Category Archives: Art

An Eisner Afternoon At The Society of Illustrators

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 at the Society of Illustrators in New York

My first introduction to Will Eisner’s work was sometime in the mid-80s with reprints of his later Spirit stories, but my true appreciation for his art and stories developed late in my comic book reading years.  I had been out of reading and collecting comics for about ten years when I began to seek out his work in the mid 2000s, first with his 1940s Spirit strips, then his graphic novels A Contract with God, The Dreamer and Last Day In Vietnam.  Eisner quickly became one of my favorite comic artists, primarily for his groundbreaking splash pages, film noir inspired use of light and dark, and beautifully inked lines.  By that point I wanted to learn as much as I could about his art and career and quickly began to catch up with his books Comics and Sequential Art, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Shop Talk.  Just as I was making up for lost time, looking forward to his next graphic novel and hoping to one day meet him at a local comic con, he passed away in January 2005.

This year would have been Eisner’s 100th, and the Society of Illustrators in New York marked the occasion with their latest exhibit Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017, an exhibition of Eisner’s original artwork that spans from his Eisner & Iger Studio stories, 1940s Spirit strips, and his later graphic novels to his final work The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I had seen several of Eisner’s original pages at The Jewish Museum’s Masters of American Comics exhibition in 2006, and while it was an incredible exhibit of comic book art, I remember thinking (in my humble opinion) that Eisner was under represented in that show.  So when the Society of Illustrators announced they would be honoring Will Eisner with this exhibition, I knew this would be one of the best opportunities for me to see a wider range of his work including some original 1940s Spirit pages.  It didn’t disappoint.

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration at the Society of Illustrators in New York

The exhibition takes up two floors of the Society’s building, with the main floor showcasing Spirit pages from the 40’s to the 70’s.  The boldly colored print of Spirit character P’Gell grabbed my attention as soon as I walked in (pictured above), but it was the original art I was there to see and I quickly made my way to the April 27, 1941 Spirit strip drawn by Eisner.  It’s amazing to see the progression from his early drawing style to the classic The Spirit art of the late 40s as you work your way across the first wall of the exhibit.  Eisner’s line work is bolder and more fluid in the 1947 original Spirit pages on display, which include several splash pages that showcase The Spirit’s logo.

The Spirit Original Art from 4/27/41

The Spirit Original Art from 8/3/47

It’s one thing to appreciate the final colored and lettered art of The Spirit comic strips, but seeing Eisner’s original hand drawn artwork (even the early pages browned from the paper’s acidity and splashed with white correction fluid) takes it to another level of appreciation.  The Spirit pages on display tell a deeper story with the unerased pencil lines, blueline notes and white opaque paint that show elements of Eisner’s artistic process.  I was so drawn to the original art on display when I first walked into the exhibit that I completely missed several of Eisner’s personal items that were displayed in the room.  Eisner’s drawing board, as it was left at the time of his 2005 passing, as well as several of his used brushes, inking nibs and pages of a Jules Feiffer unpublished script for The Spirit.

Will Eisner’s artist tools and a Spirit script by Jules Feiffer at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

The exhibit continues in the basement with original art, including rough layouts, mostly of his later works.  But two Smash Comics pages from the Eisner and Iger Studio (#6 from 1939 and #8 from 1940) and a 1936 oil painting from his teenage years were a nice surprise.  The layouts of the Smash Comics pages were straightforward and simple compared to Eisner’s later works, but each page had one panel that was drawn with a more dramatic angle than the others that foreshadowed the cinematic style that he would be known for with The Spirit.  His later works on display include pages from A Contract With God, Dropsie Avenue and Last Day in Vietnam.

Will Eisner exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

From beginning to end, the Society of Illustrator’s Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 is a strong representation of Eisner’s work.  But my afternoon at the Society of Illustrators didn’t end there.  Other works of art by the greats (a Steve Canyon strip by Milton Caniff and paintings by Leyendecker) lead to the second floor exhibit Heroes of the Comics by Drew Friedman.

Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 ends on Saturday June 3rd and I highly recommend it for fans of Eisner’s work and anyone who appreciates the medium of graphic novels.  This exhibition will be followed by The Art of Spider-Man beginning on June 6th.

