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Year of the Artist, Day 162: Paul Smith, Part 4 – X-Men Unlimited #43

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Paul Smith, and the story is “Lockheed the Dragon” in X-Men Unlimited #43, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 2003 (actually, it doesn’t have a cover date nor indicia, so I’m relying on the Comic Book Database for that date). Enjoy!

The main story in this issue is drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz and the back-up is drawn by Smith. Jemas-era Marvel was just neat, even though it veered close to clusterfuck often. Anyway, Smith and Steven Grant give us a Lockheed story. Let’s check it out!

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One thing that it seems a lot of artists who have bridged the gap between traditional and digital coloring have had to learn is how to make their lines weightier. Digital coloring seems to overwhelm thinner lines, and while Smith didn’t seem to have that problem in yesterday’s entry, it seems like a concern when older pencilers, who have had the benefit of flatter colors, suddenly see their work colored with the textured stuff you can get in Photoshop. Smith’s pencil work from the early 1980s was a bit lighter than later, and we see a good adjustment here, as Jeromy Cox’s colors work well with Smith’s heavier line. Cox uses the blue/yellow complement to make the hues richer, but Smith’s lines – in Lockheed’s flames in Panel 1, on Lockheed’s body in Panel 3, on the butterflies in Panel 4 – stand up to it. Smith still knows how to use spot blacks well, as Lockheed is completely in silhouette in Panel 1, allowing Cox to match the color of his eyes with the flames bursting from his mouth. The hunters in Panel 2 are draped in black as well, hinting at their darker natures. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Lockheed in Panel 3 – it appears that the shotgun shell explodes next to him, but Smith draws parallel lines rising from the explosion, as if some kind of laser blast is hitting the ground. The angle of trajectory doesn’t seem to come from the shotgun, but Smith does a nice job shading Lockheed as the explosion lights him up a bit. He uses black splotches around the gun blast, which is a nice contrast to the more delicate yet still thickly inked butterflies.

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As Smith has gotten older, he’s used a bit more hatching to add some nuance to his work, which is nice. It helps distinguish “Mummy’s” worry about Lockheed from the girls’ unconcern, as the lines furrowing her forehead show her anxiety nicely. Smith has never been particularly famous for facial expressions, but the way he raises her eyebrows, widens her eyes, and draws her fake smile in Panel 2 works really well. He also uses a brush on Mummy’s hair, making it a bit thicker, which matches the girls’ lustrous hair pretty well, linking them. The storm cloud in Panel 3 (and 2, but it’s clearer in 3) is roughly inked, implying that it’s created from a bit of anger, and Grant’s dialogue and Smith’s nice work with the character makes it clear that Mummy is really nervous around her magical children.

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As the reader begins to see that the girls aren’t very nice (something Lockheed doesn’t realize until later), we see how their actions affect the town. In Panel 1, Smith draws them well, as they cast glances back at the policeman and he makes sure to put conniving looks on their faces. Everyone on the page except Martina, Regina, and Thorne are a bit more heavily inked, as Smith shows some of the stress they experience living in a town with the Wolcrofts. Smith draws Thorne well, as she’s looking askance at the Wolcrofts – he twists her mouth a little, cocks her eyebrow, and turns her nose just slightly, as she thinks about what she can do to thwart her enemies. It’s a nice page of little reactions, allowing Grant and Smith to imply just how evil the Wolcrofts are while still letting us see why Lockheed trusts them.

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The girls frame Andrew Frazer, and Lockheed believes he stole, so he spits a little fire on his foot, making him fall over. He is understandably pissed, and reacts thusly. We see that Smith still tends to use thinner lines, but because he’s adapted, he adds just enough heft to some of them that we get nice reactions by the characters and weird panels of magic. Andrew’s face in Panel 3 is not only angry, but tortured, as Smith uses just enough hatching on his face to almost scar it, turning it from anger into impotent rage. In Panel 4, Smith’s change from using precise lines to a looser style means he can use a brush along the back of the rat and not delineate between the rat and the apple, making the transformation even more striking. But he still uses crisp lines in Panel 5, so that once the rats become full rats and not rat/apples, they have a sharpness to their bodies that makes them a bit more hideous. Still, the rat at the bottom of Panel 5, where its haunches are still apple, is really freaky, and it’s partly because Smith has become so good at moving between the styles.

