Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Top Ten Steel Covers (Heywood Family Edition)

Even before the U.S. entered World War II, scientist Henry "Hank" Heywood saw it as his duty to enlist in the military in order to punch evil Nazis. Heywood got blown up real good doing just that, but his mentor helped put him back together again as the first metal endoskeleton-enhanced cyborg super-hero. Dubiously advanced science even by comic book standards couldn't save Steel from an early cancellation, but his adventures continued in other period series.

In 1984, grandson Hank Heywood III was transformed against his will into a new Steel, and helped establish the Detroit-based Justice League. The conservative Hank Sr. did not approve of the team, and set about dismantling the group. Estrangement and a dead grandson eventually followed, until Commander Steel's years in limbo were ended by an attempt to bump sales on Eclipso by including the old man in a massacre.

In the 1990s, a completely unrelated Steel legacy was begun by John Henry Irons, for whom I've also created a cover gallery.

A few years back, Nathan Heywood saw most of his clan wiped out by anachronistic evil super-Nazis, and gained powers of his own to continue the Steel legacy of middling importance and maximum angst.

10) Steel, the Indestructible Man #4 (September, 1978)

I just like how massively Kirbyesque Commander Steel is here.

9) All-Star Squadron #9 (May, 1982)

Color holds are winning here.

8) Justice Society of America #11 (February, 2008)

While all eyes are on the Golden Age Superman, Nathan Heywood seems pensive about his relative stature.

7) Infinity, Inc. #19 (October, 1985)

The ultimate Commander Steel as manipulative polarizing bastard cover.

6) Justice League of America #244 (November, 1985)

The original and second generation Steels locked in titanic familial conflict!

5) All-Star Squadron #13 (September, 1982)

Commander Steel, drawn by Joe Kubert, leading the A-SS. 'Nuff said.

4) Justice League of America #260 (March, 1987)

The brain death of Hank Heywood III/Steel II.

3) Justice League of America #245 (December, 1985)

The rending of Steel II's original costume in a battle royal with his granddad in the midst of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

2) Steel, the Indestructible Man #1 (March, 1978)

Sure, it's by Don "Blech" Heck, but this cover is still a dynamite debut!

1) Justice Society of America #7 (July, 2007)

Alex Ross' much ballyhooed painting of Citizen Steel.

Honorable Mentions:
Cancelled Comic Cavalcade Volume One (Commander Steel)
Cancelled Comic Cavalcade Volume Two (Commander Steel)
Commander Steel figured prominently on both these pseudo-covers to xeroxed copies of unpublished comics that fell victim to the DC Implosion. Material featured here that was produced for Steel, the Indestructible Man was eventually reworked into some issues of All-Star Squadron.
Justice League of America #235 (Steel II)
Justice Society of America #14 Variant Cover (Citizen Steel)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 5 Gypsy Covers

I have a great deal of affection for Gypsy, the smart-mouthed teen runaway turned tragic figure turned Gen-X slacker. I never forgave the '90s Martian Manhunter series for not using her more, but it does seem like the lack of long-lived DC heroines not directly tied to pre-existing male heroic franchises has helped bring Gypsy to the fore. However, like Vibe, there's a lot to be embarrassed about with regards to this heroine. From her slanderous m.o. to her ill-defined powers to her vague-to-dreadful costumes to her bare feet to her sleeping with a best friend's much older ex... not to mention her general lack of traction with regard to a super-hero career over the last 26 years. Still, I dig her, and despite a slew of not too appealing covers I'll be linking to, there are some bright spots.

Honorable Mentions: Justice League Task Force #24 & 33.

Dishonorable Mentions: Justice League Task Force #20, Justice League of America #236, Justice League of America #249, Justice League Task Force #32

5) Justice League Unlimited #22 (August, 2006)

Only at Johnny Dc could this happen, but still, it's terrible-original-costume Gypsy hiding behind a wall. It managed to land on the right side of the honorable/dishonorable divide, but still...

4) Birds of Prey #93 (June, 2006)

On the one hand, here's a solo Gypsy on a BoP cover. On the other, everyone, even Gypsy fans, wondered what the hell she was doing on a BoP cover. Further, she's in a stripped down version of her JSA: Classified costume, which was vague to begin with. Taking away the more eccentric aspects, Gypsy is barely recognizable, and even then not as a proper super-heroine.

