Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Wolf

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Mike Nichols' Wolf (1994) utilizes classic werewolf tropes to segue into a smart and slyly funny exploration of the crisis of masculinity. Jack Nicholson's character Will, in the midst of a midlife crisis, begins to feel like a much younger man again after he's bitten by a wolf. Plus he meets a much younger woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who becomes the symbol of all that's missing from his life, and so of course he must have her. The film flummoxed audiences and critics in '94, yet it holds up magnificently today. It's beautifully filmed, with a memorably vivid Ennio Morricone score, and terrific performances by all involved, especially from Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer has a lot of fun being the object of Nicholson's affection here. She makes acting choices that help reinforce the film's harsh critique of the male ego. Throughout, Nicholson's Will and James Spader's Stewart (in a howlingly delicious turn as a creep coworker at Nicholson's publishing firm) are always mansplaining everything to Laura. Pfeiffer's reaction shots provide many of the film's most delightful moments—bemusement, disdain, and exasperation are just a few of the emotions she conveys with a piercing glance or a subtle lift of an eyebrow. Laura is the sort of role Pfeiffer's always excelled at playing, a woman primarily defined (by men) for her beauty, yet one who is also fierce, intelligent, and wields a whip-smart sense of humor.

That the film's climactic—and entertainingly ludicrous—battle between Nicholson's and Spader's wolfmen ends with Pfeiffer killing Spader in a hail of bullets is fitting. Then, the film's final scene is a zooming closeup of Pfeiffer's intensely expressive eyes, signaling a shift in the film's male-female power dynamic. Laura's put up with the men's nonsense for the last two hours, and now it's her turn to be the predator. Ultimately, the film offers a prescient commentary on the resilience of women in a patriarchal society. In a film that often straddles the line between high and low brow, Pfeiffer makes it all work with a finely drawn and nuanced performance that resonates more with each viewing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Writing Roundup: Summer Edition

Over The Edge (1979)

Summer is almost over, and I'm ready for fall. I'm not ready for winter though, and I will miss summer, but fall is my favorite time of year, for many reasons. We're having unusually comfortable weather in the Northeast for this time of year, with temps in the 70s and nice cool overnight lows this week. All of which makes it feel even more like fall is already here. How about a nice pumpkin ale? Yes, please.

Still, I have no doubt we'll see a return to hot and humid weather before summer's officially done. But those days will become fewer and farther between as we move into September. So, get outside, enjoy the last days of summer while you can.

Speaking of summer, I contributed some articles, reviews, and interviews at other sites this summer. Here are some links, for your perusal and enjoyment. Feel free to comment here with your thoughts on any and all of these pieces.

Tim Hanley on The Many Lives of Catwoman

"What I do is not up to you": Respect and Agency in Wonder Woman

Mike Deodato's Wonder Woman in the Extreme '90s

74 Years of Bobby D - Mickey C's Top 10

Over The Edge (cult classic film review)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Barely Making a Dent: August 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

Did you know that Christy Turlington is not your average supermodel? She has run marathons, is an avid practitioner of yoga, and used to be a vegetarian? Well, that's what Wikipedia tells me, at least. Good for her. For a split second, when I first saw this photo on a random Pinterest board, I remembered her as the supermodel trapped in an ATM vestibule with Chandler Bing in that memorable early episode of Friends, but then Chandler's line instantly popped into my head, "I'm trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre!!" Silly me, confusing my '90s supermodels. I bet Goodacre doesn't hunt down rare books with the same sort of dogged determination as Turlington. Plus, Turlington was in George Michaels' "Freedom '90" video, so she straight up wins for that reason alone.

How did this turn into a battle of  '90s supermodels? My brain frightens me sometimes. I think this series is now as much about the vintage photos of books, bookstores, and readers I keep finding as it is about the books I'm reading, have read, and am about to read. Speaking of those...

Currently reading:

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This is absolutely delightful so far. A dark comedy about the end of the world, from two writers at the peak of their witty, sardonic powers. Soon it will be an Amazon Prime miniseries starring Michael Sheen (love him) and David Tennant (my favorite doctor ever and just basically one of my favorite human beings, period). I've owned book for at least a decade, and the adaptation news prompted me to finally pull it off the shelf. My only regret is it's taken me this long to finally read it. It's fantastic so far.

