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Comic Book Easter Eggs – The Many Faces of Identity Crisis!

Every week, I will be sharing with you three comic book “easter eggs.” An easter egg is a joke/visual gag/in-joke that a comic book creator (typically the artist) has hidden in the pages of the comic for readers to find (just like an easter egg). They range from the not-so-obscure to the really obscure. So come check ‘em all out and enjoy! Also, click here for an archive of all the easter eggs featured so far! If you want to suggest an easter egg for a future column, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com (do not post your suggestion in the comments section!).

Today is a special edition where I examine the celebrities that Rags Morales used as inspiration for various characters in DC’s hit 2004-05 murder mystery, Identity Crisis.

Enjoy!

Rags Morales (who drew Identity Crisis along with inker Michael Bair), used celebrities as inspirations for various characters in Identity Crisis. He revealed who was who in the trade paperback collection of Identity Crisis. Again, these are INSPIRATIONS, it is not like they were exact likenesses here. There were LOTS of characters he used inspirations for, so I’m limiting it to just 20. Here are those twenty (they are almost all of the major ones)….

First, for the Elongated Man…

Morales used famed comedian/actor/singer Danny Kaye…

For the Elongated Man’s wife, Sue…

He used actress Dawn Wells, of Gilligan’s Island fame…

For Firehawk…

He used heiress/actress (and famed kidnapping victim) Patty Hearst…

For Green Arrow…

He used the late lead singer for Alice in Chains, Layne Staley…

(Morales notes that he likely had a little Steve McQueen seep into his depiction of Ollie as the project progressed).

For Jean Loring…

He used actress Lesley Ann Warren…

For Ray Palmer, the Atom…

He used legendary actor Paul Newman….

For an unmasked Batman…

He used a clean shaven Tom Selleck…

For Wally West…

He used actor Brad Pitt…

(The masked ones are kind of tough).

For Barry Allen…

He used actor John Hurt…

For Zatanna…

He used actress Phoebe Cates…

For Black Canary

He used model/actress Rebecca Romijn…

and actress Michelle Pfeiffer…

For Superman…

He initially used Olympic athlete/actor Buster Crabbe, best known for his “jungle” characters (including playing Tarzan) and for playing Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon on the screen. However, Morales said he ended up going pretty far away from Crabbe in the final product.

For Nightwing…

He used actor Johnny Depp…

For Starfire…

He used model Naomi Campbell…

For Wonder Woman…

He used actress/model Julie Strain…

(He likely used younger Julie Strain, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show her dressed as Wonder Woman! It was too perfect!).

For Hal Jordan…

He used the shape of Pierce Brosnan’s head, but that’s it…

For Firestorm…

He used actor/comedian (and brother to Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers) Josh Meyers…

For Chronos…

He used former New York Yankee manager Joe Torre…

For the Calculator…

He used actor James Woods…

Finally, one of the more dramatic visual changes was for Captain Boomerang…

Who he used porn star Ron Jeremy…

and former Howard Stern “joke man,” Jackie Martling…

That’s it for this week! If you have an easter egg suggestion for a future column, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

60 Comments

It’s a good thing you explained who was who, because none of those drawings look like the people they’re supposed to be based on. What a terrible, wretched excuse for a comic book.

I have to agree with John….I just don’t see a lot of the references….but damn fine artwork and I STILL like the series no matter waht the messageboards rant.

Funnily enough i read the trade of this just yesterday and realised what a truly terrible comic it is. Not at all like i remembered it from a few years back. Agree with John Smith as well, the chaacters look naff all like their celebrity counter parts.

I enjoy Rags Morales artwork, but I can’t see any of those people in the faces he’s drawn…

I had forgot that’s where they killed Firestorm! What a waste!

I’m not really a fan of Rags Morales, at least back in the day (I haven’t checked his work recently so he may have improved since then). His anatomy is wonky but even worse, his facial expressions are terrible. It’s often hard to tell what a character is supposed to be feeling by looking at his artwork unless the writer informs you through dialogue, especially during quiet, subtle moments.

nice always wondered what any famous people rags was using to base his versions of dc characters in idenity crisis a whos who

You missed a good opportunity to throw in a deliberate fake one for the laughs.

