The Mercenary – The Definitive Editions volume 1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire


By Vicente Segrelles, translated by Mary McKee (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-124-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Mythic Masterpiece Returns… 9/10

Born in Barcelona in 1940, Vicente Segrelles Sacristán is a renowned illustrator of magazines and book covers on three continents and the creator of one of the world’s most popular graphic novel series.

His first comics album ‘El Mercenario’ (The Mercenary) was released in 1982; the tale of an itinerant knight-for-hire fighting his way through a fantastic world of science and sorcery, often on the back of a flying dragon.

Rendered initially in lush oil-paints (before graduating to creating art digitally from 1998 onwards), the epic tales blend visual realism and accuracy with fable, myth, historical weaponry, contemporary technology and classical science fiction themes. All these fantastic scenes are screened through the visual lens of a natural architect and engineer. Fourteen albums were released between 1982 and 2003, most of them seen by English-language readers through the auspices of publisher NBM.

Hugely in demand for his painted covers since the 1970s, Segrelles has created book covers for the works of such authors as H, Rider Haggard, Poul Anderson, Roger Zelazny, Alistair McLean, Desmond Bagley, G. F. Unger, Andre Norton, Joel Rosenberg, Charles DeLint, C.H. Guenter, Jason Dark, Terry Pratchett and a host of others.

European prose readers may also know him as the cover artist of Italian science fiction magazine Urania.

The artist came to comics relatively late in his career and the reasons for that can be learned in a prodigious “behind-the-scenes” section at the back of this stunning hardcover (and eBook) remastered reissue entitled ‘Meet Vicente Segrelles’, relating his life and career and breaking down his working methodology. That includes how this volume and the Mercenary series came into being, augmented with a wealth of illustrations from the artist’s early days, discarded paintings and drawings plus many detail-shots taken from the story that precedes it.

Originally serialised in Spanish magazine Cimoc in 1980, El Mercenario was one of the earliest European series NBM published in English and to celebrate forty years in business the company have finally rereleased the series in fabulous oversized (314 x 236 mm) remastered hardcover albums to once more set the world alight. If you prefer, you could instead pick up a thoroughly modern digital edition.

What’s it about?: in the mediaeval world, a region of Central Asia lies all but undiscovered. The Land of Eternal Clouds is an isolate region where life has taken a different turn at the highest mountain levels. Here reptilian fliers dubbed dragons abound and the outposts of humanity have turned them into beasts of burden. This setting is the backdrop to introduce a nameless action hero and problem-solver who is engaged in this premier tome by the puissant potentate of one super-cumulus city-state to rescue his queen from vile abductors…

Riding a gigantic bat-winged lizard, The Mercenary plucks the unfortunate lady from peril and defeats the dragon-riding guards who give chase but only at great personal and financial cost…

Happily, the wary warrior has made prior contingency plans and – even after they go awry following a clash with a predatory beast – is smart enough to build a mechanical flyer to replace the ones he has lost to this ill-fated mission…

This initial yarn is actually a tryptic of three interrelated vignettes, and the second begins once the hero-for-hire returns the comely bride to her rich but old and flabby husband. Safely re-ensconced in the lap of luxury, she repays her dutiful saviour for spurning her amorous attentions by accusing him of assaulting her…

Although the Mercenary escapes to his hastily constructed contraption, it is not enough to keep him airborne and slowly he plunges into the swirling cloud mass from which no man has ever returned…

Crashing to earth he finds a whole new and undiscovered world, and an old sage with a handy potion that soothes his wounds and allows him to breathe better in air that cloys like soup. He soon returns the favour when the oldster shares his woes: the family have also suffered a recent kidnapping.

This time a young woman has been taken by a mystery group demanding as ransom all the alcohol the village contains…

Soon the tireless adventurer has broached the cage in which she hangs above certain death only to find himself also a captive: this time inside a colossal and all but invisible floating city ruled by mysterious cloaked figures claiming to be the Cult of the Sacred Fire…

Before long the doughty champion has discerned the incredible rational secret behind all the seemingly magical phenomena and set the city on a course of appalling destruction and personal vengeance…

To Be Continued…

Although sometimes considered a little static, Segrelles’ vibrant, classical realism set a benchmark for illustrative narrative that has inspired generations of artists and millions of readers. This landmark series is a long overdue and welcome returnee to our bookshelves and seems certain to garner a whole new legion of fans and admirers.
© 2015 Vicente Segrelles. English Translation © 2017 NBM for the English Translation.

For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Monet: Itinerant of Light


By Efa & Salva Rubio, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-139-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Picture Perfect Present for Art and Comics Lovers… 10/10

Publisher NBM have struck a seam of pure gold with their growing line of European-created biographies. This latest luxury hardcover release (also available in digital formats) is one of the most engaging yet; powerfully deconstructing the hard, shockingly unconventional life, artistic torments and eventual triumph of mercilessly driven painter and truth-seeker Oscar-Claude Monet (14th November 1840 – December 5th 1926).

