5 Aug 2023(3 Comments)

an olivier coipel captain america

From following French comics illustrator Olivier Coipel on Instagram, I learn that Marvel has a retelling of Captain America origins by J. Michael Straczynski set to launch next month.

Besides standing apart for quality of work, simply, among the ‘variants’ (in N. American comics-market jargon) the issue’s getting, Coipel’s cover art is remarkable for a couple of things. One is exceptional accuracy in calling forth the spirit not, plainly, of the cheap-labor illustration used in comic books among which Captain America first appears in 1940, but rather of much mainstream magazine and advertising illustration — or, say, of murals decorating public building interiors — of the century’s pre-WW2 decades. (Jack Kirby couldn’t do the kind of high-end illustration dominant in the world of his childhood. What he would do instead as a mature graphic artist comes to belong profoundly to America’s second half of the century.) The other, unusual in Coipel’s comics work, is how distinctly (if understatedly) this cover evokes the kind of homoerotic matter his own ‘NSFW’ alternate Instagram account is devoted to — which in turn perhaps recalls from a different angle aspects of the environment of America’s pre-WW2 graphic art for mainstream audience, suggested e.g. by the life of celebrated painter J. C. Leyendecker.

Shouldn’t be too quick to judge without having seen it, but I’m doubtful, frankly, about the forthcoming Marvel series. It’s one thing for Jewish kids Joe Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg to offer comics readers in their own day the idea of a United States arisen to fight back the fascists. It’s quite another for us, now especially, to be telling the story of the America of that time as though anti-fascism indeed somehow was ever or enduringly rooted in the national character.

3 thoughts on “5 aug 23: Olivier Coipel’s Captain America”

  1. It’s brilliant and hilarious, yeah. Seriously. Coipel is so good — up there with LaRosa and a handful of others. Evidently he has a finely honed sense of what that’ll let him get away with. Definitely not approved by the comics code authority, though, this one!

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