The challenge by Comic Book Historians group moderator Jim Thompson: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject until May 1st (if not longer).
I chose “coffee” for my subject. From the work of how many different artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I guess we will just have to see. I posted these daily on Facebook, and I’m now collecting them together here on my blog. Click here to read Part One.
6) Jaime Hernandez
Day Six’s superbly-illustrated page comes from Love and Rockets volume 2 #9 by Jaime Hernandez, published by Fantagraphics, cover-dated Fall 2003.
Brothers Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez have been writing & drawing their creator-owned series Love and Rockets since 1981, taking only a short break from 1996 to 2001. Jaime and Gilbert both introduced interesting, well-developed, genuinely compelling casts of characters in their portions of the series.
One of Jaime Hernendez’s lead characters is Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo, a woman of Mexican American heritage who grew up in southern California. Love and Rockets takes place in real time, and over the past four decades readers have seen Maggie progress from a teenager to adulthood to middle age. “The Ghost of Hoppers” ran through the first 10 issues of volume two. Maggie, at this point now in her late 30s, is an apartment manager in San Fernando. A visit from her old friend Izzy is followed by Maggie experiencing strange, eerie visions. In this chapter Maggie (who is nicknamed “Perla” by her relatives) pays a visit to the old neighborhood to see her sister Esther’s family. Over after-dinner coffee Maggie hears the latest gossip about Izzy’s spooky old house, which naturally worries her, given recent occurrences.
Love and Rockets is a soap opera, but both Jaime and Gilbert have regularly ventured into magical realism with their stories. The events in “The Ghost of Hoppers” are framed in such a manner that the reader can to decide if all of this weirdness is genuinely occurring, or if Maggie is merely imagining it all.
Whatever the case, “The Ghost of Hoppers” was another intriguing, moving installment in Jaime Hernandez’s long-running storyline.
7) Paul Pelletier & Romeo Tanghal
Green Lantern #66 by penciler Paul Pelletier & inker Romeo Tanghal, from DC Comics, cover-dated September 1995.
So, as someone who read these issues when they were coming out, I’ll put my cards on the table: No, I did NOT like that Hal Jordan went insane and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps, and no, I did NOT like that the new Green Lantern’s girlfriend Alex DeWitt was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. Those two admittedly major things aside, I actually liked Kyle Rayner, and I felt that writer Ron Marz did a good job developing the character over several years.
After Alex’s death, Kyle moved from Los Angeles to New York City, renting an apartment in Greenwich Village, presumably pre-gentrification. Kyle’s landlord Radu had a coffee shop on the ground floor, and Kyle was a frequent customer, since in addition to the super-hero thing he was a freelance artist, and between those two jobs he definitely needed his regular caffeine fix!
Kyle soon became involved with the former Wonder Girl herself, Donna Troy. Nevertheless, being young and a bit immature, Kyle unfortunately still had a bit of a wandering eye, as we see here when he meets his neighbor, a model named Allison.
I’m not sure which one is stronger, Radu’s cappuccino or Allison’s approach to chatting up guys. “You should invite me up sometime. Love to see what you do… you know, your etchings and things.” Oh, man, that’s right up there with “It’s the plumber. I’ve come to clean your pipes.” 🤣
Pelletier is a good penciler. I’ve always enjoyed his work, and thought he should be a bigger name in comic books. As we see here, he certainly knows how to lay out a “talking heads” scene in an interesting manner. Of course, it does help when one of your characters is a sexy gal.
8) Michael Lark
Gotham Central #6 by Michael Lark, from DC Comics, cover-dated June 2003.
Gotham Central, which was co-written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka, successfully walked the line of being a serious police procedural in the vein of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels and the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street while being set in a city where a vigilante who dresses as a bat regularly fights a rogues gallery of insane costumed criminals. I admired Brubaker & Rucka for deftly straddling genres during Gotham Central’s 40 issue run as it chronicled the saga of the Major Crimes Unit’s detectives having to deal with Gotham City’s myriad super-villains, the police department’s own rampant corruption, and the interpersonal problems that resulted from having such a stressful, dangerous job.
Issue #6 is the first chapter of the five part “Half A Life” arc written by Rucka and drawn by Lark, which sees Detective Renee Montoya’s life severely upended by the duality-obsessed villain Two-Face. On this page we see Montoya, as well as Captain Maggie Sawyer, Detective Crispus Allen and Detective Marcus Driver. That’s Maggie Sawyer with the coffee pot in hand, with Driver also having a cup of java. After all, if you’re putting your life on the line in a crime-infested hellhole like Gotham, of course you’re going to rely on caffeine to get you through the day.
This is a nice page by Lark, with solid storytelling & characterization. He did superb work on this series. The dialogue by Rucka is really sharp, as well.
I own the original artwork for this page, and it can be viewed on Comic Art Fans.
9) John Romita & Mike Esposito
Hey, hey, the gangs all here… here being Day Nine’s artwork by John Romita & Mike Esposito from Amazing Spider-Man #53, published by Marvel Comics, cover-dated October 1967.