This treatise is crafted by Salva Rubio: an award-winning screenwriter, historian and novelist with a penchant for past times and period themes. He is besotted with the work of Monet – as is his collaborator. This is his first graphic novel.

Ricard Fenandez quit school to found the fanzine Realitat Virtual before becoming an animator and freelance illustrator. His prior comics work includes Les Icariades (with Toni Termens in 2001) and self-penned Rodriguez and L’Âme du Vin. He is passionate about art history and signs his many, many works “Efa”.

When you see the name Monet you probably think “Water Lilies”, but there was so much more that went on before those days of placid triumph. Here, with the master’s catalogue of paintings inspiring a vivid and vivacious pictorial biography, the tale of an uncompromising, obsessed genius who battles the haughty, stratified status quo with a small band of fellow world-changers unfolds…

Starting from a point in 1923 when Monet was recovering from eye cataract surgery, the man addicted to “capturing light” casts his mind back: reviewing years of abject poverty and lack of success. Struggling as a despised rebel battling a hidebound artistic intelligentsia to establish a new manner of painting and new way of seeing, suffering heartbreaking loss while raising two families, in conflict with his own allies in the Impressionist Movement as much as the reactionaries of the art world, all Monet wanted was to explain light and colour through paint and canvas.

The obsession cost him friends, family and a fortune; forcing him to move his usually-neglected loved ones from country to country one step ahead of creditors, enemies and even wars…

Despite the human cost, Monet believed it was all worth it. You can make up your own mind after reading this staggeringly lovely, uncompromisingly forthright visual synopsis of his chromatic crusade…

The scintillating history lesson leads off with a Preface from Hugues Gall (Director of the Claude Monet Foundation and the Giverny Museum) and is closed with Rubio’s Afterword ‘Monet’s Mirror: Behind the Canvas’, and additional material includes a Bibliography, Creator Biographies plus a vast illustrated text feature reproducing the dozens of paintings and photographs which informed Efa’s visual odyssey. All scenes are fully annotated and contextualised for greater understanding.

A minor masterpiece and guaranteed to be on the reading list for any art historian studying the Impressionists and modern art, Monet: Itinerant of Light is a magic window into another world and one you should seek out at your earliest convenience.
© EFA/RUBIO/Editions du Lombard (Dargaud-Lombard S.A.) 2017. © 2017 NBM for the English translation.

Monet: Itinerant of Light is published on November 1st 2017 and is available for order now.
For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Take That, Adolf! – The Fighting Comic Books of the Second World War


By Mark Fertig and many & various (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-987-5

Long the bastion of the arcane, historic, esoteric and the just plain interesting arenas of the comics experience, Fantagraphics Books here celebrates the dawn age of Fights ‘n’ Tights funnybooks with a magnificent collection of (mostly) superhero covers culled from the fraught period which most truly defined the comics industry.

Comicbook covers are a potent and evocative way of assessing the timbre of an era and a captivating shortcut into worlds far removed from our own. They are also half the sum total of fun generated by narrative art and arguably an art form all their own.

In this tome, educator, scholar and writer Mark Fertig (Chair of Art and Art History at Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania and revered film noir expert – check out his Where Danger Lives for more populist fun) offers an erudite and wide-reaching essay comprehensively addressing every aspect of the four-colour Home Front’s graphic endeavours in support of America’s WWII war effort.

Detailing how Jewish émigré artists’ and writers’ creative influences advocated America surrender its isolationist stance in ‘Four Color Fantasies’ and ‘Building Towards War’, Fertig then traces the development of ‘Red, White, and Blue Heroes’ such as The Shield and Uncle Sam before ‘The Coming of Captain America’ sparks the invention of ‘An Army of Captains’.

After the USA finally enters the war ‘All-Out Assault: August & September 1941’ is followed by an examination of female masked fighters in ‘She Can Do It!’ and reveals how Wonder Woman became ‘An Amazon for the Ages’.

‘Kids Can Fight Too!’ reveals the impact of junior and under-age crusaders as well as the sub-genre of Kid Gangs whilst ‘Attaboy, Steamboat!’ confronts head-on the depiction of ethnic characters – “evil” and Pro-democracy. From here in the distant future, some of the appalling jingoism and racism is even more disturbing than the tortures, torments and buckets of gore liberally scattered through the images of Evil Nazis and Japs…

Next ‘Into the Breach’ addresses the reasons omnipotent heroes such as Superman and Captain Marvel left the actual fighting in Europe and the Pacific to ordinary mortals before ‘Pulling Together’ details and the promotion of Home Front solidarity munitions manufacture and the arming of the armies of Freedom after which Hitler repeatedly gets his just deserts (in effigy at least) ‘In Der Führer’s Face!’

‘Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines!’ follows the development of more human fictional soldiers and heroes whilst and ‘More Thrilling Than Fiction’ sees the begins of fact-based accounts of true champions such as President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower before ‘Pitch Men’ follows the numerous examples of masked warriors and kiddie-characters inciting readers to help pay for the war through selling war bonds and liberty stamps and ‘On to Victory’ celebrates the end of hostilities and the aftermath.

