Thursday, July 26, 2012

BUILDING A BETTER BEARCAT


As I mentioned at the end of our previous post, here’s another look at the bludgeoning Bearcat--and his human form, Dr. Russell Lockhart.
I wanted to do another “take” on the character after considering the initial design because it made me think perhaps I had done a little better rendering the “cat” aspect of him than the “bear”.  So I decided to do another sheet focusing on just headshots of the reluctant Russ’s alter ego, and work a little more with the human Russ himself.  My friend Martin in Edinburgh, Scotland wonders if it would be a better look to shave or shed the Bearcat’s mane.  What do you think?


Also last time I was talking about a particular character in a Major Comics Universe, whom I won’t mention by name.  I’ll just identify him as The Ugly, Brutal, Vulgar, Violent Canadian With the Metal Claws Whom I Don’t Like.  This character, as I said, has become one of the standard bearers for everything that is considered heroic in that universe, even though he represents the opposite of what attracted me to comics and made me want to be a fan and a part of the profession.  To me he stands for things that have repelled me from comics and has at times made me want to flee the medium completely as both a fan and a professional interest.  Characters like that, who are among the darlings of the industry and beloved of so many fans, are not at all why I wanted to be in it, and I have long resented their popularization.  
I was talking in E-mails with my brother about this once and he brought up a very interesting point.  My brother suggested I think of the Metal Clawed Canadian as the comic book equivalent of the Wolf Man.  That is, the original movie Wolf Man, the one played in the Universal films of the 1940s by Lon Chaney Jr.  In my immediate family, my siblings and I and most of my nieces are devotees of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and this one particular brother and I are comic-book guys.  My brothers and older sister introduced me to classic Hollywood science fiction and horror and it became part of my identity.  My brother made the analogy between the Metal Clawed Canadian and the Wolf Man because they are both “tortured monsters”.  My problem with the Metal Clawed Canadian--well, one of my problems--is that he seems to have grown to accept and embrace the creature that he is instead of resisting it.  How many times have we read about him thinking that he is “the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t nice”?  He seems to embrace his monstrous, homicidal nature where poor Larry “The Wolf Man” Talbot never did that of his werewolf self.  I see that as the critical difference between them.
Perhaps, then, the Bearcat is my personal redemption of characters like old Edward Talon Hands from Canada.  Perhaps he is my way of taking the whole mentality of such characters and turning it to better thinking and better ends, civilizing that which is uncivilized, if you will.  Russ Lockhart doesn’t like being his other self, and he holds firm to his true, “core” self, a man of science and reason (and the kind of person I most respect).  In that way, I think, Russ resembles another anti-hero I brought up, the Scientist With the Raging Green Monster Alter Ego in Purple Pants.  This character, I’ll admit, is one of the favorite characters of my boyhood, and one to whom I’ve retained an attachment through later life.  (Though my actual favorite characters include the Four Astronauts With Cosmic Ray-Induced Powers, the Super-Soldier Patriot From the 1940s, the Kid Who Climbs Walls and Shoots Webs, and the Mythological Thunder God Who Protects Earth as a Super-Hero.)  Russ Lockhart, like the nuclear physicist who becomes Green Skin Purple Pants, will never embrace being a monster.  Russ will, however, use it--and live with the terrifyingly volatile danger of being the Bearcat--for the good of humanity.  And using power for the good of humanity, after all--not the wallowing in violence and ugliness--is really what super-heroes are all about.  

1 comment: