Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I heart Liam Sharp

Long time no writey 'bout comics. Every month, a box of great comics slaps down on my doorstep, every month I'm on the verge of endorsing them from my humble soapbox, and every month that familiar wave of lethargy washes over me. Nah, I think to myself, reviewing comics is a game for people who buy their comics weekly, not monthly. Guys like Jog, and Chris, who when he isn't cracking us up with his funny stuff, produces a weekly roundup I never miss 'cus he reads a lot of bad comics so I don't have to.

Here's another weird and wonderful thing about comics - I can tell when a new package is about to arrive from my comic shop of choice, because those shitehawks at Amazon* decide to bombard me with a ton of items I'd ordered months ago and forgotten about. The sequence usually goes like this - it's a couple of days before payday. My current account is getting low. Bam! Amazon email me to tell me they're sending me those long-lost books. Eek! They've debited my account. A few business days later, some of those familiar Amazon packages get jammed through the letter box. Then, just as my "to read" pile starts tottering precariously, Ace send me a jumbo box of stuff, to push things right over the edge.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: I've just fallen in love with Liam Sharp's art all over again, thanks to Akedah, the first collection of the series TESTAMENT. Liam started at 2000AD in the late eighties, with a lovely fresh style which I thought reminiscent of the long-underrated John "colourist of WATCHMEN & KILLING JOKE" Higgins. This developed into a tight illustrative style, and he became a regular Dredd artist, with the recurring PJ Maybe storyline (recently collected by Rebellion). Then he pretty much disappeared off my radar, working at Marvel UK, Verotik, Heavy Metal and Image, I believe (none of which were venues I frequented, barely reading comics at the time). His name expanded, like Barry Smith before him, and he became Liam McCormack-Sharp, for a while. From what I can tell, his work during this period had a tendency to fall a little too much under the influence of the great Simon Bisley. This is hardly unforgiveable - Bisley was a revolution at the time, melding the anarchy of Sienkiewicz with the muscular charisma of Frazetta. Every upstart British artist was grabbing his brushes and acrylics at the time, and abandoning his faithful 4B. I won't list them all, but most only reached maturity when they returned to pen and ink: like Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips, and Kev Walker.

Sharp re-emerged on my radar when I returned to reading 2000AD after a few years break: he did an arc of Pat Mills' A.B.C. Warriors that was bloody awful. Looked like he drew it with a muddy stick. I lamented his decline. Then I came across the excellent anthology he produced, EVENT HORIZON. I've written about it before, but I remember hesitating when I first heard about it. I thought it sounded a little bit too HEAVY METAL for me. The gala list of contributors eventually swayed me, and Sharp's own contributions (the hilariously named Fucking Savages) again were a little bit more-Bisley-than-Bisley. That said, it was well-crafted, slickly painted, and at least it wasn't muddy stickulous.

Which brings me to TESTAMENT. I've often been guilty of that crappy critical standby, the cheesy simile, (artist X) is like (artist Y) meets (artist Z). Hey, it's not like I'm the only one. But as I read this trade paperback, a whole gamut of names came jumping at me. Sharp has developed a new style that has a lot of the old him in it, but which simultaneously reminds me of greats like Quitely, Manara, Moebius, Bernet, Kubert, Druillet, Crumb, Corben...

It really is great to see an artist fulfilling his early promise, and who's really clicking with some great material. Bravo.

*Oh, and buy NEXTWAVE.


geoff said...

nice template marko. all you need to do is change the colour of the "links i haven't visited" from the same colour as the background and it'll be great.

or is it a colourblind issue? or is it my browser?

saudade said...

bI thought that was some artsy thing I wasn't supposed to understand, like wine, or cheese.

I think you should keep it. It's dark and mysterious.

Both a template and pic change in a few days. Looks nice!

Mark said...

Yeah, it's an issue with the template change, but I thought it turned out quite funny, so I left it for the time being.

I changed from the old template because it really couldn't take any bandwidth pressure at all without exploding, so I played it safe with a more stable one. But I've got to do some more work on it - it scrambles my wee photo, and ate my links. Dammit!

Mark said...

Fixed. Oh, and Saudade - "wine and cheese" isn't meant to be mysterious. It's supposed to get me a better class of passing trade.

Brandon said...

Dammit! Everytime I read your stuff I end up spending about ten bucks buying 2000AD back issues on eBay.

By the way, I love the black. It's so slimming.

geoff said...

wine and cheese? can you imagine turning up at one of those gigs and getting handed buckfast and coleraine cheddar?

Mark said...

My sophisticated palette will no longer tolerate Buckfast, though it will always hold a special place in my heart.