Brian De Palma's Split Screen, by Douglas Keesey. Another in a long line of informative and entertaining film books from one of my favorite university presses, the University Press of Mississippi. I've always been fascinated with De Palma's films and, love him or loathe him, there's no denying his films are usually interesting, at least. The book is terrific, exploring all of the director's films and digging deep with extensive critical examinations of his sometimes troubling reliance on violence against women as a narrative device. I'm currently revisiting the films of Michelle Pfeiffer, so the chapter on Scarface and its interview snippets with Pfeiffer concerning the role of Elvira were particularly timely and enlightening.

Image courtesy of the publisher's website.

Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix. This is an advance copy, so look for a review of it somewhere down the line. For now I'll say this: if you love horror (films and books) from the time period the book covers, then just pre-order it today. You're guaranteed to love it. Not only is it gorgeously designed, the sort of coffee table book you want to proudly display in your home (it's from Quirk Books, so of course it looks amazing), but it's also going to become the historical overview of the '70s-'80s horror novel boom. No other book will come close. Hendrix provides detailed synopses of the books covered (and there are hundreds and hundreds included here) along with critical analyses, and author and cover artist spotlights throughout. Hendrix has written a few horror novels himself, which I wasn't aware of previously. I've already picked up a copy of one of them (see below) and hope to read it in time for Halloween. To sum up: buy this book. Now.

Recently read:

The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I first read this about fifteen years ago. Lahiri's short stories of hurt and broken souls stuck with me over the years. A recent reread only reaffirmed my love for these stories. One of these days I'll get around to Lahiri's novels.

1984, by George Orwell. Choosing this time in history to reread Orwell's dystopian classic may not have been the best thing for my mental health. The depressing and frightening parallels between the book's story and the imperial rule of the Mango Mussolini make clear that it remains as relevant today as when it was published in 1949, or when I read it as a young, impressionable high school student in the early '90s.

Recently acquired:

More reading to add to the ever-growing stacks of books around the house. I'm hopeless.

--My Best Friend's Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix
--On Writing, by Stephen King
--The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
--The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
--Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia Butler

Does Christy Turlington also acquire books at a faster rate than she can read them? I hope so. I don't want to be the only weirdo with this particular affliction.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Married to the Mob

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Jonathan Demme's satirical tale of one woman's quest to free herself of the mafia life, Married to the Mob (1988) is an underrated gem, an absolute joy to watch, and at times riotously funny. Everything about it is subversive and smart, nothing more so than the tremendous lead performance by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer is electric as Angela de Marco, a recently widowed mob wife trying to restart her life and make a clean break from her husband's mobster ties. She uses her best physical asset as an actress—those big, expressive blue eyes, as deep and as calming as an ocean—to expose Angela's vulnerabilities early and often. It's in the way she looks sad and adrift in a room full of (crazy) people, or in how a longing glance reveals her interest in a sweet FBI agent, played wonderfully by Matthew Modine. Pardon the cliche, but Pfeiffer's eyes truly are a window into both her soul and the souls of her characters.

The film also allows Pfeiffer to show off her gift for comedy. She's the centerpiece of this madcap romp, with both the mob and law enforcement trying to control her, and she rolls with the film's manic energy with aplomb. She's hilarious here, full of New Yawk toughness and grace under fire, but all the while showing us Angela's tenderness and her very real desire to live a better life. It's a terrific film, full of life and energy, and featuring a beautifully realized and touching performance from Pfeiffer. Both the film and her work in it are worth revisiting and celebrating all over again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It Came From the '90s: Essential Films of 1997

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

I love lists. Anyone who really knows me knows this. When I feel inspired by something, I'll drop a top five or ten list on you at any time, without warning, like that time I ranked all of the X-Men films (before Logan came out, so today that film would top the list). So I'm a sucker for lists like the one The AV Club compiled for the best movies of 1997. It reaffirmed something I felt twenty years ago, which is that 1997 was an exceptional year at the movies.

After you've read the AVC's list, come back here and I'll opine on some of the choices, probably argue with the rankings, and finally mention a few films from 1997 that didn't make the cut.

