More from Stephen Mooney, from his IDW/creator-owned delightfully dark yet daffy “dames, danger and dinosaurs” (with Nazis, for good measure) series Half Past Danger from 2013/2014.
It looks so clean and simple. And yet, they’re really quite perfect, aren’t they? Slick black & white artwork from Dublin, Ireland artist Stephen Mooney.
Let’s guess she’s not being handed a birthday card. That envelope can’t possibly contain anything good.
By artist and illustrator Jon Proctor, whose work you’ve likely seen in Caliber, Image, DC and Marvel comics since the late 1990’s, though he’s since retired from comics work.
“…The whole thing felt like one of those trashy romance tales where a plain, ordinary girl meets Mr. Tall, Sexy and Dangerous. In those stories, the girl helps the beast regain his humanity. In those stories, the beast loves the girl. I assure you, mine is not one such story. No, my story ended up being something completely different. My story’s the one where the girl dances with the devil, and he takes her with him on a long road to hell…”
My local library finally reopened (with all the usual reopening stipulations, of course) though my car was the only one in the lot, with two librarians and myself the only people inside. The new releases shelves appeared to still have the very same books I’d seen on my last visit back in mid-March. But I was determined not to leave empty-handed, and walked out with the 2020 hardcover of Croatian artist Stjepan Sejic’s magnificent Harleen, collecting the three issues from last year which reimaged the origin of Paul Dini’s and Bruce Timm’s memorable creation, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, AKA Harley Quinn. Here the brilliant young Dr. Quinzel embarks on a study of empathy (or the lack thereof) among the criminals incarcerated in Gotham’s Arkham asylum. She also has a terrifying run-in with the puddin’-to-be. And, frankly, she has some personal issues. All of these things converge, leading Dr. Harleen Quinzel to (or driving her towards) an inevitable conclusion.
Sejic isn’t just the artist on this project, but the writer as well, which is masterfully done – a terrific tale, beautifully scripted. Still, good as that is, Sejic’s art is what lingers with me, he being one of the very few artists (IMHO) who strive to capture subtleties of gesture and facial expressions, his deft touch with body language matched by few comic artists working today. There are no tedious panel sequences of talking heads here, even though most of the tale sidesteps big action scenes.
If you’re a Bat-verse person and/or in the mood for an extended story about the mallet-wielding crime queen that’s considerably less comical than you’d expect, Harleen is a dark but incredibly poignant tale I’d heartily recommend.
I assumed Dynamite Entertainment’s 2013 The Art Of Sean Phillips — by the artist himself (along with Eddie Robson) — would be a handsome book, but wasn’t prepared for just how well designed and lavishly illustrated this 300+ page over-size hardcover would be. I ordered it online and was surprised to see it arrive in a package from England, but maybe that’s best for a book on a UK artist.
Sean Phillips’ gorgeous work has appeared at this site before with images from Criminal, The Fade Out, the artist’s own site and more, so it should be clear that I’m a fan. Phillips has a rare talent for designing, composing and rendering consistently engaging and even visually provocative panels, pages and covers of what might seem like very prosaic scenes and mundane subjects (compared to the flashy distortion of the SF/Fantasy/Horror and superhero comics segments). Mind you, he’s done his share of work in dark fantasy and for the capes-n-tights titles. But it’s his more human scaled and distinctly noir-ish work (much of this done with team-mate scribe Ed Brubaker) that elevate Phillips above so many other Photoshop EFX-obsessed and manga-inspired peers.
I’d love to offer some page scans from the book for you to browse, but there’s no way I’m going to bust that spine just to cram it into a scanner (my scanner’s bed too small anyway). So, sorry – you’ll have to get your own. If you do, you get to enjoy lushly illustrated pages of Phillips’ childhood drawings and comics, incredibly mature work for the UK ‘Girl Comics’ done when still only in his mid-teens and read all about his early years. Since I’m unwilling to mangle my precious book, the visuals shown here are just culled from found art that’s been lurking in my Sean Phillips archive folder for who knows how long. You’ll be familiar with some, I’m sure. Phillips’ Criterion Collection illustrations are particular favorites of mine — that warm-toned NYC penthouse balcony painting of Susan Harrison from The Sweet Smell of Success right below is so darkly beautiful, it almost makes me teary-eyed. (Art can get me a little choked up sometimes.)
