Friday, December 30, 2016


There were three now books that I’d added to my library recently that you might want to check out if you have a fascination with art and illustration.

The Art of Nestor Redondo:  When I was first starting to break into the field of comics, their was a Phillipine invasion of extremely talented artists that were also entering the American market, many of them introduced by my former editor at DC, the legendary Joe Orlando. The three names that really stood out for me as the best of this intimidating group were Alex Nino with his bravura style and cinematic storytelling, Tony Dezuniga with a very American ad art sensibility and impeccable draftsmanship and design, and Nestor Redondo. The latter incorporated a wonderful simplicity into an ornate inking style, and the result was always breathtaking and original. And his characters looked like they were drawn by a Western artist, which the editors and publishers, and logically the readers,  loved. His work never portrayed a brutality or violence that was in vogue, but instead brought us to a more elegant and refined world. My favorite series by Redondo was “Rima” (based on  the “Green Mansions” heroine) which Joe Kubert edited. He and Joe also teamed up on “The Bible” special that DC did.

This book ( 80 pgs.  black and white $24.95 soft cover) is packed full of not only Redondo’s comics pages, but lots of pencil studies and rough drawings. Publisher and editor Manuel Auad has brought out another fine addition to his line of illustration books.

Henry Patrick Raleigh, the Confident Illustrator:  While poring through Walt Reed’s excellent tomes on the history of illustration in America, I had come across Raleigh’s work, and Arpi Emoyan’s compilation of Hall of Fame Illustrators has a section dedicated to him, but for the most part I was unfamiliar with the artist. Fortunately, this book gives us a much more comprehensive look as his remarkable career. His drawing style has a power and spontaneity that is astounding. There is a stylized sophistication to the characters that parade through his pictures. They are a long, lean and elegant crew of beautiful models, showgirls and debutantes wistfully admired by equally stylish young Romeos. And while this is a very real world, there isn’t a hint of photo reference being used.

In the early twentieth century before the advent of radio, tv and even film, the periodical illustrators of the time were the contemporary pop starts. J.C. Lyendecker was getting ten thousand fan letters a week at the peak of his fame. But despite all of that, any of the NCY galleries would has disdained showing his originals. In the same era, Raleigh’s wife Dorothy put on two major exhibitions of his work in both San Francisco and New York that crossed the lines of fine art and illustration. And that’s just one of the fascinating stories in the biography that is as engrossing as the illustration. 

Another Manuel Auad publication. (128 pgs. $34.95  Hardcover)
Click here to visit Auad publications website.

The Drawings of Bob Peak: Long before I knew anything about illustration, I knew who Bob Peak was. His album covers for My Fair Lady, and Camelot had him on my radar since I was a youngster.  Like Frank Frazetta and Bob McGinnis I was studying the work long before I started learning about the field in it’s entirety.  Bob Peak had a sense of design and color that left you breathless. His work was innovative, spontaneous and mesmerizing. Still, I never thought of his drawing in the same  stratosphere as Fawcett, Cornwell, Wyeth, Gibson,etc. This book changed all that.

There is a life, an exuberance, which explodes out of every page of this book. Nothing ever looks calculated. While I have always had a great respect and admiration for Peak’s work, examining this book has taken it to a new level. While we are looking to  see the finished statement in illustration, often the working and thinking process reveals something at even a deeper level. The perfect companion to The Art of Bob Peak. 

160 pgs. $39.98
Click here to go to Bob Peak's website.

Disclaimer: Some of the drawings used in this blog post were not in the books.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


The other night I had the rare treat of rewatching one of my favorite comedies from the 30’s, “Trouble in Paradise”. The film was directed by Ernst Lubisch, 
who in his comedies took up serious subjects and spiced them with elegance, sophistication, cynicism and witty lines - It became known as "the Lubitsch Touch.” 

The plot of Trouble revolves around a jewel thief, Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall)  and a pickpocket Lily (Miriam Hopkins) who meet and fall in love, the major part of their attraction being their mutual admiration for each anothers skills. When they begin to work on their next mark, the beautiful Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis) she quickly falls for the seductive charms of Gaston. Lily , so it seems, has absolutely no problem with any of this, even as it is made clearly evident in the film there is a sexual relationship between Gaston and Madame Colet. But once Lily suspects Gaston is blowing the con because he’s becoming romantically involved, things began to heat up. Check out the hilarious scene where Gaston and Lily decide to join forces:

The film has an excellent supporting casts with the likes of such great character actors as Charles Ruggles, Edgar Everett Horton and C. Aubrey Smith. And Lubisch gets the most out this entire combination. Some of my other favorite Lubisch films are “Ninotchka”, “Design For Living”, “The Shop Around the Corner”, “To Be or Not to Be”, and “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife”.

(Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall.)

(C. Aubrey Smith on right.)

(Charles Ruggles and Edgar Everett Horton.)

What struck me on this viewing was how much this film and others by Lubisch must have influenced Will Eisner when he was working on the Spirit. Eisner and Lubisch both came the Jewish immigrant background, the latter coming from Germany in the early 20’s and the former born in NYC shortly after his parents arrived there from Austria.  Will certainly worked at creating a similar “Lubisch touch” in his stories. While there was crime, mayhem and betrayal, the reader always understood that there would be a happy ending. Villians might be dastardly, but they were never truly dangerous. In the midst of the Holocaust and the Atomic Age, Eisner still portrayed a kindler, gentler world for his readers. Even in his later career when Eisner was trying more thought-provoking material (such as “A Contract With God”), he doesn’t abandon his cartoonier style for a more realistic one, as if suggesting that we don’t take this stuff TOO seriously.
(Greta Garbo and Melvin Douglas in "Ninotchka".)

(Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in "The Lady Eve")

The influence of film has always been very obvious to me in the visual aspects of Eisner’s work. The canted camera angles of Orson Welles and the noir lighting of the so many of the mystery films. He was certainly studying not only the cinematography of “The Third Man”, but also the lighting and sets in “The Maltese Falcon” and the early Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto series. Certainly George Sanders in his roles as the Saint and as the Falcon form a good part of his Spirit character. You can see a lot of Hitchcock in the Spirit with the combination of humor and suspense. And you can’t leave out Preston Sturgess in this discussion. The Lady Eve might well have inspired any number of Eisner’s larcenous heroines. 

(Scenes from Carol Reed's "The Third Man", with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton and Alida Valli.)

Eisner was absorbing all of this material and recreating it in his wonderful Spirit stories all with his own unique approach. In that time, cartoonists were looking at movies, illustration and literature for their inspiration. It’s a different world today where it seems every big film coming out of Hollywood has to be based on a comic book. The new paradigm with the carnival ride action and video game plot is that most movies are now marketed for a 12 -20 year old audience. If you are looking for more thoughtful intelligent stories, you’re more apt to find them on TV, which is now geared for that older audience.

With Eisner as with Lubisch the world as it would and should be is always the setting for their stories. As the comedic director, played by Joel McCrea, who seeks to direct more serious material learns in  the Preston Stugess classic “Sullivan’s Travels” , entertainment trumps reality every time. 

(Guilty pleasures....Peter Lorre as Mr. Moro, George Sanders as the Falcon, and Warner Oland as Charlie Chan.)

(Last add: Watch David Mamet’s “House of Games” about the romance between two of the most cold-blooded con artists and compare it to the basic warmth of the characters in “Trouble in Paradise” Similar story, but a very different handling and results.)

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