(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.


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.

Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash

By Dave McKean & various (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-50670-108-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Magnificent and thought-provoking… 9/10

After years of being sidelined and despised, sequential narrative has finally been acknowledged as one of humanity’s immortal and intrinsic art forms. That’s never been more apparent than in this astounding biographical examination of celebrated surrealist, landscape painter and war artist Paul Nash, as conceived, designed and created here by modern master of many disciplines Dave McKean.

Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash was commissioned to supplement a major retrospective exhibition of Nash’s work, running at London’s Tate Gallery from October 26th 2016 to March 5th 2017, as part of 14-18 Now; the Arts plank of Britain’s national centenary commemoration of the Great War.

The project was set in motion as a result of the wonderful Lakes International Comic Art Festival (so you should also look them up, send an effusive thank you and book early for next year’s shindig) and also comes in a limited edition run of 400 signed hardbacks…

Rendered as a stunning melange of styles whilst alternatively racing and meandering through Nash’s nightmares and memories – as distilled from his works, correspondence and writings – this huge (280 x 219 mm) comics chronicle examines the artist’s thoughts and reactions in dreamlike snippets as he comes to terms with a troubled family life, the staggering shocks of war and his lifelong striving for a clear artistic vision.

These visions are all filtered through a lens of mud, blood and unremitting horror which didn’t diminish after surviving life in the trenches.

Potent and evocative, this is a compelling visual poem not meant as a primer, biographical introduction or hagiography. It’s a celebration of Nash’s art and ethos, and a reminder of the pointless futility of throwing away people’s lives, delivered in styles and imagery deftly chosen for emotional impact.

As such it might require you to consult a favourite search engine to grasp the subtler nuances.

Trust me, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash ™ & © Dave McKean. All rights reserved.

The Art of Vampirella: The Warren Years

By Frank Frazetta, Enrich, Sanjulián, Ken Kelly Vaughn Bodé & various artists, written by David Roach (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-390-2

Jim Warren originally established himself in the American comics marketplace with monochrome B-Movie fan periodical Famous Monsters of Filmland and satire magazine Help! In 1965 he took his deep admiration of the legendary 1950s EC Comics to its logical conclusion: reviving anthology horror periodicals and pitching them at older fans.

Creepy was stuffed with clever strip chillers illustrated by the top artists in the field (many of them ex-EC stars) and Warren neatly sidestepped the all-powerful Comics Code Authority – which had ended EC’s glory days and eventually their entire comics line – by publishing his new venture as a newsstand magazine.

It was a no-lose proposition. Older readers didn’t care to be associated with “kid’s stuff” comicbooks whilst magazines already held tempting extra cachet (i.e. mild nudity and a little more explicit violence) for readers of a transitional age.

Best of all, the standard monochrome format cost a quarter of what colour periodicals did to print.

Creepy was a huge and influential hit, especially among the increasingly rebellious, Rock ‘n’ Roll crazed teen market; often cited as a source of inspiration for the nascent underground commix movement and now furiously feeding on the growing renewed public interest in the supernatural.

In true Darwinian “Grow or Die” mode, Warren looked around for new projects, following up with companion shocker Eerie and the controversial war title Blazing Combat.

As the decade closed he launched a third horror anthology, but Vampirella was a little bit different. Although it featured the traditional “host” to introduce and comment on stories, this narrator was a sexy starlet who occasionally participated in the stories: eventually becoming hero and crowd-pulling star of her own regular feature.

Another radical variation was that here female characters played a central role. They were still victims and targets but increasingly, whether name stars or bit players, were as likely to be the big menace or save the day. Whatever their role, though, they were still pretty much naked throughout. Some traditions must be protected at all costs…

Another beguiling Warren innovation and staple was the eye-catching painted covers on every issue…

The hidden story behind Warren’s introduction of Vampirella is fully disclosed in David Roach’s incisive history of the magazine whose covers are reprinted in their entirety – spanning September 1969 to March 1983 – in this pictorial treasury.

Accompanied by informative context and commentary, they are presented as both finished newsstand-ready product with all typography and logos and as full-page reproductions of the original artworks, denuded of all distracting text and editorial modification.

