I’m a couple of days late with this notice, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really have anything to say about the death of Russell Hoban that would be of interest to anyone, but I will probably be back to add to the list of links below as more notices and tributes to the great man appear on the Web, and I definitely plan to supplement this post with a visual tribute to Russell Hoban in the near future. So watch for updates!
UPDATE (16 December 2011): RCN’s VISUAL TRIBUTE TO RUSSELL HOBAN:
Russell Conwell Hoban was born in Lansdale, Pa., west of Trenton, N.J., and north of Philadelphia, on Feb. 4, 1925. His parents were Ukrainian immigrants who opened a newsstand in Philadelphia. His father, who died when Russell was 12, also worked as an advertising manager for The Jewish Daily Forward.
After high school he attended art school in Philadelphia and served in the Army in Europe during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. At his death he was awaiting publication of a new book, “Soonchild,” due early next year.
“Writing was my father’s life,” Phoebe Hoban said Wednesday, “and when he died he had done what he needed to do.”
Mr. Hoban had lived in London since 1969. His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Gundula Ahl; their three sons, Jake, Ben and Wieland; four children from his first marriage to Lillian Aberman: three daughters, Phoebe, Esmé and Julia, and a son, Brom; and 13 grandchildren.
“I think death will be a good career move for me. People will say, ‘Yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let’s look at him again.'” — Russell Hoban, interview (2002)
“A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure. The artist who tries to serve nature is only an executive artist. And, since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not depends entirely on what it is in itself, what is there to be seen.” — Lucian Freud
Freud’s paint handling seems to miraculously turn paint into flesh. His pictures owe a lot to the great English painter Sir Stanley Spencer. Actually, all painters who move thick paint around in a way that makes it seem as if it’s not paint, but real physical flesh, ultimately claim roots in Rembrandt and Velázquez. But where those two painting giants retrieved human dignity from out of its fleshly variations, Freud carried on in the more brutal, modern understanding of flesh — an approach that amounts to saying, “Nothing to do about it; we’re stuck in these things called bodies.”
Lucian Freud was frequently described as a contemporary old master, a Rembrandt for our times. But his work was in fact a radical breach of tradition. He painted people, but not quite (or not often) portraits. He painted from the life, but his life paintings were clearly not moments in the lives of those he painted — models, magnates, office workers, whippets, his many lovers, his many daughters — so much as scenes of their physical presence in his studio.
That bleak room in west London (its address carefully guarded), with its bare floor, discoloured walls and heaps of paint-smutched rags, was the constant theatre of his art. It became as familiar as his figures and their poses: huddled, sprawling, crouched or splayed, genitals dangling or parted, head thrown back or lolling, sometimes in pairs, but most often alone, bodies removed from their clothes, and perhaps even separated from their selves, their souls.
For the longest time, Freud seemed a throwback, someone who addressed and battled School of Paris painting. As the world lurched away from French traditions, toward abstraction, pop, and beyond, Freud seemed to stand still.
Yet this is his salvation — and what makes him such an important artist to come to terms with. He is so dogmatic and insistent on doing what he does in spite of whatever trends come and go, while at the same time being world-famous and famously consistent, that his art now exists as a champion island in the mainstream for artists. Every artist will one day face the moment when he or she is doing what he or she does after the style has passed and the art-world heat-seeking machine has moved on. Lucian Freud’s career affirms that the only thing an artist can do is remain true to whatever vision, (lack of) talent, or ideas that happened to pick them in order to be made known to the world.
His wildness, even in youth, was only half the truth. Lucian was also, as he put it, “very steady in his way”. He told the story of Augustus John’s son, Caspar, who in later life became an Admiral. Someone once remarked to him on the contrast between his career in the navy, and the rackety bohemian milieu of his father. “To be a painter”, answered Admiral John, “requires enormous discipline”. That was true of Lucian too: the astonishing determination needed to carry on painting, decade after decade, through every sort of discouragement, all day every day. His whole career was a tremendous gamble, on his own talent.
