Being allowed to pick and choose which of the ‘Modern Masters’ books to review, I did finally decide to start from the beginning, mostly because I’m sure if you’re going to collect a set of books that would be the way you would start as well, even though this series isn’t intended to be read in any order, only for your favourite artists.
As much as I like artist Alan Davis’ art, it did seem an unusual choice for an American publisher to start with rather than one of their own countrymen but then, it was probably seen as the template for how other books in this series would run.
Alan Davis has what I would call a clean style. He isn’t shadow dependent and can make descent facial expressions with minimal lines. Seeing his pencilwork here, it does become apparent that you don’t always see the subtly of his shades, something that any inker either has to interpret or ignore. If anything, I’ve modified my description of ‘clean style’ to good tight line control. Something Davis raises in the last interview is how what the reader actually sees of the penciller is the interpretation by the inker and yet the latter is also still one of the least paid in the industry. That alone shows that they deserves a pay rise.
I’m not sure who interviewed him but learning about Davis’ influences when young are totally familiar with me and left the American interviewer totally bewildered, simply because he didn’t have the frame of reference in his own background, leaving it to Davis to explain to the reader. The uncredited ‘Fireball XL5’ page from ‘TV21’ on page 17 is by artist Mike Noble just in case anyone doesn’t know. As we’re about the same age, it’s hardly surprising that that I’m familiar with most of his influences and it looks like he was blown away by Neal Adams’ technique as much as any of us were at the time. Seeing samples of Davis’ influences, especially with the likes of ‘The Iron Claw’ having had a volume release a few years back, always leaves hope for more. I’ve always had high hopes that the British comicstrip ‘The Iron Man’ (a humanoid robot not to be confused with the Marvel golden Avenger) has never been given a similar treatment because the sample art here is surely not enough. Considering he also read ‘Fantastic And Terrific’, I’m surprised that he didn’t also point out Luis Bermejo who drew the ‘Johnny Future’ story and has a similar style to himself.
The interviews with Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Paul Neary are actually very candid about the lives of freelancers, comicbook companies attitudes and payment. It really is a minefield which makes no distinction to talent and everything towards not rocking the boat if you have a family to support.
What really makes this book stand out is the variety of art from across Alan Davis’ career and the companies he’s worked for. The opportunity to see layouts to roughs to complete pencils as well as final inks runs you through the complete process. I wish when Davis discussed where he wasn’t happy with some of his inkers there were sample of these as well to prove the point but that’s a minor quibble.
I know from reading this book that I’m going to pick up a collected volume or two of his work to have a look at. If that was part of the reason for doing this book then it obviously worked.
If you want to know more about Alan Davies and even though it was released in 2002, this book still has a lot to offer.
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 125 page illustrated softcover. Price: $14.95 (US), £17.45 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-893905-19-1)
check out website: www.TwoMorrows.com