Friday, February 22, 2008

African-American Super-Heroes Commission by Paul Ryan



Back when I was running my comic shop, I had a customer I chatted with weekly named Damon Owens. Now, with the abomination Marvel had become in the 90's, both creatively and in their adversarial relationship with the direct market, I had been converted to a hardcore DC fan. Damon was a Marvel guy, so we would often have lively and well thought out debates. I would often try to convert Damon to my way of thinking, but he had a strong Marvel bias. He once explained that his aversion to DC had a lot to do with their historic lack of interest in minority characters and readers. As I've mentioned previously, there was a lot of truth to the argument that he hadn't avoided DC so much as they had him. This sent my mind back to my childhood and the buying habits of myself and friends. Titles with racial diversity were always tops with us, whether it be "G.I. Joe," "X-Men," or "Power Man and Iron Fist." If you'd asked me in those days about African-American heroes in the DCU, I'd have mentioned Cyborg and maybe Black Lightning, as I'd seen ads for his title in some of the Batman books I bought. The 80's were little better, and attempts to turn the tide in the 90's and 00's have often come across as inorganic, heavy-handed, or simply too little too late. Let's face it, was Milestone Media a legitimate interest of DC Comics, or just an opportunity to issue more junk bonds to the speculator market?

Anyhow, Damon started using the internet to contact artists about commissions. He initially was very into Marvel vs. DC pieces where the Marvel characters always won, even in self-admitted ridiculous cases like Quicksilver vs. Flash. However, he also loved collections of black heroes, whether from a variety of companies or spotlighting a line. Damon always had very specific ideas about what he wanted out of the finished pieces, which I think turned off some of the people he approached. As I recall, this piece by Paul Ryan, who liked the concept enough to work with Damon on the cost and complex arrangement. I recently went looking for this piece on the net, and saw Damon has gone buck wild in the 5-6 years since we parted company, ordering something like 60 commissions, which he's offered up for exhibition. For some reason though, I could not find this early piece. I think that was a shame, but no longer, as you can see it above. Swell, innit?

*On the first posting of this blog, I had a brain fart and misidentified the artist as Mark Bright. Appologies for the error. I really should have caught that...

12 comments:

DamonO said...

Actually, that particular piece is by Paul Ryan, not Mark D. Bright.

Good to "see" you again, by the way.:-)

Frank Lee Delano said...

Howdy Damon! I'm working way too much, so I'll blame general exhaustion for my massive error. Corrections have been made to reflect proper authorship.

I'm glad to hear from you as well. I've had quite a few adventures in the meantime. I now avoid message boards like plague rats, and rarely set foot into comic shops anymore. I still love the medium though, thanks partly to hefty mail order discounts, and started this blog as a comfortable place to talk shop again. I actually began reworking my old Martian Manhunter site into the blog format about six months back, which led to this catch-all companion page. I hope you bounce by again.

DamonO said...

Ha, still with the Martian Manhunter, huh? Remind me to send you a box of oreos. Glad to hear you're doing well. Ever hear from Kathy (sp?), How's she doing?

Frank Lee Delano said...

I took a good 5 years + off from the Martian Manhunter stuff, but blogs like the Aquaman Shrine gave me the bug again. I love dealing out daily portions, instead of trying to update an entire site all at once and failing constantly. Also, WebTV was a terrific handicap that sapped my enthusiasm.

So Cathy... y'know, I love her, but she really hurt my feelings. We kept in touch for a year or two after closing the shop. However, as was the case with her & Chris Ditto, I always had to contact Cathy, as she would put no effort into the friendship. Also, I think she felt guilty over still owing me a few grand (bygones,) and her kids kept giving her grandchildren (I think it was 3 at last count.) I got tired of being the only one putting forth an effort, and that was that. My friend Lou ran into her & the family at Wall*Mart a year back, and they asked after me, but no calls/emails. Que sera.

How are you doing? I love some of the commissions you've had done, and at some point hope to spotlight more. I don't know if you've read much beyond this post, but I seriously do have plans to do an online "All-Negro Comics #3" in the vein of Erik Larson's "Next Issue Project." When I get to it, I hope you get a kick out of it. Many months in the future, though...

DamonO said...

Funny you should mention All-Negro Comics. One of the the Black Panther pieces I commissioned displays T'Challa with the spirit of Lion Man floating above him. Lion Man appeared in All-Negro Comics #1. To my knowledge, there was no #2.

Aquaman shrine? I had no idea. Guess every character really does have its fans.

Frank Lee Delano said...

I'll have to search out that piece. Who did you have do it?

All-Negro #2 was produced, but never published, likely due to pressures inside the industry being levelled against the printer. I'd love to know what was on those pages, and out of respect to the creators, I'd number mine as the third (and clearly All-Negro would become a misnomer, but after all these years, something is better than nothing.)

The Aquaman Shrine is extremely popular, and has been featured in Entertainment Weekly. Aquaman's better liked and regarded outside of comics than in. Martian Manhunter-- still not so much, but I usually get a 100+ hits a day at my blog. Again, something better than nothing. Ever consider getting into the blog game yourself? There's still plenty of room to stake a claim...

DamonO said...

No, I'll leaving blogging to those who know what they're doing. I'd rather just read those, and leave the occasional comment.

The Panther/Lion Man piece was penciled by Sergio Cariello. It can be found here:

http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Page=1&Order=Date&Piece=144196&GSub=19231&GCat=0&UCat=0

Frank Lee Delano said...

Great looking piece. I remember Cariello from his run on Deathstroke and his Wildcat work. I barelty recognized Lion Man-- he's so ripped!

DamonO said...

Lion Man has had 50 years to work out, so yeah, he's ripped now.:-)

I'd love to see you do a "Next Issue Project" on ALL-NEGRO COMICS.
I imagine even Larsen hasn't heard of it.

Frank Lee Delano said...

So many ideas, so little time. I have such plans in mind for Lion Man, you just don't know. Ace Harlem too, but not to the same degree. I wouldn't count Larsen out. I don't see him doing "All-Negro," but I'm confident it crossed his mind.

DamonO said...

Okay, so you know about Lion Man. But have you ever heard of THIS guy:

http://www.geocities.com/ratmmjess/waku.html

I didn't even know he existed until last year. Looks like he actually pre-dates T'Challa. Wish I could think of a way to bring him into the modern day, maybe as a neighbor to the Wakandans or something.

Frank Lee Delano said...

Your link led me to do a bit of research, and my only prior exposure was a brief mention on Scott Shaw's "Oddball Comics" while qualifying Dell's "Lobo" as the first black title character of a comic book. Thanks for the heads-up. A future Handbook entry...

...nurghophiles...

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