“For Sue’s corpse, he used Freddy Krueger” or something silly like that.

I guess we are so used to direct tracing (Land, Larocca) or direct referencing (Ross), that this is hard to believe. And the awful plot did not help either.

This makes my happiness hurt.

:(

Rags Morales said these celebrities were references; they aren’t meant to be exact likenesses.

Like IDENTITY CRISIS as a whole, this is good idea that falls apart in the execution for me.

None of the character models that Morales chose really comment on the characters in an interesting way. If he had wanted to underline the theme of the passage of time, then it would have been interesting to model the characters on older versions of their original inspirations (e.g. Douglas Fairbanks for Superman, Paul Newman for Hal Jordan, etc.), or he could have chosen actors that had played the part (e.g. Chris Reeve for Superman, Michael Keaton for Batman, Linda Carter for Wonder Woman). That would have helped his more radical choices for unadapted characters seem less random.

For example, Ron Jeremy as Captain Boomerang is interesting, but it comes out of nowhere in service of nothing.

Magnum/Batman crossover. Do it.

Right: reference, not likeness, giving us unique faces for everybody (as opposed to the usual syndromes of “I am clearly drawing Tommy Lee Jones here” or “Everybody has the same face with a direct haircut,” cf. Mike Turner, Brett Booth, etc.)

I’m not a fan of “Identity Crisis,” but Morales’s artwork was easily the highlight for me.

Hard to believe that’s what Josh Meyers looks like. It’s a real shame he didn’t join SNL when his brother, Seth, did.

I like the approach Morales took. If the characters looked just like their references, it would be way too distracting, like the Tommy Lee Jones/Norman Osborn thing Deodato does. This way the characters have lots of emotion and great expressions, but we aren’t seeing Tom Selleck (thankfully), we’re seeing Batman!

It’s a shame that he put so much thought into something that was so depressingly awful. Morales’s artwork would be a lot more tolerable if it weren’t for his bizarrely drawn eyes and facial expressions.

I don’t have access to my hardcover Identity Crisis at the moment, but I thought it said that The Elongated Man was Dick Van Dyke. Which makes sense, since that’s exactly who he looks like.

“None of the character models that Morales chose really comment on the characters in an interesting way.”

You don’t think using Julie Strain as Wonder Woman is an interesting commentary?

They all have Bagley faces.

I loved the art in Identity Crisis when it was being published, but I haven’t read it since. I remember thinking Rags follow up work on Wonder Woman was a step down in quality, now I’m not so sure.

Looks like it was just as bad in I.C….

Ha! Great call on the Bagley faces! I used to love Morales’ work at this time when he was inked by Michael Bair (Hawkman especially). Now I look back on it and it’s just ‘meh’. At least Bair kept him looking consistent. His stuff today (Action Comics) is all over the place in quality.

Rags Morales is a damn fine artist. Is he working on anything regular now, or mainly specials?

Holy cow, never mind – I forgot he was doing Action Comics, it’s right there at the shop!

I’m not fond of Morales’s work and always felt he’s basically got one standard face for each gender. Using references is one thing, but coming out with them publicly after this failed execution is a little sad.

They lost me at Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, and that guy from the last season of that 70s show. Brad Pitt seems like Jolie’s gopher now. Maybe it’s just me.

I am absolutely mystified as to why so many people dislike Rags Morales’ artwork. Disliking “Identity Crisis” I totally understand, but I love Morales. Did you guys ever read “First Wave”? That was some gorgeous art.

That just ruined Captain Boomerang for me.

Look at the face structures and at the lips, you guys. The similarities are definitely there.

Poor Mary-Anne.

all you haters probably can’t draw flies even after being dead for a week! next time think about the difference between drawing inspiration and doing an exact likeness portrait.

Yeah, I expressly stated that he WASN’T doing exact likenesses. Just drawing inspiration for the characters from the celebrities in question. So the “those aren’t good likenesses” stuff is odd criticism.

If you don’t like his artwork, fair enough. But again, as noted in the beginning of the piece, he was not doing express likenesses here.

