Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 5 Hidden Messages in Comic Books

Whether it is to give recognition to loved ones or to express something that they probably shouldn't, artists are notorious for sneaking secret messages into their work. My personal favorite has to be Michelangelo's portrayal of God and his chariot drawn in the shape of a human brain. Was Michelangelo upset with his bosses? Was this a sneaky way for Michelangelo to say that God only exists in the human mind? During a time when speaking against the Church could have you executed, it's very possible or it could be something else entirely.

The tradition of hiding messages within artwork continues on today. Below is a quick look at some of my favorite hidden messages contained within the pages of comic books.

5) Felix the Spider-Cat

The story goes that Todd McFarlane knew a guy at a local comic book shop who suffered from some form of  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and he'd carry a Felix the Cat doll with him at all times. The man expressed to Todd that he did not buy any of his books because he was not a fan of superhero books. Todd asked the gentleman if he'd buy his book if Felix the Cat were included in them. The Felix fan agreed and the rest is history. Todd began hiding images of Felix the Cat in issues of Spider-Man which he was working on at the time and continued for several issues.

4) Mad About Swiping

Nobody likes a thief and that goes triple in the art community. The first piece of advice you should follow if you're an aspiring artist is to be original. So when it came to the attention of Joe Madureira that fellow X-Artist Roger Cruz was swiping his work he let him have it and right in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. Lesson of the day... if you try to take the easy way and cruise through life, somebody is bound to get mad! See what I did there... cruise... mad... no? Ok let's move right along.

3) Issue with Sex in Comics

If I told you there is an issue of the X-Men with sex on every page, would you believe me? It's absolutely true and it has even been labeled the "Sex-Men" issue by some. It's nowhere near as bad as it sounds as it's just the word "sex" and not the act hidden in various places. Rumors say that in New X-Men #118 artist Ethan Van Sciver snuck the word into every page because it was Sublime's first issue (get it... sublime... subliminal??) and that he was foreshadowing the relationship between Scott and Emma. Sciver went on to say that he did it because he was pissed off with Marvel at the time for some reason he can't even remember.

2) Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Some people tend not to like their bosses. Heck, out of those people some tend to passive aggressively vent about the man (or woman) in charge. The worst way to express your feelings against your boss, especially as an artist, is through your work. That's exactly what artist Al Milgrom proceeded to do when he got the news that his old boss Bob Harras was replaced by Joe Quesada. Milgrom hid the words "Bob Harras Ha Ha He's gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He was a nasty S.O.B." along the spines of books on a bookshelf in the background of the Spider-Man Universe X Special. Milgrom was fired up about Bob Harras and fired for his actions when the insult was discovered.

1) Jim Lee Gives VZA a Shout Out

In late 2013, Jim Lee worked on a one shot Superman story titled Superman Unchained and wasted no time dropping a shout out to yours truly. There it is right smack dab on the Man of Steel's face. This was Jim's way of saying that I am like Superman as I go out and face impossible odds in an effort to give hope to aspiring artists...


Oh man... I totally had you going for a second there... yeah, this is just a series of random rendering lines that I happened to stumble upon when I was searching for Jim's real hidden messages. How cool would that have been though? The real #1 is below...

1) Jim Loves Carla

A lot of these examples have been about anger, bitterness, and revenge so let's finish things off on a good note. Do you remember that crush you had back in grade school? How you used to write "[Your Name] loves [His/Her Name]" in big bold letters all over your notes? Apparently Jim Lee never grew out of that stage as he continually doodles his love and admiration for his wife all over his work. Check it out in the pages of Superman Unchained...

and again in the pages of Justice League...

There are a few more examples that just missed the list like Barry Windsor Smith's Conan coins or Alan Davis' BATHROOM attack that are just as fun. Share some of your favorites in the comments below...