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UNRECOGNIZED GENIUSES
By Jim McLauchlin
It is the curse of an unrecognized genius not to be recognized in his time as a genius.

To wit: Did you know that in its time, Moby Dick was considered just a simple boy's adventure story? 'Tis true! 'Twasn't 'til many years after author Herman Melville's death that people stopped and said, "Hey, there might be something more than just chasing a whale going on here." In fact, at the time of his death, Melville was probably better known as the author of Typee, a much more obscure work today. In double fact, at the time of his death, Melville had grossed all of about $10,000 in his career as a novelist.

Give you pause, now don't it?

While you're pausing, consider comics. There are many unrecognized genius (Geniuii?) working in the field today. Here are but a few. I urge you: Check 'em out. You might find something you like. You might purchase one of their works, and get them to a post-Melville $10,001 earned in their career.

And you might be able to say, "Hey, I knew David Mack before he was DAVID MACK."

David Mack

No one knows what "history" is while it's happening. You need time and perspective to look back and say, "Hey, that made history." Believe me when I say this: When the history books are written about this era of comics, there will be pages and pages devoted to David Mack.

Mack is the master of a million techniques, from pencils to paints, from nailing lace garters to blocks of wood (really!) to freehand drawing with printer ink cartridges (really!). He has NO FEAR when it comes to defying convention.and coming up with something that, even though you thought it would never work, works!

Mack then puts these bold techniques into everything from super-spy tales (see: Early issues of Kabuki) to fascinating introspective tales (see: later issues of Kabuki) to superheroes (see: Daredevil)

Some say comics are going through a Renaissance now. Davis Mack is a Renaissance man.

Richard Isanove

No one even knew what "digital painting" was before Richard Isanove unleashed it on an unsuspecting comic world in the pages of Origin. Now, all coloring will fall into two time periods: B.I. (Before Isanove) and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence-No, wait! Make that "After Isanove").

And hear me now, believe me later, and think about it in the meantime: Color is where the bleeding edge of comic technology currently is, and is what will determine its future. Ask yourself: What do you really notice when you pick up a book? The coloring? Or this thing called "inking"? At least 50% plus one of you are saying, "Well, the coloring, duh." As more books move direct from pencils to colors, the contributions of those who really make it work such as Richard Isanove will be recognized.

Peter Steigerwald

Okay, one person knew what "digital painting" was before Richard Isanove. A big honkin', fun-lovin' Hawaiian named Peter Steigerwald.

Yes, color is all about technology these days. But it's also about art, a sense of design, and the ability to just "see" how things are in real life, and bring them to a printed page.

That is Steigerwald's forte.

Peter's lush colors on Fathom added incredible depth and reality to a book that always kept one foot in the realm of hi-sci-fi, and the other foot firmly rooted in the real world. Steigerwald's colors glow off a page. And his use of effects is always well-tempered. There's a temptation to overuse PhotoShop and make everything look like a Cash Money Records "bling bling" hip-hop album cover. Hey, just 'cause you can do something does not necessarily mean that you should. Steigerwald understands this. His color and effects open a door form a comic page into the real world so well, that more often than not, you don't even realize he's doing it.

Adam Warren

And as East and West get closer and closer, the one man who's always been Central is Adam Warren.

Warren is one of the best-known, if not the best-known, of American manga artists. With hits such as Dirty Pair and Gen13 under his belt that date back a decade or more, Warren saw the manga wave coming to the U.S. years before it washed up on these shores. And he even got a late start on it.

Warren grew up in New Hampshire, not exactly the most Pacific Rim of cultures. But when he attended the Kubert School, his eyes were opened. "I got exposed to anime, and then manga," Warren says. "For some reason, I found that the character design, the storytelling approach, and any of a number of other things really clicked with me. I thought it was just great. I decided I wanted to incorporate manga, and to some degree, anime, into my work. It just proceeded from there."

It's proceeded, and proceeded with a great flair and sense of humor as well. Warren's hilarious, parody-filled takes on both Japanese and American characters have been singing for years. There will be even more to come.

Darwyn Cooke

Ya got comics over here, cartoons over there, and smack-dab in the middle, ya got Darwyn Cooke.

Cooke brought his experience as an animator and a keen sense of design to comics, and helped move comics even more in an animated direction.

Cooke's hyper-kinetic, action-packed layouts are reminiscent of a Jack Kirby. His flair for design smacks of an Alex Toth. He combined both into a redesign of DC's Catwoman that shook the comic world and landed the feline femme fatale back on the map, after the character had become an also-ran.

And it's more than just art. Cooke has shown amazing storytelling chops on projects diverse as the tense, noir graphic novel Catwoman: Selina's Big Score and the lighthearted Christmas romps in Spider-Man's Tangled Web.

In whatever he's done, Cooke has been fearless in bring animation to comics, comics to animation, and helped lay a new groundwork that future generations of both writers and artists can continue to build on.

The Jim McLauchlin Archive

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