I was a comic book nut from a very early age. I started collecting comics in 1966 when I was ten years old. Almost as soon as I started collecting them, I began copying the drawings, copying Spiderman, Hawkeye, Captain America, Avengers, and Batman. I am a comic book lover, and I am also a comic book plagiarist. But I promise to use my own artwork and photographs to illustrate this blog post. After all, I am illustrating being a copy cat.
My parents didn’t approve of kids with comic books. I desperately wanted Spiderman comic books and Avengers comic books, like the ones I read in the barbershop every time I was waiting for a haircut. But they had gotten wind of Frederic Wertham’s campaign against comic books two years before I was even born. The learned psychiatrist insisted that comic books corrupted children with sexual images hidden in the artwork (oh, gawd, look where Saturn Girl’s hands are… close anyway), Batman and Robin were homosexuals trying to influence young boys to be gay, Wonder Woman was a lesbian who was into bondage. This he said in 1954, but it didn’t really reach my parents’ ears in rural Iowa for another 12 years. The result was severe limits on my comic book ownership possibilities. But Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes were acceptable, as were Casper the Friendly Ghost and Scrooge McDuck.
So, my copy above of Curt Swan’s work is from the Legion of Superheroes. Superman was boy-scout enough to qualify too. I could get by with Tarzan even though he was a mostly naked guy running around the jungles. And time and money solve a lot of problems. I was allowed to subscribe to Avengers and X-men and the Amazing Spiderman once I had field-work money to put towards it. I drew lots of comic book heroes from that point onwards.
I learned how to draw men with unhealthy amounts of muscles, women with waists that would break in two with the amount of breastly boobage a teenage boy would pack on top, and numerous people who actually seemed to think capes made sense as a fashion statement. I also learned how to do shading in pen and ink and foreshortening from master artists like John Romita Jr. and George Perez and Barry Windsor-Smith. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give proper credit to Murphy Anderson and Jack “King” Kirby. I know you don’t know who those people are because you are not the comic book nut I am… nobody is. But believe me, they are masters of an American Art form. And I will never be one of them, because even though I am almost as good as some of them, I chose to be a teacher instead of being a comic book artist, a thing I could’ve so easily succeeded at back in the 1980’s. You should know this too… I have never regretted making that choice.