The challenge: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject. I chose “coffee.” From the work of how many comic book artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I post these daily on Facebook, and collect them together here.
26) Robert Walker & Bill Black
Femforce #6, penciled by Robert Walker, written & inked by Bill Black, lettered by Walter Paisley, and colored by Rebekah Black, published by AC Comics, released December 1986.
I previously featured art from the AC Comics title Americomics. Here we have another piece of coffee-drinking artwork from AC, this time from the company’s flagship title, Femforce. Overseen by editor Bill Black, Femforce has been in continuous publication since 1985. As the title indicates, it features the adventures of an all-female superhero team. I discovered Femforce two decades ago, and fortunately was able to obtain a number of the earlier issues, including this one, which enabled me to get caught up very quickly.
The team is made up of a combination of public domain heroines who date back to the Golden Age of comic books and newer characters created by Black in the 1970s and 80s. Black and his various collaborators have done a great job developing an exciting and intriguing fictional world, giving the large cast of characters interesting personalities and rich backstories.
Of course, there is also a fair amount of T&A in Femforce. It firmly falls into the category of “good girl art.” Robert Walker, who penciled a handful of stories for AC in the mid 1980s, was definitely one of the artists who emphasized the more, um, curvaceous aspects of the characters’ physiques. I haven’t been able to find much info on Walker, but after his time at AC he did sporadic work for Marvel, Milestone, Dark Horse and Valiant.
Black has inked a diverse selection of pencilers during Femforce’s 35 year run, as well as producing full artwork from time to time. I’ve always enjoyed his inking on the AC titles. He has a very polished ink line.
This page, which has Femforce’s newest member Tara the Jungle Girl brewing some coffee, encapsulates the qualities of the series. We have the team’s founder Ms. Victory touching upon her personal history and family life. We also have these two female characters drawn in a sexy manner. I suppose you could say the two hallmarks of Femforce are characterization and cheesecake.
27) Jamal Igle & Dan Davis
Let’s make a return trip to Radu’s Coffee Shop in New York City. “Hard-Loving Heroes” is penciled by Jamal Igle, inked by Dan Davis, written by Ben Raab, lettered by Kurt Hathaway, and colored by Tom McCraw, from Green Lantern Secret Files #3, published by DC Comics with a July 2002 cover date.
By this point in time Green Lantern Kyle Rayner was now dating Jade, the daughter of the original GL, Alan Scott. While Kyle is off fighting some nut in a giant knock-off Gundam suit, Jade is meeting with her alien friend Merayn for a cup of coffee at Radu’s. Jade is sharing her concerns with Meryan about dating Kyle who, while a basically decent guy, is still a little on the immature and unfocused side. Jade finds herself wondering if she might be nothing more than a replacement for Kyle’s dead girlfriend Alex.
This page is penciled by the incredible Jamal Igle, who really shows off his storytelling chops in this scene. He makes the conversation between Jade, Merayn and Radu interesting and animated.
Igle’s earliest professional work was eight years earlier, penciling several pages of Green Lantern #52 in 1994, followed by a fill-in issue of Kobalt for Milestone. Looking back, his work on those first couple jobs was pretty good, showing potential. You can then see continuous growth as he did pencils for various titles over the next several years. By the time we get to this story, Igle was doing really high-quality work. Igle subsequently had well-regarded runs on Firestorm and Supergirl at DC. He then made the decision to focus on creator-owned and independent projects. I’m looking forward to future installments of his series Molly Danger, the first volume of which was released by Action Lab Comics.
28) Dave Johnson with Keith Giffen
Superpatriot #4, penciled & inked by Dave Johnson, plotted by Keith Giffen, scripted by Erik Larsen, lettered by Chris Eliopolis, and colored by Digital Chameleon, published by Image Comics with a December 1993 cover date.
Today’s entry is from another part of Erik Larsen’s corner of Image Comics, what fans refer to as the “Dragonverse.” Superpatriot was introduced by Larsen in the original Savage Dragon miniseries.
Johnny Armstrong was an American soldier in World War II. Captured by the Nazis, he was used as a guinea pig for scientific experiments. Johnny gained superhuman abilities and escaped. Assuming the guise of Superpatriot, he spent decades fighting crime. By the early 1990s age was finally catching up to him, and he was brutally crippled by members of Chicago’s super-powered mob the Vicious Circle.
Superpatriot was rebuilt as a cyborg by the corrupt Cyberdata. He was then captured by the high tech terrorist organization the Covenant of the Sword, who brainwashed him and sent him to attack the Pentagon. Youngblood agent Die-Hard confronted him and was able to break through this mind control, and for the first time in months Superpatriot was in control of his own will.
In the final two page scene of the miniseries we see a brooding, contemplative Johnny having a cup of coffee at a Chicago diner. The current incarnation of his old teammate Mighty Man arrives to provide a sympathetic shoulder, and to offer him a spot on the newly-formed Freak Force team.
