Animal Man #6

comiXology summary:
Buddy Baker must face off against invading Thanagarians looking to conquer Earth! Can Buddy Baker stand up to the winged wonders or will he become the first casualty of war? Grant Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN epic continues!

In the new episode of Top 8 Magic (that comes out next week, actually) BDM and I talk about DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the Dwayne McDuffie-driven Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited cartoons. Hawkgirl (or Hawkwoman) in some of her various incarnations is a central cast member of all those teevee shows.

That said, the woman swinging the Nth Metal Morningstar at Buddy Baker in this week’s Superficial Saturdays cover is not actually Hawkgirl, rather a Thanagarian soldier name of Kol (not Hol, or “Hall”)… But I doubt the marketing department or cover editor would have minded much character confusion… Any more than they would the shamelessness of that Thanagarian uniform.

You see, Animal Man — though considered the apex of Grant Morrison’s writing career by some critics — was not exactly a hot seller. As good as the story is considered — and as well as it is thought to hold up over two or even three decades now — interiors penciler Chas Truog is widely panned as the weakest artist Morrison was ever paired with on a regular book.

No problem for Superficial Saturdays fans, though! Brian Bolland handled covers for going on three years (this is, of course, not the first time Bolland has been the subject of Superficial Saturdays).

Lots of stuff I love about this one:

  • It’s nakedly eye-catching; Thanagarian uniform and everything else.
  • Bolland’s line work is impeccable, as usual. Check out the delta between foreground and background wings, the precision on the Nth Metal Morningstar spikes, and Buddy’s jacket… especially in contrast to the shadow across his right leg
  • The colors, circa three years before the garish explosion of “computer coloring” onto the industry, is subtle. Not perfect by any means, but subtle. One thing to keep in mind is that with 1980s level of coloring technology a penciler (or penciler / inker like Bolland) had to be way more skilled to look not nearly as good. Bolland accomodates, per usual.

To the surprise of no one, Brian Bolland won 1992’s inaugural Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist, largely due to his work on Animal Man.


Charlie's Angels

ComiXology Excerpt:
The Page Sisters finally find a new purpose in life: restoring the Great Library. And the one place you don’t want to be is between them and one of the books they want. Meanwhile, Jack Frost has just set upon the greatest quest in a long and distinguished career of great quests!

Jack of Fables 46

While technically a nicely illustrated cover (just clean execution by the inimitable Brian Bolland), “nicely illustrated” by itself doesn’t really cut it for our purposes. This is a cover capable of standing out… And for a not-blockbuster title like Jack of Fables, might really need to do so.

There are three things, I think, that make this a great and striking cover:

The first and most important is Bolland’s allusion to Charlie’s Angels. That is really the thing that had me give this cover a second look. The Page Sisters themselves are archetypically “the hot librarian” (it even says so, tongue-in-cheek, on the top-left). “Hot librarians” as described by TV Tropes are “very attractive, but prim and prudish” … “would be gorgeous if [they] would just take off the glasses / let down the hair”.

I’m sure that you have a general concept of what a “hot librarian” is trope-wise; it is a the mayhap-unexpected juxtaposition of attractiveness and restraint, or disinterest. On this Jack of Fables cover Bolland overlays the restraint of the “hot librarian” trope with maybe its polar opposite, in staging and body language. Here the librarians trade in their ballpoint pens for ballistics and channel the teeny bikinis of the 1970s jiggle procedural… Without actually letting down their hair, taking off the glasses, or for that matter revealing a lot of skin. Because the Charlie’s Angels logo was generally stylized in black, the Page sisters can go with a utilitarian spy / ninja black leather look (i.e. avoiding a full-bore Cheryl Ladd), allowing them to be consistent with Angel without betraying the fundamental conservatism of Librarian… But hey! Black leather!

It’s all overlaps and suggestion; the intended male viewer probably likes all of it without actually knowing which things he likes, or what exactly he is looking at; hinting at “over-the-top” while not being over-the-top itself. TLDR: Shockingly nuanced.

The second is all those titles on the giant books in the background. I don’t know if you took the time to read any of their titles but they say things like The Four Little Pigs or The Adventures of Young Moby Dick… That is, titles that are familiar but at the same time nonexistent. What kind of library do these woman run?!?

Finally, Bolland himself. The whole point of using a separate cover artist (especially if you’ve got a perfectly service-able interior artist) is to draw additional attention to your book. Brian Bolland is of course the celebrated genius executor behind (or rather, in front of) Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, regarded by many to be the greatest Batman story of all time (if not YT). Bolland stacks visual technique on top of visual technique here like a layer cake: A big white chunk of negative space in the back, these sort of uniformly-boring imaginary books, a similarly-generic truck (with equally generic typeface), the Pages-by-way-of Angels in the foreground. I actually think the blah execution of everything behind the Page sisters is part of an intended look, allowing them (and their allusion to Aaron Spelling) to stand out more without having to resort to thick black lines, or, you know, a sledgehammer.