“I want paint to work as flesh, I know my idea of portraiture
came from dissatisfaction with portraits that resembled people. I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having to look at the sitter, being them. As far as I am concerned, the paint is the person. I want it to work for me just as the flesh does.” — Lucian Freud
Legendary artist and gentleman Gene Colan, 84, whose career in comics spanned seven decades and included definitive work on many popular characters, including Dracula, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, and Howard the Duck, died Thursday 23 June 2011 at about 11:00 pm at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx from complications of liver disease and cancer. A private funeral will be held on Sunday. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that Colan’s friends and admirers consider a donation to the new Gene Colan Scholarship at the Joe Kubert School.
It was at Marvel that the artist’s work really began to blossom to its fullest potential. Via the Marvel Method of creating comics, the artist was allowed to compose and direct the stories in the manner that he saw fit (and a writer later scripted the drawn pages) — in his imagination, the conceivable was always achievable. Colan orchestrated action flawlessly and never let the comic art board intimidate him. Those that looked at the quality of his stories in “Daredevil” or “Sub-Mariner” saw a bold artist that brought his heroes to life in true cinematic fashion, equipped with a camera that conveyed the grand movement and power of the Marvel Heroes. His stylized technique and craftsmanship were the strengths that Colan would pass on to his readers in everything he did.
As a reader, I loved Gene’s work. There was a credibility about it: No matter how outlandish the premise or plot, Gene somehow made you believe it. His pencil art was magnificent…in many ways, too good for the assembly line production process and the flimsy printing that it usually received. As good as his work looked in your comics, it was always probably better.
I later got to love Gene. He was a charming, self-effacing gentleman who was genuinely moved when fans tried to tell him how good he was and how much joy his work had given them. He heard that a lot and remained utterly unspoiled by all the praise. In a way, it seemed to make him try harder to improve his drawing and live up to what they said he was.
Mr. Colan’s work was noteworthy on several counts. The first was its sheer duration: He completed his first professional assignment in the 1940s and his last a year or two ago. In between, his art was a mainstay of the Silver Age of comics, as the period from the mid-1950s to about 1970 — a time of heady artistic ferment in the field — is known.
The second was its prodigious volume: Over nearly seven decades he illustrated many hundreds of comics, from the famous, including Batman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk, to the possibly less so, including Ben Casey, Falling in Love and Captain Britain.
The third was his visual style, by all accounts unlike that of any other artist in the business. Where comic-book art tends toward deliberately flat, stylized images, Mr. Colan preferred a realistic look that emphasized texture and fluidity: the drape of a hero’s cape, tilt of a head, the arc of an oncoming fist.
A lifelong film buff, Mr. Colan was known as a master of light and shadow, which lent his work a noirish, cinematic quality.
[…] Gene Colan never would be mistaken for anything less than what he was: One of comics’ unique stylists. He wielded his pencil like a brush to capture the toned subtleties of action, emotion and lighting. He brought a cinematographer’s vision to comics storytelling, and his stories were instantly recognized by fans, treasured by scholars and appreciated enviously by even his most accomplished peers.
While delighting his fans, Colan often frustrated his writers. He was notorious for never reading scripts in advance, so he often ran out of pages before drawing the end of the story. Meanwhile, he would devote half a page to a hand turning a doorknob, or three pages to Captain America merely walking down a street. His indulgences were accepted in the 1960s, when Lee put the artists in charge of pacing the stories. But Colan encountered resistance in the 1970s, when the writers gained influence, and especially in the 1980s, when the editors seized control.
Ultimately, he outgrew his inkers, who always struggled to delineate Colan’s complex penciled drawings. By the 1980s, Colan’s penciling style and printing technology were so refined that, starting with Dean Mullaney at Eclipse Comics, publishers skipped the traditional inking stage and started reproducing Colan’s textured work straight from his pencils, starting with writer Don McGregor’s Ragamuffins and Nathaniel Dusk. Once Mullaney opened this door, printing from Colan’s pencils became the default for the next 20-plus years. Even at the end of his career – Colan’s final feature-length story was a 2009 issue of Captain America – Marvel produced two editions, one in color and the other in black-and-white, so fans could appreciate the pure beauty of Colan’s pencils.
