As some may or may not know, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight trilogy comes to an end in Dark Knight 3: The master Race. a number of artists will be providing variant covers for the first issue due out in November. One of those artists is British legend, Brian Bolland. I thought, why not honor a legendary artist who may have fallen  by the wayside in the last few years.  Here is his most recent cover for said Batman story.

If you study at his art, you’ll notice that he has an incredible amount of subtle detail. His line work and his inking are nearly perfect. Some might say, too perfect. Almost machine like.

Regardless, every piece that he does is dynamic and meticulously thought out.  He can make any cover pop. So much so , that he’s, pretty much made a career out of doing exclusively covers. I would hazard to say that he is one of the best comic book cover artists of all time.I don’t think he’s done any interior work since Batman: Black & White.

Of course he wasn’t always an exclusive cover artist. He made a name for himself quickly while working on 2000 A.D.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brian Bolland an number of years ago.  He was kind enough to sign a few comics I brought in at no charge. The real treat was getting to see him draw. He was doing a commission for another fan. Bolland himself  has said that a big reason he doesn’t take many interior projects is due to his ” slowness”. Having seen him in action, I can see why. As I said before, he’s meticulous and certainly a perfectionist. As we know, perfection takes time. But the end result is always a sight to behold. Here are a few projects to look into if you’re curios to see Brian Bolland at his best.

Judge Dredd – The Judge Death saga and others.

 

I think Bolland really made a name for himself working on the popular Judge Dredd strip. His realistic take became( for me) the definitive look for the character. When I think of Dredd’s face, I think of Brian Bolland’s version. His trademark scowl and large chin done to perfection. Bolland also helped to create Judge Death. Dredd’s ultimate nemesis. Track down these stories and take them in. The originals are a bit of a search but the stories themselves have been reprinted numerous times. I’ll never forget this classic panel below.

 

Animal Man

The above cover is one of my favorites of his lengthy run. While he didn’t do any of the actual interior work on the title, he did do a whopping 63 covers on it. This certainly elevated a character many considered “lame” at the time. His realism added a feeling of importance to the character that made it difficult for any reader to, at least, pick up the comic and take a look.  Being on the title as long as he was also gave the series a constant look and standard. Having Grant Morrison writing the title for a number of years didn’t hurt either.

Camelot 3000

 

Another risk was working on the ambitious Camelot 3000. This is notable because it’s the longest run of interior work Bolland’s ever done. I think this is where Bolland really thought twice about doing interior work. Particularly on a monthly series because deadlines were not his specialty. It was a moderate failure at the time. Not in any part due to Bolland’s artwork but more toward a subpar story line. Not terrible, but not excellent either. I’d say this is a must have for Bolland completionists.

Batman: The Killing Joke

 

A Batman comic that needs no introduction to Bat-fans. Arguably the definitive Joker story of all time. This is Brian Bollands best work ever in my opinion. Brian Bolland was actually the one that pushed Alan Moore and DC to make this story happened. After months of hounding him, Alan Moore finally relented and delivered a fantastic script. Brian Bolland ran with it and gave art worthy of that script and more.

Every panel is like a cover to be studied. There are countless moments and images in this comic that have become iconic. The cover itself is an example of that. In typical Bolland fashioned, he took his time, but the reward is plain for all to see. It’s controversy as a story, has grown over the years, but the art still shines through regardless. In terms of the comic book medium,  it’s definitely one of the most referenced stories of all time.  Even the Dark knight film did an homage to this classic sequence.

 

Not exactly the same but when you watch the scene, you’ll know. I urge you to track down some of his work and enjoy for yourselves!

I hope that the last two weeks have left you all awaiting more indie comic recommendations. We finally reach the end of our 3 part list of some of the best indie comics has to offer.  Let’s get right to it and kick things off with A romp in the Post apocalyptic world of Mega City 1.

Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges Saga – By Alan Grant, John Wagner & Brian Bolland

What better way to start off the list than with an often overlooked gem. The British comic has been around since the late seventies and early eighties but you’d be hard pressed to find too much of the comic here in North America.  This is a particular shame because there area plethora of great stories that explore many different themes and characters. May times the stories don’t even revolve around it’s titular character, Judge Dredd. One of my personal favorites is the Dark Judges saga or the introduction to Judge Death. A chilling villain that comes from an alternate reality where the only crime is life itself, thus meaning anyone living is breaking the law, and as we know these Judges take their jobs very seriously. This is also to a great opportunity to see the humble begins of DC stalwarts Alan Grant, and the legendary, Brian Bolland. Currently IDW is reprinting this classic run in both singe issue and trade paperback format making this hard to find book accessible to all again.

Parker: Adapted from Richard Stark By Darwyn Cooke

 

Crime fiction enthusiasts may remember reading the seminal Parker novels by Richard Stark in 1962 and beyond. If not, then this is a great opportunity to mirror those exciting stories with the evocative art from Toronto born Darwyn Cooke. The first volume has actually been loosely adapted into several films over the years. Payback, starring Mel Gibson was as close as it got to being good. Forget the Jason Statham movie of the same name. The comic adaptation by Cooke breathes new life and allows new readers to explore a faithful version of the beloved story. Parker is crass, unapologetic, fierce, yet impossible not to be drawn to. Cooke nails the mood and allows a lot of the pictures to dot he talking. When your character is a man of few words, dynamic storytelling is a must. IDW has a collection of 4 beautiful hard cover versions available for purchase. I urge you to give this a shot.

The Winter Men- By Brett Lewis & John Paul Leon

 

I was actually turned onto this comic by my dear cousin. It’s an engrossing read that melds many genres together into a melting pot of something wholly original. It’s takes place during the Cold War in Russia, and it plays with the idea of secret government experiments on humans to create, superhumans. However it’s not quite as on the nose as you would expect. It feels very grounded and it doesn’t pull any punches. It doesn’t even try very hard to make you like the characters. One of the many appeals of the comic is the fact that all the characters seems to be bat shit crazy, which can be very entertaining to read. Both writer, Brett Lewis and Artist, John Paul Leon go for broke on this story. It’s a real shame that their work resume is surprisingly sparse. John Pau Leon in particular is a guy that is made for noir. He would fit in nicely with Batman or Darrdevil. Winter Men is short and sweet. No much of a commitment at all. Check it out.

Love: The Tiger – By Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci

 

Shifting gears completely, we get to Love: The Tiger. Magnetic Press is the currently comic company that is bringing this French work to North America for the first time. TO be honest, a translation isn’t even really necessary. One of the unique things about this book is the very fact that is contains no spoken words or thought balloons. The only text in the story is a quote in the beginning. It’s the story of a day in the life of a Tiger in the wild. What are the many obstacles that he or she can encounter? Just how difficult is life and how will it survive? The illustration is beautiful and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it when I picked it up from the shelves.  The ambition of telling a story without words is not entirely new at all but it’s always interesting to find one that works so well. it’s too difficult to find this book than it should be but I hope that you do try and seek this out.

Kings Watch – By Jeff Parker & Marc Laming

I was particularly excited when I heard that, classic pulp characters, The Phantom, Flash Gordon & Mandrake; The Magician would be teaming up in Dynamite’s Kings Watch comic. If anyone remembers the 80’s Defenders Of The Earth TV show, Kings watch serves as a type of reunion for these characters. I’m a big fan of The Phantom especially. The character’s popularity has certainly dipped over the years( Except in Austrailia. They are Phantom freaks.) When I heard that Dynamite comics landed the rights to the character I was excited to see what they would do with him. Sadly, not much until this came out! it’s a short six issue mini series that works as a fun love letter to these pulp favorites. It’s just so much fun and it looks great. it’s a real page turner that revels in it’s history while still be able to push things into the modern age. Just remember that before Superman, Batman or Spider-man there was The Phantom, Mandrake and Flash Gordon. See what made them special.

This concludes my list. I’m sure a week will pass and I’ll remember that I didn’t add something on the list. But that’s just it. There’s a ton of stuff out there. Quality stuff. You just have to explore and see what the medium of comics has to offer.