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…

Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 2

Back in August, I promised to follow Tentacle Tuesday: Dark Horse, Pt. 1 with another instalment of cephalopod material issued by this publisher. The time, as they say, has come! While I’m not always on board with the comics they opt to publish (rarely, I might even say), I do like today’s selections.

Dark Horse obtained the licence to produce James Bond comics in 1992. The result is a number of series and stand-alone comics – Serpent’s Tooth was the first, a three-part miniseries. The following two pages are from Serpent’s Tooth Part III: Mass Extinction, scripted by Doug Moench and illustrated by Paul Gulacy, published in James Bond 007: Serpent’s Tooth no. 3 (February 1993).

You decide for yourself which James Bond this is .

In 2007, Dark Horse stepped into a partnership with New Comic Company, who had earlier acquired from Warren the rights to Creepy and Eerie. The result was the gradual publishing of ‘archival’ hardcover collections of all issues of Creepy and Eerie magazines. In 2009, DH launched the ‘new’ Creepy Magazine, which mostly featured new stories, sprinkled with the odd reprint. A revived Eerie soon joined it.

Dark Horse’s revival of the classic Warren magazine is a mixed bag – this issue for instance, features several new stories and a reprint from 1970 (Life Species by Bill DuBay). This is Eerie no. 1 (July 2012). Cover by Jim Pavelec.

Incidentally, if you’re a Warren fan, we’ve covered a lot of tentacled ground with Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part I and Tentacle Tuesday: Warren and Its Many Tentacles, Part II.

The next story is Tentacle Master Mike Mignola‘s ‘Champion of the Worms‘, which held my lazy interest for a few pages… until I found out that it’s actually quite good. What a pleasant surprise for one who had such low expectations! It also brims over with tentacles. The following three pages are from ZombieWorld: Champion of the Worms (October 1997), scripted by Mignola and illustrated by Pat McEown.

Not everybody can boast to such a classy octopus hat!

Last but not least… Scarlet Traces is a sort of sequel to Ian Edginton and D’Israeli‘s adaptation of H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds, with heavy Dan Dare and Doctor Who references. This story wears its Englishness on its sleeve!

Scarlet Traces: the Great Game no. 4 (October 2006). Art by British artist D’Israeli, whose real name is actually Matt Brooker.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters : Mike Mignola

Because sometimes, for whatever reason, you just want to draw an octopus. — Mike Mignola, June 2019

I would say that this Tentacle Tuesday feature was started for a similar reason – sometimes one just needs to gather tentacled material, to share it more efficiently with like-minded weirdos.

The back cover of Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 2

I don’t imagine writer and comics artist Mike Mignola (most notably, creator of Hellboy and its spin-off B.P.R.D.) needs much of an introduction – he’s fairly ubiquitous in mainstream culture, and his style has been aped by many, which according to the proverb is the most sincere form of flattery. I was aware of this already, and yet was staggered by the sheer number of copycats I stumbled across while seeking out materials for this post.

I also started suffering from tentacle fatigue: as much as I love octopuses, seeing dozens upon dozens of fairly similar images made me weary. Mignola draws tentacles well, but he also draws them very, very often, and he also likes to revisit scenes already depicted. The result is a sprawling mess of sketches, variant covers and spin-offs of spin-offs… perhaps not inappropriate, come to think of it. This particular octopus has far more than just eight limbs!

Enjoy this barrage of Mignola tentacles, just make sure you’re in the proper mood for them 😉

Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 2 (April 1994).
Page from Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction no. 3 (May 1994).
Sketch from June 2019.
ZombieWorld: Champion of the Worms no. 2 (October 1997)

No post of this nature would be complete without featuring, in some form or other, H.P. Lovecraft, arguably the father of our modern obsession with tentacles. On that topic, I am linking to an excellent article about Mignola’s relationship with the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos (be warned that it’s in French, sorry!)

Art for the cover of Dark Horse Presents no. 142 (April 1999). Mignola made Lovecraft look downright dignified and borderline handsome, which is quite a feat, considering the latter’s unusual physiognomy.

Mignola revisited this very scene for his cover of Children of Lovecraft, and anthology of (non-comics) stories ‘inspired’ by Lovecraft (September, 2016). This was also published by Dark Horse.

More Victorian England and Lovecraftian archetypes can be found within the pages of Jenny Finn:

Artwork for Jenny Finn no. 1 (June 1999).
Back cover artwork for Jenny Finn Messiah no. 1 (2005).

Even Batman, in Mignola’s hands, gets tentaclefied!

A page from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight no. 54 (November 1993).
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham no. 2 (November 2000).

As a final note, I’d like to officially make a moue of distaste at people who share art without attribution, or without bothering to ascertain its source. To wit: a pair of images that are widely shared as Mike Mignola artwork… except that it isn’t by him at all, just by someone drawing in a similar style. Instagram and Pinterest are breeding grounds for such deplorable artistic credit robbery.

The following two illustrations are by Malaysian artist Daryl Toh.

∴ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Seafaring octopuses and the men they have shamelessly devoured

Ahoy, landlubbers! Today’s Tentacle Tuesday goes back to the good ol’ days of nautical journeys, ships crushed by mighty tentacles, and brave men who end their lives as snacks for the mighty cephalopod.

