Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Sustah-Girl Workout Book

(www.OnliStudios.com) Over 30 years ago Turtel Onli began establishing himself in the Chicago underground art scene, doing comix-style album cover art for local funkster Captain Sky, and assisting local Funkadelic cover artist Pedro Bell. He also launched a comic book company, which eventually unspooled an African-diaspora superhero mythology, featuring characters that included the revolutionary Malcolm 10, the brutal diety Nog, and the beautiful, powerful Sustah Girl. The best of these is unquestionably Malcolm 10 because despite Onli being the farthest thing from a comix outsider (he’s organized black comic book conventions for years, and has mentored countless young artists), he managed to capture the vibe of bizarre, obsessive, askew outsider art by using a rough-around-the–edges rendering style, and most impressively, crafting a script that read like one of Ditko’s self-published Rand-ian rant comics, with brutal, out of proportion justice meted out to those whose actions and philosophies threaten the community by differing from the hero/artist, (hypocritical clergy and black fraternity brothers watch out!). This latest book, his slickest to date, is not a comic at all, but rather an actual compilation of workout tips, health advice, and exercise instruction using illustrations of his sexy superheroine to guide young ladies to fitness.  Again, Onli’s own work is raw, with the weirdest anatomy in the book, but the cover, and many of the illustrations are done by a generation of younger artists with little interest in gritty, gestural linework, which should make this more appealing to the kids. Afua Richardson’s pristine lines makes George Perez look like a slouch, and there’s great art abounding: amongst others, Jasmine Dawson illustrates hip hop dance techniques, Kim Moseberry promotes jump-rope cardio, and Jasmine Grant draws a power fist/red black and green-clad Sustah-Girl taking it to the hoop. It’s interesting that most of the artists are women, yet that doesn’t curtail the sexy/buxom/skintight comix traditions of female anatomy representation. It’s also interesting how often they warn about slipping on spilled liquids during workouts…someone obviously experienced a Gatorade disaster!

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