It’s probably evident from the content of this blog that I’m a big fan of golden age comics – specifically, golden age heroines. Though my familiarity with Hall’s subjects, like Miss Fury and Sheena, was what initially attracted me to her work, the way in which Hall has translated these characters from pulp to paint has allowed me to appreciate, and connect, with them on a whole different level outside of mere fandom.
The tone of Hall’s work is both playful and aggressive, with guns, knives, and fists featured prominently, along with onomatopoeia lettering and bright, single-tone backdrops. They have a sort of neon pop, incorporating (but retooling) the stark four-colour printing synonymous with this era of comic book media, radicalizing the violence, or cool, of the characters depicted.
I like all the things everywhere all the time. I’m a maximalist. I like gold, leopard print, neon. Baroque and rococo. I love kitsch. I have an affinity for women wielding weapons and I will be in love with electrostatic flocking once I figure that out.Hall 2021
Golden Girls, Modern Age
In Hall’s Sheena Vs. Panther No. 133, a recreation of Jumbo Comics No. 133’s cover art, Sheena’s pelvis and legs are in portrayed in head-on vantage, teasing her hourglass shape to the viewer. Meanwhile, her upper body twists to a ¾ view, with the line of action running from her legs, up along her back, and to her head (which is viewed in profile), culminating with her hand gripping a knife overhead, ready to meet the leaping predator.
In the original cover, she grasps a branch with her left hand, perhaps for balance, while she strafes about a boarder of flames. A tribe watches the battle from a distance, drumming along to the combat. Though a tease of sex appeal is there, the focus in Hall’s rendition is on Sheena’s action, and not just her form. Framed with a hot pink backdrop, the setting has been completely removed. Divorced from narrative, the focus of the work falls solely on Sheena and the physicality of her body cutting through space. The viewer’s eye is drawn upward along Sheena’s legs and body towards her raised fist. Furthermore, with the original work’s audience removed, and Sheena’s left hand now free, there is a reclamation of gaze along with the shifted of focus.
Lichtenstein said, “I’m never drawing the object itself; I’m only drawing a depiction of the object – a kind of crystallization of it.” I don’t know if that’s the same angle Hall is going for, but confronting these comic book heroines, heroes, and villains in all their glorious fixated rage is incredibly potent – crystalized, in a sense.
Rulah Aug. 1948 does have a background, being a neon-faded reproduction of Rulah The Jungle Goddess #17, with the vantage zoomed in just enough to partially cut off the title lettering, making the work square instead of rectangular.
Rulah stands overtop of a fallen male explorer. Her head in profile, facing the oncoming predator, her body turns ¾ towards the viewer, while her legs anchor for strength, ready to pull the fallen explorer to safety – or sprint into battle with the lion. The pair’s grasp parallels the leaping wild cat, creating a tension as to whether its trajectory will break their hold, or Rulah will stand firm. In her right hand, she grips a knife, keeping it at the ready beside her hip should she need it. Along with the rope wrapped around her arms and leg, as well as the stretching seams of her shorts, there is a stress in the composition, with all lines of action leading upward in a triangular pattern, the peak being Rulah’s head scanning the chaos surrounding her.
Hot neon pinks, yellows, and greens frame the trio, giving the scene a radical energy. The original cover features the much harsher contrast of a red sky and yellow grass, exuding more heat. Hall’s rendition is more harmonious, yet also more energetic, with the grace of neon notes tying the scene together.
Rulah also carries less stress in her facial features in Hall’s rendition. Her eye slightly more open and her cheek more relaxed, she looks more concerned than outright stressed. Finally, with the magazine title cut out, the framing also puts the focus on Rulah herself, dismissing the fanfare of the act. The male explorer, for example, is little more than a footnote in Hall’s piece. Whether you know the story and characters in Hall’s work or not, the rawness of the action, and fearlessness of the heroines, is what’s highlighted.
Reframing these characters is fun at surface level, if only for parody or pure aesthetics. Ultimately, however, I think Hall has captured something deeper in these old frames and covers. Hall’s work seems like it is perhaps a reclamation of the source art more than it is just a fan-reproduction, as the careful cropping and neon recoloring spurred me to respond to the art in a different way than reading the actual comics they are based off of. Her work highlights the capability, and energy, of these characters in a way (ironically) that the comics don’t.
Putting together a comic strip is an artform in and of itself, with framing, spacing, and inking all coming together to make not just a collection of self-contained illustrations, but rather the full page/strip as a work of art itself. What I like about Hall’s art is that she has diligently adapted the craft of pulp comic art, while highlighting another side of the works’ appeal outside of the narrative, and flow, of their original framing.
I’m tempted to classify Hall’s comic work closer to “punk” art than “pop”, and I mean that as a compliment. Far from the melodrama of Lichtenstein’s work, Hall’s prints are unironically aggressive and confident. Her choice to paint Miss Fury firing a pistol, smoking in the aptly titled Romance Without Tears II, or to add a shifting filter to Loosing Focus (an NFT of her work Blam Blam RGB Glitch, which is a neat retooling of pulp ink bleeds into a digital format) keeps the focus on the act – what the character is capable of rather than what they succumb to. By forgoing the setting or context of the source material entirely, and framing each work with solid colours, the viewer can connect with these characters on a level of familiarity, not just fan-service.
Durajlija, Walter. n.d. “Cover 365: Day 133.” Comic Book Daily. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://www.comicbookdaily.com/championing_comics/covered-365/covered-365-day-133/.
Hall, Maggie. n.d. “Love, Maggie Hall.” Love, Maggie Hall. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://lovemaggiehall.com/.
Hall, Maggie. n.d. “Love Maggie Hall.” OpenSea. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://opensea.io/collection/love-maggie-hall.
Robbins, Trina., and Turner, Lorraine. 2013. Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941-1944. San Diego: IDW Publishing.
Robertson, Jeff. “A Brief and Broad History of Post Golden-Age Pre-Digital Comic Book Coloring.” Medium. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://simonmaggots.medium.com/a-brief-and-broad-history-of-post-golden-age-pre-digital-comic-book-coloring-9fe9e386149a.
“Roy Lichtenstein.” The Art Story. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/lichtenstein-roy/.
“Rulah Jungle Goddess #17.” Key Collector Comics. Accessed April 29, 2022. https://www.keycollectorcomics.com/issue/rulah-jungle-goddess-17,30806/.