Dammit, I was having an OK day, and you had to go and remind me that Identity Crisis exists. What a bummer.

I wouldn’t let it bother you too much, Brian. I think a lot of us are just having trouble seeing the similarities. Personally, I can’t even see the “inspiration” relationship between the drawings and the real people other than the fact that it’s (mostly) a group of very attractive people and Rags decided to draw a bunch of very attractive people.

Morales is a fine and disciplined artist who did strong storytelling work on Identity Crisis, whatever people might have thought of the story (I read it long after the fact and wound up enjoying it more than I thought I would). He did an admirable job of taking a story with an enormous cast and making it feel personal and intimate. Clearly his process is unique to him and he does great work, so no criticism here. Interesting that he drew such specific inspiration for specific characters, because like most people here, I personally can’t see it.

i cannot believe that people can’t see at least the inspiration for each character. Maybe the irrational hatred of IC is bending light so that people overlook the obvious similarities.

i don’t love Morales’ artwork, but i think that he’s a fine artist with at least a distinct style who works hard at his craft.

Also, i’ve NEVER understood the unlimited HATRED for IC. There are things that are pretty advanced for a comic book, such as the premise of having a dual life & how that affects people. You can argue about the execution of the book but it is a reasonable story to tell & enjoy.

I am in the minority in that I actually could see the inspiration in a lot of the pictures, and I think you did a good job of finding the pictures that really drew that out, Brian.

As for the story, the saddest thing about it is that DC decided to run with the ideas in it and make them mainstream instead of it just fading away.

Didn’t Chad get on you about this? ;)

Anyway, like many of the people here, when I read this in the back of the HC, I didn’t see it myself. I understand the “using it as a springboard” stuff, but since a lot of his faces have a similarity to each other more than to the celebrities used as inspiration, it just didn’t work for me. Plus, as our pal Dean Hacker says, it doesn’t really add anything to the story to use those particular people.

I think that’s the book where the commentary is so much “patting ourself on the back” and “gee didn’t we do such an awesome job” that it completely turned me off of the book, and then Meltzer in general, who does the commentary in the back in Justice League America as well, and DC to an extent. It didn’t help that I’d read a Douglas Wolk review of how bad it was prior to reading the book and then actually, y’know, READ the book. But I think if the rest of the commentary hadn’t been so “damn we’re awesome” I might have given this bit a pass.

Remember how before the new Action started, Morrison did his usual thing of (over)hyping what he was going to do, and told us that Morales was going to be doing things that hadn’t been done in comics before, and all that kinda BS? Yeah. Morales is decent, certainly, but as our pal Apodaca mentions, he’s got a Bagley quality to his work — perfectly good, but nothing spectacular. And T is smart with the part about not knowing what emotions are intended — that last page or 2 of the penultimate issue of this is a case in point — it’s supposed to be the “da-da-DAHHHH” moment, but since you can’t tell what the characters are thinking, it robs the moment of any impact.

Or is that Meltzer that does that?

2 days in a row I’ve shaken my fist at Meltzer!

I think Gilligan’s Island is now forever ruined for me…

‘…the “those aren’t good likenesses” stuff is odd criticism.’

I can’t agree. Why put photos under each drawing if not so we can appreciate the similarity? I kept flicking back from photo to drawing and going, “Are you sure?”

@ Sky Shadow:
You don’t think using Julie Strain as Wonder Woman is an interesting commentary?

My understanding is that Julie Strain has made a career out of looking out of looking good in little-to-no clothing and being smart about geek culture. More power to her, but I am not sure that adds a level to Wonder Woman.

@ danjack:

Also, i’ve NEVER understood the unlimited HATRED for IC. There are things that are pretty advanced for a comic book, such as the premise of having a dual life & how that affects people. You can argue about the execution of the book but it is a reasonable story to tell & enjoy.

For me, the problems with IDENTITY CRISIS are in the story Meltzer wrote, rather than how Morales drew it. Morales did a solid, professional job. He didn’t add layers the way artists do on great comics. However, he didn’t take anything off the table either. The failure of IDENTITY CRISIS is all in the script.

