Like you, we read the following and jumped with glee and clapped our little gay hands:
"On Aug. 26, Marvel will release the first issue of “Models Inc.,” a sartorially minded mini-series that unites some of its fashion-friendly supporting characters and pushes them into new starring roles.
The runway divas include Millicent Collins (a k a Millie the Model), Patsy Walker, also known as the superheroine Hellcat, and Mary Jane, the model-turned actress who is the sometimes wife of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man.
Enter Tim Gunn of “Project Runway.” In the debut issue’s second story, Mr. Gunn becomes an action figure — jumping into Iron Man’s suit of armor to save a fashion exhibition from evildoers."
"It’s certainly a departure from Mr. Gunn’s usual role as a mentor to aspiring designers, but there is a connection. Mr. Gunn said he remembered comic books with Millicent, who first appeared in 1945. She was a comic romantic figure, who worked as a model for the Hanover agency.
Mr. Gunn will grace one version of the first cover of “Models Inc.,” drawn by Phil Jimenez, a popular comic book artist who also illustrated the cover of “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 583, which paired Spidey with President Obama. A sales analysis on the Beat, the comic blog of Publishers Weekly, estimated that more than 520,000 copies of the issue were sold."But perhaps unlike you, we had a second reaction. "Phil Jimenez is drawing the cover! How perfect!"
You see darlings, it's well documented that we are fabulous. It is perhaps not so well documented that one of us is a hardcore nerd of the comicbook variety (Tom) and the name Phil Jimenez was very familiar to him from his work on ... oh geez, you name it. He's drawn everyone from Spider-Man to Wonder Woman (which he also wrote for a while) and because of the nature of this little corner of the blogosphere, it's notable that he is one of a very small number of gay comics creators working in the mainstream industry (which is code for "super-heroes"). All of the artwork in this post (with the exception of the vintage Millie and Patsy covers) are from his hand. As you can see, he's got quite the knack for drawing voluptuous kickass women.
We figured we could use our combined powers of nerdiness and fabulosity to offer a take more interesting than the bland NYT writeup, so what did we do? Well, we got in touch with BOTH Phil AND Tim to give us their thoughts on the upcoming book. First up, Phil:
A little birdie told us that you're friends with Tim. How did you two meet?
In one of those fantastic twists of fate, Tim used to work with my boyfriend Joe at Parsons. I'd had the good fortune of socializing with Tim in the past, and several friends of mine and I even threw him a Project Runway dinner party, replete with fried food and ornaments from Red Lobster (where we cornered him for hours and drilled him on behind the scenes secrets of the show), to celebrate his TV success. I've only seen Tim a couple of times in the past two years -- he's famous now, you know, or so I heard -- but we like to think back and dream about those days "we knew him when..."
Are you a fan of Project Runway? Are you into fashion?
Project Runway is one of my favorite TV shows ever; a group of my friends and I get together every week and watch a slew of reality shows with Project Runway and Top Chef always primed on the DVR. I'm obsessed with reality competition shows, especially ones where talented people have to perform on air, under extreme time constraints and bizarre circumstances, and make something amazing. Further, so many of these shows hinge on casting, and Project Runway is cast EXTREMELY well.
I'm waiting for the comic book version of such a show. Talk about casting --!
I love fashion, but I'm not into fashion. I have some favorite designers, but I wish I knew more and I always wish I was more experimental with my own personal fashion. I also think it's incredibly important to at least be aware of trends and designs, especially outside the United States. Not only are these looks inspirational, but are crafted with a point of view often so different from my own. I love that. I think artists of all types should look to inspiration beyond their limited circle; you never know what sort of wonders you might find. Beyond that, fashion trends tend to tell us about the tenor and mood of a season, a nation, a people. Fashion's a wonderful barometer for tracking social and political trends, and so I try to keep up with it when I can.
I also send my drawing students to see fashion shows and exhibits when I can, so they can see how garments hang on real people, especially women.
It should be said that I do use a lot of fashion designers as inspiration for character costumes, trying to mix and match traditional super-hero tropes with some of the more fantastic aspects of modern fashion (the new Kraven in the Amazing Spider-Man is an example of that).
As an artist, what's the one trait you have to nail in order to portray Tim? Or is there more than one? Did he pose for you?
Tim was actually very easy to draw. Part of this is knowing him from the show, part of it is having met him in real life and knowing his persona, his mannerisms, his body language. The trait that was easiest to go for was that, "I'm concerned" look Tim does so well, with one brow raised and his lips slightly pursed. That's just so...HIM.
