Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Reads You Review: BIZ: The Intense Art of Simon Bisley


ART: Simon Bisley
ISBN: 1-885730-73-X; paperback; 1997 (First printing)
72pp, Color and B&W, $24.95

Text pieces by Alan Grant, Fanx Simon, Steven Wardlaw, and S.C. Ringgenberg (forward)

Simon Bisley is a British comic book artist, illustrator, and painter.  His best best known work appeared in the late 1980s and through the 1990s.  Those comics included his work on ABC Warriors and Sláine (for Fleetway), and several comic books featuring the character, Lobo, for DC Comics.  Bisley also won an Eisner Award in 1992 (“Best Artist”) for the graphic novel, Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham (1991).

Originally released in 1997, Biz: The Intense Art of Simon Bisley is an art book collecting paintings and black and white illustrations that Bisley created mostly in the mid-1990s.  In the 90s, Bisley produced comics and illustrations for Verotik Publishing, Inc., a small publishing concern started by rock musician, Glenn Danzig.  Much of the art featured on the 30 plates contained in Biz is art Bisley completed for Danzig and Verotik.

Bisley has acknowledged comic book artists like Richard Corben and Bill Sienkiewicz and painters such as Salvador Dali and Gustav Klimt as influences.  However, the art in Biz reflects the seminal influence on Simon Bisley, the late Frank Frazetta.  Although Frazetta was, for time, a comic book and comic strip artist, he is most famous for his paintings.  Some of Frazetta's most popular paintings were his covers for Lancer Books' series of paperbacks reprinting Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian (or Barbarian) stories.

However, the work by Frazetta that seems to have had the biggest influence on Bisley are his “Death Dealer” paintings.  Verotik published a few comic books featuring Death Dealer, and Biz reprints several Death Dealer works by Bisley, including a few paintings and black and white illustrations.  His reverence for Frank Frazetta comes through in these magnificent drawings, in which Bisley ably recreates the dark splendor of the original Frazetta “Death Dealer.”

Bisley's paintings of such Verotik characters as Satanika and Jaguar God, reveal how tapped into Glenn Danzig's bizarre world of lusty demons and dark supernatural figures Bisley was back in the 1990s.  In fact, Bisley was, by far, best able to depict Danzig's oeuvre, and not just because Bisley was the most skilled and accomplished Verotik artist.  With pen, ink, or paint, Bisley can envision the weirdness and the darkness of pulp fantasy and comics in ways that are both familiar and radical.

Biz: The Intense Art of Simon Bisley is almost entirely about Bisley's work for Verotik.  However, there are a few paintings featuring characters from other comics creators, including Jim Lee (Helspont), Michael T. Gilbert (Mr. Monster), and Go Nagai (Devil Man), among others.

Fans of Simon Bisley would do well to find a copy of Biz: The Intense Art of Simon Bisley.  I dredged up my copy because I am giving it to a friend, so I decided to look through it again.  I also thought that it would be worthy of a review – even nearly 20 years after it was first published.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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