Meltzer had a good idea. Having a murder mystery set in the world of the JL-of-A is intriguing. Finding dark secrets behind a shiny exterior can be fun. Like I said above, it feel apart in the execution. He went for the worst post-WATCHMEN conventions seemingly without understanding why WATCHMEN worked in the first place.

The core insight of the eighties deconstructionists (Moore, Miller, Chaykin and Giffen to an extent) was that superheroes and their supporting casts were necessarily pretty simple. You pack most of what you actually need to know about most of them into a paragraph. Because they were so simple, you swap in the conventions of other genres wholesale and the simple character information could be really interesting and suggestive.

What none of them did was totally ignore basic outlines of the preexisting to make them fit into the story that they wanted to tell. That is exactly what Meltzer did in IDENTITY CRISIS.

I mean, there are only, like, four things that you need to know about Jean Loring. She was an ambitious lawyer, who delayed marriage to advance her career back before that was commonplace. She loved Ray Palmer enough to marry him. She wasn’t so happy in her marriage that she wouldn’t cheat on Ray (with a co-worker). Ummm … Maybe there are only three things about Jean Loring. If you aren’t telling a story that is about being ambitious, not being that into Ray Palmer, or being faithless in your relationships, then you really aren’t telling a story about Jean Loring. You are telling a story about some random psychotic that you named “Jean Loring”. The same thing is true of Sue Dibny, Dr. Light and most of the major characters.

Is that the same Calculator who made an appearance in the Hero Hotline miniseries?

I loved “Identity Crisis” when it was initially published and still read it from time-to-time. I think it, along with “Infinity Gauntlet,” is the best big crossover book since the original Crisis. No single moment quite made me more excited for what was to come as realizing what the JLA had done to Batman.

I can definitely see some of the inspirations in there. Like Danny Kaye. Although Sue Dibny looks more like Gracie Allen than Dawn Wells.

And a clean shaven Selleck is just wrong.

I can see all the resemblances except for Ray Palmer/Paul Newman (and remember, folks, there’s a vast gulf of difference between “Morales based Character X on Actor Y” and “The specific panel used here to illustrate Character X is identical to the head shot used here for Actor Y” – e.g., that picture of Zatanna looks plenty like Phoebe Cates, it just doesn’t look exactly like THAT PICTURE of Phoebe Cates; seriously, Google the woman. The first four pictures that came up when I did look more like four sisters than four pictures of the same woman, probably because she has been different ages at various points in her life, even though Hollywood frowns on that in actresses).

And if you don’t think that picture of Chronos looks like Joe Torre, there’s something wrong with the part of your brain that recognizes faces (which is a legitimate medical condition. It’s called prosopagnosia. Not to be confused with “I didn’t like Identity Crisis and therefore can’t admit any talent went into any aspect of it whatsoever” syndrome).

@bluedevil2002 – I wonder if Morales was working with the idea that “moustache is to Selleck as cowl is to Batman.” As in, clean shaven Selleck is as unatural as Batman putting on his Bruce Wayne act. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I like the idea of basing the face of someone who associates more with his masked identity than his unmasked one on a face that seems “off” because it’s missing something we expect to be there.

(Sorry to post twice in rapid succession, but bluedevil’s comment came in while I was typing my previous one)

I can’t agree. Why put photos under each drawing if not so we can appreciate the similarity?

To show you the celebrities that he used for inspiration. You know, like the piece said.

Man, thank goodness for Dean Hacker, so that I have an intellectual rationalization for why I don’t like IC. Nice points on Jean Loring.

The story totally works if you ignore the fact that the Jean in IC acts completely opposite of the Jean in every other damn Atom story.

Jen, I think it’s a different Calculator, but Hero Hotline is a much better comic than IC is. So read that instead :)

Looking at these likenesses again, I can appreciate that Morales was using these people as a base. I think the problem might be that his art genericizes everyone — that is, the people tend to look the same. So because they all kinda look alike, the individuals shown here don’t “pop” as the inspirataions, maybe. But give him this, Morales does have a style, and he certainly can draw a few different faces, unlike some hot artists where it’s same face, different hair color that’s all to differentiate them.

