Moon Knights and Demon Bears
May 3, 2016 11:42 PM   Subscribe

A celebration of Bill Sienkiewicz - the unique comics artist most famous for his work on Moon Knight, The New Mutants, Stray Toasters and of course Elektra: Assassin.
posted by Artw (47 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Such a great comics artist. I actually picked up the full run (that is, four issues) of Starriors just to appreciate his amazing covers. And, y'know, for what they were, Walt's wife Louise Simonson did a pretty good job with 'em as the books were quite fun. That might be nostalgia talking though, because I had a bunch of the toys when I was kid (they were great).

I feel like his work on New Mutants was probably the best of his career, but then that's probably because those are the most recent in my memory.
posted by turbid dahlia at 11:53 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh I forgot about Stray Toasters. That book was...very much of a time and a place.
posted by turbid dahlia at 11:55 PM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Walt's wife Louise Simonson

Huh. I totally never put that together till just now. She is of course up there with Claremint in terms of shaping the X-books as we now know them.
posted by Artw at 12:02 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes! Oh how I used to idolize Bill Sienkiewicz. I spent years trying to draw like him ... and failing miserably all the while. My personal favorite of his (art-wise) is his adaptation of "Moby Dick". It's absolutely stunning.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:08 AM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have a love-hate relationship with Bill's artwork.
I hated it inside The New Mutants at the time... it always looked wrong to me but man, I've always loved his cover artwork.
Guy can set up a panel, though.
posted by Mezentian at 2:06 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I loved Sienkiewicz' art and initially started picking up New Mutants specifically because of his issues. I had friends who despised it, though, and hated how abstract it was. Philistines, every one of them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:06 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh! There are a few references to Max Payne on Sienkiewicz's site, and that got me to thinking about the first couple of Payne games, and that thinking has led me to conclude that those cutscenes (and, apparently, actual comics) are totally inspired by Sienkiewicz. The whole first two games are very Sienkiewiczian, now that I think about it.

Here's hoping for a Serafinowicz-Sienkiewicz teamup.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:43 AM on May 4, 2016


The Fanatagraphics collection of his sketchbook drawings is terrific. And he's done a cover for this month's Daredevil too.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:48 AM on May 4, 2016


Been years since I've revisited it, but I really liked his work on Arkham Asylum with Grant Morrison too. And you can really see Morrison working out some nascent Batman mythos ideas.
posted by penduluum at 4:07 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh hey Daredevil is back down to #6 again.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:07 AM on May 4, 2016


Been years since I've revisited it, but I really liked his work on Arkham Asylum with Grant Morrison too.

Actually, that book was drawn by Dave McKean.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:15 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


oh i loved his New Mutants work so much, especially the Legion storyline that took place mostly in Moira's schizophrenic son's head
posted by kokaku at 4:33 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


So they made a movie that looks exactly like Sin City, another like Watchmen, but if they ever made Elektra:Assassin following Sienkiewicz they'd have to call the cops to get me to leave the theater after seeing all of the showings.
posted by signal at 4:39 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


He also did an adaptation of the movie version of Dune.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:41 AM on May 4, 2016


Stray Toasters was the first comic I ever truly loved.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:46 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


God, I love that man's art. I mean, just fuckin look, Johnny.

Moon Knight is one of those weird titles that has a long history of really great work and a compelling character that somehow never seems to catch on. He should be as big as Batman, in my estimation, but most people haven't heard of him.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:16 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stray Toasters was the first comic I ever truly loved.

My gateway to Stray Toasters was the Helfer/Sienkiewicz run on the DC Mature Readers Shadow back in the late '80s, which I honestly think is his best work. I mean, come on. (hat tip to an excellent Mindless Ones article on the series). And he was followed by Kyle Baker! Doing the some of the best work of his career! God damn, I love the '80s Shadow. Skip the Chaykin mini and just go right to the main event.