18. Grosse Point Blank. I might rank this one higher, but my love for this film is widely known. I was about to graduate from college when I saw it, and Cusack's portrait of a man faced with an uncertain future finding some strange comfort in his nostalgic past strongly resonated with me. The killer soundtrack doesn't hurt, either.

Kevin Kline in The Ice Storm.

14. The Ice Storm. Like many of the great films on this list, Ang Lee's hauntingly beautiful meditation on 1970s suburban ennui remains powerful today. In some ways, it's even more so now that we've had two more decades to further marinate in the specific sort of privileged American malaise this film chronicles. If you grew up in the 1970s through the 1990s, in other words if you are a member of Generation X, then so much of this film will be eerily familiar. From the drab and dreary late-fall setting, to the pitch-perfect period details, to a morose Tobey Maguire reading Fantastic Four on the commuter train, the film remains a deeply affecting work without being sentimental or cloying. The AV Club says it best,
The suburbs roiling with bad behavior and dirty secrets was a long-standing cliché well before The Ice Storm arrived on the scene, but Lee, Moody, and adapting screenwriter James Schamus observe every character in the pair of intertwined families with a clear, sharp vision of behavior that vacillates between soul-searching and self-destructive.
The Ice Storm ranks in my personal top five for 1997.

10. The Game. It's good to see this oft-neglected David Fincher film (released between two of his most memorable works, Se7en and Fight Club), as I've always had a soft spot for it. Still, I wouldn't rank it #10 for that year. Quibbles with rankings aside, the film's stature certainly has grown over the years, and deservedly so. It just proves that Fincher's body of work is so strong that a movie this good still probably wouldn't crack a top five list of his films.

8. L.A. Confidential. Look, #8 is absurd. This one should be in the top five for 1997, easy, maybe even top two or three. I'd rank it in the top ten of the entire decade. This reminds me, I need to revisit the film again, it's been far too long. 

6. Titanic. Look, it's been twenty years but I still haven't seen this blockbuster in its entirety. Every time I've caught portions of it on cable I've wanted to barf. At this point, I think I'm avoiding a complete viewing out of spite, and that's fine with me. I have as little interest in the film today as I did in 1997, which is to say I have no interest in it. So it's no surprise that it wouldn't make my top twenty of 1997. Sorry, Kate and Leo fans.

5. Starship Troopers. I think Paul Verhoeven is an underappreciated cinematic genius, and I've written about his films twice recently, here and here. So I won't wax rhapsodic about this movie's brilliant satire of the military-industrial-media-complex, just know this: Starship Troopers, like many of Verhoeven's films, was woefully misunderstood upon release but eventually people caught on to what he was putting down. Some works of genius are only fully appreciated with time and distance, it seems.

That scene in Boogie Nights.

4. Boogie Nights. This one was rightly celebrated in 1997 as an audaciously ambitious powerhouse ensemble piece that left you breathless throughout. While I've heard some grumblings about it being overrated since then—a friend once laughed derisively when I declared the infamously insane "Sister Christian" scene to be one of my favorites in all of film—it still more than holds up today. Don Cheadle's cowboy hat wearing stereo salesman? Brilliant. Heather Graham's iconic Rollgergirl? Heartbreaking. Burt Reynolds' porn king, Jack Horner? Hilarious yet highly disturbing. Mark Wahlberg, of whom I'd previously had a mostly low opinion, was spectacular. Boogie Nights is Paul Thomas Anderson's first true masterpiece.

1. Jackie Brown. The AVC and I are in complete agreement on the #1 film of 1997, no question about it. I remember loving this movie so passionately back then, and feeling like no one else seemed to get it like I did. I recall an awful lot of complaints from friends and critics that it was a letdown after Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. "It's too long" and "It's too slow" were the primary reasons given by these folks for disliking the film. Today it seems obvious, in a career filled with several excellent films, Jackie Brown is still Tarantino's best. So it's good to see the critics finally coming around to it these days. I have so much I could say about it that I'd like to write an entire piece about the film instead. For now I'll note that it's one of the most poignant portrayals I've ever seen of two adults navigating both life and their mutual attraction. Pam Grier and Robert Forster are magnificent, each turning in career-best work. And, of course, the film is a beautiful love letter to Grier from superfan Tarantino, which only enhances its appeal. She never had the opportunities to star in truly great films, but this one will always stand as a testament to her charisma, charm, and underrated skills as an actress.

Pam Grier owns the screen no matter the role, but especially as Jackie Brown.

There are so many more great films from 1997 not included on the AVC list, including Cop Land (featuring an all-star cast and Sylvester Stallone's tour-de-force work)Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith's sweet and sometimes naive look at love)The Fifth Element (Luc Besson's manic sci-fi romp)Devil's Advocate (Al Pacino setting the screen on fire with a ferociously fun performance as the Devil)Donne Brasco (featuring another gem of a performance by Pacino), and Lost Highway (one of David Lynch's most disturbing films, which is saying an awful lot), to name a few. Clearly, 1997 was a very good year at the multiplex, and I was fortunate to see many of these films that year. I idolized (and still do) the films of the 1970s, Hollywood's last true Golden Age. So in 1997, I recognized and appreciated the inspiration of 1970s cinema on the new movies I was then watching in the theater. It certainly was a glorious time to be a young film fanatic.

Lastly, let me say a few words about another 1997 film, Anaconda. 

J Lo: bored and a little embarrassed. Cube: cashing in. Voight: batshit crazy. 

Ahem, okay, this one shouldn't be anywhere near a top twenty (or thirty or forty or...) list, but I don't care I love it anyway. It's so outrageously bad, so gleefully absurd, that I can't help myself. For god's sake, it stars J Lo, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz, Kari Wuhrer, and Danny Trejo! And, turning in an all-time great terrible performance, Jon Voight. I'm not sure we've seen a cast this magnificently bizarre since. Plus, let's not forget the giant killer snake. 'nuff said.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Frankie and Johnny

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

And then there was the time my two favorites starred in one of the most starkly honest and mature films about grownup relationships this viewer has ever seen. Frankie and Johnny (1991) is a beautifully melancholic tale, laced through with rich and sincere humor aimed at adults—people who've lived long enough to have loved and lost and felt real longing and despair.

Al Pacino is fantastic as Johnny, the new short-order cook at the diner where Michelle Pfeiffer's Frankie works. Johnny is a good man who truly believes that he and Frankie are meant to be together. Johnny is fully alive now to the realization that life is short, so he's resolved to cherish every minute of it moving forward. Frankie is the cynic, the beaten-down diner waitress who masks the pain of previous relationship failures with biting sarcasm and avoidance. She's the emotional core of the film. Pfeiffer makes us believe just how badly Frankie has been hurt before, how frightened and damaged beyond repair she feels. Her performance is simply heartbreaking, so nakedly raw and thoroughly believable. At the time she was cast, there were grumblings about her being "too pretty" to be convincing as the world-weary Frankie. With this ferocious, committed performance, she put those doubts to rest.

Late in the movie, Pfeiffer sobs, almost uncontrollably, through a devastating monologue that guts me every time—"I'm afraid to be alone, I'm afraid not to be alone, I'm afraid of what I am, what I'm not, what I might become, what I might never become." It's truly a tour-de-force moment, the kind that will forever be included in highlight reels celebrating her work.

Frankie and Johnny is an all-time sentimental favorite of mine, one that will always hold a special place in my heart. Sometimes you connect with a film, or with a character, in such a deep and meaningful way that they become an integral part of you. That's my experience with both this film and the two lead performances, but especially with Pfieffer's work as Frankie. She's a revelation here. Some days, I even believe it's her very best work.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It Came From the '90s: The Hope and Heartbreak of Riley's New York Knicks

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

Pat Riley's New York Knicks broke our hearts, every single yearNot only did they break them, but they ripped them out of our chests, stomped on them, tore them in half, and then tossed the pieces in the river. And we loved them anyway.

I grew up in the shadow of Schenectady. In the shadow of the men born and raised on its city streets, including Riley, and most importantly, my father. These were men who didn't complain about life's heartache and misery, but instead just lived, motivating those around them by their work ethic and their true and unwavering principles. Certainly, Riley's Knicks (1991–1995) were the perfect team for the tough 'n' gritty New York City of that era. Yet they were also bruisers, uncompromising, relentless. They beat you by out-hustling and out-working you. In other words, like their coach, they were Schenectady.