No one could or likely ever will draw quite like Gene Colan.
The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog > Gene Colan is Dead by Rob Vollmar. Here’s an excerpt:
Across the seven decades that Gene Colan contributed to comics, a lot of artistic styles came and went. Though Colan developed his style actively across that span, the progression was always towards a more refined version of himself. Artists that were more easily mimicked may have been more influential but Colan’s style was irreduceable and didn’t lend itself to swiping. If you wanted comics the way he drew them, you had to go to the source. His layouts were dynamic and could described as filmic without limiting either the influence of film or denigrating the potential of comics.
evandorkin > Hey by Evan Dorkin — “There is no mistaking a Gene Colan-drawn comic, they’re like dreams on paper, real yet surreal, glimpses to a world only he could provide access to. Wonderful, just wonderful.”
But [even as his health declined in hospice] Gene never lost hope. He continued to talk about his plans for the future. Mind you, this was not a feeble-minded man. An occasional short-term memory loss notwithstanding (and who doesn’t have those after high school?) Gene was clear-thinking and real-world oriented. He just wanted to go home. And he believed that wanting to was enough. This had been a recurring theme in his life. Gene wanted a career drawing comics. He wanted to work for Marvel. He wanted to be the best artist in his field. He wanted to marry Adrienne the minute he laid eyes on her… Gene believed that if he wanted something badly enough, focused and stuck to his guns, he’d eventually get it. And he usually did.
The Fies Files > Gene Colan by Brien Fies. Here’s an excerpt:
He had an instantly recognizable style unlike anyone else’s in the business. His compositions and figures were fluid, like they were poured onto the page with liquid mercury. Arms and eyelids and staircases and cityscapes thrust back and forth between shadow and light. His art was energetic and peerlessly graceful. It was also unique. In a business in which success is quickly imitated–where originals like Neal Adams and Frank Miller and Alex Toth have dozens of clones–no one ever copied Gene Colan. No one could.
He was a master storyteller – but, more than that, he added to the story. Through his art he communicated the kind of subtleties and nuances that no script or direct adaptation could do. He used shadow, facial expression and page composition to express the mood and tone of any given character or setting. It was a rare gift.
Grantbridge Street & Other Misadventures > Gene Colan — click through to read Captain America #601, “Red, White & Blue-Blood,” with script by Ed Brubaker and art by Gene Colan, posted in its entirety by Joe Bloke.
Millarworld.tv Forums > “RIP Gene Colan” by Mark Millar. The link disappeared, but here’s an excerpt:
I loved seeing Gene drawing superheroes because he brought a realistic, painterly quality, a European brush-line to the characters that made them look like people in unusual clothes as opposed to the cardboard cut-out figures icons we’re generally used to. His Superman looked like a brooding Brando, never more so than the beautiful, spooky Phantom Zone mini-series he did with Steve Gerber. Bryan Hitch and I would reference his stuff regularly when we were on Ultimates, that quiet naturalism John Buscema (and Hitchy himself) was so good at very evident in every page of his work.
Monster Brains > RIP Gene Colan by Aeron Alfrey — includes large scans of three cover paintings that Colan created for the mini-series Tomb Of Dracula: Day of Blood! Night of Redemption.”
He was without peer when it came to establishing mood and atmosphere, with an enviable mastery of creating depth and shadow that bordered on being supernatural, in and of itself. His drawings came alive on the page and invoked a sense of wonder and ominous foreboding that few could match and none could better.
The way Gene bent the human form and seemed to distort the very rectangle of the page worked more effectively, in my mind, in Dracula than in any of his superhero work, or in any of the other horror books he worked on. Comics have always walked a tightrope balancing realism with exaggeration–it’s how cartooning works–but Gene’s work was realistic in a way few artists had ever been, and his distortion was equally uncanny. There was a metafictional aspect to how well it fit the character of Dracula. What Gene could do to the flow of a page defies a lot of what I believe even now about comics layout, and if a young artist tries something that doesn’t work, and justifies it based on Gene’s work, it’s with some pleasure that I can say (short version), “You’re no Gene Colan.”
