ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Alex Raymond
-By Greg Ruth
Today we turn our spotlight toward the mighty work of golden era comic book master, Alex Raymond. Now apologies in advance- I came to comics ignorant of its history and as such find what to me are secret hidden gems that are iconic staples to just about everyone else. Just this shy of asking if anyone has heard of R. Crumb, or how good putting chocolate and peanut butter together is. Epic level ignorance. The upside, (for me at least), is that I get to discover them now when I can really appreciate them and see them cold, for the first time. Right now the fellow that's had my attention these last few months as if my head were being vice-held by gorilla hands, is he who is Alex Raymond.
You may know Alex Raymond from his Flash Gordon comics from the mid-1930's, turns out I did and didn't even know it. I randomly tripped over this below image a month ago and the name struck a chord... but took me a few weeks to make the connection. With stuff like Raymond's "Flash Gordon", or Toth's "Zorro" comics might seem goofy today... and admittedly they kind of are what they are: bubblegum pulps for kids. Still while the stories may remain shallow, the art told through them is unparalleled, even today. Their value as art for me more about how the story is told rather than the tale itself. Honestly it could be a bouncing ball for thirty pages and it'd still be hard to find anything as good ever.
But to my surprise, it led me to discover tons of Raymond's non-Flash work, and they all make want to redraw every comic I have ever drawn, and/or make me want to make ten more so I might come a whisper closer to the sheer elegance of what Raymond does with the controlled effortless movement of the eye across the image, panel and page. I mean seriously, the confidence level at work here is baffling enough: there's not a single stray or unessential line anywhere to be found. His character's are people, rather than flat stick headed types, and his gestural anatomies, sweeping compositions are beyond belief.
But then even beyond his comics, his illustrative work does it all over again bringing a kind of Robert McClosky/Rockwell effort to their forms and compositions. Fun, stunning and more than worthy of study if you have any interest at all in ink, pen and brush work.
I may be over-gushing a bit- I don't think I am. I suspect Raymond absolutely deserves it and more for his work. For me the work that grabs hold and makes you want to make better work is for any artist the complete and total point. So thanks Alex Raymond, wherever you are now, for all of this and all the rest I haven't even seen yet.