Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hawkworld #5, Page 19 Original Art

I figured since I made mention of the beautiful rendition of the Shadow-Thief in the pages of Hawkworld by Graham Nolan and Rick Burchett on the last post, I should give everyone an example of what I meant.  And since I do so love black and white art, I thought this inked page would be a perfect showcase.

The page in question comes from Hawkworld #5, during which the Hawks are split up in space, with Shayera piloting the control module of their spaceship to battle a heavy Thanagarian freighter, while Katar tangles with the Shadow-Thief on the main portion.  All of the blacks on this page are fantastic, and there is a lot of them, from the starfield to the Shadow-Thief himself to the shilouettes in the final panel.  Nolan's pencils are pretty tight, showing nice proportions and anatomy -- except, of course, for the Thief!  The third panel, where Shadow-Thief draws his katana to attack Hawkman, is marvelous in the contrast between the realistic look of Katar and the ship and then the flat, elongated body of the Thief.  

I suspect that a lot of my appreciation for the Shadow-Thief comes from his look, which has always appealed to me.  On top of that I also like how his powers -- not being able to be touched -- make him a good foil for heroes who tend to use hand-to-hand weapons.  The Post-Crisis revamp of him which goes down in Hawkworld is subtle but effective, making him an industrial spy and ninja, and giving him some combat skills to make him more of a physical threat.  

In any event this page looks amazing.  I've never bought original art pages before, because money, but this is a nice example which would look sharp framed up in my bonus room.

Disclaimer: I do not own or have possession of this art.  I am simply re-posting it from the site indicated below.
Image: Hawkworld #5, page 19, 1990, Graham Nolan and Rick Burchett, image obtained from

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Impressions: Hawkworld

As I begin my read through of the Hawkworld ongoing, I am struck by several aspects, some of which I expected, some of which I did not.

--The incredibly Post-Crisis tone of the book.  I knew this was part-and-parcel with this book before I started, so no shock here.  The Post-Crisis DCU, from my readings, seemed driven by editorial mandate to remove itself as far as possible from anything Pre-Crisis which might be construed as "silly," "kid stuff," or otherwise "not serious."  As a kid growing up, I remember that being the knock on DC books -- I specifically remember my brother telling me once to not bother with a certain DC series because "they're all talk" -- and reading the early issues of Hawkworld pretty much confirms this.  I can only assume that DC was trying to raise their profile as the place for more discriminating readers with their "serious" stories.  This series is so straight faced that even the comic relief (such as it is) is serious.

--The appearance of the Silver Age supporting cast, namely Mavis Trent, Joe Tracy, and Commissioner Emmett.  This one was a less expected development.  I had figured, what with Hawkworld being such a broad departure from both the Silver Age and then post-Shadow War series, that we would not see the classic Midway City folks cropping up in Chicago.  At the very least, I figured, well, we might get the Commissioner, but that's it.  So the appearance of Joe and Mavis was a bit of a welcome surprised for me.  

Turning Mavis into a love interest for Katar is a turn which seems to make sense, and at least she's not as bat-spit crazy as she was back in the 60s.  I wonder if she ever makes it onto lists of "characters revamped by the Crisis," since as we all know, the last time we saw Mavis she was, well, not doing so hot.

Joe Tracy, so far, has not had much to do in the series, other than pop up from time to time to talk to Katar and Shayera.  Given his history in the Shadow War, if he turns out to be more than he seems, I won't be super surprised, but right now I figure he will stay as a cypher.  The same goes for the Commissioner -- Shayera's interactions so far have been more with her Sergeant and the officers she is working with, but at least he got brought back.  Somehow I doubt he will have any connection to Thanagarian technology this time out.

--The politics, including the comparison of the values of America and Thanagar.  I knew that this series was political in nature, and given the amount of politics in the miniseries, that's a reasonable approach.  I was not, prepared, however, for a treatise on the Constitution and whether or not Americans actually believe it.  It's an interesting discussion, and to their credit Truman and Ostrander don't take the easy way out with either flag waving patriotism, nor downtrodden "blame America first" cynicism.  So while I think the intent is perfectly clear with the political aspects of the series so far, at least it's been well written.  