RODMAN: Wally Wood said something to the effect that you had to have a good clip file, ’cause swipes are always preferable to making something up. So, all told, between observation and photos, you’ve got a system where you can do just about anything you want.
COLAN: I guess. Things have to be animated when you’re doing comics; kind of like a cartoon style.
RODMAN: But you don’t use speed-lines or some of the more conventional symbols …
COLAN: I try to blur the scene very often. I still have speed-lines, but I will blur the image. Like if someone is running then the legs are blurred. They’re not quite finished. The drawing has a blurred look. And that to me also denotes action; there are many ways of showing it. Sometimes the after-effect of something going forward, you see the trail of the image behind it several times. These are all cinematic things that I’ve picked up from photographs that I’ve studied. I was always searching – and probably still am, you know – of ways to do it. You know, when you edit a film … Film is movement on a screen, and you can get across an awful lot of effects that way, and feelings that way. You can cut, and inter-cut, and do all kinds of things and there’s motion with that. And I try to do the same thing with a comic book. Because you’re dealing with stills of the figures. I do the best I can with it, by doing a sequence of pictures. And so that if your eye is scanning it may almost look a little bit like it’s moving. I find it enjoyable. It makes the job more fun for me.
RODMAN: Did you start emphasizing action and exploring ways to represent it more consciously in the 1960s as a result of doing so much super hero work? I would think the wild plot set-ups, and the freedom allowed in your part of the Marvel Method, would be generally conducive to visual pyrotechnics.
COLAN: Yeah, it helped me a lot. It’s not new. I mean, I didn’t originate the panels with arms or legs coming out of them. Other artists had done that before. I just started to use it. I felt that if the page was dealing with people just speaking — kind of a very dull page — I had to figure out someway to make it not dull, by varying the angles. Maybe somebody is viewing the person that they’re speaking to through a drinking glass. Something that would be interesting for the reader to look at.
RODMAN: In the Tomb of Dracula miniseries [from 1991], Night of Blood! Day of Redemption! you use quite a degree of distortion in many of the drawings. It’s the sort of thing people only do on the computer these days. And you mentioned that you were always trying to figure out some interesting way of viewing a subject. How were you able to compose those drawings to get the light refractions, or those through-the-lens type effects?
COLAN: It’s doing the art differently. Like warping a picture. Doing something that would catch the reader’s attention. If an arm is thrust forward, it looks almost like it’s coming through the screen. It’s a special effort to accentuate that particular thing you’re looking at. I picked that up from what I’ve seen in photographs. It would be a very good way to begin to show some of these images. Like in Doctor Strange, I would warp the entire room if I had an opportunity.
TwoMorrows.com > The Colan Mystique — an interview with Gene Colan, conducted by Tom Field (from Comic Book Artist #13).
Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, died on Friday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 62 and had been a longtime resident of Harlem.
I don’t think many people realize how funny “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is–lines about Rocky & Bullwinkle and Glen Campbell and the Beverley Hillbillies.
[GS-H] That’s how we wrote it. There’s a lot of wit in there. What we were talking about man is that like you never get anything done, you never see anything that helps you. You need to be out doing stuff. The Revolution takes place in your mind. Once you decide to look at the other side of it seriously and see if there’s any value to it. We were the ones with the bibles and the flags and shit but they were calling us militants and you all son of a bitches were the ones with the guns.
But you were also well-versed in pop culture –“Put a Tiger in Your Tank or It Goes Better With a Coke’ –a lot of the song is lampooning pop culture.
[GS-H] That’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to show people how silly the shit was they were wasting their time on when they needed to be trying to help.
But something about “Revolution” just resonated, it hadn’t been said before like that. Either you were a revolutionary or maybe you were a comedian.
[GS-H] It was up to people to decide which (laughs).
What do you make of people crediting you with starting hip-hop?
[GS-H] I don’t know if I can take the blame for it.
“My life has been guided by women, but because of them, I am a man.”
