A while back the SelfMadeHero gang asked their artists to put together Influence Maps of exactly that – our influences! Well a million years after the fact, here I am with my own verbose version…. Now this is no easy task! Nearly thirty years of reading comicbooks, BD, graphic novels in all their various wonderful forms, means that my list of influences and artists I love could spread for miles and miles and miles. So instead I am going to pick a handful, whom I don’t feel enough is always said.
First up is Danijel Zezelj, an immense talent from Croatia who is master of mood and atmosphere through his use of black. Indeed you won’t find much in the way of contour line-work, with his pages being built more from tonal graduation, as he himself explains in this interview. His storytelling skills are clear and concise allowing for him to play with stark silhouette and dark cinematography to create a bold, graphic style without any loss of clarity in the narrative. He has a decent body of work for both the European market as well the American.
Tony Salmons is one of those guys who bore a strange fascination for me as a child. I first came across him when I was about 10 years old in a back-up story in a G.I.Joe annual. His artwork was sparse, uncluttered, with nothing superfluous. This combined with his thin contour line-work and deft spotting of blacks helped to further enhance his tight pacing and storytelling. This economy of line and lack of unnecessary rendering made him standout in comparison to the regular artists that a child of 10 would normally gravitate towards. His art looked “cool”. As I got older and tracked down the rest of his work, he would go on to become one of my favourite “Kirby-descendants” (I tend to like the guys who don’t directly riff off of Kirby, but rather filter him through their own sensibilities such as Salmons, Walt Simonson, Mike Mignola). His work would also become more idiosyncratic as he would push the concepts of panel design and composition as far as he could, but never at the expense of the narrative itself. He continues to create great comics art with his own unique perspective, such as in the recent The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft for Image comics. I recommend this entry in the blog of my good friend Will Shyne for some lovely samples of Salmon’s work as well as a checklist of his work. Sadly, for someone who has been producing comics since the 1970s his body of work is very small.
The late Jorge Zaffino is another artist whose work I fell in love with at a young age. My early exposure to his genius came through early 1990’s Marvel comics, specifically 2 Punisher graphic novels and the odd Terror Inc. series. However, don’t let that give you any preconceptions as to what his work looked like. He owed nothing to the “Image-style” of the period, rather being a classicist in the vein of Al Williamson, with the rendering of an Alberto Breccia filtered at times through Bill Sienkiewicz, and a narrative skill worthy of Alex Toth. Like Breccia he was yet another master of the medium hailing from Argentina. He was another one who was a master of moody atmospherics, with a danger seething and boiling underneath, which would threaten to spill over where needed. I point adventure fans towards IDW’s recent book collecting Zaffino’s and writer Chuck Dizon’s WinterWorld series originally published by Eclipse in the 1980’s. IDW have done the right thing by Zaffino in publishing the book in gorgeous black and white.
Next up, I recommend you take a butchers at The Fancy Butchers, Lord Hurk and Kevin Ward. These two London-based illustrators have for the past 10 or so years been producing stunning comics and illustration work. Hurk’s is a mix of street art influence and comic surrealism, blended together with quirky sci-fi aesthetics and bound in clean, tight, tattoo penmanship, which makes this writer seethe with jealousy. Dress all that up with an eye for colour and design that is flawless, each small comic being an objet d’art, with added tactile feel.
Kevin Ward shares his collaborator’s skill for design and charmingly off-kilter aesthetics, whilst having a distinct vision all his own. From constructing images using his own thumb-prints, to his delicate use of wash, he also creates a world very unique to his own sensibilities. His art feels airy and dream-like, with a flow and grace that is as much to envy as his confidence in mark making.
I urge you to take a moment to check out these guy’s work. Enjoy!
So many other artists whose work I love. Where would I be without Sergio Toppi, Claire Wendling, Harvey Kurtzman, Daniel Torres, Russell Patterson, Jordi Bernet, David Lapham, Mick McMahon, David Mazzuchelli, Jaques Tardi and, of course, the maestro Alex Toth. Cheers, guys, for years of inspiration!
Finally, before I sign off, I want to point you towards another of my heroes, Rene Gruau, master of negative space and composition, and the exhibition of his Christian Dior work currently at Somerset House. This runs until 9th of January, and at six quid a ticket it’s a steal!
GONZO by Will Bingley and Anthony Hope-Smith is available to buy (with delivery) here or from all discerning comic shops and booksellers.