If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, the comic book is an underappreciated literary form in the U.S. For the most part, the genre has been ignored because of the pretentiousness and snobbery inherent in my field of study. Yeah, I’ll admit there are an awful lot of really crappy comics out there, but there are also some amazing stories being told as well. In addition to the comic writers who are doing an amazing job, there are also some breathtaking artists working in the field who deserve some accolades.
Alex Ross is probably the most celebrated artist working in comics right now. His work imbues characters which are larger than life with an amazing sense of humanity. If you’ve never seen his works go here for a partial archive. Unfortunately, Ross is the exception and many other artists go unnoticed outside of the world of comics. Maybe in some small way I can change that.
Go here for a gallery wherein comic book artists have produced artistic interpretations of literary figures. The interface for the gallery is a little funny. You have to use the little arrows on the side to scroll up and down, and after you’ve clicked and looked at an individual piece and go back it will place you at the very beginning again. When I first explored the page I thought there were only a few images, but that was only because I was just seeing the first page. Take some time to look through the list of all the works, and then go back and look at some. Here are some I found particularly well done.
Aldus Huxley by Brian Ashmore. Brian has penciled some Batman books which I haven’t read, and the mini-series “Hulk: Nightmerica,” which was quite good.
Mark Twain by John Buscema. John was an artist who produced a prolific amount of work over several decades. He worked on many of Marvel’s flagship books, such as The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and my personal favorite, Thor.
William Goldman by Bo Hampton. Shockingly, I’m not familiar with Bo, but rest assured that I will now make myself familiar with his work.
Ernest Hemingway by Mike Hawthorne. I have to say that this one took my breath away. Mike perfectly captured a tortured soul. I always found it hard to understand how such a rugged, handsome man who looked so physically strong could have been so emotionally vulnerable. Mike’s book “Queen and Country” is not something you want to miss, either.
Salman Rushdie by Dave McKean. This is probably one of my favorites. Dave McKean has done many illustrations for Neil Gaiman (who’s going to be in Austin in two weeks), and his movie Mirror Mask, which he co-created with Gaiman, should be out very soon.
Kurt Vonnegut by Jim Rugg. I’m not familiar with Jim’s work, but that piece is amazing.
Stephen King by Ken Meyer Jr. Another artist I haven’t seen before, but he’s very good. He certainly gives Stephen an air of the other-worldly.
Dracula by Mike Mignola. Mike’s the creator of Hellboy, which is an amazing book. He’s extremely adept at negative space and dark shading. The movie adaptation was ok, but all it managed to capture was the fighting aspect of the book. Mike is extremely well versed in Lovecraftian lore and Germanic and Anglo-Saxon mythology, which he laces throughout his books. I think that Mike might be a better writer than he is an artist, and that’s saying an awful lot.
Do yourself a favor: the next time you are lacking some quality reading material, pick up a graphic novel and the give the comic genre a try. If you need some recommendations of which book you should start with”¦well, I’m the guy to ask.