–Gil Scott-Heron, “On Coming from a Broken Home (Pt. 2),” from the album I’m New Here (2010)
Earlier today, 19 May 2011, the following message was posted to the Facebook account of artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones:
JEFFREY CATHERINE JONES passed away today, Thursday May 19, 2011 at 4:00 am surrounded by family. Jeffrey suffered from severe emphysema and bronchitis as well as hardening of the arteries around the heart. Jeffrey’s dear friend Robert Wiener reported that there was a no resuscitation order as Jeffrey was weak from from being severely under weight and had no reserves with which to fight. In accord with Jeffrey’s wishes Jeffrey will be cremated. We have yet to hear details for a memorial service. Jeffrey was one of the greatest talents and sweetest souls we have ever been blessed to know. Rest in Peace, dear friend.
I don’t know what to say…
“Every work, hopefully, will leave me unsatisfied. This drives me on to the next one. As soon as I think I’ve done something great it’ll all be over. And I’m not sure I believe in talent, either.” — Jeffrey Catherine Jones
MURMURS > Jeff Jones: 1944-2011 by George Pratt — not a formal obituary, but a lovely and moving remembrance by a respected artist who, when he was just starting out, looked up to Jones as a role model and possible mentor but was quickly embraced by him as a colleague and a friend; what’s more, the piece is illustrated with examples of work by Jones from Pratt’s personal art collection as well as illuminating, hearbreaking documentary photographs both of a very frail looking Jones as she was nearing the end of her life and of various locations, both interiors and exteriors, where she worked and lived.
Jeffrey Catherine Jones, celebrated artist whose work is best known from the late 1960s through 2000s was born Jeffrey Durwood Jones, in Atlanta, Georgia and died May 19, 2011 at home at the age of 67.
Jones moved to New York City in 1967, and rapidly developed a reputation as an exquisite illustrator and graphic artist, painting over 150 book covers and creating the full-page comic strips Idyl for National Lampoon Magazine and I’m Age for Heavy Metal.
In the 1976, Jones joined Michael Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith in The Studio, a group of artists who helped redefine modern book and comic book illustration. In 1976 Jones was awarded the Yellow Kid award from the Italian International Comics and Cartooning Exhibition. By 1986, when Jones received the World Fantasy Award in Art for Best Artist, he had moved away from commercial art to pursue fine art painting. Jones most recently received the Spectrum 2006 Grand Master Award.
Jones has been called a genius whose works appeared both effortless in execution and blinding in their beauty. World-renowned illustrator Frank Frazetta called him “the greatest living painter”.
Jones began gender reassignment therapy in 1998 after which Jones lived as Jeffrey Catherine Jones. Her studio was in the Catskill Mountains where she painted local landscapes. She continued drawing until her death.
Jones’ work has been in continuous publication and her work is shown and enjoyed around the world. The documentary Better Things: Life & Choices of Jeffrey Jones is in production from Macab Films. She is survived by her daughter Julianna Jones Muth, and three grandchildren, Nikolai Muth, Adelaine Muth, and Merryn Arms.
A memorial to celebrate Jones life and recognize her death, will be held on Friday, May 27th, from 6-9pm at Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401.
Memorial contributions may be directed to the Hero Initiative, 11301 Olympic Blvd., #587, Los Angeles, CA 90064.
At 4 a.m., Jeffrey Catherine Jones passed from this life. She was cared for during last days and hours by her daughter, Julianna Jones Muth, and Mary Chiz Chisholm. More info on memorial plans will appear as they become known. Rest in peace and in the arms of your loving Higher Power, CJ.
We were working on a book together for better than four years now called Silent Light (Jeff chose the title), which I now feel obliged to finish more quickly. I also suppose we’ll find some worthy cause to benefit from this book’s publication because now it will disturb me to make any money from this project in Jeff’s absence. Jeff already created and signed several hundred tip-in sheets for it; Michael Netzer, our mutual friend, offered more than a year ago to write the introduction.
@macabfilms > It is with much sadness… by Maria Cabardo, director of Better Things, the forthcoming documentary on the art and choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones — Maria seems to have been the first person to make the news public.