I have multiple copies of Toasters -- one set signed by Sienkiewicz at a convention back in the day. I've actually been kind of avoiding re-reading it for the last decade because it had a profound impact on Young Me, but I also have a vague memory of a swamp of misogyny and abuse and general nastiness that I'm afraid might really take the bloom off the rose if I go back to it again.
posted by Shepherd at 5:30 AM on May 4, 2016




Just thinking about it makes me want to go out to the garage and dig out the Badlands storyline.
posted by eckeric at 5:55 AM on May 4, 2016


Moon Knight is one of those weird titles that has a long history of really great work and a compelling character that somehow never seems to catch on. He should be as big as Batman, in my estimation, but most people haven't heard of him.

Just checking, you've read the Ellis run, right? If not, you should.

MK is great, apart from the fact he wears white at night, and is (sometimes) Marvel's Batman clone.... besides the Egyptian god stuff and the Crazy.
I came to him during the West Coast Avengers, and I dug him even then.
posted by Mezentian at 5:56 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait ... no one has mentioned the two issue (with a third unreleased issue with art in part by Al Columbia, Sienkiewicz's then assistant) run of Big Numbers with Alan Moore ... some of his most mainstream, but evocative work. Planned at 500 pages and 12 issues, but Sienkiewicz had to back out due to overload.
posted by buffalo at 6:05 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


i was just remembering Big Numbers before i saw your comment - beautiful work - i ought to pull those two issues out of the box

this is a deep nostalgia thread being tugged hard
posted by kokaku at 6:18 AM on May 4, 2016


He is kind of the only artist who should be allowed to draw Warlock. That is the most Sienkiewicz character design imaginable. Okay, maybe Art Adams can draw him too, but that is it.

P.S. I wonder how many, like me, have copy/pasted his name into their comment from another comment. 75%?
posted by joelhunt at 6:18 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I bought an extra copy of Stray Toasters in order to scissor out pages to frame and hang in college. I had only one left by the time I got to law school, many years later. Now I have none. And now I am sad.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:18 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, Comic Book Resource announced in March that IDW is going (hopefully - it's not on their web site) to release an Marvel Artist Select edition of The New Mutants run. For those who don't know, similar to the IDW Artist's Editions (oversized, limited edition hardcovers of a story run using high rez scans of the original, non-coloured artwork), the Marvel Artist Select appears to be in colour, but still oversized.
posted by buffalo at 6:23 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


His New Mutants run roughly coincided with my introduction to comic books, and I *loved it*. The only problem was that after he left the artists who followed him couldn't help but seem mostly kind of bland by comparison.

> I bought an extra copy of Stray Toasters in order to scissor out pages to frame and hang in college.

I did the same thing, only it was my high school locker and it was panels from the Elektra miniseries.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:37 AM on May 4, 2016


It's not entirely clear to me if McKean's stuff is a massive rip-off of Sienkiewicz or if they just both happen to be blog fans of Schiele, Klimt, etc.. with an interest in integrating paints and collage intk the comics form.
posted by Artw at 6:45 AM on May 4, 2016


FWIW Neil Gaiman Has them, and the likewise similar Kent Williams, following in the footsteps of Barron Storey.
posted by Artw at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just checking, you've read the Ellis run, right? If not, you should.

I have all the single issues, yeah. I was convinced that that run would make the character big, maybe even get him a movie or Netflix show. Regardless, it was a breath of fresh air to see those simple, single-issue stories that nobody does anymore.

Lemire's run is showing some promise too. Second issue's out today.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:54 AM on May 4, 2016


He is kind of the only artist who should be allowed to draw Warlock.

Bill did an awesome alien, Guice made it real, and by the time we got to Belvins I should have learned my lesson about staying with a title too long... but in those days we didn't have trades.
posted by Mezentian at 7:16 AM on May 4, 2016


I didn't connect much with Sienkiewicz's New Mutant run mostly because I didn't like the characters (the art was great though) but his Moon knight run... oh man did I love those books.