This magnificent oversized (234 x 307 mm) hardback proudly displays every cover from the run: 112 issues, the 1972 Annual and the Pantha Special – and even includes a series of photographic entries featuring Barbara Leigh in full costume. She was pegged to play the deliciously Deadly Drakulonne in a sadly-unrealised Hammer Horror movie.

Following a revelatory Introduction from Enric Torres-Prat who as “Enrich” painted dozens of astoundingly eye-catching covers, Roach’s ‘Vampirella: an Introduction’ traces her history and development as well as the company-saving arrival of the Spanish illustrators of Josep Tutain’s European S.I. agency.

The astonishing work of these astounding painters and draughtsmen turned Warren around and made them the most visually unique publisher on the American scene. Moreover this Introduction is illustrated not just with American material but also pages of comics and covers S.I. provided for the British market during the 1960s and 1970s.

The major portion of this beguiling tome is quite rightly all about the art, and the parade of painterly peril and pulchritude includes works by Aslan (Alain Gourdon), Frank Frazetta, Bill Hughes, Vaughn Bodé, Jeff Jones, Larry Todd, Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, Sanjulián (Manuel Pérez Clemente), Pepe Gonzalez, Luis Dominguez, Josep Marti Ripoll, Lluís Ribas, Hank Londoner (photographer for the Leigh covers), Bob Larkin, Kim McQuaite, Jordi Penalva, Esteban Maroto, Steve Harris, Paul Gulacy, Terrance Lindall, Jordi Longaron, Noly Panaligan, Albert Pujolar and Martin Hoffman.

This captivating, vibrant tome is as much a historical assessment as celebration of stellar talent: a beautiful, breathtaking and brilliantly inspirational compendium for the next generation of artists and illustrators.

If you are gripped by the drive to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this luxurious compendium offers all the encouragement you could possibly hope for – and is powerfully intoxicating too.
Vampirella ™ and © 2013 Dynamite Entertainment. All rights reserved.

The Art of Sean Phillips

By Sean Phillips, Eddie Robson and various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-420-6

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: A Magical Trawl through Fan-favourite Moments… 9/10

Sean Phillips started selling comic strips in 1980. He was 15 years old, still at school and for all intents and purposes “living the dream”. He’s been doing it ever since, with dedication, professionalism and ever-increasing proficiency.

This magnificent oversized (234 x 310 mm) hardback reproduces hundreds of comics pages and covers, plus an assortment of out-industry artwork, as accompaniment to an astonishingly forthright extended interview and career retrospective of the phenomenally talented and terrifying dedicated illustrator, covering his earliest cartooning efforts right through to his next big thing. There’s even baby pictures and school work. Of course Sean and his friends did make their first professional strip sale – to the local newspaper – when they were twelve…

Compiled by Phillips and writer and journalist Eddie Robson, with contributions from fellow artists, writers and editors the artist worked with over the decades, the book includes an Introduction from co-conspirator Ed Brubaker and offers many complete strips fans will probably never have seen.

As well as many unpublished works the gallery of visual wonder include early strips on “Girls” comics and Annuals such as Bunty, Judy and Diana For Girls as well as college work, try-out pages and portfolio pieces created with the sole purpose of getting into the cool mainstream…

Phillips is equally adept with paints and pen-&-ink and the book tracks his career as a jobbing artist through Bunty to early “mature reader” title Crisis (Crisis, New Statesmen, Straitgate), 2000AD and The Megazine (Armitage, Devlin Waugh), and that crucial jump to America as part of the “British Invasion”; producing features and one-offs at Vertigo and becoming part of the initial intake who launched and cemented the radical imprint’s look. Of particular interest and strongly emphasised are his runs on Kid Eternity, Hellblazer and The Invisibles.

The longed-for move into super-heroics began with Batman, a sidestep into Star Wars and back to Spider-Man. Early hints of later specialisation can be spotted in Scene of the Crime, Gotham Noir and Sleeper, but he was also busy with Wildcats and X-Men. He truly became a major name through the monumental sensation that was Marvel Zombies, but more attention here is paid to poorer-selling critical hit and career crossroads Criminal.

