Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rescue Me: The Vamp


She's fifty and fabulous! Isn't it great how Gramma can still fit into the slacks she wore in 1968? And I think the facelift is settling quite nicely. I'm sorry, but when I hear the name "Vamp" I don't think of somebody who looks like this. Like a swashbuckling Gibson Girl with Leonard Nimoy's face. Also? Brainiac 5 called; he wants his belt back.

The Vamp was an agent for a criminal organization called "The Corporation." (Insert Enron joke here.) They cave her the power to transform into the Animus, a frankly awesome-looking creature that was a goggle-eyed, big-brained future guy crossed with a brawny caveman, dressed in animal skins and wielding a ginormous crystal club. The Animus rocked. The Vamp? Not so much. Although she did manage to infiltrate America's top security agency. S.H.I.E.L.D. even gave her that belt, whch somehow allowed her to absorb any foe's powers and skills. Anyway, long story short, the Vamp eventually got killed in that "bar with no name" massacre that Scourge pulled off, and then somebody cloned her, and then the clone got killed. There's more to it than that, of course, and it involves Typhoid Mary and Deadpool, but I really don't have the time or interest to go into it.

So, how would I have dressed the Vamp, if I'd had my 'druthers? Like so.


I wanted to incorporate the style of a silent-era, honest-to-goodness VAMP into her costume, since that actually makes sense. So I used Art Nouveau/Japanese sinuous iconography on the bodysuit. Where's the belt, you ask? Good question. I really wanted to use the twisting snake thing, and the belt -- or any belt, really -- didn't look too good in conjunction with it. So instead I miniaturized the technology and put it in that flower on her waist. It's supposed to look raised, like it's a brooch or sumpin' but that part didn't turn out too good. Ah, well. I also did some sketches where her hair was pulled back (too severe and/or dowdy, even if done in an Oriental way) or in a wavy bob (made her look too much like Lady Viper) or a straight bob (very Louise Brooks but I personally don't think it's very sexy). I like the long, wavy look, like Theda Bara wore as Cleopatra. And I figure Black Canary can do martial arts with long hair, so the Vamp wouldn't have any problem either.

But what do you guys think?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Moral Realignment Challenge: Green Arrow And Clock King

Jeremy finally consented to let me have my own Flikr account, so everything's a go!


Look out! Green Arrow's got a Mulling It Over arrow! Hmmmm...

Maybe that joke was lame, but it's not nearly as lame as Clock King's costume. He's dressed for scuba diving, for Chrissake! There's nothing intimidating about him at all, other than the fact you can't see his face, and the notion that he's so batshit crazy that he thought that costume was a good idea. Does he need a costume redesign? But of course. But he's a bad guy, so I could only live with myself if I did it hypothetically. Unlike my other costume designs, which really happened. So let's put him and that dirty hippie Green Arrow in the Moral Realignment Challenge! That's the one where I switch the roles of a hero and a villain and imagine how they might have appeared in the world of comics.

Let's go!

Excerpted from the essay "Changing Times: Clock King In The 60's" from "Alter Ego" #38 (2004) published on Earth-P:


"...and most notably, bringing in leggy France Nguyen to replace Barbara Eden in the role of the Black Canary. But even these tweaks couldn't increase the show's popularity with a viewing public that had grown tired of camp -- and only halfway through its fourth season, the 'Clock King' television program was canceled.

The Mechanically-Minded Marvel continued to enjoy success in his original medium of comics. By 1968, Clock King was featured in five monthly DC publications. In addition to 'Clock King' and 'Inventive Comics', he was a member in good standing of 'The Six Scouts Of Triumph' and enjoyed team-ups with Calendar Man in 'All-Time Finest Comics' and with a rotating slate of guest-stars in a former Western title, 'The Big Hand And The Little Hand.'

Still, the swift demise of Clock King's TV show weighed heavily on the minds of DC staffers. For years, they had intentionally mimicked the program's light, comedic tone in their comics. Now, they worried that the comic book audience was going to turn on the character just as the television audience had done. In a weekend-long brainstorming session, plans were laid out to dramatically overhaul the character. Familiar gimmicks such as his boxing glove cuckoo clock and his sundial hover-discs were scrapped. Stories would return Clock King to his pulp-era roots, placing a much stronger emphasis on his detective skills, and reestablishing his personality as a curmudgeonly genius with an obsession for order and logic.* To signal Clock King's new direction, he was given a visual makeover courtesy of superstar artist Neal Adams. Adams discarded many of the lingering Golden Age elements of the costume, including the trunks, the enormous sash, the large 'K' on his chest, and even his crown! Clock King's new look featured Roman numerals, sleeker boots and gloves, a new cape inspired by the Elizabethan era, and -- quite startling for the time -- a fanciful, three-pronged beard. The beard, while undoubtedly quite regal, was also a blatant marketing ploy by DC to appeal to the college-age market. Although the letter columns were beset by angry fans demanding to know how Clock King could wear such distinctive facial hair in both his superheroic and civilian identities without anyone noticing, DC's editors refused to address the issue. Within a year, most readers seemed to have accepted the situation, perhaps chalking it up to 'the magic of comics.'


