countless thousands of hygienically challenged comic book geeks. Trust me on this.)

For those of us not venturing to the sunny Southland, there's still comic art to be slavered over. So let's get jiggy with it.

My good friend and fellow comic art collector Damon Owens has long been dropping my jaw with his stunning collection of commissions featuring "The Brotherhood," a mythical supergroup comprised of comicdom's greatest black heroes and heroines. Several of Damon's finest Brotherhood artworks spring like Athena from the pencil of industry veteran Val Semeiks, best known for his work on the DC Comics series The Demon and Lobo, and Marvel's Conan the Barbarian.

With one of baseball's Giants fast approaching the national pastime's most storied individual record, I decided it was time for a Common Elements artwork featuring two of comicdom's giants — the Doom Patrol's Elasti-Girl (no relation to the similarly named materfamilias in Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles) and the late, great Dr. Bill Foster -- aka Black Goliath, Giant-Man, and just plain Goliath. Val Semeiks's potent style seemed to fit the project perfectly, so I commissioned him to create it.

Val's first rough sketch immediately captured my imagination. The majestic scale of his figures and the broad, sweeping scope of his design couldn't have been more ideal for the characters. Then, Val added a stroke of brilliance — using my Sonoma County environs as the backdrop for the drawing. What could be more apropos than two colossal heroes striding across a vineyard in my own backyard?

Val's tightened layout revealed still more of his magic touch. Now, I could see the personalities of the characters shining through — Elasti-Girl's lighthearted charm, and Goliath's intelligence and determination. The landscape seemed so familiar that I'm certain I've driven past this very spot a thousand times... minus the humongous superheroes, of course.

Which takes us to the finished pencil art:

The detail in Val's completed drawing is nothing short of superb. Both of our heroes sparkle with life and character, and the Wine Country setting is picture-perfect — right down to the splendidly rendered vineyard and winery, and the hot air balloon hovering low over the landscape near Goliath's thundering foot. (If you've never been here, you haven't lived until you've taken a drive through Sonoma County on a foggy autumn morning, and seen the sky dotted with colorful balloons.)

Like the aforementioned Giant, Val Semeiks smacked a towering home run with this commission. Thanks, Val!

About the featured heroes:

Elasti-Girl (real name: Rita Farr) starred in one of the most unusual superhero series of the 1960s, Doom Patrol. Created by the legendary writer Arnold Drake (who passed away earlier this year) in partnership with cowriter Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani, the Doom Patrol was DC Comics' first attempt to imitate the angst and conflict of Marvel's popular super-teams, the Fantastic Four and X-Men. Drake, who wrote even the most serious of stories with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, went Marvel one better by actually killing off the entire Doom Patrol in one momentous 1968 issue. DC has revived the characters repeatedly in the years since, most recently in the aftermath of the Infinite Crisis mega-event. But the Doom Patrol just isn't the same without Drake at the helm.

The multiple-codenamed Bill Foster's history in comics lore precedes his career as a superhero by several years, making him one of a relative handful of characters (Patsy Walker/Hellcat, Jim Rhodes/War Machine, and Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel are three others who leap to mind) to be firmly established as non-super supporting characters before embarking on careers as costumed crimefighters. Dr. Foster debuted in a 1966 Avengers story as a colleague of scientist Henry Pym (the superhero variously known as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and just plain Doctor Pym), and appeared numerous times over the succeeding decade before replacing Pym as Marvel's resident super-sized hero in 1975. Foster was murdered — to considerable fan outcry — during the events of Marvel's Civil War mega-event last summer.

Perhaps Bill Foster — like Rita Farr before him — will at some future point reemerge from the oblivion of comic book death to fight evil again. Until then, we can admire this artistic tribute to his memory, and wonder what might have been.

And that, fellow homebodies, is your Comic Art Friday.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

So cool to see the process, from Simeiks' sketch to the finished product.

I read about Foster's demise. Sucks that the dude beat cancer during the Evolutionary War only to fade into obscurity and return to be taken out by a clone in a crossover. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of him.

4:49 PM  

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