Devil in the Details

Jul 31, 2011 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Adam Drew This, Comics Art

Back in 2008, Adam was doing some sketches for charity.  I got this sweet Hellboy/Madame Xanadu piece out of it.

He was part of a team raising funds for the My Angel Foundation, an Iowa nonprofit that promotes organ donation.  Adam and his team ended up raising more than $4,400, a significant portion of it through Adam’s sketches.  He was doing animation-style one-character sketches of pretty much anyone you wanted, for a ridiculously cheap ten bucks.  I offered him $50 to do something more detailed, and the result was the above sketch.  It is framed on my wall, and the slight fisheye distortion is the result of my camera, not your eyes or a weird flux in spacetime in my apartment.

As a pointless bit of process, here’s an excerpt of the email in which I “commissioned” the drawing:

Hellboy (Mignola style, not animated … filtered through you, of course) getting his Tarot cards read by Madame Xanadu (original character design — I’ll dig up the Kaluta covers from the 70s, and card reference, if you say ok).  She’s laid down some cards already, but every one of them is “The Devil.”  Hellboy, sitting there, says: “Oh crap.”

(or something — if you come up with a better reaction and line, whatever.  You’re the freakin’ artist.)

I specified Mignola versus animated because Adam had storyboarded for both the Hellboy Animated DVDs.  I followed that email with the mostly Kaluta reference (the brilliant and subsequently canceled Matt Wagner / Amy Reeder Madame Xanadu series would’ve just been debuting around then, so I went with the old school).

I liked the gag because it was, in essence, a one-panel story.  If you know the characters — that Madame Xanadu is a fortune teller and that Hellboy is constantly fighting his alleged destiny to herald the Apocalypse — then there’s a really, really short story for you.  The finished product, as you can see, is fantastic.  I loved the way he solved the staging problem — it would’ve been natural to have Hellboy across the table from Madame Xanadu.  And I love how he took a single reference I sent for the “Devil” tarot card and went out and found others, drawing a different devil card in each instance.  Speaking of details, I think that today, preparing this post, is the first time I noticed that Hellboy is inexplicably wearing a tuxedo.  I guess you wanna look your best when you’re calling on Madame Xanadu.

TMI:  I’m pretty sure Kaluta’s Xanadu was the first time in my childhood comics reading that I noticed that comics art could be really sexy.  Those Doorway to Nightmare comics, none of which turned out to be very remarkable, were among the first I tracked down when I discovered direct-market comics shops and their back-issue bins.

As a bonus, the ever-generous artist included a second image when he mailed the above piece to me.  It’s permanently positioned above the cluttered workspace that passes for my desk.  Click the thumb …

A followup email to Adam, just rediscovered today:

Hm. It occurs to me that Hellboy with Zatanna could be even cooler, but I think the joke of this Madame Xanadu idea is too good to pass up. What would he do with Zatanna? She pulls a rabbit out of her hat and he shoots it? Demon rabbit? She’s standing there still holding the ears, all that’s left of it, and his gun is smoking, and he’s like, “I swear it was a devil rabbit” ? (she’s saying, “ho parc”?)

Personal note to Adam:  I need you to draw me that Zatanna gag ASAP.  Name your price.

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • I want one. Where do I sign up?

  • […] had donated to the My Angel Foundation charity, which I was raising money for in 2008 (see that Madame Xanadu/Hellboy sketch Brian posted), so I was going to draw whatever she wanted.  I didn’t have reference for the […]