Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Similar Designs..... or Too Many Twins??

Timber WolfAs I was working on the designs for an upcoming project ( Trial of the Red Death ).... I could not help but wonder how some design elements have been reused through out the years, and how certain elements have become part of the visual language of comics.

Some of those design elements often get associated to specific character, and when another character has the same elements.... it is often seen as a copy.

For example..... Marvel's Wolverine (and DC's Timber Wolf) both have haircuts which have been used throughout the years as a visual tool to establish that a character is a feral/wolflike character.

Although people don't seem to realise that Wolverine was NOT the first character with that haircut. Too many times have I seen people complain that Marvel's blue furred Beast is a lesser copy of Wolverine because he has the same haircut as Wolverine.

Sadly too many people fail to realise that Beast, but in this case more specifically the blue furred version of the character pre-dates Wolverine. That it is in reality Wolverine that has the same haircut as Beast.

Although to be fair.... the haircuit most likely comes from the wolfman from the 50s movies. Which might come from an earlier character that I fail to recall.

But since Wolverine became so popular.... and also most people are often not aware of what existed before their time, it is automatically assumed that a character with the wolfman's haircut is a copy of Wolverine. Now that haircut is so associated to Wolverine that it is dificult to use it on a character and not have the character being called an obvious copy of Wolverine.

The same with any characters with a skull on his chest. The skull has been symbolising death for a long time, but now it pretty much became associated with the Punisher even if for decades.... heck centuries before the Punisher even ever existed, that symbol was already used for example by pirates.

But now... making a character with a skull on his chest means that at least some people.... if not many... will keep on comparing it with the Punisher..... even if the character is not even remotely like the Punisher....... or does not even look like the Punisher excepted for the skull symbol on the chest.

It happens.

But as I was thinking about various design elements and how certain characters seems to have a familiar look..... I could not help but think of a design that I kept on seeing through the years.

The design of the original Daredevil.

original Daredevil

When I was reading the adventures of Marvel's DD masterfully drawn by the great Wallace Wood..... little did I know how there was a DD character that was pre-dating Marvel's version.

But even more.... as the years went by.... I kept on seeing design elements of the originals DD look on various characters.

click to supersize

I learned of the original DD when I read "The Great Comic Book Artists" by Ron Goulart. The section about Jack Cole shows a page of the original DD comic as an example of his work.

Then in retrospect.... I realised that I had already seen a similar design before.

First in the Avengers with the Zodiac members called Gemini, a good one..... and an EVIL one. ;).


Essentially the same design without the color red, and a slightly different belt.

And also in the pages of Marvel Premiere and the Incredible Hulk with the character called 3D-Man.


Loved that character. Sadly I only saw him once or twice after that. The last time was in Avengers Forever by Busiek and Pacheco. Loved that mini-series.

Although in the late 90s early 2000, Busiek and Perez came up with Triathlon.


That character was somehow linked with 3D-Man.... but Perez managed to design it so that it would be visually different from 3D-Man. You can tell with the color palette used and some elements that this character has something to do with 3D-Man.... but in a subtle enough way that I am sure that many never realised it until it was mentioned later in the Avengers series.

With Gemini and 3D-Man, it seemed to be used as a way to visually establish the duality of a character.

Then I saw the pattern once more with Peter Cannon's Thunderbolt.


When I saw this character in his own comic, I could not help but notice the similarities with the original DD's costume. Although I only got the first issue. So I have no idea if there is some sort of duality with the character as with the previous two.

After a while.... I realised that I had already seen the character in Crisis of Infinte Earths. The bare legs does modify the costumes pattern somewhat.

Although with the hundreds of characters in that series... I only realised it later as I was re-reading CoIE.

Then not too long ago as I read Image's Gemini comic..... I saw a pretty cool variation of that look.

Image Gemini

It still seems to suggest the duality of the character.

I probably should have included Marvel's In-Betweener...... but I forgot to included it.

And I am sure that there are others that I failed to include as well.

Will that look still be used in years to come??

Will it officially be seen as the visual device that symbolises a character's dual nature??

Or will it just be seen as a copy of the Golden Age Daredevil??

We will have to wait and see.

Heck I would not be surprised if someone said after seeing Dynamite's "Death Defying Devil" that he is just a cheap copy of 3D-Man. ;)

Until next time.


cash_gorman said...

The design was also used for the character in this book:

They say the character is the same as the title, but my memory says that's incorrect. I'd have to check to be sure.

Peter Cannon's look was deliberately based on the GA Daredevil although his back story is actually a reworking of Amazing Man's (just as Iron Fist was).

Reno said...

And the bare legs look on Peter Cannon came first, it was only later that DC decided to give him some pants when they gave him his own series.

cash_gorman said...

Once I started think about it, there are quite a few characters. Marvel also had the villain Mercurio who was divided red and blue down the center.

And, in the 60's DC was bonkers over bi-laterally divided characters: A-V-M Man, Metamorpho, Composite Superman, Ultra - the Multi-alien. And the ole standard Two-face. Though, that is taking the theme a little further afield.

And who could forget Frank Gorshin's b/w alien on Star Trek's "Let that be your last battlefield"?

Red J said...

Hey! Really great article you wrote here. I enjoyed the artwork too. I was surfing the net looking for a picture of the original daredevil costume to show my buddy, and as I scrolled down I was surprised and also amused to see your take on Gemini (Image). Very cool.

I was showing my friend how the design for Gemini was basically another version of this tried and true concept, and you illustrated that for me perfectly.

I'm the guy who draws the Gemini comic, and I also had a hand in his design. Funny thing was, I actually wasn't aware of the golden age daredevil when we designed this guy (most likely cause of my age), but I was steered in that direction by people who are fans of that original character.

Glad to see Gemini included in this line-up in any case!


Jim Shelley said...

Wow, I've been asleep at the wheel on this post - I wonder if the notification settings got messed up somehow, because I don't recall ever seeing all these responses to this posts - Anyway, let's take these one at a time
@Cash_Gorman (who btw has an amazing blog that fans of the Golden Age should all check out!) - I like all the Split looking characters you just reeled off - that would make a cool follow up to this article! - I don't think Pierre or I realized the connection to Pete Cannon and the GA Daredevil

@Reno - Was that at about the same time DC got rid of bare legged Robin? There might have been an editorial trend against bare legged heroes maybe - didn't Cosmic boy loose his bare legged look at about this same time too?

@Red J - Hey! Great to see your comments! Any plans to bring Gemini to the iPhone?

Red J said...

@JimShelley: No plans as yet for the iPhone. Do many people read their comics like this? I'm not too familiar with it.

Jim Shelley said...

@Red - Well, hard data is tough to come by unless a company wants to share their numbers, but I know that IDW (or was it Dark Horse?) had so much success with their Star Trek mini-series which they were distributing via iVerse (an iPhone comics publisher) that they hired their own in-house iPhone developer. Also I think the Atomic Robo creator(s?) said they make as much off the iphone version as they have done on the paper versions.

I'll try to google up some data...


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