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There were a lot of manga inspired artists at this year's Comicpalooza, and that's not a style that I find lends itself well to Martian Manhunter characters, or at least to how I prefer to view them. I confess that I skimmed and dismissed a lot of these artists, so only the ones that took a particularly distinctive or unique path gained traction in my imagination.
Lane Montoya set herself apart by offering a gothic sensibility and by favoring a more "hard" sci-fi look over the fanciful approach I was seeing elsewhere. Qualities of her style and subjects recalled films from directors like Ridley Scott and Chris Cunningham, so I really wanted to see her do a character from within that realm. Despite the edgier approach, Montoya's work also had an undeniable femininity, so I figured the best subject would be a heroine. Where I often struggle in matching artists to characters, a swift process of elimination aided by the Martian Manhunter sphere's lack of women and serious space opera led me to the obvious choice of Princess Cha'rissa.
Probably my favorite story arc from the Ostrander/Mandrake Martian Manhunter series was "Rings of Saturn." After having been held captive on Earth by the Injustice Gang and then tortured by Ma'alefa'ak, the Saturnian Prince Jemm had finally returned home to his people. J'Onn J'Onzz, having accepted responsibility for Jemm after his trials, paid a visit to the former Martian colony. Once there, he was attacked by Cha'rissa, a princess arranged to be married to Jemm, and seeking vengeance for the assaults visited upon him while under J'Onzz's supervision. Making amends, J'Onzz and Cha'rissa teamed up to combat a murderous conspiracy against the royals. They also shared intimacies that could constitute yet another indignity visited upon Jemm, depending on the to date undefined sexual mores of Saturn.
While I had issues with J'Onn J'Onzz as a backdoor friend, "Rings" was a rollicking adventure that expanded the continuities of Mars and Saturn. Cha'rissa was a fine addition to the cast, with her athleticism and otherworldliness a perfect fit for Lane Montoya. Further, in trying to compile reference for the commission (and an inevitable biography here,) I came to realize that there wasn't a single quality image of Cha'rissa in a static pose. She was always partially shrouded in darkness, in motion, and/or depicted from such a distance as to share heredity with a stick figure. I ended up giving Montoya a reference sheet with scans of two vague figure poses and a bust, hoping that she could pull it all together.
The result was what I feel is the finest single drawing of Princess Cha'rissa, improving on her creator, Tom Mandrake. Where the comics had some ill-defined black stripe things running down Cha'rissa's right extremities, Montoya gives them mass and weight, making them either the height of H'ronmeerca'andran couture or some sort of symbiotic enhancement like a zo'ok. She reinterpreted a coarsely drawn Mandrake shinbone into a spiked boot, which I deem an improvement. I also love the semi-choker, which while present in the Mandrake art, never registered in my brain before the commission. As usual, my scan does a disservice to the coloring, which in the original piece has more pronounced purple highlights (blue in the hair,) as well as a stronger separation of the "irises" from the eye.
I was extremely impressed with the piece, especially when you consider that it's an 8½" x 11" full figure in color for just $35. She even puts them in a self-sealing
polypropylene magazine bag (not those cloudy polyethylene numbers) with a backer board bearing the sticker above. If it sounds like I got more than one commission from her, you're hearing's good, but the other two will have to wait to allow the next artist their spotlight. In the meantime, check out Montoya's deviantART page, and you might also like to peek at out own mathematicscore's Cha'rissa profile at Comic Vine.