I never knew how to properly refer to Jeff after the last hormone treatments (which he had first experimented with back in the ’70s with Bodé) and the adoption of the “Catherine” name. Jeff never had a sex-change operation (and said he had no intentions of having one) and never legally changed his name, so I was flummoxed as to what to call him in e-mails or conversation or when writing about him…so I directly asked him years ago around the time that we were working on the second of two books we did with him. He told me to call him “Jeff” or “Jeffrey” and since the law considered him a man, it was perfectly fine with him if I did, too. So I have always said “him” and “he” while others might say “her” and “she.” Mike Kaluta, his oldest friend, also refers to Jeffrey as “he” and I would challenge anyone who says that Mike didn’t respect (and love) Jeff.
We had asked Jeff how he wanted his nameplate to read on his Spectrum Grand Master Award and it says, per his instructions, “Jeffrey Jones”.
So…there’s no disrespect shown or intended.
May 19, 2011 1:49 PM
Ryalltime Blog > A visual tribute to Jeffrey Catherine Jones by Chris Ryall, IDW Publishing’s Publisher/Editor-in-Chief — includes the title page and 15 double-page spreads from the recently published book, Jeffrey Jones: A Life in Art.
Cheryl’s Mewsings > Revisiting Jeffrey Catherine Jones (mirror) by Cheryl Morgan. Morgan’s complex, sensitive, and respectful personal reflection on the special difficulties of late-life gender transition illuminates Jones’s life and choices in a way that other, more polarized online comments have not. The article begins as follows:
The July Locus contains a couple of obituaries for the trans artist, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, who I wrote about briefly here. Both authors (Arnie Fenner and Robert K. Wiener) were good friends of the deceased; both consistently use the name “Jeff”, and both consistently use male pronouns. I am not, however, going to get ranty about this. After all, these articles have been written by people very close to Jones, someone I have never even met. I have no idea what the truth of the matter is. I do, however, think it is necessary to address the issue. It is human nature to assume that high profile members of a minority group are typical of that group, and reading the two obituaries people could easily come away with the idea that most trans people are tragic, crazy, and will come to regret their transition.
I’d like to state from the start that there’s nothing wrong with someone turning back from transition. There can and should always be an exit route, up until the point that the person concerned is convinced that what they are doing is right for them. Doctors and psychiatrists who encourage transition in the expectation of fees are just as culpable as those who peddle aversion cures. It is perfectly possible for trans people to find equilibrium and happiness without full transition, and if that’s what works for them we should support it. But equally there are reasons why transitions might fail, and by no means all of them mean that the person concerned was “not really trans” or that, as radical feminists allege, the whole concept of gender identity is a lie. [continued here (mirror)]
“If I am lucky all my triumphs will go unremembered until the end.” — Jeffrey Catherine Jones
Captain Beefheart Dead At Age 69 — Experimental rock legend and visual artist, born Don Van Vliet, died from complications from multiple sclerosis on 17 December 2010. Van Vliet leaves behind a wife, Jan. The two were married for more than 40 years.
14 November 2009: the Spectrum Web site reports that “Grand Master Frank Frazetta’s cover painting for the Lancer paperback, Conan the Conqueror by Robert E. Howard, sold this week to a private collector for a reported $1,000,000.”
08 June 2010: Heritage Auctions issues a press release bragging that “Frank Frazetta’s original 1955 artwork for Weird Science-Fantasy #29, considered by many comic art fans to be the finest comic book cover of all time, has been sold in a private treaty sale for $380,000 – almost certainly the most ever paid for a single piece of original American comic book art – to Heritage Co-Chairman and Co-Founder Jim Halperin, a collector known to own one of the finest comic book and original comic art collections in the world. It was an outright purchase for immediate payment, with no trade-ins involved.”
22 July 2010: the Pocono Record reports that “Frank Frazetta’s ‘Conan the Destroyer’ painting has been sold to a private collector for $1.5 million.” The seller is identified as “a family trust.”