DC launched Clock King in his 'Startling New Direction' (as the cover blurbs on his comics phrased it) with 'Inventive Comics' #381 (October, 1968). The classic story pitted him against one of the most lurid foes of the hero's early days.

The Green Arrow was a ghastly, violent figure, and had appeared in comics only once before. As told in "Inventive Comics" #30 (August, 1939), the Green Arrow was originally a mortal man named Oliver Queen. Queen, a dashing but arrogant sportsman, knowingly trespassed on a sacred Native American burial ground while bow-hunting and was cursed by a 'savage witch-doctor.' The archer was struck dead on the spot, only to be resurrected as a zombie-like killing machine who would systematically murder nearly every member of his family. The gruesome tale concluded with Clock King crushing the monster within the workings of a printing press.

The 1968 story, with a script by Bob Haney and artwork by Adams, reintroduced Oliver Queen as a corrupt millionaire who had dropped dead of a heart attack while lobbying to dump chemical waste in a reservation. Reanimated by his own bigotry, the new version of Green Arrow embarked on a killing spree of every Native American who had ever opposed his business interests, framing a handsome young activist for the crimes. Clock King cleared the man's name, punched a rabid coyote in the face, crushed the Green Arrow's living corpse beneath a totem pole, delivered a stirring speech on tolerance and jumped over a gorge in a souped-up dune buggy.

*The quirkier, more fairy-tale aspect of Clock King would not be seen again until 2002, when his two surviving comics were helmed by Grant Morrison and Neal Gaiman.

...Yes, my Clock King redesign is very "Royal Flush Gang" but I can't help it; I just love their look so much! The same goes for Jack Of Hearts. I originally was going to put clock hands on his chest but it looked too busy. And the beard, for me, was the icing on the cake. Green Arrow's beard comes to two points? Clock King's comes to three! Take that, hippie! As for Green Arrow himself, I thought about going the right-wing paramilitary route with him or making him a Manson-type hippie cult leader. But I didn't want to make him look too similar to Evil Flash. And then I hit on the Solomon Grundy riff and everything clicked. The Silver Age costume for Clock King, by the way? I don't honestly think it looks good. (Trunks over tights? *shudder*) I just wanted to show what he might have looked like as an old-fashioned hero.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rescue Me: Mirage

Mirage: smarmy, boastful, a piss-poor tactician, just won't shut the hell up, plus he has handles on the sides of his head. It's no wonder Scourge wanted him dead! Of course, if Mirage had bothered to consult me about his sartorial decisions, he might still be alive today. (It's ain't braggin' if it's true.)

That's his second comic book appearance up there. His first was in a Spider-Man comic, and his scheme back then was to rob a wedding. Is that -- why would he -- I mean, does that even happen? I guess there's be a lot of swag there, but there's also like two hundred witnesses. Imagine getting your ass kicked by the groom's beefy, truck-driving aunt. I dunno. Anyway, the whole thing sounds like a Gerry Conway plot if ever I heard one. But it's actually one of Len Wein's. Mirage got crushed by a chandelier at the end of it. But he rallied for that "Marvel Two-In-One" cameo where he got clobbered by Daredevil. His third appearance was in "Captain America" where Scourge shot him to death. The end!

Okay! Without further ado, here's how I would have dressed Mirage. If he'd asked me to dress him.

Ooh! Mysterious. No, it's not Captain Universe, The Hero Who Could Be You But Let's Be Honest Honey That's Never Going To Happen. It's Mirage, in my ethereal new costume for him! Because of the codename and the theme (holographic impersonation) I went more poetic and arty this time. It's very Neal Gaiman. And very plain old-fashioned gay. It's even gayer than my Black Condor design, which doesn't even seem possible to me but there you go. Like it or lump it.

The colors are pale because when I think of a mirage, I think of illusory water shimmering against a blue desert sky. And it's more ghostly. If he'd had the common sense to keep the damned image inducer activated most of the time, then this would have been a very dramatic, alien look that a hero would have glimpsed only briefly before Mirage slipped around a corner or into the back of a limo. The cowl includes an immobile, sculpted face mask. With big, big Silver Surfer eyes. (Mysterious!) And I carried over the stripe and diamond motifs, but I think I used them in a more restrained and interesting way than he did.

In other news, I really struggled with the Clock King/Green Arrow deal but I finally conquered the conceptual part of it and now I just have to draw the dang thing. Oh, and I found a picture of Megatak online and holy cats is that ever an awful costume! I must help him!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rescue Me: Shellshock

old shellshock

Here's the second beneficiary of my new plan to redesign the costumes of anyone Scouge has ever killed, or tried to kill: Shellshock! Okay, maybe "beneficiary" is overstating things, since Shellshock is dead. And rotting!