3) Justice League Task Force #1 (June, 1993)

On a cover with a contorted, howling Martian Manhunter and the Flash racing away, your eyes go directly to Gypsy's exposed caramel-colored skin. God bless colorist Glenn Whitmore for sustaining the heat begun by Sal Velluto!

2) Justice League of America #259 (February, 1987)

Yes, it's Gypsy being gut shot from a sniper's bullet, but you've got to admit it's striking, and ultimately her own fault for wearing those rags.

1) Justice League Task Force #4 (September, 1993)

Not only do I love this cover, but Gypsy fights Lady Shiva inside. How's that for moving up in the world? Also, while still leaving something to be desired, this is my favorite of her many bad costumes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Top 5 Vibe Covers

Last year, Brian Cronin at CBR's Comics Should Be Good came up with his list of The Most Iconic Covers for thirty different characters. Some I felt were stronger than others, and took enough exception to his list for the Martian Manhunter that I compiled an extension. Meanwhile, DC is revving up for a year's worth of 75th Anniversary variant covers, which I commented on at length at my new Wonder Woman blog. However, it wasn't until Anj at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary offered his choices for a potential Supergirl 75th Anniversary Variant Cover that it occurred to me I'd like to throw my hat into the ring in a fairly big way. Over the course of this week, I'll try to offer cover suggestions for the various characters I cover on my blogs.

Since Vibe has probably made the fewest appearances, and gotten the least love on this blog (not by accident, I assure you,) I figured to start with the world's greatest Puerto Rican breakdancing former gangbanging super-hero, as far as I know...

5) Justice League of America #243 (October, 1985)

This was the official "death" spot, as there isn't really five good Vibe covers, and those that come closest feature him as one of the undead. I decided that would be unfair to his fans, so I instead went with the debut of his least embarrassing costume, which looks almost decent here.

4) Justice League of America #258 (January, 1987)

There are a number of Detroit-era covers featuring Vibe in a decent action pose, but never as front-and-center as here. Further, this was the start of the final arc for Vibe's team, and the issue of his well-executed demise.

3) JLA: Classified #23 (July, 2006)

If you wanted to sum up Vibe's better attributes in a single cover, this would be the one. I dig Vibe's confidence and the attempt to redeem his period style here, but the lack of a full figure hurts it.

2) Justice League Unlimited #15 (January, 2006)

While uncharacteristically concerned for such a cocky guy, this is this one of the most dynamic Vibe images I've seen, and makes excellent use of the pop-locker's simple second costume.

1) Justice League of America #233 (December, 1984)

Vibe's second appearance, and about the closest he's come to a starring role in a comic (outside the one he died in.) Also, a showcase for the good and mostly bad in Vibe as a total character.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Motor City Links

Written by PAUL DINI
Art and cover by ALEX ROSS
Between 1998 and 2003, Paul Dini, the Emmy Award-winning producer of Batman Beyond and The New Batman/Superman Adventures, joined forces with superstar illustrator Alex Ross (KINGDOM COME) to create six original graphic novels starring The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes:
Now, all six of these classic works are back in a new trade paperback that includes developmental art and more.
On sale SEPTEMBER 15 • 8.125”x11” • 400 pg FC, $29.99 US

Pretty much everyone on the team that's white appears in this book, minus Steel and Gypsy, the latter always being vaguely ethnic. Not that I'm insinuating anything...

1:10 White Lantern Variant covers by RYAN SOOK, FERNANDO PASARIN & JOEL GOMEZ

Don’t miss the hottest event in comics as BRIGHTEST DAY continues!
There can be only one who wields the White Lantern...but is it truly Deadman? And what will happen when he attempts to charge the white ring? Meanwhile, Ronnie Raymond risks everything for Firestorm, Martian Manhunter uncovers more clues about the bizarre string of murders stretching across the country, Aquaman searches for the key to the ocean’s survival and the Hawks come face-to-face with the evil that lurks within the strange land known only as Hawkworld!

