Friday, October 19, 2012
Love him or hate him so much that you want to shove your adimantium claws in his jugular, Cyclops is undeniably one of the most important characters in the Marvel universe. From his humble origins as teenage leader of the X-Men to his recent ascension to nearly all-powerful cosmic deity, Cyclops' iconic visor (or occasionally sunglasses) have been an image that has provoked joy and hate from readers. That costume, a physical embodiment of Scott Summer's uncontrollable mutant power, was the invention of legendary comic artist Jack Kirby.
Rorschach came from the Question.
The list goes on and on. But it must be remembered that these lifts were not (usually) done to "steal." It is like sampling in hip-hop music: A Tribe Called Quest was not trying to steal Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," they just saw something they liked that they could put into a new context and thus create new art. Mr. Fantastic lost the cartoonish goggles of Plastic Man because he is a serious character. Punisher lost the cape of Black Terror because only Batman can pull off capes in urban landscapes. The blank face of the Question is replaced with the amorphous and constantly shifting Rorschach blots, shifting the lack of identity from an empirical reality to a matter of perception (notice in Watchmen how important Rorschach's "face" is to him, how his actual face when de-masked is animalistic and inhuman). These characters are not copies, they are expansions in new and exciting directions. So perhaps consider the next time you go off on an artist for "swiping" that Jack Kirby lifted the design for more than one of his most famous characters.
For Part 1 of this series, click here.