Pekar, by all accounts, was a tough guy to be around: angry, confrontational, beset by grudges and troubles over money, an obsessive worrier. He never hid any of this, but wrote about it instead. That made him as brave as almost any artist I can think of — unadorned, unfiltered, less concerned with how the world thought of him than with how he thought of himself. It also made him an essential aesthetic bridge between, say, Will Eisner, who mined the lives of ordinary people in his 1978 graphic novel “A Contract with God,” and contemporary artists such as Jessica Abel, Adrian Tomine and Alison Bechdel, whose comics traverse a similar existential territory, in which the mundane (and sometimes not-so-mundane) material of daily life becomes the substance of their work.
Al Williamson, who for over fifty years drew for both comic books and comic strips, died June 12, 2010, at age 79. In recent years he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his wife of thirty-two years, Cori, his daughter Valerie and his son Victor.
Williamson was born in New York City in 1931, but spent his first thirteen years primarily in Bogota, Colombia. In 1941, his mother took him to see the science fantasy movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, an experience which, combined with his love for comics storytelling, set his career course at an early age.
Williamson, who first and foremost considered himself a cartoonist, excelled at illustrative science fiction, adventure and western stories, pulling inspiration from both classic comic strips and motion pictures. He is highly regarded both popularly and critically for his excellent draftsmanship and dynamic storytelling. Most notably, Williamson was extraordinarily accomplished at rendering the human figure in motion. His classically proportioned characters twist and leap with a startlingly vivid illusion of movement in part evolved from his study of motion picture action choreography.
Williamson began his professional career in 1948 and achieved popular recognition in the early 1950s as the youngest and one of the most talented contributors to the legendary EC line of comics. Beyond EC, Williamson drew superior work for many comic publishers, including American Comics Group, Atlas/Marvel, Charlton, Classics Illustrated, Dark Horse, Dell, Harvey, King, Prize, Toby and Warren. From 1967 until 1980 he produced the art for the King Features Syndicate’s daily Secret Agent Corrigan newspaper strip, and from 1981 to 1984 drew the daily and Sunday Star Wars newspaper strip.
Beginning in the 1980s Williamson reintroduced himself to a new generation of comics readers as an inker for DC and then Marvel Comics, enjoying memorable stints finishing the work of other artists on Superman, Daredevil and Spidergirl.
The single comics character, however, with whom Williamson is most identified would be Flash Gordon. The science fiction adventurer, created in 1932 by Alex Raymond for King Features, engaged the lifelong imagination of Williamson. He produced a much beloved series of stories for King Comics’ Flash Gordon comic book in the 1960s. He returned to the character in 1980, drawing a comics adaptation of the contemporary Flash Gordon motion picture. In the 1990s, he produced a Flash Gordon mini-series for Marvel Comics and later contributing to the original Sunday strip. In addition to the stories, he produced countless other Flash Gordon images for uses in advertising, merchandising and the fan press.
He gradually retired from the professional ranks in the early years of the new century as one of comics’ most admired and influential creators. Over his career he received numerous professional awards, including multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards and the National Cartoonists Society’s 1967 Award for Best Comic Book Cartoonist.
Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as an artist — the works mentioned above represent only a sampling — Williamson deserves recognition as a veteran who often opened professional doors for many others starting their careers. An impressive number of comics contributors owe at least part of their success to Williamson’s willingness to recommend and promote new artists and writers to his editorial contacts.
Williamson was also an avid collector of comics and illustration art, valuing the beauty of original drawings produced for comic books and strips long before the physical art created by commercial artists was popularly appreciated. He will be fondly remembered by those you knew him for his generosity, his indefatigable sense of humor and his great enthusiasm in sharing his love of comics, illustration, movies and music.
Al Williamson took inspiration from a legion of cartoonists, illustrators and motion pictures from the first half of the twentieth century and created works of timeless appeal — and then he passed that inspiration on to new generations of comics creators.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, a donation in Al’s memory be made to either:
The Joe Kubert School
37 Myrtle Avenue
Dover, NJ 07801
Attn: Al Williamson Scholarship Fund
Yesteryears Day Program
2801 Wayne Street
Endwell, NY 13760
BRmovie.com: Blade Runner Comic, with cover by Jim Steranko and interior art by Al Williamson — read the whole thing online.