But I will certainly admit that my blinding hatred of the story may be blocking my vision.

Next time I go…anywhere, I plan on packing a flamethrower, just in case. Just in case….

The first four pictures that came up when I did look more like four sisters than four pictures of the same woman

Yeah, her photos were ALL over the place, weren’t they?

I’m in the minority for sure, but I’ve always liked IC and that book totally made me a Morales fan.

Meltzer, on the other hand…

There is a reason that they don’t look exactly like the actors, they’re inspired by their features not trying to look eaxactyl like the actors. I mean otherwise we’d hva e hollywood in our comics. Sure that can work Sam Jackson as Nick Fury is the best example, but using Brad Pitt’s facial structure is not the same as using Brad Pitt’s face. He never said the actors were used as the characters.

“The story totally works if you ignore the fact that the Jean in IC acts completely opposite of the Jean in every other damn Atom story… well, except the multiple times she went insane.”

Fixed it for you.

@ Ollie by Golly:

There is literally not one character of Silver Age vintage that you could not use that argument to justify being depicted as psychotic. Temporary insanity and amnesia were incredibly popular tropes.

[…] Comic Book Easter Eggs – The Many Faces of Identity Crisis! (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

“The story totally works if you ignore the fact that the Jean in IC acts completely opposite of the Jean in every other damn Atom story.”

Ah-ha! She was a SKRULL!

Very cool to see what he drew inspiration from. It really bugs me when they make a character identical to an actor. The Sam Jackson as Nick Fury thing never really bugged me, but I really hate that Marvel’s decided Tony Stark should look like Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost). If you’re gonna shamelessly steal an actor’s face, just use Downey’s.

I’d rather they not go that route at all. Has anyone asked who made that decision? Was it decreed, or did the artist just take it upon himself to re-imagine Tony Stark’s body?

I read Identity Crisis in the hardcover format a couple years ago, and it was the first DC stuff I read since I was 10 years old some 35 years before. I loved Identity Crisis, and it made me think that DC might not be so bad after all (I’ve always preferred Marvel), but I really had no frame of reference regarding any liberties that were taken with characters.

Thanks for the heads-up, Travis. I’m not as up on comics as you all seem to be. *blush*

I have Hero Hotline, it’s a great read. And funny, too.

Lots of angry comments over the artwork…
I’ve always believed Rags’ work is outstanding because I can’t pull out “stock faces.” No two people look alike, and he’s damned consistent with those characters no matter what assignment he’s on. (Sure, new 52 Supes looks a little different, but that’s intentional.) That alone makes me re-read everything he’s done about a dozen times just to enjoy it. I thought his “source material” for IC was a very practical move and a neat Easter Egg.

I don’t know how people can’t see any similarities in ANY of the likenesses. He adapts them to his own style, unlike some who are literally copying the faces, and you may not love his art (I don’t see how you can hate it…at worst it’s average comic book art), but there are a lot.

Elongated Man’s dimples and eye lines.
Sue would have been more if Dawn Wells was smiling in that pic.
Patty Hearst’s face lines (though what inspired him to choose her is odd)
GA I don’t really see but for facial hair.
Jean, maybe the eyebrows.
Ray, the mouth, and eye color (let’s face it if Newman was 20 today he’d be playing some superhero)
Batman looks a bit too much like Selleck that he almost doesn’t look like Batman.
The Flashes all you can really get are mouths, chins, and eye color.
Zatanna I don’t see as much, but I’m just thinking of young Phoebe in fishnets…..mmmm…
BC might be a bit generic because of the mash up.
Likewise Superman, because of going away from it.
Nightwing has Depp’s hair…and lips.
Starfire has the eyebrows and lips…though I notice he didn’t go with Naomi’s chest…

And to not go through every one….He must really hate the Yankees to make Torres look like that….And Calc has Woods mouth and sneer going….

Not as obnoxious as the shameless celebrity-whoring of ‘Wanted’, but then again ‘Identity Crisis’ is, and remains, thoroughly obnoxious already. ‘Comics Alliance’ called it right.

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