Category Archives: Art

The Captain America Project #16: Joe Sinnott

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

#16: Joe Sinnott (Fantastic Four, Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales, The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday Comic Strip)

I’ve met Joe Sinnott on several occasions at the New York comic book conventions over the last several years.  Each meeting has always been a pleasure and honor to chat with one of the legends of Marvel Comics.  The highlights of his career are too numerous to list, as he’s inked every major artist for Marvel/Timely over the last 60 years.  Needless to say, a Captain America sketch from Joe was a must have!

Captain America drawn by Joe Sinnott

Captain America drawn by Joe Sinnott

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From My Collection: “Unforgiven” by Rick Leonardi and Joe Rubinstein

In honor of Good Friday, I wanted to devote this post to a very special page in my comic art collection: page two from Brian Augustyn’s Unforgiven (2004, Metron Press) pencilled by Rick Leonardi and inked by Joe Rubinstein.

Unforgiven (Leonardi-Rubinstein) FI

I love the combination of Rubinstein’s inks over Rick Leonardi’s pencils.  I’ve been a fan of their Marvel and DC work but I had never been aware of the religious themed Unforgiven comic book (with primary storyline penciled by Dick Giordano and inked by Terry Austin).

This amazing splash page depicts Christ on the cross, flanked by the two thieves (Dismas and Gestas according to the Gospel of Nicodemas).  I wish I could have seen Leonardi’s original pencils compared to the inked page.  Rubinstein’s line work on the wind, clouds and sunlight lends a sense of power and awe, but the simple lines depicting Mary looking up as her son is dying on the cross add another layer of emotion to the scene.  To the right, a Roman foot soldier leans against his spear as if he’s just passing the time until the condemned have died.  This is a perfectly composed page, and it’s one of my favorites in my collection.

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The Captain America Project #15: Allen Bellman

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

#15: Allen Bellman (Captain America Comics, All Winners Comics, The Human Torch, Marvel Mystery Comics, Sub Mariner Comics, Young Allies Comics)

When I started the Captain America Project in 2010, I never expected to meet or obtain a sketch from a Golden Age comic book artist that actually drew Captain America during World War II.  But last March when I read that Allen Bellman would be attending Mike Carbo’s New York Comic Book Expo, I had to meet him.  Before I could even ask if he was sketching, he saw my Captain America jam page and quickly grabbed a pencil to draw a classic style Cap for me.

Captain America drawn by Allen Bellman

Captain America drawn by Allen Bellman

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The Captain America Project #14: George Perez

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

#14: George Perez (The Avengers, The New Teen Titans, Crisis On Infinite Earths)

Next up in the Captain America project is this sketch by the great George Perez.  I obtained this sketch at Megacon in Orlando back in 2011.  George was raffling off sketches for donations to the Hero Initiative and I was fortunate enough to win this addition to my Captain America jam page.   I’ve been a fan of his since his work on The Avengers and he was on my “must have” list when I started The Captain America Project in 2010.  This sketch is a classic version of the Captain America I was introduced to back in the 70’s.

Captain America - George Perez

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My Agony and Ecstasy of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

Wednesday October 31st marked the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.  Pope Benedict XVI marked the occasion, but the commemoration was surprisingly low key considering its place in art history and its millions of visitors each year.

You can go back and forth as to whether the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel in Rome or the statue of David in Florence should be considered Michelangelo’s true masterpiece.  With so many incredible works over the course of his lifetime (the Pieta, The Last Judgement, Moses) it’s difficult to even narrow it down to those two.  The scope and vibrancy of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is unparalleled, almost making you forget Michelangelo’s imposing fresco The Last Judgement is in the same room.  David is perfection in stone.  Each work took several years to complete.  I’ve seen both in person and stood in awe of them, soaking in each detail and oblivious to the tourists around me as I stared into the eyes of the Delphic Sibyl in the frescoes and saw pure white Carrara marble come to life in David’s gaze.  But in my opinion the designation of Michelangelo’s true masterpiece falls on the Sistine Chapel for two reasons: first, when you say Michelangelo’s name most people will automatically think of the Sistine Chapel, and second because of the fact that Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor, which makes his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (even with assistants) even more of a marvel.

