Women of Comicscontinues through Thursday, March 6Metropolis Comic Art Gallery1102 Mountain NW, Suite 202metropoliscomicart.com, 255-0793Hours: Monday-Thursday 11am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 7pm, Sunday noon to 6pm
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February is popularly associated with love, and the folks at Metropolis Comic Art Gallery (1102 Mountain NW) decided to dedicate this month’s show to the ladies. The opening reception happened Friday night, Feb. 7, and besides newly hung works and refreshments, also offered corset fashion modeling courtesy of Straight Laced Kitty and personalized Valentine greetings drawn live on the scene by local artist Shaun Pinello. Rather than the cliché approach of romance, hearts and flowers, the Metropolis Women of Comics show demonstrates affection for strong female characters. These women are loved for being badass, and no one minds that most of them are not real people.A major highlight of the show, and indeed any show she is in, is New Hampshire native Sara Richard. Her dreamy ink and watercolor character portraits reveal an elegant fusion of Japanese sumi-e with Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Richard’s “Super Girl” watercolor and her Zombie Bomb “Shuffle” panel are fantastic examples of what Richard can do. These two images aptly demonstrate Richard’s dynamic range and command of all things curvilinear, from the soft outlines of Super Girl to the aggressive whorls of the zombie.If gentle cheesecake is your groove, check out Billy Fowler. His slightly awkward, slightly angular outlines combined with soft color fills and shading make his portrait of a buxom redhead Poison Ivy looking over her shoulder the perfect combination of coy and wholesome. Fowler has a strongly modeled painting style, with a flair for lining vaguely reminiscent of Secessionist Egon Schiele.One of the most widely admired, reinterpreted and cosplayed women in comics is Death, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. She’s lovely, strong, vulnerable, stylishly dressed and wins almost all of her fights. No surprise that several portraits of Death show up in the Women of Comics show, each better than the next. If you are a big fan of Death, definitely go check out her incarnations in this show. Other crowd-pleasing favorites here are Wonder Woman and Catwoman. In most cases, the female character confronts the viewer either free-floating against a blank background or with very minimal perspective cues.In a totally different stylistic direction, there are Katie Cook’s loosely rendered full-length portraits of comic leads, most featuring a single watercolor figure floating in the center of a sheet no larger than a greeting card. Poison Ivy seems to be a favorite for Cook. Perhaps the most captivating work at the show was that of local artist Derek Smith. Smith’s illustration of a standing, front-facing Hellbabe, as well as his Old Master-style odalisque portrait of Hellbabe in repose, are both very striking works. Although executed in vastly different styles, it is clear that Smith has transcended the usual limits of comic art and is working from a real live model. You may have even seen her at the last con you went to.As gallery associate Skylar Patridge points out, comic fans tend to have enormous crossover into other pop media imagery. That is to say, people who like comics also frequently like superhero movies, have common interests in television (such as graphic novel-based series “The Walking Dead”), are into Japanese anime films and adore several major video game franchises. Therefore, when planning shows for the gallery, owner Mike Borin makes an effort to cast a wide net into his audience’s interests. The major unifying factor here is that other than some sculpture and comic cover art, almost everything on display at Metropolis is portraiture. Traditionally, portraits are thought of as an artistic rendering of a real person or animal with a relatively modest background or setting. In comic art, however, aside from a few cases where real people’s faces are worked into the images, the portraits are of fictional characters created by other artists. In comic art, a portrait is generally an image of a character established within a work of fiction, reinterpreted by another artist. It may be unusual in the art-school sense of “portrait,” but it’s completely normal in the context of comic art; this is very much the meaning of the term.The next show coming up at Metropolis will have a Studio Ghibli theme, relating to the work of Japanese creative legend Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli productions include My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, to name just a few. The Women of Comics Valentine’s show continues through Thursday, March 6. Some content may be unsuitable for very young or sensitive individuals.