If you have The Art Of Sean Phillips already, you know what a terrific book it is. If not, consider getting it – you won’t be disappointed in the countless visuals or the accompanying text, with interviews and commentary from Ed Brubaker, Warren Ellis and others. Or, hold and see if an updated edition is ever done. This was produced 6-7 years ago, after all. There’s been a lot of stunning Phillips work out there since. Almost another book’s worth, dontcha think?
Some additional pieces from master painter John Watkiss. See the 12.14.19 post for additional work, or go right to UK artist’s site at johnwatkissfineart.com.
Actress, showgirl and model Mara Corday above (who I believe is still with us at age 89, and who I got to see being both fetching and wicked in an old 1959 Peter Gunn episode rerun Saturday night ) and below, Bruce Wayne by artist and illustrator Mario Chavez. Sorry, but the rather prominent ‘gams’ Wayne’s ogling aren’t actually identified by the artist.
A couple sketches from writer-artist Daniel Cooney, creator of The Tommy Gun Dolls graphic novels (see the preceding post). I don’t know if these were random studies or character sketches for his Tommy Gun Girls, but do go to his site (link below) to see more work from his Valentine series, other projects and artwork.
Betty Bates, Lady Lawyer (AKA Betty Bates – Attorney at Law, Betty Bates – Lady at Law and just plain ol’ Betty Bates) is one vintage female crimefighter comic series that needs no apologies or caveats. Created by Stanley Charbot, pen name for Bob Powell, and sometimes drawn by artists Al Bryant, Nick Cardy and Alice Kirkpatrick, Betty Bates, Lady Lawyer appeared in Hot Comics for ten years from 1940 through 1950. The early issues’ art is, frankly, pretty crude, though no worse than many other comics were at the time (peek at the earliest Batman issues for comparison). But with Cardy and Bryant wielding the pencils, inking pens and sable brushes later on, there are spots in the series that could rival even some of Matt Baker’s fluid panels.
Consider: Betty Bates wasn’t just one more in a long line of assistants, secretaries or girlfriends. Bates was the D.A. In fact, Betty Bates, Lady Lawyer was the longest running series led by a lawyer – man or woman – till Marvel’s Daredevil passed the ten-year mark, and it was one of the longest running non-super powered/non-costumed comic heroes of the golden age.
But Bates doesn’t spend too much time in the court room, far too busy fighting crooks, looking for trouble or getting caught up in it. Using her wits and falling back on some handy martial arts skills when needed, she normally prevails on her own and without the aid of some hunky cop or boyfriend, though some stories include ‘Larry’, a reporter who’s obviously smitten with the lady lawyer.
Two things leap out at you: The drawings foregoe the then customary ‘good girl art’ look, with its intrusive peekaboo bathing suit and undressing scenes. Similarly, though Betty falls into some bad guys’ clutches, it’s no more frequent than in any other crime comics or costumed superhero series, and no one could label Betty Bates, Lady Lawyer as a ‘damsel in distress’ or ‘women in peril’ comic. In fact, the stories are really quite good, several stand up well even today, and with ten years of material, there’s a lot to read.
The Gwandanaland Betty Bates – Lady At Law Readers Collection is a hefty volume, with over 400 pages of Betty Bates stories. Strangely, they’re all black and white, though the comics were full color, of course (I’ve included some online finds here, the book too fat to open in my scanner). A couple came from awful originals, were scanned off of second-generation copies or perhaps just poorly scanned and not corrected, and I was pretty disappointed that the publisher would include such barely readable pieces. But with so many in the book, quantity made up for quality…I guess.
I don’t know why, but they also decided to tack on a few unrelated ‘bonus’ pieces: several Jungle Lil and Miss America stories, also with some mighty uneven scanning and in black and white. I’m not much for adventure pulps/comics, whether Jungle Jane’s, Jill’s or Lil’s, and 1940’s era costumed superheroes aren’t really my thing. But I’ll be bringing up the Miss America stories in another post nonetheless (you’ll see why). No idea why Gwandanaland added this material…the Betty Bates, Lady Lawyer stories really made for a nice fat book all on their own.
The Batman family’s rogues gallery has always been the comic world’s best (IMHO). And though Selina Kyle will always be my favorite, the zany shrink with a kink has become my number two, and it’s whimsical art like this piece by Diego Bernard that makes her so endearing. So hard to choose: Street or costume? At least accessorizing’s always a cinch for Harley Quinn. Just carry a great big mallet.