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Printed in Pilote Hors série aventure no 17 bis (October 1975, Dargaud). The story is titled L’Antoinette Pécuchet, from the cycle Les histoires de Pemberton, written and illustrated by Sirius (real name Max Mayeu, Belgian cartoonist).

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After most of the crew is swallowed up by the starving octopus, our narrator gets the bright idea to stick some dynamite into the pocket of the next sacrificial lamb and lights it just before he’s eaten. “The octopus savoured Nolasque with a healthy appetite. Suddenly, she hiccuped loudly, like a burping baby… Pale, she threw us a glance of bitter reproach, and dove into the water, never to be seen again.”

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Speaking of the Sargasso Sea (frequently depicted in fiction as a perilous area where ships go to die, mired in Sargassum seaweed, unable to escape), here’s another vignette about that mysterious spot. Incidentally, it is the only sea that doesn’t have land boundaries, enclosed by the Gulf Stream on the west side, the Canary Current on the east, the North Atlantic Current on the North and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current on the South. No wonder people thought it was full of mystery and danger! Even I, more or less immune to the siren’s call of wild maritime adventure, feel a little thrill at its mention. *Ahem* back to comics.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 29 (March 1970), painted cover by George Wilson.

As is often the case, the original painting has a lot more detail than the printed version:

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The original painting for “Creature of the Sargasso Sea” by George Wilson.

What does this peculiar, one-eyed beast look like closer up, one might ask? Something like this:

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A page from Creature of the Sargasso Sea, pencils by John Celardo and inks by Sal Trapani. Furry octopuses are my favourite!

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The sea can bring many (other) strange things, including a sword-wielding octopus… who should have stayed in the water, where he had the home advantage, instead of attempting to wage battle on sort-of land.

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A couple of pages from Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, a comic adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s cycle of sword-and-sorcery stories. Adaptation by Howard Chaykin, art by Mike Mignola, who’s inked by Al Williamson. This 4-issue series was anthologized in 2007 by Dark Horse; these pages were scanned from Book 4, published in 1992 by Epic Comics.

FafhrdandthegrayMouser-MikeMignola-2
One can only hope to be as stylish while fighting a many-tentacled monster.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Your Basic Contemporary Tentacle

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday veers away from more traditional tentacles and such, straying into more current territory where normal octopuses fear to tread. In a battle between a member of the Octopoda and a Lovecraftian horror, the latter would indubitably win…

Exhibit no. 1: a painting by Julián Totino Tedesco that uses the classic combination of sexy and frightening. It was used as the cover of Creepy no. 21 (Dark Horse Comics, August, 2015)…

JulianTotinoTedescoCreepy21

And here’s the actual cover:

Creepy21
I think adding « NEXT STOP: TERROR » was a tad unnecessary, not to mention cheesy. Isn’t a girl with a tentacle coming out of her face terrifying enough? Dark Horse pompously describes this issue as « featuring spooky sequential storytelling from graphic greats », promising we’ll be « sweating with sickening satisfaction », proving that there *is* such a thing as too much alliteration.

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Next up is a charming bibliophile, who looks mournful rather than scary.

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« Stop interrupting while I’m trying to write! » Providence no. 11 (December 2016). Century Variant art by Raulo Caceres, a Spanish comic artist.

No-one will be surprised to find out that Providence (12 issues published from 2015 to 2017), written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Jacen Burrows, is meant to be considered as belonging to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. In his 2013 interview with Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Moore had pointed out that Providence required a staggering amount of research on his part, and that he had been « living and breathing » Lovecraft while writing it. The following exchange illustrates this research-focused approach:

AM: I’m even trying to check out what the weather was like, which is difficult to establish other than in broad generalities, but I can at least sort out what the sky looked like, and what the phases of the moon were – which is something that Lovecraft used to take pains to do, so I feel that I should as well.

PÓM: Find out if the moon was gibbous, or something like that?

AM: Yes, that was it, he used to – yeah, gibbous, the gibbous moon, which is nearly, what, three-quarters full, waxing or waning?

PÓM: Yeah, three-quarters full. It’s a wonderfully Lovecraftian word.

AM: In one of his stories he changed all the dates in it because he found out that a gibbous moon hadn’t happened on the day that he said it had. He said, ‘this is a lesson for all aspiring writers of fiction.’ And I’ve taken that to heart.

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Finally, we have another Dark Horse entry:

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Hellboy: Seed of Destruction no. 2 (1994).

The sketch for the cover (1993):

MignolaHellboyTentaclesSketch
Now we know what’s behind the hand-and-sword symbol!

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, the first Hellboy mini-series (4 issues, March-June 1994), was plotted/illustrated by Mike Mignola and scripted by John Byrne. (It was also the basis for 2004’s Hellboy movie, which you can safely ignore, IMHO.) You can read the whole thing here. The individual issues were collected in a paperback in 1994, which also contains a couple of bonus stories from various sources.

The insides have sufficient tentacles to please even the pickiest, most tentacle-crazed reader:

HellboySeedsofDestruction2

HellboyTentacles1

~ ds