Last issue, we heard about Corey’s love of work by Jack Kirby, Jim Mooney, and Ross Andru; and his eventual falling out with the superhero genre itself! Now: Corey once again ventures forth into the Marvel Universe, only to find…

From the late 1970s until the early 2000s, almost none of the comics I saw interested me. During those drought years, the only book I collected was John Byrne’s run on Sensational She-Hulk (1989, 1991-93). I find Byrne a competent artist, and his drawing had the right amount of goofy charm, but his writing was the real attraction of the book, the reason I became a fan of the character. In 2004, when I discovered a new She-Hulk book, it was my fond memories of Byrne’s version which enticed me to pick it up. The new book was clever and well-written, and the art compelling – definitely not the typical hypersexualized female superhero fare. Juan Bobillo’s elegant line is the antithesis of the boldness in Jack Kirby’s work. The meticulous craftsmanship he brings to his work is evident in his inventive layouts and striking character design. His idiosyncratic, cartoony style was a completely different approach to depicting a superhero, and it dovetailed perfectly with the savvy humor of the book.

In the early 2010s, I was given a collection called Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, a retelling of Spider-Man’s early days from Mary Jane Watson’s point of view. I was unfamiliar with the book, which was then almost ten years old. Spider-Man’s heroics played only a peripheral role, the focus being the social lives of Mary Jane and her friends. Takeshi Miyazawa’s wonderful manga-influenced art captured the teenage experience in a way I’d never before seen. The facial expression and body language of that age are there with all the dramatic glory that they entail – the emotion in his work is visceral and affecting. More recently, Miyazawa worked on Ghost-Spider, a more traditional superhero book, albeit one with a young female lead – an alternate-universe Gwen Stacy being the one who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. In this context, Miyazawa shows his aptitude with action sequences, which he didn’t get much opportunity to do in SMLMJ. He does so with aplomb; he can effectively produce more than teen drama, although that is present – Gwen is college-aged, but still a teenager. Miyazawa also displays his versatility by changing the drawing style a bit from that in SMLMJ – though the work is still unmistakably his – it is more adult, appropriate for the tone of the book.

These days, when I stop by a comic store, I may pick something up because the character interests me, but even if the story is engaging, I usually find the artwork to be not very good to merely servicable. In a 2004 interview, writer/editor Len Wein (Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Batman, Superman) expressed what he perceived as a problem with comics at that time – most younger writers and artists didn’t bring outside influences to the medium; they were just second, third, or fourth generation clones of older comics creators. However, Bobillo and Miyazawa prove that there are still creative people in the field who are doing interesting work. I hope to see more of that adventuresome spirit from other writers and artists in the future.



All artwork © MARVEL.

When I was very young, even before I was able to read, my father would bring home comic books for my older brother and me. I was captivated not only by the stories, but also the drawings. My favorite artists were Jack Kirby (with whom I share a birthday) and Jim Mooney. Later, in the mid-1970s, when I would spend my own hard-earned quarters on Marvel titles at the neighborhood corner store, I really liked Ross Andru. I’ve been thinking about why my young self was so attracted to the work of these pencillers.

Kirby’s appeal is obvious – he was the de Kooning of the comic book world. Stan Lee even nicknamed him “King,” although I don’t think he had Willem in mind when he did so. Kirby’s work on Fantastic Four was so dynamic and so much more sophisticated than most comics of the time. He knew when to go big, which was often – the FF didn’t have much down time. This epic approach aligned perfectly with the near-operatic nature of the stories. His heroic portrayal of both men and women exuded power, and his depiction of otherworldly phenomena was mysterious and electrifying.

The main reason I liked Mooney’s Amazing Spider-Man work so much may have simply been the way he drew Gwen Stacy. I should note that during Mooney’s run, John Romita and John Buscema also worked on the book – sometimes all three would contribute to a single issue. Nevertheless, it was Mooney’s work which left the biggest impression on me. He surpassed even Romita in making both Gwen and Mary Jane Watson so glamorous and captivating, but approachable. MJ was an outgoing, sexy, flamboyant party girl, but my heart belonged to Gwen, a subdued, attractive, thoughtful young woman – a sort of Grace Kelly-type. Mooney not only made her look beautiful, but strong, as well. She was sensitive, but no pushover. This was important to me as someone who, even as a child, found Olive Oyl offensive. (By the way, don’t get me started on Mr. Magoo, either.) On the other end of the spectrum, Mooney also drew a great J. Jonah Jameson, who is no beauty by any conceivable measure.

