For a school whose alumni include David Baldacci, Stephen “Flounder” Furst, the band GWAR, Dr. “Patch” Adams, Mark Waid and, my personal favorite, Mike Wieringo...(not to mention having the distinction of being where I first met the lovely Suzanne)...VCU sure didn’t get any respect from the pundits when they were named an “at large” pick for the NCAA tournament this year. And this, even after they caught national attention when they knocked Duke out of the tourney back in 2007. It was called, and I quote, “the worst decision” the committee had ever made. People were shaking their heads and laughing. Well, who’s laughing now, suckas? For the first time in VCU history, we’re heading to the Sweet Sixteen, facing Florida State next Friday. If the Florida State coaches are smart, they won’t write us off as a chip shot. VCU has been wiping the floor with their opponents with their “Chaos Defense”, full-court press, spectacular three-pointers and mind-boggling free throw percentage. And nobody seems to know just what to do with my new hero, Joey Rodriguez. At 5’10”, he still manages to be everywhere on the court at once, powers unstoppably to the basket only to unselfishly pass the ball to a teammate who scores and gets in the faces of much larger guys, throwing off their shots. Is there not a place in the NBA for someone with this much heart and skill?
Oh, and by the way...with the University of Richmond also shocking the NCAA, the little bitty city I live in now represents 12.5% of the Sweet Sixteen. As Charles Barkley put it, the city of Richmond now has as many teams in the Sweet Sixteen as the Big East Conference. There’s a real possibility that VCU and UofR could face each other in the next round. This town would explode.
I never knew what to make of Luke Cage when I was a kid. I loved the iconic look of him, courtesy of John Romita, all primary colors and buccaneer boots. But the villains he fought were so off-the-wall outrageous (Black Mariah???) and, like Thor, the way he talked was so foreign to me that Cage might has well have been from Krypton. I grew up in rural Virginia and our house was nearly a mile from the nearest paved road. The African American kids I knew in school and played football with never once, to my knowledge, referred to anyone as a "jive turkey" or "sucka." So, whenever I opened a Luke Cage comic, I was like..."What the hell is this supposed to be?" It was like watching a French film without subtitles.
But there must have been something there because the book lasted nearly 50 issues before it merged with IRON FIST (itself only reaching, what...15 issues on its own?) And it was nice to see Marvel producing a book about an African American hero who didn't have the word "Black" in his name. (Even as a kid that was glaring and I remember wondering if anyone found it insulting.) But then they went and made him an escaped convict. Sigh.
Romita's Cage design is so eye-catching, though, that I've been wanting to do a sketch of him for a long time. I mentioned that to Christian while we were at one of our occasional Drink 'n' Draws at Legend last week. He promptly loaned me Brian Azzarello's MAX CAGE miniseries. While I appreciated the loaner and loved Richard Corben's typically beautiful artwork and Azzarello's clever reworking of the FISTFUL OF DOLLARS plot, the character of Cage left me cold. It seems to be a recurring theme with Marvel's MAX line that they take a popular character, strip away anything "comicbooky" (ie. costumes and selfless heroism) and give them a shattered psyche. Throw in R-rated dialogue and graphic sex and you got y'self a MAX book. It was a good read but it sure wasn't Luke Cage. Gone was the yellow flair-collared shirt, wrist and head bands and chain-belt. This time, Cage's "costume" was a puffy vest, jeans and ever-present headphones. And there were f-bombs and n-words aplenty. Ugh. I get that this is a sort of "Elseworlds" Cage but...no, thanks.
Anyway, I hope you like the drawing. I loved doing it. And it went really fast. For me, anyway. I really miss this version of Luke Cage. I can see why Marvel has felt the need to redesign him but this look will always be Cage to me. I think it may be fun to try redesigning his costume for a modern audience and seeing if I can retain the feel of Romita's design in the process. Something to think about.
Well, here it is. Two weeks in the making (in two-to-five minute bursts). My perspective is a little wonky but, in my defense, I really only had room for the paper on my new desk and not much room for even the smallest of rulers. Still, it is a poor craftsman that blames his tools so I’ll own it.
I tried to throw a few curves at myself this time. Often, I get frustrated and resort to straight-on shots of my subject. This time, I "dared" myself to do something a little bit different. Not much but just out of my comfort zone. Wormseye view. Underlighting. Heavy backgrounds. It’s not my best drawing but I’m happy that I did it. I’d actually tried several passes at a different character in a much different setting then gave up and, for some reason, felt the need to draw Daredevil. Gotta run with the inspirations when they come. Because they don’t come often.
I hope you like the drawing. That’s all I’ve got time for. I am getting KILLED at work this month.
Recently, NEWSARAMA ran a series of articles about the history of C. C. Beck’s Captain Marvel character. I noticed it because they used a blog sketch of the good Captain that Mike had posted on his site years ago. To tell ya the truth, it gave me a little bit of a thrill. I love seeing Mike’s work pop up from time to time and they had some nice things to say about Mike. Several installments in, they posted another drawing I’d never seen before that appeared to be inked by the great Jerry Ordway. But there was something familiar about the face so I clicked on it and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was another Mike drawing! I clicked the “like” button and thanked NEWSARAMA for posting the drawing.
Well, that started a long Facebook thread with Mike's friends about a wonderful drawing that Alex Ross whipped up of Mike lamenting his (sort of) famous decision to not draw an offered Captain Marvel series for DC at the time. (I vaguely remember Mike telling me he’d turned it down and that some folks were not very happy with him for doing so. But that was the extent of my recollection. Sometimes, folks mistakenly think that I'm an authority on Mike's career. I wish I was but we were living 100 miles apart for years and I only knew what he told me. Often, I would see covers he'd drawn on the stands and was as surprised as any other fan.) I mentioned that I remembered seeing the drawing shortly after Mike’s passing but that I couldn’t remember who’d shown it to me. Someone pointed out that it was not the kind of thing Mike would give away and asked if I’d checked in his art stash.
So I dove in to the artwork that we had stored away and there it was. I’d obviously realized what it was because I'd taken the time to put it in a protective sleeve. But, as I told everyone on the thread, I was in a different frame of mind back then so I hope I can be forgiven for forgetting about the drawing.
I love this drawing. Mr. Ross so perfectly captured Mike’s likeness and an eyewitness told me that he did it purely from memory. I’ve watermarked it because I have no way of contacting Mr. Ross and asking permission to post it. I hope he doesn’t mind. (Mr. Ross, if you see this and want me to take it down, just let me know.)
I’ve only met Alex Ross one time. Mike introduced us waaaaay back when MARVELS had first come out. It was at Heroes Con and I think it was Mike’s first Heroes as a pro. (I've had a rough week. Can someone do the math for me?) But I was so excited to see Mike and there was so much going on that, though I was gaga for MARVELS, the name didn’t quite sink in. I shook Mr. Ross’ hand and I didn’t exactly ignore him but, admittedly, I wasn’t very friendly. I only had eyes for my bro. Later, I saw Mr. Ross and Kurt Busiek together in the hotel bar. As I walked past the small table where they were seated, I noticed Ross was sketching on a pad. I may be misremembering but I believe it was some concept art for ASTRO CITY. But I recognized the art style immediately and slapped my forehead. “THAT Alex Ross! Crap!”
Okay, that's all I've got. Hopefully, I’ll post again soon with some of my OWN artwork. I’ve got a sketch in the works that’s going pretty well but my new work environment is really not conducive to frequent drawing.