This post is a bit off of my beaten path of film and comic books, but I had to write it because my passion for art has its roots in my exposure to Michelangelo’s work at a young age.  Around 1979 my parents bought a coffee table book on his works which coincidentally was also around the time I first picked up a pencil to draw on a consistent basis.  That book, simply titled Michelangelo, is still part of my collection, and over the years I’ve picked it up many times when I needed a burst of inspiration before taking on a drawing or attempting at painting.  Years ago when I tried to teach myself oil painting my first subject was a copy of God and Adam’s hands from The Creation of Adam.  I failed miserably, and even though my final painting looks like more of a murky preliminary sketch, it goes to show the level of ambition I had at the time to learn the technique of oil painting.  To this day I regret not sticking with it.

Oil painting on canvas is difficult enough, but the fresco technique Michelangelo utilized on the Sistine Chapel ceiling combines skill, technique and science.  Each day’s work, the giornata, was dictated by how much he and his assistants could paint on a patch of wet plaster before it dried.  Unlike Leonardo’s The Last Supper, which was painted directly on a dry wall (the reason for the flaking that led to the painting’s deterioration over time), the paints used by Michelangelo (colored powders mixed with egg yolk, a technique called egg tempera) were applied directly on the wet plaster.  Once dry, the pigments were part of a permanent bond to the wall, not simply a layer of paint over it.

Back in January of 1992 my family had taken a trip to Italy, spending several days in Rome.  It was an amazing time, but it began my elusive thirteen year journey to see the restored Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The Sistine Chapel restoration was completed in 1991, and our January 1992 trip would have been my first opportunity to see the restored ceiling in all its newly vibrant glory.  I had seen pictures of the restored frescoes in a magazine article that previous fall and couldn’t believe how intense the colors were after over 475 years of dirt were removed.  Before the restoration was taken on, few people would have imagined the variation of color in Michelangelo’s palette.  Looking at pictures of the frescoes prior to the restoration I thought his palette was limited to darker browns, reds and yellows.  I never would have imagined the bright blues, oranges and purples.  Even the film The Agony and the Ecstasy represented the frescoes with more toned down colors.  Prior to its restoration the Sistine Chapel was a marvel of painting by one of the greatest artists mankind has ever produced, a man that didn’t even consider himself a painter, making it an incredible achievement in its own right.  But when the restoration was complete, it was even more awe inspiring.  Each of the subjects, from God to Adam to the prophets to the sibyls were alive.

On the first day of our 1992 trip we almost went to the Sistine Chapel.  The restoration of the frescoes had recently been completed and had been opened to the public, but for some inexplicable reason we decided against going that day even though our hotel was only two blocks down from Vatican (I couldn’t imagine a better reminder that we were in Rome each morning as we stepped out of that hotel!).  Our weekend included the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon and Castel Sant’ Angelo.  On our last day we decided to finally check out the Sistine Chapel only to find out the Vatican Museum in which it is located was closed that day.  I wasn’t too disappointed at the time because I figured I’d be back in Rome sooner or later and would eventually see it.  But each subsequent trip to Rome was met with another missed opportunity, disappointment, regret for that first missed opportunity, and the constant reminder of the sin I had committed: taking Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for granted.

Visiting the chapel wasn’t in the cards for me during two subsequent trips over the next ten years, but prior to my 2005 trip I made it my mission to finally see the chapel.  I even brought a copy of Ross King’s Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling to read in advance of seeing it in person.  But on our first day in Rome we got to the Vatican museum only to find a mile long line to get in to the main entrance.  I actually videotaped that moment and provided a commentary about my frustration at being denied yet again to see what was at the top of my cultural/artistic bucket list.  There must have been 2,000 people on line at that moment, and all I could do was stare into my video camera and say “I’m never going to see the Sistine Chapel.”

However…

On the second and final day of that trip, I mentioned to the owner of our small hotel my regret at missing out on seeing the Sistine Chapel again.  “Don’t worry,” she said.  “The line is very deceiving and actually moves quickly.  You can be at the end of the line as it snakes toward the edge of St. Peter’s and you’ll still make it inside of the main entrance within 20 minutes.”

Shortly after that conversation, we were on line to get into the Vatican Museum.  Whatever we had planned for that morning was quickly scrapped so I wouldn’t lose out on this opportunity.  Sure enough, twenty minutes after we first got on line, we were through the main doors of the Vatican Museum.  We could have got in quicker without standing on line if we had been part of a tour group, but it didn’t matter because I was finally in the museum and there was no going back!

