Is Alicia Masters a Good Sculptor? ; or ; Art In Mainstream Comics

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
I'm trying to remember uses of art and artists in mainstream comics - characters who are presented as 'artists' or connoisseurs or having some kind of artistic talent. From the very few examples I can remember there is a (perhaps understandable) bias for traditional representative art - the 'modern' or 'conceptual' artist is often a figure of fun, whereas the artists who create 'beautiful' pictures or sculpture (particularly sculpture) tend to turn out what looks to my Earth-Prime eyes as horrendous Franklin Mint style kitsch.

The most obvious example of this is Alicia Masters. On the Marvel Earth she is a hugely acclaimed sculptor whose works command high prices and prime gallery space. On our Earth she is the girl in Lionel Richie's "Hello" video.

Tom (Groke), Sunday, 6 March 2005 17:36 (sixteen years ago) link


Tom (Groke), Sunday, 6 March 2005 17:39 (sixteen years ago) link

Bernard The Poet to thread.

Vic Fluro, Sunday, 6 March 2005 18:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I was thinking about this after reading the most recent issue of Mark Waid's Fantastic Four. Alicia Masters and Sue Richards are taking the (SPOILER) newly human Galactus on a tour of the Guggenheim to show him art, and Galactus totally slams Alicia's work, and I couldn't help but to agree with the cranky old bastard. Alicia's work is pretty mundane neoclassical stuff, and it's hard to imagine that her work would be embraced by the real Guggenheim given that in this context, her career could not go back any further than the late 80s.

I was also wondering how Alicia could possibly be describing the paintings on the tour in spite of being blind. She's talking about the forms and color planes in a Cezanne - what the hell? Even if she wasn't always blind, it's still pushing it. Blind sculptor, sure, okay. Blind docent? Not likely!

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Sunday, 6 March 2005 19:12 (sixteen years ago) link

I think I must subconsciously have been thinking of that scene too Matthew!

Bad taste seems to be endemic in the Marvel U. though - there is a very funny scene at the beginning of Beauty And The Beast (rub 1985 mini) in which Dr Doom goes into his ART ROOM in which he keeps his favourite art and his very favourite piece of all is a dreadful looking sculpture of a horse.

Now I was kind of half hoping this might be a "Hitler was a rubbish artist" thing but I doubt it. I wonder if there's a sub/conscious wish-fulfilment thing goin on on behalf of comics artists, a "this is what should be art" move.

Tom (Groke), Sunday, 6 March 2005 19:25 (sixteen years ago) link

haha dan clowes to thread obv

j blount (papa la bas), Sunday, 6 March 2005 19:34 (sixteen years ago) link

it's a good question & definitely one that applies to movies as well. it goes for writing too--in movies where the protagonist is a writer the book they always write at the end is the story of the amazing events that we have just seen unfold on the screen! (i guess that makes it "representative" writing)

s1ocki (slutsky), Sunday, 6 March 2005 21:31 (sixteen years ago) link

haha i just watched "communion" w.dr vick where the book whitlley strieber writes (as the result of aliens rectal probing his writer's block away) is of course "communion"!!

anyway it is full of terrifically horrible art (in the strieber's house, in the psychologist's study) (though NOT old-skool trad rep)*: but they have a husband-and-wife denouement speech to one another in the whitney in front of pics by paula rego and we didn't remember the other one

*(the only one i can describe is like a de chirico street scene with a giant backlit wolf in the middle of it)

(communion is one of my favourite films ever, partly for this reason)

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 6 March 2005 23:22 (sixteen years ago) link

the art in cartoons is generally abstract expressionism as it vogues into pop: i think this is mainly john hubley's fault (cf magoo and mcboingboing)

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 6 March 2005 23:26 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, it's not shocking to me that people who have devoted their artistic lives to an extremely representational artform like comics would a) not be fans of art that isn't representational b) not be well informed about it c) have a skewed understanding of the art world as a result of either a or b. Just from my experience in art school, the illustration majors were notorious for dismissing art that was not representational, or was mostly conceptual, or not heavy on technique, or included appropriated elements. I find that a lot of people who are craftsmen tend to be very artistically conservative.

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Monday, 7 March 2005 00:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Is Kyle Rayner a good cartoonist?... don't answer that.

Isn't there a (youngish) villain in part of Alan Grant's run on Batman or Detective Comics who considers his crime sprees a form of conceptual art?