The fact-packed lecture is also supplemented at the back of the book by creator biographies of industry giants and iconic cover crafters Charles Clarence Beck, Jack Binder, Charles Biro, Hardin “Jack” Burnley, Reed Crandall, Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Irv Novick, Manuel “Mac” Raboy and Alex Schomburg (regarded as the most prolific cover illustrator of the period) but the true merit of this enchanting tome is the covers gathered for your perusal.

Designed to incite patriotic fervour and build morale, the awesome majority of this tome features a potent avalanche of stunning covers from almost every company, displaying not only how mystery men and superheroes dealt with the Axis of Evil in those tense times but also the valiant efforts of “ordinary fighting men” and even cartoon fantasy stars such as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Walt Disney stars such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

Shopping List Alert: skip if you must…

This book celebrates an absolute cascade of spectacular, galvanising scenes of heroes legendary and obscure, costumed and uniformed, crushing tanks, swatting planes, sinking U-Boats and decimating enemy ranks, unleashed before your assuredly goggled eyes by artists long forgotten, and never known as well as more familiar names such as Joe Shuster, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Eisner, Harry G. Peter, Jack Burnley, Frank Harry, Irwin Hasen, Al Avison, Bob Powell, Edd Ashe, Harry Lucey, Paul Gustavson, Bill Everett, Jerry Robinson, Gus Ricca, Al Gabriele, Charles Sultan, Gene Fawcette, Louis & Arturo Cazeneuve, Gill Fox, Sam Cooper, Jim Mooney, Elmer Wexler, Fred Ray, Dan Zolnerowich, Don Rico, Max Plaisted, Howard Sherman, Everett E. Hibbard, Ramona Patenaude, Pierce Rice, Harry Anderson, Lin Streeter, Dan Gormley, Bernard Klein, Stephen Douglas, Martin Nodell, Charles Quinlan, Dan Noonan, Sheldon Moldoff, Henry Keifer, Marc Swayze, Carl Buettner, Charles A. Winter, Maurice, del Bourgo, Jack Warren, Bob Montana, Bob, Fujimori, Vernon Greene, George Papp, John Jordan, Syd Shores, John Sikela, Alex Blum, Ray Ramsey, R. Webster, Harry Sahle, Mort Leav, Alex Kotzky, Dan Barry, Al Camy, Stan Kaye, George Gregg, Art Saaf, George Tuska, alexander Kostuk, Al Carreno, Fred Kida, Ruben Moreira, Sidney Hamburg, Rudy Palais, Joe Doolin, Al Plastino, Harvey K. Fuller, Louis Ferstadt, Matt Bailey, Ham Fisher, Walt Kelly, Wayne Boring, John Giunta, Creig Flessel, Harold Delay, Lee Elias, Henry Boltinoff, L.B. Cole and George Marcoux plus many more who did their bit by providing safe thrills, captivating joy and astounding excitement for millions.

These powerful, evocative, charming, funny, thrilling, occasionally daft and often horrific images are controversial these days. Many people consider them Art with a capital ‘A’ whereas close-minded, reactionary, unimaginative, bigoted die-hard poltroons don’t.

Why not Dig back in time (For Victory!) and make your own decision?
© 2017 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. Main text© 2017 Mark Fertig. All comics covers and illustrations herein © 2017 the respective copyright holders All rights reserved.

Barbe


By André-Francois Barbe (Volksverlag)
ISBN: 3-88631-075-2

I’m not saying this is setting any precedent, but to be honest there’s so much great comic material I’d like to share, and it’s not just separated from us by a gulf of years and publisher’s timidity: Lots of it has simply never been collected in English language editions.

So when I rediscovered this mostly wordless little gem, packed away since our last house-move, I thought “there’s probably whole ‘nother generation of fans out there who have no idea such graphic wonders exist”… and this review of an actual foreign book is the result.

If you Google the name André Barbe you’ll probably see lots of stuff about “Shift-add correlation patterns of linear cellular automata” and the like.

I, however am talking about the other one, the artist and cartoonist fascinated both by sex and by the progression and sequencing of pictures which slowly transform from one state of meaning to another.

This André-Francois Barbe was born in Nimes on St. Valentine’s day in 1936 and became a cartoonist in 1958, selling his comedic work to Le Rire, Hara-Kiri, Charlie Mensuel and Pilote. Fascinated by science and history he was a potent political activist and produced varied pictorial works encompassing volcanism, palaeontology, cinema, opera, history and other seemingly unconnected arenas of interest. He could draw really, really well.

Barbe died on February 9th 2014.

Much of Barbe’s output is lasciviously erotic, with many overtones and similarities to the designs and vision of Vaughn Bodé, but the silent panoramas collected in this ridiculously rare tome indicate very personal obsessions.

The fascination with minute pictorial changes which lead to a total transformation, not just of the physical representations but usually also the mental or spiritual state of the subject – as well as the content – make his drawings and strips a mesmerising, languid journey of discovery. He also has a wicked, sly, sardonic sense of humour.

