Monday, March 26, 2007

Oh my God, MARSHALL ROGERS has passed away.

In the mid to late 70's, you remember, at the tailend of that "garbage decade" you've been reading so much about, a group of artists came up through the ranks that would go on to make a definite mark in the world of American mainstream comics. Mike Golden, Trevor Von Eeden, Craig Russell, Frank Miller, and others. Right up there with those talents was Rogers, whose work I first saw in back-up features in Detective (this was immediately prior to his outstanding stint on Batman in that title, with Steve Englehart and Terry Austin), -Green Arrow stories, unless I'm mistaken- and the one which I recall most vividly was also the first appearance of a character that has gone on to bigger and better things in the DCU: The Calculator. Of course, he had his super-suit with the numerical keypad on his chest, typical silly 70's stuff. But Rogers' style caught my eye- at first, it looked awkward and stiff, and let's face it, it often could be- but it was also witty and cleverly composed, with a Simonsonesque use of onomatopoeia. The main thing about his art was that to this day I can't really spot an influence. Ditko, perhaps, maybe A little Infantino or Neal Adams but nowhere near as graceful or as immediate, I just don't know. Either way, I was intrigued and continued to buy anything I saw his work appear in, including the cover you see above: Amazing World of DC Comics #16, an acquisition on one of my infrequent teenage Nashville trips (to the Great Escape down there, that rarest of rare things in 1978, a comics shop) which depicted a host of Golden Age characters in Rogers' inimitable style. I especially loved the way he drew the Sandman, with an honest-to-goodness functional-looking gas mask.

Eventually, as the Eighties progressed, he did less and less for DC and did a lot of work for Eclipse Comics, including the original run of Coyote in Eclipse Monthly and this:

Rogers' own Cap'n Quick and a Foozle, another Monthly alumnus and a lighthearted and surreal adventure story that was completely charming...but not popular enough to get it published past three issues. I've always considered it the best thing he ever did, Detective notwithstanding.

Not long after the Eclipse stuff, he had another short stint at Marvel (he had done some early Deadly Hands of Kung Fu-type stuff then), one effort being a pretty good run on Doctor Strange, in which he got to exercise his predilection for Ditkoesque dimensional backgrounds.

In recent years, his work has been scarce- there was the depressing attempt to resuscitate his (and Englehart's) Detective glory years, Dark Detective, which showed that he hadn't progressed a bit over the last two decades as far as facility or innovation went, or perhaps he was just making an extra buck...either way, the stale, lifeless art and convoluted, dull script just didn't cut it. But that didn't mean that I wouldn't have checked out anything else he did afterwards, just in case.

Even though he was older than me by about ten years, he was one of those artists that I always thought of as being one of "my generation" of comics artists; it makes me very sad to learn of his passing. RIP, Mr. Rogers.

Here's his Wiki entry; and here's a fan site with a good checklist and timeline, and about a million popups.

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