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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


There is a select handful of people about whom it is impossible to adequately convey how glad I am to know them, how when they enter the room I actually say to myself, "Hooray! So-and-So is here! Just knowing they exist in this otherwise miserable world makes me glad to be alive!" One of this select few is Amanda Conner, close pal for just under thirty (!!!) years, and one of the most talented people currently working in the comics biz.

Professional reprobate with a pencil, Amanda Conner.

Amanda and I met when we were 13 but didn't really get to know each other until our sophomore year of high school, in which we were seated next to each other in the most boring math class in the universe. Our only hope of staying awake was to draw whatever flowed from our evil fifteen-year-old minds, and having discovered kindred souls in one another we bonded and have remained close ever since.

Hands-down the hottest girl in our school (in my opinion, anyway), Amanda's crazy cheerleader cuteness disguised a limitless imagination and tireless drive to illustrate, an urge so strong that I would not be at all shocked to hear that her hand kept drawing even while she slept. Possessing some small drawing talent myself, I was one of those kids who was asked throughout school to draw pictures for other students — often it was girls begging, "Can you draw me and my boyfriend?" — and Amanda was also inundated with such requests, but I'm the first to admit that her free-flowing natural talent made my Crumb-influenced doodles look like a wet fart, and she was more or less oblivious to just how good her stuff was. (I mean her drawing, not her "stuff.") Everyone who knew her had no doubt that she had a future in the world of comics, and she certainly proved all of us right.

And even in those days her forte was drawing hot chicks with luscious curves, a skill that has served her well during her professional career in comics. It's a no-brainer to state that sex sells and she could do well to merely churn out endless scribblings of Wonder Woman's pendulous Amazonian jugs spilling out of her armored breastplate — which many hacks do ad infinitum, and bore the shit out of me in the process — but A.C.'s ever-growing back catalog of lushly-delineated 2-D cuties intermingles the cheesecake angle with a clean, solid style that brings to mind what famed animator Preston Blair (of RED HOT RIDING HOOD infamy) would have done if he could have gotten away with his most filthy-minded imaginings. Don't let her bright-eyed sweetness fool you: Amanda is truly a "dirty blonde," unleashing scatological, prurient madness upon the page with a sense of visual absurdity that simply cracks me the hell up. Even when depicting superheroes and their spandex histrionics, A.C. presents such material with a playfulness and fun absent in most comics, and it's evident that she hasn't forgotten that that's what comics are supposed to be: FUN. Witness her cover for the GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL to see what I mean.

The Green Arrow and the Black Canary are one of the premiere couples among the superhero glitterati and their tumultuous history has been marked by frequent fights, infidelity and bastard children (the Arrow's; the Canary's sterile thanks to years of crime-fighting injuries), separation, and even the Green Arrow's actual death (don't ask), yet Amanda's cover is both funny and charming, perfectly nailing the couple's romantic dynamic while infusing it with her own trademark silliness. I hope they issue the damned thing as poster, but for now I'll have to settle for it as the magazine-sized cover of PREVIEWS magazine.

When not working in the comics biz mainstream and left to her own devices, A.C.'s imagination can wander into some pretty twisted areas, most notably evidenced in her collaboration with the laddish juvenalia of Garth (PREACHER) Ennis in THE PRO (2004), a graphic novel — and I do mean graphic — about a worn-out prostitute who gains superpowers and joins the spandex legion. It's a foul-mouthed and vile effort that brings out the best (?) in both creators, and should be immediately given to every twelve-year-old you can foist it upon (hey, I discovered Robert Crumb when I was twelve and look how I turned out...aah, fuck you).

Two excerpts from THE PRO, marvelous examples of squalor and filthiness from the same class act who later drew the ever-wholesome Supergirl.

A.C.'s cover for SUPERGIRL #12

Which brings me to Power Girl.

Power Girl was the Earth-2 (again, don't ask) counterpart to the Supergirl we know and love, thereby making her the cousin of the Earth-2 Superman, only this time possessed of major 'tude. In a nutshell, she's basically the only other survivor of the late planet Krypton, but over the ensuing decades her origin has been fucked with to a point of confusion equalled only by those of Hawkman and Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy, so I won't even go into that whole mess.

