Monday, June 19, 2017

Joe Prado and Lightning Lad

In last week's review post I mentioned that I was extremely fond of Joe Prado’s rendition of Lightning Lad from Action Comics #864. Today I'm going to go into details about this fondness. 

(Lighting Lad by Joe Prado)

I just love the face, and the hair, the scruff on his chin, and those arms. I admit it, I've got a weakness for scruffy, redheaded guys in comics (Arsenal, Banshee, Catman, Skullfire, Tracer), although I prefer them more if they're not covered in body hair.

ANYway, Joe's take on Garth had more of an effect on me than you would think. Because at NYCC 2009 I got to meet Joe in person, and I did something I've never done before. I commissioned Joe to do a half body commission of Garth for me.

Now, this is important because this was the first time I ever commissioned someone to do artwork for me. It was the only commission I got at the NYCC show, but after that I began making plans for future conventions. I'd make shopping lists based on who'd be appearing at comic shows so I'd know what kind of commission I'd like to get. Nine years later and my collection of artwork has expanded to over 1300 pieces in my Comic Art Fans gallery. I've met many amazing and wonderful artists over the years and I'd like to think I've made a few great friends. Not to mention I've made some friends who are fellow collectors, so this one piece sparked (no pun intended) a major and important hobby and helped establish connections with lots of people I care for very much.

But something else occurred. I loved this commission so much I decided to start a theme with Joe. I've been working on a project of commissioning just about every costume and version of Garth from Joe whenever we're both at a comic show. Unfortunately that's going slower than I'd like to admit. My personal income isn't spectacular so I'm not able to commission Joe as much as I'd like. That said, I'm still incredibly happy with pieces I have now, and in the process I'd like to think I've made a good friend in Joe.

The second Lightning Lad sketch I got was a head-shot of Cartoon Garth Joe did for me in 2010 as a little birthday gift. I picked this up alongside a Black Lantern Dorothy Spinner commission. He did this one for me in my first sketchbook.

The next one was a commission my parents paid for as my birthday gift. Joe did a White Lantern Lightning Lad commission for me at his home. I figured because Garth was one of those characters who came back from the dead, and Joe did a number of character designs for Blackest Night, I wanted to see a White Lantern Garth. It's disappointing the Legion didn't have a bigger role in Blackest Night, but what can you do. I picked this up in 2011.

Naturally, as a follow up Joe did a Black Lantern Garth at NYCC 2011 for me. Since the White Lantern commission was based on Garth's current costume, I thought it would be morbid fun to have the Black Lantern costume based on Dave Cockrum's design.

Following up on this, at Boston Comic Con 2012 I was lucky to get not one, but two commissions done in my sketchbook. Rounding off the Blackest Night theme, I got White and Black Lantern Live Wire from the Reboot.

I told Joe I wanted him to make Black Lantern Live Wire's prosthetic arm look especially twisted and evil looking, like some kind of torture device. And boy did he deliver! 

Taking a break from the more extreme ideas, I promised Joe he'd get to draw the Dave Cockrum version of Lightning Lad at the next show, which was NYCC 2012.

He also did for me another quick cartoon Garth inside Joe's new Sketchbook.

I like the little earring Joe included in his ear.

In 2013 I wasn't able to get another commission from Joe, but as a gift he gave me the original artwork for pages 2 and 3 of Action Comics #864. These were the last two pages available for sale, I think.

That same year though, I saw something interesting in Joe's portfolio. He had a design for an evil version of Lightning Lad that never got used. It turns out in Marv Wolfman's run on the New 52 Superboy volume they had plans to include an evil version of the Legion. The idea was scrapped and stand ins were made. I asked Joe to hold on to this design for me until the next time I saw him.

This next one, um, well... couple of things.

I also make it a point to use Joe's rendition of Garth as reference for any other Lightning Lad commission (well, any Johnsboot Garth commission) I get.

Little backstory time: I’m friends with a very talented artist who goes by the handle “levyrasputin” on DeviantArt, and I commission her whenever I can. I love her use of color and body language, and I’d like to think she’s been a very dear friend to me over the years. She was the first artist with whom I felt comfortable enough to start commissioning heavyset male superhero artwork, and in 2012 she did this gorgeous husky Lightning Lad commission for me.

I wanted to play up the farm boy angle for this piece, and of course I used Joe’s take on Lightning Lad for reference. A couple of years later, I felt especially daring (but also terrified) and contacted Joe for setting up a Big Beautiful Man Lightning Lad commission from him because I was dying to see what heavyset Garth would look like in his style. I’ll forever be touched and grateful that Joe didn’t have a problem with the concept, and to kind of complete the circle, I had him base this commission off the one Levy did for me in 2012. I picked it up in 2014.

This was a big deal for me because I know this type of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea, and I always worry about freaking artists out when I ask for stuff of this genre. Joe not having a problem with it at all touched me on a very deep level and I'll always be grateful to him and to Levy for helping me feel less stressful about my likes and interests. And honestly, if I had the chance while professionally writing I would like to give Garth a husky build if only to change things a little. There's like no variety when it comes to male bodies in comics and you can only take so much of steroid abuse abs after a while.

I was so happy with this original commission that as a matter of fact, I decided to go with this and commissioned Joe to do a heavyset cartoon Garth for me at the next convention we met.

So, there's my collection of Joe Prado Lightning Lad pieces. I know it's not much and seems kind of silly, but I wanted to better "illustrate" how much Action Comics #864 meant to me and the impact it had on my future.

Here's hoping to one day write a Lightning Lad comic with Joe as the penciller.

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