The parade of pictorial perfection continues with finished pages and original art from many more titles including User, Intersections, Incognito and more, strips and covers for licensed titles such as Serenity, Predator, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower spin-offs and for classic film repackager Criterion. Other non-comics work includes true lost gems such as political strip ‘Right Behind You’ from The Sunday Herald depicting how a certain meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair probably went as a certain invasion was discussed…

The comics conversation concludes with sneaky peeks at then-upcoming projects Fatale and European album Void 01 and we know just how damn good those both turned out…

Also sporting a healthy Bibliography section, heartfelt Acknowledgements and a Biography page, this massively entertaining, vibrant tome is as much an incisive and philosophical treatise on work-ethic as celebration of a stellar career telling stories in pictures: a beautiful, breathtaking and brilliantly inspirational compendium for the next generation of artists and writers, whatever their age.

If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this rousing celebration offers all the encouragement you could possibly hope for – and is just plain lovely to look at too.
© 2013 Dynamite Entertainment. All artworks, characters, images and contributions © their respective creators or holders. All rights reserved.

White Collar – a Novel in Linocuts

By Giacomo Patri (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80591-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: An Epic Reminder that not everyone enjoys the same joys and benefits we do… 10/10

We tend to think of graphic novels as being a late 20th century phenomenon – and one that had to fight long and hard for legitimacy and a sense of worth – but as this stunning over-sized (286 x 218 mm) two-colour hardback reveals, the format was known much earlier in the century… and utilised for the most solemn and serious of purposes.

White Collar was created by jobbing illustrator, artist, educator and activist Giacomo Patri in 1937: encapsulating the tenor of the times as America endured the Great Depression with a view to inspiring his fellow creatives…

Unable to find a publisher for his shocking and controversial pictorial polemic, Patri and his wife Stella self-published their first edition, but happily found publishers for subsequent releases, if not the huge, hungry, underprivileged and angry audience it deserved…

Patri (1898-1978) was born in Italy but raised in America. Living in San Francisco from 1916 he overcame the handicap of polio and worked at many menial jobs until his interest in art carried him through the California School of Fine Arts. Thereafter he became an illustrator for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers.

Patri had been interested in social justice and labour issues since the late 1920s and once the Depression struck those beliefs only crystallised. Manual or “blue collar” workers had long organised and unionised to secure their bargaining rights and fair wages and Patri saw that office workers like himself were as likely to need such power and autonomy too. This book was his way of convincing them…

A compelling Introduction by his descendents Tito Patri & Georges Rey offers context, historical background and technical information on the production of linocut art as well as revealing how the creation of such cheap, language-transcending visual tracts became a relatively common method of dissemination.

Also included is the story of the artist/author’s troubles during the repressive, red-baiting Joe McCarthy years and beyond…

Following the salutary lesson is the Original Introduction by fellow artistic agitator and creative pioneer Rockwell Kent before Patri senior’s endeavours to arouse his fellow illustrators and clerical staff unfold in 128 bold images of stark metaphor and rousing symbology: an astounding visual record and call to arms tracing one family’s struggle between 1929 and 1933, delivered with beguiling subtlety and shocking silent potency in plates of deepest black or startling orange.

The ‘Novel in Linocuts by Tito Patri’ is dedicated “To the great progressive Labor Movement, the Congress of Industrial Organisations” and remained both obscure and controversial for years not just for its left leaning content but due to its uncompromising depiction of the abortion catch-22: a truly heart-rending depiction of a family too poor to survive another mouth to feed but without the cash to pay a back street quack for an [illegal] termination…

Stirring, evocative and still movingly inspirational as the world staggers closer and closer to replicating those dark days of Haves, Have-Nots and Why-Should-I-Cares?; this magnificent rediscovery closes with a final assessment and plea from cartoonist, designer and contemporary activist Peter Kuper in his trenchant Afterword and the Original Epilogue by John L. Lewis…

Inventive, ferocious in its dramatic effects, instantly engaging and enraging, this is a book long overdue for revival and reassessment and one every callous “I’m All Right” Jackass and “Why Should I Pay For Your…” social misanthrope needs to see or be struck with…
© 1987 by Tamara Rey Patri. Introduction © 2016 by Tito Patri. Afterword © 2016 by Peter Kuper. All rights reserved.

Tarzan on Film

By Scott Tracy Griffin (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-0-85768-568-1

Soon after the publication of Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, the character – thanks in no small part to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ acumen as a self-promoter – became a multi-media sensation and global star.