I honestly don’t know where or even if you can find examples of his work. Perhaps some of our European readers might be able to offer some suggestions? All I know is that this is brilliant and innovative use of the techniques that are uniquely the province of graphic narrative and sequential art, and that such visual virtuosity should be applauded, appreciated and seen as widely as possible.
Artwork © 1981 André Barbe and Volksverlag. All rights reserved or Alles Rechte vorbehalten, if you prefer…

Mondo Erotica – the Art of Roberto Baldazzini


By Roberto Baldazzini, edited and translated by Nicola D’Agostino & Serena Di Virgilio (Korero Press)
ISBN: 978-0-99333-743-7

Please pay careful attention: this art book contains stories and images of an explicit nature, specifically designed for adult consumption, as well as the kind of vulgar language most kids are fluent in by the age of eight.

If the thought of it all offends you, read no further and don’t buy the book. The rest of us can peacefully enjoy some of the most groundbreaking cartoon and gallery art ever created, without you.

Tomorrow I’ll write about something more socially acceptable, with mindless violence and big explosions, so come back then.

Roberto Baldazzini is an Italian illustrator, comics and mainstream artist whose works are deeply personal, immensely passionate and startlingly evocative. As such they have often been controversial. This electrifying hardcover compiles strips, commissions and gallery pieces created over the last three decades.

In colour and monochrome, this stunning retrospective of gloriously designed and delineated imagery recapitulates a true master’s fascinations: beautiful women, Pop Art, the golden age of cinema, Art Nouveau and those rare creatures who inhabit the borders and fringes of human sexuality…

This superb and long-overdue collection gathers and translates a mere smattering of his beguiling strip work and intoxicating covers – although any is more than welcome – but also includes a vast selection of the artist’s magnificent exotic and erotic paintings and drawings.

Following Nicola D’Agostino’s informative Foreword – citing influences such as Italian photonovels, fashion magazines, Hollywood and the comics trinity of Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Hergé – we can metaphorically meet the craftsman himself through a candid, thoughtful and pulchritudinously picture-packed ‘Interview with Roberto Baldazzini’ before the extremely graphic narratives commence.

Baldazzini first started making waves in 1984 with period thriller Stella Norris, a feature he continued until 1992. Expanding his horizons, he began appearing in prestigious international magazines such as Glamour, Blue, Diva, Penthouse Comix and Geisha and from 1995 began concentrating almost exclusively on erotic comics whilst garnering a global reputation for his exquisitely explicit Ligne Claire-styled paintings. Even though his gallery status was constantly growing, he never stopped crafting comic strips…

Delivered in stark and meticulous monochrome, ‘The Ring’ is set at a glitzy party in 1950s Hollywood and deconstructively scrutinises a supposed theft and proposed seduction from the individual viewpoints of the participants: untouchable, predatory and promiscuous star ‘Mrs. Marjorie Dobrovsky’, rising, scheming starlet ‘Miss Phoebe Costello’ and secretive, over-attentive maid ‘Miss Rebecca’

‘Macao’ then describes the seamier side of Tinseltown as Stella Norris’ “evil twin” Greta explores the debauched lifestyle of a celluloid porn star in the era of black and white films and attitudes…

‘Divas, Dommes and Lost Girls’ focuses on some of the artist’s other signature characters; colourfully exploring select snippets of material from Baldazzini babes such as ‘Stella Norris’, ‘Chiara Rosenberg’ and ‘The Orphan’ before ‘Scene of the Crime’ reprints an astounding monochrome strip created in conjunction with Studio Sottsass for a 1988 architectural exhibition in Milan.

The content and themes of the artist’s work always pushed social boundaries: increasingly highlighting gender anomalies, bondage rites and fetishism. ‘Baldazzini’s Fantasies’ features one of his most challenging, controversial and funny pieces – a deliriously silly Who’s Whose of genitalia – after which ‘Seduction and Pain, Malice and Innocence’ opens a catalogue of his most exotic and esoteric eidolons. Broken down into mini-chapters we can see the many forms of ‘Sultrane’, assorted illustrations made for 18th century French classic Histoire de Dom Bougre, Portier des Chatreux in ‘Saturnino’ plus a stunning series of visions inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s renditions of ‘Salome’

The extreme limits of fantasy and pleasure are then scrupulously detailed in images from ‘The Castle of Pain’ before plasticised product ‘Ines’ cavorts for the delectation of her clients…

A commission for architecture magazine Terrazzo, ‘Hotel Majestic’ again proves that location is as much a component of death and seduction as human nature, whilst Baldazzini’s ‘Exotic and Incredible Creatures’ segues into an examination of the artist’s most seditious tales and creations – the transgender, transsexual and trans-comfort zone depiction of the protagonists, antagonists and victims who inhabit tales of ‘Trans/Est’ and ‘Casa HowHard’.

