Sunday, 18 January 2009

Dave Johnson's Bullets

One of the more ambitious projects currently running in the mainstream comics world is 100 Bullets, a complicated crime drama written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso. Telling a sprawling, complicated tale over 100 issues (a total of some 2,200 pages), it concludes in March. The set-up can best be gleaned from this blurb: 'the mysterious Agent Graves approaches ordinary citizens and gives them an opportunity to exact revenge on a person that has wronged them. Offering his clients an attaché case containing proof of the deed and a gun, he guarantees his "clients" full immunity for all of their actions, including murder.'

Now, whether or not that, or comics in general, are your cup of tea, you'd have to agree that the series' covers, by one Dave Johnson, are wonderful bits of illustration and graphic design. Here are the covers for the various collected editions of the book so far (each containing around 8 issues of the series).
















The limited palettes, large fields of flat colour, and striking use of shadow and line give these covers the feel of old French crime movie posters, from the era before movie posters became almost uniformly dull "big heads in the sky"-style things.






As a bonus, here are some of Johnson's covers for individual issues of the series. It's highly unusual for one artist to work on every issue of a long-running comics series for one of the mainstream companies, so the fact that 100 Bullets has kept the same internal and cover artists throughout gives it a pleasing level of artistic cohesion.










7 comments:

Lucy Fishwife said...

Oh how much did I love "100 Bullets". Although for my money the best comic book illustrators are J H Williams III, who did Alan Moore's "Promethea" series, and P Craig Russell, who did some of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series, including the one issue that actually won an award ("Ramadan" -just beautiful)... But then I am, as you gathered, quite a nerd...

Ian Brian Shimkoviak said...

those last few are really great. Comic art always ends up looking so gawdy, but I know it's a fucking art to reckon with. It's just a lot of artists copy each other too. 100 bullets is a great title to illustrate for.

JRSM said...

Lucy: J H Williams III _is_ great, isn't he? And I need to look at more of Russell's stuff: from memory it's got a groovy sort of French advertising posters of the 1890s vibe to it.

Ian: You're not wrong--there seems to be something of a plague of plagiarism and "in tribute to" art styles rather than really original work in comics--doesn't help that one genre (superheroes) makes up a vast proportion of the market, which I still don't really understand: it's the equivalent of 90% of a bookshop's stock being Westerns. But these '100 Bullets' covers... seriously, you look at all 100 covers and they just blow your mind!

Samuel said...

"It's highly unusual for one artist to work on every issue of a long-running comics series for one of the mainstream companies, so the fact that 100 Bullets has kept the same internal and cover artists throughout gives it a pleasing level of artistic cohesion."

It's not quite as unusual as you may think: Vertigo (A DC imprint) has several examples of long running series with one internal and/or cover artist.
Preacher Was illustrated by Steve Dillon, with covers by Glenn Fabry.
Dave McKean did the covers for the entire run of Sandman.
Transmetropolitan was illustrated by Darick Robertson (with the exception of one or two issues being illustrated by a host of artists for dramatic purposes).
[I can't say for certain, but DMZ may also have the same illustrator.]

There are nitpicks and minor exceptions to be had with those examples (spin offs, side stories, etc.), but it does happen, at least in limited long-form stories.

JRSM said...

Ah, yes: I'd forgotten 'Preacher' and 'Transmetropolitan' and their artistic consistency: good point. And the Dave McKean 'Sandman' covers are another very good example.

Rev. Dave Johnson said...

Hey! Look at that, a friend sent me this link, and to my surprise, it didn't have anything to do with porn. Thanks for the kind words about my stuff.

JRSM said...

My pleasure--it's great stuff!