Friday, February 27, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 7

This is the last character I'm going to call out for this series. My next installment will focus on explaining whatever common thread(s) all these characters have. That said, let me present my final highlighted character...
'Nuff said!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 6

Today's hero of choice is The Sandman! I'm talking about the Simon/Kirby version from the 1940s. Yellow tights with purple accouterments. It was the first comic book character called Sandman that I encountered and, despite years of seeing other characters using the name, I still always think back to this one when I hear the name.

The Sandman's costume here is probably the simplest of all the Sandman costumes in terms of design. Yellow tights. Purple gloves, boots, cowl and shorts. Brown belt with a sidearm attached. No chest logo, no cape, extra headgear. It's about as bear-bones as you can get visually.

So what attracted me to the character?

Well, he did have a few things working for him. First, the cowl bit came down well over his shoulders. That was kind of cool and original, especially in lieu of a chest emblem. Second, he was a hero that made no effort to hide the fact that he carried a gun. Although, I would later encounter all sorts of gun-toting heroes, he was the first (and for a long time, only) one I saw who did so. Third, it's a pretty decent color combination (one which I would later learn to be my high school colors). Indeed, Sandman's costume was much better than his sidekick's precisely because the red/yellow combination was decidedly inferior.

Add in the fact that it was expertly drawn by Mr. Jack Kirby, and I was sold with a single, poorly reprinted story in the back of one of DC's giant-size issues from the 1970s. I've since picked up many of his adventures in microfiche format (which was before DC's nice Archive editions).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coming Soon

Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone. Been out of town for a funeral. Regular blogging to return shortly.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


In case I've never actually said it before, Don Martin was a genius!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 5

Wildfire was arguably a pretty minor hero, and I only knew him from one Legion of the Superheroes story. (From around #200.) To this day, I know very little about him. In fact, when I started writing this post, I had to look him up because I couldn't even remember his name. But dang, did his costume rock!

I think I was largely attracted here to the mask. I suspect that the complete anonimity of the character was intriguing -- he could be anyone. Not unlike Spider-Man. He was totally covered from head to toe, PLUS his mask just reflected back whoever he was looking at. That just reeked of coolness.

The chest emblem was a little weak, I thought/think, but it's not terribly distracting since it's yellow on a field of orange.

One of these days, I should look him up and see if I can dig up some good Wildfire stories. That was too cool of a costume to let languish.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 4

I admit it. I liked Robin's costume. Old school with the short pants and everything.

I think it has mostly to do with the color scheme again. The proportions of red, green, yellow and black all seem to work well together. I do like the 1990's costume update with the green leggings and yellow/black cape as well, but the original draw for the character was the old outfit.

I have to say that I actually did like the short cape and flared bootlets. It definitely gave the impression of a child/elf with a flair for the dramatic and acrobatic. The collar around the cape was a nice touch, I always thought. He looked like a circus performer having fun.

The circle-R chest emblem was different than most heroes by being offset to one side. Further emphasized by the yellow-on-black colors which is the most visually contrasting combination. I suspect I also found it much easier to draw than Superman's "S" or even Batman's bat-symbol. My parents recently uncovered a drawing I did of Robin when I was three or four years old -- it looks like it was done by a child, of course, but it had all the elements that defined Robin visually, including the lacing up the front of his shirt. (Interestingly, while I managed to get those types of details in place, I still only gave him three fingers on each hand.)

I liked the outfit well enough that it was the one superhero costume I was able to convince my mother to make for me. Oh, I had a Superman cape and a Batman cape. But Mom made me an entire Robin costume that I ran around in quite a bit before I outgrew it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 3

What's to like about the Flash's costume? It's red. All over. He's got the yellow boots and the wing thingys over his ears, but otherwise he's just all red.

A slight exaggeration, of course, but there really isn't a whole lot going on with Barry Allen's duds. Ah, but that's where the beauty of the design lay! See, when the Flash was running really fast, you'd see after-images of where he just was. And when he was running really, really fast, there'd just be this red blur behind him.

Except for these two yellow stripes -- one wide one where his boots just were, and one narrower one where his belt and wrist bands were0. Occasionally, there'd be an even narrower band coming off his wing tips. And I'll be darned if that wasn't a really cool visual. Because the placement and size of those yellow elements against a red field makes for a fairly pleasing set of proportions...
And, of course, when he was running too fast to see, the Flash's trim had that jagged lightening bolt effect. A streamlined human figure highlighted with abruptly harsh angles. And the chest emblem provided something to break up the monotony of the two colors.

Interestingly, I never liked Professor Zoom's costume, though it was only different in that it switched the placement of the red and yellow. The larger field of yellow somehow seemed more effeminate to me at the time, and the color balance didn't seem to work nearly as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 2

Today's superhero I liked as a kid because I thought his costume was cool is the Silver Age Green Lantern. Green has always been a favorite color of mine, so I'm sure the blatant simplicity of his color scheme was a draw. But what I think also struck me was that, while his leggings and sleeves gave the impression of being black, they were as often as not colored in greys and purples with heavily spotted blacks. The white gloves proved an interesting contrast to both the black sleeves, as well as the green boots.

The spotted blacks were also emphasized by the fact that his power was light-based. That meant that he was frequently depicted with bright lights and strong shadows. Less so outside the Neal Adams comics I grew up on, but there were still some strikingly lit panels from Gil Kane and the like. Certainly moreso than you could find in a typical issue of Action Comics or World's Finest.

GL was also unique (at least to me at the time) in that he didn't have a belt. He was clearly wearing more of a body suit, cowing even less to the conceit that a spandex costume might be practical in any capacity. Like Aquaman, he stood out against fellow Justice Leaguers by being the only one who's costume did not comfortably split at the waist.

