Wednesday, February 04, 2015

STATE OF THE SMALL PRESS NATION continued...

Another chapter in Andy Oliver’s fascinating series over at Broken Frontier on the UK small press comic scene . It features some thoughts from me.

Have a read here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

COPY THIS! #11


I have a one page comic called "Why It's Good to Feel Pain" in the latest issue of Copy This! - #11.

This is the first of two "All Art!" issues, which will feature many cartoonists, including Howard Cruse, R.C. Harvey and Steve Lafler.

For more information, e-mail D.Blake Werts at bwerts@vnet.net

Saturday, January 24, 2015

AL WILLIAMSON


[I put up the following piece at the time of Al Williamson's death. It has disappeared off my blog, so I am reposting.]

Al Williamson has died.

He worked in comics since the 1950s, when he was part of the legendary EC comics stable. His longevity has meant that he has had an impact on many generations. I became aware of him when he did the Marvel Comics adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back:


Back then I could instinctively tell that this artwork was superior to other stuff being published. It’s classical style clicked with me, and couple with the excitement about a new Star Wars, it was irresistible.

Williamson drew some of the spin-off Star Wars comics Marvel published too. This is from 1981, issue 50:



He’d been well known for drawing Flash Gordon in the 1960s too, taking on the mantle of artist from Alex Raymond – himself a big influence on the young Williamson. The Flash Gordon movie of 1980 certainly had a different tone than the comics, but the adaptation was handed over to Williamson to draw, a choice which delighted fans:


I first saw Blade Runner on video in 1983 and was excited about a new film with Han Solo in it. However I quickly grew tired of it and went off to play with my cousins instead. A couple of years later Return of the Jedi Weekly in the UK began running Williamson’s Blade Runner adaptation as a back up strip. Wow – what artwork once again by this guy. I had to see the film again to re-evaluate it. The comic is beautiful:


By 1983 Return of the Jedi was ready to come out. The comic was advertised showing parts of Williamson’s artwork. Again, it’s dynamite:


So he’s done Empire and Jedi, but not the original movie. If only he could have a go at adapting the original Star Wars I thought to myself. There was another Star Wars comic by Williamson in Star Wars issue 98 in 1985. Bonus greatness:


I got my first taste of Williamson’s original Flash Gordon work in one of Alan Class’ UK black and white collections. These were little treasure troves with plenty of prime Ditko, Kirby and other great little stories from the 50s and 60s. But what did I spot in the newsagent one day in the mid 80s? An Amazing Stories of Suspense cover featuring Flash Gordon which was unmistakably by Williamson:


An Art of Al Williamson book was released in 1983. I finally got a hold of it years later. It contained something I didn’t know had existed. Unpublished Star Wars strips drawn in 1977 chronicling the first movie:


After the Empire adaptation, Williamson got the job of doing the Star Wars newspaper strips. I cut a bunch of them out of a huge pile of Sunday Express magazines that were sat in the back on my biology classroom in the late 80s. They really are beautiful:


In the early 90s, Dark Horse Comics re-jigged and reprinted the strips, editing them so as to fit a standard comic book format, with Williamson expanding on his artwork and sometimes drawing entirely new pictures. So, for instance, the preceding Sunday strip became a two pager:


Beginning in the late 80s Williamson put more time into inking comics. He made everybody he inked look better. Williamson’s work with John Romita JR. on Daredevil is generally regarded to be the latter’s best.


In 1995 Marvel put out a new Flash Gordon two part series by Williamson. Great stuff once again:


The last published new work by Williamson that I’m aware of was a Sub-Mariner story from last year:


Great to still see those evocative lines in the sea background, and lithe figure work too.

Another strip he drew for many years was Secret Agent Corrigan, which is all going to be collected soon. Here’s a nice moody three panels:


I’ve picked up other Williamson comics over the years. As much as I could growing up in a town without a comic shop.

Here’s a nice page from Alien Worlds in 1984:


This is a 1990s reprint of Sound of Thunder from 1954:


There have been many more books on Williamson since The Art of in 1983. There has also been a collection of all his Flash Gordon work which looks tremendous. I’ve mock-complained with my friends that every time I turn around, someone else has brought out a book on Al Williamson! Didn’t stop me buying and enjoying them though…


I had just ordered The Al Williamson Archives which is due out in September. It’ll be a bittersweet experience looking through it now.

For many years my admiration of Williamson was such that I thought the best word to describe his work was “impossible”. How could anyone draw entire comic books to that standard? It just seemed impossibly good. As I got older I realised that it came down to bloody hard work. Williamson didn’t have a magic paintbrush that produced this stuff, he had talent and had to sit down and put the hours in to make it all look so good.

I was paralysed in my own drawing by Williamson. For a long time, I thought I had to measure myself against him. I could never reach that level (no-one did), so I was stuck. I finally had to throw him away completely from my thinking when drawing my own stuff, which finally liberated me.

Now I’m free to enjoy and marvel at the beautiful artwork that is still there on the page.

Thank you, Al Williamson.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

STATE OF THE SMALL PRESS NATION continued…


Another chapter in Andy Oliver’s fascinating series over at Broken Frontier on the UK small press comic scene . It features some thoughts from me.

Have a read here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

INKSTUDS at THOUGHT BUBBLE

I wrote before about how keen I was to see Robin McConnell do the two Inkstuds live sessions at Thought Bubble.

They were recorded, and the first is now online here.

Robin has even pinched the photo I took, and so I will now hunt him down and demand whatever it is he is due me for doing that.

(In all seriousness, I was quite chuffed).

Saturday, January 03, 2015

DUMP #2 in XEROGRAPHY DEBT #36

The latest issue of Xerography Debt (#36) is out now. I received my copy today and inside Anne Thalheimer has reviewed my comic Dump #2.

More information on Xerography Debt can be found here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

CHRISTMAS COMICS: DAREDEVIL


One thing you don’t want to do if you’re in New York in a 1980s Daredevil comic is dress up as Santa Claus to raise money for charity.

Daredevil is Matt Murdock - a blind man with radar; like a bat. He is therefore able to do gymnastics and fight with supervillains and stop bank robberies. His most ridiculous power is that his sense of touch is so sensitive that he can read newspapers by feeling the ink. Isn’t that great?

I like Daredevil. I first read him when he was into his stint by Frank Miller. Miller wrote and drew Daredevil in a gritty nasty fashion.

One of the most celebrated storylines of the 80s finds Murdock the victim of The Kingpin Wilson Fisk, who has had Murdock be disgraced and lose his job; blown up his house, and then tried to kill him.

It’s all taking place at Christmas!



This comic had ads for M&Ms and MASK toys. And fabulous art by David Mazzucchelli.

Miller was a very influential and popular writer and when he left Daredevil his were a difficult pair of shoes to fill. Ann Nocenti stepped in and did a great job. Her writing has characters who are rather philosophical, always thinking through the rights and wrongs of what they're doing and what’s going on around them. I’d previously read her on the Star Wars and Longshot comics and enjoyed those.

In this story, Daredevil encourages a group of kids to do the right thing, only to have a twist at the end anyway...


As you can see, Todd McFarlane is starting to get work at Marvel Comics here. We were quietly entering the next phase of superhero comics. From Mazzucchelli to McFarlane in less than a year.

McFarlane moved on to The Hulk as a regular gig, and stepping in to Daredevil was John Romita Jr. 

Picking up the story as charity street Santa is being robbed…


Inking there by the tremendous Al Williamson. The comics look great, and are still continuing with Nocenti’s moral philosophising.

As with all superhero comics, Daredevil appeared in titles other than his own. He’s in the first issue of Marvel Fanfare – a title with glossy paper throughout. Here’s the opening to a story by Roger McKenzie and Paul Smith…


Merry Christmas!