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Tom Tenney

Been meaning to talk about this here artist, Tom Tenney, and the series he's most associated with, Force WorksMy fascination with Tenney's work in those 4 FW issues is relatively new; it's not steeped in nostalgia nor is it a formative influence. What little I've found of his in the past decade is what I'd like to examine. I simply like looking at it.Which is to say: hell no, I'm not gonna read this. Look at all those words.

Let's get it straight. I don't come to these types of comics to read them. Dan Abnett Andy Lanning went on to do bigger and better things. (I hear they're good!) But for this 90s stuff, the specific buzz I want is not from what Wanda's relationship with Iron Man is that month, it's from the way they're drawn, to wit:

I always thought Tom Tenney was British for some reason. Maybe it was that he drew a few covers for Fleetway/Quality? Maybe it was the way he drew Mike McKone's lipless mouths or Liam Sharp's muscles? Doesn't matter. He's not British. He's American. Here's a nice page.

I like that dude in the last panel. That's his big bursting on the scene and it seems really restrained (which I find effective and amusing). Here's a nice panel, mouth closed this time. Lettering by Jack Morelli and coloring by Joe Rosas on all these FW issues, btw.

Aside from the Fleetway/Quality covers in the late 80s and some [undocumented] Robotech work, Tenney had a handful of DC gigs before landing at Marvel, where he immediately got Avengers-related assignments. He helped launch Force Works soon thereafter. As you've noticed, that's the bulk of what I'm going over today.

My favorite part of these comics are the splash pages and the double page spreads. Tenney packs 'em in -- he's hungry, he's going for it -- and it never feels like space is the enemy. He simply fills it up with cool looking shit. And that, again, is the fix I want from these comic books. Cool. Looking. Shit.

Major credit has to be given to inker Reynaldo Garcia, who really helped define all of Tenney's work. Under a weaker inker, all that detail would've been lost, but Garcia gives it a sheen that makes for a complete package.

Love the way the cameos were handled in the previous page (above). All the men have similar faces: sharp chins, strong grimaces, and Sin City wrinkles on everything. It's a green move, but its uniformity makes it all work.

So what if all the faces are practically identical? The message is still the same and it's refreshing in a way. No deviation, no room for "personality".

Tenney more than makes up for it, anyway. Good lord, this spread...

Hints of Travis Charest on these faces, who was a rising star in '94.

The last interior/story comic book page Tenney drew for Marvel is right here.

And that's about it! Tenney drew the cover to the fifth FW issue but he jumped ship to Image Comics, specifically Extreme Studios.

Marlo Alquiza inked that pin-up in Team Youngblood #12, but Tenney's next comics work was a short story in Youngblood Strikefile #9 written by Robert Loren Fleming (Thriller, Ambush Bug) and inked by The Walking Dead's Charlie Adlard (a young Brit who was going through a Keith Giffen phase around that time).

Nice looking stuff. You'll notice the lack of thin lines that typically help shape hyper-detailed comic book styles. Makes me wonder just how heavy a hand Rey Garcia had in defining Force Works. I'm not familiar enough with Garcia to tell.

Tenney partly worked on Chapel #1, which he later cited as a relief from drawing a team book. Inks by Jaime Mendoza on this one.

After this one issue of Chapel, of which he drew 20 pages out of 25), Tenney dropped out of comics and didn't resurface for over 20 years.

Like a moth to a flame: me to cartoonists who bail from comics quickly. Maybe I find something in that arc that I can vicariously live through. And so once in a while, I look for information on these sorts of artists. Interviews, podcasts, convention panels, anything.

In prepping for this retrospective, I came across a brief interview Tenney did in June 2017 at a comics con in Austin, TX! He talks about the old times, working with AC/DC, and his new project Fight Girl Fight. That's where I discovered he worked on Robotech, which I still can't find info on. Take note of that YouTube clip's comments section. Seems like I wasn't the only one looking for this particular artist.