Retailers please note: These issues will ship with two covers each. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
Issue #7 on sale AUGUST 4 • Issue #8 on sale AUGUST 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Co-feature written by JEN VAN METER
Art and cover by FREDDIE WILLIAMS II
Co-feature art by TRAVIS MOORE & DAN GREEN
The gods seem to be inside the minds of the All-Stars, which is only their first step toward reemerging on Earth. The takeover splits the team up as they try preventing the return of these ancient mysteries on two fronts – in the jungles of Parador and on the mean streets of Los Angeles!
Also, in the co-feature: Hourman is forced to do something he swore he’d never do again – all in an effort to save the villains Tigress and the Icicle!
On sale AUGUST 4 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

In this second volume, Barry Allen’s rogues gallery expands with the addition of Gorilla Grodd, the Mirror Master and the Weather Wizard, plus the debuts of Kid Flash and the Elongated Man! Collecting THE FLASH #107-112.
On sale SEPTEMBER 29 • 160 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Written by PAUL DINI
1:10 Variant cover by BRIAN BOLLAND
Zatanna loves Vegas, and Vegas loves her – but should Zee be wary of the attentions of a handsome, well-connected casino owner? She can hold her own against the most ridiculous Royal Flush Gang ever assembled, and she can just about cope with her cousin Zachary’s immature antics, but she’d better watch out for the sultry fire demons that are hot on her heels!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. See the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2003 Zatanna Sketch by Phil Moy

Click To Enlarge

We had a Jeffrey Moy Zatanna Gallery here a ways back, and his brother Phil, with whom Jeff worked on the Post-Zero Hour reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes, also had a Zee piece to offer. Phil isn't quite as prolific a sketch artist as Jeff, and his "blue" work mostly draws the line at boobies, but he also seems to get a lot of play from kid-friendly licenses like The Powerpuff Girls. You might like to give Philip Moy Sketches a spin, or visit his blog The Not-So-Regular Musings of Philip Moy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hey, Aquaman Does Not Need A New Costume!

I moved from Texas to Nevada in my teens, and when I attended school with my thick accent, kids used to start singing Boys Don't Cry's "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" at me. They'd ask about where my horse was, and wondered why I didn't wear a ten gallon hat. I guess I should have looked like a redneck, just like they should have looked like mobsters or Vegas strip whores, right?

Bill Willingham had an Indian super-heroine in his Texas Comics series Pantheon called Dynasty who wore a costume emblazoned with a Chinese dragon. Some pseudo-pedantic readers tried to "correct his mistake" regarding the mixed cultures. I wonder if those same readers ever bothered Marvel about the rather Aryan Iron Fist fighting crime in sandals with an Oriental dragon tattooed to his chest.

Jill "Nerdy Bird" Pantozzi decided to debut her Newsarama column Hey, That's My Cape! with the old saw Aquaman Needs A New Costume. She considers the plight of the poor artists who have to draw all those scales on the Sea King's and Mera's outfits. She then goes on for paragraphs about the impracticality of the scales, and how what they really need are hydrodynamic bathing suits made by Speedo, just like Olympian Gold Medalist Michael Phelps.

Remember early in Joe Quesada's term as Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, around the time of the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, when everybody started revealing their secret identities, wearing practical clothing, and generally being more "realistic?" What happened to that? Oh yeah, everybody realized that they wanted to read comic books where people in colorful skintight outfits flew under their own power shooting lasers at each other. They saw the Spider-Man movies with a dynamic, distinct hero looked cool doing amazing feats, instead of a bunch a barely distinguishable douche bags in black leather getting out of Wolverine's way. There's nothing practical or realistic about comic books, and most people get their fill of both in the drudgery of their actual lives. That's why blockbuster movies are spending incredible amounts of money to be more like comic books, and the great advantage of comic books costing no more to destroy a universe than to show a guy crossing the street.