Many sequels followed; a comic strip arrived in 1929, followed by a radio show in 1932 and the Ape-Man inevitably carved out a solid slice of the comicbook market too once the industry was firmly established. However, the earliest and most effective promotional tool – one which took on a life of its own – was Tarzan’s frequent forays into the world of celluloid.

This impressive coffee-table art-book, released to coincide with the latest long-awaited movie, offers an eye-popping blend of intimate background, biographies and a critical overview, supplanted by hundreds of production stills, candid photos and – most welcome to art lovers – movie posters and promotional artwork from each theatre release.

Compiled and written by author and historian Scott Tracy Griffin (Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration), the book catalogues the history of the filmic franchise by focusing on every film and each actor to play the Ape-Man and his mate Jane, as well as finding room to spotlight the most memorable villains, glamorous femme fatales, supporting characters and even that purely filmic innovation Cheetah.

Affording equal importance to the large and small screen iterations – live-action or animated – the history lesson begins after an Foreword from past-Tarzan Casper Van Dien and traces the iconic, world-famous Jungle Lord from Elmo Lincoln in 1918’s Tarzan of the Apes (one of the first six films ever to gross more than a million dollars) through to today’s The Legend of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgård delivering the “victory cry of the Great Bull-Ape”…

There’s even a tantalising section on the “Original Kids” CGI series Tarzan and Jane forthcoming from Netflix…

This magnificently monolithic epic (224 pages and 262 x 23 x 333 mm) hardback volume is liberally illustrated with photographic stills and promo art, and also includes examples of Bob Kline’s production art and storyboards, model sheets and stills from the glorious Filmation Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle Saturday morning cartoon show from 1976-1984.

For the technically-minded and those of a completist bent there’s also a full list of The Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Tarzan Feature Films, Movie Serials, TV Movies and Series and thematically-linked Additional Films plus Acknowledgements and a copious catalogue of suggested Further Reading

It seems that whatever your vintage, there’s a nostalgia-drenched Tarzan waiting (mine is Ron Ely who starred as both TV and movie Man-Ape from 1966-1970) to spark old memories and foster fresh thrills and this is just the book to get those primal juices flowing.

Tarzan on Film is both intriguing and pretty: enticing and genuinely informative enough to keep any fan happy. If it’s not too soon for the “C” word it might well be this years first suggestion for giant-sized end-of year stocking-stuffer…
Tarzan ® & © 2016 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All Rights Reserved. All images © 2016 Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., Warner Bros, or Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

The Louvre Collection: Cruising Through the Louvre

By David Prudhomme translated by Joe Johnson (NBM ComicsLit/Louvre: Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-841-3

Some years ago the Louvre Museum in Paris began an intriguing and immensely rewarding collaboration with the world of comics, and their latest beguiling translated bande dessinée is now available in English, courtesy of those fine folks at NBM.

Cruising Through the Louvre is a multimedia paean to the art of drawing; a beautiful, oversized hardback graphic art narrative which follows the artist on a bewildering tour of the galleries as he searches for his beloved Jeanne.

As he searches for her, he realises that the pictures on the walls, the statues in the halls and the mementoes of world history all form a perfect sequential narrative like his own comics works.

…And then he grasps how the art and the observers are all locked in a mirror-clear relationship feeding off and entertaining each other…

Author/artist Davis Prudhomme was born in Tours in 1969 and, after studying at the École de l’Image in Angoulême, began his cartooning career with Ninon Secrète in 1992, collaborating with Patrick Cothias. Whilst producing that series he worked on solo projects ‘La Tour des Miracles’ (adapted from George Brassens’ book), ‘L’Oisiveraie’, ‘Voyage aux Pays des Serbes’ and ‘Port Nawak’.

Amongst his most notable award-winning efforts are La Marie en plastique, Rébétiko and this fabulous graphic rumination of the creation and situation of art, which first debuted in 2012 as La Traversée du Louvre.

The book in question, which manages to be beguiling, expansive and charmingly funny by turn, is produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Musée du Louvre, but this is no gosh-wow “Night-at-the-Museum” thinly-concealed catalogue of contents from a stuffy edifice of public culture. Rather, here is a sedately seductive, introspectively loving examination of the power of art and history to move the masses and especially the creatively inclined…

Supplementing the voyage of narrative interaction is a fact-packed data-file section detailing the accoutrements and educational and scientific achievements of the institution (how many other art museums have their own functioning particle accelerator?), subdivided into mind-boggling details about ‘The Building’, ‘The Works’, ‘The Visitors’ and ‘The Agents’, plus all the traditional Additional Information and dedication addenda you’d expect and hope to see.

