Weekend links 34

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Halloween in Austin, Texas this year will look and sound like this.

• “Blade Runner will prove invincible“: Philip K Dick’s letter of praise to the film’s producers. Related: one of the Blade Runner designers, Syd Mead, has recently styled New York’s Bar Basque and Foodparc.

• “I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated…I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.” RIP Benoît Mandelbrot.

Science and poetry: “a richly vexed topic badly in need of rethinking”. Related: Why the Singularity isn’t going to happen.

• In case you missed this week’s earlier announcement, a reminder that I was interviewed at Coilhouse. My vanity: it knows no bounds.

• Franklin Booth’s illustrations for The Flying Islands of the Night (1913) by James Whitcomb Riley.

On the Verge (1950) by Maurice Sandoz, illustrated by Salvador Dalí. Also this and this.

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Bowie Sphinx, 1969. Photo by Brian Ward.

The Laughing Gnostic: David Bowie and the Occult.

• “Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals“: Isaac Newton’s alchemical interests.

• “A sense of otherness that goes right back“: Alan Garner at Alderley Edge.

Jimmy’s End—Alan Moore’s new feature film and spin-off TV series.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain by Owen Hatherley.

• The It Gets Better Project now has a dedicated website.

Quicksand (1971) by David Bowie.

Pratt Libraries Ex Libris Collection

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It wouldn’t surprise me if the web’s image-hoarders have already found Pratt Libraries’ huge collection of ex libris plates at Flickr but I hadn’t seen these before. A great variety of different designs from artists known and unknown. The one at the top left is by American illustrator Franklin Booth.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Evil Orchid Bookplate Contest
David Becket’s bookplates
Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands

Further tales from the Obscure World

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L’enfant penchée.

We’re at the penultimate post in this week-long tribute to the Cités Obscures series of François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, and there isn’t enough space left to cover some of the more recent volumes in detail. What follows is a quick skate through three more major works.

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L’enfant penchée.

L’enfant penchée (1996), or The Leaning Child, is an expanded version of a 1995 children’s story by Schuiten and Peeters, Mary la penchée. Mary is the young daughter of wealthy industrialists from Mylos struck down one day by some cosmic calamity which shifts her centre of gravity, causing her to permanently lean at an apparently impossible angle. When she’s bullied at school she runs away and joins a circus. A meeting with scientists and astronomers leads to a resolving of her affliction, and the repairing of her ruined life. This is a fascinating story for a number of reasons, not least the existence of a parallel narrative taking place in our world which is conveyed using photographs, and which unveils some of the metaphysical aspects of the Obscure World. The story of Mary is also flawlessly drawn. Schuiten uses a black-and-white style modelled on the work of old magazine illustrators like Franklin Booth, and there are further references to Winsor McCay and Jules Verne.

Continue reading “Further tales from the Obscure World”

Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein

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A recent conversation with Evan J Peterson touched on the subject of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Evan is currently working on something based on the novel and—in the interests of disclosure—he wrote a very flattering piece about these pages recently. In addition to this, Peter Ackroyd’s latest book works his familiar intertextual games with the same story, placing the monster creator in London where he meets various significant literary types. Andrew Motion reviewed the latter this week and wasn’t impressed.

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Which preamble brings us to Berni Wrightson’s treatment of the story and a work which was a major inspiration for my HP Lovecraft comics and illustrations. Wrightson’s illustrated edition of Shelley’s complete novel was published in 1983 with an introduction by Stephen King. I’d admired Wrightson’s technique for years but wasn’t always impressed by his subject matter which tended to revolve around the stock selection of favourite American horror characters—vampires, werewolves, zombies and so on—while much of his early art was indebted to the EC horror comics which never interested me at all. Jokey horror has always seemed to me a debased and neutered horror, horror-lite, and yes, that includes plush Cthulhus and the rest of that tat.

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So the immediate attraction of the Frankenstein book was seeing Wrightson take the story back to its origins and treat it seriously. Frankenstein—creator, monster and myth—has been subject to as much degradation as Dracula over the past century which made Wrightson’s approach very welcome. Crucially, it also gave me the key to interpreting Lovecraft visually. It was very evident that his drawings owed a debt to a favourite illustrator of mine, Gustave Doré; two of the pieces were almost straight copies of Doré drawings from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In terms of overt influence, Wrightson’s book is dedicated to the great Roy G Krenkel, one of the finest fantasy illustrators of the early 20th century. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but Wrightson’s style here also owes much to American illustrator Franklin Booth (1874–1948), one of Krenkel’s own influences. If the monster in his drawings had a touch of the lumbering EC zombie about its features that was allowable given the other influences at work, and besides, his compositions are perfect. Once I started work on my Lovecraft drawings I quickly found an approach that suited my own obsessions with fine line and detail. But it was Wrightson’s example which pointed the way.

The only problem discussing this is that the copies available on various sites, including Wrightson’s own gallery pages, don’t do the drawings much justice at all. (There’s a large copy of one picture here.) Where the more detailed pieces are concerned you’ll have to try and find a copy of the book. This year is the 25th anniversary of the book’s publication so Dark Horse Comics will be publishing a hard cover edition in October 2008. In addition, Darkwoods Press have announced an “ultimate edition” which will reprint all the artwork (some drawings weren’t used) with quality reproduction. No further information about that, however, and given that they’ve having to source all of the original drawings it may be a while before it appears.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Berni Wrightson in The Mist
The monstrous tome
Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands

Maldoror illustrated

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Les Chants de Maldoror by Corominas (2007).

There seems to be no escaping from HP Lovecraft just now, the illustration above having been created for a PDF publication entitled CTHULHU, Cómics y relatos de ficción oscura, produced by these people. The Cthulhu-zine seems to be unavailable but you can see more of these splendid illustrations, based on Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror (1869), at Dorian Gray BD. The artist, Corominas, has an additional blog showcasing more commercial work.

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Les Chants de Maldoror by Jacques Houplain (1947).

Lautréamont’s delirious masterpiece isn’t exactly the easiest book to illustrate but the Corominas drawings certainly capture some of its ferocious energy. The Surrealists were big Maldoror enthusiasts, of course, and did much to establish Lautréamont’s current reputation. Salvador Dalí produced a series of engravings for a Skira edition in 1934 although his drawings look less like illustrations of the text than a rifling of the artist’s usual preoccupations. The picture above by Jacques Houplain is one of a series of twenty-seven engravings produced for a French edition in the 1940s. More recently, Jean Benoît created (among other things) a Maldororian dog and there’s even been an attempt at a comic-strip adaptation from Hernandez Palacios. On the whole I prefer the Corominas pictures but then I’m biased towards that style of drawing which owes something to all the comic artists and illustrators influenced by Franklin Booth.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands
Carlos Schwabe’s Fleurs du Mal
The art of Jean Benoît