Thursday, June 23, 2016

THIS is my Superman --- [art edition]

Years back, Peter Rios (if my memory’s to be believed) started a thread, at the old CGS forums, asking people to share the comic artist who best epitomized any given character, for them.  Neal Adams might be your Batman artist (or possibly Berni Wrightson), Kirby (or John Byrne) your FF artist, Jerry Ordway (or Curt Swan) your Superman artist, Marie Severin (or Herb Trimpe) your Hulk artist.  It was a great thread that really got to the heart of why we, as comic fans, love and collect these stories—sometimes to an obsessive fault.  The conjunction of personal taste in art and affection for a particular character engenders a very specific attachment for us readers, which can lead to interesting and illuminating conversations.  (So, please feel free to share your own in the comments and kickstart this dialogue)


I have long held that Superman need not be overly muscled, in his depictions in comics and film, and would argue that it is more “realistic” for him to be lean and agile rather than a Mr. Universe type.  Superman’s power comes not from a hypertrophied physique but from the energy imbued within his cells by Earth’s yellow sun.  Not that he wouldn’t be muscular, but it isn’t necessary for the character as conceived, and it is more interesting, visually, if Superman circumvents the typical body type of male superheroes in comics. 

Certainly, there have been a number of artists to draw this icon of the four-color world, and they all brought their own personal style and sensibilities to the character, resulting in varied body types for the Man of Steel.  But the most iconic visualizations of Superman—by Curt Swan & Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez in the comics and Christopher Reeve in film—have tended toward this leaner body type.  Which may be why I prefer the leaner Superman as a template. 

That being said [written], “my” Superman would definitely have to be Jon Bogdanove’s version.  Feeling like an updating of Wayne Boring’s Superman, Bogdanove’s was BIG, with huge muscles.  And yet, it never felt as if he overwhelmed the panel or the scene, at least not in a bad way.  Bogdanove’s Superman was powerful, epitomized by Bog’s particular delineation of Kal-El, and it made for some dynamic imagery. 


During Bogdanove’s lengthy run on Superman: The Man of Steel, which coincided with Bog doing some of the product art for ancillary Superman merchandising—notable for the fact that Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez was pretty much the only artist providing DC Comics merchandising art for decades—he made his home in Maine, on Monhegan Island.  This afforded me a number of opportunities to meet Bogdanove, and his enthusiasm for the character was obvious.  (Bog named his son Kal-El)  And that enthusiasm was infused into the character and the comic, while Bogdanove drew it. 

Bogdanove’s Superman is a statue, cut from marble, come to [printed] life.  Bog’s Superman is solid, an irresistible force and an immovable object, all at once.  Ultimately, it’s his use of shadow and the thick lines for hatching—which help to define his Superman as a three-dimensional hero on a two-dimensional plane—that has always stood out for me (shout out to Dennis Janke, Bog’s longtime inker on Superman) and which still remains burned on my memory as the epitome of the Man of Steel.  


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