I can’t remember how long it took us to make our way through the maze that is the Vatican Museum, but when we finally made it through the doorway into the Sistine Chapel my first thought was how it was smaller than I had expected.  But then I looked up at the ceiling and thought “My God this is magnificent.”  I just looked up from one end of the ceiling to the next.  Each panel.  Each story it told.  Each face.  The tourists that filled the room didn’t quite understand the concept of “no photos,” and were occasionally shushed by one of the guard’s stern clap of hands and “SILENCIO!”  I respected both of these rules, hence the lack of photos in this post.  I actually didn’t need to take photos or videos.  It was such a profound experience for me that the memory alone will always allow me to relive the moment.

And after thirteen years I was finally in the Sistine Chapel.  So I found an empty seat on a bench, sat down, and looked up.

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100 Years of Tarzan at Milan’s WOW Spazio Fumetto

On a recent trip to Italy my faithful sidekick and I made a stop in the city of Milan.  After a week in and out of cities with historical Renaissance charm such as Bologna, Venice and Verona, Milan was a change of pace with its metropolitan feel. Neither of us had ever been to Milan before, but we had our list of sights to see including the Duomo, the Galleria and especially Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

On our second day in Milan my faithful sidekick chimed:

“Did you know there’s a comic book museum in Milan?” she said.

Apparently the map we received at the tourist information booth at Milan’s central train station listed the museum as an attraction (Bless ’em!).  My faithful (non-comic book reading) sidekick was now more in the know than I was.

WOW Spazio Fumetto (translation: the WOW Comic Book Space…I have no idea what the WOW stands for) was located on the other side of town from our hotel, but the streetcar system could get us there within 25 minutes.  Needless to say, it was now on our “to do” list in Milan!

Walking through the gate of the museum’s property, you’re greeted by a giant statue that resembles Gertie the Dinosaur flanked by concrete barriers spray painted to caricature well known superheroes.  Off to the side is the Gotham Cafe which serves snacks, soda and coffee.  The museum opens at 3:00 daily, but when we arrived precisely at 3:05 on a sunny Tuesday the door was still locked.  Hmmm, maybe they’re running behind schedule.  Then I read the sign next to the door which translated to: “The museum will be closed today for repairs.”

Crap.

So the next day I came back with my (extremely patient) sidekick and finally made it into the museum.  We were in luck because the main exhibit was a retrospective on 100 years of Tarzan in books, film and comics.

The first floor of the museum had a small exhibit on the art of illustrator Aldo Di Gennaro which was supposed to end July 29th, but was extended to September 23rd.  I wasn’t familiar with his work prior to my visit to the museum but several of the subjects in his paintings (Westerns, adventure, alien moonscapes and 1930s crime) instantly made me a fan.  They also made me wish for more non-superhero stories in the American comic book market.

The Tarzan exhibit took up the entire second floor of the museum.  I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the size of the space, but as I made my way through the exhibit I realized I was wrong to judge.  The Spazio Fumetto did a great job representing Tarzan’s history from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books through film, TV and comic books.  Movie posters and video clips from Tarzan films and TV shows set the tone for the exhibit, but the highlight for me was the original artwork.

Paolo Ongaro and George Wilson were two other artists I wasn’t familiar with prior to being introduced to their work at the Spazio Fumetto, but these pieces of Tarzan original art added them to my list of artists to research.

Walking through an exhibition like this makes me regret taking a great character like Tarzan for granted over the years.  I remember watching Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies, Saturday morning cartoons and reading the comic books in the 70’s but Tarzan had been off of my radar since the early 80’s after watching the film Greystoke (a childhood favorite of mine).  I have to correct this egregious oversight on my part, and I’ll start by reading Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes this weekend.  Watching Greystoke again is also on the agenda.  IDW recently published Joe Kubert’s Tarzan of the Apes: Artist’s Edition.  I’m now inspired to add this to my collection of Artist’s Editions that include Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer, John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Walt Simonson’s Thor.

Grazie Spazio Fumetto for a wonderful experience, and happy 100th Tarzan!

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The Captain America Project #13: Jim Lee

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

#13: Jim Lee (Justice League, All Star Batman and Robin, X-Men, WildC.A.T.S.)

I wrapped up an incredible haul from 2010’s Big Apple Con and New York Comic Con with this amazing Captain America sketch from the great Jim Lee.  I uploaded a larger than usual image to show the texture and shading from the exposed pencil lines bringing out a darker mood in Cap’s expression.  This is an amazing sketch.

