Maura McHugh: Art Picks
Creator Art Picks, where we ask comic creators about the comics and artists they like and that influence them. Maura McHugh is a comics writer who has worked on Jennifer Wilde from Atomic Diner Comics and Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder for Dark Horse Comics.
When I was a kid artwork, even in illustrated books, was very important to me for establishing the world of the story. I remember graduating to reading books that only had illustrations every couple of pages, and I felt both more ‘adult’ and also vaguely disappointed. As I read I’d be looking forward to the next piece of artwork.
Looking back it was these early illustrated texts that cemented my interest in art. I drew throughout my childhood and took Art as a subject in secondary school. I read comics as well, but there wasn’t a huge selection when I was a kid. I loved highly-detailed pen and ink work, and often replicated images that I saw in comics and books.
The first image I’m going to choose is from Edgar Allan Poe’s illustrated collection Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1902). The artwork was by the extraordinary Irish artist Harry Clarke. It combined two of my loves: horror fiction and evocative art. I read a copy of this book when I was a kid during my summer holidays. I found it on the bookshelf of the guest house we were staying in.
Another novel where the illustrations were integral to my enjoyment of the story was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel.
When it came to comics, 2000AD was important to me, and of course Judge Anderson was my favourite characters, since she was pretty much the lone woman with significant storylines in the comic for a long time. She appeared first in a Judge Dredd story created by writer John Wagner and drawn by (now) legendary artist Brian Bolland, which was also the first appearance of the magnificent villain, Judge Death.
Anderson had a great sense of humour, was dedicated to her job, and kicked arse. The first graphic novel I ever bought was the collected edition of theAnderson: Psi Division strips. I still own that copy.
Reading a continuing anthology like 2000AD also made me very aware of the various art styles, and there were some artists’ work I liked and others I didn’t enjoy as much. It also underlined to me that to find a comic book completely satisfying I needed great art and excellent storytelling.
The comic that triggered my true interest in the medium was The Invisibles, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by a variety of artists. The one-off ‘Last Man Standing’ (issue 12), which was drawn by Steve Parkhouse, had a big impact on me because it was a powerful reminder of the consequences of actions, particularly by ‘superheroes’. I came to the series after it had started, and loved it so much that I tracked down every single back issue while collecting the new ones. When Morrison re-launched the story with the Bloody Hell in America series, the whole package was killer: covers by Brian Bolland, pencils by Phil Jimenez, inks by John Stokes, colours by Daniel Vozzo, and lettering by Todd Klein.
If there was ever an example of how amazing a comic book project can become when everyone on the team is working at their best, this is it:
Although, the peerless combination of Morrison with artist Frank Quietly, (and colourist Jamie Grant, letterer Todd Klein, and editor Karen Berger) for the We3 three issue mini-series can rarely be beaten. It’s not just a tragic, moving story that’s concisely told, but it exhibits such visual punch and flair.
I love comic books that use the medium to its fullest potential and look at all the elements and how they can be used on the page.
Which is why I was blown away by Batwoman: Elegy. written by Greg Rucka, drawn by J H Williams III, coloured by Dave Stewart, and with lettering by Todd Klein. It was carefully designed as well as narratively powerful.
Which leads into the insanely talented team of writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja (with Matt Hollingsworth on colouring, and Chris Eliopoulos on lettering), who completely revamped Hawkeye, taking a so-so character and giving him depth and likeability.
Writer Gail Simon’s run on Wonder Woman, starting with The Circle, combined with the work by artists Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson (with Bernard Chang, and various other artists) made me fall in love with the character, and I ended up reading other depictions of Wondy written and drawn by other creators.
Of the recent depictions of Wonder Woman I adore Maurgerite Sauvage’s version from the Bullets & Bracers story, written by Sean E William, in Sensation Comics.
Yet, comics are not all big, action stories. Part of what I enjoy about comics is its versatility. I loved the recent graphic novel Sally Heathcote: Suffragette written by Mary Talbot, with art by Kate Charlesworth, and layouts by Bryan Talbot. It tells the story about the suffragettes from the point of view of a fictional character, and does so in a way that details the complexities of the story effectively within a well conceived visual narrative. It’s also got a terrific ending.
And in the world of comic book memoir, it’s still hard to beat Peresopolis by Marjane Satrapi, which details her experience growing up in Iran in the midst of revolution. It’s a fine example of how artwork can depict deeply personal emotional states, while also telling a story of the complexities of a country in flux.
Circling back to my love of horror I was totally engrossed on all levels by the wonderful series Locke & Key, which was written by Joe Hill, and drawn Gabriel Rodriguez (letterer Robbie Robbins, and colourist Jay Fotos). I constantly found myself learning new little tricks of visual storytelling by reading those comics.
Regarding emerging artists I’m liking the work of Dilraj Mann at the moment. Both his style and the way he tells the story. I think he’s got a promising future ahead of him.
Malachi Ward and Matt Sheen are doing exciting work for the Island anthology at the moment.
She may not be considered an emerging artist any more, but Alice X Zhang’s Dr Who covers are exceptional:
Questions compiled by Chris O’Halloran