Patrick Ewing was their superstar, yet one who'd never tasted much success. Otherwise the roster was stocked full of NBA journeymen, former minor-leaguers, and grocery store baggers. Yet early on these assorted losers and oddballs gelled under Riley. They went from nobodies to serious title contenders by his second year on the bench. Rejects and has-beens like Anthony Mason, John Starks, Greg Anthony, and Derek Harper played their hearts out for Riley. It also didn't hurt they had grizzled vet Charles Oakley to help set the tone and style Riley was after, one that favored tenacious defense over fluid offense. Riley was smart (duh, he's a Hall of Fame coach)—he knew he didn't have an offensive powerhouse so he played to his team's strengths on defense instead.

Tenacious D: what Riley's Knicks lacked in offensive firepower they made up for with smothering defense.

That Riley inspired these misfits to (almost) greatness was astonishing then and remains a minor miracle today. In his four years they won 51, 60, 57, and 55 games. Three out of four of these years they were knocked out of the playoffs by one of their two hated rivals, the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. I can still see the heartbreaking endings of games, series, seasons, as if they were happening in real time today: Charles Smith blowing what felt like a dozen layups against the Bulls in the final seconds; Reggie Miller shocking New York and the world with eight points in nine seconds to steal a win; Ewing's missed gimme of a finger roll at the buzzer against the Pacers, this one the final nail in the coffin, as Riley left for Miami soon after.

One year stands above all others though, in terms of pure Shakespearean tragedy. In '94, the Knicks finally made it past the Bulls (who, it must be stated, were missing Jordan, inexplicably off shagging fly balls in the deep south). The '94 Finals against Hakeem's Houston Rockets was an ugly yet absurdly addictive series, filled with grueling basketball, amounting to more of a war of attrition than anything. The Knicks went back to Houston with a 3-2 lead and a championship within their grasp. Then it all fell apart. The Rockets, rejuvenated at home, squeaked out wins in the final two games, assisted greatly by Hakeem's last-second block of Starks' jumper in game six, and then Starks' horrific 2-18 shooting performance in game seven. It was painful to watch.

Even today, this screen capture breaks my heart.

It wasn't supposed to end that way. The NHL's Rangers and the Knicks had each been marching towards greatness all season, and watching their twin playoff run concurrently still remains quite possibly the most intoxicating sports viewing experiences of my life. All of New York seemed electrified by these two long-suffering franchises that summer, all of us seemingly living and dying with the outcome of every game. The Rangers upheld their end. The Knicks almost did, but almost doesn't count in the end.

Yet, looking back on it now, I think New Yorkers from across the state loved those Knicks, not despite their falling apart at the end of big games, but because of it. In some twisted way, we identified with and even saw ourselves in their imperfections. Ultimately Riley's Knicks overachieved. Their roster wasn't nearly as talented as the Pacers or Bulls, yet they fought tooth and nail against those squads in some of the NBA's hardest-fought playoff series of the era, maybe ever. I still ache for the championship(s) they almost won, but I also continue to be inspired by how much effort they expended trying to scale that mountain, year after year. It was a wild four-year ride, during which time the Knicks ripped out our hearts often, but dammit if we didn't still love them anyway.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: The Fabulous Baker Boys

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Here it is, the iconic performance that made Michelle Pfeiffer a breakout star and a household name while also earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) is an intensely intimate film with some terrific insights into what it's like to be lonely and feel unworthy or unloved. I hate to use this cliche, but it's the kind of film we don't see nearly enough these days. It focuses on a lounge act trio—two piano-playing brothers, Frank and Jack Baker (real-life siblings Beau and Jeff Bridges) and the inexperienced yet undeniably charismatic singer who shakes up their humdrum existence, Susie Diamond (Pfeiffer).

