Tag Archives: Comic Book Art

Alien Legion #1 (1984)

Alien Legion 1 Cover

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics – April 1984) Copyright Carl Potts

When Marvel Comics launched its Epic Comics creator-owned line of titles in 1982, I had a tough time trying to decide which of the new titles would be included in my monthly comic book budget.  Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar and Steve Englehart’s Coyote were occasional purchases, but there was one Epic title that stood out the most for me starting with issue #1 and would be my top purchase with each new issue: 1984’s Alien Legion by the creative team of Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz, Frank Cirocco and Terry Austin.

Frank Cirocco’s painted cover for Alien Legion #1 drew me in from the first moment I saw it on the spinner rack of my local comic shop. The $2.00 cover price was a bit steep for me back then considering the going rate for most Marvel and DC titles on my purchase list was $.60. But at 48 pages on higher quality paper (I wish today’s comics were printed on Baxter paper!), it was worth sacrificing the two additional titles I could have bought. Though a recent look back at my purchases shows I still had a decent comics haul that month.

The inside cover’s “state of the galaxy” does a great job setting up the first story by describing the roles of the governing body, the TOPHAN Galactic Union (TGU), and the Alien Legion, mercenaries comprised of different races from throughout the Union. The TGU is made up of elected officials from the Thermor, Ophides and Auron galaxies (hence TOPHAN) with established treaties, trade agreements and peacekeeping responsibilities throughout the galaxy. The Alien Legion are the grunts sent in for the dirty work. Page one of issue #1 sums them up best: “Footsloggers and soldiers of fortune, priests and poets, killers and cads – they fight for a future Galarchy, for cash, a cause, for the thrill of adventure. Legionnaires live rough and they die hard, tough as tungsten and loyal to the dirty end.” How could I not buy this issue off the rack?

The “dossiers” of six of the main legionnaires give each of their backgrounds: Torie Montroc, the human university graduate forced to join by his wealthy father in order to earn a trust fund; Sarigar, the serpentine alien leader of the unit featured in the title; Jugger Grimrod, the anti-social weapons expert; Durge, the former wrestler known for his bravery; Meico, the kind-hearted former refugee; and Torqa Dun, the former bureaucrat who’s in it for the money more than the honor of service.

Alien Legion 1

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics April 1984) – Copyright Carl Potts

The story begins in space when a Legion ship, en route to disrupt an illegal mining operation on the nearby moon Wedifact IV, is sneak attacked by a squadron of enemy Harkilons. The Legion ship, badly damaged, fights back just long enough for two shuttles (Vector and Nomad) to escape to their destination. But despite the destruction of the main ship and the loss of half of their colleagues, the surviving 28 legionnaires still have a job to do.

Lieutenant Montroc, piloting Nomad, and Vector’s Lieutenant Birkh confirm their orders from Captain Sarigar: observe the operation from the air, then rendezvous with Captains Sarigar and Phyte to plan further action. Birkh’s team spots the illegal mining operation, but what looks to be a routine plan is thrown off when the mine’s defense battery knocks out Vector shuttle, crash landing it to the surface.

Before Birkh’s team can even assess their surroundings, they’re ambushed by rogue miners led by Prinn, who waste no time shooting to kill. Birkh curses the fact the legionnaires can’t properly fight back as their regulation weapons were replaced by eco-friendly dart guns in order not to environmentally impact the planet. Prinn, hardly sympathetic to the ecological impact of his mining operation, kills Birkh. The 28 are now down to 14.

Alien Legion 2

Alien Legion #1 (Epic Comics April 1984) – Copyright Carl Potts

Back at Tophan Galactic Union headquarters, Legion representatives are given little support by the committee members, who are more concerned with the ecological preservation of Wedifact IV and its species of rathosaurs over the military implications of the Harkilon empire breaking an already fragile peace. The representatives, ambivalent to the military in general, simply want the legionnaires to fulfill their mission of knocking out the pirate mining outpost with as little environmental consequences as possible, regardless of the Legion’s losses.

