Friday, December 14, 2007

I Wanda, Wanda who wrote the Book of Love

Before we dive into this week's Comic Art Friday, I'd just like to note that KJ's gall bladder removal (or laparoscopic cholecystectomy, for those of you playing Grey's Anatomy at home) went swimmingly yesterday. As of about an hour ago, she's now resting comfortably at home. Thanks for all of the kind thoughts.

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the memory of comic book artist and writer Wayne Howard, who died of cardiac arrest on Sunday at age 59. Like many top talents of the 1960s and '70s, Howard began his career in comics as an assistant to the legendary Wallace Wood. He also worked with the equally legendary Will Eisner for a time. Howard's visual style hewed more closely to Wood's than any of the other artists who apprenticed under him, which is probably one reason I enjoyed his work so much.

For most of his tenure in funnybooks, Howard worked on mystery and horror titles for Charlton Comics, a budget-minded publisher that often presented more off-the-wall fare than either Marvel or DC did in those days. He was best known for Midnight Tales, a horror anthology series whose stories Howard drew and frequently wrote. The book is noteworthy as one of the first mainstream comics — if not indeed the very first — to acknowledge its creator with a cover byline, a practice that's standard in the industry today.

From my hormonal preadolescence, I mostly remember Midnight Tales because it featured (thanks to Wally Wood's unmistakable influence) some of the most fetchingly drawn female characters to be found anywhere. What I didn't know until word of his passing came across the Internet earlier this week was that Wayne Howard was African-American — one of the very few black artists in mainstream comics at that time.

We extend heartfelt condolences to Mr. Howard's family, and to his legion of fans.

Wayne Howard only worked on a handful of issues for Marvel Comics, none of which featured my favorite Marvel heroine of the '60s, Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. But I'm positive that, given the opportunity, Howard would have drawn a sensational Wanda. Since he didn't get that chance, let's look at three depictions of Wanda by artists who did, at least once.

First up, a stylish pencil drawing by one of Marvel's stalwarts of the '90s, MC Wyman.

That dotted effect that Wyman uses to illustrate Wanda's hex bolt power is known in comics lore as "Kirby crackle." Jack Kirby, probably the most influential and prolific artist in American comic books, created that signature visual texture, and employed it frequently to depict everything from cosmic radiation to the Silver Surfer's energy blasts.

Our second look at our vermilion-clad heroine comes from the pencil of the talented Jamal Igle.

Igle has been an active contributor at DC Comics since the early '90s. He's worked periodically for Marvel also, most notably on the miniseries Iron Fist/Wolverine. Currently, Igle is the regular penciler on DC's Nightwing, having completed a recent run on Firestorm: The Nuclear Man.

Our third and final Wanda displays the craft of an artist who signs his (or possibly her) work with the nom de plume Zeneilton.

Pretty much the only thing I can report about Zeneilton is that he (or possibly she) draws a mighty fine-looking Scarlet Witch.

And that, friend reader, is your Comic Art Friday.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger DamonO offered these pearls of wisdom...

Props to you for spotlighting the loss of Wayne Howard. I see it barely got a mention over on the comicart-l board, and not much of a response. I still can't believe I hadn't even heard of him as recently as a week ago.

Love those Wanda pieces as well. MC Wyman still delivers the goods.

Add me to the list of those wishing KJ a very speedy recovery.

10:18 PM  

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