Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Empty Drawing Board

Al Williamson, another legend of comics illustration (and long time friend of Frank Frazetta) passed away this week. Although not a household name like Frazetta, Williamson was one of the monster talents of comics, carrying on the tradition of lush, elegant brushwork from the Golden Age of comic strips. Although Al was American, he spent his childhood in Columbia and his main link to American culture was the Flash Gordon strip drawn by Alex Raymond, who became Williamson's artistic compass.

In the 50's, he started his comics career as part of the legendary bullpen of artists at EC comics alongside Frazetta, Wally Wood, Roy Krenkel and the rest. When the comics industry imploded in the wake of the Wertham witch hunt he moved over to drawing comic strips and got to work on two of Alex Raymond's creations - first Rip Kirby, then his beloved Flash Gordon. As the market for adventure strips dried up in the 70's, he moved back into comics drawing memorable adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Bladerunner.

Eventually, he settled into inking, which he found to be less time consuming and gave him the chance to mentor up and coming artists. It wasn't until recently that he completely retired from working.

I highly recommend the recent Flesk Publications retrospective of Williamson's Flash Gordon work.