Saturday, 15 October 2016

P. Craig Russell: "Graphic Stories That Stretched The Form"

Art by Mike Mignola
(Dark Horse Comics, 1998)
(from the introduction to Hellboy Vol 3: The Chained Coffin, 1998)
...When it comes to the artwork of Mike Mignola, I find I'm still wearing the hat of a fan. It appears every time I pick up his latest work. And it's especially prominent whenever it's one of his short stories, which,  let me be up front about this, I consider to be the finest and most consistently successful work, on so many different levels, being done in comics today...

... Let me get back to the "fan hat" thing.

As a kid I seemed to wear it all the time. In the mid sixties for Steranko's series of Nick Fury and Captain America stories. The in the early seventies for Windsor-Smith's first flash of brilliance on the Conan stories. Sure, some of these graphic stories, as stories, could be naively pulpy, but it was the way these artists worked the form itself that fascinated me, and I was devoted to the creators not just for the quality of their work, but for the  greater excitement of seeing them grow as artists, literally, month by month. Each new work brought some new visual innovation, as they stretched their graphic wings, as influences were assimilated, or dropped, or transformed. To me, the cliffhanger wasn't what would happen to the hero next issue, but what surprising visual development the artist might come up with next. And so it has been with Mike Mignola.

In the past... twenty-five (my god) years since the last Windsor-Smith Conan stories, there have been many graphic stories that stretched the form, that have expanded and deepened it and taken it far from any Hyperborean fantasy land. If you read comics at all you probably know which ones I mean. Monumental stand-alones like Spiegelman's Maus and Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, series with names like Bone and Hate and Cerebus and Eightball. Documentaries like Joe Sacco's Palestine, Pekar's American Splendor and Chester Brown's Yummy Fur. All of these books, and many more besides, have moved me, provoked me, and challenged me to produce better work...

P. Craig Russell is an award winning comics artist. After establishing a name for himself at Marvel on Killraven and Dr. Strange, he went on to become one of the pioneers in opening new vistas for this underestimated field with adaptations of operas by Mozart (The Magic Flute), Strauss (Salome) and Wagner (The Ring Of The Nibelung). Craig has completed five volumes of comic-book adaptations of the Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde and has brought to life characters as diverse as Batman, Conan, Hellboy, The Spirit, Death and The Sandman. His more recent work includes comic book adaptations of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

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