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 Bill Willingham, and the issue is Green Lantern #48, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1994. Enjoy!
In late 1993, Ron Marz took over writing Green Lantern and immediately destroyed Hal Jordan. As someone with no connection to Hal Jordan whatsoever, I thought “Emerald Twilight” was pretty cool, but I guess many people don’t exactly share my views. For some reason, Willingham drew the first issue of the three-part event – why DC didn’t get one artist to draw the whole thing is beyond me – and I’d like to take a quick look at the issue!
Romeo Tanghal and Robert Campanella are the credited inkers on this book, and it’s too bad that I’m not good enough to know who did what, because the inking job on the book is really nice. Willingham’s pencils are fine, of course, because he knows what he’s doing, but check out this splash page. It’s a superhero book, so Hal’s muscles are a bit well defined, but the artists do a good job with spot blacks on his face as he contemplates the destruction of Coast City. Willingham draws his mask a bit bigger than usual and narrows his eyes so that his face seems to be partially obliterated by the mask, subsuming his identity (which might be foreshadowing but might just be an artistic tic – I’m choosing foreshadowing!!!). On his costume, the hatching adds definition and texture to the smooth spandex, making it much less heroic. Tanghal/Campanella smudge the doll in the ground well, showing how the devastation has affected the smallest thing (it’s a bit sappy, too, but that’s the way it is, isn’t it?).
Here’s another nicely inked page. Willingham continues to be a good superhero artist because his smooth, rounded line is good for action, and when he gets a good inker, his work can do a lot of different things. In Panel 1, Hal is solid, but the plane screeching by behind him is inked so that it appears to be moving quickly – there’s a lack of some holding lines, thin hatching, and even some broken borders. When the plane crashes, we get heavy brush strokes on the edges of the rising smoke, giving it a thicker feel, almost pregnant with gasoline and dirt. This becomes more evident in Panel 3, where the smoke becomes blacker and thicker. In Panel 4, that’s matched by Hal’s ragged hair and dark mask. As nice as Willingham’s pencils are on this page, the inking makes it gorgeous.
Hal goes a bit screwy when the Guardians tell him he can’t have his magic wishing ring anymore, and so we get this page. He somehow punches a hologram in the face, and we get the nice inking lines on the Guardian to indicate his lush robes. Anthony Tollin emptied his green paint tube on this issue, and in this panel he does a very good job with different hues for Hal’s costume, the Guardian’s robes, the “exploding” head, and even Hal’s skin tone. In the background he uses blue-green so it stands out a bit. Meanwhile, the inks are still rough and strong, radiating outward from the Guardian’s head. In Panel 3, we get a callback to the splash page that I showed above, as Hal’s face is shaded again, but this time with the eerie green light of his ring, and Willingham draws him with a nice, evil expression. Tanghal/Campanella and Tollin do good work here, too, as the hatching on Hal’s face gives him a rougher, less friendly look, while we get the thin white lines on the green background showing the ring bathing Hal’s face in almost radioactive light.
Hey, it’s Kyle Rayner and the girl – Alexandra DeWitt – who would spawn a new pop culture phrase! Look how happy she is here, oblivious to her eventual fate! Look how evilly Marz and Willingham foreshadow her doom by placing a cooler in the same panel as she is! That’s pretty clever!
Anyway, this is a nice drawing. Once again, we can see it’s pretty classic Willingham, but the slightly rougher inking lines make Kyle and Alex look a bit grittier, which isn’t a bad thing. Willingham and inkers like this are a good combination.
I know Willingham drew some other stuff after this, but I don’t own Ironwood, so tomorrow I’m going to skip ahead slightly over a decade to check out one of his most recent works. In the comments section of the first Willingham post, I mentioned I was only going to do four days of his stuff, but I decided almost at the last second to add one more day (this one, as it turned out). It’s a bonus! Eventually you’ll find all the days in the archives!
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