This is another astounding and marvellously magical comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss…
© Futuropolis/Musée du Louvre Éditions 2012. © NBM 2016 for the English translation.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala

By Heidi MacDonald & Phillip Dana Yeh with art by Alfredo Alcala (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80041-7

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: A Perfect, Old-School Craft-Book Prezzie… 9/10

We haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and this is one of the most intriguing and rewarding I’ve seen in many a year.

There is a host of books both academic and/or instructional designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives.

There are others intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well (see for example the superb and lengthy list of Dover Books on Art Instruction and Anatomy at the back of this particular tome).

There are, however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm or perspicacity as this latest re-release from the culture-preserving heroes at Dover.

As much biography and philosophical treatise on work-ethic as training manual, Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala resurrects a slim and informative monochrome package from 1994 compiled from the thoughts and especially a vast selection of gorgeous illustrations and examples from one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration Comics ever produced.

Following an effusive ‘Introduction by Gil Kane’ and passionate exhortations in ‘A is For Alfredo – a Personal Reminiscence by Roy Thomas’ the real meat of this tome is presented in ‘On the Road with a Real Artist by Phil Yeh’ wherein scribes Heidi McDonald and Yeh repackage the wit, wisdom and sheer gracious enthusiasm of the man we in the English-speaking world think of mostly as a superb inker, but who was so much more.

Alfredo P. Alcala (1925-2000) was born in Talisay, Negros Occidental: part of the chain of islands known as the Philippines. He lived through the Japanese Occupation of WWII (playing a small part in their defeat) and the years following when America supervised the country. An obsessed autodidact and self-taught artistic prodigy, he held a number of creative jobs before joining the extremely popular Philippines “Komiks” industry in 1948.

A phenomenal talent – and lightning fast – he quickly rose to prominence and started his own publishing house. When his period adventure serial Ukala was made into a hugely successful movie he was already at the peak of his powers, but he followed that with the groundbreaking Sword-&-Sorcery series Voltar and became influential on the world stage.

At the beginning of the 1970s horror boom he moved with a number of other Filipino stars to America where their florid illustrative styles and broad genre experience defined the look of US comicbooks for a decade.

Although he was a superbly versatile draughtsman and storyteller, Alcala’s most beloved and well-known contributions were made during sustained runs as inker on Conan, Batman, Swamp Thing and others and, when the industry moved away from the Filipino style, he and his compatriots moved to California and began excelling in the voracious, talent-consuming animation business…

Taken from memories of shared train journeys, this section offers insights and anecdotes interspersed with Alfredo’s real Secret Teachings of How to be an Artist as recalled by fellow traveller and creative fellow spirit Phil Yeh, packed with illustrative examples from published comics as well as intimate sketches and studies from a man who simply never stopped drawing…

The remainder of this evocative bible from a sublimely classicist illustrator and self-made wonder breaks down into a potent series of tutorials beginning with ‘The Art of Observation’ which is neatly subdivided into helpful guides to ‘Discovering Your Style’, the proper use of the correct ‘Tools’, the crucial mastery of ‘Anatomy and Proportion’ and the truth about ‘Composition’, all thoroughly backed up and supported by examples from Alcala’s vast back catalogue.

Next comes a most crucial treatise on the disciplines specific to graphic narrative entitled ‘Thinking About Comics’, again augmented with cogent and beautiful visual back-up and biographical minutiae from ‘Ukala’, ‘Conan’ and the superbly impressive historical commemoration The Gift.

This is followed by an in-depth 20-page reiteration of all that’s gone before, using Alcala’s groundbreaking Voltar as model and exemplar, complete with critical deconstruction by the master himself, and everything wraps up a with quick lesson on ‘Painting’, using one of Alcala’s own murals as the basis for a stringent and informative Q & A session.

This glorious paperback is aimed squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than total neophyte, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but the sheer profusion of Alcala’s magnificent monochrome will satisfy comics fans as well as budding artists and storytellers.

