Isles of the Dead

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The Isle of the Dead (version five, 1886) by Arnold Böcklin, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste.

Reading old comics recently turned up the page below by Philippe Druillet which I didn’t remember having seen before. The drawing is from Gail, one of Druillet’s Lone Sloane stories (but not one included in the Six Voyages of Lone Sloane), and shows the entrance to a typically sinister Druillet city modelled on one of Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead paintings. (Druillet’s original was in black-and-white but was later coloured.) This derivation manages to keep all of Böcklin’s details while cleverly turning the cypresses into a fanged mouth.

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Philippe Druillet (1976).

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Böcklin’s cemetery isle has been the subject of several posts here, being one of my favourite paintings and also an object of fascination for its continuing influence in a variety of media: novels, films, music and, of course, comics. Druillet quotes from other artists in his Lone Sloane stories—notably Escher and Grandville—so the Böcklin quotation wasn’t too much of a surprise. Toteninsel.net, the website devoted to works influenced by The Isle of the Dead, turned up a few more comic-related examples, some of which are featured below. What’s notable about the examples at Toteninsel is that they’re all from European artists; that’s not to say there isn’t an example to be found in American comics but European comic art seems much more aware of Symbolist painting.

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Relativity

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Relativity (1953) by MC Escher.

Escher’s famous lithograph has a less familiar companion piece in the woodcut below.

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Delirius (1972) by Philippe Druillet.

Lone Sloane’s adventure on the pleasure planet of Delirius was written by Jacques Lob, and features this diversion in the Palais d’Escher. Possibly the first fictional use of one of Escher’s prints.

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More Druillet

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I’ve been working all day to get multiple things finished before leaving for Providence so here’s a handful of Druillet covers pulled from Noosfere. Philippe Druillet must be one of the first artists—possibly the first—whose work is Lovecraftian at core. Artists had been illustrating Lovecraft’s stories since their first publication but Druillet’s work from the late 60s to the mid-70s often seems like a series of reports from Lovecraft’s imagination. This is most evident in two of the artist’s graphic novels, Yragaël (1974) and Urm le Fou (1975), which I find to be more convincingly Lovecraftian than much of the imitative fiction being produced at the time. For more along these lines, see this post about Druillet’s portfolio series, Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles.

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Dune designs

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Currently racking up the bids at eBay (again) is an early draft of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s script for his ill-fated film of Dune. Aside from some diverting glimpses of dialogue and plot elaboration, what’s most interesting about the draft is the character and scene sketches, some of which are sampled below. I’ve still not seen the documentary about the unmade film so I can’t say whether any of these have appeared in public before but if they have they’re new to me. No artist is credited but the naive style rules out both Moebius and HR Giger (who arrived late to the project in any case). Best bet is either Jodorowsky himself—in 1967 he was writing and illustrating a comic strip, Fabulas Panicas—or Jodorowsky’s colleague from the Panic Movement days, Roland Topor. In the early 70s Topor was working with René Laloux on the animated SF film Fantastic Planet.

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Many of the conceptions differ radically from the more graceful designs that Moebius produced later on. Also of note are details such as the anal entrance to the Emperor’s throne room, a Harkonnen orgy and an insemination scene viewed from inside Jessica’s vagina. By the time Giger joined the production team the instruction was not to create anything too erotic or adult since the film needed to reach a large audience.

There’s more from the Dune script (and larger copies of these images) here. (Thanks to Jay for the tip!)

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Saga de Xam revisited

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Back in December I was thrilled to discover that Nicolas Devil’s large-format psychedelic/erotic comic book, Saga de Xam, had been scanned and uploaded to Scribd. The book was published by Éric Losfeld in 1967 in an edition of 5000 which quickly sold out, and has remained out of print ever since. Losfeld died in 1979 but it was always his intention that the book would remain scarce (although a second edition did appear after his death) with the result that copies today command high prices.

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Six of the seven chapters had been uploaded to Scribd in December but the seventh and final episode of the time-travelling Saga’s adventures was frustratingly absent. So I’m pleased to report that the final chapter is now available for reading or downloading, prompted in part by the interest my earlier post generated. The seventh chapter sees Saga arrive in the present day (ie: 1967) where she encounters more human conflict in the form of the US military and marauding Hells Angels. The chapter ends with several Exquisite Corpse pages which had Philippe Druillet among their contributors; it was the appearance of three of these pages in the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival catalogue in 2010 that first brought the book to my attention. The very end of the book has a key to the alphabets used on some of the pages. I’d love to see Fantagraphics reprint this volume in a translated edition but those alphabets would create some difficulties. For the moment the PDFs at Scribd are the only place you can read this unique publication.

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