It's no surprise Pfeiffer was celebrated when the film opened to glowing reviews—she's pure electricity here, especially on stage where Susie quickly develops into a stunningly confident singer, putting her entire body and soul into the performances. In the film's most famous scene, when she's wearing that red dress and slinking and writhing atop Jack's piano while singing "Makin' Whoopee," Pfeiffer provides one of the most indelible moments in film history, one that will be played forever in montages celebrating the magic of the movies.

Pfeiffer is equally adept at dishing out Susie's razor-sharp wit, as in this memorable scene:
Frank: Okay, let's hear it. We trashed the Avedon, the Luau Lounge—what's our beef with 'Feelings'?
Susie: Nothing... except who cares? I mean, does anybody really need to hear 'Feelings' again in their lifetime? It's like parsley, okay? Take it away, nobody's going to know the difference. 
Frank: 'Feelings' is not parsley!
Susie Diamond: Frank, to you 'Feelings' may be goddamn filet mignon, but to me, it's parsley. It's less than parsley.
The real magnificence of Pfieffer's performance is in how she allows us inside Susie's delicate vulnerability. She's overcome a lot in her past (she was a prostitute), protecting herself from the pain with biting sarcasm off stage and sultry seductiveness on stage. When Susie finally expresses herself to Jack with heartbreaking honesty, it's devastating to watch. Pfieffer makes us feel Susie's pain. Her speech about how we tell ourselves that we have an empty place inside us to hide away the pain culminates with a devastating truth: "But you do it long enough and all you are is empty."

In 1988, Roger Ebert famously raved about Pfeiffer's performance. He said:
"This is one of the movies they will use as a document, years from now, when they begin to trace the steps by which Pfeiffer became a great star." — Roger Ebert
And also:
"This is the movie of her flowering—not just as a beautiful woman, but as an actress with the ability to make you care about her, to make you feel what she feels."
Ebert was correct. This is the film that launched her career into the stratosphere, and forever after people would point to it as the moment when audiences and critics realized she had not only the raw talent but also the charisma and dedication to become the best.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Appreciation: Nicola Scott

Nicola Scott. Photo: Cole Bennetts.

For my money, Nicola Scott is the finest comic book artist working today. Certainly, she's been an excellent artist for a while now, since she first entered the field about fifteen years ago, but recently she's emerged as a truly special artist, with a style all her own. Make no mistake: she's outrageously good now.

Her recent work, especially on DC's Wonder Woman and Image's Black Magick, is astonishingly impressive—seriously, drop everything and pick up the trades for these series right now. These books make it clear that Scott is in the midst of a major moment, and she's grasping those opportunities and making the most of them. Thanks partly to a unique confluence of events, including Wonder Woman's (brief) United Nations Ambassadorship last fall (for which Scott illustrated the jaw-dropping poster), the character's 75th anniversary in 2016, and the new Patty Jenkins film starring Gal Gadot, Scott's work is now reaching a larger audience than ever. In many ways, she's become the definitive Wonder Woman artist in recent memory.

Scott seems to be in total command of her artistic repertoire now, while also continually evolving into something even greater, with each successive issue. There's no one better right now at portraying the full extent of human emotions. When she draws Wonder Woman looking solemn or joyous or determined, you can see each clearly through Scott's emotive illustrations. It's in the way she draws Diana's eyes slightly downcast, or how she might make the Amazon's mouth break into a smile so broad it could light the world, or when she furrows her brow and directs those piercing blue eyes at the reader. She breathes life into her characters, making them feel like so much more than just lines on a page. Like all great art, Scott's work burrows straight into your soul and makes you feel, deeply.

As a lifelong practitioner of art whose true artistic love is portrait drawing and cartooning, I'm inspired by Scott's work. When I sketch now, it's her faces that I see in my head. When she recently talked with W about her philosophies and goals when drawing comics, my appreciation for her work only further deepened. Before you click over to that interview, let's end this appreciation with some examples of Scott's exquisitely beautiful artwork. These images, like my gushing words above, don't completely do her justice; for that, you really need to seek out her work in book form, recline in your most comfortable chair, and simply luxuriate in the glow of an artist at the top of her game.

Scott's ability to convey emotions through her characters' eyes is second to none. From Wonder Woman.

Scott's iconic UN poster art.

A visual feast, a tour de force, from Black Magick.

Nicola Scott with her lifelong hero Wonder Woman.