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Irwin Hasen (1918-2015)

I was saddened by the news of cartoonist Irwin Hasen’s passing at the age of 96 today.  He was best known for co-creating (with Don Edson) the newspaper comic strip Dondi which ran from 1955 to 1986, and for his work on characters like The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash during the Golden Age of comic books.  Well into his 90’s he was a fixture at the New York based comic conventions, sketching for fans and sharing stories about his career.  Back in September 2014 Irwin was honored at the Society of Illustrators with a screening of a documentary on his life and career, Irwin: A New York Story by director Dan Makara, and in October 2014 he received an Eisner Award at the New York Comic Con.

The first comic con I ever attended was the 2004 Big Apple Con in New York.  Before the show, I had looked up the guest list and put together a list of sketches and autographs I hoped to acquire.  When I had looked up Irwin’s body of work, I knew that I had to get a sketch of the Golden Age Green Lantern from the artist that drew him back in the 40’s.  Of my entire collection of art over the last decade, Irwin’s drawing of Alan Scott was the first I had ever acquired, and the memory of that moment still stands out.

He was sitting at his table covered with prints of his drawings of Wildcat (which he co-created with writer Bill Finger), The Flash and Wonder Woman.  I asked if he was sketching that day and he said “Sure!  What character do you want?” and quoted his price for a pencil and inked black and white sketch, and the price for one with color.  I requested a black and white drawing of Alan Scott as the Green Lantern and he began drawing him in a classic Golden Age pose, marching forward with his power ring leading the way.

I’ve always been a fan of comic book art, and this convention was the first time I was able to see artists in action drawing their characters, so I was fascinated by the process.  Irwin finished the drawing and looked up to see me smiling like a kid at my first convention sketch.  He paused for a second, smiled, and broke out his markers to color it.  I was about to pay the extra amount for the color, but he waved his hand as if to say “Nah, the color’s on me.”  That’s still my favorite comic con memory.

Irwin Hasen - Green Lantern

 

 

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The Captain America Project #19: Bob McLeod

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

#19: Bob McLeod (The New Mutants, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Action Comics)

The Captain America Project is winding down, and the 19th spot on this jam page was filled during the 2014 New York Comic Con by one of my favorite artists, Bob McLeod.

Captain America - Bob McLeod

I’ve been a fan of his work since Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (The New Mutants) and in addition to his pencils and inks on Marvel and DC titles like The Amazing Spider-Man and Action Comics, his art in The Uncanny X-Men #152 (and that issue’s fantastic cover) still stands out as a favorite of mine in the middle of Dave Cockrum’s second run on the title back in 1981.

So there’s one spot left on the page, and I have one particular artist in mind for the 20th spot.  It’s been over four years since I started The Captain America Project, and I’m looking forward to finally completing it this year.  I’m going to attend three New York based comic conventions in the next several months, so hopefully I’ll have the final spot filled by then and I can finally have this amazing page framed and on my wall.

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The Captain America Project #18: Lee Weeks

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

#18: Lee Weeks (Daredevil, Gambit, Daredevil: Dark Nights)

One of my goals at the 2014 New York Comic Con was to wrap up the Captain America project.  With three spots left on the page, I had made my list of final “must have” artists to complete it.  My first stop at NYCC that Sunday morning was Lee Weeks’ table.

I’ve been a fan of Lee’s work for years and really enjoyed his three issue run on Daredevil: Dark Nights (#1-3).  He did a great job on this Cap sketch, and it’s a fantastic addition to the page.

Captain America - Lee Weeks

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NYCC 2014: From Albuquerque to Artist Alley in Record Time

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Since the first show in 2006, the New York Comic Con is the comic book related event that I look forward to the most each year.   I still can’t believe that only eight years ago it started as a one room event that took up a fraction of the Jacob Javits Center.  And while I tend to complain about the crowds in the exhibit hall each year, I am very happy that the show has grown in popularity into one of the premiere comic book conventions with an attendance (over 151,000 attendees) that has now surpassed the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ll admit I don’t take as full advantage of the show as most of the attendees do.  I don’t cosplay (though I am tempted to break out the stormtrooper armor each year), and I avoid the larger panels for the less crowded sessions, but that’s because I choose to maximize my time in Artist Alley to meet the creators that have written and drawn my favorite stories of the last four decades.  This year was no different but that was because I had less time at NYCC than previous years.  My faithful sidekick and I had set up a two week vacation in Arizona and New Mexico that overlapped the first three days of NYCC and I didn’t think I would be able to attend this year.  But when I found out we were flying the red eye from Albuquerque to JFK I knew that I could make the last day of the show.

