Monday, 10 May 2010

Robotika - The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Alex Sheikman







Now here’s a bit of serendipity for you readers; but one of the joys of blogging is the ability to reach out and meet and get to know people from all around the globe, via a shared passion. Not only am I getting to hook up with people I would never have otherwise met, but also as time progresses I become aware that people are also conversing with each other which just adds to the fun of the occasion.And here’s a tip for creatives but if you leave a comment on a blog and also have a Blogger profile, chances are that native curiosity will impel the blog host to check out your blog, which is precisely what happened when a visitor named Alex Sheikman left some extremely well informed comments on a posting I did some weeks ago.
I just couldn’t resist, here was someone who had an in depth knowledge and appreciation of both U.K. and U.S. comic art and when I checked out Alex’s profile it also transpired that he had a blog and website of his own and was also an illustrator who had his own graphic novel called “Robotika”.

From the samples I could see on his website and blog I could tell that Alex’s artwork was a heady cocktail of some of really tasty influences, Jim Steranko, Mike Mignola, Alex Nino and even Alphonse Mucha, immediately sprang to mind, but underpinning all the hip references was some seriously amazing draughtsmanship, convincing story telling and knockout page design.

Dammit this guy had it all!!!

I thought I’d torture myself a bit further so I checked out the availability of his work and it transpired that he’d been on this “Robotika”  gig for a few years and there were two books in print via an independent and delightfully eclectic outfit under the name of Archaia Comics. So keen to see Robotika in greater depth I subjected my credit card to yet more abuse and awaited the arrival of “Robotika” and it’s recently published sequel “Robotika - For A Few Rubles More”, a title that hints at Alex's Russian ancestory as in addition to all his other accomplishments, it turns out that English is his second language, having spent the first twelve years of his life in the USSR (the experience of living with two languages informed his  creation of Cherokee Geisha's weird vertical speech balloons).

“Robotika” is every bit as good as I had hoped, the story is like one of those epic samurai quests with a lot of action, violence and gore thrown in. But where it scores big time is in the characterisation of the three main protagonists Niko the Samurai sword wielder whose zero charisma quotient is more than compensated for by his road buddies C.G. (Cherokee Geisha), shiny of head and vertical of speech balloon whose sardonic sense of humour has a leavening effect on the mute earnestness of Niko and Bronski the mercenary who views the world through the eyes (one organic the other cybernetic) of a pragmatist rather than philosopher.

But that’s just for starters, where for me the Robotika books really come into their own is in Sheikman’s ability to create a world that extends well beyond the immediate narrative that drives these stories. It’s a world where cybernetics and weird and disturbing mutant organisms counterbalance each other, a world of beauty and unease and as a totality the world that Sheikman has conjured up is truly convincing and leaves you hoping for more in this compelling odyssey.

Books 1: Robotika

and 2: For A Few Rubles More


and Alex also has a sketchbook which won't be around for ever so get it while you can guys, check out Alex's blog.

6 comments:

  1. I'm getting a sense of Steranko and Mignola certainly. And the inking on that mountain peak evokes Wrightson. Which is not to detract one bit from Alex's own distinctive style and vision, because all of those greats absorbed elements from the artists who had gone before.

    And the best thing of all? Alex is part of the Wrong collective! My message to creative slaves everywhere: cast off those shackles and join us.

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  2. Outstanding work! I'd suggest there's even a touch of Druillet in there too (though that could be via the Mignola).

    Maybe I'm just getting old but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of original comics artwork that can now be accessed via the internet - especially when one considers just how tiny the pool that creatives in the comics industry were drawn from in previous decades. During the thirties and forties, in fact, innate talent was relatively unimportant compared to one's proximity to New York (or London), and one's willingness to serve an apprenticeship drawing backgrounds, lettering, ruling borders and spotting blacks, etc. As a result many of the best-known artists of the Golden and Silver Ages actually attended the same school (Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane and Mike Sekowsky for example).

    In my opinion we are only just beginning to understand the full ramifications of the internet for the field of the creative arts. In many ways it represents a major revolution that can only be compared to the invention of the printing press and the subsequent changes in sensibility described by Walter Benjamin in his famous essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'.

    Of course, this can't help but be a good thing in the long run. Nevertheless it does mean that in just a few years the bar has been raised to a frighteningly lofty height for anybody hoping to make a living as a comic artist in the future...!

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  3. I've been an Alex fan for many years. We met in 1993 at a small comic book show in San Jose, CA. It was the first time I had walked around showing my portfolio to people. He was kind enough to let me ink some of his pages and he even paid me for it!

    Even though I've seen a lot of his stuff over the years, it never fails to knock my socks off. The pages look better than ever as I peruse them today.

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  4. Wow - that's quite a story Jack, it can be quite daunting going to comic shows with your folio in tow.

    I'd love to see some of the pages you inked (hint, hint).

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  5. Jack. I consider you the forefather of this whole zombie craze. You were drawing zombies a decade at least before they were in vogue.
    Love u, Desiree

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