Friday, June 20, 2008

Cat on a hot tin motorbike

It's officially summer — at least, it will be at 4:59 Pacific Daylight Time today — and we're already experiencing the effects here in Wine Country.

Yesterday, we topped the thermometer at 96 degrees. It's expected to be at least that hot again today.

This is why God created Otter Pops and cream soda.

If we're going to be sweltering, we may as well enjoy some white-hot comic art while we count the beads of perspiration dripping from our noses.

Debuting in 1941, The Black Cat was one of the more popular superheroines during comics' Golden Age. She was also one of the few female characters to headline her own book during that period. In civilian life, Linda Turner starred in Hollywood as a film actress and stuntwoman. She used the skills she gained in the latter field to battle crime as the Black Cat. Linda's costumed derring-do — which frequently involved her performing dangerous tricks on her trusty motorcycle — attracted favorable notice from entertainment reporter Rick Horne, who in true Lois Lane fashion never seemed to tumble to his dream girl's secret identity.

Numerous artists illustrated the Black Cat's adventures during her career, but she is most closely associated with Lee Elias, a talented draftsman whose work bore the unmistakable influence of Milton Caniff of Terry and the Pirates fame. Elias's original Black Cat pages remain popular with collectors today. In the 1960s and '70s, Elias returned to comics and drew a number of superhero, science fiction, and horror series, mostly for DC.

Our featured image of the Black Cat above springs from the pencil of James E. Lyle, whose work will be familiar to Comic Art Friday regulars. Although Lyle usually inks his own pinups, this particular piece was embellished by Bob Almond over a blueline scan of Lyle's pencil drawing.

Comics being the incestuous business that it is, a hit concept is always ripe for replication. The Black Cat was no exception. Her popularity spawned several imitators, most notably DC Comics' Black Canary. Indeed, the original Canary couldn't have been more of a Black Cat clone if she'd tried — both characters were motorcycle-riding martial artists who wore cuffed buccaneer boots. Not coincidentally, both were also drawn at various times by Lee Elias.

James E. Lyle captures the Black Canary in pensive repose, above. Lyle's drew inspiration for this piece from the Police song "Canary in a Coal Mine." I believe that Sting would approve.

The striking similarity between these two heroines inspired an entry in my Common Elements commission series. Video game designer Jeffrey Moy, best known in comics for his lengthy run on Legion of Super-Heroes, brings his trademark flourish to Linda Turner and her newfound friend Dinah Drake Lance below.

On your way now, cats and canaries. Stay cool if you can: Summer's here.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Scott offered these pearls of wisdom...

Ahhh buccaneer boots.

10:26 AM  

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