Aquaman is a comic book super-hero. He was created during the Golden Age, when every conceivable angle on the premise was being tried. Aquaman was a rip-off of Sub-Mariner, a guy in a speedo. To differentiate himself, he wore lots of clothes instead of barely any, and chose the colors of the mighty pumpkin, because green and orange was one of the few uncommon combinations still available in 1941. It worked well enough that he stuck with it for 45 years. Then they tried to dress him like a figure skater with water-colored waves all over his costume. After drawing a series set in and near water all day, I know I'd sure get excited about drawing a figure with waves all over his costume. Nothing contrasts with blue water like a blue costume. Let's all get excited about the hero who looks like a disembodied head in his natural environment. Hey, I live in a city, so my costume should be concrete gray with reflective glass highlights, right? I'm active in an invisible oxygen environment, so I should just run around naked, okay?

John Cassaday likes to draw every single scale on Captain America's costume, and his fans also like him to do so. Cap then performs complex gymnastics while wearing 50-100 lbs. of body armor, and no one complains. You see, he's a super hero, and people are constantly trying to kill him, so he needs the armor. Aquaman: also a super-hero, and one of his powers is to be far faster and stronger in water than Captain America is on land. Do I have to do the math?

There are plenty of artists who only imply that Cap wears scaled armor, and that's okay too. Todd McFarlane made a lot of money drawing every detail of Spider-Man's webbing, but other guys do okay obscuring it at every opportunity. Today, with computers, you could easily lay in textures like scales on Aquaman's costume without the artists drawing a single one. Maybe that's why Ivan Reis, who just got finished reworking Aquaman's old costume, didn't seem to have a problem keeping them in. Besides, how many artists draw a character for more than six months these days?

So anyway, Aquaman's got a great costume that's stood the test of time and is readily recognizable on lucrative merchandising the world over. In fact, that costume is more valuable as licensing than the actual Aquaman character is overall. Mera... well, Mera's got flippers, and that's kind of wrong, but everbody's staring at her chest and hips. She's the Christina Hendricks of super-heroines. No one would mind if she had a tail.

In closing, could everyone on the planet Earth never gripe about Aquaman's costume or make fun of his talking to fishies again? Even if you're just trying to get a rise out of people, try harder and use more imagination. Keep up with the rest of society, would you? It's tired, and only reflects badly on you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2009 Rittenhouse Justice League of America Archives Sketch Cards by Tom Valente

Click To Expand and Enlarge

Tom Valente is a commercial artist who has done work for places like Cracked. Thanks to the Martian Manhunter Fotolog, I was directed to his blog, which offered up numerous illustrations of Justice League Detroit members. Specifically, his work providing original chase card art for the Rittenhouse Archives Silver Age JLofA trading card set features all the A-list members plus Zatanna. A few months back, Valente posted a number of scans of his favorites, which you can see here, or by clicking on the image above. Other featured characters include Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, the Atom, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern. You might also check out the member spotlight posts below...

Batman Beyond

Martian Manhunter
2007 Watercolor Painting

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Zatanna Gallery by Darwyn Cooke

Sorry I've been a bad blogger this week, and I can make no promises about next, but let's live in the now, shall we? Well, I guess Darwyn Cooke's retro '60s style isn't exactly "now," but it's great, and it's Zatannaday, so let's smoosh both together.

Click To Enlarge

We start out with a fantastic monochromatic amber piece reflecting the earliest Zatanna's Search stories. I've always loved that coloring technique, and its amazing what a single splash can do. Understandably, its owner declares "Love this piece Never for SALE," which is complete understandable.

The next two are also entrenched in Silver Age goodness. The first shows magic in the palm of her hand, while the second sees her entertained by the crossword. The latter came from the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con, the artist's first sketch of the event.

Continuing, at left, "A quick little sketch by Darwyn. Even with the minimal lines, you know who it is." This is followed by a tip of the hat to a number from the Paradise Toronto Comicon 2007. As with the amber piece, I love what the addition of a bit of blue pencil shading can do.

Finally, a bit of cheesecake I saved for the end. It's decidedly cheeky, but at the same time has such a wealth of personality and detail, I imagine its my favorite of the bunch. This was a commission picked-up by its owner at the 2008 Baltimore Comic Con.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

1986 Zatanna Sketch by Barry Crain

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Per owner Stuart Neft:

This was done for me as a Christmas present by my friend Barry Crain, who if anyone remembers, was the penciller of the only Maxi-Series ever to be canceled in mid stream by DC, Sonic Disruptors. Nice to look at this every now and then and see what I looked like 18 years ago