Thursday 14 April 2011

Dave Johnson And Some of the Most Amazing Cover Art Ever

My dear old chum Simon hath been in contact again. He was pleased to see an attempt by your old blogmeister to make some kind of effort at journeying beyond the comfort zone of Embleton, Kennedy, McLoughlin and Commando but postings on Penny Dreadfuls or Penny Bloods, were he thought perhaps a little too retro.

"You  need to occasionally post something a little more contemporary Peter dear boy, otherwise ..." and here Simon paused for effect, " your blog will slowly turn into a bungalow smelling faintly of wee"

Yes, I know what he meant, my mind was cast back to the kind of things the late comics historian, Denis Gifford would get enthused about when he ran a column in the Society of Strip Illustrator's Journal during the 1970's. Looking back on it the 1970's was a veritable golden age of exciting comic art and writing all of which seemed to go over wayyyyy over Denis' head as he posted about artists who were at the peak of their form in the 1930's and all of whom had names like Wilf, Reg, Alf, Bert or Roy. In fact I used to think why doesn't Denis ever want to write about Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy or Ian Kennedy? The trouble was he knew them, they were part of his generation but because they were his contemporaries they hadn't created the comics of his boyhood. There lay the problem - nostalgia creates it's own "golden age".

So here in the interests of keeping in contact with now as opposed to yesternow is some of the most inventive and bedazzling cover art to ever grace any comic, anytime, anywhere as we look at the art of Dave Johnson one of the rising stars of mainstream comics. It's artists like Johnson who help to pump new life into what can be a very cliche ridden format by honing their artistry and stimulating the viewer with the strength of their ideas.

All images © Marvel Comics 2011 except for Abyssal Plain © Dark Horse Comis 2011.


  1. A bungalow smelling of wee? Hmm, I dunno, maybe Simon is a bit too brutally honest. What do you think, Peter? Anyway, I *like* all the old classic stuff. For me that's a luxury penthouse smelling of WHEEEEE!

    Mind you, what's our Mr Johnson here if not the new Steranko? And I don't mean that as implying he's a copycat, I'm saying he has inherited the crown and can wear it with pride.

    Got to point out, though - The Abyssal Plain cover, surely that's (c) Dark Horse, not Marvel, seeing as it's on an Abe Sapien comic? (Just wrap my No-Prize around a brick and chuck it in the Sargasso Sea - ta.)

  2. Simon really is brutal Dave, but he is great for keeping me up to the mark with the blog and having stumbled into the light of 2011 and had a look around I'm rubbing my eyes and blinking with astonishment and liking if not all, at least some of what I see.

    The thing is that as far as I can see there is not cut of point the old segways into the new and the beauty of blogging is that you can in a way explore comic art and art in general as a continuum. Dave Johnson's work references Steranko and also in the case of that fabulous Deadpool cover, Robert McGinnis. While we have Darwyn Cooke tipping his hat oh so artfully in the direction of Will Eisner.

    To quote Reg Presley; "There is no beginning there'll be no end".

    And with that in mind I may well be heading back in time to a period of illustration before even the Penny Bloods were polluting the minds of innocent youth.

    You'll all be giving up one me at that rate - even old Simondo!

    P.S. Thanks for the tip regarding Abyssal Plain Dave - see you are even more in contact with what's going down in the 'hood these days then I am.

    Time for a Lil Wayne!

  3. I love Dave's substitution of 'WHEEEEE!' for 'Wee' and I'm totally in sympathy with his viewpoint (besides which in cyberspace no-one can smell your underpants: people never complain about Mr. Door Tree's sanitary arrangements after all!). The fact is that there's no end of comics-related blogs on the net and the thing that regularly draws me back to yours is its unique combination of eclecticism and those recurring speciality areas which don't seem to be catered for anywhere else (Embleton, McLoughlin, Kennedy, Cloud 109, etc.). As far as I'm concerned you've got the balance just about right, and I for one am happy to take the occasional diversion into Malcolm's mildewed stacks of Penny Dreadfuls and Story Papers - not to mention those luminaries of the golden age of book illustration such as the Brocks and Heath Robinsons.

    Of course, that doesn't mean that Simon is wrong in encouraging you to supplement all of the above with work by modern masters such as Dave Johnson. I'd certainly welcome something on Darwyn Cooke's outstanding Spirit splashes, or his current 'Parker' adaptations (which capture more than a little of the hard-boiled spirit of Denis Mcloughlin's classic book covers). Similarly Sean Philips, Duncan Fegrado and virtually anyone working for Mike Mignola's Hellboy franchise...and how about Mike 'Bucky' Buckingham who probably deserves an award for being simply the nicest person in comics, quite apart from his outstanding run on Vertigo's excellent 'Fables' series which has just earned him a nomination in this year's Eisner awards.

    Having said all that I don't think anyone really expects you to post every day if you have more pressing demands on your time. The last thing any of us want is for you to collapse from overwork...!

  4. (...That's Mark Buckingham of course, not Mike. Mike Buckingham is really horrible!!!)

  5. Many thanks for you too generous praise Phil and also more pointers in the direction of today, tomorrow and yesteryear.

    I did have an idea to occasionally hand the blog over to dear old Simondo, who funnily enough lives just up the road from me, but on the basis that Simon devoted at least some of his postings to his amazing photography of some of the world's most beautiful women who seem to inhabit L.A. and it's environs.

    It's actually very frustrating as Simon and I very rarely get to meet, but then that's the beauty of the internet as it still allows us to socialize whilst wearing our carpet slippers.

    Talking of which, I am considering investing in a smoking jacket and one of those quaint box shaped skull caps with the tassel, so that I can run my blog with the same kind of sartorial elegance that Mr Door Tree manages.

    Mr Door Tree whose fedora is always so immaculate and who always manages a post each and every day.