Easily Mused: The Success Story, with story by Archie Goodwin and art by Al Williamson, from Creepy #1 (1964)
The Fabuleous Fifties: Al an’ More, posted by Ger Apeldoorn — includes “Outnumbered,” “Gambling House,” and “Fear,” all by Stan Lee and Al Williamson
Golden Age Comic Book Stories: Frank Frazetta & Al Williamson — a handful of their collaborations, posted by Mr. Door Tree — includes “Captain Comet, Space Pilot,” Danger is Our Business #1 (Dec. 1953); “Why They Call Them Mavericks,” Western Fighters #11 (Oct. 1949); “Demon of Destruction,” Forbidden Worlds #1 (July-Aug. 1951); “Chief Victorio’s Last Stand,” Chief Victorio’s Apache Massacre (1951); and “Fired!,” Crime SuspenStories #17 (June-July 1953).
Grantbridge Street and Other Misadventures: Posts with Label Al Williamson — includes three complete stories: “Now You See It…” by Bruce Jones and Al Williamson, from Creepy #83; “And Miles To Go Before I Sleep” by William F. Nolan and Al Williamson, from Alien Worlds #8; and “The Few and the Far” by Bruce Jones and Al Williamson, from Alien Worlds #1.
The Horrors of It All: The Return of the Werewolf, with art by “Harold Williams” (Al Williamson, apparently, working under a pseudonym), from Out of the Night #1
The Pictorial Arts: Helpless! with art by Al Williamson, from Battle #55 (November 1957)
Here’s a short notice, distributed through the Associated Press, that so far has appeared, under slightly different headlines, in both the Chicago Tribune (“Manager: Fantasy artist Frank Frazetta dies in Fla. hospital at 82 after suffering stroke”) and the Los Angeles Times (“Frank Frazetta, renowned for sci-fi and fantasy art, dies at 82”):
(AP) — Pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta has died in a Fort Myers, Fla., hospital. He was 82.
Manager Rob Pistella says Frazetta died Monday morning, a day after suffering a stroke. He says Frazetta had been out to dinner with his daughters Sunday before falling ill.
Frazetta is renowned for his sci-fi and fantasy art. He created covers and illustrations for more than 150 books and comic books, including Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan.
The Comics Journal: Frank Frazetta Interview — posted by Gary Groth on May 10th, 2010 at 5:57 PM, this lengthy 1994 interview was originally conducted for The Comics Journal #174 and was later reprinted in The Comics Journal Library: Classic Comics Illustrators.
The Return to Innocence: Goodbye, Frank Frazetta by rosefox8, who writes, “Confession time. It was the work of Frank Frazetta that made me realize that gaining healthy weight after anorexia was a beautiful and strong thing.”
Despite the numerous myths surrounding Frazetta (some perpetuated by zealous fans, some that were created by Frank and Ellie as marketing conceits), Frank was not a god. Everything did not come easily. Everything wasn’t a success. Not everything he said was Gospel and anyone who believed otherwise… didn’t know Frank.
He struggled. He had self-doubts. He had more than his share of disappointments in his life and every decision he made wasn’t the right one (and a few blew up in his face). By his own admission he was lazy and played more than he painted: contrast his body of work with that of his peers and his contention would seem to be true. Frazetta’s virtues were contrasted by his failings, his generosity sometimes blunted by his callousness. He masked his sensitivity with macho bravado, but when he hurt, the pain cut deep. As he said once, “When I’m down, Jesus, it’s hell.”
Frank was a scrapper who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn. His talent revealed itself at an early age. Frank was like an artistic sponge with a photographic memory. Fortunately, he had Roy Krenkel and Al Williamson as friends in his formative teens and early 20’s. They gave Frank an incredible art education, using their vast collections to expose him to the finest art and illustration of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frazetta soaked up everything he was shown. Somehow he managed to absorb and filter all of this great art and have it subsequently come out through Frank’s brushes as pure Frazetta. I know it was hard work, but Frank made it look so damn natural and easy.