Friday, June 25, 2010
OWARI 10th Anniversary by Lewis Smith (2005)
In the interest of full disclosure, the above image was uploaded to Blogger for the Return of Jetman site. That particular entry, which will have an identical title to this one, is still a few months away. However, I received the e-mail from Lewis Smith that he had finished this picture on June 25, 2005. So this seems like as good a time as any to discuss this piece here. Aren't you glad you read both sites? (hint hint)
I wish I could remember my specific instructions to Lewis regarding this piece when I commissioned him. I am reasonably certain I asked for Green Wyvern, Captain Satellite, and (probably) El Beardo. El Beardo, in case you have forgotten, is OWARI's erstwhile mascot and devil-may-care bon vivant. You may notice that Lewis re-imagined El Beardo into an even wackier character, complete with a killer sombrero. That is the kind of mad genius that is Lewis' trademark.
Two aspects of this picture that were NOT part of my original request are the inclusion of lovable rogue Phil Moskowitz from WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? and a design that explicitly homages the Irwin Hasen cover of All-Star Comics #37. The presence of Phil Moskowitz, amiable zany, is easily explained. I had cover-featured that movie on OWARI #3, and the still I used got an amazing reaction from everyone who saw it and became one of the enduring memories of the fanzine. So naturally, it made sense to Lewis to include his representation of the character so memorably embodied by Tatsuya Mihashi. I'm very glad he did.
I'm not sure what prompted the All-Star tribute, which is odd when you consider what a huge fan of the Justice Society I am. But no, Lewis arrived at that independent of any influence from me. I ran with the idea, though, and structured the cover of OWARI #12 (which used this image as its cover) around the original comic's design. One of these fine days, we'll discuss the contents of those musty old fanzines.
For OWARI readers today, I'd imagine the two most prominent characters are Green Wyvern and Captain Satellite. Wyvern was a no-brainer, as she was the most memorable character born from "Return of Jetman" in the 'zine's pages. In many ways, she was the original reason that project continued at all. In reviewing my memory for this write-up, I realized this was the last time to date that Lewis drew Green Wyvern. I honestly had no idea it had been so long.
And then, we have Captain Satellite. Yes, that is Cap between Wyvern and Phil. Don't quite recognize him? Well, he does look a bit different than the more familiar image of him I've presented here. There are a couple of reasons for that.
At the time this piece was done, I had only created a handful of pictures of Cap, and none for the rest of his current cast of characters. I had no solid plans to use him at all as anything other than a superhero image. I cast him in amusing comic vignettes, but didn't intend for him to become a full-blown character. He was essentially just another mascot.
This was the status quo for Cap when this picture was conceived. Lewis asked for my permission to redesign the character for his purposes, and I gave my OK. Cap as Lewis pictured him got another color (yellow) and a few other costume modifications. He even got a chest insignia, something I'd omitted from the suit a few years earlier.
Well, I was pleased as punch with the picture, and it served its purposes well. But this particular iteration of Captain Satellite has not been seen since. At this point, he probably won't be back. Why?
As I explained, there were no solid plans to do anything with Cap when this picture was done in 2005. He was just a symbol. The wheels for the building of an actual Captain Satellite "universe" didn't start turning until 2007. This picture was done in a comparative vacuum, separate from that process. In fact, this was the very first time ANY member of the Captain Satellite cast was drawn by anyone other than me. That gives this image even more significance than it originally had.
In all honesty, I didn't even remember this design of Captain Satellite when I set out to make that character something a little more than just a star of funny pictures I drew. If I had, I might have incorporated some elements into my work. As it stands, this particular version just paints an interesting portrait of "what might have been."
Some of Lewis' innovations have made their way into other interpretations quite by coincidence. Kabuki Katze's recent picture (my current model for "realistic" Cap) gives the same treatment to the eyes and the belt. She also emphasized the blue more than I have, and that too is in line with his ideas.
So, hats off during OWARI's 15th Anniversary celebration to Mr. Lewis Smith for the outstanding job he did on this 10th Anniversary picture. Though neither of us knew it at the time, he earned yet another spot in OWARI's Hall of Fame by being the first artist to handle the Captain Satellite cast.