Thursday, August 9, 2007

Album Covers by Comic Book Artists, Part 2

To call Charles Burns a comic book artist wouldn't really be right. He did get his start in the world of Fanzines and Underground Comics, but I suspect that comics haven't been his bread and butter for quite some time. As far as clientele outside the industry, he has been known to do illustration for the likes of Coca-Cola and Altoids.

His early comic book stories tended to feature awkward freaks as protagonists. Big Baby, a young boy, uncovered the seamy underbelly of the American Suburbs. El Borbah was a mexican wrestler/detective. Dog Boy was just that: a boy that thought he was a dog (this is probably his most well known character, as he appeared in live action on MTV's short-lived Liquid Television animation show in the early 90's). Black Hole, a 12 part story about a northwestern town plagued by a physically deforming STD, is considered by many to be his best work in comics and was told from 1993 to 2004.

I chose Burns' album work for the opposite reason I chose Sienkiewicz's. While Sienkiewicz's RZA cover seemed to defy his established sensibility, Burns' cover for Iggy Pop's Brick by Brick album embodies everything about both his own, and Iggy Pop's, style. Burns' work exudes sweating freaks on their way to or coming from commitment of deviant acts. I don't need to tell you that so does Iggy Pop's music.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Album Covers by Comic Book Artists

The best people in the comic book industry are able to move their talent freely. Let's face it, being a comic book artist or writer is not necessarily a lucrative gig. I haven't yet tasted the life of a "professional" in the field, but I would imagine that the time between jobs can put a hurtin' on your finances, whether an industry name, or not. Ultimately, expressing oneself across media platforms will keep one from being pigeonholed, will expand the variety of people with whom one will interact, and, if executed properly, will allow one to reach a greater audience, including people that would not otherwise pick up a comic book.

Some obvious examples of this type of cross-genre movement are Geof Darrow's conceptual designs for The Matrix, Paul Chadwick's scripting of the Matrix MMORPG, and Brian K. Vaughan's recent stint as a scribe on Lost, to name a very few. These, of course, all seem to represent a stepping up.

Sometimes a lateral step can be just as cool. Illustrating an album cover can give an artist a chance to fully utilize all the quirks in his or her visual arsenal, without the encumbrance of having to tell a sequential story. With less space to work with, the result is more raw, and obviously more traditional in an artistic sense.

He is best known for Stray Toasters, Elektra:Assassin, and his New Mutant work, as his wiki will attest. I chose him first because I think that the album covers he illustrated say a lot about the diversity of his talent. His work has a dreamlike feel, illustrating nightmares frozen in silent terror, as evidenced by Stray Toasters

Dreamlike is rarely a word used in describing Hip-Hop, yet his style translates extremely well to his cover for Wu-Tang's The RZA's first album, Bobby Digital in Stereo.

In one picture, Sienkiewicz manages to capture all the recurring themes of the album: sci-fi, blaxploitation movies, comic book excess, and hip-hop righteousness in the face of cultural excess. He juxtaposes the chaos of the gangster lifestyle with the clean lines of the Wu-Tang W, which could be an allusion to the stability that the Wu philosophy brought to RZA's life. It's perfect. His other album work includes EPMD's Business as Usual .
You can read Sienkiewicz's thoughts on doing album covers on his website.
Next Time: Charles Burns.

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