Power Girl's first appearance, bodacious titties already prominently depicted.

Her first appearance (ALL-STAR COMICS #58, Jan/Feb 1976) was drawn by Ric Estrada but, more significantly, inked by Wally Wood, one of the all-time greatest comic book artists (considered by some to be second only to Jack Kirby, an assessment I heartily agree with). Why is this fact significant, you may ask? Well, Wally Wood was legendary not only for his boundless talent and ability to mix the absurd with the heroic — two of A.C.'s gifts — but also for his ability to draw smokin'-hot babes with curves that made many a schoolboy anticipate the next issue of the just-born MAD. He clearly enjoyed illustrating buxom chicks and in the later days of his career that penchant was fully unleashed in straight-up porn comics like BANG!, work he did while still employed in the mainstream.

As you can see from the moment of her first appearance, Power Girl bore all the earmarks of a Wood female, and as the months passed Wood allegedly kept inking her breasts larger and larger, just to see if his editor was paying attention. That signature figure became Power Girl's now-infamous trademark, so if you ever intend to draw Power Girl, here's all you need to know:

1. Get reference for her costume. It's pretty easy to draw.
2. Unlike many other super-chix she wears her blonde hair in a short bob.
3. She has really, REALLY big tits.

That last trait cannot possibly be overstressed when accounting for the character's appeal, and much mileage, both dramatic and comedic, has been gotten out of it. Power Girl is only too aware of the size of her luscious Kryptonian dairies and has frequenty espoused an "if you got it, flaunt it" point of view that both empowers her as the avatar of the strong femaleness which she seeks to represent, but she's also aware of how her twins can serve as an all-too-hypnotic distraction to most men who cross her path, a fact of life that she regards with both annoyed weariness and a knowing sense of humor. Many artists have had fun with this over the years, perhaps none more so than that god of one-handed cartoonists, Adam Hughes. His rendition of P.G. has been popular with the fans for obvious reasons, and he strikes the perfect Woodian balance between the awesome spectacle of the superhero female and the cartoony absurdity of her zaftig look.

A textbook example of the Adam Hughes approach.

Then, about two years ago Amanda was chosen for the drawing chores on a Power Girl mini-series that would (supposedly) straighten out the character's muddled origins and give her a solid, defined place within the DC Comics universe. The choice of A.C. to work on P.G. was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned, the perfect marriage of Amanda's ribaldry, love of superheroes, and uncontested skill at rendering mouth-watering women.

Many years ago I asked her how come so many women, be they cartoonists or illustrators like Olivia de Berardinis, can draw beautiful females with such seeming ease while their male counterparts struggle just to draw a pretty face, and Amanda responded, "It's simple, really. Every day when I wake up and stare into the mirror, I see a woman. Obviously, I AM a woman, and I understand how that works, both physically and mentally. And that's what I put on the page." (NOTE: that's easy for her to say since she's lucky enough to be a real cutie, and she's in no way conceited about her looks.) That attitude suited her well, and she turned in a mini-epic that dripped with visual charm to spare.

A.C.'s Power Girl prepares to kick ass now and take names later.

The whole shebang has been collected into a trade paperback, so go out and pick the fucker up.

And now Amanda is headed to Comic-Con International: San Diego with her lucky man, inker, writer and all-around comics biz workhorse, Jimmy Palmiotti, in tow, so go up and say "hi" as she mans her space in Artist's Alley. She's come up with a brand new Power Girl print that she'll have for signing at the con, and here's a sneak peek at the soon-to-be collector's item in question:

The actual piece is in lush color, but I couldn't post it here since the goddamned file was 10 megabytes, but don't let that stop you. Get out there and show Amanda some love!



John Bligh said...

Wally Wood the second greatest ever? Hmmmm...

I would argue for John Buscema...

But really after Kirby, there's at least a dozen all-timers who could be considered "Second Greatest Ever"...

Anonymous said...

Conner absolutely drew the best Power Girl. You're right; she's a fantastic artist, but my favorite parts are always her girls. My 2nd favorite parts are her Bunche cameos.


Gail Crisalli said...

Love this Steve!!! I will be reading you blog from now on!!