Friday, May 25, 2012

100 Butt-Kicking Chicks #1: Fantomah!

It should be pretty clear by now that this really isn't a blog about anything. Part of this is simply a time issue -- when the hubby and I started this blog, the idea was to have a place to post our thoughts on all sorts of nonsense, because why not? But when you don't have much in the way of free time to even see films or read comics, it's hard to blog about them. And when you do have free time, well... sleep is nice.

But that's gonna change, if only because it's annoying to have a blog that nothing gets posted on. That is a source of guilt and shame, and who needs that hanging over their head all the time? Not me.

Anyway, as a way of addressing this problem, I'm going to use the 100 Things blogging challenge -- possibly not in the exact spirit in which it was intended (although it's a good spirit; our house could certainly stand a reduction in stuff), but as a way of encourage myself to post. Specifically, I'm going to use it as an art challenge, and try to draw 100 Butt-Kicking Chicks. JUST BECAUSE. 

So here's my first entry, Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle. Fantomah is always a big favorite in the History of Comics class I teach, because, hello, LOOK at her. She's a scary lady Skeletor! In a sexy nightie! Who flies! In the jungle, no less! 

Fantomah was the creation of utterly weird comics artist Fletcher Hanks in 1940 (which means she predates Wonder Woman and is arguably the first super-powered female character in comics). Hanks had an odd art style -- it falls in a strange space somewhere between crude and surreal -- and he has an especially interesting tendency to draw super-characters flying through the air headfirst, like they'd just been fired from a cannon at a circus. His storylines are similarly off-kilter, equal parts by-the-numbers hackwork and just plain bonkers. 

Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that, according to cartoonist and author Paul Karasik, who researched Hanks for the books I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (about the equally weird Stardust the Space Wizard), and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! (Fantomah gets the cover of this one), Hanks was a real piece of work. Hanks's son, an honest-to-goodness war hero, describes his dad as an abusive alcoholic who walked out on his kids. 

So yes, whenever you're reading Fantomah or Stardust, you're reading the works of a really messed-up person. Whether Hanks would have been a better or worse artist if that weren't so is kind of a question to ponder.

At any rate, the character of Fantomah is now in the public domain, and since Karasik's books on Hanks, she's been experiencing something of a revival. She's popped up in Image Comics' Hack/Slash and I just have to share this really awesome poster design by illustrator Carlos Araujo for a Philadelphia, PA art show on Golden Age comics. Is that cool, or what?

Fantomah poster by Carlos Araujo

Check out Fantomah out for yourself, at the Comic Book Catacombs. I also really recommend Karasik's two books listed above -- this stuff will blow your mind

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