The show closes with a fetishist’s dream as ‘The Education of Angela’ finds the star of Casa HowHard back in her singularly exclusive college and suffering strict discipline for her wayward nature…

Supplemented by a full list of Roberto Baldazzini’s Awards and Exhibitions plus a complete Bibliography to date, this tome also strives to keep the whimsy-factor high, and many of the stars are depicted as naked cut-out paper dolls, complete with suitably unsuitable outfits… This long-past-due celebration of a truly unique artistic pioneer is both beautiful and shocking, but also something no mature-minded devotee of graphic excellence should miss.
© 2017 Korero Press Limited. All rights reserved.

Mondo Erotica will be released on August 1st 2017 and is available for pre-order now.

Man V. Liver


By Neil Hinson & Paul Friedrich (Andrews McMeel)
ISBN: 978-1-4494-5055-7                  eISBN: 978-1-4494-4400-6

This morning, if you are like most humans – or indeed, most carbon-based lifeforms – you might be suffering the well-deserved and generally self-inflicted effects of too much partying.

Our love affair with alcohol and other intoxicants is hard-wired into our DNA and forms a cornerstone of human commerce, religion (pro and/or anti The Hard Stuff!), culture and even storytelling.

How many of your favourite writers, artists and performers have or had mythic relationships with booze? How many did it kill or destroy?

It’s an inescapable fact: there’s something simultaneously super-cool, bitterly tragic and hilariously funny about getting, sloshed, smashed, snockered, shit-faced, pickled, tanked or any other of the hundreds of other euphemisms for falling four sheets to the wind…

Paul Friedrich is a Pop Artist, cartoonist and graphic novelist from Raleigh, North Carolina, equally famed for his compelling “Low Def” paintings and the strip feature Onion Head Monster.

His career was proceeding splendidly apace when he finally got together – over drinks – with old buddy and writer/journalist Neil Hinson to create almost by accident a series of one off cartoons that sold so well at comics conventions that they kept on going.

From one-off gags on napkins to self-published minicomics they persevered until they had enough for a book which was eagerly snapped up by syndicated strip specialist publisher Andrews McMeel. In 2013 this slim (154 x 14 x 160 mm), sleek hardback book/eBook was released before the entire enticing package was optioned by Disney for its online arm…

The premise is both simple and astoundingly attractive. Man is a single guy looking for momentary physical gratification, temporary love and another drink.

He well knows the inherent perils but it’s just so cool, life is short and tomorrow is another hangover day.

His conscience, common sense and liver don’t stand a chance against the hedonistic attraction of life in the now, and as he drinks, the obvious joys of social drinking and perpetual hitting on women results in telling insights of barstool philosophy which he graciously shares with any who will listen… even if they don’t want to…

Its not just the pithy sayings and devastating bon (and mal) mots which instantly capture the attention: our dashingly debonair lush is always fetchingly attired in the best of Rat Pack chic and although he’s no Sinatra, Dino or Don Draper he does his best work against a dazzling, apex-designed, primary coloured backdrop that screams “pay attention, I’m working here”…

Smart, pithy, Rye – sorry – wry, sardonic and punishingly sarcastic, this modern-day style counsellor indulges to the fullest in a celebration of the Life without Tomorrows and the result is both stunningly engaging and bitingly funny: an infallible series of sodden slogans to carry you home even if your friends won’t.
Man V. Liver © Neil Hinson and Paul Friedrich. All rights reserved.

Flood! – A Novel in Pictures


By Eric Drooker (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-729-4 (HB)                    978-1-59307-676-4(PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Book to Truly Immerse Yourself In… 9/10

In the comics biz it’s not too often that something truly different, graphically outstanding and able to subvert or redirect the medium’s established forms comes along. Moreover,

when it does, we usually ignore it whilst whining that there’s nothing fresh or new in view.

Happily that’s not what happened with Eric Drooker’s Flood! – A Novel in Pictures when in was first released in 1992. A New York City native, Drooker is a legendary left-leaning activist, thinker and creator of street art who attended Downtown Community School in the East Village and studied sculpture at Cooper Union before becoming a designer and illustrator.

His covers for The New Yorker are unforgettable, as are his ferociously expressive, eye-catching pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Heavy Metal and World War 3 Illustrated. His drawings and paintings – especially from his graphic novels – have been used in videos for Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine whilst the animated film Howl was the culmination of his extensive collaboration with the poet Allen Ginsberg (Illuminated Poems, Howl: a Graphic Novel).

Drooker’s political stance and creative influences make his pictorial narratives such as Blood Song: a Silent Ballad both contentious and greatly favoured by a readership ranging far beyond the usually cloistered and comfortable confines of the regular comics community.

He has won an American Book Award, Inkpot and Firecracker Award and the artwork for Flood! has been inducted into the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Drawing on his earliest influences and following the Depression Era-traditions of artists and printmakers such as Frans Masreel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel and Giacomo (please link to White Collar Sep. 28 2016) Patri, Drooker’s first graphic novel is produced in linocuts and spot-colour: consisting of three discrete sections or chapters created between 1986 and 1992.