I was a fan of Superpatriot from the moment Larsen introduced him in Savage Dragon. I thought the design of the character was really striking and dynamic. I was definitely thrilled that the character received his own miniseries and then joined Freak Force.
Dave Johnson is one of the top cover artists in the comic book biz. He’s drawn covers for numerous series, among them 100 Bullets, Deadpool, Detective Comics, James Bond, Punisher Max and Unknown Soldier. Early on in his career he did do some interior work, including the first two Superpatriot miniseries. Johnson’s work on these was incredible, containing a tremendous amount of detail. Apparently he decided he wasn’t fast enough to draw monthly comic books, and so transitioned to working as a cover artist in the mid 1990s.
Keith Giffen’s is credited on Superpatriot as both plotter and storyteller. He probably provided some kind of layouts for Johnson to work from, although I have no idea how detailed they were. Whatever the case, the storytelling on the miniseries was well done.
I like how this quiet epilogue is laid out, with the first page dialogue-free until the final panel. Then on the next page the perspective shifts from one panel to the next, including a shot of Superpatriot’s face reflected in the coffee cup. I don’t know who was responsible for planning out this scene, Giffen or Johnson, but it’s very effective.
29) Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III
Today’s coffee-drinking artwork is from what Entertainment Weekly referred to as “the scariest horror comic of all time.” Sandman #6 is penciled by Mike Dringenberg, inked by Malcolm Jones III, written by Neil Gaiman, lettered by Todd Klein, and colored by Robbie Busch, published by DC Comics with a June 1989 cover date.
Sandman was the story of Dream, aka Morpheus, and his siblings, the immortal Endless. The first story arc Preludes and Nocturnes sees Dream, who has spent 70 years as the prisoner of an occult society, finally breaking free. Dream must then search out his various lost objects of power.
Among these artifacts is a mystical ruby, which has fallen into the hands of John Dee, the super-villain Doctor Destiny. “24 Hours” sees Dee using the ruby’s powers to slowly drive insane the patrons of a diner, torture them, and finally force them to murder each other. It is definitely one of the most disturbing comic book stories I have ever read.
The story grew out of Gaiman’s idea of doing a 24 hour long story within 24 pages. As he explained to EW in 2017:
“Suddenly I went, ‘Hang on. I’ll stay in one location, and awful things are going to happen in this one location over 24 hours.’ And it came into focus suddenly and beautifully. I knew roughly what had to happen in each hour and just brought a bunch of people onto the stage and destroyed them. And it was an awful thing. It was like, ‘Okay, where does my imagination go? What would I do to these people?’ And then going, ‘This needs to be relentless. It needs to be horrible. And it can never be torture porn. You can never enjoy what is happening to these people.’”
Dringenberg & Jones superbly illustrate Gaiman’s unsettling tale, suffusing it with menace. Both the plot and the artwork begin very low key, with the diner patrons having their morning coffee, unaware that John Dee is crouched in a corner booth, waiting. As the issue progresses the tension and horror of Gaiman’s writing and Dringenberg’s storytelling gradually escalate, eventually becoming almost unbearable.
The lettering by Klein and the coloring by Busch also play key roles in generating the mood of the story. Especially the coloring. Busch’s color work is definitely a vital part of creating the unnerving atmosphere of “24 Hours.”
30) Arn Saba
The previous entry was from a very dark story, so this time I’m going with much lighter fare. “Neil the Horse Meets Mr Coffee Nerves” is written & drawn by Arn Saba, from Neil the Horse Comics and Stories #3, published by Aardvark-Vanaheim with a June 1983 cover date.
Here is another series and artist that I was previously unaware of that I was introduced to by Comic Book Historians group moderator Jim Thompson. I guess this is our second 1000 Horses / Comic Book Coffee crossover. Regular contributor Cheryl Spoehr is a fan of Neil the Horse, as well.
What is Neil the Horse about? As described by Quill and Quire:
“Saba spent more than 15 years combining his love of cartooning with his love of music to produce the adventures of Neil and his friends: Soapy, a feline grifter, and Mam’selle Poupée, a living doll in search of true love.”
Saba wrote & illustrated the adventures of Neil and friends from 1975 to 1989, first in a newspaper strip and then in comic books. Saba also wrote a Neil the Horse musical comedy, Neil the Horse and the Big Banana, broadcast in 1982 on CBC Radio in Canada. In 1993 Saba began transitioning into a woman, and is now known as Katherine Collins.
Conundrum Press published The Collected Neil the Horse in April 2017. I may add this to my already-lengthy list of books to buy. It looks like fun.
“Neil the Horse Meets Mr Coffee Nerves” sees Neil, curious about everyone’s love for coffee, discovering both the joys and the dangers of hot caffeinated beverages. I would undoubtedly be one of the people in that crowd enthusiastically declaring “Coffee time!” Hopefully not that guy crawling on the sidewalk desperately searching for coffee!