I said I’d post some J.H. Williams, didn’t I? Here we go: the cover to Absolute Promethea vol. III. There are not many comic books I will pay $100 per collection to have in slipcased hardcovers that just reprint the original art at larger size on nicer paper, but Promethea is one of them. It was easily worth the money. You can see the Mucha influence here. Again, there are more and less Mucha-influenced pages by Williams, but this is a nice blend of the earlier, classical looking stuff, and the more contemporary emblematic layouts he’s been doing on stuff like Batwoman. Will post more by him soon, because he’s probably my favorite artist working.

This image is from Williams’ wonderful Flickr page, btw.

And here’s another guy who’s a huge influence on McKean (and another one of my very, very favorite artists): the estimable Bill Sienkiewicz, one of the few bona fide geniuses working in comics (McKean is another). He’s probably best-known for his Marvel Universe stories, especially Elektra: AssassinMoon Knight, and New Mutants, which are all collaborations, but his own writing holds up just as well, if not better, on stuff like Stray Toasters. This one’s of Conan the Barbarian, obviously. Many thanks to Thomas Haller Buchanan over at mydelineatedlife.blogspot.com for sharing this one with the world.

Joel Peter Witkin’s Woman Once a Bird, one of Witkin’s less shocking pictures, believe it or not. McKean uses the same techniques—the dark framing around the edges of the picture, the use of harsh physical imagery to convey ideas from myths, the ornamental constriction of his models’ bodies—to make much stranger but less horrifying images. Witkin’s work predates most computer effects; he used pieces of corpses in some of his photographs and people with birth defects—"extraordinary bodies,“ he called them—in others. There’s a glorification of the necrotic that I find disgusting in his work, and a celebration of weirdness that I find really reassuring and uplifting.

Also, here is a page from what I—seriously now—truly think is probably the greatest serial comic book ever created, Groo, by Sergio Aragones with Mark Evanier. It’s funny as hell, drawn with a level of sustained technical expertise totally unmatched at its length on any other title, and it even manages to pack a real satircal wallop in its later issues. I love old-fashioned swords-and-sandals adventure stories, and Groo manages to both fulfill that genre and add immeasurably to it at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are better graphic novels, better story arcs and maybe even funnier humor titles (if you can think of one, by all means tell me), but pound for pound, no series has ever managed to maintain such an incredibly high quality for so long. Read the early issues (back before computer coloring), and you can practically hear colorist Tom Luth screaming across the drafting board, “FOR GOD’S SAKE, SERGIO! AFTER THE THIRD TIER THEY’RE JUST ALL GOING TO BE FUCKING BROWN!”