My only real complaint of the costume was that the chest emblem was crudely designed. The squared off top and bottom never really fit with the concentric circles. That said, I think some of the later insignias have been a bit over-designed and I can now better appreciate the Silver Age charm of the original's clunkiness. But, at the time, I wasn't overly keen on that one aspect of the outfit.

But the rest of it was slick, I thought, and I was quite excited when Hal Jordan started appearing on Super Friends.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Superheroes I Kinda Dug As A Kid Because They Looked Cool, Part 1

I'm going to start an experiment here. Since I'm pretty swamped at the moment, and look to be even moreso for the rest of the month, I'm going to trying posting a fairly-low-thought-process-initially series of entries here citing superheroes that I liked as a child, primarily because I was responding to their costume designs.

I recognized, even as a teenager, that my earlier draws to particular characters had more to do with their visual appearance than their powers or characterization or anything. So the next several posts will highlight those heroes. And, hopefully, after several of them, I'll be able to look back and elaborate on some visual themes that might or might not carry through.

As a character, Aquaman's often given a lot of flack, but I've always really liked his classic green and orange outfit from the Silver Age. And the reason I like it is primarily the color scheme. The green and orange compliment each other very well, and the yellow belt pops nices off the spotted black of his lower torso. Originally, he had yellow gloves, which is a bit much, I think; and the GA and later cartoon versions left his trunks the same, unshadowed green as his leggings -- which made the visual very flat from the waist down. I also think guys like Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo and Carmine Infantino had a great knack for suggesting the scales on his shirt without overdoing it. They provided just enough texture to make it interesting visually.

Further, the low neck line and leg fins made him stand out that much more from the rest of the superhero set. The gloves nicely mirrored the fin theme, but the lack of actual boots or shoes always struck me as pretty novel.

Turns out that I kind of like his backstory and character to boot, but it was really just the costume that drew my attention to him originally.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

V-Day Comics

Valentine's Day comics from today. I'm actually surprised by the varied ideas I've seen today; I would have expected many more guy-racing-to-buy-a-last-minute-gift and cupid-shot-the-wrong-couple gags. Although both are represented here, there's not nearly as many of them as I would've guessed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Graphic Spider-Man Timeline

My graphic designer buddy Matt Kuhns and I occasionally chat on the subject of "make your own (free) fun" -- basically, the notion that you can have fun in creating fan-based projects for your own amusement. That anyone else sees them is immaterial; the idea is that your enjoyment comes through the creation process.

Along those lines, Matt decided to try to put together a graphic timeline of Spider-Man comic book titles. In his own words, "I did this timeline of Spider-Man comics mostly because I started thinking about all of the different launches and relaunches one day, and it began to seem like an intriguing information design problem."

While he didn't include every Spider-Man title ever published, he's hit all of the most significant ones, I believe, and the result is an interesting look at Spider-Man's publishing history...
Like any chart or graph, you're free to draw your own observations and conclusions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Soon We Fall Behind

Er.. maybe how soon I've fallen behind! My apologies for the sporadic and below-par postings of late. Life has been keeping me absurdly busy and preoccupied lately...
  1. We've got a major project going on at work that's projected to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first six-to-twelve months of operation. The IT folks have done a fine job on the programming but it looks like complete crap because no one actually got anyone with an eye towards graphics to look at it until about a month before launch. And I happen to be the only person with the skillset to fix things. Consequently, I've been going in early, staying late, and working through lunch a lot lately.

  2. The band's been starting to take off. We've got at least one weekend booked every month through the end of June. Tonight was a set-up and sound check for tomorrow and Saturday's nights shows. Our set list is just able to cover a night's performance, so we're still trying to learn new songs to provide ourselves a little wiggle room as well.

  3. Last night, we had a significant wind storm that knocked out power in my area from about 5:30 until midnight. Not that that makes things any more busy per se but it did prevent me from even attempting to catch up on much of anything last night.

  4. I had the brilliant revelation about a week ago that I actually have a copy of Adobe Premier. That's notable because I've had this idea for a fan video rolling around in my head for several years that I need to excise. I did try implementing it once a few years ago, but the software I had at the time was woefully inadequate. Now that I have the capability to create it, I have to get it out of my head.

    (It's one of those instances where an artist has to create a work exclusively for the sake of seeing their vision realized. The "creative urge." The "creative impulse." Whatever you want to call it. In this particular case, it's a three and a half minute trailer for the non-existent Dr. Who: The Time War. I need just a few more clips to complete it. I'm biased, of course, but I think it'll be very, very cool when it's done.)

  5. The S.O.'s father isn't doing well. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer back in October, and it's running its sadly typical course. Yesterday, the doctor was giving him life expectancy numbers in days. He isn't the first person I've seen succumb to pancreatic cancer, but I sure as hell hope he's the last; it's a painful disease for everyone involved. The S.O. is holding up impossibly well, all things considered, but I know both she and her mom are physically and emotionally exhausted. I live far enough away that I can't provide any immediate help and, therefore, it's not something that eats into my blogging time, but it does weigh on my mind quite a bit and makes it hard to focus on creating new topics to blog about.

So, again, please accept my apologies for whatever's been passing as blog postings here lately. I'm thinking that at least two of the above listings will be resolved soon, and we'll be able to return my regular, brilliant posts.

Saved By POTUS

The S.O. sent me this article about a newly opened comic shop saved (at least for now) by the recent appearance of Barack Obama in Amazing Spider-Man #583.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Starving Artists

A selection of today's comics...

Do you suppose these creators are all tightening their belts in a more literal sense?