If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this wonderful celebration will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.
© 2015 Dover Publications, Ltd. Introduction © 1994 Elain Kane. Introduction © 1994 Roy Thomas. Conan the Barbarian art © 1994 Marvel Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala will be released November 27th 2015 and is available for pre-order now. Check out www.doverpublications.com, your internet retailer or local comic or bookshop.

The Legend of Korra: Book 4 – Balance – the Art of the Animated Series

By Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko & Joaquim Dos Santos (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-687-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Astonishing Art Attack for Kids Of All Ages… 9/10

Autumn is officially here, and huge men from many countries are running about very genteelly trying to cripple each other, so it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Holiday Season is inescapably close. And after all, Christmas films have been playing on Sky Movies since early March…

Seriously though, if you’re prudent, it is time to start looking at gifts for your loved ones – or even family – and here’s something that will delight aspiring artists and lovers of fantasy television: one of the most evocative animation art-books I’ve seen in many a year…

Always foremost amongst the fascinating publishing add-ons to accompany major motion picture releases or mega-successful TV cartoon shows are the supplemental “Art of…” compendiums, such as this tome dedicated to the spectacular manga-inspired Nickelodeon hit The Legend of Korra.

A magnificent and stupendously oversized (312 x 246 mm) full-colour luxury hardcover, this is actually the last of a quartet of books tracing the progress of the critically acclaimed, commercially triumphant series, which aired for 52 episodes between 2012 and 2014 in the USA, divided into four chapter-seasons or “Books”: Air, Spirits, Change and Balance.

The show has been likened to Game of Thrones but that’s just lazy pigeon-hole reviewing so don’t be put off. You don’t even need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the astounding, gloriously enticing and visually breathtaking example of the collaborative animators’ art gathered within, but in case you’re looking for a bit of context here’s a little background…

Devised by Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino, the series began life as a 12-part continuation of Avatar: the Last Airbender – albeit, set seventy years later – on a fantastic world redolent of the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, The Wind Rises), where certain momentous individuals are born with the power to manipulate the classic of Elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

All the eternal problems of greed, privation, venality and political ambition still plague the people though, and inevitably war and conquest are seen as the solution to obstacles by the worst humanity has to offer…

The series targeted older kids and was a huge hit, winning great approval for its frank treatment of real-world problems such as terrorism, dissent and socio-political unrest as well as for its forthright and groundbreaking treatment of race, gender and issues of sexual identity. It also looked stunning whilst doing it…

Dark Horse Editor Dave Marshall worked with DiMartino, Konietzko and Co-Executive Producer Joaquim Dos Santos to compile another eye-popping mix of production and concept art, storyboards, panoramic views, production sketches, designs, development art and models, a wealth of beautiful background paintings and a bountiful mass of model-sheets for each of the legion of characters which populated the show, all augmented with incisive commentary and colour from the creators, resulting in a splendid coffee-table chronicle which is utterly bewitching.

After Introductions from DiMartino, Konietzko & Dos Santos, the book cleverly divides into thirteen chapters, offering all those aforementioned construction-elements on an episode-by-episode basis. Thus ‘Chapter 1: After All These Years’ and ‘Chapter 2: Korra Alone’ display the characters and settings at the starting point whilst succeeding instalments ‘The Coronation ’, ‘The Calling’, ‘Enemy at the Gates’, ‘Battle of Zaofu’, ‘Reunion’, ‘Beyond the Wilds’, ‘Operation Beifong’, ‘Kuvira’s Gambit’, ‘Day of the Colossus’ and the apocalyptic ‘Chapter 12: The Last Stand’ disclose the changes and developments in the cartoon cast and scenarios necessitated by the meticulously unfolding epic in a manner which is both captivating and revelatory.

The fantastic feast for the eyes then concludes with a selection of ‘Ancillary Art’ featuring character illustrations, poster art, unused roughs, book cover sketches, faux “photo-booth snapshots”, promo art, blog illustrations and prints from the series’ tribute art shows.

This is an awesome book that will certainly inspire artistically-inclined youngsters, and bereft fans of the broadcast iteration of The Legend of Korra can console themselves with the fact that Dark Horse are going to continue the adventure in comicbook form just as they have so successfully done with defunct shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly.
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