Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Age of Bronze

For those of you looking for a discourse on Eric Shanower's epic comic book, sorry, wrong place. However, if you're looking for a picture of the Man of Bronze, then you've come to the right place... though I'm no James Bama.

If you've just read the above paragraph going "wha huh?!?", don't worry about it. "The Man of Bronze" is no comic character. That's a reference to one of the most famous pulp fiction characters in America, Doc Savage. Don't worry, I'll explain a little below.

Pulp Fiction is the name given to a series of stories written back in the early decades of the 20th century, most of which appeared in cheap nickel and dime magazines printed on cheap, or 'pulpy' paper. They covered all genres of fiction, but the most popular were the action-adventure/mystery ones. Characters such as The Shadow, Buck Rogers, and The Spider either made their debuts in the pulps or became best-known for appearing in the pulps. Doc Savage was one of those characters. He was kind of a "renaissance man of action", if you will. He was trained to the peak of physical perfection from childhood, with a finely-honed genius, and a group of assistants to cover all manner of expertise. Imagine Batman with guns and a special forces team, and you kind of get the idea. All filtered through the 30's mindset, of course, so you can imagine the kinds of stories and characterizations you'd get. Oh- he's called "the Man of Bronze" because his skin is supposed to be a deep bronze. Like George Hamilton, but bigger. Also- James Bama was the artist who painted the book covers of Doc Savage back in the 70's- he gave doc a crazy deep widow's peak, which is the image most folks think of when they think of Doc.

The pulps are long since gone, but the characters still live on, both in their own adventures (either reprints of the pulps, or movies, or TV shows) and in their intellectual offspring -comic books owe a huge debt to the pulps, as do the larger-than-life action heroes of the movies. Indiana Jones is a Pulp Hero.

I discovered Doc Savage books quite a while ago, entirely accidentally. I picked up a couple of them at a used book fair, thinking they were about a completely different character (Savage? Samson? Who can tell the difference at age 11?). I read them anyway, and was pretty much hooked. The stories are filled with great action, fun characters, and crazy cliffhangers with narrow escapes. Completely politically incorrect, but that's half the fun. Anyway, there you go. Go to Wikipedia to read up on Pulp Fiction and Doc Savage.

Oh yeah- the picture... This actually was never intended to be a Doc Savage pic. I originally drew it after watching an animated movie that featured Superman, among others, drawn in a very clean, distinctive style. Wanting to get the feel for that style, but not draw superman, I decided to make a retro-style superhero. It was a pretty quick sketch- he looked more like a wrestler than a superhero. But, when I started working on the coloring, I ended up going with a deeper skin tone than I normally use. I took a look at it, and the general look of the character, and decided it was going to be Doc Savage. So, the skin got properly colored, gave him blondish hair, and made his outfit a little more doc-like. Then, once it was all colored, I decided to make it look like it were an old photo (thinking on it now, I could've gone really crazy and given it fake distressing. But I didn't). I don't know how well the web-based jpeg reproduces the image, but I'm terribly pleased with the results of the coloring. I'm finding I'm getting as much pleasure out of coloring the pictures as I am drawing them- sometimes moreso. Figures- 30 years later, and I'm back to playing with crayons...

Anyway, there you go. A little something to make up for the lack of an update Friday and Monday's pseudo-update.


Music: "Gladiator Waltz" - Hans Zimmer

No comments: