Review By Luke Williams
Tied in with 45th anniversary celebrations, so a year late, but only recently read by yours truly, The Art Of Carlos Ezquerra is almost 240 hardback pages of King Carlos.
Where other famed 2000AD artists have had Apex edition of their work either published or planned, to present their classic art, for Carlos Ezquerra, possibly the single most important artists in British comics over the last 50 years, they went a different route (I’d suggest he’s a good subject for an Apex, it’s not as if there isn’t enough material out there).
Arguably this is a far more fitting tribute. Whereas the subjects of the other work considered so far (Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and soon the late great Kevin O’Neill)’s careers really took off in 2000 AD, Carlos was already well established as an artist in the UK, working on comics such as Victor, IPC stable mates like Battle and Action (for which he drew the inadvertently infamous comic neutering cover) before moving onto 2000 AD. It’s these latter comics, the rights to which are owned by Rebellion / Treasury of British Comics, publishers of this book, which are the focus for this volume.
What is surprising is the variety of work that Carlos undertook in that lengthy career. Mainly known for his action, war and sci fi work this volume collates examples from each Carlos era; the early romance days, through to the intense war work on Battle, the dense and bizarre sci fiction work of early and “Strontium Dog”, to the looser style that developed during the 2000 AD run of that strip although it does side step the weird dayglo / Chernobyl computer colouring period around “Judge Dredd”. Carlos’ style is the very definition of “gritty” but such was his versatility that he mastered comedy as well, you only need look at “Tharg the Mighty” strips that have been included here Carlos can do funny and wacky. And he was fast. Very fast. Perhaps the most glaring omission is his masterful and imaginative double page spreads, most notably from “Strontium Dog Journey into Hell”.
Tying it all together is Michael Molcher’s narrative providing an insight to the development of Carlos’ art and career, a fascinating insight into his background and features commentary and quotes from friends, colleagues, family and the great man himself.
As a collection of strips, it is a bit restricted, and collects one offs or perhaps the odd episode from a multi parter. The multi part epics is where is built up a head of steam and from your writer’s perspective the best example would be “Necropolis”. But there are some rare curios included, lots of one off Battle stories and representation from all the major characters he had a hand in Rat Pack, Major Easy, El Mestizo, Strontium Dog, Durham Red and at least a nod to Fiends of the Eastern Front, the most notable exception is his work on Third World War.
In terms of style, there still isn’t anyone like him. Famously, Mike McMahon was tasked with aping his style in the early days of the Prog’, but soon developed a very distinctive style (s) of his own, but he is probably the only one. Despite not having any obvious adopters of his very distinctive style, his influence and impact on British comics is immense.
It’s a fitting tribute to a supremely talented artist, character designer and creator.
Reviews & articles on Carlos’ work:
Just a Pilgrim & Just a Pilgrim : Garden Of Eden by Garth Ennis & Carlos Ezquerra