I'm not sure what it is about Moon Knight. Unevenly written series? Or inconsistent presentations of the character? Dr. Strange kind of had similar issues though he's getting a movie. Maybe he just needs a culty actor to play him... Aaron Paul maybe? That'd work I think as a Netflix show. I'd watch that over a Punisher series.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:29 AM on May 4, 2016


His few issues of The Shadow are stupendous - some of my favorite comic art ever. The 'Brought To Light' story he did is elegant comic story-telling. Glad someone mentioned 'Big Numbers' too - that was such a fun read!
posted by mctsonic at 7:39 AM on May 4, 2016


Moon Knight is one of those weird titles that has a long history of really great work and a compelling character that somehow never seems to catch on.

"Unorthodox Economic Revenge Hissss!!!"

Oh, wait...
posted by Slothrup at 7:42 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, Fox is going to ruin The New Mutants... and apparently this is how.
posted by Mezentian at 7:49 AM on May 4, 2016


No appreciation for the Daredevil graphic novel Love and War yet?

I'll admit I was always of two minds about Bill. He created some breathtaking beautiful images, but some of his stuff was so out and incomprehensible there it just made following the actual story a chore. I like him better as a pin-up or cover artist than I do as the primary artist on a monthly book.
posted by sardonyx at 7:57 AM on May 4, 2016


I was in my early twenties and I thought myself a sophisticated comic book fan when Sienkiewicz's run on New Mutants started and it blew my mind. I wasn't sure about it at first but came to love it. I'm Facebook friends with him and he seems like a really nice guy and good human being to boot. I'm looking forward to meeting him at the Heroes Con this summer.

Hell, he did covers that made you want to buy Dazzler, one of the worst Marvel Comics of the 1980's. (I'm probably being generous by limiting it to the 1980's.)
posted by marxchivist at 8:05 AM on May 4, 2016


Wait ... no one has mentioned the two issue (with a third unreleased issue with art in part by Al Columbia, Sienkiewicz's then assistant) run of Big Numbers with Alan Moore ... some of his most mainstream, but evocative work. Planned at 500 pages and 12 issues, but Sienkiewicz had to back out due to overload.

Meant to get to this earlier (got sidetracked in a political thread, you know how that goes) , but it seems to have been a watershed of sorts in both Sienkiewicz's and Moore's careers. Moore was coming off Watchmen and was generally finished with DC, having concluded V for Vendetta and his run on Swamp Thing (as well as Miracleman at Eclipse), and was interested in striking out on his own and self-publishing. He did a story with Sienkiewicz called Shadowplay: The Secret Team that was... different. It was based on the work of the Christic Institute, which started out as a public-interest law firm (its founders sued Kerr-McGee on behalf of the Karen Silkwood estate, and won), but gradually devolved into full-bore conspiracy mongers, and Shadowplay is much in the same vein; it connects many of the Iran-Contra conspirators to an American "shadow government" that goes back decades, and, yes, was involved in JFK's assassination. (There's a bit of this in Watchmen, when Adrian Veidt notes that Nixon was in Dallas the day that JFK was shot; this becomes an important part of the Christic theory.) It's a striking work, no doubt, as you can see from the GIS link above, with a drunken anthropomorphic eagle acting as Deep Throat and the metaphor of swimming pools full of blood representing casualty figures, but... yeah.

