Category: Retro Fix


A month ago here at borg.com we discussed looking outside the comic book medium for the artwork of your favorite comic book artists.  You don’t need to look too far outside of comic books to find the next great artwork from fan-favorite cover artist Ryan Sook.  Every year just in advance of San Diego Comic-Con, comic book stores are stocked with the annual update to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  First published in 1970, the 1,200 page log of nearly every comic book published to-date arrives at its 48th volume this summer, dated 2018-2019.  Known as the go-to guide for prices for a generation of collectors, Robert M. Overstreet’s book of prices and thumbnail photos is also a source to glean what’s happened in the past year by way of comic book trends.  It features its own hall of fame for comic book legends, plus full-color sections highlighting some of today and yesteryear’s best covers.

For this year’s comic book store exclusive hardcover edition, Gemstone Publishing tapped Ryan Sook to create a cover to commemorate 50 years of Planet of the Apes films.  Sook reached beyond the original to reflect imagery from throughout the Planet of the Apes movie saga– a great homage to the original shocking environment as Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor arrives in the future horrifying world of human scarecrows, with General Ursus leading the charge and the creepy denizens in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the return to the past by spaceship for the apes in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, to the militant world and apes under arrest in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, culminating with the eagerly-awaited first appearance of The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  The familiar image of Roddy McDowall behind John Chambers’ Oscar-worthy make-up takes center stage–McDowall connects all of the films alternately as Cornelius and Caesar (and later as Galen in the TV series), and here he cleverly blocks the identity of the planet.

You can only purchase this edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in comic book stores, so put in a call to Elite Comics to make sure you get a copy when this new edition arrives in July.

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Mike Mayhew The Star Wars panel 4

First it was Mike Mayhew and Star Trek and Doctor Who.
Then it was Mike Mayhew and Green Arrow.
Then it was Mike Mayhew and The Bionic Man and The Bionic Woman.
Now it’s Mike Mayhew and Star Wars.

Isn’t it great when the stars align and the people creating new entertainment are in sync with your view of the world?  Like taking your all-time favorite genre franchise and mixing it with your current favorite artist?

To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “This is just… neat.”

The comic book licensee to the Star Wars universe, Dark Horse Comics has announced one of the coolest ideas you could put together.  Go back to George Lucas’s original take on Star Wars–before the edits and revisions and treatments and full-blown screenplays. Take that original story and re-imagine the Star Wars universe as if the original vision was Star Wars.  That’s exactly what long-time Lucasfilm executive editor J.W. Rinzler and current The Bionic Man cover artist Mike Mayhew have up their sleeves.  Coming in September 2013 is an eight-issue mini-series, titled The Star Wars, the title of Lucas’s 1974 version of the Star Wars saga.

Mike Mayhew The Star Wars panel 3

The images above and below are Mike Mayhew’s first released panel art from The Star Wars.

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Some quick background:  In April 2005 I got a chance to meet Michael Turner at a comics convention.   I had known of his work from seeing his Aspen designs (Fathom in particular is a visual treat).  But what was really big then was his Superman/Batman covers.  I told him and colorist Peter Steigerwald that his cover to Superman/Batman #13 fifty years from now would be a defining cover for the first decade of the millenium.  Some Turner covers:

       

Turner had brought to the convention albums of all his comic book pencil art to-date.  I expected to see some incredible work.  What I saw was epic.  Leonardo da Vinci epic.  As I was “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the pages his co-creators mentioned the enormous time he puts into each page.  His pencils for the Superman/Batman covers were stunning, but his interior art of Batman was intricately detailed to a level you would have to see to believe.  Luckily for us, DC caught on to his pencil sketches and put out some alternate covers without the color, but even they didn’t match seeing the pages in your hands.  An original Turner piece used for three covers that Aspen owns:

Nothing against Steigerwald–comics need color and his coloring style was and is great–but sometimes colorists hide some of the best of the pencilist’s craft.  Sadly, Turner passed away just before the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008 at only 37 and we missed out on half a lifetime’s worth of stunning covers and interior art for sure.

Comic readers are always on the lookout for the next big thing.  Like Alex Ross, who has been around in the limelight even before Turner.  Alex Ross has a different style, focusing his best work on painting incredible covers of almost every subject you can think of, from DC to Marvel to political commentary.  Ross has become the #1 cover artist of choice among fans, almost without debate.

But last year the Green Arrow title started picking up steam with its cover art.  Check these out:

       

A new artist, Mauro Cascioli, had quietly entered the comic book scene and was putting out some stunning painted covers.  Who was this guy?  Cascioli was born in Buenos Aires in 1978.  Between 1992 and 2004 his work could be seen in the Brazil version of Rolling Stone magazine.  Then in 2005 he started working for DC Comics.  In 2007 he drew interior art and cover work for The Trials of Shazam limited series.  And his work in the book looks good, great even.  But then look at a page of his original pencil work for the Shazam series:

Cascioli has his own style, but his incredible detail work reminds me of another artist.  Yes, Michael Turner.  I think his Batman renderings are right up there with Frank Miller’s in The Dark Knight Returns, and Jim Lee’s landmark boot-in-your-face Batman as seen in his “Hush” storyline of the Batman title.  And I like how his Superman looks like Christopher Reeve.  Cascioli then moved on to the standout series Justice League of America: Cry for Justice.  Here is a page of his original interior art to Cry for Justice:

Again, stunning pencils.  In my view, Mauro Cascioli is THE artist to watch.  What is he up to right now?  It’s hard to tell.  The DC press releases about its reboot this past month listed more than 100 creators, but Cascioli wasn’t on the list.  Now it could be because they intended to only list writers and interior artists.  But I hope that DC’s powers-that-be take a second look at Cascioli’s interior pages.  Because as much as I love his Green Arrow painted covers, it would be great to be able to open a book and get that same level inside, and from someone whose work is as exciting to see as anyone we’ve seen…well, since Michael Turner. 

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

Review by C.J. Bunce

We reported earlier about the replacement of certain New 52 DC Comics titles that were launched last fall.  Men of War was one of those titles on the cancellation list.  If nothing else, low readership begs the question of whether war titles have a shot in the current state of the world.

Since the 1970s war titles seem to have had a rough time staying alive.  I am not sure how much of it relates to the topic of war as opposed to the spark of great storytelling grabbing and keeping readers.  Back in the 1980s I read Marvel Comics’ The ‘Nam series during Michael Golden’s stint as artist.  The ‘Nam was a success by any measure, surviving for seven years.  The stories were gritty and well done–they dealt with the daily trials of the foot soldier–and they survived almost miraculously despite dealing with no issues about drugs, and had no profanity because of the Comics Code.  They barely discussed the politics of the day, too.  But despite that, good stories caused readers to keep reading.

I also think readers will read anything good, regardless of genre category, and most regular comic book readers won’t shy away from any genre regardless of the subject, here “war comics”.  That said, I read Men of War and it didn’t work for me.  I think Issue #1 just featured too much action, too much sergeants yelling and the stereotypical movie “gung ho” vibe, and not enough character building.  Basically we saw a descendant of the classic Sergeant Rock of decades past himself become sergeant in today’s world.  It actually reminded me of the 1960s black and white TV series Combat!  an ongoing series of the daily trials of men at war.  The Sergeant Rock story was followed by a Navy Seals story, including an ending featuring a baddie who shockingly uses a woman as a shield.  The stuff of real-life war and the evening news.  If you like reality in comics then you may have liked that series.  If you see comics as escapism, well, this was perhaps not the best place to find it.

So last week saw the launch of G.I. Combat, as part of the New 52 Second Wave, which included both an ongoing G.I. Combat story and a second story reviving the unknowable super-soldier, the Unknown Soldier, a character derived in part from from the tomb of the same name in Washington, DC.  The character the Unknown Soldier has been around in various series for years at DC Comics, and he sees a short resurgence from time to time.

The first issue of G.I. Combat works for three reasons.

First, JT Krul and Ariel Olivetti sort of cheat here, because they added bacon.  I’ll explain.  If you ever watch competitive food shows like Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star, you often see judges jokingly tell contestants they cheated because they added bacon to a dish that may not have otherwise succeeded.  Here, the bacon is dinosaurs.  That’s right–if you can’t make your war comic succeed, throw in dinosaurs.  After all, who doesn’t like dinosaurs?  Frank Cho has been gearing up to release his own topic on the very same subject, Guns & Dinos, and his Shanna series also had military group taking on dinosaurs.  It’s hard to miss when you mix these together.

The alternate/incentive cover to Issue 1.

But to be fair, the second reason is the book works on its own merits.  JT Krul’s story is good, and Ariel Olivetti’s painterly style is just superb.  The story, “The War That Time Forgot” begins with a secret corps soldier on a live video chat with his wife.  The immediate focus on the personal creates a character that hooks the reader in quickly.  Scenes of the soldiers on an expected routine mission that ends up with pterodactyls surprisingly works, too.  Argentine artist Olivetti may be the next artist to keep an eye on.  You can see both some Adam Hughes and Mauro Cascioli in his work.  In fact, Olivetti has referred to fellow Argentine Cascioli, one of our favorites artists here at borg.com, as an influence on his style.

Some of Ariel Olivetti’s art from GI Combat.

The second story, “The Unknown Soldier” is also well written and well drawn.  I’m a little biased, however, as Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, the writers on the second story, are also my favorite current comic book writing team, telling the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in DC’s All-Star Western.  Dan Panosian’s panels are classic Charlton Comics war images–the story just looks like a classic war series.

But my third reason to like the book comes from the Unknown Soldier story.  Gray and Palmiotti’s hero is the type of timeless war hero that you would see played in the movies by John Wayne or Arnold Schwartzenegger.  A phoenix of sorts, this soldier is strong and he is a survivor, something everyone wants in a soldier story.

Since there are apparently no real rules to building a successful new war comic, maybe expanding readers’ preconception as to what a war comic is will be the ticket to a successful ongoing series.

