Here’s an art project I’ve been wanting to do for ages.
From fifth grade (when I was friends with a girl who had a prodigious Marvel comics habit, and the X-Men cartoon was on TV) through middle school, I created a league of superheroines and supervillainesses.
(No dudes; they were boring, and there were enough of them already.)
The league was called MASK, after the mysterious founding superheroine, who we see here.
The first character drawings I created (with outlines traced from How to Draw the Marvel Way!) vanished at some point, but I still have the later, more original drawings, dating from 1995 - 1997.
I actively roleplayed these characters with various friends over the years. There were no comics, per se, but the games were dreadfully fun.
In sixth grade I went on to a new school and lost touch with my X-Men expert friend, whom I’ll call “Erin.” A fellow member of our little superhero friend-group wound up in my class, and one day she brought Erin along for a visit. Erin had always been a little snarky and edgy (as much as is possible in fifth grade…), and by seventh grade she had apparently completed her metamorphosis into full-blown Sullen 90’s Teen.
I approached her, nervously engaged with her withering glare, and told her that I still drew superheroes.
"That’s really sad," she snarled.
I promptly shriveled up and blew away.
Erin’s remark hurt me terribly, although it didn’t deal a mortal blow. How could it? I was the kid who drew cartoon strawberries on her jeans with fabric markers while the other girls were discovering purple lipstick. My own superpower was a total inability to edit my behavior in order to mimic my peers.
By ninth grade I had moved on from superheroes. But I didn’t stop drawing, or reading comics, or playing pretend, or caring. And, in retrospect, I can look past the personal wound of that moment, scan for clues, and feel some worry for Erin; no happy kid adopts a defensive crouch that deep.
Recently there’s been a wonderful trend of superhero comics starring strong, cool, smart, appealing-but-not-fetishized female characters, who probably would’ve thrilled my middle-school self to the core. Kelly Sue DeConnick and G. Willow Wilson in particular are creating heroes that I’m certain are inspiring a new generation of girls.
I’m not normally a superhero artist, but I felt this was as good a time as any to pull out this old work and try redrawing it. A time-travel tribute to the spunky, passionate, weird little kid who hung in there and kept going with this stuff, and who has plenty of supportive company these days.
I’ve got a couple dozen of these profile drawings, and I’ll see how many I can get through in my spare time.
To kick off, I’ll give a brief account of the superlady you see before you.
CODE NAME: MASK
REAL NAME: ???
MY RECOLLECTION: Mask is the founding member of the superheroine league, also called MASK, but with capital letters for some reason. Although she recruited every member (most of them as teenagers, a la Xavier’s School for the Gifted), nobody in the league knows Mask’s real name or background. She seems to be a telepath, and maybe telekinetic, but the full extent of her powers remains a mystery.
Secretly, she was an embodiment of Lachesis, one of the three Fates from ancient Greek mythology (the OTHER thing I was obsessed with at the time). I can’t recall how this actually impacted the storyline other than her ability to foresee major events and a kind of Doctor Who ability to regenerate in a new body, but it was a big reveal.
DESIGN NOTES: I think this is the earliest of all the drawings I still have. The pose is very stiff, although the character was also very emotionally understated, so I think I was partially trying to convey her reserve. It looks like I colored it entirely with felt markers; later drawings have a lot more colored pencil in them.
Mask’s “mask” is a relic from fifth grade drawings. As I recall, originally the mask extended way off her face, a bit like Jean Grey’s. The graphic yellow streak was the emblem of the league.
The fact that Mask is wearing a choker just proves that it was the 90’s and, although I still wore tapered jeans from Lands End, I wasn’t completely impervious to girl fashion trends of the moment. Man, I wanted a choker.
I think you can see the influence of Star Trek in her bodysuit. I grew up in a Trekkie household during Next Gen years, so geometric shoulder patterns were a known aesthetic.
In other news, look at Little Dylan, not afraid of drawing hands! Or kneecaps.
In the updated version: I got rid of the choker because it is now 2014. The only other substantive change I made was to add some of that bright yellow to her boots so the mask and the suit aren’t completely unrelated, and add a LITTLE energy into her pose. In terms of body-type, I decided my younger self was going for a look that was fit but not super-sexy or extra muscular, so I decided she’s a bit like a gymnast.
I also made her sleeves a little over-long; I imagine her tugging them down over her knuckles when she wants to looks extra mysterious. The choker of 2014, perhaps.
NEXT UP: T’LALET.