Comic Art Now
By Dez Skinn
Ilex, 192pp, £20
As The Beano celebrates its 70th birthday and The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man fill cinemas, a legend of British comics is out to show there’s more to comic art today than schoolboys with catapults in the UK and superheroes in the US. Dez Skinn wantADVERTISEMENTs you to know there’s a world of styles out there.
Skinn, having worked on everything from Buster to Hulk and created Dr Who Weekly and the hugely influential Warrior, knows his stuff. And he’s sharing it here, in a series of images showcasing the craftsmen and women who are carrying the industry forward in the 21st century.
Artists such as Gary Spencer Millidge, whose photorealistic style is on display in his Strangehaven series; and the versatile Cliff Richards, as at home illustrating Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Superman; Al Davison, born with spina bifida, a condition which has influenced his starkly beautiful images; and Laura Howell, a self-confessed doodler who reinterpreted comics she’d drawn to amuse herself in a Manga style, won a contest and now works for Mad magazine (whose UK edition was once edited by Skinn).
It’s not all up-and-comers – pieces by veterans such as Sydney Jordan, creator of the Jeff Hawke newspaper strip – and Angus McKie, show that despite decades in comics they’re still expanding their range, trying new things.
Scottish writer Mark Millar – a screen version of his comic Wanted hits cinemas soon, see page 13 – says in his introduction: “It’s all about the art and always has been. Anyone who thinks otherwise is only kidding themselves.” That’s not true – comics without words are just pictures, but it’s correct that great art can make mediocre words more palatable. And there’s a lot of great art on display here.
The American spellings – “humor”, indeed – grate when you know a great Brit wrote this thing, but this is a minor quibble in a book that’s a pleasure to peruse. I’ve been a comics fan since I was knee-high to the Thing (I’ll even admit to having edited My Little Pony comic, among others) and this volume introduced me to plenty of talents I’d not come across. There is a lot of great art on display here.
I do, though, hope there’s a Comic Writing Now sequel on the way.