Spider-Woman Plus Greg Land Equals…?

This probably illustrates, pretty clearly, why our hero is no longer an active Avenger.

This probably illustrates, pretty clearly, why our hero is no longer an active Avenger.

With the upcoming every-spider-character-in-one Spider-Verse event, it wouldn’t be the greatest deduction to expect a Spider-Woman comic book series to come off the back of it. The artist? Greg Land. And that’s a lock.

First off…it is way easier to draw like Greg Land than I thought.

Second…I can’t actively criticize him for “tracing.” He may ver4y heavily photo reference, and in Photoshop, but the fact is, he has a visual style based on his pencil strokes that is very, very distinctive. I know this from trying to emulate him for today’s post. The fact is…if he were just tracing, as many critics accuse him of, there would be no way to immediately identify a page as his work. Greg Land’s work, for better for or for worse, is some of the most immediately identifiable in the industry today.

Although the use of photographs reference is long established in comic book art, Land has been accused of going beyond the accepted bounds of photo use, lifting images from sources that include hardcore pornography, and copying them into his pages outright with minimal Photoshop alterations to make the work appear to be an original drawing, a reputation he developed from his work on Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate Power. Land has agreed that he does employ photo reference to a large extent, and that he uses pornography as a source, but denies that the extent to which he does so is questionable.

Commenting on Land’s work on Uncanny X-Men #510, Brian Cronin of Comic Book Resources remarked that the issue “possibly has the most harmful art to a story that I’ve seen in a comic,” saying that Land’s limited supply of poses and use of the same models for multiple characters “results in terrible art and particularly terrible storytelling.” He was also mocked for his limited use of facial expressions on the Thing.

Okay…first things first…over the past month or so, I have gotten a HUGE amount of mileage out of “Sad Ben Grimm”, also known as the Thing. How the @#$% is this man being criticized as not having a diversity of facial expression on this fun to draw monster? I’ll show you.

That caption is mean, but the point is clear.

That caption is mean, but the point is clear.

The Ben Grimm thing is an easy shot, and a bit unfair. To be really on point…he’s a lump of orange rocks. Jack Kirby and John Byrne made him emotive, but they are considered giants in the field.

It’s this sort of thing that has most fans up in arms:

Left side...Greg Land.  Right side...photo reference from the TV show, Birds of Prey.

Left side…Greg Land. Right side…photo reference from the TV show, Birds of Prey.

It seems pretty damning. The fact is though…a lot of artists use photo references, or other comics art as a reference. Also…given the technique…the art is undeniably Greg Land. The question becomes…where does the referential technique give way to style? I’m not an expert…i couldn’t tell you. I can tell you, it’s startlingly easy to make a composition that looks like Greg Land is involved…just check the lead art…

This was really easy to emulate.  Few lines, and more of a "feel."

This was really easy to emulate. Few lines, and more of a “feel.”

I really like Land at the beginning of his run on Ultimate Fantastic Four. Seriously, I used to look forward to issues by him. I haven’t minded his run on “Mighty Avengers,” and can only hope a run on Spider-Woman would have more in common with those issues than his other work.

As it is…Marvel has set this up. One hopes that they actually make Spider-Woman a book worth reading, unlike Bendis’ last attempt at the character. Not great. As for my artwork…our hero is clearly puzzled by Jessica Drew’s physique. It certainly fits with Greg Land’s usual references…but it might be worth pointing out that, although there are certain stereotypes associated with Land’s work, his recent Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man work has been a step away from that. Not to mention his Mighty Avengers work.

Also…in my collection, a beloved but ancient comic by Carmine Infantino bears this cover:

I'm not sure that Land is dissenting all that much with the general plan for Jessica's figure.

I’m not sure that Land is dissenting all that much with the general plan for Jessica’s figure.

It’s one thing to villify Greg Land. There are whole web sites about that. This post is just an update about the coming book, and my hope that Mr. Land can go back to being the artist that i really liked. Seriously.

Also…I am quite fond of the Spider-Woman character. Having a solid Spider-Woman book would be just…good comics, and good for the industry. Sadly, her origins have less to do with story, and more to do with intellectual property:

“Marvel Comics’ then-publisher Stan Lee, said in 1978, shortly after Spider-Woman’s debut in Marvel Spotlight #32 and the start of the character’s 50-issue, self-titled series (April 1978 – June 1983), that the character originated because…

I suddenly realized that some other company may quickly put out a book like that and claim they have the right to use the name, and I thought we’d better do it real fast to copyright the name. So we just batted one quickly, and that’s exactly what happened. I wanted to protect the name, because it’s the type of thing [where] someone else might say, ‘Hey, why don’t we put out a Spider-Woman; they can’t stop us.’ … You know, years ago we brought out Wonder Man, and [DC Comics] sued us because they had Wonder Woman, and… I said okay, I’ll discontinue Wonder Man. And all of a sudden they’ve got Power Girl [after Marvel had introduced Power Man]. Oh, boy. How unfair.

Spider-Woman’s origin and basic character were designed by Archie Goodwin, while her visual appearance was designed by freelancer Marie Severin.”

Spider-Woman was originally intended as a one-off character for the sake of simply establishing trademark, Marvel Spotlight #32 sold unexpectedly well and writer/editor Marv Wolfman was asked to take the character to an ongoing series. In her first appearance, Spider-Woman was to be an actual spider evolved into a human as imagined by writer/co-creator Goodwin. Her debut was shortly followed by a four-issue story arc in Marvel Two-in-One in which Wolfman presented a different origin retcon as he felt her original origin was too implausible for mid-1970s readers. During this arc and the premiere issue of her own comic Spider-Woman was identified as the human Jessica Drew (combining the first name of Wolfman’s daughter and the last name of fictional detective Nancy Drew) who had memories of being a spider implanted into her by the terrorist group HYDRA. Her costume was also redesigned for her series so that her long hair was uncovered, becoming a prominent part of the character’s appearance.

Marvel had been heavily advertising the series from the start, and during Gruenwald’s run an animated TV series began airing. But Roger Stern, who replaced Wolfman as editor, recounted that Spider-Woman had already lost her status as a top seller by this time. Despite her differing origin and powers and Wolfman’s deliberate effort to avoid Spider-Man guest appearances or crossovers, readers still tended to see the character as a female Spider-Man. “They saw her, and later the She-Hulk,” Stern explained, “as running a good idea into the ground, much as DC had done in the ’60s with its then-ever-growing families of Super- and Bat-characters.”

With the new series starting as part of the “Spider-Verse”, one wonders how Marvel will avoid the perception of spin-off characters, and maximizing the appeal of Spider-Man. Only time will tell.

Returning to my own art…our hero seems genuinely puzzled by Jessica’s appearance. I wanted her to look like she was going to tap her on the shoulder,, but the final art seems to be like she wants to reach out and touch to see if Spider-Woman is “real” at all. Once again, I have to question whether the fandom that I love is as inclusive as it should be.

Next Issue: Evicted!

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