Markley’s Fevered Brain: What Was I Thinking?

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

In the more than 50 years I have collected comics I have in recent years stopped buying single comics and just buy collections and books. As readers of this blog know I like collections of ongoing classic material, Marvel Masterworks, Epic Collections, DC Silver Age books, etc. I also like by books by specific artists that I enjoy, such as Richard Corben, Robert Crumb, Harry Lucey, and Don Rosa as examples. I cannot turn down books about newspaper strips (not modern ones though). Or European reprints in English, where I think some of the greatest comic stories are currently being told. So with this blog I am going to look at five books I recently bought that after I got them home I thought, what was I thinking buying these books? Well, now having now read them I am pleased to say I was not as crazy as I thought at first.

Of these five books, three are published by Moebius Productions (and distributed through the U.K.’s Book Palace via Diamond Comics) and collect in beautiful hardcover format three of what are intrinsically sketchbook diaries from Moebius. They are not linear stories as you might expect, but are more stream of conciseness of like Rick Veitch’s classic Rare Bit Fiends. The text is all in French which is a bit of an issue, but the art is so amazing it is easy to overlook. All three of the Moebius books were issued in the past but these are all revised versions with new intros, added notes, and additional color pages that were not in the previous versions. The other two books are part of a project from Rebellion (The publisher of the 2000AD titles, Judge Dredd, etc.) and the Book Palace collecting old (1950s/1960s) British comics not seen for over 50 years and rarely known at all outside of the U.K. For many years in England, comics were done as small digest sized magazines that reprinted American material (Rip Kirby for example) or had brand new material. There are a number of these books mostly with the words “Picture Library” in the title. There are hundreds of these with of all sorts of genres and Rebellion is collecting these first two because they are short runs and fit the complete run of the character into one book and because of the artists that drew them. One of which is one of my favorite British artists, Ron Turner. All five of these books are limited and can be a challenge to find and are not cheap, but I think they are well worth it.

40 Days Dans Le Desert B

40 Days Dans Le Desert B


40 Days Dans Le Desert B is a book by Moebius from Moebius Productions. This is a beautiful new edition of Moebius’ classic story with expanded story and a gallery of full color images. While the book is small by traditional comic standards – 6.1 in highi, 10.0 inches wide – the production is so amazing that it works perfectly at this size. Each page is one image telling a tale from Moebius’ imagination. The drawings are classic Moebius and it is almost dreamlike as the story is told all through the pictures and it is not always clear what is happening from one page to the next. This is not traditional comic book storytelling, but it is stunning to look at. The basic story is that in 1999, Moebius decided to give up smoking pot and he recorded his feelings about the experience by doing one drawing a day over the next forty days. These are all from his notebooks and this edition includes his notes for the first time. There is some text along with the illustrations in places and there is a long forward, but they are all in French.

Le Major HC Expanded Ed.

Le Major HC Expanded Ed.


Le Major HC Expanded Ed. Is an expanded edition of this long out of print book now coming in at 340 pages. This book (as with all three of these Moebius books) have one illustration per page (the back page is blank. For example, there is an illustration on page 2, but page 3 is blank, an illustration on page 4, etc.) But this book has more traditional comic book pages with multiple panels on a page and a lot more text than the other two books, alas in French. This book has a lot of the same philosophy and type of stories that you will find in Dark Horse’s Inside Moebius, which Moebius himself described as “improvisation without a net”. The gist of the story is the Major taking a trip on a train but while on the way, he has a number of very surreal visions/experiences. Unlike the other two books, Moebius does briefly visit some of his most famous characters in this book. There is also an appendix filled with full color images that are also beautiful. This book, all three really, are great insights to one of comics greatest artists. He is not in the vein of traditional comic book artists and that is what makes his art and vision so amazing. While it is comic book art, it is so much more and these books show why Moebius was so amazing.

La Faune de Mars HC

La Faune de Mars HC


La Faune de Mars is a true classic book by Moebius that has long been out of print that is finally back in print with 20 new pages in full color added. There are 200 black and white pages (plus the color pages) with each page being a single illustration. The story as it is about robots digging around Mars looks looking for signs of life. Like 40 Days Dans Le Desert B, this tends to more stream of conciseness than traditional storytelling but the beauty and the line work (and colors) by Moebius make this book a must have. All three of these books remind a lot of the work of Jim Woodring and Basil Wolverton in that all of these stories have a dreamy and surreal feel to them that is unlike anything you will see any other comics. All three of the books are published under the Moebius Productions imprint (his estate) and are limited editions and may be hard to find. But any fan of Moebius’ amazing work, and anyone who has seen his work, is a fan and will want to have these books.

