Monday, February 18, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #44 - Frank Robbins!

Frank Robbins is the artist few seem to like for some reason. I've been defending the work of Robbins on the internet ever since I joined its virtual ranks a few decades ago. His art is called "rubbery" and "chaotic" and "unrealistic". His critics are sincere and certainly entitled to their opinions, but for me, the energy exuding from a page drawn by Robbins is astounding. His figures never seem to stand, never seem to just sit, but are on the move in some way or other all the time. Exaggeration is the key, taking what is in the real world and making it writhe and dance for the good of the story, that's what Robbins does masterfully. I enjoyed his work on The Invaders and Captain America and his work on Batman and The Shadow before that. He had a long career in the comic strip arena, but his comic books are what make it happen for me. He was one of those lucky few who were able to retire on his own terms and ended his days painting, again with much success.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #45 - Jerry Grandenetti!

I don't remember when I fell for the intoxicating pages of Jerry Gandenetti, but it was early on in my comic book reading. He was not a talent who ever worked for Marvel (to my knowledge), though he did put in his hand at Atlas-Seaboard, the Bronze Age Marvel wannabe company which flamed out as quickly as it appeared. I did find his stuff on horror stories mostly, though later I learned he was a stalwart artists on DC's war books. When Joe Simon made a bid to return to comics, he found in Grandenetti a steady and ready partner and the pair turned out some really intriguing and offbeat books for a DC looking to find a way back to the top of the heap. Prez is the best remembered, but there was also The Green Team which was showcased in a singular issue of First Issue Special. Later in that same series they present The Outsiders (not the Batman team of a few years later). Grandenetti saw a different world than the rest of us and did his best to bring out the dark spinning details which were the definition of grotesque.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #46 - Alex Nino!

Alex Nino opened my eyes -- almost literally. Comics looked a certain way and I was perfectly happy with that certain way and to a great degree still am. But Alex Nino with his blisteringly different detailed approach to the comics page makes you look at it differently, read it differently, think about it differently. I will confess that not all Nino pages make sense to me, but all of them are compelling to look at, not unlike Escher prints. The images pull you in and demand attention. Nino is somehow more effective in black and white, it showcases the shapes and draws emphasis to the blacks. Nino's work almost feels like it was etched out of the page and not drawn upon it. Nino was just one of the many fantastic artists who suddenly appeared from the Philippines, showing up already accomplished. I love looking at Nino stories, reading them is not always an operative term.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #47 - Berni Wrightson!

Berni Wrightson (I just like his name without the final "e") came of age in the early days of my collecting career. He was the "horror artist" supreme, taking the stylings of Graham Ingels and the shadowy shapes of Frank Frazetta and pushing them forward into a new era. Wrightson made his bones, so to speak, on Swamp Thing, a comic about a muck monster and so much more. While Swamp Thing today is so much more about philosophy and such, back it was about Wrightson's lush artwork and classic monster tropes. I first tumbled onto his work in the Showcase trilogy starring Nightmaster. Wrightson joined with Mike Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Jeff (later Catherine) Jones to form The Studio, a desire on their part to become The Beatles of comics sort of. Wrightson was always the odd man out in that quartet, his stylings lurking more within recognizable horror notions and less with once fashionable illustrators of days gone by. I always felt that Wrightson was the most "comic booky" of the Studio guys. Wrightson's masterpiece is not a comic, but his illustrated Frankenstein and it is genius through and through. It was a sad day when Berni Wrightson left this world 

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #48 - Dave Stevens!

"Wow!" is right. For Valentine's Day I don't think any of my favorite artists nail the holiday any better than the late great Dave Stevens. Stevens rocked the comic book world in the early 80's when in the back pages of Pacific Comics Starslayer #2 he unleashed The Rocketeer. Immediately it was a hit and zoomed out of the back pages into cover status. Stevens blew us all away with his delectable depiction of the Rocketeer's number one damsel -- the ever vivacious Betty.

This is the one page I'd say had the same level of impact as the Silver Age debut of Mary Jane Watson. Stevens went on to become the go-to artist for good girl art across the comic book world, while at the same time continuing his main career in animation . In lieu of the holiday I'm offering up a few more examples of the vintage Stevens covers, quite simply because I could not choose among these love ladies -- so why do it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #49 - Reed Crandall!

Reed Crandall was the master of detail. That's how I remember this outstanding artist, one who had a career extending back to the earliest days working diligently for Quality Comics and later at the infamous EC Comics among others. I came across Crandall's art in the pages of Warren magazines where his lush fine lines found a perfect footing. A Crandall page seems almost to shimmer at times. He drew a fondly remembered werewolf yarn for Marvel which was also one of those pieces that I came across when I building my sense of what a good comic was. His art on Flash Gordon for King Comics had a gentleness to it which made you take note.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #50 - Paul Ryan!

Paul Ryan was a rarity, a classic artist in the era of Image. When the free-wheeling Image artists exploded across the field many others were forced to change or disappear from the pages of the day. The dynamics of the Image boys are clear, but also quite clear were weaknesses in draftsmanship and storytelling. Paul Ryan never fell victim to the trend, but continued (often partnered with Tom DeFalco) to deliver classic looking comic stories, well crafted and compelling. Ryan's turn on the Fantastic Four is among the sturdiest from that venerable series. Ryan honed his talent on the New Universe title D.P.7 and later on Quasar. He had good run on The Avengers before taking off to DC for a time. Later Ryan took his toys and became the artist on Lee Falk's seminal hero The Phantom. He was on this gig still when he died far too young.

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