Tim didn't pose for me; I found numerous pictures of him online and in magazines, and used two or three to make the portrait.
You also drew the much-reported cover to Amazing Spider-Man #583 with President Obama. Which real-life person was easier to draw, him or Tim?
TIM! Talk about pressure with Obama! And least if I f***d up Tim's drawing, I could apologize in person! Nobody wants to mess up a portrait of the new president, especially one with such a high approval rating!
Will we see Tim in spandex?
I'm not sure about spandex (it takes a special type to pull spandex off in the light of day), but I'm told Tim might end up sporting some pretty fancy armor...
There was a time when characters like Millie and Patsy headlined their own books. Do you think mainstream comics can still branch out from superheroes and highlight other interests, like fashion? Is there an untapped fashionista market for comics?
You tell me! I have a hard time believing most Vogue editors would go to a comic book store every week to pick up their comics. However, I do think that if you could make comics for and about them, and provide them in a platform they would enjoy, they could make them. It's a constant debate in our medium which, like the rest of publishing, has shrunk considerably as we compete against the internet for attention. Will anyone read comics if you just make ones for them? Will they read them in the standard format? If you make lots of comic books about models and fashionistas, would they support them? Comic reading is an acquired skill and language. Some people get them. Others don't. I'm not sure -- I have no answer -- that it's simply a matter of making comic books for a target audience. I think the audience has to also be inherently interested in the medium. This is why I think we need to get more kids/teens reading comics -- get them young, and develop their interest early!
In a similar vein, as one of the few openly gay creators working in mainstream comics, do you think there's an untapped gay market out there? We're living proof that there are plenty of gays reading mainstream comics, but there aren't many comics (none, really) that are openly courting the gays. How can we get our brothers and sisters interested in this medium?
There's an substantial segment of comic readers who are openly gay -- I see it every year, and belong to groups like the GLA, an organization of gay comic fans, and at the Gays in Comics Panel at the San Diego Comiccon, our industry's largest event (which is so well attended it has, in the past, been spread over two days). And wow, there are lots of gays behind the scenes, actively trying to shake things up and bring their point of view and sensibility to this kind of work. I see it every day, and it's wonderful.
However, mainstream super-hero comics still cater to a very particular audience and still tell a particular kind of story. Many super-hero comic readers are actually quite conservative, and I'm not sure how they'd accept, or not accept (and therefore purchase in quantity) comic books about gay male leads (lesbians are a little safer, as long as they're hot, like Batwoman). On the other hand, a lot of my gay friends just love a good super-hero yarn, and read Green Lantern or Avengers as voraciously as straight folks, with or without gay content. I think mainstream super-hero comics court a certain kind of reader -- gay or straight -- who appreciate a particular kind of power fantasy. Developing more fully rounded gay characters within those books, though -- that should be a major priority for creators, and should always be a demand from progressive-minded consumers.
However, there's wonderful material out there for gay readers from independent companies, and some terrific gay themed material in DC Comics' Vertigo line. And there are certain characters that always seem to appeal to gay readers (Wonder Woman, the X-Men) because of content, camp value, child-hood love, etc. If I were in charge of these companies, I'd definitely target that material to the gays, and advertise quite heavily to them (and maybe generate comics in easier to find formats that the gays could get to, and then invest in!).
Thanks Phil! If you're interested in finding out more about Phil's work, you can always start at Amazon, but chances are your local bookstore has a couple collected editions of titles he's worked on, like Wonder Woman and X-Men and Invisibles (buy it for the Brazilian drag queen/voodoo witch character) and Infinite Crisis. Also, Models, Inc., co-starring our very own Tim Gunn will be in your local comic shop on August 26th.
"The Marvel comic book is too surreal for words. I’m in a state of awe. What’s more, do you know how fabulously talented the great Phil Jimenez is? He’s a legend of the industry. I never dreamed that Phil would do the cover. It’s such an incredible honor. (And did you meet Phil? If not, then you need to know that he’s one of the few men I would ever describe as being simultaneously stunning and adorable. He is!) So, August will be some month: Project Runway 6 launches on the 20th and the comic book on the 26th!"
And then he dropped some hints about how excited he is about the season and how he can't wait until we see this ONE THING that happens that's apparently going to drive us crazy. He's such a little tease.