Friday, March 27, 2009

Ye gods!

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the memory of comics artist José Gonzalez — known to his legions of fans as "Pepe" — who passed away on March 17 at the age of 70.

Acclaimed as a legend in his native Spain, Gonzalez was best known on these shores for his early 1970s work on the Warren Publishing title Vampirella. Such preeminent talents as Frank Frazetta (who painted the very first Vampirella cover) and Joe Jusko have hailed Gonzalez as one of comics' greatest illustrators.

You will be sadly and deeply missed, Pepe.

As demonstrated by Pepe Gonzalez, the highest honor that any artist can achieve is the admiration of his or her fellow artists. In any field, the talents most revered are those whose greatest fans are their peers. I'm fortunate to have in my comic art collection a handful of pieces by artists who've reached that level of accolade — such legends as Tony DeZuniga, Alex Niño, Adam Hughes, and the late Mike Wieringo, to mention just a few.

To mention just one more...

Steve "The Dude" Rude.

Perhaps most famed as the co-creator (with writer Mike Baron) of Nexus, one of the seminal superhero comics of the 1980s, Rude has the well-earned reputation of "artists' artist." His style reflects the vision of two of the medium's most influential geniuses, Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, but merges those precedents with original flair and modern sensibility. In today's comics world, no one's art looks quite like Steve Rude's.

I dreamed up the Common Elements pairing shown above — the mighty Thor and the mighty Isis — specifically with Rude in mind to draw it. To be honest, I never thought that would happen. Rude accepts commissions infrequently, and is known to be selective about the subject matter in those he does take on. (He doesn't like to draw Batman or Green Lantern, for example, even though I can think of few superheroes better suited to his approach than those two.) When opportunity presented itself to add a Rude to my Common Elements gallery, I suggested this, and hoped for the best.

And the best is precisely what The Dude delivered.

My fascination with Isis, star of that pinnacle of '70s Saturday mornings, The Secrets of Isis, has been extensively documented in this space. Although I own an attractive gallery of Isis commissions, this is the Mighty One's Common Elements debut.

Thor makes his second Common Elements appearance here. Previously, the God of Thunder squared off with John Henry Irons — better known as Steel — in one of the earliest entries in the series: "Showdown," penciled by the inimitable Trevor Von Eeden and inked by the dependable Joe Rubinstein.

Although this Isis-meets-Thor spectacular is Steve Rude's first shot at Common Elements (one would hope that it won't be his last), it marks the second occasion on which he's drawn a commission for me. Several years back, Rude created one of the highlights of my Mary Marvel gallery — this bombastic pinup in which the World's Mightiest Maiden artfully dodges a plethora of ominous-looking projectiles.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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