There's also a riff on this in EX MACHINA--an artist who has a really REALLY offensive conceptual painting up in the Brooklyn Museum that Mayor Hundred has to deal with somehow. (Which, on reflection, doesn't make that much sense: it may be a variation on the Chris Ofili controversy a few years ago, but Ofili's stuff is freaking beautiful--a lot of people who hated it in principle saw it in person and went "oh, NOW I get it.")

Douglas (Douglas), Monday, 7 March 2005 09:13 (sixteen years ago) link

how is the joker NOT a conceptual artist?

(haha mojo jojo christo!!)

mark s (mark s), Monday, 7 March 2005 11:31 (sixteen years ago) link

In an issue I read at the weekend the Joker has teamed up with a fellow conceptual artist (called FUNGUS SOUFFLE!) to commit crimes, when cornered by Batman though he takes Fungus hostage, possibly because of her insistence on calling him "Jokey baby".

Tom (Groke), Monday, 7 March 2005 11:48 (sixteen years ago) link

fungus souffle = genesis p.orridge!!

mark s (mark s), Monday, 7 March 2005 12:20 (sixteen years ago) link

Colossus was an "artist" too, wasn't he? I can only remember him ever drawing pictures of naked x-ladies clutching sheets to their bosoms, the sly old dog.

Mark C (Markco), Monday, 7 March 2005 13:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Isn't there a (youngish) villain in part of Alan Grant's run on Batman or Detective Comics who considers his crime sprees a form of conceptual art?

There was a character like this in Dan Slott's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. I can't remember his name, though. I think he was also into grafitti.

Kyle Rayner. Yeesh. Have you ever seen that totally Franklin Mint portrait he did of all the Green Lanterns all chummy. Fuck off. Hal Jordan will smite you!

Huk-L, Monday, 7 March 2005 15:06 (sixteen years ago) link

The Alan Grant Batman guy is probably Anarky - I think he had his own 4-issue mini a while back.

Let's not forget Steve Rogers' stint as an ad artist & a COMIC BOOK ARTIST back in the early 80s. I vaguely remember some wacky dream sequence where he falls asleep @ the drafting table & finds himself caught up in a toothpaste ad he's drawing.

David R. (popshots75`), Monday, 7 March 2005 16:12 (sixteen years ago) link

No, it's definitely not Anarky, who was Grant's mouthpiece for, um, anarchy. Because if you turn the "V" from V for Vendetta upside-down, it's almost an anarchy "A." Or somethingg.

Actually, I'm thinking now that it was a villain from Ty Templeton's run on Batman Adventures. Templeton was getting away with all KINDS of stuff in those days--if I'm remembering correctly, there's an issue whose plot revolves around Batman never having watched "In the Realm of the Senses." No, seriously. "Mom? Can we rent that?"

Douglas (Douglas), Monday, 7 March 2005 16:56 (sixteen years ago) link

Wait, what? How does one build a Batman plot around him not having seen the movie?

Catwoman: So, Batman. Have you ever seen In The Realm Of The Senses? It's pretty hot.

Batman: Er, no. What's it about?

Catwoman: It's a Japanese film. Very sensual.

Batman: That sounds okay.

Catwoman: You want to see it? I'll rent it, you can come over. It'll be fun. I'll order some sushi.

Batman: Sure. Tomorrow night?

Catwoman: Yeah, that works for me.

Catwoman, thought balloon: Now I can finally learn Batman's secret identity!

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Monday, 7 March 2005 17:13 (sixteen years ago) link

i think comic artists probably feel more comfortable drawing "good" representational art, which maybe seems a little more like it can be objectively judged, than "good" abstract art, where they'd be a bit more at sea.

also the fact that comix artists are trained in representational art doesn't neccessarily mean they prize it more highly than the other, just that they're better at doing it themselves!

s1ocki (slutsky), Monday, 7 March 2005 17:17 (sixteen years ago) link

Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier comes bursting to mind. Maybe some Jack Kirby early FF too. Lots of stuff in those not quite presented in story as abstract art, but definitely showing some affinity for something beyond mere representationalism.

Huk-L, Monday, 7 March 2005 17:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, Jack Kirby used collage to great effect - there are some pages of the old FF that look like dada collages.

