Saturday, December 31, 2005

Comic Art Saturday (yes, Saturday): Artist of the Year, 2005

It's Saturday, it's the last day of the year, and it's time to take an appreciative look back at some of the work of an artist whose incredible commissioned artworks graced SSTOL's Comic Art Fridays throughout 2005 (drum roll, s'il vous plait)...

Geof Isherwood, Montreal's favorite American comic-artist-in-residence.

Favorite Isherwood Common Elements Commission:
"Stormbringers" (Storm and Elric of Melniboné)

Geof's best-known work in mainstream comics is probably his stint as inker, and later penciler and inker, on Marvel's various Conan series in the late 1980s, including Conan the Barbarian and Conan the King. Geof's affinity for fantasy characters made him the perfect choice for this Common Elements teamup featuring Michael Moorcock's Elric, alongside the X-Men's Storm. It was Geof's inspiration to dress Storm in the garb of Barry Windsor-Smith's Adastra, due to the shared history of the two heroines. The result was this superb pencil artwork.

Favorite Isherwood Theme Gallery Commission, Heroes Division:
Black Panther

At Marvel, Geof worked on the Conan books with one of my favorite comics writers, Christopher J. Priest (then known as James Owsley). In one of Priest's other Marvel projects, his memorable revival of the Black Panther elevated this great hero to new heights of triumph. I have a feeling that Priest would dig Geof's rendering of the Panther almost as much as I do.

Favorite Isherwood Theme Gallery Commission, Heroines Division:
Wonder Woman

In typically amazing fashion, Geof put his unique stamp on my all-time favorite heroine. His take is a little bit Harry G. Peter (Wonder Woman's original artist), a little bit Ross Andru (the primary WW penciler of the Silver Age), and a whole lot of pure Isherwood.

Favorite Isherwood Solo Heroine Commission:
The Valkyrie

Drawing again on his love for fantasy and classic sword-and-sandal heroism, Geof created this gorgeous portrait of Marvel's modern-day Viking warrior, the Valkyrie, and her winged stallion Aragorn.

Favorite Isherwood Solo Hero Commission:
The Spirit

Shortly after Will Eisner's death earlier this year, Geof delivered this atmospheric and wonderfully Eisneresque scenario featuring Eisner's signature character, the Spirit. For the backgrounds, Geof drew inspiration from the waterfront of Montreal. Notice the Spirit's nemesis P'Gell observing from a second-story window.

Favorite Isherwood Co-Ed Portrait:
Suicide Squad

Geof's one significant project for DC Comics was Suicide Squad, the cult hit of the late 80's and early '90s. He and I talked for some time about his revisiting that series in a commissioned artwork. I chose my four favorite members of the Squad's amorphous lineup — the Vixen, the Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, and Deadshot — and Geof cast them in this tension-filled scene. It's a brilliant example of his deft tonal pencil work.

Favorite Isherwood Inking Makeover:
The Scarlet Witch and The Vision, inks by Geof Isherwood from a pencil sketch by Frank Brunner

Geof inked several other artists' pencil originals for me this year, the results of each more impressive than the last. But he outdid himself transforming a rough preliminary sketch by Frank Brunner (Dr. Strange, Howard the Duck) into this powerful tableau. Geof managed to retain the essence of Brunner's style, while adding layers of dimension not even suggested by the original drawing.

As astonishing as the works featured above are, it's even more astonishing to recognize that they represent less than half of the Isherwood art that entered my collection in 2005. I can't thank Geof enough for sharing his creative gifts with me, and through Comic Art Fridays, with all of you. He's truly a nonpareil talent.

And thanks to all of you for your humbling and gratifying support throughout 2005. Our daily readership has more than tripled since the beginning of the year, and I hope each of you will continue to find reason to point your browser here frequently during 2006. Your grateful Uncle Swan wishes you and yours the blessings of peace, prosperity, and joy in the coming year.

Now go boil up some hoppin' John, toast your health with some chilled sparkling cider, and for cryin' out loud, stay off the roads tonight.

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous mike cross offered these pearls of wisdom...

Gotta agree with you on every aspect of this. Geof is a class act all the way. He's done some great work on art for me as well.

4:48 PM  

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