When one hears talk of great Spider-Man pencillers, Andru is usually left out of the conversation, but I think he ranks among the best. He portrayed one aspect of the stories – New York City – better than any previous Spider-Man artist. He gave the books the feel of being in a specific setting – they didn’t take place in a generic big city. Besides depicting landmarks, Andru also drew the canyonesque city from every imaginable angle, from street level to dizzying heights – NYC itself became a character in the book. In addition to excelling at capturing the face of the city, Andru was also notable for his faculty with human facial expression; one could even see emotion on Spider-Man’s mask. Another of his strengths was conveying movement, so important in a superhero comic. He sometimes did so by having multiple versions of the same figure in a single panel. At the time, I didn’t know the term Futurism, and may have been only vaguely familiar with Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, but nonetheless I knew it was compelling.

Each of these artists also had an impeccable sense of visual clarity, as well as a strong compositional eye. I don’t think I thought much about any of this until I was a young teenager – I just knew what I liked. However, I do believe that seeing this work at such a young age did instill in me the importance of those aspects of drawing.

By the 1980s, although I would occasionally wander into a comic shop, which was then a new thing, what I saw didn’t interest me. The time when superhero comics spoke to me had seemingly passed.

Next Issue: The Thrilling Conclusion!


All artwork © MARVEL.

In 1982, a young woman I was dating gave me a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was, and continues to be, one of my favorite books. It was a newly-published edition, illustrated and designed by Barry Moser, with whom I was not familiar. I’d seen many versions of Alice, but John Tenniel was not only the tale’s first illustrator, but also, as far as I was concerned, the preeminent one. A lot of illustrators apparently feel similarly, as so many other versions are strangely adherent to his vision, not only in terms of look and feel, but even in composition. Moser’s work, however, was different – it was strange and it was off-kilter and it complemented the anarchic text in a manner completely unlike that of any other illustrations I’d seen. His is also the only version, as far as I know, in which all the images are from Alice’s point of view – it is her dream, after all. Moser’s eye for the bizarre yet humorous made him an ideal illustrator for Alice. I became a fan at first glance, and the next year, when his Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There was published, I immediately bought it for myself (the gal was out of the picture by that time). These two volumes also sparked my interest in the art of book design, which was something I’d never really given thought to, prior.

Several years later, there was an exhibition of Moser’s work at the Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, which was then in Nevada City CA. Sadly, I was unable to attend the reception, although I was fortunate enough to see the show, which was comprised of wood engravings from both Alice books. I haven’t done a lot of printmaking, but I do know a little about it and find it fascinating. Wood engraving is a relief process done on the end grain of the wood, so much finer detail is possible, as compared to a woodcut. Moser’s prints were technically exquisite and beautifully pulled, and his richly detailed and inventive imagery was aesthetically awe-inspiring. It turned out this was not only true of of his work on Alice.

Barry Moser show catalogue (1987). MAMA.

The museum shop had some of Moser’s books for sale, and I purchased his Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and was told a story which he had related at the reception regarding his images of the monster. Apparently, he constructed his model by covering a human skull with raw chicken, sewing it together, then leaving it outside to rot. That his depiction bears no resemblance whatsoever to the ubiquitous Boris Karloff image again attests to the singularity of his vision.

Since then, I have assembled a small collection of Moser-illustrated books; his work – drawings and watercolors as well as the engravings – is consistently captivating. This is especially noteworthy considering the broad spectrum of books on which he has worked: The Divine Comedy, The Three Little Pigs, Moby Dick, Just So Stories, The Scarlet Letter, The Holy Bible, the list goes on. To date, he has illustrated and/or designed over three hundred books – I would feel comfortable recommending any of them; such is my regard for him and my confidence in his work.

Thank you, Marie, wherever you may be, for the introduction.