While I may have missed New York Super Week and the first three days of NYCC, I made up for it by buying some comic related merchandise during our stop in Albuquerque.  First stop was the amazing Astro-Zombies comic shop where I got a great deal on copies of X-Men #90 and Fantastic Four #92.  I also found Days of Future Past HeroClix that sold out at my New York comic and game shops (Storm, Blob, Pyro and a Sentinel!).  If you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend a visit to Astro-Zombies.  They have a great selection of new and back issues and a friendly staff.  I also picked up a few Marvel Comics themed wall decorations at a local art store on sale.  Buying these items that I would have picked up at NYCC softened the blow of not attending the first three days (and probably saved me a few bucks!).  Heck, even the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta had a con feel with a huge crowd and members of the local chapter of the 501st Legion in attendance as the Darth Vader and Yoda hot air balloons ascended!

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante's Inferno)

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

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Stormtroopers prepare the crowd for Yoda at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

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Darth Vader gets ready for the mass ascension at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

But no sooner than I had gotten home from JFK Sunday morning, I was pulling together every book I wanted autographed, my sketch book for commissions, and of course The Captain America Project to (hopefully) complete.  I arrived at the Javits Center around 9:15 that morning, and I was surprised to not see a crowd gathered in front.  But reality soon set in when I realized the thousands of attendees were lined up in the lower level of the convention center prior to the 10:00 start time.  Overall it was a good system, and even though I was towards the back of the line I made it into Artist Alley by about 10:15.  Thankfully most of the attendees were heading to the exhibit hall and Artist Alley was practically empty when I walked in.

My top priority at NYCC was completing the Captain America Project: a jam page of 20 drawings of Captain America by 20 different artists.  After four years, 17 of the 20 spots on my Captain America jam page had been filled by artists like Jim Lee, David Finch, Herb Trimpe and even Golden Age artist Allen Bellman.  I had put a lot of thought into which artists I wanted to finish the page, and even though there were more artists to choose from than spots available on the page, I decided they would be filled by three of my favorite artists of the last 30 years.  My first two stops were Lee Weeks’ and Bob McLeod’s tables.

Weeks’ art has been a favorite of mine over the last ten years, most recently his work on Daredevil: Dark Nights #1-3, and I’ve been a huge fan of Bob McLeod’s work since the early 80’s, particularly his run on The New Mutants.  So as long time fans of their work, they were “must haves” on The Captain America Project.  I had originally planned on posting scans of their Cap sketches in this post, but then I realized they would be major spoilers of their individual posts for The Captain America Project, so I decided to hold off.  But in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of them sketching on the page:

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Bob McLeod adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project

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Artist Lee Weeks adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project.

Unfortunately, the third artist that I was hoping would cap off the page (pun intended) wasn’t able to attend Sunday, so I’ll keep that one a surprise until I’m able to get that sketch at a future show.

After collecting autographs from artists Rob Liefeld, Allen Bellman, Howard Chaykin and former Marvel writer/artist/editor Al Milgrom for my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, my last stop of the afternoon was The Artists’ Choice table for a sketch from artist Jerry Ordway (Superman).  Going into the show, one of the items on my wish list was a full sized sketch of Superman from Ordway, and he didn’t disappoint with this gem:

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Superman by Jerry Ordway

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Artist Jerry Ordway and his Superman sketch.

I had every intention of staying until the end of the show to hit the exhibit hall and get a few more sketches, but by 3:00 I realized that I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours (maybe that’s a con endurance record?) and it was time to head home before I passed out and the attendees swiped my sketches.  But this year’s NYCC was definitely worth the red eye flight and sleep deprivation.  Looking forward to next year!

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2013 New York Comic Con

2013 NYCC 2

The New York Comic Con was held October 10-13 at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC.  To me, NYCC is an annual holiday that allows me to add to my growing collection of original comic book art.  When tickets went on sale over the summer, I had just missed out on purchasing my usual three day pass, but was fortunate to get individual tickets for Saturday and Sunday.  I had to make up for the lost day by tackling my wish list of artwork and the show, particularly Artist Alley, didn’t disappoint.

I arrived on Saturday about 30 minutes before the doors opened and was near the front of the crowd.  When the doors opened at 10 AM, I went directly toward Artist Alley, which for the second year in a row was located in its own section of the Javitz Center separate from the exhibit hall.

2013 NYCC Artist Alley 2

This year I decided to hold off on purchasing original art pages from published works in order to concentrate on obtaining sketches for the sketch book I started back in 2005 (some of them can be seen on my Comic Art Fans page).  This year’s NYCC boasted a great lineup of artists and I knew I would get some great additions to the sketch book.  I actually got an early start on Friday night when JHU Comics hosted a creator signing with New Paradigm for the new comics Watson & Holmes and World War Mob.  At the event, Rick Leonardi (Cloak & Dagger, Spider-Man 2099) added a great Spider-Man to my book.