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Monday, 7 March 2005 17:55 (sixteen years ago) link

Colossus only drew so he could bitch and moan about it. There was one very memorable sequence where he'd been drawing Kitty naked in the sun all day, but because he couldn't change back to human at that point, when he went to pick up his sketchpad it EXPLODED IN FLAME because his metal hand was red hot from the desert heat. He acted like it was irreplacable drawings that covered the period of his lost love for Katya but it was the same sub-pin-up stuff he was always churning out.

(Plot alert - Colossus becomes pin-up artist (ho ho 'becomes') and starts selling to magazines specialising in mutant porn. Cue long discussion about whether this is okay or not. Finally there is a FITE as it turns out Mister Sinister is modelling for the sleazy mag under the name of Sven.)

Vic Fluro, Monday, 7 March 2005 17:59 (sixteen years ago) link

My theory is that there are very few artists in these universes, and therefore very little good art, because so many have been discouraged by the tendency of paintings to come to life or absorb the painter into them. It'd put me off.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Monday, 7 March 2005 21:06 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm sure there are whole courses on the place of Zzutak in art history.

Vic Fluro, Monday, 7 March 2005 23:31 (sixteen years ago) link

Tattooed Man to thread!

Huk-L, Tuesday, 8 March 2005 16:02 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Wasn't there a period (maybe around the 260s of Uncanny X-Men) where Colossus forgot he was Colossus and ended up making a huge name for himself in the "art world"? What did his stuff look like then? Still pin-ups?

I think what a lot of this comes down to is the simple fact that the art world, like any subculture or profession, has its own internal values and trends and lingo and so forth. If you don't keep abreast of that stuff and do the research, attempts to represent the subculture in fiction will inevitably come off as phoney to those in the know. So we're in kind of the same territory as when a physicist or somebody steps in to point out all the bad (or, more analogously, vague) science in comics. They may well be right, but ultimately one imagines that the creators of the book figure they can get away with vague, since for most of their readers, it doesn't have to be OTM to work as a plot point. I imagine it's more striking in this case because comics are themselves a visual medium - but as has been pointed out upthread, there's a huge world of difference between the cultures of graphic design, illustration, and contemporary "art."

Another problem, of course, is that even if you are tuned into art, if the plot calls for you to have Alicia Masters becoming famous as an artist, are you really up for the challenge of creating good art for her? If you were, wouldn't you be out there creating it yourself and getting gallery shows or whatever it is artists do? Safer to play to your strengths and render a very realistic horse sculpture.

Possibly more meta answer: in the superhero world, freaky conceptual shit has been devalued considerably by how freaky life itself has gotten. Many of the traditional themes to be explored by conceptual art (identity, life versus death, blah blah) have been rendered moot by time-travel, mind-control, and repeated resurrection. The people clamor for art that presents the world in clear, Platonic ideals - art that they can feel 65% confident won't turn into a monster while they're looking at it on the wall.

Doctor Casino (Doctor Casino), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:46 (fourteen years ago) link


100% CHAMPS with a Yes! Attitude. (Austin, Still), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:57 (fourteen years ago) link

Black Jack Tarr falling in love with Frazetta's work -- C or D?

Danny Aioli (Rock Hardy), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 01:13 (fourteen years ago) link


Huk-L (Huk-L), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 13:55 (fourteen years ago) link

Are normal people in the DC and Marvel universes aware of all the resurrection going on? I'd think that they do not.

Matthew Perpetua! (Matthew Perpetua!), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 14:13 (fourteen years ago) link

eleven years pass...

can't believe i posted itt without thinking to bring up j.j. caucus: joanie's estranged daughter, mike doonesbury's ex-wife, and, since early on, trudeau's parody of the "new york art world."

in the later 80s she turned to large-scale custom pieces for wealthier clients, and her work turned more figurative, naturalistic and classical.

noel gallaghah's high flying burbbhrbhbbhbburbbb (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 16:10 (three years ago) link

it's a good question & definitely one that applies to movies as well. it goes for writing too--in movies where the protagonist is a writer the book they always write at the end is the story of the amazing events that we have just seen unfold on the screen! (i guess that makes it "representative" writing)

― s1ocki (slutsky), Sunday, March 6, 2005 3:31 PM (thirteen years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

slocki's post really foreshadows the ridiculous narrative device on the tv show Riverdale. presumably the Jughead character's narrative is from articles he's writing or a journal he's keeping, but it's nonsensical drivel that barely makes sense even when read over montages

mh, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 18:56 (three years ago) link

Relevant to this thread, Douglas Wolk's "Marvel vs. Museum" posts at --

WilliamC, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 19:18 (three years ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.