9/21/2009

Nathan Fox, Illustrator.

Happened to notice the book above in Barnes & Noble earlier this evening. It's the paperback edition of Philip Plait's Death from the Skies!, a notable when it came out awhile ago hard-nosed pop science book that attempts to take on "end of the world"/disaster scenarios. What grabbed me, what I caught from maybe twenty feet away, was the increasingly sophisticated and immediately recognizable work of comics artist Nathan Fox.

What first came to mind were those Penguin Classics editions with covers from noted comics artists that've been slowly rolling out to the public over the past bunch of years. Fox's work here seems both way louder and less obsequious. There's more of a collaboration going on here, as end-of-the-world type stuff seems right up Fox's pulp on steroids style alley. Less an artist doing their own, sometimes sorta moronic "take" on a literary classic, and more an artist bringing their illustrative skills towards explicitly marketing a book, a science book. Especially the kind of science book that's intended for people that need a big, beat-ya-over-the-head awesome cover to grab them because they're rarely gonna just wander into the 'Science' section of a bookstore.

There's something actually horrifying about Fox's image and something deeply absurd about it too. This fits right in-line with author Philip Plait's attempt to take a much mocked, tabloid-ized topic like the world ending very seriously, all the while essentially debunking the hysterics that come along with floods, asteroids, and fires. The look of horror, on the person dead-center on the cover, his clenched teeth and fear-filled eyes precariously balances the image's intention between genuine, palpable terror and a kind of up-the-ante sci-fi apocalypse silliness.

Additionally mocking is the way Fox surrounds the runners-in-terror spouting with deadpan, comic book exhortations: "Run!!!", "Ahhh", "Help!". And then there's what they are running from...not just an asteroid hurtling towards earth but an asteroid, on top of some kind of end-of-days fire, on top of some kind of biblical flood. This stacking of the horrible, makes it both particularly scary and just really funny; everything is going wrong in that image.

These are Fox's strengths as an artist as well. He's a king of depicting chaos, things falling apart. His current work Dark Reign: Zodiac is all about the impossible, the unthinkable--a group of villains far more evil than the ones that beat the heroes in Secret Invasion. Replace the asteroid/fire/flood ready to envelope the people below with Galactus and you've got the final sequence of the last issue of Zodaic! And hey, it's a hell of a lot better than the cover to the hardback:

7 comments:

Matthew said...

I used to think of Fox as a "Paul Pope rip-off", but he's definitely come into his own. Have you seen his recent work in Heavy Metal on the 3-part story called "Fluorescent Black"? Looks pretty good...

david e. ford, jr said...

matthew-

yeah, that pretty much sums it up--a paul pope rip-off whose come into his own. in my opinion, what makes him transcend pope's obvious influence is that he has definitely taken stylistic cues from pope but used them to make entirely different storytelling choices . . .

brandon said...

Matt-
Yeah, same here man. I picked up 'Pigeons from Hell' and loved aspects of it but found him deeply Pope-derivative and there's aspects of 'Zodiac' that seems to reference 'Heavy Liquid' but really, the more of his work you see, the more it seems very different from Pope's. He has a real good DMZ single-issue and this weekend, I grabbed a Harley Quinn he did.

Jesse Reese said...

This cover looks like he threw some Basil Wolverton in too. Both the Wolverton Bible aspect and the center guys face exaggerated in this Wolverton way.

ladygaga said...

I have followed Nathan Fox's work for a long time and while there are similar influences at work between him and Paul Pope, if you follow Nathan's work, starting with early illustrative editorial work in say 2001 up until now, I would never refer to him as a rip-off in any fashion.

david e. ford, jr said...

ladyg-

clearly i'm just speaking for myself here, but please understand i use the term rip-off loosely and not in a negative way--perhaps borrowing would be better. let's be real, there is nothing new under the sky and everyone is influenced and borrows and that has a lot to do with what makes things interesting--like the new combinations of borrowing/influences/whatever.

Viagra said...

I believe this apocalyptic theme of the end of the world has been over-done... there are just too many movies, books, comics, tv shows (add whatever-thing-you-want here) out there that do the very same thing with the same endings