Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marshall Rogers, and the issue is Justice League Europe #20, which was published by DC and is cover dated November 1990. Enjoy!
I don’t own much of Rogers’s 1980s Marvel output, so I have to skip ahead to 1990, when he drew three issues of Justice League Europe. This is the first of those, and it’s clear that he wasn’t knocking it out of the park as well as he had a decade earlier, so I want to check out some of the work to see what’s what.
In this issue of JLE, Michael Morice, who works at the London embassy of the Justice League, finds his father’s “battle rod” and decides to resurrect the hero his father was – the Beefeater. His wife thinks this is an awful idea, pointing out to Michael that his father really wasn’t a hero, but Michael is having none of it! This is very functional art, as we can see, but it lacks the joie de vivre of Rogers’s earlier work. All of the characters are drawn well, and Rogers adds nice details like the fringe on Michael’s sweater-vest and scarf his wife is wearing. Mrs. Morice’s face in the first panel is well done – she looks like a stuck-up lady who barely deigns to discuss anything with her husband, but the rest of the sequence is uninspired. The scene at the pub looks slightly off because the puff of smoke isn’t aligned with the battle rod, so it looks rushed. The nice detail in Mrs. Morice’s hair is contrasted with the sloppiness of Michael’s pants in Panel 2 and her dress in Panel 4 – the lack of nuance in Gene D’Angelo’s colors and the casual hatching from Rogers and/or inker Bob Smith makes this feel a bit more cartoonish than Rogers’s work had been in the past. It doesn’t quite work, unfortunately.
Rogers is still pretty good at people, especially body language, and we see that here. Kara has just come out onto the lawn in a two-piece bathing suit, and of course every male in the area, including Wally, is hooting at her. When she mentions she almost wore her bikini, Wally swoons, and Rogers gives us a nice angry face on Kara as she decides to kill Wally. Rogers does well with the other panels and characters, too. Kara strides confidently toward Sue (in the back) and Catherine, and Catherine instinctively sits up a bit taller in her chair, indicating a small rivalry with Kara – Sue is happily married, so she doesn’t care as much, but Catherine is single, so she feels like she’s in competition with Kara, especially for the affections of Captain Atom. Rogers, as usual, is aware of fashion, so Catherine has a very stylish (for 1990) haircut. It’s a nice little scene in this comic, coming on the heels of Kara being ogled, and it reminds us that this comic was quite good at depicting women who were friends, even if they engaged in some competition.
One thing that Rogers seemed to get worse at over the years is drawing action. This is odd, as action seems to be the hardest thing for artists to get, so the fact that Rogers was so good at it early in his career and less so later is strange. This scene shows some of the problems he has, although, once again, this isn’t terrible artwork. One thing you’ll notice is the lack of backgrounds, which isn’t just an issue with Rogers in this comic but with a lot of artists. Rogers didn’t have as much time to do this issue as he did with others, but it’s disappointing to see the Beefeater running through the embassy but get no sense that he’s even inside a building. Rogers draws Michael fairly well, but because he seems alone in the panels, there’s no real feeling of peril or even action. Michael has run afoul of Kilowog’s alarm system, which is why all these things are occurring, but from panel to panel, we don’t really know what’s going on. In the first, giant columns batter the Beefeater, and in Panel 3, a door slams down to block his egress. Flame spits out from somewhere in Panel 6, but we don’t see where it’s coming from, and the explosions in Panel 4 seem to appear from nowhere. The idea that Michael is running around a mansion being attacked by various devices is completely missing from this sequence. Rogers’s drawings of Michael aren’t bad at all, but without context, this scene becomes less goofy and more stultified.
Much like Tom Palmer yesterday, I wonder if inker Bob Smith isn’t doing Rogers any favors on this book. The thick inks on Captain Atom’s face in Panel 2 and Michael’s face in Panel 4 age the characters, and while Michael’s face is indignant and that shows pretty well, Smith’s hatching on Captain Atom’s face seems to serve no purpose. Granted, Rogers isn’t exactly dominating on this page, as his figured in Panel 1 are posed a bit more stiffly than we’ve seen from him in the past, but it seems clear that a heavy inking line doesn’t work too well with Rogers’s pencils. Part of it might be a universal standard by either Rogers or Smith – Kilowog looks perfectly fine in Panel 2, and his face is inked heavily, but Captain Atom’s face looks to scored to be effective. Occasionally, restraint and contrast is needed!
Rogers re-teamed with Terry Austin for our last selection, which you’d think might be a bonus. We shall see, shan’t we? As always, you can while away the time until tomorrow by checking out the archives!
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