After co-creator Steve Ditko’s departure from Amazing Spider-Man a year earlier, scripter & editor Stan Lee took the series even more in the direction of soap opera. This was a good fit for the book’s new artist John Romita, who had recently come off of an eight year stint illustrating romance stories for DC Comics. Lee & Romita revealed the previously-unseen Mary Jane Watson, and began setting up a love triangle between Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. In the 1960s there was undoubtedly many a teenage boy reading Amazing Spider-Man who fell head-over-heels in love with Romita’s gorgeous depictions of Gwen and Mary Jane.
Effectively inking Romita on this issue is Mike Esposito, using the pen name of “Mickey Demeo” as he was still working for DC at this time. Lettering is courtesy of longtime Marvel staffer Artie Simek.
Following a battle with Doctor Octopus at the science exposition, Spider-Man changes back into his civvies and heads over to The Coffee Bean with Gwen for a cup of coffee. Peter and Gwen arrive to find MJ, Flash Thompson, and Harry Osborn already present, with even Aunt May and Anna Watson popping by to say hello.
You just gotta love that sign with the skull & crossbones-ish beatnik coffee bean with beret, sunglasses & paintbrushes, accompanied by the warning “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Sounds ominous… their espresso must be extra-strong.
10) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
Break out your violins and hankies, because our next entry is from Just Married #113 from Charlton Comics, cover-dated October 1976. “A Sacred Vow” is illustrated by “Nicholas Alascia,” the pen name for the long-time team of penciler Charles Nicholas and inker Vince Alascia, who drew numerous stories for Charlton. Their style was well-suited to the romance genre, and they also worked on Charlton’s horror, war and Western titles.
Young, beautiful Anne is trying to make her marriage to Gordie Barton work, but doubts are beginning to creep in…
“When we were first married, Gordie planned to take night courses at community college. Why does Gordie have to be a bookkeeper? Kevin O’Shay, upstairs, is a commercial artist… he’s interesting.”
We can tell that Kevin is an “interesting artist” because he wears a foulard & black turtleneck, and has a mustache & long-ish hair. Kevin must also be thinking about Ann, as one day when Gordie’s at work our resident artist is asking Anne if she’d like for him to pick her up something at the bakery, because there’s something he’d like to discuss with her. Anne invites Kevin back to her apartment for coffee, where the artist, spotting her coffee pot, elatedly exclaims…
“Aahh… real coffee! I always use instant coffee and I hate the stuff.”
No, Anne, don’t do it! Any man who’s too lazy to brew his own coffee is just not worth it! Especially when he comes right out and admits instant coffee is awful!
Kevin asks Anne if she will model for him, offering to pay her $20 an hour. Anne agrees, but keeps it a secret from Gordie, who she knows dislikes the artist because he feeds the stray cats outside. A week later Anne models again for Kevin. This time the artist begins putting the moves on her, declaring “You’re the most beautiful model I’ve ever had, Anne.” And with that he grabs Ann in his arms and kisses her. A shocked Ann pushes him away and flees.
Flash forward hours later and Gordie returns home to find Ann sobbing on the couch. A distraught Ann confesses her activities, and Gordie admits “Oh? I knew you’d been in his apartment. I feel like sneezing… I am allergic to cats, remember?” Anne realizes that, though she is attracted to Kevin, it is Gordie she wants to be with. Realizing that she needs to voice her earlier doubts, she tells her husband “Darling, I’d like to go back to my old job… and then we’d both take courses at night.” Gordie thinks this is a great idea.
As the story closes, Gordie casually mentions “If it’ll make any difference… I’ve seen O’Shay with at least three different girls this week! One woman will never be enough for him!”
So… Kevin O’Shay is a smooth-talking lothario who attempts to seduce married women and who is too lazy to make his own coffee. On the other hand, he does feed the local stray cats. Well, even Hitler loved animals, but we all know he was a huge @$$hole.
In all seriousness, it needs to be said that several decades ago romance comic books were a pretty big deal, and that a lot of young girls read them. This is borne out by Just Married, which Charlton had been publishing since 1958. However by 1976 the demographics of the readership had changed. Super-heroes had come to dominate the medium, and the audience was now primarily boys in their early teens. Just Married was a casualty of these changes, being cancelled just one issue after this one.
We can look back on these stories and mock them for their overwrought, melodramatic plots. Nevertheless, at least back then there was an effort by publishers to appeal to more than just adolescent males. Besides, if we’re going to be honest, if we look back on the superhero comics of our childhood years, we have to admit, a lot of those were overwrought and melodramatic, as well.
So the next time some idiot complains about female readers, just remember that for a long time girls and women did read comic books, and at long last they’ve returned to the medium. That’s a positive, because we need a growing audience, especially with the comic book industry’s current financial crisis.
By the way, I bought Just Married #113 and a few other Charlton romance comics about a decade ago for my girlfriend Michele Witchipoo because she likes the artwork on those old books. She’s also a huge Love and Rockets fan, which resulted in my somewhat casual interest in Los Bros Hernandez turning into following the series regularly.