--Shadow Thief shows up within the first 6 issues.  Totally did not see this coming.  And I love that Graham Nolan and Rick Burchett channel Kubert with his wonderfully abstract anatomy and inky blackness when Sands uses the shadow field.  It makes me happy to see both Byth and Shadow Thief being thorns in the Hawks' sides in the Post-Crisis era.  No I am awaiting Matter Master and Ira Quimby!  

So far, 5 issues in, I am very much enjoying the series for what it is -- a serious-minded reboot of Hawkman for the Post-Crisis universe.  It's not nearly as fun to read as the Silver Age stories, but that doesn't mean it's not good.  All it means is that you have to approach this series with the correct context, and keep in mind the time when it was published, both for DC Comics in general and the world at large.  

At the end of the day, "A good story, well told," is what I am looking for, and Truman, Ostrander, Nolan, et. al. have been delivering that.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

HeroesCon 2014: Hawkworld, Abberant Six, And Then Some

My "home" comic convention is, presently, HeroesCon up in Charlotte, NC.  There is the new kid in town, the upstart SC Comicon right here in the Upstate, but I was out of town for it this year, so that showdown will have to wait until 2015.

In any event, one of the highlight guests for me this year at HeroesCon was Tim Truman, whom devoted Hawkfans will immediately recognize as the writer and artist of the prestige format series.  And that's exactly what I brought for him to sign, unsurprisingly.  (I left out the fact that I found all three issues for a dollar, but really.)  I got a chance to talk briefly with Mr. Truman about Hawkworld, and the changes wrought by the series.

The story which Mr. Truman told me was an interesting one -- Hawkworld was originally intended to be a joint project with him on art and Gardner Fox was supposed to write!  But, unfortunately, the right before he began work on the series, Truman said he received a call from DC informing him of Mr. Fox's untimely passing.  So the project was put on the shelf for a little bit, and became double duty for Truman.  Man, I wonder how different the series would have been with Fox writing it?  Fox's Thanagar from the Silver Age was a utopia, which the Thanagar we got in Hawkworld is anything but.

The other comment which Mr. Truman made was that the whole concept of Hawkworld was to be a  love letter to the Hawkman work done by Joe Kubert.  And while Kubert's influence on Hawkman cannot be overstated, I personally don't see a whole lot of Kubert's swooping, pulp-influenced style in Truman's work.  But I suppose there is a fine line between aping and paying homage.

The other big highlight guest with some Hawk work in his portfolio was cosmic scribe extraordinaire Jim Starlin!  Along with my copy of The Death Of Captain Marvel, I thought the best way to use my short amount of time with Mr. Starlin would be to bring my copies of the Hawkman Special and Adam Strange Special.  Now, part of this was my desire to be the only guy who would bring these books for him to sign, but I also wanted to talk about the Rann-Thanagar Holy War/Strange Adventures story and what was planned for Hawkman as part of the Abberant Six.

I told Mr. Starlin that I really enjoyed this run of DC Cosmic, including Synnar The Demiurge and the re-emergence of an alien Hawkman.  Mr. Starlin said that he had every intention, directed by DC, to turn Hawkman back into a science fiction character again, but those plans came off the rails when Geoff Johns said he needed Hawkman as he was for Blackest Night, and that took precedent over what he was doing.  Which jives with what I had speculated back in the day, for whatever that's worth nowadays.

Mr. Starlin also told me a tidbit which really amused me -- he admitted that at the time he first drew him, Hawkman was the hardest character to draw!  All of the feathers and details apparently drove him crazy.  But he also admitted that another character supplanted Hawkman as the most difficult to draw -- Annihilus, to the point that he redesigned him to make him easier to draw!

The other Hawk creator I spoke to was Frank Tieri, who stepped in after the Rob Liefeld dust up.  But we talked about his work on Iron Man rather than the Winged Wonder; in any event, Mr. Tieri is a great guy and a lot of fun to talk to.

All told, HeroesCon was a successful convention; I have often said that you get out of a con what you put into it.  I tend to go to comic cons for more the capitalistic side than the creative side, but while I was able to reap some benefit from the back issue bins (DC Comics Presents #74!), I got a lot more out of Artist's Alley this time out.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hawkgirl "Bombshell" Pin-Up Art Print

This 1940's style pinup of Hawkgirl is part of a part of the DC Comics "Bombshell" collection by Ant Lucia.  You can check out the others in the series right here.  The entire ten image series is being released as art prints by Quantum Mechanix at a price of $14.95 apiece.