So, not long after that, Moore announces Big Numbers, with Billy the Sink on art. (He had originally intended to call it The Mandelbrot Set, after the fractal (fractals and chaos theory figure largely in the concept of the series), but Benoit Mandelbrot himself asked Moore not to use his name.) It was supposed to examine a fictional British town at all sorts of levels and conceptually could be considered a link between the sophisticated multifaceted storytelling of Watchmen and the examination of a geographic place in depth and detail that would characterize parts of From Hell and Voice of the Fire. And then... stuff happened. It seems to have been an intersection between the collapse of Tundra Publishing, the ambitious project started by Kevin Eastman with some of his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles money, the implosion of Moore's personal life, and first Sienkiewicz quitting after the third issue and then Al Columbia not even really finishing the fourth. Eddie Campbell, Moore's collaborator on From Hell, has given one version of events which seemed to put the bulk of the blame on Columbia (IIRC; I don't have it in front of me). Sienkiewicz gave his own version of events, in which he says that he drew all of BN #3, with Columbia maybe doing a few backgrounds, and blames the end of the book on his own life going to hell, and also on losing some of the photo models that he was using for characters. (Here, by the way, are the scans of BN #3 that a Moore fan bought off of eBay and posted on his LiveJournal with Moore's own blessing.) Here's Moore's take on it, in which he says that it could possibly be done as a TV series (that was back in 2000, mind you). Kevin Eastman gives his version of events in an interview with The Comics Journal, which Columbia apparently disputes. (Fun fact: Eastman also says that he bought all of the original art for Elektra: Assassin.) And, in a sad little footnote to the whole affair, Steve Bissette (who is probably still best known as Moore's main artistic collaborator, along with John Totleben, on Swamp Thing, and also published Moore's From Hell and Lost Girls in his own Taboo anthology) did his own interview with TCJ on Tundra, and sent a rough draft of the interview to Moore for comments and corrections; Moore responded by telling Bissette that he never wanted to speak to him again, without giving the specific reason(s) for offense.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Unorthodox Economic Revenge Hissss!!!"

The Moon Roach.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:57 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ugh, left off the postscript to the above: When I said that it was a watershed in both men's careers, I meant to add at the end that you really don't see much in the way of full-length comics work from Sienkiewicz after Big Numbers. (He has done a few things, such as 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow, but seems to have stuck mostly to other types of commercial art.) Moore, of course, went on to do work-for-hire for Image for a while before starting America's Best Comics.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:03 AM on May 4, 2016


Halloween Jack -

Don't forget the JFK assassination trading card set that Sienkiewicz did the art for.
posted by quartzcity at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


This reminds me that - somewhere in a box of other stuff - I have 5 to 10 Moon Knight comics that I picked up in ... high school? Early college? Anyway it would have been 1992-ish, give or take.

I ought to look for those again.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:33 AM on May 4, 2016


What I really loved about Sienkiewicz's New Mutants was watching him slowly lose his mind. Not actually, of course, but when he started it was more restrained and then he got looser and looser into his own Sienkiewicz style until some of the stuff where they were on vision quests or whatever was just nuts.
posted by tavella at 11:16 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Discovering 2 issues of Stray Toasters in a bargain bin when I was in elementary school was such a revelation.
I had just started to have some money from a paper route, and digging I found random issues of Stray Toasters, an issue of Books of Magic, and 2 of Kid Eternity. My understanding of comics was forever changed.
That was the golden period of "Prestige Format" books really living up to their name.
posted by Theta States at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2016


I have multiple copies of Toasters -- one set signed by Sienkiewicz at a convention back in the day. I've actually been kind of avoiding re-reading it for the last decade because it had a profound impact on Young Me, but I also have a vague memory of a swamp of misogyny and abuse and general nastiness that I'm afraid might really take the bloom off the rose if I go back to it again.

Yeah maybe don't go back. It's been a decade since I read it, but those themes certainly pervade it all.
posted by Theta States at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2016


However groundbreaking a comics artist is though, seems they still can't resist the ol' boobs 'n' butt backbreaker pose!
posted by KateViolet at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2016


Thanks so much for linking to the review I was part of regarding STRAY TOASTERS. As I wrote in the "review," it's a book I just can't shake. Justin and Keith were kind enough to help me through a lot of my thinking on what Sienkiewicz was attempting, and I hope the resulting post was entertaining and informative, and (hopefully) it will lead to even more people picking up the book.

Thanks again for the nod.
posted by Daniel Elkin at 5:50 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, that book was drawn by Dave McKean.

I always get them mixed up and had to go look it up to clarify. I know, I'm a Neanderthal.
posted by bongo_x at 6:34 PM on May 4, 2016


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