Rick Leonardi - NYCC 2013

Spider-Man drawn by Rick Leonardi

I started Saturday by stopping by the The Artists Choice table to meet the great George Perez.  His work has been a favorite of mine since his work on The Avengers and The New Teen Titans in the early 80’s, and going into NYCC I had realized that although I’ve gotten sketches from George in the past, I didn’t have one in my sketch book.  George added this drawing of the Flash.

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George Perez at the 2013 New York Comic Con

Saturday brought an unexpected surprise when Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) provided fans with autographs and free sketches throughout the day.  I waited on line for about an hour that morning, but had to leave to get John Romita Jr. to autograph both my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and my Captain America jam page (both were must-haves on my list).  I thought I had missed out on the opportunity to meet Eastman, but later that afternoon I had heard that he would be back to sign and sketch.  That second time around I was about 10th on line and got a great sketch of Michelangelo in my book and Eastman’s autograph on my NYCC badge.

Kevin Eastman - NYCC 2013

Kevin Eastman at NYCC 2013

NYCC - Kevin Eastman Michelangelo

Michelangelo drawn by Kevin Eastman

Adam Hughes is always high on my list for a sketch and I stopped by his booth first thing Sunday morning.  Twice a day, he provides quick marker sketches in exchange for donations to his favorite charity.  I was third on line and got this Batgirl sketch for the book.

Batgirl drawn by Adam Hughes

Batgirl drawn by Adam Hughes

My final sketch of the day was from DC artist Ivan Reis (Green Lantern, Aquaman, Justice League).  In the past I had always been too late to get on his sketch list at NYCC, but he had time on Sunday for brush sketches and I was able to get this amazing drawing of Aquaman:

NYCC - Ivan Reis

Ivan Reis at the 2013 New York Comic COn

NYCC - Ivan Reis Aquaman

Aquaman drawn by Ivan Reis

Other highlights of the weekend were chatting with legendary artists Klaus Janson (Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns) and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Batman, Jonah Hex, Superman) and meeting fellow comic art fans.  Overall the show was a great success and I’m already counting the days to the 2014 New York Comic Con.  As I walked out of the Jacob Javitz Convention Center Saturday night, I thought about how much the show has grown since the first NYCC in 2006.  I looked up and noticed the Empire State Building was lit up with the blue and red colors of Spider-Man’s costume.  The first thought that came to my mind at that moment was “Excelsior!”

2013 NYCC Empire State Building

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The Summer of ’83: Fire and Ice

Fante’s Inferno celebrates summer movie-going by revisiting the films of the Summer of ’83.

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice Movie Poster

Release Date: August 28, 1983

Directed by Ralph Bakshi; Screenplay by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway based on characters created by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta

Starring Randy Norton, Cynthia Leake, Steve Sandor, Sean Hannon, Susan Tyrell, Maggie Roswell, Stephen Mendel

It’s fitting that I’m winding down my retrospective on the films of the Summer of ’83 with Fire and Ice because it was the last film I saw in theaters as that summer ended.  With that screening in the final week of August 1983, two and a half months of movies, comic books, video games and hanging out with friends segued into to the beginning of the upcoming school year.  Watching Fire and Ice again this past weekend not only brought back the memory of that last week of summer vacation, but also how the film and Frank Frazetta’s artwork influenced me at the time.

The film is about the war between the evil Queen Juliana of Icepeak and King Jerol of Firekeep.  Juliana and her son Nekron cover the earth with a wave of glaciers, decimating Jerol’s army as it inches closer to overtaking Firekeep.  Juliana and Nekron send a delegation to Firekeep under the guise of eliciting Jerol’s surrender, but kidnap his daughter Teegra in order to force her into a marriage with Nekron.  Teegra escapes from her captors and meets Larn, a survivor from Jerol’s army.  Teegra is recaptured by Juliana and Nekron’s sub-humans, and Larn attempts to rescue her from Icepeak with the help of Darkwolf.