Right after that convention weekend, the same host conducted an extended interview with Tenney (and his collaborator/model/assistant) for the podcast Team Lift. The couple discuss running into some unfortunate and bizarre circumstances upon their return home. They were clearly still reeling from it at the time of the recording. Tough to listen to.

Thomas Tenney eventually sparked a Facebook account. He shares plenty of stories, artwork, and rarities such as this, his re-design of U.S. Agent.

This is certainly an explosion of information where not long ago there was none. Trust me, I mean nothing. I was most assuredly asking for it.

I hope Tenney is doing well. He's still tabling at conventions, at least in Texas. Get in the bins, get your Force Works signed, and do like he did. Get out.

 
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11 Responses to Tom Tenney

  1. russell sharpe says:

    But…why?

  2. So cool. That’s why.

  3. Zack Ketz says:

    After looking at these pages, Jae Lee’s Namor run and Youngblood stuff seem to be HUGE influences on his art.

  4. Ali Miruku says:

    This guy probably went into hiding because he continually lies about doing the art work for the cover of AC/DC’s Ballbreaker album. He’s currently on the convention circuit with every advertisement with a picture of the cover. Tom did not work on this cover. The original artist was and is in fact David McMacken. His work can be seen (Ballbreaker among others) at http://www.ratzandcompany.com I don’t know why an artist like Tom would have to prop himself up with stealing another artists credit. He was asked at a convention recently and claimed he did it. The guy is a fraud!

  5. Chip Mosher says:

    Tom worked on the last six or so issues of Comico’s Robotech Next Generation. (https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=149021) He was a fixture of mid 80s cons in Houston and I still own a couple of original pieces by him, though his art was more inspired by Art Adams at the time. He hung out for a bit with John Carbonarro of Thunder Agents infamy. At one show they announced they were doing a Gladiator miniseries for Marvel (based on the Daredevil villain) and so I bought a sketch from Tom of Gladiator. Later learned it was not true. Oh what you could get away with at shows before the internet…..

  6. Martin Thomas says:

    “So what if all the faces are practically identical? The message is still the same and it’s refreshing in a way. No deviation, no room for “personality”.”

    Man, what happened to the Comics Journal?? It used to be a respected publication with critical standards. Based on this article, it seems to have devolved to the blogging of fawning fanboys whose analytical skills peak at “Cool. Looking. Shit.”

  7. Michel Fiffe says:

    ALI: I’m only familiar with Tenney’s comic book work. Anything beyond that can certainly be taken up directly with him on Facebook, especially in regards to this allegation.

    CHIP: Thanks for the info. As for the convention art, I would love to see what he did with the Gladiator. That mini would’ve fit right in during the Fall From Grace era.

    MARTIN: Sometimes “cool looking shit” is the exact analysis a work demands. It’s unfortunate that this piece doesn’t meet your standards; you might find more thorough examinations in the dozens of other reviews I’ve posted here and elsewhere. Judging by your condescending tone, though, I doubt you’ll ultimately get what you want out of it.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Martin Thomas says:

    Don’t do that.
    I didn’t just isolate the phrase, “Cool looking shit”. The entire article is fanboyish without a hint of real analysis, let alone criticism. Not once do you explain what objectively makes this art interesting beyond “just look at it!” It’s just you gooshing over what looks like art that doesn’t differentiate itself from dozens of other 90s Image comics wannabes.

    If you can do better then do better. Your readers deserve it.

  9. Michel Fiffe says:

    But you DID isolate it, yet you object when I cite my own words to prove a point–? Look, clearly you’re not satisfied with my efforts, and your patronizing doubling down helps no one, so move it along already. Stop wasting our time. 

  10. Matthew says:

    Ali and Michel:

    I pulled up the Discogs page for the AC/DC ballbreaker CD, found here: https://www.discogs.com/ACDC-Ballbreaker/release/368325

    The artwork is credited to Marvel officially, however if you look at the scans of the interior art there are two pieces that are clearly drawn by and signed by Tenney.

  11. Devin Tenney says:

    Thomas is my biological dad y’all.
    Hey dad!

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