Art Director Geoff Gossett introduces recent, rare, and random titles that inspire his work at the drawing table.
Blacksad, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse Comics) $29.99
Blacksad is one the most visually beautiful and well-executed comic books on the market right now, even if you’re not a furry. It is to comics what Sleeping Beauty is to animation—a fitting comparison being that its Spanish creators, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, were once animators in the French division of Disney. Both also chose the daunting medium of watercolor for this project, the least forgiving of paint mediums.
The story is set in a late 50s noir American metropolis. It’s inhabited by human characters who assume the identities of animals—signified by the varying animal heads worn by each. These heads reflect the personality and job description of their respective owners, though from the neck down they are entirely human in form and function. Within this microcosm of human behavior there is even a fascist group of winter animals that don swastika-like snowflakes for their political brand of white fur-only racism.
Canales and Guarnido masterfully tackle complicated cityscapes, realistic animal heads, era-appropriate clothing, and action scenes from multiple angles—elements which are difficult to manage independently, let alone in conjunction with one another.
Facial expressions are detailed and cater to each individual character. Poses are dynamic, solid, and indicative of true draftsmen. And they’re composed within a tightly controlled color watercolor palette.
The first of the Blacksad series was released in 2000 in French. Subsequent volumes were then issued roughly every three years, which should give readers some sense of the artists’ laborious creative task. The new hard-bound volume contains 184 pages, comprising all three original volumes, and was published in June of this year by Dark Horse Comics after conflicts with publication rights. Although the book is Canales and Guarnido’s first, it has been translated into nearly every major language and hundreds of copies have been sold worldwide. Hollywood has expressed interest, and I recommend you read it before it gets the Marvel treatment.
Weathercraft: A Frank Comic, Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics) $19.99
Jim Woodring has been a driving force in American comics since the early 1980s. Throughout his childhood he experienced hallucinations—especially of severed heads and creatures—that he eventually grew to live with. His tolerance for hallucination, and his self-taught drawing in quill pen, serve as the basis for his newest book, Weathercraft.
The story of the comic has a plot that’s difficult to explain, since there’s no dialogue, and everything seems to be a dreamy hallucination. Characters melt into other characters, and line work evolves to gradually change the landscape and lighting. Woodring’s lines’ undulated thickness visually complements those narrative transitions. All the more impressive is how such complicated, hand-drawn line work can be pulled off so freely, cleanly, and legibly. Woodring is probably one of the few people in the world able to give Crumb a run for his money in the world of nib-made art.
It should be mentioned that frogs are a central theme through this book, and in quite a few of his other works. One appeared to him during an art history class, and there doesn’t seem to be any academic reason for their inclusion, subconscious or otherwise.
Weathercraft, though plotless, is incredibly interesting, much like David Lynch’s more abstract films . At the moment Woodring is dedicated to furthering odd projects by mastering the use of a six-foot quill pen with a sixteen-inch nib. I am excited to see the result.