There’s surprisingly little dialogue in the film’s 81 minutes, but the action is non-stop.  Fire and Ice gives life to the fantasy worlds depicted in Frank Frazetta’s incredible paintings (in one shot in the film, Darkwolf is reminiscent of Frazetta’s iconic painting of the Death Dealer), and the animation techniques used in of Fire and Ice blew me away back in 1983.  All of the character action was rotoscoped – live action was filmed, then each frame traced onto animation cels, lending a more “realistic” effect to the animation.  This film is one of the reasons I still prefer hand-drawn animation over today’s computer generated animation, and I enjoyed watching The Making of Fire and Ice for the parts of the behind-the-scenes film that show the process of rotoscoping as Bakshi directed live actors in the scenes that would be traced for the final animated sequences.

Watching it again made me wonder why Bakshi et al didn’t include more scenes with Darkwolf.  Each of his scenes brought out more of the Frazetta-esque feel, heightening the action and excitement of the film, especially going into the final battle at Icepeak.  The character of Teegra is drawn in the classic Frazetta style seen on many a fantasy novel cover.  Watching Fire and Ice this past weekend, I laughed when I remembered that during my second screening of the film in August 1983 the projectionist intentionally made one scene between Teegra and Larn out of focus because my friend Rob and I were the only people in the audience and he didn’t think it was appropriate for two eleven year olds to watch.

I was impressed at the level of talent involved in Fire and Ice’s production: director Ralph Bakshi had a strong track record of films prior to Fire and Ice (Fritz the Cat, Wizards, American Pop, The Lord of the Rings, Heavy Traffic, Hey Good Lookin’), Frank Frazetta was the absolute master of fantasy art, and writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway had written great comic book stories for Marvel and DC.  But the names that truly surprised me in my research were those of two of the film’s background painters: James Gurney (Dinotopia) and Thomas Kinkade.

The August 1983 release of Fire and Ice also coincided with my first attempts at picking up a paint brush.  My two favorite paintings by that time were Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Frank Frazetta’s The Silver Warrior.  My weekly routine included checking out the fantasy and science fiction sections of our local Waldenbooks, and it’s safe to say most of my paperback book purchases were based on the cover paintings more often than by the author or story.  I can’t imagine how many hours of the Summer of ’83 I devoted to buying art supplies at the old Larchmont Art Shop and sitting at my drawing table with a set of acrylics and canvas boards trying to copy the works of Frank Frazetta and Bill Sinkiewicz in the hopes of one day painting covers to fantasy novels and comic books.  What I would give to relive one of those carefree summer days again.

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Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby

Happy birthday to Jack “King” Kirby on what would have been his 96th birthday.

My first exposure to Jack Kirby’s work was back in the 70’s in the Italian language reprints of his Silver Age work on The Fantastic Four and the Eternals.  These reprints were published in Italy about 10 years after their initial U.S. publication, but they were new to me and I was hooked.  I’ve been a fan of his work ever since, and I’m truly grateful for the iconic characters he created and co-created over the course of his career.

Jack Kirby Portrait

Jack Kirby Galactus

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The Captain America Project #17: Michael Zeck

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

#17: Michael Zeck

When I started the Captain America Project in 2010, I knew the page would not be complete without a sketch by Michael Zeck.  His run on Captain America in the early 80’s was my favorite of the title and stood out with his bold artwork and amazing covers.  He rarely made convention appearances so I wasn’t sure the opportunity would come up for a sketch, but I always kept a space open on the page “just in case. ”  Back in June I had the honor of meeting him at Wizard World in New York and he drew this fantastic Cap sketch for me at the show.

A big thanks to Michael and also to Renee Witterstaetter of Eva Ink Artist Group for the opportunity to add this Captain America sketch to the page.

Captain America - Mike Zeck

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From My Collection: Uncanny X-Men #173 Cover Recreation by Bob Wiacek

One of the gems of my art collection is a full size recreation of a comic book cover that I commissioned from inker Bob Wiacek at the 2012 New York Comic Con.

Bob’s run on The Uncanny X-Men with penciller Paul Smith and writer Chris Claremont has always been a favorite of mine.  When I had met Bob at last year’s NYCC, I had originally intended to commission a pencil and ink sketch of Wolverine in the classic pose from the iconic cover of Uncanny X-Men #173, but Bob convinced me to go the distance and include Rogue in the background like the original cover.  As you can see, he did a fantastic job on this commission.

I had requested the upper and lower boxes to be drawn in and left blank so I can have other artists draw the head sketches of the other members of the X-Men, and a Spider-Man sketch in the lower UPC box.

All that’s missing is the title and masthead, but I’ll add them at a later date.  But in the meantime, here’s the current version of the commission!

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Uncanny X-Men #173 Cover Recreation by Bob Wiacek (After Paul Smith)

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