Guy Davis: Quietude and Cataclysm

« It’s a lot easier to draw rubble when deadlines hit. » — Guy Davis

Today, on his birthday, we seize the occasion to salute prodigious autodidact Guy Davis and to look upon his works, no despair necessary.

Born in Michigan on November 20, 1966, Guy Davis started out in comics in 1981 with a SF strip, Quonto of the Star Corps, published (he suspects his dad had something to do with it) in local newspaper The Clarkston News.

From there, he delved into sword and sorcery with The Realm (1986-1988, Arrow), then made significant strides toward his mature style with punk saga Baker Street (1989-1991, Caliber).

He then hit the majors, devoting most of the 90s to pencilling and inking the bulk of Sandman Mystery Theatre‘s quite respectable run (70 issues + 1 annual, 1993-1999, DC/Vertigo), Matt Wagner‘s darkly revisionist chronicles of Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman… pre-yellow-and-purple togs.

I must confess that I wasn’t, at this point, particularly fond of Davis’ style. His endearingly schlubby, potato-schnozzed characters had yet to work their charm upon me. But the writing was compelling, Davis’ storytelling was strong and clear, so I stuck around.

However, I’m not ambivalent at all when it comes to his subsequent work, wherein he ditched his often awkward cross-hatching, his inking improved by leaps and bounds in expressiveness, and he was at long last paired with a colourist that fully grasped his singular style.

This is The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Cover by Guy Davis.
Page 22 of Nevermen no. 1 (May 2000, Dark Horse). Written by Phil Amara, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 8 of The Nevermen no. 4 (Aug. 2000, Dark Horse). Same personnel…
Page 15 of B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs no. 1 (Mar. 2004, Dark Horse). Story by Mike Mignola, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart.
Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse). Story by Mignola and John Arcudi, pencils and inks by Davis, colours by Dave Stewart. Shot from the original art, courtesy of, er… the author’s collection.
And in case you’ve ever wondered just what a good colourist can contribute to the finished product, let alone the finest colourist in the business. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dave Stewart!

Guy Davis on his collaboration with Dave Stewart:

I was never never happy with my work in color — I hated the idea of it — until [ Dave Stewart ] started coloring me in B.P.R.D. He had this textured brush look that was just perfect for my linework. My linework is not clean, and before Dave, everybody who’d color me would do a standard house style. They wouldn’t adapt for each artist, and that’s what makes Dave so amazing is that he adapts his style for the art as opposed to trying to shoehorn one style of coloring — which a lot of colorists do — into every artist’s style.

(from an interview conducted by Eric Nolen-Weathington and published in Modern Masters Volume 24: Guy Davis, 2010, TwoMorrows)

Page 22 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 3 (Jan. 2005, Dark Horse), by the aforementioned.
This is B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Cover by Davis and Stewart.
Page 11 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 4 (Feb. 2005, Dark Horse). Note that Stewart doesn’t fall back on one go-to, characteristic colour palette; he has range. Muted, saturated, bright or dark… he uses what the situation calls for. That’s what a true artist does.
Page 18 of B.P.R.D. The Dead no. 5 (Mar. 2005, Dark Horse). Now *that* is a library.
With his love and mastery of period detail and the human proboscis, wouldn’t you say that Davis would have been the ideal candidate to depict legendary pulp hero The Shadow? A 2005 drawing excerpted from Guy Davis Sketch Macabre Volume 2 (Oct. 2006).

Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Davis ever received his due in comics; he remained an artist’s artist, reliable and productive, but relatively unsung. On B.P.R.D., he allowed Mr. Mignola to envision events and visions on a far, far grander scale than Hellboy’s creator could have realised by himself. After Davis resigned from the title and exited the comics field for challenges and well-earned success, artistic and financial, in the realms of film and video games, there simply wasn’t anyone able to fill the void he’d left.

Just check out that résumé

Happy birthday, thanks for everything and all the best to you, Mr. Davis!

-RG

p.s. In selecting artwork for this essay, I forced myself to exclude any and all instances of tentacles, and trust me, there were plenty. We haven’t made it official yet, but if anyone ever deserved the title of Tentacle Master…

2 thoughts on “Guy Davis: Quietude and Cataclysm

  1. Krackles October 4, 2021 / 13:42

    Hey, I’m right there with you on Guy Davis’ art appreciation!
    Until he started working on the Nevermen series, his work wasn’t hitting enough chords for me.
    From then on, I was hooked for good and delighted to follow him on the B.P.R.D.’s serie where he hit the ground running with some fantastic art. So wonderful a run I’m still mourning his departure, years later.

    Like

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