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.


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.