These symbolic, spine-tingling observations and tumultuous progressions are generally dispensed without words as lone protagonists – or perhaps alienated, excluded victims – struggle to survive and find meaning in a world that just don’t care. The Man in View restlessly moves past centres of employment which shut down when you’re not looking, trudging cold, mean, directionless streets and alleys at the bottom of canyon-like skyscrapers or riding bleak subways while the pitiless skies look down and just keep spitting more and more rain…

Following a damning indictment of the modern world and warning of the social apocalypse to come from Luc Sante in his trenchant Introduction, the journey into oblivion begins with ‘Home’ as a simple worker discovers he’s no longer wanted and slowly makes his way back to the little he still possesses, and sees the city and his life in a new way…

That peregrination takes him below the city in ‘L’: into the tunnels trains share with lost, abandoned and forgotten people reduced to their most primal elements…

‘Flood’ then takes us to a lonely garret where an artist and his cat toil to finish a treasured prospective masterpiece as the waters rise all around them. The deluge is here and everything’s about to change forever…

It’s time for one final excursion out into the drowning city…

This is a parable of immense depth and potency; made all the more effective by Drooker’s intense visualisations. We all know the sheer power of images over words, but they also impart greater liberty as the reader’s mind is free to attribute as much meaning to the narrative as their own experiences will allow. The result is sheer poetry – and possibly prophecy…

Flood! – A Novel in Pictures is into its fourth edition now (five if you count the eBook) and this latest release from Dark Horse is a deluxe (167 x 235 mm) hardback in black-&-blue-&white which also includes a revelatory conversation with the artist first seen in Comics Journal as a much longer ‘Interview with Eric Drooker’.

Conducted by Chris Lanier and supplemented with a superabundant wealth of sketches, full pages, roughs and illustrations it adds great insight to what has gone before and sets us up nicely for Drooker’s even better second work – Blood Song: a Silent Ballad

Scary, beautiful and irresistibly evocative, this is a dream vision you must see and will always remember.
Text and illustrations of Flood! – A Novel in Pictures © 1992, 2002, 2007, 2015 Eric Drooker. All rights reserved. Introduction © 2001 Luc Sante. Comics Journal interview used with permission.

Star Wars: The Marvel Covers


By Jess Harrold & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9838-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Perfect Last-Minute Stocking-Stuffer… 9/10

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mythology of Star Wars. What you might not know is that the first sight future fanatics got of its breathtakingly expansive continuity and the mythology-in-the-making way back in 1977 was the premier issue of the Marvel comicbook tie-in. It hit shelves two weeks before the film launched in cinemas, setting the scene for a legion of kids and beginning a mini-phenomenon which encompassed the initial movie trilogy and expanded those already vast imaginative horizons.

Marvel had an illustrious run with the franchise – nine years’ worth of comics, specials and paperback collections – before the option was left to die.

Comicbook exploits were reinstated in 1993 by Dark Horse Comics who built on the film legacy with numerous titles – and a three more movies – until Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars in 2012. Around the same time, the home of Donald & Mickey also bought Marvel Comics and before long the original magic was being rekindled…

When Marvel relaunched the enterprise, they included not just a core title but also solo books for the lead stars. Star Wars #1 debuted on January 14th 2015, with Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Poe Damaron coming soon after.

That auspicious, eagerly-anticipated event was supplemented by a crucial component of modern comics publishing: variant covers. These are alternative frontages for the same comicbook, usually by big-name artists of as part of sub-tropes of the medium such as images “homaging” earlier covers or as part of an ongoing event, commemoration or even trends such as Skottie Young’s occasional series of star characters as comedic babies…

Star Wars #1 had a staggering 70 individual variant covers. Successive issues also had a plethora of the same. What is most interesting here is how many of the name artists – and writers – were inspired by the comics they had read as kids as well as the films. Thus this gleefully exuberant hardcover art-collection, gathering those myriad covers for the new launch and interviewing the creators responsible…

Following an Introduction from Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonzo, writer Jess Harold and those writers and artists discuss their childhood memories of the phenomenon and current revival in ‘The Force is Strong with This #1’. There are reviews of the media’s reaction to the relaunch in ‘Search Your Feelings’ whilst ‘Never Tell Me the Odds’ analyses the breakdown in percentages of which character made the most appearances on the variant covers.

Then John Cassaday provides monochrome art and intimate secrets in ‘You Cannot Escape Your Destiny’ before the first tranche of covers is revealed in ‘The Force is Strong with This One’. The variants deluge includes black-&-white versions or pencils-only iterations of fully-coloured covers and both are seen side by side here.

That stunning parade includes work from Cassaday, Laura Martin, Joe Quesada, Daniel Acuña, Simone Bianchi, Mark Brooks, J. Scott Campbell, Nei Ruffino, Pascal Campion, Frank Cho, Jason Keith and John Tyler Christopher plus photo-still movie variants.