Did you know... Shellshock was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby? I shit you not. I read it on the internet; therefore it must be true. It turns out he first appeared in "Fantastic Four Annual" #5, back in 1967. He was one of Psycho-Man's henchmen! Only he didn't have this particular costume. In fact, he looked a lot like the Mad Thinker, only in red instead of in green. And his gun was much cooler. Because it was designed by Jack Kirby. Anyway, Shellshock showed up in the above panels from "Marvel Two-In-One" all gussied up for the very first time in a boring new costume and a mask that had no discernable connection to his theme and wielding a convoluted new weapon that looked like a very uncomfortable fusion of a sex toy and a gardening implement. ("The Ass Weasel! By Ronco!") And in his next appearance, Scourge killed him.

Here's the deal: I think Shellshock could have worked as a bad guy. His codename is catchy. And his basic concept is workable: criminal strategist and electronics genius. I think all he was missing was a great costume! With a snappy costume, you're a supervillain that readers want to see again. Without it, you're a supervillain that editors want to see dead. So here's what I would have done:

Shellshock uses a concussive weapon that can blast through walls. So I based Shellshock's outfit on riot gear, since it's meant to resist flying rubble. There's a lot of bulk to it. In addition to the padding on the shoulders and the chest, the costume features thick gloves and protection for the knees and shins, plus a great number of sweatsocks in the crotch (kidding). I kept the color scheme the same as his most recent costume. Navy and yellow is a striking, masculine combination. In place of that stupid catfish mask or whatever the hell it was supposed to be, I gave Shellshock a close-fitting helmet. The shape of the tinted visor is based on the silhouette of the old mask. It's an interesting shape, but by flattening it and making it smaller, I lessen its visual signifigance. On the old costume, it was the first thing a person's eyes went to, and it made no sense whatsoever. Now it's part of an ensemble. In case you're wondering, the strap on Shellshock's left thigh is part of the holster for his gun. See, I don't just throw around straps for no reason, Rob Liefeld. I decided to simplify the gun itself and just give it a "tuning fork" theme. It's still red, for contrast. And I put a matching spot of red on Shellshock's chest with the grenade symbol. This keeps the color of the gun from looking so random.

Any more Scourge victims you'd like me to redesign? I'm makin' a list!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Moral Realignment Challenge: The Flash And Murmur

How might Wally "The Flash" West look if he was a villain? And how might Murmur look if he was a hero? Let's see!

Excerpt from "DC Nation" in the back of all DC comics with a cover date of August 2006, on Earth-Bajillion:

"With the Trickster's heroic sacrifice in the pages of CRITICAL INFINITY, his legacy is in the hands of his mute former sidekick, MURMUR. But the grim, daring acrobat is about to find out that for every legacy hero, there's a legacy villain! And there's none deadlier than the new Flash! Bigger -- and faster -- than his late namesake, this Flash is a brutal drug lord who's determined to rule Peripheral City. Is Murmur agile enough to defeat the fastest thug alive? Or will he end up as a stain on Flash's boots? Geoff Johns and Cully Hamner provide the answer in the pages of MURMUR.

...Fun fact: I almost gave Evil Flash a beer belly. Thank God I came to my senses.

I already knew I wanted to make Good Murmur a motley-clad hero, because Evil Murmur wears a jester outfit already (only it's black leather bondage *yawn* gear). I got rid of the stupid facemask because I've always freaking hated it. It just bugs the shit out of me. Simple as that. So instead I carried the clown motif through with a pale face and with dyed hair that is arranged to looks a bit like a jester's cap -- not completely, since I didn't want him to look like Sideshow Bob, but enough to convey the idea. When he's still, it would be lank and a few locks would hang over his face. I also figure that as part of his gimmick, Murmur would have a morose demeanor and never smile. Which makes total sense since he's a Geoff Johns character, and therefore has nothing to smile about.

I designed Evil Flash to be a stark visual contrast with Good Murmur. Good Murmur wears a costume, so Evil Flash wears street clothes. Good Murmur is kinda slim, so Evil Flash is brawny. And (although you can't really see it here) Good Murmur never smiles, so Evil Flash always smiles. Which is kinda creepy.

And again, no, that's not me as "Evil Flash."

Questions? Comments?

Coming Attractions

I'm on a bit of an artistic tear, which means that posting may happen in the evenings but it will still be daily, Monday through Friday. (And I'm trying to get back on track for morning posting but it might take some time. Please, bear with me). And the really good news (I think) is that it'll be all-artwork for awhile. Here's what you can expect this week:

Tonight: Moral Reversal: The Flash And Murmur
Tuesday: Rescue Me: Shellshock
Wednesday: Rescue Me: Mirage
Thursday: Moral Reversal: Green Lantern And Clock King
Friday: Rescue Me: The Vamp

And keep those ideas coming! You guys are positively inspirational!