The Art Of Painted Comics by Christopher Lawrence (book review).

I did think when I started Christopher Lawrence’s book, ‘The Art Of Painted Comics’, that perhaps it was misnamed. Perhaps ‘The Art Of Painted Covers’ might have been a better title as much of the first part of the book addresses their start in pulp novels. Then again, the likes of The Shadow and The Phantom made the transition to comicbook so it is mainly a default area to start from. Oddly, the first comicbook to have painted covers, two of which were by CC Beck, was Fawcett’s Captain Marvel # 18 & 19. Beck refused to do more because he didn’t think paintings and comics didn’t mix. That didn’t preclude Spotlight’s ‘Classics Illustrated’ doing and being successful with it.

Although many of the books and comicbooks weren’t distributed in the UK, I was amazed by how many of them, like the early 1960s Marvel novels I had in my collection. Be aware, you will be using this book as a guide to buying some of the books that are still out there as well as checking up on particular artists.

There’s a lot of information here. I mean did you know that Frank Frazetta’s early Conan book covers were painted practically at the same size as the paperbacks. Respect.

You’ll also be surprised or being reminded that the likes of John Romita, John Buscema and Neal Adams doing their share of painted covers and far more than I thought.

Oddly, for the UK, there is only a brief look at Frank Hampton’s work on ‘Dan Dare’ in the Eagle, which is a shame because if they’d gone a few years later, in ‘TV Century 21’, there were the likes of Mike Noble and Ron Embleton painting there and over in ‘Look & Learn’, Don Lawrence before and after he painted ‘The Tigon Empire’. A good excuse for a second volume methinks. With Embleton, he also painted ‘Wicked Wanda’ for ‘Penthouse’, it’s not like they ignored ‘Little Annie Fanny’ art by Will Elder from ‘Playboy’.

Alex Ross contributes comments to Christopher Lawrence’s text and then it flips with his own entry and everyone else does to his and how much they have in turn been influenced by him.

After that, we go through all the modern and mostly post-Ross style painters. Oddly, I only spotted three ladies, Laurel Blechman, Tara McPherson and Jill Thompson. The world definitely needs more female comicbook painters and Julie Bell only gets a mention because of the trading cards she did.

Clayton Crain is the only digital painter and when you see his Green Arrow, you might want to reconsider how you paint digitally yourself, especially how he used reflected light.

Much of the art is jaw-dropping and although I recognised some of the artists, this has filled gaps in my knowledge. This book should also be used as a guide to some publishers to do some ‘Art Of-’ books showing their work in collected volumes.

I think you’ve got my enthusiasm here and the only reason I haven’t shown interiors is because I got the book myself and don’t want to get into copyright infringement. If you haven’t got this book or missed it in its 4 years of release, then this is the one comicbook artbook that you should be buying this year. Just flicking through the pages should cheer up an confined day and a demonstration that the medium covers a wide range of art.

GF Willmetts

May 2020

(pub: Dynamite Entertainment, 2016. 391 page illustrated very large hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £11.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-60680-353-7)

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