Review by C.J. Bunce

If someone were to ask you whether you prefer covers to books or movie posters or compact discs that were either (1) painted or (2) created via computer using compilations of photographs, which would you choose?  Do you know anyone who would prefer a photo cover to a cover painted by an artist?  Would you believe it that the powers that be, those folks who make all the decisions from On High, claim that focus groups and marketing studies show that consumers prefer photos to paintings?  Who and where are these test subjects, and what planet do these people hail from?

The comic book medium has realized what audiences have preferred for years, which is why they enlist the likes of Alex Ross, Mauro Cascioli and Adam Hughes to paint covers, it’s why the main covers of comic books used to entice an audience almost always have renderings drawn or painted and only rarely do you see a “photo incentive cover” as a limited edition item.  Were it true that we, the audience, preferred photo enticements to illustrations by artists, don’t you think comic book publishing would have figured that out by now when they create movie and TV adaptations?  I think the reality is that decision makers in marketing departments in the entertainment industry (outside of the comic world) are often out of touch with real audiences.  That distancing explains why so many movie trailers are made so poorly, too.  It explains why movie posters these days cease to grab our attention like they once did.

What was the last movie poster that caused you to stop in your tracks and want to go see a movie?  That, after all, is the point of a poster, isn’t it?

The original classic art by Struzan for the 1978 re-release of Star Wars

The Art of Drew Struzan at first blush is a coffee table book chronicling the work of the artist Time Magazine called “the Last Movie Poster Artist.”  Along with the books Drew Struzan: Oeuvre (2004) and The Movie Posters Of Drew Struzan (2004) you can see the entirety of more than 150 movie posters Struzan has produced during decades of painting for studios big and small.  And if you were going to pick one of the three books for a reference book on Struzan at a book shop, you might skip over The Art of Drew Struzan for one of the other books that has more movie posters featured.  But skipping this one would be a big mistake.

Original comp art by Struzan for John Carpenter's The Thing

From the introduction by Frank Darabont, director of such big films as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, (two films borg.com writer Jason McClain and I can’t stop talking about over the years), you know that you are beginning to read a very unique kind of book.  A bit from Darabont’s introduction:

“I have seen the future, and it sucks…. There’s no sugar-coating this.  Movie posters suck these days.  They’re going to suck even more tomorrow.  And as we shuck and jive (and text and Facebook) ever onward into the digital future, movie posters will just keep doggedly and willfully sucking all the more.  It’s a headlong progression of suckage, a symptom of the mass-produced everything-by-committee mindset of our culture….”

Amen, brother!

Struzan's comp for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which did not make it to a final poster

What Darabont is speaking of is the advent of the digital creation of “art” via Mac utilities and the likes of Adobe Photoshop, where productions can design a cover or poster work far cheaper by having anyone on staff easily combine photos of actors and scenes into an image, without including any input from a trained artist.  It’s pseudo-art, images made to think we’re looking at a creative work, without considering the artistic thought that used to go behind such works.

Changes in marketing leadership ended Struzan's role in the Potter films mid-way through creating Chamber of Secrets

The text of The Art of Drew Struzan that accompanies the images found in its pages is all Drew Struzan as he explains not just the work of the artist, but the decline of the profession of making movie posters itself.  Struzan uses highlights of his projects from the beginning of public recognition of Struzan for his work on the international poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 to a poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008.  Better yet, he uses in-progress artwork never before made public to illustrate his creative process for each movie featured in the book, artwork that he calls “comps.”

If you were just flipping through the book at a bookstore you may pass this one because it is missing a lot of key subjects in Struzan’s past–images like his work on movies featuring the Muppets, for example, or Jurassic Park and E.T., the Extra-terrestrial, that are among his most notable works.  As you read through the book you understand how a lot of his early comps were never retained–the cost was too high for a struggling artist to pay for copies, or studios kept the comps.  So the existence of this compilation alone is a lucky thing to witness.

The comp for Hellboy by Struzan, which never made it to final poster

What Struzan reveals in this book is a story not just of someone who is the universally acknowledged king of movie poster painting.  That of course is true.  But he apparently is like a lot of classic artists of centuries past, who never received the full monetary benefits that his “benefactors” (here, the  filmmakers) were able to make from his work, and the “millions” audiences assume he made from this work.  This is a story of a struggling artist, barely a blue-collar life, in his view, at points in his career, although he was selected and admired for projects by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Guillermo del Toro.  This is also a how-to book of sorts for aspiring artists wishing they could be mentored by such a superb painter.

Struzan reveals a dwindling of artistic control for the artists as it happened over just a few decades for him, where “the suits” from Hollywood showed less and less respect for his artistry to the point that Struzan got fed-up and retired.

Not even this great poster would likely have made Waterworld succeed at the box office

Look for key featured Struzan works for movie posters that never made it to final form in movie marquees, such as Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Waterworld, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth.  And the amazing variety of different styled comps are evident as seen in the pages for Blade Runner, the Back to the Future films, the Indiana Jones films, and the Star Wars prequels.  The quality of the images included stands strong for those wanting the traditional coffee table book, too.

The Art of Drew Struzan retails for $34.95 but can be found less expensive at online bookstores.  And if you’d like to own the original art, many images are still for sale at Struzan’s website.

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