‘I Have a Bad Feeling About This…’ concentrates on John Tyler Christopher’s faux action-figure packages and is followed by a feature on comics-only creation Jaxxon (a giant green rabbit) with photo covers and more variations on the theme from Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Muntsa Vicente, Gabriele Dell’Otto,  Mike Del Mundo, Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, Dave Dorman, Pasqual Ferry, Frank D’Armata, Jenny Frison, Stephanie Hans, Adi Granov, Greg Horn, Dale Keown, Jason Keith, Justin Ponsor, Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado, Alex Maleev, Mike Mayhew, Rainier Beredo, Mike McKone, Bob McLeod, Mike Perkins, Andy Troy, David Petersen, Sara Pichelli, Joe Quinones, Humberto Ramos, Paul Renaud, Alex Ross, Stan Sakai, Mico Suayan and Chris Sotomayor.

The aforementioned jovial junior japes of Skottie Young are then explored and exhibited in ‘Aren’t You a Little Short for a Stormtrooper?’ before ‘Chapter Two: Star Wars #2-6’ dissects successive releases in ‘The Circle is Now Complete’ with Jordan D. White talking to writers Jason Aaron (Star Wars), Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader) and Mark Waid (Princess Leia) about their formative years and the franchise. This is augmented by covers-&-variants by Cassaday & Martin, Sergio Aragonés, Howard Chaykin & Jesus Aburtov, Tyler Christopher, Ramos & Delgado, Leinil Francis Yu, Keith, Marte Gracia, Nick Bradshaw, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Israel Gonzalez and Phil Noto.

Chapter Three: Darth Vader #1-6’ concentrates on the Sith Lord’s series with ‘Give Yourself to the Dark Side…’ supplemented by covers from Granov, Bianchi, Mark Brooks, J. Scott Campbell & Ruffino and movie stills whilst ‘Never tell Me the Odds’ features images from Cassaday & Martin, Tyler Christopher, Del Mundo, Horn, Land, Larroca & Delgado and Whilce Portacio & Sotomayor.

‘There is No Try…’ concentrates on the contributions of mega-star illustrator Alex Ross with numerous covers and an in-depth examination of his working process from posed models to pencils to finished work, before a gallery of more Vader pieces by Suayan, Sotomayor, Young, Granov, Dave Dorman, Larroca & Delgado and Noto.

‘Chapter Four: Princess Leia #1-6’ concentrates on the avenger from Alderaan as ‘There is Another…’ offers background and a wealth of original art by series illustrators Terry & Rachel Dodson. Then comes their covers plus more from Brooks, Campbell & Ruffino, Cassaday & Martin, Tyler Christopher, Amanda Conner, Dell’Otto, Granov, Jackson Guice, Horn, Land & Ponsor, Ross, Suayan, Sotomayor, Young, Maleev, Francesco Francavilla, Noto and more movie photo-covers.

Wrapping up the fabulous picture-fest is a stroll down memory lane in ‘Star Wars: The Original Marvel Years’ harking back to ‘A Long Time Ago’ with a short selection of classic covers by Rick Hoberg & Dave Cockrum, Chaykin, Carmine Infantino, Walter Simonson, Ron Frenz, Cynthia Martin, Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson, plus a range of modern tributes by Granov, Chaykin, Greg Hildebrandt, Gene Day & Delgado and Tom Palmer.

It would appear that there is an inexhaustible appetite for views of “A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” and the Star Wars franchise has spawned an awful lot of comics. This fascinating art compendium celebrates the verve, vitality and sheer impact of the printed material in a way no fan could possibly resist – especially as the latest cinematic chapter is about to unfold…
STAR WARS and related text and illustrations ™ and/or © of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © & ™ of Lucasfilm Ltd.  All rights reserved.

(Mostly) Wordless


By Jed Alexander (Alternative Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-93446-033-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Perfect Package of Pictorial Participation… 9/10

Although most comics narrative is a wedding of words and pictures, at the core of all graphic communication is a desire to share what the creator sees. Some of the best sequential narrative comes when the drawing does the talking, and that’s especially true when someone as gifted as Jed Alexander is steering the story.

He was raised in small town Pennsylvania – that’s a state of mind, not a city – and studied illustration at San Jose State University, where he benefited from the sage advice of elder savants of the art form such as John Clapp (The Stone Fey, The Prince of Butterflies, On Christmas Eve) and Barron Storey (The Sandman: Endless Nights, The Marat/Sade Journals, Tales From the Edge).

Alexander paid his dues with a decade as a jobbing craftsman in editorial illustration for such periodicals as LA WeeklyThe Sacramento News and Review and The Santa Cruz Metro before escaping back to his real love: kid’s books. He has blossomed out into animation with work for Nickelodeon and illustration for Cricket Magazine and other like minded venues.

Funded through a Kickstarter campaign (Mostly) Wordless is his first book: a slim sleek and subtly colourful hardcover compilation of eight delightful vignettes generally eschewing verbiage to tell simple experiential tales of kids for kids.

It begins with a wagon ride into fantasy as ‘Ella and the Pirates’ shifts playing children from here and now to the High Seas in search of treasure and adventure whilst ‘Midnight Snack’ verbally sets the scene for a nocturnal romp of surreal and ‘Rainy Day’ traces the sodden voyages of a boy – or girl – and his dog as the skies open…

‘The Dancer’ is a joyous celebration of the early days of terpsichorean self-expression and ‘Girl Meets Ball’ celebrates freedom and determination at their most expressive.