Fleetway Pictures Library Classics: Larrigan

Fleetway Pictures Library Classics: Larrigan


Fleetway Pictures Library Classics-Larrigan collects four 64 page stories featuring Larrigan from Lone Rider Picture Library and Cowboy Picture Library published in England in early 1960s. This book is really an excuse to showcase the stunning western art of Arturo Del Castillo. I know you are asking, who? Arturo was a Chilean, artist who started in advertising in Chile before joining his brother in doing comics. There he gained a reputation as a master western artist with his hit strip, Randall: The Killer. In the late 1950s he joined with Italian Agency Rinaldo Dami where he would spend many years drawing books for Fleetway, the British comic publisher. (Like DC did in the ‘70s hiring a number of Pilipino artists and Marvel did in the ‘90s hiring South American artists, Fleetway was hiring a number of artists through this Italian agency that brought artists from around the world to British Comics. Not that the fans ever knew this.) Arturo’s most famous work for Fleetway was Ringo which ran from 1968-1974. I am excited that Rebellion is slowly collecting these stories as I was aware of Arturo Del Castillo but I had never read any of his stories. I had just seen sporadic images of his art over the years. This book was amazing as it is 272 pages of beautiful western art with a long introduction explaining Arturo’s background and influences and examples of his other work. He has a very realistic style that reminds me of Doug Wildey. Western books are few and far between these days and this book is a true gem and a welcome addition to my library. It is a limited edition of 500 copies so it may be a challenge to find.

Fleetway Pictures Library Classics: Jet-Ace Logan

Fleetway Pictures Library Classics: Jet-Ace Logan


The second volume of the Fleetway Pictures Library Classics is Jet-Ace Logan. This book collects all three volumes of the adventures of Jet-Ace Logan from the pages of Thriller Picture Library from 1961-1963 and is really just an excuse to showcase the art of Ron Turner and Kurt Caesar. Kurt Caesar was a German born artist who had a long career and is well known for his drawing of war books for a number of publishers throughout Europe. He also drew a number of Science Fiction stories with Jet-Ace Logan being the most famous. His style is very much like the traditional style of comics of Fleetway in the 1950s and ‘60s; gritty and detailed and the storytelling is very straight forward and easy to read. The closest thing in American comics I can think of was the work of George Evans in the EC Books. (And there is a great collection of Evans’ EC war stories from Fantagraphics called Aces High). It is very good storytelling with all of the science fiction clichés you would expect with lots of aliens, exotic worlds, and space ships. While Caeser and Turner’s styles are different, they both had an amazing ability to make the most of mundane science fiction concepts look exciting and original. Ron Turner was famous in British comics but his work was much clearer than Ceaser’s style and Turner was a big influence on Brian Bolland and Ron Smith. Turner’s aliens and fantasy worlds were more exotic and imaginative than Ceaser’s, which is saying a lot as Ceaser’s will make your head turn. I was aware of Ron Turner’s work from his many years drawing Gerry Anderson comics, such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Joe 90, etc. and some beautiful work on the Daleks strip in TV Century 21. This is a great read as it is like reading a British version of Flash Gordon, or a parallel world’s version of Dan Dare. A lot of fun with some really beautiful art. Again this is a limited edition so it may be hard to find.

I have long been a fan of Moebius’ work and I think he can do very little wrong. These three books are far more out there than his more accessible work like The Incal or The Airtight Garage, but to me they show just how majestic his art is. Each page is a thing of beauty to behold and while they look fairly simple, they are actually amazingly detailed in so many ways. These books are not for everyone, but they are perfect for the comic reader who loves art or is looking for something unique. The Fleetway collections are neat as they collect the complete runs of Larrigan and Jet-Ace Logan in very nice oversized (compared to the original digest size they were published in) volumes and you get some truly stunning art. I was amazed by Arturo Del Castillo gritty western and I am always on the lookout for a Ron Turner collection. All five of these books are imports and limited, so if you are interested in them it may take some work to track them down. But I would recommend all five of these books, since I spent my hard earned money on them and I am thrilled I did.

This is it for this blog. I hope you are inspired to check out one or two of these books. I have serious doubts that anyone else has read these or has these books, but I still welcome your comments or complaints at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. Maybe someone will surprise me and let me know they also bought these books! All of the words here are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their opinions. As always…

Thank you

 

 

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