THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL

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THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL a.k.a. Doreen Green, is Marvel Comics’ heroine who possesses all the powers of squirrel and girl, seen here charging into action, with her best friend Tippy Toe at the ready.

Designed by my friend Erica Henderson, current artist of USB, whom I pestered for this  design as soon as she was announced as the artist. (Erica and I have collaborated before.) It was designed to be in-scale with the Batgirl Black & White sculpture I did, and is about 7″ high by 11″ long (Tippy Toe is about the tiniest thing I’ve ever sculpted and I had to bust out the magnifying lamp to work on her). It was sculpted with Sculpey Firm, Apoxie Sculpt, and the finished piece was cast using Smooth On Mold Star 30 and Smooth Cast 305.

SGsculpt

Erica, writer Ryan North, and colorist Rico Renzi are creating some of the most fun, exciting, and fresh superhero comics in years. A collected edition of the first story will be on sale August 19th at your finer comic book shops!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was created by Will Murray and the legendary Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.

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And that was MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!


And that’s it! My top 30 favorite Marvel Comics character in minibust form. So many fun characters had to be left out (Sorry Blade! Sorry Kingpin! Sorry everyone in Power Pack! Punisher- you’re still a Spider-Man villain to me, and I didn’t have room for Norman Osborn, the ne plus ultra of Spidey villains, so you didn’t make the cut).  Marvel has been publishing for more than 70 years, have thousands of characters, and occupied most of my childhood and young adulthood.

For all my love of this vast fictional universe, in this series I’ve tried to pay homage to the creators of these characters. It’s very easy to think of the Marvel Universe as an almost organic whole, and that these stories will be there every month without fail, but without Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, John Romita, Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and so many more there would be no Marvel Universe. These people gave words and form to the imaginary heroes who have thrilled us. As a kid, I may have wanted to swing across a cityscape like Spider-Man or have the strength of the Thing. But as an adult I wish I could create something to inspire people the way Jack Kirby has.

‘Nuff said.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #27: SPIDER-MAN

 

Poor Peter Parker. Orphaned as a boy and raised by his elderly aunt and uncle, he was a frail science geek who was bullied at school. When a freak accident involving a radioactive spider-bite granted him he proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider, he did what anyone would do: he went on television to get rich and famous.

The world had taught Peter the hard lesson that he should always look out for himself first, which is why he failed to stop an escaping robber, something well within his ability to do without much risk to himself. Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben paid the price for Peter’s arrogance when the robber shot and killed Ben that very night. After bringing the crook to justice Peter Parker- now and forever the Amazing Spider-Man- remembered the more important lesson Ben had taught him: with great power comes great responsibility.

That was the story Stan Lee and Steve Ditko told in fourteen pages in AMAZING FANTASY #15 in 1962. The story has changed very little in the retelling over the years, and that core guilt- that Peter could have helped and did not- has driven the character ever since.

Spider-Man was revolutionary for a number of reasons. He was a teenager, but not a sidekick, who called himself a man, as almost any almost-grown boy would do. He had problems, usually very serious ones, that usually came less from his adventures as Spider-Man as from his own poverty, need to care for his elderly Aunt May (the revelation that Peter was Spider-Man would, he feared, give her a fatal heart attack), and his own awkward adolescence. Now able to easily beat high school bully Flash Thompson, Peter needed to restrain himself and continue playing the meek bookworm he no longer was

But far from a dark, melancholy character, Spider-Man was exuberant as he swung over Manhattan and bounced  around his foes, wisecracking and attaching a note “Compliments of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” to defeated criminals. It was as if being Spider-Man was the only time Peter could be who he really wanted to be without consequence.

Peter failed almost as often as he succeeded. His victories were usually temporary. He chose to be good when being selfish would be so much easier. Ditko’s design for Spider-Man is one of the most iconic in all of comics. His own masked face is his emblem, a face that could hide anyone, that could be any one of us.

Be here for tomorrow’s MIGHTY MARVEL MAY because it’s gonna rock.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #22: J. JONAH JAMESON

The worst boss in the world.

J. Jonah Jameson, the self-aggrandizing publisher of NOW Magazine and New York City’s THE DAILY BUGLE, was quick to publicly lambaste the misunderstood hero Spider-Man on the pages of his tabloids. Most of his photos of the elusive wall-crawler were provided by freelance photographer and frequent whipping boy Peter Parker. In an ethical paradox, Peter Parker was secretly Spider-Man: Parker was selling “news” pictures of himself to the miserly Jameson. The fact that James used the pictures to accompany hatchet-pieces about Spider-Man seemed to assuage Parker’s already-heavy burden of guilt somewhat.

Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in SPIDER-MAN #1 in 1963, Jameson took what could have been a one-issue appearance and stretched it out for fifty years and counting. Forever chomping cigars, bellowing “PARKER!” and pounding his fists,  JJJ alternates between buffoonish, moments of occasional menace and even rarer heroism. Mostly a straw-man blowhard, he is sometimes surprisingly human and sympathetic. In one early internal monologue, we learn that Jameson’s hatred of Spider-Man stems from his own feelings of jealousy: Spider-Man is genuinely admired and seeks no reward for his good deeds. Jameson is shamed by Spidey’s selflessness and devil-may-care attitude. Despite all his worldly success, Jameson seems most proud of tarnishing Spider-Man’s reputation.

In recent years, Jameson has actually ascended to the position of mayor of New York City. This has given him a bigger pulpit from which to attack his hated rival, and greater height for him to fall on his face.

Christmas comes a little early in tomorrow’s installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #18: IRON MAN

Most of you are probably familiar with the story of billionaire playboy inventor Tony Stark, a munitions maker injured by (in most versions) his own weaponry in the field. With a shrapnel precariously close to his heart, a makeshift electromagnet is all that keeps him from death. He escapes captivity and saves his own life by making himself a weapon: Iron Man.

Originally created by old standbys Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, in a story scripted by Larry Lieber and drawn by Don Heck in TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 in 1963. Iron man gets periodic updates to his origin, which originally took place in Vietnam and has been moved to Afghanistan, and to his armor, once “powered” by transistors. He’s always remained ahead of the pace of even real-world science.

Although Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man was secret for most of his career, in recent years he’s gone public with it. An autocratic technocrat, Tony tries to make the world better with his inventions, at the same time steadfastly guarding against people who would misuse it. He often fails to recognize any authority but his own, which sometimes puts him at odds with government and other superheroes (although Tony was thoroughly pro-government in the CIVIL WAR miniseries which pitted brother superhero against brother superhero). Tony has also hit bottom a number of times, such as in the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline, in which his alcoholism costs him the Iron Man armor and even his company.

Constantly teetering between progress and self-ruin, human and machine, Iron Man perfectly represents the nature of technology. And he does it with style.

Iron Man’s look is always evolving, too. After the initial, bulky, robotic Kirby design, Steve Ditko created the first version of the more iconic, streamlined yellow-and-red armor. Although the version I’ve done, inspired by artist Adi Granov, is not his favorite, I dedicate this piece to Iron Man fan Steve Bannister, who’s as resolute (and right more often) in his opinions as Tony Stark himself.

Tomorrow I’ll present a very attractive character for MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #14: MARY JANE WATSON

“Face it, tiger…”

Before she was finally revealed by creators Stan Lee and John Romita in SPIDER-MAN #42, the running joke was that Peter (Spider-Man) Parker didn’t want to be set up with Mrs. Watson’s niece Mary Jane. Steve Ditko had teased readers with glimpses of her here and there, suggesting she was a high-fashion femme fatale. But when Peter opened the door to meet her, it was Romita’s version that greeted him.

Peter was smitten with Gwen Stacy at the time, and MJ was introduced to complicate things with a love triangle. She was immediately irrepressible, the ypart girl to Gwen’s chaste girl-next-door. Peter was destined to be with Gwen, it seemed, but MJ was hard for him- and readers- to resist.  She was fun but troubled. Smart but irresponsible. Lovable but frustrating.

Eventually Gwen was murdered by the Green Goblin. Over a surprisingly long time, Peter and Mary Jane became a couple. A retcon (retroactive continuity addition) had Mary Jane declaring she’d known Peter was secretly Spider-Man all along, had loved him from afar, but couldn’t be with him because of it.  They were eventually married, had numerous rocky years, and their marriage was, after two decades, magically annulled by editorial fiat in a story too dumb to waste any time on. Such is the grind of monthly comic book continuity.

Because she was never designed to be Spider-Man’s girlfriend- at the time that was Gwen- Mary Jane’s life didn’t revolve around his the way numerous other superhero-accessory-girlfriends seem to. She had her own interests, and disappeared from Peter/Spidey’s life for long stretches. Later stories would suggest a more longstanding connection between her and Peter, but they were never able to tamp down the larger-than-life spirit that first told Peter that, upon meeting her, he’d “hit the jackpot.”

That’s all for today, but don’t be blue: more MIGHTY MARVEL MAY tomorrow!