Back on Wedifact IV Montroc leads his seven man squad through the jungle and finds Birkh’s team dead in a clearing. As the remaining legionnaires bury and collect the dogtags of the fallen, Badj sneaks off on his own to observe the rathosaurs. Only they are not living uninterrupted in their natural habitat, they’ve been trained by the pirates to do their manual labor.  Montroc’s job isn’t made any easier by infighting among the men, but a crack of Sarigar’s serpentine tail quickly restores order.

The remaining legionnaires move in on Prinn’s mining operation with a nighttime raid. The idealistic Montroc asks Sarigar if it’s worth the risk, but Sarigar quickly reminds him that as legionnaires it’s about following the orders. When their stealth attempt to breach the mine fails, it’s the legionnaires versus the entire camp. With the odds against them and nothing more than dart guns, the legionnaires ignore their disadvantage and give it everything they’ve got. Prinn uses his lackeys to save his own skin, which leads to a surprise reveal.

No spoilers here. Potts and Zelenetz crafted a fantastic story that does a great job introducing the major characters.  Penciller Frank Cirocco and inker Terry Austin complemented each other perfectly on their Alien Legion run.  Austin is one of a handful of inkers who’s lines worked amazingly with many pencillers: Howard Chaykin, Paul Smith and of course, John Byrne to name a few.  But his all too brief work with Frank Cirocco on the pages of Alien Legion is my favorite of his penciller/inker collaborations.  I’m the proud owner of three original Terry Austin inked pages, but it’s my Cirocco/Austin page from Alien Legion #4 that is my favorite of my original comic art collection.  The crisp lines make me wish they worked on more Alien Legion issues and a broader range of stories together.

After reading Alien Legion #1, it was a tough wait until the next issue.  But great writing, great characters, and top notch art always made subsequent issues worth the wait.  Even thirty five years later, these footsloggers are well worth revisiting.  Long live the Legion!

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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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A Day at Special Edition: NYC

Special Edition NYC

On Saturday June 14th I had the opportunity to attend Reed Expo’s Special Edition: NYC at the Jacob Javitz Center.  Since its announcement earlier this year, I was looking forward to this event due to its smaller size than October’s New York Comic Con, and its greater focus on the comic book creators.

I arrived at the Javitz Center about a half hour after the doors opened Saturday morning, and at first I wondered if I was in the wrong venue.  There was no line to get into the convention center and it was almost completely empty.  The exhibit hall/Artist Alley was located in the North section of the convention center (Artist Alley at the last two NYCC’s) and while it was a smaller show in terms of space and overall attendance, there was still a good buzz and a good sized crowd for the room.  It was much more low key than NYCC and it gave attendees a better opportunity to meet and chat with the writers and artists in attendance.

Special Edition NYC show floor

Special Edition NYC - Ultron

First stop in Artist Alley was Jerry Ordway’s booth.  A sketch from Jerry was always high on my “must have” list, and I was fortunate enough to have Jerry add Superman to my sketch book.

Jerry Ordway - NY Special Edition

My priority at any comic convention is adding new sketches to my sketchbook, and one of the realities of this obsession is standing in line, sometimes for hours, just for the opportunity to meet or get an autograph/sketch from a favorite creator.  But  it’s always great to meet fellow comic fans on line and talk comics and comic art.  While on line for my Ordway sketch, a fellow attendee showed his latest ink:

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Another highlight of the show for me was meeting writer/artist/editor and Alien Legion co-creator Carl Potts.  Alien Legion was a favorite comic of mine in the 80’s, and one of my favorite pieces of original comic art in my collection is a page from Alien Legion #4 written by Potts, and drawn by Frank Cirocco and Terry Austin).  I purchased a copy of his latest book The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics and was happy to hear that Titan Comics will relaunch Alien Legion with Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1 on June 25th.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the return of Jugger Grimrod, Torie Montroc and Sarigar!

NY Special Edition - Carl Potts

Some other pickups at the show included two hardcover copies of Marvel Masterworks, X-Men #122 and #123 by Claremont, Byrne and Austin, New Gods #4 by Kirby and Micronauts #2 by Mantlo and Golden.  The final highlight of the show for me was the opportunity to stop by the table of freelance artist and good friend Jose Molestina of Journey Studios.  In all Special Edition: NYC was a great time and I hope Reed Expo brings it back next year.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

 

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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!

X-Men-173-Wiacek Cover-Recreation

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

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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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