I had seen the Wonder Woman of these before, but the others, including Hawkgirl, are new to me.  I would have figured that being of a 1940's art deco style, the subject would have been Shiera Saunders, between the helmet design and the colors on her costume, it's clear that this is Shayera.  Then again, the fact that it is Thanagar Tree-Top Tours should have also been a dead giveaway, but hey.  

My favorite part of the piece is the posing, specifically the legs.  Very much in the "good girl" sort of pose which was common for pin-ups.  Legs together, toes pointed, tush sticking out (although covered with her jacket), it all works very nicely.  I also like that her arms are toned but not muscular, and her chest is ample without being ridiculous or over-the-top.  The helmet is a nice take on her swoopy Silver Age helmet, with the colors reminding me a bit of the Nicola Scott designed Earth-2 Kendra Saunders helmet.  The aviator goggles hanging around her neck similarly call back to this.

The jetpack/wing harness is very amusing.  I like the WW2 style artwork on the side, designating it as "The Hammer," along with her morningstar mace and 5 tick marks, which I can only assume are her "kill" count.  

Overall a very striking piece, which would look perfect hanging up in my bonus room amongst all the other nerd wall hangings.

Image: Hawkgirl "Bombshell" Art Print, 2014, Ant Lucia.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Read: Hawkworld

Finally cracked the spine on Hawkworld #1 a couple of days ago, and finished the series last night.  I had intended to read #2 to my infant daughter while my wife put the other kids to bed (at her age, simply reading is fine, doesn't matter what the material is... no, really...).  I ended up essentially tearing through #2 and then #3 in short order.  So, needless to say, I enjoyed this series quite a bit.

I have had some contact with a fellow (but admittedly much more prolific, talented, and respected) podcaster about doing a show about Hawkworld, so once I have more information on that I will communicate it here.  As such I don't want to get into my thoughts too much in this space, but I will share a couple notes.

First off, while I knew that this series was where the utopian Thanagar was jettisoned for the dystopian "modern" version, I was not privy to the details of the story, only some broad strokes (namely, Byth's presence).  So the twists and turns in the story were fresh to me, and I very much enjoyed being surprised by them.  I liked how Tim Truman included some subtle aspects of the original Katar Hol in the personality of the new one, but made him a more complex and involved character.  I mean, I'm a huge fan of the Silver Age Katar, but he's, by design, a straightforward kind of guy.  This version has a lot more facets.  

I also really appreciated the themes of dichotomy and duality, which is common in science fiction comics but very well executed in this series.  Like it says on the back cover: As Above, So Below.

Truman's art is a great fit, especially on the nice paper of the square bound, prestige format books.  I get a strong 2000 AD vibe from his work, which I suspect may be a combination of the subject matter and the muted colors.  But considering said subject matter, the art fits very nicely and I think the overall presentation is helped out tremendously by having Truman handle the visuals as well as the words.

I also have to laugh, because I was reminded of how I acquired these books while listening to an episode of the Quarter Bin Podcast, hosted by Professor Alan Middleton.  The Professor was discussing the three part prestige format book Adam Strange: Planet Heist, which he pulled, complete, out of a quarter bin.  While I did not get quite as good a deal as that, I did get the entire series from a discount bin... for a buck.  Talk about getting your money's worth on your comics!  (As an aside, I heartily recommend the Professor's show, along with the other shows over on the Relatively Geeky Podcast Network.  Go give 'em a listen!)

Overall, really dug this series and now will be queueing up the ongoing Hawkworld series as my next bit of Hawk reading.  And given that, how else can I sign off but...

As Above, So Below.

Image: Hawkworld #1, Tim Truman, 1989, image obtained from Mike's Amazing World Of DC Comics.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Upcoming: New 52 Earth-2 Hawkgirl Figure

As I mentioned yesterday, the DC May 2104 solicits are posted, and we have this offering: Earth-2 Hawkgirl!