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2012 New York Comic Con

The New York Comic Con was held October 11-14 at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in New York City.  This was my sixth time attending the show in the last seven years and I’m amazed at how much the convention has grown since the first NYCC in 2006.  If I remember correctly, that first NYCC was in a space no bigger than this year’s Artist Alley and was relegated to the lower level of the Javitz Center.   Now it takes up the entire convention center and it’s still barely enough space for the thousands of comic fans and cosplayers that attend.

NYCC started on Thursday but I had a three day pass beginning on Friday.  I left work early Friday afternoon and cabbed it to the Javitz Center.  There was a good crowd at the Javitz Friday afternoon, but despite the number of people on line the wait time to get in was minimal (on all of the three days I attended) thanks to the fantastic planning by the event organizers Reed Exhibition Companies.

First stop: Artist Alley!

For me NYCC has always been about meeting the comic book writers and artists in attendance, particularly the men and women whose work I read from 1977-1989, and this show didn’t disappoint.  I had spent the week prior to NYCC looking over the list of comic creators that would be in attendance and putting together a list of who I would try to get sketches from.  My list ran down an entire page and would have cost me about a month’s salary if I was able to get all of the proposed sketches, so  I scaled it down to my “must haves.”

The first artist I met was Rick Leonardi, penciller of many Marvel titles including Cloak & Dagger, The Uncanny X-Men, and Spider-Man 2099 just to name a few.  I’ve been a big fan of his over the years, and at last year’s show I had commissioned a sketch of Cloak and Dagger from him that is one of my favorite pieces of art in my personal collection.  Lucky for me Rick’s sketch list wasn’t filled up yet when I arrived.  I asked for a Dr. Strange and he hit this one out of the park.  This sketch is definitely one of the highlights of my book.  He even added Kirby crackle!

Dr. Strange sketch by Rick Leonardi.
2012 New York Comic Con

Next up was one of my favorite inkers, Bob Wiacek.  His run on The Uncanny X-Men with penciller Paul Smith in the early 80’s is one of my all time favorites.  I decided to get a Wolverine sketch on 11″x17″ comic art board based on Paul Smith’s amazing cover from Uncanny X-Men #173.  I initially asked Bob to draw Wolverine only with the intention of having another artist draw Rogue, but I quickly changed my mind and asked him to include Rogue as well for a full cover recreation.  He showed me the pencils on Saturday, which were AMAZING, and the commission will be fully inked and FedExed to me this week.  Needless to say, this will be the signature piece of my comic art collection.

Going into the show I had a Tony Daniel sketch on my wish list, and I was able to get not one, but TWO sketches from Tony on Saturday and Sunday.  First up was a sketch card of Poison Ivy, followed by a sketch of Harley Quinn in my sketch book.  Not only is Tony an amazing artist, he is one of the nicest people I have met in my years of attending comic conventions.

Poison Ivy
Drawn by Tony Daniel

Tony Daniel shows off a Harley Quinn sketch

I was also fortunate enough to get this great Savage Dragon sketch from Erik Larsen.  The hits just keep on coming!

One of the highlights of the weekend was chatting with several of the creators in attendance about their work.  I have a copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics by Les Daniels and decided to get the Marvel alumni in attendance to autograph the inside cover.  I walked up to Louise Simonson’s table for an autograph and was surprised to see former artist/editor Carl Potts.  I had a great conversation with both of them and mentioned to Carl that I’m proud the owner of a page he drew from Alien Legion #4 (inked by Terry Austin).  Bob McLeod was very generous with his time discussing the creation of The New Mutants (post to follow!).

I walked the exhibit hall floor a few times, mainly to check out the original comic art for sale.  I fully expected the number of attendees to peak on Saturday, but the show floor was also crowded on Friday and Sunday.  After awhile I decided to stick with Artist Alley.

I did buy one piece of published original comic art over the weekend, a religious themed page drawn by Rick Leonardi and inked by Joe Rubinstein from a story they collaborated on back in the 90’s.  I won’t give too much information on the piece because I’m hoping to write a blog post on it for the Holidays.  But I will say it was a page that I wanted to buy when I first saw it online, but never thought I would have the chance to purchase it.  Now it’s officially part of my “not for sale” collection.

I had a fantastic time at NYCC over the weekend and overall I thought the show was an amazing success.  This picture pretty much sums up for me:

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My Amazing (Fantasy #15) Visit to the Library of Congress

In honor the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, I wanted to write a post about my trip to see the Holy Grail of the Silver Age of comic books.

