Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Bacardi Show 15 cover birthday greeting.

Some of my favorite artists, I don't remember the first time I saw their work. Or, to be more accurate, I don't recall exactly when I first noticed their work. However, with Michael William Kaluta, I remember exactly- it was the cover of The Shadow #2, the first issue of DC's 1973 revival of the venerable character that I had seen on the spinner rack at the local Jr. Foods Store. I had heard of the Shadow, and had seen an ad or two in DC comics at the time; he sounded interesting. For some reason, I didn't see #1, but when #2 came out I plunked down my 20 cents to find out what the fuss was about...and got a lot more than I bargained for with my first exposure to the graceful, nuanced, 30's pulp-styled illustration work of Mr. Kaluta, and it was that first exposure that led me to be a lifelong fan. I tried to imitate it in my own crude way, me still being a 13-year-old aspiring comic book artist, but I just never really could get it right...it was just too idiosyncratic. I could draw a decent Shadow (relatively speaking), but his other characters, no. Much to my chagrin, Kaluta abruptly abandoned the Shadow's exploits with the issue that I posted above; the monthly deadlines were too much. I would see his work pop up here and there over the next few years, mostly on covers, until 1982, when he and Elaine Lee hooked up to give us the amazing Starstruck, and I fell in love with Kaluta's work all over again- this was vastly more detailed and clever than his earlier stuff; Lee gave him a whole universe to play with, and he brought it to life vividly- as those who picked up last week's Starstruck #1 from IDW are finding out. After the inevitable failure of a title that readers just weren't ready for in the 1980's, it was back to covers, mostly, for Mr. Kaluta, and almost all of them were typically intricate and often more gorgeous than the interiors of those comics deserved. Through thick and thin, I've remained a staunch fan, and have often named him as my favorite illustrator, comics or otherwise. He's had a hell of a career; I wish there had been more sequential work, but these things tend to play themselves out the way they're meant to, and I'm happy for what we've had.

Anyway, I post this because today is his 62nd birthday, and I wanted to pay tribute. I could post at least 30 more covers, there are that many that I have liked over the years; I tried to choose a mix of ones I loved as a teen with others that I have admired recently. I'm sure I've omitted a great many excellent ones. For more on Mr. K, including some pages from that second Shadow issue that galvanized me so, go here to last year's birthday post.

So happy birthday, Mr. Kaluta, good luck with Starstruck, and I hope it's been a great one.

No comments: