The fantasy painting by Daina Graziunas displayed below accompanied the story “Hope’s End” by Marv Wolfman, published in Epic Illustrated vol. 1, no. 2 (June 1980), pp. 22-23. I have removed some text and the magazine gutter from the image so we can all better appreciate Daina’s art. Apologies to Daina, however, if I’ve somehow messed it up.
From Creepy Magazine #125 (Feb 1981), here’s “Knight Errant” by author Roy Kinnard and illustrator Mike Saenz.
The story here is pretty clearly a riff on Richard Corben’s underground classic, “How Howie Made It in the Real World.” IMHO, of course.
Yes, I am familiar with the work of Clarence Coles Phillips. In fact, a book about Phillips and his work was published in 2019. Lovely!
Whether or not you think that a big Frazetta and Burroughs fan like a young Jeffrey Catherine Jones might have been “inspired” by Frazetta’s title-page illustration for Burroughs’ Tarzan and the City of Gold, you surely must agree that Jones’s fan art is all kinds of wonky. Particularly egregious from a pure drawing standpoint is Jones’s botched handling of the perspective of the woman’s arms and the failure of construction that is her shrivelled right hand. Frazetta handles the same pose/angle/elements simply and with aplomb, and he is able to do so partly because he has made the throne large enough, or the woman small enough, to give himself room to operate. In particular, notice that the cylindrical forms of both of the woman’s arms are reinforced by the curves of the wrist and upper arm bands — Jones does this on one wrist, and it’s effective — and the spaces between the large, swooping arms of the throne and the outstretched arms of Frazetta’s woman effectively, along with the subtle dimensional edges of the throne and a bit of tone, push the back of the throne back in space, so that the pose is believable. In fact, as an overall strategy here, Frazetta maintains a strict contrast between the open, unrendered figure and the very simply shaded/rendered elements that surround her. Jones, on the other hand, fills the spaces between the woman’s arms and her body with black ink, and makes the woman too large for the throne, so that the arms have no space to extend toward the viewer and rest on the arms of the throne in a natural way. What Jones does not seem to realize at this point is that no amount of deep shadow and scratchy rendering can solve bad figure construction.
There are other problems with Jones’s illustration, of course, but I’m just gonna leave it there.
Anyone who has delved into the archive of this site will know that I am a huge admirer of Jones’s work, but what this illustration shows is that everyone has to start somewhere, and that that somewhere is often far distant from where one ends up. In other words, and in short, there’s hope for us all, if only we will do the work.
In early May of this year, I approached Canadian illustrator Finn Matthews with an idea for a commission. Finn is currently working with writer Mahendra Singh, who is an excellent illustrator in his own right, on an ambitious graphic novel, Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God, that seeks to transmute Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (Part I & Part II) into Space Opera. My idea was to have Finn draw a scene from Tamburlaine that he had not yet tackled, but to do so in a way that would combine his love of Marlowe’s play and his existing Druillet-inspired designs with ideas and motifs from works by Gustave Moreau, Barry Windsor-Smith, and others — some old favourites of mine, basically — and on Friday of last week, I received via Canada Post the completed page, which is absolutely stunning. I think it’s fair to say that Finn and I both had a blast working together to shape the final art, and I thought it might be fun and instructive to display it here at RCN along with some of the images that the page references.
While the choice of scene was mine, it was entirely Finn’s idea to break it down into a three-panel sequence, complete with balloons featuring the precise subsection of the dialogue between the First Virgin and Tamburlaine that I had mentioned in conversation that I like best, which was a cool surprise. (When I first contacted Finn, I had thought that I was commissioning an inked drawing, not a fully formed comics page, which I think anyone would view as a significant upgrade, but let’s just say that, as the process unfolded, we both got a bit carried away.) The term “XenoBramic” in the opening word balloon is an addition to Marlowe that may or may not appear in Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God, which, when it is published, will be Finn’s first professional credit in comics. Follow Finn on Twitter and/or Instagram for updates on the progress of his and Mahendra’s graphic novel. And publishers: there are still opportunities for a few brave souls worldwide to join the crew of Tamburlaine’s corsair, the Maa-Durga, which is already prowling the space lanes for plunder and booty, so hup to it!
What interests me about these juxtapositions is not merely Achilleos’s obvious debt to Frazetta but that each of the artists revised his original composition after first publication. Whether the compositions are better or worse now, you can decide for yourself. In both instances, however, the changes were probably driven by what I like to call “the tyranny of second thoughts.” That is, once one gets it into one’s head that improvements are possible, it is damned difficult to resist sacrificing what one has for the promise of something better.