There’s witchy giggles in store following ‘Transformation’ after which a little hipster shows us how to be a ‘Beatnik’ and ‘Jack Be Nimble’ continues the athleticism with a very sporty rodent demonstrating the callisthenic logistics of the famous old rhyme…

Wrapping up with heartfelt ‘Acknowledgements’ to all concerned – from models to financial contributors – this supremely enticing book is a charming and beautiful package to draw kids into reading comics and one every family needs on the bookshelf.
© 2013 Jed Alexander. All rights reserved.

Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth – Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art


Written by Matthew K. Manning, art by many and various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78565-428-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Picture Perfect … 9/10

Comics are almost unique in the narrative arts for their capacity to turn throwaway characters into superstars – although modern revisionist novelists are doing a pretty good job these days turning the acquaintances of Sherlock Holmes or Oliver Twist into money-spinners…

Our industry, however, thrives on the fans taking to their hearts – and wallets – the villains, the weirdoes and the deliberately dire and turning them into multimedia attention magnets.

Here’s an ideal case in point…

Deadpool is Wade Wilson (a thinly disguised knockoff of Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke the Terminator: get over it – DC did), a costumed hired killer and survivor of genetics experiments that have left him a grotesque bundle of scabs, scars and physical abnormalities.

The upside – if such it is – of the ordeal is that he is now practically immortal, invulnerable and capable of regenerating from any injury.

Any.
Injury.

He is also a certifiable loon…

As you will find within this monolithic (279 x 356 mm) hardback – courtesy of Matthew K. Manning’s concise career retrospective and interview-filled appreciation – the wisecracking “Merc with a Mouth” was created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza. He debuted in New Mutants #98 (February 1991); one more escaped product of the Canadian “Weapon X” project which created Wolverine and so many other mutant/cyborg super-doers.

He got his first shot at solo stardom with a couple of miniseries in 1993 (Deadpool: the Circle Chase & Sins of the Past) but it wasn’t until 1997 that he finally won his own title, which blended 4th-wall-busting, absurdist humour (a la Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoons via Ambush Bug) into the all-action mix; securing the crazy killer’s place in comics history.

Since then he has become one of Marvel’s iconic, nigh-inescapable over-characters, perpetually undergoing radical rethinks, surviving death, identity changes, reboots and more before always, inevitably, reverting to irascible, irreverent, intoxicating type in the end…

This colossal celebration will not teach you how to render the resoundingly robust rascal but instead offers a selection of high-quality art examples – cover, panels, panels and unseen treats – from some the industry’s best and brightest illustrators. Following the scene-setting ‘Introduction’ Deadpool’s eccentric publishing history is divided into terse, picture-packed chapters beginning with ‘Creating a New Mutant’ tracking his trajectory from ‘From Villain to Antihero’ and his first taste of stardom as ‘The Merc with a Mouth’.

A radical departure is fully assessed in the chapter detailing the divergent life of ‘Agent X’ and an unlikely partnership with mutant martinet Cable is covered in ‘The Odd Couple’. The shift to full time metaphysical mischief starts with ‘The Title Character’ and details the intricate madness of ‘Deadpool’s World’ before reaching the only ‘Conclusion’ possible…

His is primarily a celebration of comic art and artists featured here include Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Ian Churchill, Joe Madureira, Aaron Lopresti, Ed McGuiness, Pete Woods, Alvin Lee, Bernard Chang, Dan Norton, Arthur Adams, Jim Calafiore, Cully Hamner, Tim Sale, Rick Leonardi, Darick Robertson, Georges Jeanty, Steve Harris, Alvin Lee & UDON studios, Brian Stelfreeze, Patrick Zircher, Mark Brooks, Skottie Young, Reilly Brown, Ron Lim, Clayton Crain, Carlo Barberi, Jason Pearson, Geof Darrow, Mike Hawthorne, Tony Moore, Kris Anka, Paco Medina, Dave Johnson, Nick Bradshaw, Bong Dazo, David Nakayama, Matthew C. Waite, Kyle Baker, Scott Koblish, Kevin Maguire, Arthur Suydam, Dalibor Talajic, Pascual Ferry, Mike Gustovich, Joe Cooper, Humberto Ramos, Max Fiumara, David Lopez, Ryan Stegman, Tony Moore, Jim Cheung, Mike McKone, Das Pastoras, Greg Land, Jae Lee, Mike Del Mundo, Kaare Andrews, Salva Espin, Jay Shaw, Adam Kubert Walter McDaniel, Esad Ribic, Julian Totino Tedesco, Phil Noto, Katie Cook and many more…

Bold, brash, brilliantly eye-catching and designed to improve your musculature just by lifting it, Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth is a wonderful visual treasure trove and even comes with an exclusive Reilly Brown cover print.
© 2016 Marvel. All rights reserved.