In November 2010 I took a weekend trip to Washington D.C. with my girlfriend.  It was my first time in D.C. and the long weekend was packed with seeing the sights along the mall.  I enjoyed every monument, memorial and museum we visited, but by Sunday I was slightly preoccupied with the thought of our plans for Monday morning’s visit to the Library of Congress.  I wasn’t there to admire the architecture or take a tour, I had some research to do.  About a month earlier I had contacted curator Sara Duke of the Prints and Photographs Division in order to schedule our appointment, and from that moment I was counting the days.

If there’s one thing I’m passionate about it’s comic book art, as both an admirer and collector.  Each published page of original art is a piece of history, with a select few pages fitting into the category of monumental.  When I think of the most culturally significant comic book stories, the first few that come to mind are the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27, Fantastic Four #1 ushering in the Marvel Age of comic books, and of course the first appearance of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15.

In 2008 an anonymous donor had donated all of the original pages of art from Amazing Fantasy #15 to the Library of Congress.  How this anonymous donor had originally acquired these pages has not been made public.  Considering how much artwork from the Golden and Silver Ages has been destroyed, lost, or stolen, it’s a miracle that every page from this issue was saved.  My mission, with my trusty (and extremely patient) sidekick, was to schedule time to see the complete Spider-Man origin story in its original drawn form.

I woke up at 7:00 AM that Monday morning.  Anyone who knows me knows that I never get up at 7:00 AM.  Ever.  But that morning was different.  We had a short window of time that began at 9:30 AM sharp and we had to make the most of it.  After all, this is the first appearance of Spider-Man and there’s probably a list of folks lined up after us to see it, so I was going to make the most of every minute.

We arrived a little early, checked our backpacks with the security desk and signed up for our research cards.  By the time we made it up to the research room, my spider-sense was tingling.  Sara met us when we arrived and wheeled out a cart with several large folders.  Not only did she pull the original Spider-Man pages from Amazing Fantasy #15 for us to view, she was also kind enough to pull the original comic art to the other three stories that comprised the issue, twenty six pages in all.

I opened the first folder, and there was the opening splash page of Peter Parker standing in the background, ostracized by Flash Thompson and the cool kids.  One thing that struck me right away was how much detail there was in Steve Ditko’s inks.  Every reprint I had seen growing up was a copy of a copy and lost a lot of the detail in Ditko’s brush work.  Seeing the original art allowed me to actually feel the disappointment and angst in the expression on Peter Parker’s face.

At the top of the page is a paste up of the Spider-Man logo that covers Ditko’s original hand drawn logo.  I wish I could have been in the room in 1962 to hear the reason for changing it.  And if you look in the margins, Stan Lee’s original hand written notes “direct” some of the scenes in Ditko’s panels.

I took a lot of pictures, but unfortunately rights restrictions keep me from posting them.  Thumbnails are available here at the Library’s website and you can order scans, but if you’re a fan of comic art I highly recommend seeing them in person.

We had a good hour to see all twenty six pages and were never rushed.  Sarah sat with us the entire time and pointed out details that I never would have noticed.  I thanked Sarah for her time, and mentioned that I would love to come back to see the pages again one day.  I chuckled when I realized my tax dollars made me a part owner of them.  By my calculations, which I won’t bore you with, I estimate that my personal portion of these 26 pages of original art is .000035 square inches of a page.  Hey, I’ll take it!

This was a Bucket List moment for me, ranked up there with seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and statue of David (next up is Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper).  Prior to reading that article in 2008 about the LOC’s acquisition of the Amazing Fantasy #15 pages, I didn’t think they even existed.  And now I saw them.

God Bless America.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Prior to our bus ride back to New York, my faithful (and patient) sidekick surprised me with a copy of Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, complete with scans of the original Spider-Man pages we had just seen that morning.  She never ceases to amaze me.

These original pages to Amazing Fantasy #15 were featured on the History Channel back in 2009.  That clip can be found here.

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The Captain America Project #11: Khoi Pham

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

#11: Khoi Pham (Mighty Avengers, X-Factor)

The 2010 Big Apple Con was also a mother-lode of Captain America sketches for my jam page.  Next up on my list was Khoi Pham.  I love the line work on this panel.  And even though only half of Cap’s face is visible, Pham brings out the intensity in Cap’s expression.

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