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The Wolcrofts turn on Lockheed because he won’t be evil to Thorne, and he reacts in kind. Once again, we get nice work from Smith in Panel 2, where he uses rough, thick inks for their scorched hair and for smudging up their clothes nicely. He also does a good job on Panel 4, where Lockheed licks Thorne – Lockheed doesn’t change his expression too much, but the way Smith draws his crooked mouth could almost be a smile, and he remembers to close Thorne’s eye as the tongue pushes against her cheek. These little things are always cool to see in comics, and Smith doesn’t forget them.

This was a short story, so there’s not a lot to show. For the last day of Smith’s art, I’ll take a look at the last full issue he has drawn. You might know what it is! Until then, there’s always the archives!

10 Comments

Is it the Spirit / Rocketeer mini? I remember being really mad after waiting some tremendous amount of time for issue 2, and Smith doesn’t even draw one page of it.

Cass: You bet, sir. That entire mini-series was weird – three artists, and a really bizarre story. Smith’s art is pretty neat, though!

like the feature, but you’ve used a lot of guess work and assumptions.
Ory painted the Golden Age on overlays with air brush and traditional media
Smith drives a motor cycle, he doesn’t surf.
Maddie was not based upon Weezie
He inks everything with a brush . . . .

I forgot about his Rocketeer issue, so I was afraid this was going to end with that horrible Kitty Pryde mini he drew. The art in that thing looked like something you’d find in a cheap coloring book.

Steven: Well, first of all, I specifically mentioned that I heard from someone I know who tends to be pretty reliable that Smith surfs, so I didn’t know. What does it matter?

I never said that Madelyne Pryor was based on Louise Simonson. That was a commenter.

As for the other two, I readily admit that I’m not sure about a lot of what I write. Occasionally I watch people inking, and it looks like they get a brush effect with pens or vice versa. Does it really matter? The same goes for Ory. If I were writing about how to color a comic, I would try much harder to find out exactly what Ory did, but I’m simply talking about the effect it has. As I’ve said quite a bit, I’m assuming some things, but I very much doubt that I could have gotten in touch with Ory before I posted about The Golden Age, and I very much doubt that he would have taken the time to explain his process. If I make some mistakes, so be it.

I appreciate any corrections, obviously. But I’m going to continue to make assumptions, even if they’re wrong. I’m trying to write about what the art looks like, and if I make mistakes about how it was created, that’s the way it is.

aw, the solo Lockheed issue that was meant to explain where Lockheed was during his absence from Excalibur 125 and Kitty’s return to the X-Men in Uncanny 360. There is a hint that Lockheed believes Kitty is dead (or missing) and Kitty never mentions Lockheed – like, at all! – so we are suppose to assume that she believes he is missing and / or dead from this unexplained story.

Yet, this story – at most – can only take place over a few weeks and not the months she spends with the X-Men.

That little detail has always ruin this solo Lockheed story for me. But the story itself, I really like. Lockheed, being drawn by his co-creator, Paul Smith, in a cute done in one (half) fashion.

I would be cool if we were treated to more adventures of Lockheed as what is he up to when he isn’t with the X-Men all of those times?

I just find issue with the placement of continuity but that isn’t the creative team’s fault so I try to still enjoy the story on its own.

Once again, excellent write up, Greg!

John: I wasn’t reading Excalibur at the time, so I didn’t know all the ins and outs of this story when I got the issue. I find, like you, that it’s better to simply enjoy it for what it is, without trying to figure out where it fits in! :)

Yeah, I just wish Lockheed was present all the time! :)

I mean, where does he go during those appearances? Even in Astonishing X-Men, he’s in every fifth issue. Well, in that series, when we don’t see him, we are to assume that he is either spying or informing Brand of what is happening – so that isn’t a good example of what is up.

But during Claremont’s run and even in Excalibur – there are long unexplained absence. Well, in Excalibur – Ben “That Guy” Raab finally explained how he was a captive of the Bamfs so he finally made a story point out of it. The team just assumes he’s off doing whatever he does when he isn’t present.

Whoops, you got me talking about Lockheed and my strong Lockheed opinions got away from me!

No one will probably appreciate this but I spent some time doing the math and this is the breakdown for Lockheed’s appearances or not appearances :

Claremont’s X-Men (from 166 to 213) – He’s in 18 and out of 28

Excalibur (he does a better job in this) – in 62 out 63

Whedon / Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men – in 15 out 10

X-Men Forever 1 – in 11 out 14
X-Men Forever 2- in 9 out 7
So Claremont at least tried to correct his original mistake

Wolverine and the X-Men (the first 36 issues) – in 13 out 23

I have all the math and the break downs here :

http://shadowandflamewithmagik.com/2013/10/22/lockheed/

Nice riff on “It’s a Good Life.”

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