Based on the designs of the hit monthly comic book EARTH 2. Batman, Superman and Hawkgirl continue the battle against the hordes of Apokolips to protect all life on their Earth as they know it!
BATMAN - 6.75"
SUPERMAN - 6.75"
* Action Figures * $24.95 US • On Sale August 2014 * Allocations May Occur

Kendra Saunders comes equipped with her pistol, and it looks like a working holster for it as well.  In her left hand, she appears to be holding her combat knife, but it is hard to see as the tip is pointing right at the camera.  The giveaway: the sheath on her right boot.  Her long ponytail is off to the side in the solicit image, but it's unclear what kind of articulation it has, if any.  It may just be on a ball joint in the back of her head, but if it was up to me I would make it a bendy piece.  The blue and black look nice, and the wings retain the angelic quality and coloring from when Nicola Scott first drew her a couple of years back.  

The price is a bit steep compared to retail toys but these "adult collector" toys have been essentially at this price point for a while.  Trust me, the price of oil has really taken it's toll on the price of poly-plastics.

Not sure if I will pick her up or not.  I really like Kendra's new duds (the blue is such a twist from what one normally expects for a Hawk costume), but I have severely cut back my spending on toys... the $150 I dropped on X-Plus's vinyl Sanda and Gaira not withstanding.  But I have to admit, she would look super sharp on my Hawkman shelf!

Image: New 52 Earth-2 Hawkgirl toy, 2014, DC via Newsarama.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DC vs Marvel: The $3.99 Debate

Alright, this is not really Hawk-related, but please bear with me and hear me out.

I have been hearing for several years now how "DC made $3.99 the standard price point" for comics in this country.  I have long pushed back on this, saying that DC generally (but not always, especially for miniseries) kept their standard length books at $2.99, whereas Marvel arbitrarily decided which books were $2.99 and which were $3.99.  But this being the Internet, Marvel == Good; DC == Bad; so my cries fell on deaf ears.

So with the May 2014 solicits for both Marvel and DC going live on Newsarama, I decided to do a little research.  I'd get a count of how many books each publisher put out at each of the two price points.  Maybe I was off base with my statements, and that was why no one was listening.  Some hard numbers should make things clear.

For reference, here are the solicitation lists I used -- Marvel, and DC.  As I said, both are from Newsarama.

Here's what I found:

Books Priced $2.99:
-- Marvel: 8
-- DC: 50

Books Priced $3.99:
-- Marvel: 60
-- DC: 17

As you can see, Marvel has far, far more titles at the $3.99 price point than DC does for the month of May 2014.  But, I wanted to make sure I was comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.  It's fair for a publisher to charge more for a title with more pages than standard.  So maybe Marvel is releasing a lot of oversized books with extra material in them, which would explain the higher amount of $3.99 books.  So I took a look at page counts.

Books with page count of 32 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 67
-- DC: 61

Books with page count of 40 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 5
-- DC: 4

Books with page count of 48 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 4
-- DC: 3

So, no, Marvel is not publishing appreciably more oversized comics than DC is.  Pretty cut and dried, isn't it?  Certainly seems that way to me.

Now, I suspect that a lot of these higher price point comics from Marvel are priced that way because of the inclusion of the "free" digital codes in the books.  At this point, the only series I read from Marvel is Iron Man (natch) (although that Nightcrawler book written by Chris Claremont is seriously tempting), and that series has been $3.99 with a digital code for a while.  But here's the rub: I don't use those digital codes.  I have redeemed a few of them, but at the end of the day I read my new comics physically, reserving my tablet for older comics, generally.  So why can't Marvel give me a break, knock a buck off the price, and not include the code?  

Of course that will not happen.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I get a discount through DCBS on every comic I buy (save for the odd one here and there I get from the LCS).  But in today's market, every dollar and every cent really matters, and those start to add up really quickly.

Now, none of this means anything from a quality standpoint.  Please, read what you like and can afford to buy, and if you don't like what DC, Marvel, or any publisher is doing then make yourself heard.  But I wanted to put these numbers out there and at least make everyone aware that this popularly held notion that DC is gouging readers is simply not borne out by the statistics.

Some additional notes:

-- Obviously, these numbers are not looking at trade paperbacks, hardcovers, or other collected editions, nor toys and other collectibles.

-- Both publishers have 9 titles at the $4.99 price point.  All of these are either oversized (ranging from 40 pages to 64 pages) or a "combo pack" which includes a digital access code.

-- Hawk-related: We're getting an New 52 Earth-2 Hawkgirl figure!  More on this in later post.

-- Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster is FINALLY getting released!  Woo Woo Woo!  You Know It!