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.
In 1972, Kitchen Sink Enterprises published and distributed Fever Dreams, an underground, fantasy comic that included two stories written by Jan Strnad: “The Unicorn Quest,” with art by John Adkins Richardson and “To Meet the Faces You Meet,” with art by the now-legendary Richard Corben. Flash forward forty-eight years — years that delivered to comics fans numerous first-rate Strnad/Corben comics collaborations — and we are now on the cusp of having a high-quality, feature-length, hybrid live-action/animated movie adaptation of “To Meet the Faces You Meet” to enjoy. But this isn’t just any adaptation, it’s an adaption with a script by J. Allen Williams of Parallax Studio, and the man himself, Jan Strnad, that is actually inspired by and respectful of Corben’s conceptual designs, and what’s more, Williams, who is the director and producer of the movie as well as a co-writer, has welcomed the input of Strnad and Corben at every stage of the production.
As his fans are undoubtedly aware, Corben has, from the beginning of his career as an artist, had an abiding interest in animation, and has himself produced a variety of short films over the years, the most ambitious of which were the animated short film, Neverwhere (1968), which included the earliest appearance of Den and won several awards, and The Dark Planet (1989), an anthology that included “The Tower of Blood” and “Relief Station.” In addition, in 1981, Corben’s Neverwhere graphic novel was adapted to the big screen as a sequence in the film “Heavy Metal,” and in 2012, his story, “King’s Crown,” was adapted for the TV series, Metal Hurlant Chronicles. And now Corben has given his blessing to the forthcoming movie adaptation of “To Meet the Faces You Meet.”
Why am I telling you this? Because, although the animation for the film is complete, and the lead character, MEAD, voiced by Patton Oswalt, has been recorded, Parallax still has work to do. Actors need to be hired for the lead human parts and their performances, filmed and combined with the animation. Now, I have no doubt that the film will, no matter what, eventually be completed, but the fact is, the more money Parallax has, the more leeway they will have to hire experienced actors who best embody the characters. And that is why, on 09 May 2020, the studio created a Kickstarter campaign for their movie.
To learn about the campaign, which includes a variety of levels and rewards, you should visit Parallax’s official “To Meet the Faces You Meet” Kickstarter page. Corben fans, however, should know that, while everyone who contributes to the campaign will get their name in the credits of the movie and in a special-edition comic, other reward possibilities include 1) a Blu-Ray of the completed film, 2) a special, oversized, Kickstarter-exclusive edition of “To Meet the Faces You Meet” with the original Fever Dreams cover art and masthead, 3) a 12.5 x 18 inch print of the original Fever Dreams cover art and masthead, and more!
As a Corben fan myself, I selfishly hope that you, dear reader, will seriously consider supporting this project, because the fact is, I want the film, I want the oversized, remastered reprint of “To Meet the Faces You Meet,” and I want the poster of that cover.
And last but not least, I want comics fans to support the “fever dreams” of two legendary creators: Jan Strnad and Richard Corben!
For if they feel the love, who can say what dreams may come?!