RetroFix: Black Orchid by Colin Alexander

Once more into the breach! Let’s travel back to the Golden Age of comics and revamp a comic character for the modern age! This month, it’s the Black Orchid and our artist is Colin Alexander!

Who is Black Orchid?

Glamorous Diana Dawn, district attorney Richard Day’s secretary, was – unbeknownst to him – masquerading as the mysterious female sleuth the Black Orchid. She solved crimes with the aid of a magic ring that contains “black gas” that knocked out her opponents.” (from: http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Black_Orchid_(Tops) )

Why Black Orchid?

Vito: Just like our last RetroFix, Colin approached us with this design*, so the reasons why are his…so let’s turn it over to him:

Colin: Much of Black Orchids background is left a mystery and after a little digging I found one source that delved into Black Orchids brief publication history claiming that her creators, the prolific Albert and Florence Magarian, where in fact siamese twins! The account of their life is a story in itself, worth checking out here.

Black Orchid only ever appeared in two tensely illustrated stories but despite the brevity of her crime fighting career she fought zombies, scientist and pyro-maniacal gang bangers. The character spanned a variety of genres in a single bound with a vibrantly eye catching costume and a darkly violent landscape. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to resurrect the Black Orchid and her shadow-filled little quarter of the world.

The RetroFix

Colin: Diana Dawn is getting the modern treatment; she’s an investigator for the New Orleans Parish District Attorney, as opposed to his secretary/ dinner date. New Orleans seemed the perfect place to set the story; I needed somewhere characterful with a melting pot history and a dramatic flare for the macabre. I see Black Orchid coming back in a camp pulp noir with shades of the supernatural. Think American Horror Story meets Hellboy with a dash of Dirty Harry for good measure…

“A swathe of occult related crimes has gripped the city that care forgot and Diana Dawn, investigator for the DA’s office, is on the case.

Working late into the night cataloguing bizarre relics found in a seized shipment, Diana discovers a black ring still attached to the charred remains of a severed hand. Suddenly the ghoulish Torchmen, notorious gangbangers with a bent for arson and a taste for terrorising the city, burst through the door burning everything in their path.

In haste to save evidence from the Torchmen’s flames, Diana adorns the ring and in that moment everything changes. The fire dies down and the room grows somber. Her face up-lit, filled with rage, an eldritch smoke coils about her. She feels a surge of power unlike anything she’d ever known before. The Black Orchid lives again…”

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Colin: For Black Orchid’s costume I wanted to keep the striking red and black along with the layered structure of the original. It might have been utilized for cheap thrills in her first incarnation but I liked the idea that the overcoat and long skirt could be removed for practical or tactical reasons.

Initially I tried out a couple of subtle styles that looked a little more civilian, incorporating the skirt and coat from the original design. In the end I wanted something that was visually exciting and unnerving with a hint of outlandishness, not unlike the awesome Batwoman redesign from Alex Ross used later to great effect by J. H. Williams III.

Final Version:

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Colin: Diana’s coat can be fastened, left open or taken off if she needs to be less restricted in a fight, her corset suit and jacket are equipped with Kevlar for added protection. The Black Orchid insignia travels down her arm to meet the ring. Her hair is loosely tied back and the eyes painted out, I didn’t want to put a domino mask or hood on her as she’d make use of shadows and smoke from the ring to effectively keep herself shrouded from her enemies as she stalks them through the night.

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*If YOU have an idea for a RetroFix, please contact us!

9 comments on “RetroFix: Black Orchid by Colin Alexander
  1. That is very awesome! Simple yet very effective. Though I would’ve given her some sunglasses or something to cover the face just a bit.

  2. This is seriously grand and gripping. I like both the steady smoke trail coming off the ring and the red traces of embellish on her one arm.

    If the smoke traced and echo’d the red traces, this would be even more eye catching red/black/red.

    Well done. I’d read this comic.

  3. Cheers, guys!

    Arref that’s an awesome suggestion, the smoke tracing the red would make it way more clear in-comic that it was part of Black Orchid and not environmental smoke.

    Shiner, we always need someone to be that guy ;) I did back-and- forth about the heels then opted for a wedge in the end. Flat boots are the practical choice and easier to walk in but not half as fun to draw.

    Thanks for having me again, Project : Rooftop!

  4. I really like it; the shapes are dynamic and the corset shapes all come to great points. I don’t understand the people who complain about waist v’s looking like arrows to the genitals. It’s such a dynamic shape that creates instant iconography.

    That said, I come from that school that doesn’t like it when heroes carry guns. She’s already got kind of an advantage with the smoke ring, adding in traditional firepower just feels wrong. On top of that, her being an investigator for the DA feel to me like her life is completely devoted to crime fighting and nothing else. I feel like she should be able to have a balance between the secret identity and the costumed self where she can take a break or step away from the heroics to decompress or even process information that wouldn’t be readily apparent if she were on the case 24/7

  5. Cheers guys and thanks for the input, Edwin.

    I’m developing the story as a web comic and I agree about the gun, she’d ditch it as she develops into a bad ass supernatural vigilante.

    I’d also say this was just a very brief synopsis so I don’t know that Diana’ll be fighting crime all the time (even vigilantes get a night off, right?) but definitely that’s the focus and starting off as an investigator in a corrupt DA’s office is crucial to how the story develops.

    I’m ironing it all out, feel free to drop by the blog for updates!

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